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Trail Blazer

10/13/2010

Amanda L'Etoile '11 of Falmouth, Mass., spent last summer building the Hoosac Range Trail. The environmental studies major is passionate about the outdoors, keeping the Berkshires beautiful, and teaching others how to enjoy the region as much as she does.

Located off of Route 2, just above the Hairpin Turn near the town of Florida, the Hoosac Range Trail travels for three miles along the ridgeline to Spruce Hill - a popular birding spot near Savoy Mountain State Forest's Busby Trail - and is part of the historical Mohawk Mohican trail system.

As a Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) intern, L'Etoile joined members of the Student Conservation Corporation, a professional trail construction crew, and other volunteers in building the trail.

To do so, she cut and removed trees, brush, downed logs and rocks. L'Etoile then used a "bench cut," a 45-degree angle cut into the back uphill side of the trail, to prevent debris from spilling onto it.

Even with practice, each 20 feet of trail took at least an hour of work. However, the results of building a sustainable hiking trail are immense, said L'Etoile.

"It allows recreation and respects the natural environment by providing the public with a well-built trail that needs little upkeep," she said. "I enjoy building trail because it provides access to nature - nature we often forget is around us. A short walk into the wood reconnects the importance of nature to our lives."

Participants in MCLA's LEAD Academy and other groups of MCLA freshmen also helped build the trail this past summer and early fall.

"It was exciting to hear many of the students would consider coming back out to do this rewarding work again in the future, would love to participate in local outdoor recreation," said L'Etoile.

As another part of her internship, L'Etoile planned and organized outdoor activities for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Unity Youth Leadership Program.

"Along with a few days hikes, the youth group enjoyed their first backcountry overnight camping experience in the wilderness above the valley they know so well below. This was an exciting opportunity for me since BNRC had never done anything like this before," she explained. "BNRC was open to all of my ideas and supportive in every way - as was MCLA."

To make the trip happen, L'Etoile turned to MCLA for help in supplying the necessary equipment through the College's Outdoor Club. As a result, nine youth enjoyed a unique camping experience.

According to L'Etoile, MCLA's close proximity to Windsor Lake provides the College with a unique opportunity to interact positively with community members who spend time swimming, fishing boating and picnicking at the lake.          

"Ideally, I see the MCLA forest (near the athletic fields on West Shaft Road) and the Windsor Lake area as a way to keep students around during the summer months while earning internship credits," she said. "What is especially great about the Windsor Lake area and MCLA property is that it is a central location for one to appreciate the environment by going for a hike, learning about the surrounding environment and enjoying recreation in the lake."