On an early spring day, a group of seventh-through-ninth graders make their way along the muddy trail past the beaver dam toward Copperas Pond. In their daypacks, alongside water bottles, snacks, and raincoats, they bring with them a new lean-to log. The blank pages are ready to record the stories of travelers for the next season of picnicking, canoeing, and camping out at Copperas Pond lean-to. The students also bring with them empty trash bags and a list of official to-dos to be completed once they arrive at their final destination. Continuing along the widening trail, the pond comes into view up ahead. The sun glints off the water, a soft-peaked mountain vista spreads out past the rippling water, and the students are able to catch their first glimpse of their lean-to.

A backcountry lake with a log

For most of the seven students on the trip that day, it is their first visit to Copperas Pond, and they immediate remark on the beauty of both the pond and the lean-to’s placement at water’s edge. At either under two-miles or a half-mile (depending on the route) of relatively easy footing in from Route 86, ease of access and the remarkable view means that Copperas Pond lean-to is one of the more heavily used sites in the area. That is why North Country School and Camp Treetops (NCS/CTT)—a progressive junior boarding institution located at the base of Cascade Mountain in the High Peaks—felt it was important to take part in ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) Lean-To Adoption Program, volunteering to help take care of the spot for the year by making at least two of these care-taking visits.

Appreciation for and preservation of the natural world are a core values at NCS/CTT, so working with the ADK seemed like a perfect partnership, as well as a way to say thank you for all the time spent by students and faculty, campers and counselors, out on the trails and in the area’s lean-tos. Another big part of life for NCS/CTT children is the idea of meaningful work—that one’s efforts should have a real, important impact. The vital work done out on the trails and in the backcountry has the added benefit of allowing for immediate, evident change for the better.

In their roles as the new adopters for Copperas Pond lean-to, the NCS students out on the trail that day spend the morning picking up trash in and around the lean-to, surveying on the surrounding area and trails for any issues, and making sure the lean-to is in good physical condition. They move piles of wood left over from half-finished fires and clean around the fire-pit; block off a false trail; check the condition of the privy; and swap out the old log-book for the new one, writing a welcome message on the first blank page inviting others to enjoy the unique spot on their own respective adventures.

A student sweeps out a lean to

After spending several hours out by the pond, the students pack up their belongings and head back out past Owen Pond toward the trailhead. The food they brought in for lunch has all been eaten, and in its place they haul out two full bags of collected plastic, metal, and glass trash, including a large case of bottled waters and a half-empty water jug left behind by a previous visitor. It is a lot to bring out, and the students are able to see just how much work and care goes in to making sure backcountry spaces aren’t overrun with leftover food, gear, and refuse.

Other members of the North Country School/Camp Treetops community— young campers spending their summer up in the High Peaks region—will return to Copperas Pond Lean-to in the upcoming summer months, checking that the area is still in good condition and going through ADK’s list of responsibilities once more. By giving their time to help protect the outdoors and maintain backcountry facilities out in natural spaces, these young people, along with the larger community of dedicated volunteers, are working to keep our greater Adirondack Park clean, safe, and protected.

Hopefully their efforts help others enjoy these places of beauty for years to come.


Becca Miller works at North Country School, a 4-9th grade progressive junior boarding institution located outside of Lake Placid, NY, taking students hiking and camping; teaching horseback riding; working in farm-to-classroom education, and freelance writing. She is passionate about bringing outdoor ethics principles to young people who can carry those values with them moving forward, and is grateful to NCS/CTT for allowing her to do so.