Articles by Brad Viles

The view from the Turtle Ridge Trail in the Nahmakanta district of the Maine Bureau of Public Lands, one of the trails I hiked this past year.

Christmas reflections on a hiking year

By Brad Viles on Dec. 23, 2011, at 5:27 p.m.
Tomorrow’s the day I look forward to all year. Christmas Day I’ll join my closest relatives in our traditional celebration. My son, my cousins, their wives and my dearest aunt will exchange a few blessings. Some will be in the form of simple, modest gifts. The most valuable gift we’ll …
Competitors gather at ROCKFEST indoor wall climbing competition last Saturday held by the students in the Adventure Recreation and Tourism program at Washington County Community College in Calais.

ROCKFEST a hit at Washington County Community College

By Brad Viles on Dec. 16, 2011, at 1:28 p.m.
If you had stepped into the St. Croix Hall Gymnasium on the campus of Washington County Community College last Saturday, you would have heard sounds that you might not expect coming from a gym. Instead of “Shoot!” coming from a basketball player, you would have heard, “Climb!” coming from a …

Visiting Baxter State Park in winter

By Brad Viles on Dec. 09, 2011, at 11:21 a.m.
If you plan on visiting Baxter State Park this winter, it’s important that you know the rules and regulations. The winter rules went into effect on Dec 1. The park has a website,, that explains it all, but people still have questions. Questions such as: Do I need a …
Hikers are rewarded with this view from just below the summit of North Peak on Quaggy Jo Mountain in Aroostook State Park on a bright early November day. Echo Lake is in the foreground.

Quaggy Jo in Aroostook State Park a rewarding moderate climb

By Brad Viles on Nov. 17, 2011, at 12:47 p.m.
For a small mountain, Quaggy Jo in Aroostook State Park, just south of Presque Isle, rewards hikers with outstanding views of the landscape that are unique to The County. But it’s not just views that make the mountain a fun hike. The terrain is perfect for a family hike, beginning …

Lincoln Search and Rescue can be a lifesaver for climbers

By Brad Viles on Nov. 11, 2011, at 4:30 p.m.
If you’re a hiker needing rescue in Maine’s mountains, it’s comforting to know that the people sent to help you are trained and skilled. The Lincoln Search and Rescue unit out of Lincoln is one of several volunteer teams across the state that is a member of the Maine Association …
Ron Dobra (from left), Krisdin Diehl, Ed Langlais, Janice Clain and Sherri Langlais finish loading up the cart with Diehl's camp for the summer season.

Packing out a ridge runner

By Brad Viles on Oct. 21, 2011, at 9:53 p.m.
It was a long summer for Krisdin Diehl. From mid-June until last weekend, she has worked for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club as a ridge runner. Her job was to patrol the trail from Monson to Logan Brook, near Jo-Mary Road in the “hundred mile wilderness,” a section of trail …
A hiker on the trail to Mansell Mountain in Acadia takes in the fall view.

Some tips to prepare for fall hiking

By Brad Viles on Oct. 14, 2011, at 3:24 p.m.
This year Maine’s fall weather has shown hikers one thing: It sure is changeable. One day it’s summerlike and the next you need to wear your mitts and wool hat. Sometimes it happens in the same day. That’s typical in fall, the second-most changeable season after spring. Expecting conditions to …
Clouds hang around the top of Pamola Peak in this view from Basin Pond on the Chimney Pond Trail in Baxter State Park.

Chimney Pond in the rain

By Brad Viles on Oct. 07, 2011, at 5:09 p.m.
Pamola must not want me to do this hike, I’m thinking on my way up the Chimney Pond Trail last Tuesday. Pamola is the deity who the Penobscot Indian people believe controls the weather on Mount Katahdin. I’m not sure how I offended the part moose, eagle and human creature, …

Laurie’s Ledge on Indian Mountain

By Brad Viles on Sept. 16, 2011, at 3:50 p.m.
Named after a past president of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Laurie’s Ledge Trail started off fairly easy as it wound up through the young beech forest at the base of Indian Mountain, some 8 miles as the crow flies northeast of Greenville. Because it follows an old wood-cutting road …
Harding Pond lies at the base of Turtle Ridge in the Nahmakanta Public Lands. In the distance on the left is Whitecap Mountain. On the right is the Barren/Chairback Mountain Range.

Turtle Ridge

By Brad Viles on Sept. 09, 2011, at 10:32 p.m.
One of the benefits of living in Maine is exploring the sheer number and variety of public lands that provide hiking trails. They each have some unique feature; something that sets one apart from the other. One place in particular, Nahmakanta Public Reserved Lands, is really extraordinary. Located in the …
Gilbert Butler and Lisa Garvey answer questions about the proposed outdoor education center for the Katahdin area at a meeting with residents Wednesday at the River Drivers Restaurant. The new school serves school children in the region and will be called the Maine Outdoor Education Center.

