Dick Anderson with IAT thru-hikers Mary and Denis Webster
Dick Anderson with IAT thru-hiker Denis Webster (L) and Bill O’Brian (R) former ALDHA Coordinator and Coordinator for 2011 Gathering
Dick Anderson with IAT thru-hikers Joyce and Peter Cottrell "Laurel and Hardy"
Dick Anderson with past ALDHA Coordinator and IAT and ECO thru-hiker JoJo Koby-Burley
Dick Anderson and IAT Chief Geologist Walter Anderson put a couple of thousand miles on their vehicle and represented the International Appalachian Trail at the annual Gathering of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association(ALDHA). The 2010 Gathering was held at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia.
They organized handouts and mounted maps and staffed an information table on Saturday and Sunday. The new map, defining the location of Appalachian domains around the North Atlantic, was the centerpiece of the information display and created lots of interest.
Two hundred , hard core, long distance hikers attended this year’s Gathering. That was a significantly lower number than usual due to a scheduling issue.
Dick and Walter got to renew their friendships with legendary long distance hikers like "Baltimore Jack" ,"Mother Nature’s Son", "JoJo Smiley", "Red Wolf",
"Otto", "Nomad98" , "Mama Lipton", "Wing-Hart" and many others. They also had a chance to talk with Steve Paradis, Chief Operating Officer of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
They gave three Power Point presentations on the IAT. Their presentations were focused on the terrains through which the trail passes in the United States and Canada. They also discussed our Chapters in Greenland and Scotland and our new Chapters in Europe. Present developments in Spain and Morocco were also addressed.
Next year’s ALDHA Gathering will be held in North Adams, Massachusetts, only a couple of hundred miles from Portland ,Maine and Boston, Massachusetts.
The Program Coordinator for the 2011 Gathering is Bill O’Brien. Bill is a long-time ALDHA leader and has already been busy making plans for the 2011 Gathering.
He has appointed Dick to be on his Planning Committee. Dick will be keeping IAT Chapters and members up to date as we work towards the October, 7-10, 2011 Gathering.
At the Annual ALDHA business meeting Mike Wingeart was elected ALDHA Coordinator for the next year. For pictures and stories about the Gathering visit www.aldha.org.
On an IAT news note from the Gathering; well known and accomplished, long distance hikers Joyce and Peter Cottrell, "Laurel and Hardy" announced that they were planning a thru hike of the IAT in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011. They have already thru-hiked the IAT from Katahdin to Cap Gaspe. Some will remember that they joined us for the IAT 10th Anniversary celebration at Black’s Lodge in Nictau, New Brunswick, Canada in 2004.
Thanks to Walter who did his usual great job taking pictures.
Don Hudson delivers UMM commencement speech and receives Distinguished Service Award
MACHIAS, Maine — The University of Maine at Machias awarded 75 degrees during its 2010 commencement ceremony on Saturday at Frederic A. Reynolds Center.
Forty students earned Bachelor of Science degrees, 24 earned Bachelor of Arts degrees, nine were awarded Bachelor of College Studies degrees and two earned Associate in Science degrees at the 99th commencement in the school’s history.
Three students — Nathaniel Jillette of Lewiston, Cody Jourdet of Friendship and Andrew Hayes of New Castle, Del. — received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree. William Cassidy, Class of 1975, received the Distinguished Achievement Award, and 1967 graduate Howard McFadden earned the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The event was billed as a “waste-free” ceremony, meaning everything was recycled or composted. Even the robes that graduates wore were made of 100 percent recycled material. The commencement speech was delivered by W. Donald Hudson Jr., president of the Chewonki Foundation, who also received the school’s Distin-guished Service Award, and his remarks reflected an environmentalist tone as well.
Hudson gave students a history of his life and experiences, starting with his first climb of Mount Katahdin in 1963 as a 13-year-old and ending with his recent involvement with Chewonki, the Wiscasset-based nonprofit that offers educational programs for youth that focus on the environment.
