Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cheap New Hampshire Vacations - Volunteer, Learn, Do Good

With the economy improving, you may be tempted to open that wallet for a special summer vacation. But don't forget about the many wonderful volunteer vacations available to you and your family. Here are some spring and summer voluntourism ideas -- many at no or very low cost -- in the northeast state of New Hampshire that will turn the spotlight on fun ways to learn, give back and be environmentally conscious. Many are appropriate for younger children who want to help out, too.


The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Family Adventure Days at Cardigan Lodge, Alexandria - Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, The Appalachian Mountain Club offers its Family Adventure Days program. The escorted program includes a hike to the summit of Mount Cardigan, guided hikes to study beaver ponds and waterfalls, pond studies, star walks, guest speakers and group campfires. The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Family Adventure Days at Cardigan Lodge run Friday-Monday from June 24, 2011-September 5, 2011.
    * Get out, get dirty and give back! – Each year, the AMC depends on more than 2,500 trail volunteers who contribute their time, energy and enthusiasm to the Trails Program.  In a typical year, participants from near and far volunteer approximately 18,000 hours building 1,200 feet of bog bridging, and helping maintain 1,500 miles of trails.  Work Parties are one to three day programs that provide the opportunity to learn, practice, and refine trail work skills, explore new mountains, and begin to understand the intricate workings of trail maintenance.  Volunteers don’t need to be experts to join, and can bring the whole family.

Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) Waterway Work Trip, Errol – Working with the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, last season the NFCT worked to mitigate erosion and impact on the shores of Umbagog Lake. This season, after helping clear debris and spread woodchips on the trail, volunteers get the opportunity to experience a great camping location and paddling and wildlife viewing opportunities on Lake Umbagog, the Magalloway River and the Errol rapids. Meals are provided.  August 12-14, 2011.

Star Island Spring and Summer Volunteer Weekends, Rye, NH – Located off the coast of Portsmouth, Star Island has been a haven for artists, religious retreats and educational conferences.  Star Island also hosts annual Spring and Summer Work Weekends during which participants can help maintain the infrastructure on the island by assisting with construction, building maintenance and landscaping.
    * Spring Work Weekends – Visitors can help reawaken Star Island from its winter slumber and spend a beautiful spring weekend on the island.  There are five spring work weekends in late April, May and early June.  Volunteer opportunities include:  kitchen staff, housekeeping, painting, gardening and landscaping.
    * Island Volunteer Programs – Throughout the summer, Star Island offers volunteer programs to support the island staff.  Programs for the season include Rutledge Marine Lab, Vaughn Cottage museum and library, massage therapy and first aid station.


Stonewall Farm, Keene, NH – Stonewall Farm is a nonprofit working farm and educational center whose mission is to connect people to the land and to the role of local agriculture in their lives. Set in a scenic valley, the farm consists of pastures, fields and woodlands and is open, free of charge, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Opportunities are available for gardening, farming, and sap gathering.
    * Farm and Forest Exploration:  Dairy Barn Operation (May 7) – This visit makes for a perfect family trip to the farm; Stonewall Farm is Keene’s last dairy barn in operations, and guests will learn what it takes to care for the cows, milk the cows and provide milk to the community.
    * Farm and Forest Exploration:  Wetland Wonders (June 4) – Visitors are invited to join the educators at Stonewall Farm for a weekend of Family Programming.  This is a program for all ages, in which participants explore the wetlands that surround the farm.

D Acres of New Hampshire, Dorchester, NH – A non-profit farm committed to providing people with an educational center that researches, applies and teaches skills of sustainable living and small-scale organic farming. D Acres offers workshops that focus on gardening, woodworking, cooking, food preservation, animal husbandry, sustainable forestry, and ecological construction methods.
    * Volunteer Days – The last Sunday of each month is Volunteer Day at D Acres.  “Get your hands dirty” working in the gardens, on the trails, or building with earthen materials with the D Acres crew.  10am to 4pm; hearty farm lunch included.


New Hampshire Audubon, Concord, NH – NH Audubon, dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and habitat throughout the state, offers a variety of programs for people of all ages.
    * Family Programs – Designed to meet the needs of family members of all ages, the NH Audubon Family Programs provide exciting and engaging activities to educate, inspire, and just have fun.
    * Adult Programs – NH Audubon’s adult programs provide year-round opportunities for enrichment and exploration in a wide variety of subject areas, from birding and snowshoeing to photography and crafts.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, Holderness, NH – Through live animal exhibits, natural science education programs and lake cruises, SLNSC has educated and enlightened visitors for more than 40 years.  Some of SLNSC’s programs and events include:
    * Science Center Lake Cruises – Visitors can experience the beauty of Big Squam Lake on a guided tour on a canopied pontoon boat to learn about the natural forces that created these lakes, the wildlife that makes them so special, and the people who have enjoyed these lakes for over 5,000 years.
    * Learn to Identify Birds –Learn to identify the huge variety of birds that fill the woods, meadows and wetlands each spring.  Each trip explores a different habitat in the Lakes Region.
    * North Country Moose and Bear Excursions –Visit a special place where mother black bears graze on a salad of flowers and berries while their cubs frolic nearby, then as dusk approaches  guests visit a moose ‘hot spot’ for sighting these giants as they feed along the roadside in New Hampshire’s North Country. 

Blue Ocean Society Beach Cleanups, Portsmouth, NH – Beach cleanups are a great way to get involved in protecting the marine environment, while also getting some exercise. On beach cleanups volunteers spend 1-2 hours collecting trash from a local beach, and then record findings so participants also get to contribute to the Blue Ocean Society’s long-term study on marine pollution. Cleanups include a short presentation on their research efforts and ways people can help protect the marine environment.

Thanks to the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development for sharing these ideas. For visitors looking to travel “green,” there are many eco-friendly properties throughout  the state. Visit for more information.

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