July 26, 2019

By Seth Jones, Education Director

Each day is different working for ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club). I’m never quite sure how my day will unfold as I head up the stairs to my office at the Adirondak Loj. I experience a full spectrum of situations, including emails praising our educators or offering suggestions for improving our department (or the entire organization!), attempting to accommodate a last minute program request, or managing a crisis about an equipment item failure. Each day, each season, is different, with the mixture of fieldwork and administrative duties keeping my work both fresh and rewarding.

A course participant discusses Leave No Trace with the groupDespite the regularity of last-minute tasks that get tacked on to each workday, I was still somewhat surprised to receive an urgent message from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) on a Monday in June. SCA had recently had some staffing changes and in the process, they lost their lead instructor for a Leave No Trace Master Educator course that was starting in six days. The message, of course, asked if I was available to take his place as the lead instructor. ADK and SCA are two of the ten organizations in the country approved by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to teach the highest level of training, the Leave No Trace Master Educator course. The biggest surprise? This training was for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff in Fairbanks, Alaska. Alaska! Always ready for an adventure, I made sure my team was all set, then I, of course, agreed.

I spent the rest of my evenings that week preparing for the course – even though I’d already taught 13 Master Educator courses, reviewing content and gathering materials takes hours of preparation each time. Four days later I was on a plane to Fairbanks, AK to prep and teach this course. The irony of this was not lost on me – why would SCA fly me from New York State to Fairbanks to teach a course all about responsible outdoor recreation and environmental ethics? The reality is that this course has been offered regularly for Alaskan BLM staff members, but usually eight people at a time are flown from their AK base to the lower 48 to take the course. This year, despite my cross-continental flight, it still resulted in less overall air miles for the course.

The opportunity to teach and travel in a different area of the country presented many new challenges and an overall amazing experience.  This was my first time in grizzly country, my first time traveling across alpine tundra thousands of acres large, and my first time teaching Leave No Trace skills outside of the familiarity of New York State. I was able to practice many of the hard skills that I review with students during local courses about recreating in grizzly country. I worked with a talented and impressive crew of people, including land managers, a wildland firefighter, park Landscape view of alpine vegetation in Alaskarangers, professional guides, and educators. Learning from the students in these courses is one of the best rewards of this kind of work, and we talked at length about the unique issues they encounter in Alaska and brainstormed solutions so that they and the users they interact with can successfully follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

The work of ADK reaches far beyond the Adirondacks and New York State. We are privileged to partner with SCA, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and other national organizations as part of our work to conserve, preserve and promote responsible recreational use of the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters in New York State. The stories, opportunities, and challenges focused on here in New York are surprisingly similar to those of our partner organizations and others around the country, and ADK benefits when we have opportunities to hear about solutions and strategies employed in other wild places. Your support helps ADK continue to promote responsible recreation not only in our great state, but also around the country.

Photo Credit: Seth Jones

Seth Jones is ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) Education Director. He has worked for ADK since 2008 and is a previous Summit Steward and Johns Brook Lodge Hutmaster.