“In summary, as I look back on my path through life and upon the full spectrum of my work — from the summer of 1966 to now, the impulse to reduce my footprint, my impact, on the planet was unavoidable,” he said.
He then offered what he called the six essential principles of sustainability, which ranged from the understanding that people and nature are inextricably connected to the realization that quality of life is measured in more than material ways.
UMM President Cynthia Huggins had a simple message for students: Take care.
“Take care of this planet and its precious, limited resources,” she said. “Take care of your friends, your families, and the people you encounter on life’s journey. Take care of yourselves.”
I first saw the little blue and white plaques while hiking along the East Branch of the Penobscot last fall. IAT-SIA they indicated. Then I became obsessed with them. What were they, where did they go?
An online search showed the trail, from Baxter State Park in Maine clear to the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. I was dumbfounded. And then I read that it continued into the other Maritime Provinces, Greenland, and Europe. My next question was: Who created this trail? I wanted to begin hiking it right away.
Reaching IAT president and founder Dick Anderson resulted in another half dozen emails coming my way- information from trail volunteers about the sections they maintained. Right away, I sensed a lot of enthusiasm from a diverse bunch of people who seemed delighted that I was interested in their trail.
I’m not a strong hiker, I’m on the upper side of sixty, and I usually hike alone. The first thirty miles is pretty remote, beginning on a large clear-cut parcel following old logging roads, miles away from anything. I planned a four-day trip just to check out that section, hiking backward from my vehicle left in a gravel pit near the East Branch. It was a day’s hike just getting to the trail.
On the first day, I came upon a recently constructed log lean-to on the old tote road near the wild and beautiful Wassataquoik Stream. Pretty good start, I thought, especially since it was raining. Continuing in the rain the next day, I walked the 5.5 miles to the start of the trail at the Park border near Katahdin Lake. The little blue and white markers were all there, well visible on posts at every turn. My confidence in the trail got a solid boost.
This summer, I am walking the IAT. The Maine portion is behind me now, though I veered from the path as I approached Canada since I had a place to rest and revamp for a few days. The little blue and white plaques were my beacons for a couple weeks, those little signs of recognition that said, yep, you’re on the trail. Each one reminded me of the hard work done by a dedicated group of volunteers over the past decade, seeing through their dream of a through-trail along the entire Appalachian spine.
What is a through trail? It’s a trail where a person can begin walking and actually go somewhere. Some people bomb through the trail, their goal a far-away destination. Others, like myself, tend to stroll, though I don’t know anyone else who is as slow as I am.
I took six days to cover the first thirty miles, losing the trail due to inattention in rain and thick mosquitoes, but finding it again after a seven mile detour which was actually quite pretty. The only people I saw in six days were the IAT trail crew, out there cutting and hacking brush in the same rain and bugs I had started out in. Sharing a lean-to with them, I enjoyed homemade fish chowder versus my own dried store. I should add that most of these fellows are pushing seventy, even eighty years old.
The rain cleared for my climb up Deasey Mt. followed by Lunksoos with the reward of another lean-to looking straight onto Katahdin. Lingering at the Grand Pitch lean-to, I spent an afternoon at the brink of the thunderous falls.
The first thirty miles of the IAT passes through a sanctuary where no motorized vehicles are allowed (except for maintenance). It is truly another world full of wildlife, where bear and moose sitings are common. The IAT folks were very pleased to gain permission as well as support to build their trail through this beautiful land parcel skirting two major tributaries of the Penobscot watershed.
Beyond the sanctuary, the trail follows rural roads with a couple shelters along the way. The shelters sit high up on Aroostook County farms. One landowning couple had placed a camper near the shelter for hikers to use in inclement weather, offering coffee, a shower, and a whopping breakfast the next morning.
Soon I was on the multi-use rail-trail which provided three days of flat, easy walking down a shady lane, much appreciated in the sweltering heat of July 4th weekend. I had gotten off the trail hoping to get a hot dog and perhaps an ice-cream cone (treats I would never eat at home), when a picnicking couple offered me a steak fresh off the grill.
