At the 24th annual IAT Maine meeting, President Don Hudson surprised long-time Board Member and IAT Chief Geologist Walter Anderson with a formal certificate recognizing him as an Honorary Director. Walter had decided a few months earlier that enough time, wear, and tear had passed that he should step down as an active member of the Board. We appreciate all of Walter’s efforts to teach us and anyone who encounters the trail the rich geological heritage and history of the Earth at the heart of the IAT. Walter is a great champion of our mission to think beyond borders. There is no better way to tell the story of the Atlantic Ocean than to look at the common origin of the mountains that rim the North Atlantic Ocean Basin from Alabama to Morocco. Walter’s enthusiasm for that story is contagious, and he has made geoheritage the language of the IAT.
International Appalachian Trail at a Glance:
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
As the sun rises over Mt. Chase and Shin Pond Village, I am reminded of the particular advantages to older hikers of the IAT. My walk began on the international boundary and, had I walked three more miles to Mars Hill, I could have stayed at the Bear Pond Inn, just across Rt. 1 from Al’s Diner on my first night. We stayed there often in 1995 and 1996 when we were working on the trail over Mars Hill Mountain.
The Bear Paw Inn used to be the Midtown Motel, one of many “cheap motels” that Dick Anderson knew about after decades of working in Maine. At every opportunity, Walter Anderson chides Dick about his choice of words. “It’s inexpensive, Dick, not cheap.” Every once in awhile, however, during one trail-related journey or another, we’ve landed in a cheap place, and we’ve let Dick know that the distinction is — in fact — occasionally apt.
Heading south of Mars Hill, there is a nice B&B in Bridgewater, if memory serves. Ten or so miles south of the Monticello Trestle lean-to, the Stardust Motel has placed a sign on the multi-use railroad bed just outside Houlton; you can walk right to the back door on a convenient side trail. The Blue Moose Restaurant is not too far back up Rt. 1, and the owners allow IAT hikers to camp behind the building, with evening and morning access to the bathrooms.
Trails are often designed and built for a specific purpose. A ski trail, a mountain bike trail, and an island to island trail — skis, mountain bikes, and boats in these examples.
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.
The border is a roughly 20′ swath through woods and wetlands, with quite random placement of concrete, granite, and even steel monuments placed along the centerline. The purpose of the cleared space and the monuments is to alert anyone who might meet the international boundary from an approach perpendicular to the swath, or at some other angle than parallel, that they have should not pass.
Dick Anderson’s voice is unmistakable; a bit raspy and fueled by a love for life and people. When he called me in mid-October 1993 with an idea he had only shared with Patricia — his wife — I listened. “What if we extend the Appalachian Trail to the three highest peaks of Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec?” I said I’d meet him at the Front Street Deli in Bath the next morning at 9:00 am.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that morning when I agreed to help. We added Dick Davies and Chloe Chunn to the organizing committee, and after a half dozen meetings we were ready to have Governor Joe Brennan announce the creation of the International Appalachian Trail, on Earth Day, April 22, 1994. We quickly dropped ‘extension’ for ‘connecting trail’ at the suggestion of Dave Startzell, then the Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
We made our goal to complete the trail from Maine to Quebec by Earth Day 2001. In the intervening years, twenty more chapters have joined the project, which now aims to connect all of the ancient Pangean terranes that rim the arc of the North Atlantic Ocean Basin – from Maine to Morocco. The pieces of the trail are coming together now in 13 countries on three continents.
No one has yet walked all of the International Appalachian Trail, and I am not sure that I have the time and energy to do it. Nevertheless, the thought crossed my mind several weeks ago that I shouldn’t wonder any longer, and I might as well get out on the trail, put some miles behind me, and see how it feels.
Tomorrow morning bright and early, Charlie Hudson will drop me at the Sam Everett Road in Fort Fairfield, Maine, and I’ll start walking south on the international border between New Brunswick and Maine. I’ll check in regularly with stories, ideas, thoughts, and maybe even a few images.
The questions about hiking the IAT started coming early in the fall of 2016; questions about transportation, trail conditions in Maine, contacts for hiker information in Canada, and all the routes around the North Atlantic.
Denali, Don Hudson, Wuss
No one had proposed to walk the entire International Appalachian Trail, from the southeastern geographical high point of Flagg Mountain, Alabama, to the town of Taroudant, Morocco before Anne Conover reached out to us to learn more about the trail. Originally from Texas, Anne was teaching science in South Dakota when the IAT came across her screen. Something in the description of the trail, its origin and geologic underpinnings, and outlandish vision caught her attention. During one back and forth between Dick Anderson and Don Hudson, while discussing Anne’s plans to include some tall ship sailing to make connections between the trail in North America and the trail in Europe, the trail name of ‘Sail Away’ for Anne popped into Don’s head, and Anne accepted it enthusiastically. Plans were hatched to begin hiking north from Flagg Mountain as soon as possible after the end of the school year.
