May 22, 2019
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Appalachian Trail hikers asked to not climb Katahdin on Labor Day weekend

Christopher Burns | BDN
Christopher Burns | BDN
The sign marking the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail atop Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Aug. 27, 2016.

Appalachian Trail hikers planning to end their long trek atop Katahdin on Labor Day weekend are being asked to change their plans by summiting early or delaying their hike until Tuesday. This request is being made by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in partnership with Baxter State Park so AT hikers don’t disturb a longstanding annual ceremony conducted by the Penobscot Indian Nation on the mountain from Sept. 1- 3.

Each year, members of the Penobscot Nation participate in the Katahdin 100, a spiritual pilgrimage that spans about 100 miles, starting at Indian Island (just north of Bangor) and ending at Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain and a sacred place to the Penobscots. To facilitate this tradition, Baxter State Park has closed Katahdin Stream Campground to overnight guests Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, so that the Penobscots can conduct their ceremonies at the campground without an audience.

The campground is located at the base of the AT, which follows the Hunt Trail to end atop Katahdin.

This request for AT hikers to avoid summiting Katahdin during Labor Day weekend has been made in years past, but this year the request has received a lot of public attention because it was posted by the Monson AT Visitor Center on Facebook.

“For the past three years that we’ve had the visitor center open in Monson, Baxter staff at Katahdin Stream Campground have asked us to let long-distance hikers know that Labor Day weekend at Katahdin Stream Campground is very busy with Katahdin 100, and if [the hikers] have flexible schedules — which many of them do — avoiding those days for summitting is in the best interest for the hikers and Baxter and the AT,” said Claire Polfus, Appalachian Trail Conservancy Maine Program Manager.

Baxter State Park Director Eben Sypitkowski declined to comment instead indicating that the details in a post on the Monson Appalachian Trail Visitor Center Facebook page were correct.

The post asks AT hikers to avoid summiting Katahdin on Sept. 1, 2 or 3, and to consider summiting either before then or delaying their entry into the park until the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 3, for a summit date of Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The post also said that The Birches, a satellite campground reserved for long-distance AT hikers, will remain open throughout the weekend, with space for 12 hikers each night but that “the area will be very busy” and “congestion will make it difficult for drivers coming to pick up hikers and for hikers seeking rides out of the park.”

For AT hikers who must summit Labor Day weekend, the AT, which follows Katahdin’s Hunt Trail, is open, and hikers will be allowed to pass through Katahdin Stream Campground.

“We’ve actually been doing that for the past three years, and it’s been really successful,” Polfus said. “And this year, with the Facebook post, people who aren’t long-distance hikers found out about it, and it got made into something that’s controversial. I don’t think it is. Katahdin is not closed by any means. There’s been some articles written that say that it is, and that’s just wrong.”

The other two trailheads used for hiking Katahdin — Abol and Roaring Brook — will remain open throughout the weekend. However, reservations for day-use parking spots at those two trailheads are full.

All three trailhead parking lots for Katahdin are managed through a parking reservation system designed to favor Maine residents, Sypitkowski said. After April 1, Maine residents can reserve a parking spot for a Katahdin trailhead for $5 for any day of the summer, with a limit of three days per month. Nonresidents can reserve a parking spot up to two weeks before their hike. If you don’t have a parking reservation and there are unreserved spots, the park fills those on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 6 a.m. each day when Togue Pond Gate opens. And if you have a parking reservation, you must be there by 7 a.m. or the park will give your reserved spot away on a first-come, first-served basis.

To learn more about hiking Katahdin and the day parking reservation system, visit https://baxterstatepark.org.

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