As I was about to pitch my tent in a grassy spot near the trail, indicated as an optional campsite, an ATVer suggested I go a little further off the trail to a private campground. The grass was mowed. There were fire pits and picnic tables along a tumbling, clear stream. All I needed was permission from the owner. I was welcome, he said, bringing a stack of wood later for a fire. But I had already joined other campers, friends of the landowner whose hospitality we all shared, to enjoy some miniature fireworks.
On the trail again, I opted out of the climb up Mars Hill where I was promised a spectacular view from the lean-to at the top, sticking with the easy rail trail most of the way to Caribou.
I’m not a purist. A purist will backtrack if he or she misses any part of the trail, to walk every inch of it. It’s part of the integrity in saying, “I hiked the IAT”. I call myself a convenience hiker. If the trail is convenient and fun, I’ll hike it. If not, I’ll find my own way. The offer of a rest for a few days is reason for a detour. But I missed the little blue markers which seemed to say hello from the founders of this trail and the volunteers who have worked so hard to mark and maintain it, like a bit of encouragement along the way.
Tomorrow, I’ll be on the trail again, following my own route along the pretty Aroostook River to Fort Fairfield and the border. From there I’ve had to make a decision. Continue as a through-hiker across the northeastern part of New Brunswick and on to the rugged Chic-Chocs of the Gaspe Peninsula, or take a bus. I’m hopping the bus- straight to Prince Edward Island followed by Nova Scotia, to hike the IAT in those beautiful provinces. I’m a segment hiker, mixing up the segments, no less, to suit my own whims.
Already, half a dozen people from the two provinces have emailed me with a welcome, telephone numbers, and information about their portions of the International Trail. Some provinces provide online step-by-step instructions with maps as the Maine chapter does; others refer a hiker to government-funded guidebooks available for purchase. Some have free shelters as Maine does, others require a pass fee for shelter use, and others provide tourist information of places to stay. Every province has something different to offer from sheer wilderness and rugged mountains to seaside marshland and pretty little farms and villages brimming with culture. I’ve opted for the latter in the summer’s time remaining.
Like the trail folks, I have a dream also. If all goes well this summer, I hope to hike the ancient ways of Ireland next year where I might well see the familiar blue and white plaques if the IAT plans go forward. And from there, who knows. Did they say Spain and Morocco
On Wednesday, 9/22/10, Herb Hartman, Bill Duffy and his dog Trip, and Dave Rand with his ATV and wagon, arrived at Bowlin Camps (www.bowlincamps.com), an extremely convenient and pleasant base out of which to operate, at noon. This dedicated little group crossed the East Branch of the Penobscot on the suspended snowmobile bridge and headed south on the IAT. Additional IAT tags were nailed up, a directional sign post was placed on the trail at the junction of the former Little Spring Brook Road and the former Eagle Lake Road, encroaching alders were cleared, trail marking (tags and ribbon) were switched from leading over the rotten, collapsed bridge to the new ford site at Little Hathorne Brook, and the sign post on the Orrin Falls/Messer Pond Road checked. Walter “Cookee”, Anderson, Dick Anderson, and Wilfred Richard arrived at Bowlin later in the day and went to work northward, toward Grand Pitch shelter, clearing trailside brush. That evening, at our camp, “No Aces”, Walter’s renowned four bean salad accompanied Dick’s beef stew.
Thursday, Bill and Trip, Herb, and Will set out on the trail toward the Grand Pitch shelter, where they arrived two hours later after having chain sawn numerous blowdowns, lopped encroaching brush, checked a bear-gnawed sign post to which the added a directional and mileage sign. Dick and Dave followed on the ATV lopping and pulling up fir seedlings within and along the trail. Later in the day, Dave, Bill and Trip, and Will ATV’d south to work on the ford at Little Hathorne Brook.
That evening there was more four bean salad and Walter’s spaghetti with big, really big, meatballs. The new owner of Bowlin Camps arrived from New Jersey with his wife and was pleased the group was staying at the camps, which he is significantly enhancing, and hear of the IAT, which he enthusiastically supports.
It was agreed all the intended trail work had been accomplished on Friday and the party left in the rain after another of Walter’s hearty breakfasts.
