Category Archives: People

American Prairie Reserve Huts

Hutmaster profile: Michael Quist Kautz, American Prairie Reserve

Hutmaster Profile: Michael Quist Kautz:

Founding hutmaster for American Prairie Reserve

[See Preview of the APR Hut System for background on this new hut system.]

The American Prairie Reserve’s (APR) hut system is a key part of the public access and education mission of this ambitious, privately-operated public land project that is gradually knitting 3,00,000 acres of public and private lands into a vast bioregional wildlife reserve. What kind of background and experience does one look for in hiring someone for such an undertaking?  This is the story Mike Kautz’s path to a leadership role in founding a ground-breaking hut system.

Mike’s journey to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity began in Maine with schoolteacher parents, with whom he developed an early love of the Maine woods and all things out-of-doors.  While studying arts and humanities at Middlebury – a liberal arts college in Vermont — a friend recommended Mike to fill in for her for a summer job in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) huts (she had decided to go to NOLS instead).  This happy accident turned into a ten-year stint working in the AMC huts. He worked in the huts four summers in a row, for several years as a seasonal worker, and eventually became AMC’s fulltime Hut Manager from 2004 to 2007.  Mike loved the sense of conviviality among both the “Croo” and the many hikers coursing through the huts.

At AMC Mike developed an enduring interest in working for conservation-related causes.  He was deeply influenced by Andy Fallender, former Executive Director of the AMC, who stressed that hut jobs went beyond hospitality to include education, stressing that the Croo’s job was to aid in “moving people through a conservation continuum”.   AMC also connected him to a large network, some of whom have made backcountry lodging a profession, including: Jesse Bellingham (Director of Lodging for the American Alpine Club), Tom Callahan (Executive Director of Alaska Huts Association), Paul Cunha (VP of Operations, AMC), and James Wrigley (Huts Manager, AMC).

After AMC, Mike enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Montana in creative writing, where he honed his classroom presentation skills and continued to work on his own creative expression.  He then taught writing and photography workshops internationally for National Geographic, taught literature in Turkey for a year as a Fulbright Fellow, and taught ESL at Montana State University.  While then While he liked teaching, he missed being outdoors and working in conservation.

Working for Jeff Brown (a former AMC huts manager) at the Yellowstone Institute Field School for 3.5 years, Mike ran the Lamar Buffalo Ranch.  There he managed lodging and field operations and supported a wide range of educational programs. This position deepened his management and hospitality skills, and grounded him in creative partnership methods for managing public lands.

Mike’s next move brought him ever closer to APR: working in the startup phase of Adventure Scientists, which operates citizen-science projects all over the world.   For 3 years he managed data collection projects, including an APR wildlife baseline data study (through camera tracking and transects).  Spending lots of time on the prairie engendered a love the subtle and spare beauty of the prairie and admiration for APR’s mission and organizational ethos.  He witnessed the profound responses of volunteer citizen scientists to places and to wildlife as they practiced close observation.  This reinforced the power of meaningful exposure to a landscape in engendering genuine appreciation and a sense of commitment to environmental protection.

As Adventure Scientist’s liaison to APR, Mike attended their annual Transect where an interdisciplinary group stays in tents and moves together across the landscape for ten days by foot, bike and canoe.  He marveled at the learning and sharing that went on around the campfire and along the trail, and discovered that APR was approaching a crucial moment in its evolution: after 15 years of focus on acquiring land, fundraising and building an organization, APR was ready to invite more visitors to the reserve and launch a new phase in its educational agenda.  The staff of APR was exploring how best to encourage people to visit this remote, harsh, and little-known prairie landscape.

This got Mike thinking about how hut systems allow people to move safely and gently through a range of environments, and support them in immersive listening and learning.  He began to envision the APR as a vast laboratory to test ideas about how facilities can, in Fallenders’s words, “move people through a conservation continuum.”  He shared his observations and experiences with APR, suggesting that huts could be a way to get people to come for recreation, but at the same time build a connection to the landscape that fosters a commitment to conservation.

It soon became clear that a prairie hut system was an innovative way for APR to realize its public access and educational goals, and that Mike was the perfect person to serve as its first Visitation and Huts Manager.

Why Mike?  For one thing, he has a broad perspective on the task at hand.  In addition to working in one of the nation’s largest hut systems, he came to know huts in Europe and New Zealand in his travels. However, while running the AMC’s hut system was about continuing a tradition and unswervingly maintaining a set of time-tested systems and procedures, the APR and its hut system are both startup organizations, requiring vision, flexibility and imagination.  Mike has experience in both following a plan and in “making it up as you go”.  This prepares him to help build new approaches to backcountry safety, logistics and hospitality in the nation’s first hut system not located in the mountains.

