At 26, Dan Rinard already has his dream job with the Appalachian Mountain Club. He’s facilities manager and oversees the group’s three wilderness lodges in the remote Maine Woods east of Greenville and Moosehead Lake popular with hikers, anglers, paddlers, wildlife watchers, snowshoers, and skiers. The Pennsylvania native attended Nova Scotia’s Acadia University and has worked as a volunteer firefighter.
Q. What’s it like living and working in deep woods Maine?
A. Awesome. I realized when I lived in Nova Scotia that as long as I keep living in areas where many people go to vacation, I’ve got a good thing going on. I think my favorite part of living in a remote wilderness is the incredible night sky, free of light pollution. Most nights you can see the Milky Way. Somehow the planets and stars seem brighter. You really can’t beat watching a meteor shower or the aurora borealis from a remote mountain top.
Q. Have you had to use any of your firefighting skills?
A. Absolutely. As most of our staff are outdoor enthusiasts with training in wilderness first aid, we’ve formed a great partnership with both the Maine forest rangers and game wardens and have assisted them on many backcountry rescue missions off of the Appalachian Trail and surrounding area. We’ve also had the opportunity to participate in wildland firefighting training with the forest rangers and assist them on some fires in the area.
Q. What are some of the items visitors tend to realize they should have brought with them?
A. Most of our guests are fairly well prepared. Headlamps are a great item that sometimes people seem to forget. Flashlights do the job, but a headlamp in the woods is so much more convenient.
Q. You’re smack in moose country in the 100 Mile Wilderness. Tell me your most memorable moose story and also one from your guests.
A. Last spring I was mountain biking one evening and after flying down a hill and around a turn on an old logging road I came across a moose in the road. I had plenty of space to get out of the way, but it was a very startling moment. I was always careful to watch for moose while driving, but prior to that moment I didn’t think to watch out for them while riding. Guests regularly report great moose sightings. Probably one of the best was from last summer. A guest was up early and sitting on the dock with a cup of coffee when a big bull moose swam across the cove, right past the dock, and started wandering down the pathway between the lakeside cabins.
Q. What about pesky critters?
A. We’ve had a couple of red squirrels that were probably a bit too smart for their own good — they would hang out by the doors to the lodge and try to sneak inside when someone went in or out.
Q. Much is made about being green in the outdoors. What are the challenges of doing that in such a remote place?
A. I think one of the biggest challenges has been that we’re doing something new and totally different in our Maine Wilderness Lodges, particularly at Gorman Chairback, where we decided to pursue LEED certification in an off-grid facility. Ultimately, I think the challenge remains to continually try to offer a recreation and lodging experience that inspires our visitors to think about conservation and sustainable living when they leave the North Maine Woods, so that together we can preserve not only our favorite wild places, but our homes as well.
Q. Tell me about your commute.
A. I live out in the woods and spend most of my time between our lodges, primarily Gorman Chairback and Little Lyford. This past summer and fall I was able to trail run and mountain bike on AMC trails for my commute most days, which was a really great way to start and end the day.
Q. Ever been spooked by anything out there?
A. I’ve definitely had some startling moments when I unexpectedly encountered wildlife while out trail running by myself, but so far that has been the extent of it.
Q. Explain the joys associated with the quiet of the woods, the whoosh of the wind, the sparkling of the stars at night and the lack of streetlights to someone riding the T every day.
A. I think that words don’t really do it justice. If you think about your favorite camping trips and all of the highlights — the incredible night sky, the peaceful quiet, an incredible night’s sleep — most days are that way.
Interview was edited and condensed. Marty Basch can be reached at www.onetankaway.com.