Latona Torrey, Joan Hildreth, Pat Huntley and Linda Ives
In case you are wondering, “where are they now?” here is a quick update. We departed from Maine, July 6, and began hiking with two other friends in Perth Andover, New Brunswick. We had decided to skip the 100-mile section of the IAT in Maine and go for the New Brunswick/Quebec sections because of time constraints and a strong desire to make it to Cap Gaspé at the point of land where the Appalachian Chain “drops” into the Atlantic. We planned two months to hike this section.
We traveled through New Brunswick being treated like celebrities, or long lost friends, by the local people in the towns of Plaster Rock, Nictau and Saint Quentin. One of our friends developed severe blisters and we stopped in Kedgwick, first to see a doctor for advice, and then at a camp along the Kedgwick River for some R&R for her feet. Recuperation was slow, and she decided to get off the trail.
At this point, now three of us remaining, we had a choice of hiking, or traveling 65 miles via canoe on the Restigouche River – a pristine salmon river – and chose this opportunity. We paddled about 22 miles each day and camped along the river, often seeing the salmon swimming below us, or leaping above the river, and once being landed by an accomplished fishermen. That one was well-over three feet long. The end point of this river experience was floating into Matapedia, Quebec.
Here, we believed we would leave the road walks and flat rails-to-trails of New Brunswick and enter the more challenging wooded, mountainous hiking of Quebec. How true that would prove to be. We hiked out of Matapedia with full-packs – about 35 pounds with food, tent, clothes and the other essential to remain safe and “comfortable” as we journeyed. The shelters that we found during the first few days were beautiful cabins called refuges. The first was called Le Turcotte and sat on the edge of a beaver pond. We enjoyed the beaver family’s work and play all evening.
The second and third day we spent at the Le Corbeau Refuge nestled deep in the forests of the Lower Matapedia Valley. Here we waited out a furious rainstorm and realized that we had not seen another soul in three days. Latona’s famous quote as we anticipated going on was “There is nobody out there!” At this point we all realized that we weren’t comfortable at our ages to continue the hike in this wilderness area, so we decided to hike out a side trail and head to the national parks that were ahead of us and still part of the IAT.
The side trail turned into a nightmare. Latona fell doing a couple of rolls off the side of the mountain, bruising her lip, twisting her glasses, and damaging her left knee. We managed to get out to the road, after seven hours of very difficult hiking, and much pain for her. Eventually, made it to the next town. Here we planned to get a bus to the Gaspé National Park and go on after some rest for her. In this town, our other hiking companion got word that she needed to return home for a family emergency.
Now we were just the Daicey Duo again. It was the end of July when we entered the Gaspé National Park. We stayed in another refuge, and then hiked two days in the Chic Choc Mountains but soon realized that Latona’s knee was not happy going up and down mountains. Another decision. What would we do now?
We did not want to give up the trip so we decided to road walk the edge of the Gaspé Peninsula until we would arrive at Forillon National Parc and Cap Gaspé. We used the bus when the knee got too bad, and rested in motels in between. Walking along the St. Lawrence Seaway, sighting whales and seals, and enjoying the many, many Northern Gannets diving for their food was thrilling.
The final hike into Cap Gaspé was beautiful and we stood by the lighthouse and had our picture taken by the two signs that describe both the Appalachian Trail and the International Appalachian Trail.
We arrived home on August 23. Even though we spent more time in motels, and ate more meals in restaurants than we planned, we had an amazing seven-week experience filled with kind “trail angels” all the way, breathtaking sights, and the realization that we can still carry our backpacks – at least for a few more miles. Yippee!!
The 2010 Annual Meeting of the Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail was held on May, 7, 2010 at Shin Pond Village. As usual, Program Manager Walter Anderson put together an exceptionally fine affair.