While Mike is the point person and has unique knowledge of how hut systems operate, he is hardly the only one at APR contributing to developing the hut system.  Partners include land management folks, marketing and PR staff, scientists, operations staff, fundraisers, board members, volunteers, and administrators.  His background in non-profit management in a variety of settings makes it easy for him to operate effectively within a larger organization, especially one as innovative, values-based, and unique as APR.

As a writer, photographer, and humanist, Mike is great at connecting the dots to create a compelling narrative.  He understands his work on operational, scientific and technical endeavors through a liberal arts lens.  He approaches his work as a humanist and an artist, as well as a manager and a skilled practitioner.

Finally, Mike’s sophistication with different forms of verbal and visual communication allow him to reach people in many different ways.  He is accomplished in using maps, images and text in telling the story of the APR and the huts.  Storytelling can inspire dreams when he talks about the prairie landscape and about the roles of huts.  His commitment to conservation education, his realization that it needs to be based in a fun experience, and his diverse experience in teaching and learning are invaluable assets in this recreational and educational enterprise.

Mike clearly has the skill set, education and experience for the job, and he came by them in his own unique way.   APR definitely has the financial and organizational capacity to develop something new on the American prairie!  It will be fun to watch this hut system innovate!

Reflections on the position of Founding Hut Master in the 21st Century

I’ve published a number of profiles of hut and trails founders; each person and set of circumstances is different.  While I’m not prepared to generalize across these stories, talking with Mike I began to see the outlines of a 21st century model for innovation in huts, for a new generation of Hut Masters, and for new approaches to public/private partnerships in conservation, recreation and education.  Riffing on my conversation with Mike, following are some initial thoughts.

Mike and the APR are at the beginning of an ambitious undertaking; and they approach it as a commitment to creating a new model for public/private partnership in conservation, recreation and education.  They are looking at what it takes to develop an innovative, educational, environmentally-sensitive hut system on private lands in 21st century.

The job of actually founding a hut system, bringing it to life, is a unique and rare calling. Like entrepreneur, farmer, conservationist and educator, the job of “hut master” is a richly interdisciplinary, creative undertaking.  It requires: vision; mastery of a wildly diverse bundle of practical skills and technical knowledge; sophisticated people, political, and organizational skills; perseverance; flexibility; and an active imagination. The work is aided by the gift of creating a compelling narrative about the significance of preserving and enjoying a wild landscape — and, in APR’s case, a vanishing and largely unknown biome that once dominated a third of the continent – that is traversed by the hut system.  This role goes way beyond safety, hospitality and recreation, and far into the realms of conservation and environmental education.

The ability to blend science, education, and practical know-how within a broad imaginative framework can be immensely helpful to the hut master. And the ability to make the educational dimensions of hut experience enjoyable, not dry and didactic, is a key to the success of any conservation education enterprise aiming to capture the imagination of young people.

As Andy Fallender said, guests may come to the hut experience for recreation, but through the efforts of the hut crew they gain they form a connection to the landscape that motivates them to protect it.  This is hardly a new concept in the hut world, but its importance is underscored as we struggle to cultivate an ethos of biophilia and do as little harm as possible to the natural world.

 

 

 

Ray Zillmer: Ice Age Trail Founder

 

By Drew Hanson, http://pedestrianview.blogspot.com/

Ray Zillmer left for posterity Wisconsin’s greatest trail, the organization that promotes and protects it, the Badger State’s first and still only backcountry huts and a backpack full of conservation and exploration accomplishments.

Born in Milwaukee, WI in 1887, Zillmer attended Harvard Law School and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1914-1960, he practiced law in Milwaukee.

Ray Zillmer in Canadian Rockies

During the 1930s–1940s, Zillmer became an accomplished and respected explorer and mountaineer. In 1934 Zillmer was part of a team of five mountaineers who completed the first ascent of Anchorite Peak, British Columbia, Canada. He would go on to summit many other peaks and describe previously uncharted lands.

In the summer of 1938, he and a companion retraced the steps of Alexander MacKenzie’s 1793 expedition between the Fraser and Bella Coola rivers, through part of what is today Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park. He described the adventure in detail in his first of four articles published in the Canadian Alpine Journal.

