Celebrate the anniversary of the Appalachian Trail on Aug. 18
By Dr. Stephen Bien
August 14 marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail. Since the last two miles blazed on the trail was the stretch connecting Sugarloaf to Spaulding Mountain it is fitting that we will be marking that event here in Franklin County. On Saturday, August 18, the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (MATLT), the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, and the Town of Carrabassett Valley will be hosting a celebration of the accomplishment with a day of hikes and an evening barbecue.
The Appalachian Trail was originally the brainchild of Benton MacKaye, a forester and urban planner. MacKaye’s 1921 vision can still speak to us almost one hundred years later. Concerned about the growth of cities and accelerating pace of life even then, MacKaye envisioned forest realms where people could retreat to ‘sojourn’ and reconnect with what is most vital in themselves. This experience is at the core of much of what many of us do for recreation here in Maine and forms the heart of the Appalachian Trail’s magic for many hikers.
The trail gets two to three million visitors every year. Some are through hikers but the vast majority, many of whom walk through Maine, visit the trail in short sections, visits that are much like MacKaye’s ‘sojourns’. My wife, who I met on the trail many years ago, and I hiked the 280 mile Maine section in trips of four or five days at a time, slowly taking in the flavors and views of Maine from its mountain spines.
The trail was cut and blazed by Mainers, and your neighbors continue that work today in the forms of trail maintenance and protection. Advice spoken 80 years ago by the first Maine trail blazer, Arthur Comey, still holds today: “It is my opinion that no lasting progress can be made in Maine except through local action.”
That essentially local action continues today. The High Peaks Initiative is an effort to further protect the trail. Roads, second home development, and other forms of developmental sprawl threaten not only the trail but also so many of the traditional uses of land here in Maine – fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, ATV use, and the forest based economy. Franklin County’s High Peaks region is not only home to eight of Maine’s 14 highest mountains and spectacular scenery, but it is also a working forest producing the raw materials that feed paper mills, saw mills, biomass energy plants, and local citizens with fuel wood.
MATLT’s current Orbeton and Crocker Projects, totaling about 17,000 acres, represent the collective work of MATLT, the High Peaks Alliance, the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, the Sandy River Land Trust, and local landowners, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land. This group hopes to secure the summit areas on Crocker Mountain and land around the headwaters of Orbiton Stream. Crocker’s fragile summit and mountain slopes are threatened by second home development. The Orbiton Stream watershed is home to native Brook trout and the site of very successful Atlantic salmon restoration. These sensitive lands are embedded in a working forest and all are part of a thriving culture and vital economy.
On August 18, you can join in a celebration of the Trail with an event at Carrabassett Valley. There will be a variety of hikes supported by shuttles and the support of Sugarloaf lifts if desired, along with speakers and an evening barbeque at the Sugarloaf resort. Information is available at www.matc.org.
Steve Bien is a doctor in family practice in Farmington. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust. For further information, go to www.matlt.org.