Thursday afternoon we all gathered at the Patten Lumberman’s Museum to enjoy a viewing of pictures taken by the great photographer, Bert Call. Call took the pictures around the turn of the 20th Century in the Katahdin area. Frank Spizucco, manager of the Bert Call collection, gave a presentation on Bert Call and how the pictures were being shown throughout the state thanks to a grant by the Quimby Family Foundation. The photographs will remain on display at the Patten LUMBERMAN’S Museum through June.
The Thursday night speaker was noted author Steve Pinkham who gave a wonderful presentation about his new book, MOUNTAINS OF MAINE, and the intriguing insights and stories behind their names. He sold and autographed all the books he had brought with him. The book can be ordered from www.amazon.com ($16.95) and is well worth the money for all those who love to learn about how places got their names. Steve has hiked all the one hundred highest mountains in New England.
Steve Pinkham with IAT Maine Chapter Vice President, Torrey Sylvester
The program on Friday was composed of many experts who gave presentations on a broad range of subjects of interest to outdoor orientated people.
The Annual Meeting saw the approval of last year’s meeting minutes and a report on the financial health of the organization by Treasurer Bob LeMieux in which he pointed out that we ended last year with a small surplus. Board member, Herb Hartman led a discussing on some minor proposed changes in our By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation. These changes had already been approved by the Board of Directors and were approved by the members attending the meeting. Torrey Sylvester gave the report of the Nominating Committee. All the existing directors were elected to serve another one-year term. At the short directors’ meeting following the members’ meeting Torrey presented the slate of officers and the existing officers were elected to serve for another one-year term.
After a lively social hour and a wonderful dinner, we were all treated to a very special presentation. Thomas Urquhart, a Maine Chapter Board member, somehow convinced a friend, the journalist and best-selling author of many books, Simon Winchester (The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, Krakatoa, The Meaning of Everything, The Man Who Loved China, A crack in the Edge of the World), to be our evening speaker. Mr. Winchester has just finished a new book, Atlantic, the Biography of an Ocean, and kept us spellbound describing the book and some of his adventures. Many members brought copies of their Simon Winchester books with them and he graciously signed them all. Atlantic will not be for sale until the fall, but we are excited to have the opportunity to read it, now we have had the chance to meet the charming and generous Mr. Winchester, who plans to return to Maine and climb Katahdin.
Simon Winchester with IAT Board member, Walter Anderson
The dates were chosen for next year’s meeting: May, 12, 13 and 14, 2011. We all hope to see you all then.
ack Spiegel, a member of the Board of Directors of the Maine Chapter IAT died on Saturday April 24. Jack was 92 years old and had been a Board member for several years. He was a significant financial contributor to our success. He was a really good friend of Dick Anderson’s. Dick delivered a eulogy at his memorial(see below). He will be missed by all the members of the Maine Chapter Board.
Jack Spiegel was quite a guy. I remember him from the 60’s—and I am sure some of you do—when he drove around Portland with some kind of a plastic Indian attached to the top of his station wagon. The Indian was Quoddy, I guess.
He was a very successful buisnessman , but he did a lot of other wonderful things.
I actually never met him until 1987 when I was introduced to him by some of his friends. At that time we were trying to convince Jack to contribute to the caribou reintroduction project.
After lunch that day Jack asked me if I would meet with him to talk about a piece of land that he owned in the Town of Raymond. We met for lunch shortly after that and the first question I asked him was how many acres he owned in Raymond. To my absolute amazement —Jack answered —OH—about twelve hundred acres—I think. That was the beginning of a lot of great adventures with Jack.
That twelve hundred acre parcel, which Jack bought after it had been clearcut in the 1950’s, had been nursed back to a productive forest by Jack. Working with state and private foresters over 35 years, Jack turned this devastated forestland into a productive woodlot — inhabited by an abundant wildlife population. Jack and I spent several years trying to find ways to preserve this exceptional piece of forestland and in the end Jack and Anne decided that the whole area should be preserved as a state wildlife management area. It took a few years to work through that complicated process, but –thanks to a very large contribution by Jack—the area was sold to the state. It is now known officially as the Morgan Meadow Wildlife Management Area and is carefully managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for open public use, timber management and as productive wildlife habitat. Jack continued to work with the Department to assist in the management and expansion of the area right up until his death. He funded forestry work, public recreational development and expansion research. In the last year alone more than 120,000 dollars worth of timber has been harvested from Morgan Meadow—a tribute to Jack’s long time and careful management of the area.
