Mount Katahdin

If you are driving through north central Maine, it’s hard to miss Mount Katahdin. This ruggedly exquisite mountain dominates the remote wilderness of Baxter State Park.

At an elevation of 5,270 feet, it is the highest mountain in Maine. Mount Katahdin gets its name, which means “The Greatest Mountain,” from the Penobscot Indians. The Native Americans who originally inhabited the Mount Katahdin region believed that the mountain was the home of the storm god Pamola, and therefore avoided the area.

If you look at the sides of Mount Katahdin, you will notice four glacial cirques that have been carved into the granite by alpine glaciers. Bears, deer, and moose roam the mountain territory, and a variety of songbirds and raptors fly above its peaks. The various floura include pines, spruces, maple, fir, beech, hemlock and aspen.

In the 1840s, Henry David Thoreau climbed Mount Katahdin. His observations are recorded in a chapter his famous Maine Woods. Katahdin had such a profound effect on Thoreau that he was inspired to call for a creation of a national parks system:

“Why should not we, who have renounced the king's authority, have our national preserves, where no villages need be destroyed, in which the bear and panther, and some even of the hunter race, may still exist, and not be civilized off the face of the earth.”

In 1931, long after Thoreau’s death, his wishes were fulfilled. In 1930, Percival B. Baxter, who was the governor of Maine, purchased 6,000 acres of land which included Mount Katahdin. In 1931, Baxter formally donated the parcel to the State of Maine with one condition: It would be kept forever wild. Throughout the years, the governor purchased additional lands. Gradually, he pieced his park together. His final purchase was made in 1962. Upon his death, left a trust of 7 million dollars to the park, as well as these words:

Man is born to die,
His works are short-lived.
Buildings crumble,
Monuments decay,
Wealth vanishes.
But Katahdin in all its glory,
Forever shall remain
The Mountain
Of
The People of Maine.

Today, Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin are premier destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. As the Northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and the Southern terminus of the International Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin is a popular hiking and camping destination. The Appalachian Trail passes through fourteen states, which include Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The idea of the Appalachian Trail hike was conceived in 1921 by Benton Mackaye. His idea was publicized in an article in the New York Evening Post entitled "A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia!" In August of 1937, the Appalachian Trail hike was completed to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine.

There are a variety of ways of hiking The Appalachian Trail. For the vigorous of body and spirit, the Appalachian Trail Conference gives the name “2000 Miler” to anyone who completes the entire trail. If you are hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, you are considered a “north-bounder.” Conversely, if you are hiking the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, you are a “south-bounder.”

There are a number of shelters and campsites that will be available for your Appalachian Trail hike. The shelters, which are sometimes called lean-tos, are usually open three-walled structures with a wooden floor. The trail also crosses many roads, where you can hitchhike for food and supplies.

Some people consider the Appalachian Maine Trail the most challenging. There are more moose in this section than any other part of the trail. Be wary! They may be cute, but they are not very friendly! The central section of the Appalachian Maine Trail crosses the Kennebec River. Due to the swift current, fording the river is unsafe. However, The Maine Appalachian Trail Club offers a canoe ride across the river during hiking season.

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