Ever get the feeling you belong? You belong someplace, doing something, or with a particular group? Good! Wow I thought I was the only one. Many years ago I visited my first official National Park. The Smoky National Park and along with my family, fell in love with the park, the woods, the bears, the idea of that National Parks and felt that belonging to the outdoors that I once had as a scout and to hiking.
The longest and best-known hiking trail in the country, the Appalachian Trail winds from the north woods of Maine all the way south to Georgia. While you won’t earn the same kudos driving as you would by walking, the following scenic roads come very close to paralleling the pedestrian route, taking you through the almost continuous natural beauty without the sweat and blisters. Best of all, this driving route follows magnificently scenic two-lane roads all the way from the top of New England to the heart of Dixie, running past a wealth of fascinating towns and historic sites.
The Appalachian landscape holds some of the wealthiest, and some of the most needy, areas in the entire country. These contrasting worlds often sit within a few miles of one another: Every resort and retirement community seems to have its alter-ego as a former mill town, now as dependent upon tourism as they once were upon the land and its resources.
The Maine Appalachian Trail is a tough, tough place to hike. There are lots of mountains and mud and rocks and roots, but the weather is just so unpredictable and nasty!
I got a taste of that (again) when I backpacked from Stratton to Rangely for 4 nights and 3 days, last week. This is a very tough section of the trail with a lot of above treeline exposure and steep climbs up North and South Crocker, Spaulding Mountain, The Horn and Saddleback Mountains.
I’d hoped to go even farther than Rangeley on this hike and finish all of the remaining 79 miles of the AT I have in Maine, but I got off the trail after 32 miles due to violent thunderstorms, hail, high winds, rain, and a possible tornado. Being a section hiker, I had a hard deadline (my wife’s birthday) to finish this hike by and there was no way I was going to make it with a 2 day bad weather delay. That’s basically what it boiled down too.
Rangeley turned out to be a good town – basically the only town – to get off the trail and get a ride back to my car down in Grafton Notch, something that only happened because of a little trail magic.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) is an all volunteer, nonprofit corporation that was organized on June 18, 1935, to assume responsibility for the management, maintenance and protection of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Maine. Except for its limited role in Baxter State Park, the MATC is responsible for all Trail and Trail structure design, construction, and maintenance, for monitoring activities in the AT corridor, and for basic public information and education regarding the Trail in Maine. The MATC is not a hiking or outing club. It exists solely for the protection and perpetuation of the AT. The MATC is not affiliated with nor is it a part of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). The MATC and the AMC are two separate organizations, although both are involved with protection and maintenance of the AT.
The Appalachian Trail (AT) stretches approximately 2,168 miles from Georgia to Maine. Since 1948, when Earl Shaffer completed the first “thru-hike” from end to end of the trail, some 6,000 thru-hikers have followed in his footsteps.
Appalachian Mountain Club staff and volunteers maintain over 279 miles of the Appalachian Trail in five states as a maintaining club of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, along with another 1,200+ miles of trails in the Northeast. Our staff and chapters also manage backcountry shelters along the AT, as well as the huts system in the White Mountains. Our Maine Woods Initiative is working to protect land Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, helping to buffer 25 miles of the AT corridor.