SANDY RIVER PLANTATION – Three months ago Sarah Herdan was trying to figure out what she would do this summer.

The 25-year-old New Jersey woman is now living in a tent and working as a ridge runner on Piazza Rock for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.

A student at the University of Maine at Farmington, she is pursuing her teaching certificate and hopes to “connect these lessons to the stories of nature . . . to help people relate to the woods.

Piazza Rock is offers a 1.8 mile hike from the trail head and parking area on Route 4 in Sandy River Plantation. It tends to have a very diverse crowd “from families with kids, day hikers and AT [Appalachian Trail] hikers,” Herdan said. The camping area will host as many as 50 hikers a day at the height of the summer season.

The young woman and four other hired caretakers and ridge runners underwent intensive training and are serving at Piazza Rock, Horns Pond, Gulf Hagas and Abol Bridge. These sites on the Appalachian Trail in Maine “typically receive the heaviest hiker impact,” said Bill Eddy of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, who organized the volunteers and will provide support to Herdan throughout the summer.

“Volunteers helped to carry in the supplies and equipment to support Sarah during her stay at Piazza Rock,” Eddy said.

Herdan’s job is “to educate folks about the principles of leave no trace and make them feel more comfortable in the woods,” she said. “The woods give me balance.”

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