Barney ‘Scout’ Mann reached out to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in the late winter with a request for help in promoting his new book about the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Barney was planning a southbound hike on the Maine section of the IAT as well as the AT, and he proposed a presentation and book signing for "someplace in Portland, Maine" in late May, just before heading out on his walk. Hawk Metheny at the northeast office of the AT in western Massachusetts put Barney in touch with Dick and Don, and they quickly added Seth Levy to the ad hoc committee charged with finding a venue for the book PCT.
Faith ‘Wuss’ McClure got in touch with Carol Gay in the IAT office in December with questions about the IAT in Maine and the connection to the AT through Baxter State Park. Faith had never done anything like this before, but she was planning to do a southbound hike of the Eastern Continental Trail from the Maine/New Brunswick border to her home state of Florida. Faith’s questions came just at the time that the Baxter State Park Authority closed the Katahdin Lake East gate used by the IAT to get from the new national monument into Avalanche Field in Baxter. We hemmed and hawed, and promised Faith that we’d have answers for her by the time in late May that she intended to start walking south.
Later in the winter, we first heard from Mary ‘Denali McKinley who was planning to walk the IAT from Maine to Cap Gaspé, Quebec during her free summer (Mary is a math prof) as part of her section-hike of the entire Eastern Continental Trail. Mary had already walked all but the southern-most 100 miles of the ECT in Florida between Florida and Maine, and she was ready to begin to put the IAT behind her. Just as with Barney and Faith, our exchanges focused on how to get from the trail into Baxter now that the longstanding route past Katahdin Lake was temporarily blocked.
As this newsletter goes to press, we can report that all of these great hikes are on track or have been successfully completed.
Sail Away is well on her way north, having taken a well-deserved day off to visit in farm in Asheville, North Carolina. Her brother walked with her for the first stretch, and now she’s heading north on the AT. She’ll make her way to the White Mountains of New Hampshire this fall, and stop for the winter season to earn some money and continue to plan for the trail ahead. The current plan is to complete the entire trail in four years — a challenging and inspiring goal. You can follow Sail Away’s progress at her blog – https://iatsailaway.wordpress.com.
By now, Scout, is likely walking in Maryland or West Virginia, on his way to Springer Mountain and the end of his summer’s walk on October 20th. You can follow him here – http://www.trailjournals.com/mann3. Scout makes a point to provide up to date information about trail conditions in his blog entries, and his early entries about the IAT in Maine are no exception. This kind of reporting is essential for those of us who maintain the trail.
One of the joys of working on the IAT in Maine is the opportunity to interact with the hiking community, a rich and varied collection of individuals. Half of the group presented here are southbounders (SOBOs) on the IAT. Cheryl and Kirk St. Peter stepped right up to job of ‘Trail Angels’ and helped Scout and Wuss, as well as ‘RT’ — a third SOBO who showed up serendipitously as Cheryl and Kirk were dropping off Scout in Fort Fairfield. Cheryl’s note of a few days later says it all:
5/31 – From Cheryl
First, so sorry about the tick! Really, Kirk didn’t think we had any this far north, since we’ve never encountered any or heard of anyone encountering any (until now). Also, sorry about the bogs – glad you found that a highlight. We actually followed the ATV path when it veered off the border trail when we hiked in 2010.
Second, the road walk from Shin Pond to Matagamon is not a typical road walk, since it’s all through the woods with no houses – very pleasant, actually. FYI, a really nice place to take a break is at Hay Lake; it’s worth a stop.
Third, we’ve been reading both journal entries – yours and RT’s – great entries and photos – thanks!
Attached is the story that I finally had a chance to write up for our website. Let me know if you see anything you’d like to change before we post it.
Good luck with the rest of your hike!
Cheryl (& Kirk)
P.S. Did you ever meet up with Faith “Wuss” McClure at Brookside? I wonder how she’s doing?
What about Wuss?!
When Mary ‘Denali’ McKinley got in touch to tell us that she was arriving in Portland on June 9th, Dick and Don decided to meet with her before she headed out on the trail. The connections by bus from Portland to Millinocket consume most of a day, so Don offered to drop Denali at the Mile #12 starting point of the IAT in Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument the next day. As Don and Denali arrived at the drop-off point on the Loop Road in the monument, out of the woods walked Wuss. After dropping Denali’s pack in the Katahdin Brook lean-to, Don dropped her at the old Katahdin Lake East path before ferrying Wuss to the AT Lodge in Millinocket.
