Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Friends of Baxter State Park

It’s spring, which means the thru-hikers have started their long walk north from Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. By the time they arrive in New England later this summer, they’ll be thinner, wearier, and smellier. There aren’t many opportunities to take a shower along the Appalachian Trail. When I worked at the observatory on Mount Washington, we could always tell in an instant by the smell whether a person was a day hiker or a thru-hiker.

Everyone interested in hiking should read Bill Bryson’s hilarious A Walk in the Woods if they haven’t already. I’ve heard complaints that Bryson’s book is not a "real" Appalachian Trail book because Bryson never finished the whole trail. Actually, that makes his experience typical. Several thousand hikers intend to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail each year, but most give up long before they set foot on Mount Katahdin.

Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, has an interesting story of its own. Percival Baxter, Governor of Maine in the early 1920s, tried and repeatedly failed to convince the Maine legislature to establish a "Mount Katahdin State Park." Finally, exasperated, he bought the land himself and deeded it to the state, on condition that the land stay "forever wild." Thus, Baxter State Park was born.

He started with a tiny parcel. Over the years he bought more and more land. Baxter State Park gradually became the big splotch of green you see on road maps: over 200,000 acres. A campaign is underway right now to add another 6,000 acres to the park around Katahdin Lake. You can support this effort and read more about it at the Friends of Baxter State Park web site.

You can also listen to me ramble on about Katahdin, Thoreau’s scary experience on the mountain, Pamola, moose, and the joys and pains of hiking. This 30-minute interview aired on New Hampshire Public Radio in August 2005. Someone else’s review of my book about Katahdin is available at the Bookslut website.


Anonymous Joy said...

That is a neat story about the state park. My husband would like to hike the Appalahian Trail, but I know he never will, mostly because of me and the little one. Hey, I see that you are a writer, you should stop by and see us (NoteBored) sometime.

8:32 PM  

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