The American Alpine Journal also published several of his exploration and mountaineering articles, including:

“The Exploration of the Source of the Thompson River in British Columbia”, 1940;

“Exploration of the Northern Monashee Range”, 1942;

“The Location of Mt. Milton and the Restoration of the Names ‘Mt. Milton’ and ‘Mt.Cheadle'”, 1943;

“The Exploration of the Cariboo Range from the East”, 1944;

“The Exploration of the Sources of the McLennan River”, 1946.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Mount Zillmer, Zillmer Creek and Zillmer Glacier in British Columbia’s Cariboo Range were all named in his honor.

Back in his home state of Wisconsin, in addition to being an accomplished attorney at law, Zillmer had a keen interest in natural history. He was well aware of Wisconsin’s rich array of landforms created during the Pleistocene. Indeed, North American geologists refer to the last phase of the recent ice age as the Wisconsin Glaciation. During this by-gone epoch, vast oceans of ice that covered northern latitudes would make today’s disappearing alpine glaciers seem like mere creeks of ice.

One of the unique areas of Wisconsin is the Kettle Moraine, a belt of ridges and depressions created by the combined action of two lobes of a Pleistocene ice sheet. It is the place where geologists first determined that Pleistocene ice sheets had lobes and that interlobate regions had their own set of landforms. Through the Izaak Walton League, Ray Zillmer was a leading advocate for the acquisition of land for the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which today covers 55,000 acres within a hundred-mile corridor.

For many years Zillmer led weekend hikes to explore the Kettle Moraine during fall, winter and spring. The hikes were memorable for the miles covered as well as the lunch which consisted of various cans of soup brought by fellow hikers, all combined into a single pot.

In the 1950s he worked closely with the Wisconsin Conservation Department (precursor to the DNR) to design backcountry huts for hikers in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. He then donated thousands of dollars to their construction. These nine shelters remain the only set of backcountry huts in Wisconsin.

Ice Age Trail map

Ice Age Trail map

In 1958 he established the Ice Age National Park Citizens Committee and the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, later renamed the Ice Age Trail Alliance. His articles proposing an Ice Age National Park in Wisconsin were published in 1958 by the Milwaukee Public Museum and in 1959 by Wisconsin Alumnus magazine. The proposed park and a long-distance hiking trail through it would follow the Kettle Moraine of eastern Wisconsin and continue west along the terminal moraine to the state’s western boundary. Bills were introduced in Congress to create an Ice Age National Park in Wisconsin.

Zillmer’s insistence that long, narrow corridors of public land serve greater numbers of outdoor recreationists than the big national parks of his day and his proposal for a long-distance hiking trail in Wisconsin made an impression on Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson. Armed with this appreciation and later as a U.S. Senator, Nelson introduced legislation to designate the Appalachian Trail the first National Scenic Trail and introduced the National Trails System Act of 1968. Congress finally designated the thousand-mile Ice Age Trail a National Scenic Trail in 1980.

In 1933 the Wisconsin Izaak Walton League named Zillmer “Man of the Year” for his work on the Kettle Moraine State Forest. In 1959 he was presented a plaque by the National Campers and Hikers Association for his efforts to preserve natural areas for public use. A trail system in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest is named the Zillmer Trails and a park in St. Croix Falls is named Ray Zillmer Park, both in his honor. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 1993. Today the highest award of achievement given by the Ice Age Trail Alliance is the Ray Zillmer Award.

Following his death in December, 1960 the Milwaukee Journal opined, “…the people of Milwaukee and of Wisconsin and the conservation movement nationally are deeply indebted to Mr. Zillmer. His vision, his boundless energy and his dogged determination in behalf of worthy causes to which he was devoted became legend . . . No community and no state ever has enough of men like Raymond T. Zillmer. And the loss of even one, inevitable as it may be, is cause for deep regret.”

 

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Sources:

“Our Greatest Trail”, Erik Ness, Wisconsin Trails magazine, April 2002, Vol. 43, No. 2

“Climb Anchorite Peak”, The Montreal Gazette, July 23, 1934.

Along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, page 8.

“Scorning A Glacial Gift”, The Milwaukee Journal, August 21, 1988.

“Origins of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail”, Sarah Mittlefeldht, Wisconsin Magazine of History: Volume 90, number 3, spring 2007, page 7.

These American Lands, Dyan Zaslowsky and T.H. Watkins, Island Press, 1994, pages 258-259.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, http://www.iceagetrail.org/iata/history/

“The Wisconsin Glacial Moraines”, Milwaukee Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, 1942.