As a result of the expansion research—funded by Jack—the area has been expanded by over 300 acres in the last two years.
I workedwith Jack, and his brothers, on finding productive uses for several other large pieces of land. The most satisfying of those was the 150 acre parcel that Jack and Anne donated to the State of Maine in the Town of Pownal. The forest on that parcel had been well managed by Jack for many years. The parcel abutted Bradbury Mountain State Park and one day Jack and Anne decided to donate it to the State as a large addition to the State park. The land now is an integral part of the Park and containes many miles of hiking and mountain bike trails.
Jack was a Board member of the Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail at the time of his death. I remember that we had a 90th birthday party for him when his birthday coincided with a Board meeting.
His contributions to that organization funded significant improvements in the functioning of that organization.
Jack was not an outdoor person—he never hiked, hunted or fished—but he really enjoyed taking care of the land parcels he owned. He was always supportive of projects that would improve his lands and make them better for public uses and more productive.
I loved working with Jack. He was always energized, he always had an idea,he was always cheerfull and he was always thinking of the public good.
His generous spirit and his energy will continue to inspire all who knew him—including me.
Jack had a great –and long –life.
He accomplished many things that will be of great benefit to future generations.
As in past years, the Maine Chapter IAT/SIA hosted the Annual Winter Social of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) at the First Baptist Church in Freeport last Saturday. About 75 MATC members attended the event. The National Geographic Channel special on the Appalachian Trail was shown by member Bruce Grant. The one hour program was a great description of the AT and how it is managed, with some great landscape pictures interspersed with many interviews with hikers. It was too bad that the producers never interviewed any of the ATC leaders, or National Park Service people, to describe how those organizations organize, finance and oversee the management and policy issues.
The pot-luck dinner resulted in lots of great food, including Dick Anderson’s annual surf clam chowder which had a large amount of clams this year. Walter Anderson and Dick were introduced by new MATC President, Lester Kenway. Dick and Walter combined to show the new IATNL, Newfoundland and Labrador CD, which really got the audience excited about a trip to that area. Dick and Walter then showed pictures and described the new 30 mile section of the IAT/SIA in Maine. Those present were mostly not familiar with the area East-of-Baxter and several said they planned to put that section of trail in their hiking plans for 2010.
As usual, lots of IAT/SIA printed material was available and most of it was picked up by attendees.
Walter did his usual great job of correcting Dick when he made mistakes in describing geological situations and taking great pictures.
“Let’s follow the moose” – those were literally the words my father, Frank Wihbey, uttered at one point as we sought to mark out the course of the early International Appalachian Trail. And follow the moose we did.
In a long life of hiking, it was to become one of my father’s favorite anecdotes. He loved the story’s sheer absurdity. It appealed to his quirky sense of humor. But it also illustrated for him that following nature was often the solution.
This was in the “pioneer days” of the IAT, an effort my father joined in its beginning stages.
As I recall, Dick Anderson had tasked us with setting out signs right on the Canadian-American border, and after a few hours of walking and blazing, a patch of marshy ground materialized before us. Which way to go? We sat and gnawed on granola bars and discussed the apparently limited possibilities. After a time, though, a cow moose appeared. We watched with amusement as she meandered in front of us, then steered around the wet ground and found a gap in the bushes.
The solution was upon us. Dad dove into the brush behind her, and we had our bend in the trail. It was a rare moment of pure trail whimsy for him, and he relished it.
The moose tale aside, my father was the most deliberate, careful, and well-prepared outdoorsman I ever knew. Perhaps the supremely puzzling fact of his life story now is that he died in an unfortunate accident. For those who are not already aware of the news, he slipped and fell while hiking alone on the coastal bluffs around Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego, California. That was January 12, 2010. He had been visiting his daughter (my sister), Lynn, who lived in the area. He was 65, just a few months into retirement after a long career as a librarian at the University of Maine.