Foundation proposes Katahdin region outdoor program for schools

By Brad Viles on Sept. 09, 2011, at 10:27 p.m.
TOWNSHIP 1 RANGE 8 — Representatives from communities that make up the Katahdin region were introduced to a new concept in outdoor education Wednesday at the new River Drivers Restaurant outside Millinocket. The Butler Foundations held the event to introduce an outdoor education center for area schoolchildren. Gilbert Butler, CEO …
The students in the Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program listen to Gabe and Marcia Williamson explain Leave No Trace practices prior to the students' 8-day backpacking trip through Baxter State Park.

Developing the next generation of wilderness leaders

By Brad Viles on Aug. 12, 2011, at 2:03 p.m.
The students were gathered at the picnic table at South Branch Pond when I arrived last Saturday morning. There were 10 of them and two trip leaders. The Baxter State Park rangers, Marcia and Gabe Williamson, were explaining the principles of Leave No Trace. After the training, one of the …
The rungs lead to the bottom of the Debsconeag Ice Caves, where snow and ice can be found all year.

Keeping it cool: Debsconeag Ice Caves

By Brad Viles on Aug. 10, 2011, at 4:46 p.m.
If you’re looking for a place to escape the summer heat, don’t head to the beach. Think about this: Head underground. Specifically, hike to the Debsconeag Ice Caves, located in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area managed by The Nature Conservancy. The cave is a cool place, deep in the woods, …
A few of the hikers who reached the summit gather around the summit sign on Katahdin on a perfect summit day last Tuesday.

Baxter Peak shines on a fine summer day

By Brad Viles on July 22, 2011, at 4:27 p.m.
MILLINOCKET — I first felt Katahdin’s pull in 1976. I was dating a girl at the time, and when she said, “Let’s climb Katahdin,” I couldn’t refuse. We camped on Omaha Beach, on the bank of the Penobscot’s West Branch. The next day we climbed the mountain. It was June …
This single pole  setup is just one of a variety of ways to rig a tarp for sleeping.

Tarp camping 101

By Brad Viles on June 24, 2011, at 8:21 p.m.
Maybe this is you. You’ve got all the latest and lightest in backpacking equipment. Your empty pack weighs in at a little over a pound and a half. Your stove weighs ounces. Everything you carry is the lightest stuff you can find on the market. But you still carry a tent that …
Krisdin Diehl, a ridgerunner with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, shares a laugh with unidentified hikers on the Appalachian Trail. The hikers had just forded the West Branch of the Pleasant River a few miles from Gulf Hagas, a highly visited area.

Maine Appalachian Trail Club ridge runner ambassador for Leave No Trace

By Brad Viles on June 17, 2011, at 5:41 p.m.
Krisdin Diehl, 27, has an enviable job for a hiker. Now in her second year as a ridge runner for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, she works by hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail. It’s her job to patrol her assigned length of the trail from her base camp near the …
A rhodora blossom frames the skyline of Katahdin at Martin Ponds lean-to in Baxter State Park. The lean-to is located off the Katahdin Lake Trail, an easy 2.3 mile hike over gently rolling terrain.

Martin Ponds overnight a great season opener

By Brad Viles on June 10, 2011, at 6:52 p.m.
If there’s a better way to celebrate the start of the hiking season other than taking an overnight backpacking trip, I haven’t found it. Sure, a day hike is fun and rewarding in its own way. Any hike is a great hike. But to really kick off the summer right, …
Folded granite like this rock ledge on Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park is evidence that the granite was once molten hundreds of millions of years ago.

Hiking through geologic time

By Brad Viles on May 27, 2011, at 5:38 p.m.
Most Maine hikers probably don’t think much about the ground beneath their feet. I know I never gave it much thought until I picked up a geology book on my thru-hike in 1994. I bought the book “Underfoot: A Geologic Guide to the Appalachian Trail” by V. Collins Chew in Harper’s Ferry, …
Sheep laurel grows at higher elevations like this specimen at around 2,200 feet on Pleasant Pond Mountain in Caratunk.

Spring wildflowers

By Brad Viles on May 20, 2011, at 4:12 p.m.
The phrase “stop and smell the flowers” must have been coined by a hiker. When you’re hiking, stopping and smelling the flowers comes easy. After all, no one ever accused hikers of participating in an adrenaline sport. The pace is just way too slow to increase that adrenaline flow. Slow enough …
An unidentified hiking family tackles a rock ledge on the Great Head Trail in Acadia National Park earlier this spring. They were dressed for early spring conditions.

It’s here — spring!

By Brad Viles on May 13, 2011, at 3:59 p.m.
If you’re a hiker in Maine, spring is the season you wait for all year. The ground is greening up, right along with everything else. Trees are starting their leaf-out, and migrating songbirds are arriving in droves. Trails are snow-free in most of the networks, at least at lower elevations. In …