The International Appalachian Trail in Northern Maine begins in the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWWNM). That new Monument is in the largest area of pristine night sky east of the Mississippi River. From it we see stars that few in the eastern United States can view. The Monument’s sky quality meter reading is 21.62–on a par with the remote sites selected for world-class observatories (22).
Satellite images taken at night show most of the area east of the Mississippi illuminated by light pollution (see below). The most obvious exceptions are a dark region in the middle of the Maine Woods and a smaller dark region along the coast of Maine near Acadia and Washington County. Those dark night skies are our window into the cosmos, a source of inspiration for inquiring minds, and a potential magnet for “astro tourists.”
“Stars over Katahdin,” the fourth annual event to celebrate the starry skies of the North Maine Woods, was held on the “Overlook” of the Loop Road in the KWWNM. Local amateur astronomers and Astro Volunteers from Acadia National Park participated. For three days those astronomers and others shared their expertise at local events:
John Meader (Northern Stars Planetarium) held five inflatable planetarium shows in local schools.Acadia National Park Ranger Michael Marion and his four Astro Volunteers visited area classrooms and chatted with children. Kelly Beatty, senior editor of Sky and Telescope Magazine and board member of the Tucson-based International Dark Sky Association, gave two presentation to local town officials and business leaders. Personal visits were made to town offices near Mt. Katahdin to raise awareness of the value of our dark sky resource and its economic potential for astro-tourism in the area. Two solar viewing telescopes were set up for public viewing at the Millinocket Trail’s End Festival.
On Saturday, September 16th at KWWNM a bike and a hike event were held. In the evening, dozens of local residents attended the Campfire Chat at which the astronomers, the park ranger, ME Chapter IAT board members, and locals shared stories and magnificent views of the night sky. This was followed by telescope viewing from the “Overlook” of Saturn, star clusters within the Milky Way, and distant galaxies. Some students spent the night there in tents, courtesy of a special one-night permit. The volunteers were treated to a hearty breakfast at Lunksoos on the banks of the East Branch the following morning.
Our starry night sky is unique in the eastern United States and a resource with real value: for science education, inspiration, and environomental/astronomy tourism. And it is freely available to all. Unlike other natural resources we need not spend a dime digging it up or harvesting it. It’s all there on every clear night. This is a resource that other IAT chapters might want to consider; the IAT international meeting might want to give the night sky a place on its next agenda. We might want to talk to each other about this resource. How important is it to be able to look up to see the millions of stars when camping on a clear, dark, summer night? What can we do to protect that resource from encroaching light pollution?
What individuals can do
People around the globe are losing the night sky to light pollution that is growing at about 10% each year. Only one in four of the earth’s people can now see the Milky Way from where they live. This problem is entirely manmade: the result of over-lighting, poor fixture design, and the thoughtless placement/direction of lighting fixtures. Here are some things you can do:
Use only downward facing (fully shielded) outdoor light.Use only as much light as needed for security/safety, and put it only where you need it.If your town or power company is shifting to LED street lights, insist that they use luminaries of 3000 “kelvin” or less. These provide the warm hue favored by most people and are the least damaging to the night sky. 4000-5000 kelvin lights are sky killers.Encourage your community to adopt a sky-friendly outdoor lighting code. For an example, see the model code developed by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and the Illumination Engineering Society (www.darksky.org).
Have a friendly talk with neighbors who have upward facing lights.
On Saturday September 16, 2017 EPI (Elliotsville Plantation, Inc) sponsored a hike along the IAT (International Appalachian Trail) to Barnard Mountain overlook. The group met at Sand Bank Campground and then travelled to the parking area on the IAT where the hike would begin.
There were twenty people who had travelled in two busses from the Bangor “Y” thanks to a National Park Foundation Transportation grant they have used for multiple excursions to the Monument over the past year. The older ten were members of a group called “second wind” and were guided by Maureen. The younger student group of ten had their own guides.
After a short introduction to the group about the KWWNM (Katahdin Woods and Waters) area, and the IAT that they were about to follow, both groups started for the overlook on Barnard Mountain.
The younger group headed directly up the IAT Trail and on to the summit while the older hikers proceed at their own pace, some of them reaching the summit. The students spent time enjoying the view from the summit and the surrounding area. They had another information session about the history of the area and the view they were seeing to the west of Katahdin Lake and Katahdin.
On the way back some of the group met two young IAT through hikers who were following the IAT into Canada and on to Gaspe, Quebec. Their trail names were SCALLYWAG & GIGGLES and they had hiked the 2000 plus mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Katahdin after starting in Pensacola, FL in March of this year.
It was a beautiful Maine September afternoon and a successful adventure after which both groups attended the camp fire and star viewing.
In Ed Werler’s Book, The Call of Katahdin, he mentions a location called Bark Camp Meadow on the East Branch of the Penobscot River.
The year was 1947 and Ed, along with his wife Mary Jane and two dogs, had agreed to spend that fire season as Warden at the Daicey Mountain Fire Lookout. There was a warden’s cabin about halfway up the mountain where they would be living for several months and they needed to get their food and household gear “wangan”* up the East Branch of the Penobscot River from Grindstone, where the East Branch met the road, to the trail at the foot of the mountain leading to the warden’s and the fire cabins. This was a distance of about 16 miles upriver.
They met their riverman “Bink” and loaded their “wangan” and headed up river in a 20 foot Old Town canoe. They spent the first night at Whetstone cabin and the next day arrived at a place that Bink called Bark Camp Meadow. It is a shallow meadow, about 150 acres, on the west side of the East Branch and can be easily accessed from the main river. According to Ed: “Bink told us that years ago this had been the site of a woods camp where Hemlock logs were stripped before the bark was hauled to tanning factories down river, where the bark’s tannin was crucial to the tanning process”.
