In February I spent five days with students from Chewonki’s Maine Coast Semester exploring Katahdin Woods and Waters, the area east of Baxter State Park proposed for inclusion in the National Park system. The Maine Coast Semester is a four-month-long program for high school juniors. In the fall and again in the winter/spring, 42 participants from around the country come to Maine to take part in a rigorous academic program and to experience nature at its best. Our group skied from Matagamon Gate to a small hut on the banks of the East Branch of the Penobscot; this was our base for the next four days.
Skiing is an excellent way to travel in this area. Our group made trips to Haskell Rock, Grand Pitch, and Messer Pond where we encountered moose, one of our state’s most iconic species. We later exchanged skis for snowshoes for a compass guided trip to Stair Falls.
This area is stunning, and all the more so in winter when vistas open up and skis and snowshoes provide quick access. The view of the Travellers and other peaks to the west are beautiful and enticing. The area also includes part of the International Appalachian Trail, an extension of the route that ends on Katahdin’s summit.
The students in our group built shelters and slept outside one night. They had lots of new experiences and learned about the natural, economic, and social history of the region. At the Matagamon General Store we had a great lunch and heard what some local residents think about the proposed national park. This stretch along the East Branch offers beautiful trails and stunning winter landscapes.
We had a wonderful time exploring the region. I can’t wait to return.
-Henry Heyburn Jr.