As Denali headed north, Wuss headed south. When Don reported to Denali in late July that Wuss had taken a well-deserved week off to rest her knees, she proposed that we change Wuss’s trail name to No Wuss. And, it’s done! While Denali wrapped up her hike at Cap Gaspé on August 13th, No Wuss was heading into Massachusetts on her way south. No Wuss has elected to by pass the Mahoosucs and the White Mountains until her legs are stronger and her knees more resilient.
The stories of long distance hikers put trails such as the IAT on the map. We have no idea how many people have walked the IAT in Maine or the complete trail in Canada, yet we are confident that the story of John Brinda’s walk in 1997 inspired Nimblewill Nomad — Eb Eberhart — to walk from Key West to Belle Isle.
The four stories shared here are just a handful of stories from the IAT this summer, and they will no doubt inspire others to get out on the trail in the coming months and years.
A walk in the woods is never truly a solitary experience!
Aislinn Sarnacki of the Bangor Daily News will take you on a 1-minue hike of Orin Falls in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Click Here to go to the full story on the Bangor Daily News website and watch the video.
About Aislinn Sarnacki
Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.
(L-R) Dick Anderson, Earl Raymond, Don Hudson and Paul Wylezol at the IAT booth
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy held workshop and business component of its AT Vista conference at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, between Friday, August 4th and Sunday August 5th.
The International Appalachian Trail was well-represented by the North American contingent, including Maine Chapter Board Members Dick Anderson, Don Hudson, Earl Raymond, and Herb Hartman.
IAT Maine Board Member Cliff young wears two hats; Cliff spent a busy weekend as a conference volunteer for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. The connections between MATC and IAT Maine are growing annually in large part owing to Cliff’s participation with both groups.
The IAT workshops were well attended, beginning with a presentation by Poul Jorgensen of IAT New Brunswick and Sentier NB Trails, which included a very nice glimpse of the new southern route for the IAT — from Perth Andover to St. John, and on to southeastern New Brunswick and the links to PEI and Nova Scotia. The IAT is a bit like the Silk Road, as it is in fact a network of trails that lead from Maine through Atlantic Canada to the North American terminus at Crow Head, overlooking the United Nations World Heritage site at L’anse aux Meadows. IAT International Council co-chair Paul Wylezol followed up with an overview of IAT development across Europe, as well as an in-depth introduction to the Global Geopark system, now a UNESCO program on par with Man and the Biosphere and the World Heritage program. Paul focused on ‘Drifting Apart’, the EU-funded collaboration of Geoparks around the North Atlantic Ocean Basin, which were inspired — he suspects — by the organizing geologic principles of the IAT. There are now two Canadian partners in Drifting Apart, including Stonehammer Geopark in southwestern new Brunswick and the Cabox aspiring Geopark, named for the highest point in Newfoundland and centered on the Humber Valley and the very special tectonic history of that region. The stunning photography — is there ever a cloudy day in the Humber Valley?!! — jad a lot of people buzzing about making a trip to walk in Newfoundland. Central to IAT Newfoundland’s focus this year, and for the coming several years, is the celebration of James Cook’s explorations and mapmaking, which began in earnest in western Newfoundland 250 years ago. Look for Cook 250 reports throughout the remainder of this year in particular, as the IAT in Newfoundland winds right along the dramatic coastline where Cook cut his teeth as a chart maker for the British Admiralty.
The afternoon workshop focused on the IAT in the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Dick Anderson opened with the history of IAT Maine’s relationship with landowner Roxanne Quimby in 2004, and the succession of land acquisition, trail, and campsite building that brings us to the present time. Don Hudson and Earl Raymond then filled out Dick’s outline, and left the audience with a good understanding of how IAT Maine Board Members helped to explore and interpret the rich human and natural history of the East Branch lands in advance of the gift by Roxanne of 89,000 acres to the nation, and President Obama’s official designation of the monument on August 24, 2016. Some concern about the status of the monument under the review of current Department of Interior Secretary Zinke surfaced. Don shared his confidence in the process, and his expectation that though some specific recommendations may result for Zinke’s review, such as the development of a model, working forest for a 13,000 acre parcel in the northeast corner of the monument, the overall status will remain unchanged. In fact, Secretary Zinke stated flatly that the best outcome might be for the monument to move as quickly as possible to National Park status. Readers of this space should stay tuned! Just as the morning session created a bit of a buzz about exploring Atlantic Canada, the afternoon session left participants wanting to have a closer look at places such as Stair Falls, Thoreau’s Checkerberry Campsite, or the Old Keep Path, which was surveyed shortly after statehood on order by the Maine Legislature to flesh out the route for a wagon road from the east to the top of Katahdin — not to be out done by the Mt. Washington Road.