“The Wisconsin Glacier National Forest Park”, Lore, Milwaukee Public Museum, vol 8, edition 2, 1958.

“Wisconsin’s Proposed Ice Age National Park”, Wisconsin Alumnus, March, 1959

American Alpine Club, http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12196134700/print

 

Drew Hanson blogs at pedestrianview.blogspot.com

 

New Exec. Director for Maine Huts and Trails

News from Maine Huts and Trails web site:

Please welcome Carolann Ouellette as Executive Director of Maine Huts & Trails! After a long and thorough search process, we found an exceptional leader. Currently serving as Director of the Maine Office of Tourism, she began her career right here in Carrabassett Valley, managing the Sugarloaf Inn, and also managed operations at New England Outdoor Center. A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Carolann is uniquely well-qualified for this position. In 2015 she was named by Maine Magazine as one of “50 Mainers Boldly Leading Our State”, and she’s even a Registered Maine Guide. The future of Maine Huts & Trails is in good hands.

Adirondack Hamlets to Huts: a founders’ profile

Adirondack Hamlets to Huts

Duane Gould, Joe Dadey, and Jack Drury – The Adirondacks Hamlets to Huts Team

Joe and Jack: pioneers in a culture awakening to the environmental benefits of huts

In 2013 Joe Dadey and Jack Drury came up with the idea of a lodging and trails system connecting Adirondack hamlets to huts.  I’ve been following their quest as something of a model planning process for hut systems.

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Profile of Rural Recreation Officer Patricia Deane

Meet Rural Recreation Officer Patricia Deane
By Catherine Murphy

reprinted with permission from Outsider Magazine, July 2016

Patricia Deane swapped her office job for a life in the great outdoors working as Rural Recreation Officer in South Kerry and has never looked back. Catherine Murphy catches up with her to find out more about the role and what’s happening in the Kingdom, from the ‘Friends of the Reeks’ initiative to ‘The Uphill Downhill Trail’ which was named and worked on by local school children.

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Harry Jeuken — A Farmer & his Lough Avalla Trail

Profile of a Traditional Farmer and Host of the Lough Avalla Trail

By Sam Demas

As I approached the Lough Avalla trailhead on Green Farm Road, Harry stopped his truck and greeted me with a friendly smile.  We chatted a bit, and I explained that I hoped to talk with him after walking the trail.  I was interested in his approach to farming, and about how hosting a National Looped Trail and being part of Ireland’s Walks Scheme fit into his vision of farming.  We hit it off immediately and quickly arranged to meet the next day when he had a little spare time.  Before driving on, he told me to be sure to check out the Fairy Ring, and pointed out the direction.

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Nan Shepherd featured on Five Pound Note!

Amazing!  Nan Shepherd, author of “The Living Mountain” — one of the finest books on mountains I’ve ever read — was selected by the Bank of Scotland to grace the five pound note. Not only is her beautiful visage featured, but several quotes from her elegant writings are included on the note.

What a testament to the literary culture in Scotland, and to that nation’s appreciation of mountains, walking and women!  When will this sort of thing happen in USA?!

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A Festival of Walking Art & Ideas at Carleton

Walk! logo

Prof. John Schott of Cinema and Media Studies at Carleton College has organized an interdisciplinary celebration of walking and walking art called “WALK! A Festival of Walking, Art and Ideas”.  This Walking Festival, features art and media projects, wide-ranging lectures, and many public walking events.  

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Meet our new “Pilgrimage Editor” Amanda Wagstaff

by Amanda Wagstaff, Hut2Hut Pilgrimage Editor

“A pilgrim travels differently. Always in pilgrimage, there is a change of mind and a change of heart.”

– John O’Donohue.

In a roundabout way, John O’Donohue is the reason I am living in Ireland right now. In the summer of 2014, my sister and I travelled to northern Virginia to visit a family friend who was living with cancer. We all knew that it might be our last time together, and indeed, it was the last time that I saw Aunt Ann.

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Sean Byrne: Wicklow Way farmer, host, & advocate

The Byrne family has farmed in the Wicklow hills, along the Wicklow Way, for five generations. As a teen Sean helped out just down the road at a guest-house catering to hunters and fishermen on the beautiful Lough Dan. He also worked for his neighbors, the Guinness family, on their estate on the sublime Lough Tay. This farm boy gradually developed a gracious ease in working with people of all walks of life, a strong sense of the traditions of rural hospitality, deep knowledge of the land and the region, and a guiding commitment to preservation of the mountain uplands and way of life.  Photo above of Sean and Theresa Byrne.

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