The International Appalachian Trail continues to draw hikers to northern Maine, offering a tour through varied landscapes and a connection to Canada and beyond.
Trail enthusiasts celebrated some of the best of Aroostook County’s outdoors the weekend of May 7-8 at the International Appalachian Trail Maine Chapter’s annual conference in Presque Isle, sharing stories about local history and geology, visiting Mars Hill and Haystack mountains, and looking forward to the hiking season ahead.
One hiker known as Old Moose has already traveled through much of the Maine segment this spring, in a unique trip heading south from the Canadian border to Mount Katahdin.
Created by volunteers in Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec 20 years ago, the International Appalachian Trail starts east of Baxter State Park, makes its way over more than 700 miles to Cap Gaspe, Quebec. The International Appalachian Trail’s trail network extends to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland and Iceland, and then across the Atlantic to the Appalachian’s sister mountains, the Caledonians, through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
It’s a global community of local hikers that is drawing interest, said Don Hudson, the president of the Maine chapter and one of the trail’s early supporters.
Last October, Hudson and several others visited Cap Gaspe, in Forillon National Park, for a celebration marking European recognition of the trail.
“That’s one of the most beautiful spots on the planet,” Hudson said of the location on the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence. “Quebec does a remarkable job getting people of all ages outdoors and walking and having fun.”
This summer, the Maine chapter is aiming to reroute 52 miles of the trail that currently is set along roadways in southern Aroostook County. About 65 miles of trail are currently set along a road shoulder.
The roughly 13 miles along Grand Lake Road from Matagamon to Shin Pond is actually “good road walking,” with wide shoulders and few trucks, and that will remain a part of the route, Hudson said. For the other 52 miles, the chapter is working with landowners to reroute the trail from Shin Pond to Monticello, aiming to move the trail to old woods roads and all-terrain vehicle trails. A section they’ve secured will run along the south side of Mount Chase, and offer a link to a trail up the 2,440-foot mountain of the same name.
“The idea is in the long-run to get rid of the bulk of the road walking, and to use a combination of woods roads and paths,” including multi-use ATV trails, said Hudson, the former president of the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset.
While not getting as much attention as the Appalachian Trail, which has its northern terminus at Mount Katahdin, the International Appalachian Trail has been gaining traction among long distance hikers interested in continuing on after Katahdin or starting from Katahdin to hike the International Appalachian Trail or sister trails in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.
Hudson and others active with the Maine chapter, including Cheryl and Kirk St. Peter of Cross Lake, have been collaborating with other organizations to promote the trail. They’ve hosted outings and events such as star gazing and cross-country skiing in the Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area, the land owned by Elliotsville Plantation around the East Branch of the Penobscot River, which includes about 30 miles of the International Appalachian Trail.
The Maine chapter also recently put a new roof on a fire cabin atop Deasey Mountain, whose 1,950-foot summit offers striking views of Katahdin 10 miles to the west.
“We are slowly but surely restoring it,” Hudson said.