September 8, 2019 A Chance Encounter with Trail Maintainers in Maine By Hal Wright
The man carrying a chainsaw to Little Bigelow Lean-to stuck out his hand and introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Hawk Methany.” My canine companion Sofia and I would stay at the lean-to that night, waiting out a thunderstorm which threatened to bring hale and high winds, on the third night of a six-day section hike.
I knew of Hawk, the ATC’s North Atlantic Regional Director, and joked that I was pleased to greet someone who is “AT famous.” Hawk was soon joined by Maine Appalachian Trail Conference Board Member Tom Carr, and ATC employees Paige Gregory and Dan Hale. Tom also serves as the MATC’s Hazard Tree Coordinator.
Everyone carried heavy tree-cutting equipment in and on top of backpacks. Their task was to cut down six hazardous trees which might fall, posing a risk to tent campers in the area of the shelter. Identifying the trees and cutting them down, using saws and tensioned ropes, took almost four hours of work.
By the time the work was done, it had started to rain. The four packed up, said goodbye, and started the 1.5 mile journey back to the trailhead.
From left: Dan Hale, Paige Gregory, Tom Carr, Hawk Methany
As one thru hiker put it, “Maine is a giant stone with trees trying to grow on it.” Geology dictates the character of the Maine AT, creating streams to ford and random tangles of rocks, roots, and mud. But the hiker also encounters hundreds of bog bridges, and elegant flights of stairs made from nearby stones. As members of Allentown Hiking Club know, these and many other accommodations are the work of AT trail maintainers and builders, most of them volunteers from clubs along the trail.
Moody Mountain, Maine. Maintainers rig a come-along and cables to position stone steps.
Bree is an Appalachian Mountain Club employee who tends to the campsites in New Hampshire and southern Maine.