Hiking the 281-mile section of the Appalachian Trail that winds through Maine is not for the faint of heart. Many seasoned hikers call it the most difficult portion of the entire 14-state, 2,180-mile Trail, the longest continuously marked footpath in the world. But for those who make it to the top of Mt. Katahdin, the Trail’s northern terminus, the walk is more than worth the effort.
“You get a panoramic view of Maine as far as you can see,” says Chris Reagan. “I go up Katahdin almost every year. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather and lived to tell the tale.” Mt. Katahdin is 5,267 feet high and is located in the southeastern corner of Baxter State Park.
If you are considering tackling Maine’s piece of the Appalachian Trail, consider this, says Reagan, “Maine has some of the most rugged mountains on the East Coast.” And, he adds, there’s a section called the 100-Mile Wilderness, often deemed the wildest, most remote portion of the entire Trail. It gets its name, according to writer and blogger Walk McLaughlin, from the fact that hikers cannot access supplies north of the Maine town of Monson, until reaching a campground at Abol Bridge, 100 miles away.
Then there’s the issue of Baxter State Park, where campsite “accommodations” are rustic at best and reservations for them are sometimes hard to come by. “You have to book space early, or show up early,” advises Reagan, a motivational speaker and president of the Get Ahead Pro Speakers Bureau.
The Park remains almost as pristine and virgin as when it was originally conceived by Percival P. Baxter, who donated the land to the state with the caveat that it be kept wild. Baxter called it a place “for those who love nature and are willing to walk and make an effort to get close to nature.” Unlike many state parks designed to be enjoyed from the comforts of an automobile, Baxter State Park is best enjoyed on foot. Cars have limited access and the roads in the park are primitive at best. There are approximately 200 miles of trail maintained by the Park.
Visitors to the Park are required to take out everything they bring in. All trash and garbage, including cigarette butts, plastic wrappings, disposable diapers, orange peels, egg shells, banana peels, etc. must be taken out when you leave.
Day hikers are encouraged to carry appropriate supplies, including water (at least two quarts per person), a flashlight, extra food (high-calorie snacks such as candy, nuts and dried fruit in addition to lunch), back-up warm clothing (shirt, sweater, hat, extra socks, raingear), a first aid kit (bandages, mole skin for blisters, etc.), a current map or guidebook, a compass, matches, a foil emergency blanket, a whistle, a knife and a pack repair kit. And of course, hikers are encouraged to wear sturdy footwear since most trails are rocky with difficult footing. (Tennis shoes won’t cut it!)
(FMI: about hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine, go to www.matc.org or www.baxterstateparkauthority.com.)