My father served on the IAT board for a time, and though he gave up that slot a few years ago, the lessons and stories he took away nourished him through his last days. It was, without a doubt, one of the proudest associations he had in life.
I was speaking with my mother, Karen Wihbey, the other day, and she was recalling the pure admiration he always had for Dick Anderson: his intrepid spirit; how he was always encouraging people to do more, to transcend themselves. My father would at times say to me something along the lines of, “Dick wants me to do this. I can’t possibly do it. But Dick makes anything possible!”
I recently emailed with Dick. He wrote to me, “Your father was such a nice man and I will miss him. It is really too bad that he didn’t get to enjoy more of his retirement, but fate calls us in a random manner and some of us have just been lucky.”
Though my father was unlucky in one sense, he was nevertheless lucky in another. He got to know the many amazing souls who have helped build the IAT. Of course, there are so many other names to mention here. I only wish my father could be here to do them all justice. He was forever marveling at, and telling stories about, the people who loved the trail, like M.J. Eberhart, "Nimblewill Nomad.”
When Will Richard found out recently that my father had died, he said he was in disbelief. But he also wrote the following: “Your father represented so much of life with his wit, it is really difficult to comprehend his passing. Frank was always for us – in every way – for the IAT.”
Our family takes great joy in such expressions of praise. It has been a painful way, obviously, to start this new year. But we have been remembering all his accomplishments, including the fact that, in addition to hiking good chunks of the IAT north of Katahdin, he had completed the Appalachian Trail’s southward stretch from Maine to New Jersey.
Frank Wihbey loved languages, and he knew the basics of perhaps ten different tongues – from ancient Aramaic to Spanish. One of the great attractions of the work of IAT – or Sentiers International Des Appalaches – was that he got to use his French language skills. One of the wonderful fruits of his collaboration with Jocelyne DeChamplain, of Matane, Quebec, was the bilingual hiker’s guide they produced. Dick Anderson tells me that it is still in print.
Now, I tell this last part of his story because I know hikers need to know the details.
The outdoors are always unpredictable, and it’s in the hiker DNA to seek specifics, and to learn. Indeed, my father’s final lines in his journal relate to how he had put too much in his backpack on a previous day’s hike in California, and how he was determined to have a lighter load. The last words he wrote in that journal – in addition to recording the various bird species he observed – were “live and learn.”
The cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve are some 300 feet high, with many danger signs posted around them. My father appears to have slipped on the sandy soil. The terrain is quite different than the roots-and-rocks he was used to in the East. The authorities said the evidence shows he was trying to hang on. They found him about 100 to 150 feet down the side of the bluffs. He was located after the search and rescue folks pinged the GPS chip in his IPhone, and lowered down a man from a helicopter. My father had died in the fall.
Of course, this is a difficult reality to grapple with, or to put again in words. But I know my Dad above all sought clarity and truth.
I don’t take his final words, “live and learn,” as something ominous or ironic. I take them as prescient encouragement to all of us – to those who are living – to keep going, to keep learning, to keep loving what we are doing.
Frank Wihbey loved the outdoors and loved the trail. We all imagine that somewhere, on some overgrown, bush-ridden path way out in the wilderness, he is still in some sense sauntering along, following the moose into nature.
The Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail/ Sentier International des Appalaches is pleased to announce and acknowledge the renewed annual 2010 sponsorship by the Poland Spring Corporation. This contribution will continued to fund IAT/SIA trail maintenance, development and education. The IAT/SIA expresses its sincere thanks to Mr. Tom Brennan, Regional Resource Manager of Poland Spring for his interest, shown in the attached photograph, presenting a generous contribution of support to Dick Anderson, President of the Maine Chapter of the IAT/SIA in the attached photograph.IAT/SIA Maine Chapter Board member Walter Anderson and Treasurer Bob LeMieux were also present at the presentation.
Poland Spring Water remains the official beverage of the Maine IAT/SIA.
Walter Anderson, Tom Brennan, Dick Anderson, Bob LeMieux