The East Branch of the river showing the Bark Meadow landing and the tote road.
Here there was a small shack six or eight foot square with a tin sign on the door PREVENT FOREST FIRES – MFS. This would be their storage building. There was a tote road along the river at this landing leading to the trail to the warden’s camp a short distance South.
This photo is on the meadow side of the tote road at the former location of the storage building. There is no evidence of the storage building today. Note the logging cable that has grown into the tree.
The Monument Line sign on the tote road just south of Bark Camp Meadow
Why the name, Bark Camp Meadow?
Tanning was a very large industry all over the Northeast, wherever there was a plentiful supply of Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Between 1840 and 1880, it was one of the leading industries in the State of Maine and by 1880 it was the number two industry in Maine, with hides being sent to Maine from all over the world even from such distant places as China and Australia.
At one time, the largest tannery in the United States was in Winn, Maine and the most northerly was in Bridgewater, Maine. This probably was because of the scarcity of Hemlock north of this area.
Extensive areas of Hemlock were cut, the bark stripped and the logs were left to rot in the woods.
There were huge mounds of bark left in the woods that did not rot. Unlike in the South, where slash left from logging rots in a very short time, our cold climate in the Northeast preserves the bark. There were still piles of bark covered with moss in the woods in the early 1950’s.
The process of peeling, yarding and hauling the bark to the factories is described in Appendix I of A History of Tanning in the State of Maine by Archibald Riley. This report was for a Masters Degree in Economics, but the Appendix is entirely about woods work and how the men lived in temporary shelters during the peeling season from the full moon in May to the full moon in August. All work was done in warm weather using temporary rough board camps or tents. This operation did not require the permanent buildings needed for logging in the winter in Maine.
The May to August time period is very important, because it is when the trees are growing very rapidly, creating new wood which is soft and slippery under the bark. Later in the season the layer has dried and tightened, making it much more difficult to peel the bark.
The cook was the most important person in the crew. He prepared four meals per day, breakfast and supper at the camp and two lunches in the woods. The cook did all the cooking and baked bread and pies for breakfast for the men. His “cookies” assistants did all the other chores, providing wood and water, cleaning up and delivering the lunches to the men who were working in the woods.**
The crews worked 11 hours a day beginning at five AM and ending at 6 PM with a one hour lunch break in the morning and afternoon.
A crew consisted of four men: a chopper, a knotter, a ring and splitter and a spudder.
With an axe, a ring was cut round the base of the tree and another ring four feet up. Then the bark was split down one side with an axe from ring to ring. A spudder inserted his spud into the split and forced the bark from the tree. A spud is a tool like a very large carpenter’s chisel, curved at the end to fit the shape of the log, with a handle some two to five feet in length. After the bark was forced from the tree, the chopper then felled the tree and the knotter trimmed the branches. The crew then continued ringing and splitting in four foot lengths and the spudder followed. The bark was put up in small piles near the felled tree and collected into larger piles along roads for loading on sleds drawn by teams of horses, for hauling to the tannery. Bark hauling began as soon as there was snow enough to make good sledding. Two cords of bark was about the average load with two horses in fair sledding. A bark hauler, that is, a man and team of two horses, ordinarily received from thirty five to forty dollars a month and board. In 1935, when the Riley report was written, wages for the men averaged about $20 dollars per month and board.
The felling and barking of Hemlock trees was rendered obsolete by the development of chemical processes for tanning hides. The tanning industry, once so prevalent in Maine, has largely disappeared from the state. Bark Camp Meadow still remains!
*wangan is a broad term by used by woodsmen and is taken from the Abenaki. In this case food, household gear, tools and necessities.
**The last project that was done in Maine where the workers lived and worked in the woods for months at a time with a cook and cookie was undertaken by the James W. Sewall Company of Old Town on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway 50 years ago. Felix Cote was the cook and he had worked for the Sewall Company part time for many years. His son in law Joe Sapiel was his cookie. They started with a survey crew at Telos Lake in June. The survey was completed in October at the town of Allagash more than eighty miles from Telos.
Earl Raymond is a Board Member of The International Appalachian Trail and a VIP for KWWNM.
But if we are about trails, and where I will be this summer/fall/hopefully-not-blizzards, check out the Pinhoti (AL-GA) to the Benton Mackaye Trail (GA) to the glorious and official Appalachian Trail. From now until I decide to stop, I will be gallivanting about madly, doing science (SCIENCE!) and in all other ways making a nuisance of myself in formerly respectable neighborhoods. So it goes.
The plan is to halt this winter and convalesce in Maine (and perhaps more science), then continue hiking into international lands in the spring of 2018, then perhaps sail across the ocean, then perhaps continue hiking. It shall be grand. You. I. Us, all together wonderful.
Send me letters, or food, or come join me in person!
Length: 650 kilometers (404 miles) Location: Canada, Province of Québec, Gaspé Peninsula Trail Type: Thru-hike with many options for day hikes and section hikes, divided in three territories
The Valley (115 miles) The trail goes through some forests and farmland, the first few days sees some steep climbs and a couple of river fords, but it smooths out afterwards.The Chic-Chocs (156 miles) The trail follows the peaks of the Chic-Chocs and McGerrigle mountain ranges. Very remote and rugged section, especially in Matane Wildlife Reserve. Some of the best views are in Gaspésie National Park with summits above treeline.The Coast (134 miles) The trail goes from village to village along the St-Lawrence river. This section is generally easier, but it still climbs from time to time in the mountains near the coast.
Navigation: Official guidebooks and maps can be found on the IAT website
Trails are often designed and built for a specific purpose. The first 50 or so miles along the IAT, heading south from the border crossing, has become a multi-use trail, but not by any grand design or plan.