The business and workshop component of the conference concluded largely Sunday evening, including the traditional reception for long distance thru-hikers, hosted this year by the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association and the IAT. Dick lead off the reception with high praise of retired ATC Executive Director David Startzell. Dick said of Dave, "[here add some quotes directly from Dick’s speech — Dick, send a copy of your speech to Carol, please!]. Paul and Don then presented Dave with a framed certificate as one of IAT Maine’s first class of Honorary Directors. Dave joins Governor Joe Brennan, founding treasurer Bill Nichols, and the indomitable Torrey Sylvester, who almost single-handedly acquired 8 of our 9 lean-tos as outrigh donations from Katahdin Log Homes. This first group of Honorary Directors is an exemplary band of friends and champions of the trail.
Conference goers will stay in the Waterville area through August 11th to enjoy field trips and a variety of half- and day-long workshops on a range of aspects of trail building and maintenance, as well as search and rescue and other aspects of organizational responsibility and leadership.
The 2020 AT Vista Conference will be at Ramapo College in New Jersey, and the IAT will be there!
The 23rd Annual Meeting of the Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail was held May 18, 19, and 20 at Shin Pond Village and Mt. Chase Lodge.
One of the principle objectives of the meeting was to certify our trail crew volunteers for work on the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. A special chainsaw certification workshop was held Thursday morning and afternoon, leading up to our traditional gathering at the Patten Lumberman’s Museum. The Curator of the museum, Rhonda Brophy welcomed us with an update of work, and especially on the significant impact that the designation of the national monument has had on visitation. Following the designation in late August 2016, the number of visitors to the museum has doubled.
Thursday night’s dinner at Shin Pond Village was followed by a presentation by author Catherine Schmidt on her recently published book – The President’s Salmon: Restoring the King of Fish and its Home Waters. Catherine has chronicled the decline of the historic population of salmon in the Penobscot watershed, as well as the efforts by conservationists, the Penobscot Indian Nation, politicians, and scientists to restore the river to some semblance of its former health and vitality.
The Friday program included an important introduction to the leadership of the new national monument, and expectations for the support and work of volunteers, as well as a series of reports on topics ranging from current management projects in Baxter State Park, a new muscle-pwered, multi-use trail planned for the stretch of national monument and neighboring land from Grindstone Rapids to the Sebois River Gorge east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River. We heard about the efforts of current businesses to support the monument, as well as the status of the Matagamon Dam and the work of the Department of Marine Resources to restore salmon in East Branch.
A highlight of the late afternoon business meeting was the award to Torrey Sylvester, IAT Board Member since 1995, of Honorary Director. Among many other contributions, Torrey secured every one of the IAT lean-tos — 9 of the 10 through outright donations by log home building companies in Aroostook County. Torrey joins Joe Brennan and Bob Nichols as our first Honorary Directors.
Following a sumptuous dinner at Mt. Chase Lodge, Bart DeWolf spoke about the search for the location of historic dams — now long gone — along Wassataquoik Stream, as well as key fords of the stream used by early explorers of Katahdin and the region.
A small group of hikers joined Bob Marvinney for a good walk up Sugarloaf to view the historic geologic site described by Bob Neuman. Neuman’s identification of fossil brachiopods on Sugarloaf as a Europeans species identical to ones found in Ireland and Wales helped launch the theory of plate tectonics to its prominence, explaining the fundamental and dynamic Earth system.
Lastly, thanks to Walter Anderson for finding the speakers and coordinating another productive and enjoyable Annual Meeting.
Why in the world would two southbound (SOBO) Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers start at the U.S./Canada border crossing in Fort Fairfield, Maine? Well…because both their Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hikes started (and ended) at an international border! Therefore, Barney “Scout” Mann and John “Rolling Thunder” or “RT” Henzell started their AT thru-hike at the northern terminus of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) in Maine – the border crossing in Fort Fairfield – on May 27, 2017. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day in northern Maine, albeit with the typical complement of black flies in attendance. My husband, Kirk, and I met them and Scout’s wife Sandy (trail name “Frodo”) for breakfast at Subway in Fort Fairfield to go over maps and offer some advice.