Maine Chapter International Appalachian Trail (MaineIAT)
Northern Maine Work Trip
Bill Duffy, Josh Bowe, Elaine Hendrickson and Eric Hendrickson
June 15 – 17, 2023
Thursday, June 15
Bill Duffy got an early start, leaving his home in New Hampshire at 5:00 AM for the long drive to Roach Farm Lean-to. Though there were several bouts of showers along the way, by the time Bill reached Patten the skies were clearing and the temperature was beginning to rise. After a stop at Ellis Market to pick up some toilet paper for the lean-tos and a spare notebook for a lean-to register, Bill emailed Roach Farm owner Morris Robinson to let him know he’d be stopping by. Bill arrived at the lean-to access road around noon and, after checking that the road was firm and dry, drove in to the lean-to.
Overall, the lean-to was in good shape, just needing a good sweeping. The log book was intact in its plastic bag and the privy was already stocked with toilet paper. Bill cleared some newly growing poplars and other shrubs from around the fire ring and cleared some branches from a birch blowdown to make easier access to the privy. He noted another birch behind the NW corner of the shelter that was leaning towards it and should probably be removed before it falls on the roof
On his way out, Bill noticed that the IAT signpost at the beginning of the field road had fallen over. Bill proceeded to Mike Weston’s farm to the east of the field road to see if he could borrow a post hole digger to reset the post. Mike was out mowing one of his back fields, but one of his workers helped him find a shovel. After a bit of a struggle digging in the rocky soil, Bill managed to get a hole that was deep enough to support the sign post. However, a deeper hole should be dug with a posthole digger at some point.
As Bill was leaving, landowner Morris Robinson pulled up in a pickup and introduced himself. Though Bill and Morris had communicated via email several times they had never met in person. Morris let Bill know that he had been stocking the lean-to privy.
Bill then headed towards Mars Hill, stopping at a few IAT road crossings along the way to check and add tags as needed. Meanwhile, Josh Bowe was making his way north, also checking IAT road crossings to familiarize himself with this section of the trail. Both Bill and Josh arrived at the Bear Paw Inn in Mars Hill within an hour of each other around 4:00. After enjoying a beer and watching a spectacular thunderstorm from the porch at the Bear Paw Inn, Bill and Josh had some nice burgers at the Timberwolves Restaurant in Mars Hill.
Friday, June 16
Elaine and Eric Hendrickson arrived at the Bear Paw Inn parking lot at 7:00 AM, and after welcomes to Josh and Bill and a bit of gear consolidation, the four climbed into Eric’s pickup for the drive to Mars Hill Mountain. The weather was cool and overcast, but no rain was in the forecast. First stop was the Mars Hill Lean-to near the summit. The shelter had a good-sized spruce blowdown leaning on the east side of the roof which Josh immediately began de-limbing with his chainsaw. Meanwhile, Eric, Elaine and Bill began dismantling the old fire ring in order to rebuild it to U.S. Forest Service specifications. Once Josh finished his de-limbing, the crew dragged the spruce branches off into the woods while Josh worked to clear several smaller blowdowns off the trail to the privy. Josh returned the big spruce on the roof, and after a bit of discussion with Eric, made a single cut of the trunk which caused the tree to gracefully slide off the roof to the backside of the lean-to. The crew then finished up clearing brush and reconstructing the fire ring.
The next stop on Mars Hill was to clear the trail between Towers 10 and 8. Eric dropped Josh and Bill off at Tower 10 so they could start working downhill. Eric and Elaine then drove to the gated access road on East Ridge Road and hiked up to Tower 8 and began working the trail uphill. Overall, the trail was in good shape with only a few blowdowns requiring a chainsaw. However, there were many sections that were grown in with striped maple, hobblebush and other shrubs. These require lots of bending over to cut the shrubs off close to the ground or, better still, pull them up by their roots! It was around noon when the two parties met up with each other and then headed downhill to Eric’s pickup.
Following a break to eat lunch on the tailgate, the crew headed north to the Fort Fairfield Lean-to. After a quick mile’s walk on the Sam Everett Road and the US/Canadian Border, the crew reached the lean-to and began work. While Josh cleaned a couple of small blowdowns, Eric cleared brush on the path to the privy and water source. Elaine cleared the trail to the shelter, picking up branches and cutting small bushes. Bill worked to jury-rig the lean-to sign post on the edge of the border swath by attaching it to a small spruce with flagging. This sign post should be reset properly with a posthole digger in the future.
With the day’s work done, Eric and Elaine dropped Josh and Bill off back at the Bears Paw Inn and returned to Presque Isle. After a shower and an attitude adjustment session, Bill and Josh headed to the Rusty Crab Restaurant in Mars Hill for some fresh Aroostook County seafood.
Saturday, June 17
The rain continued to hold off when Eric met Josh and Bill at the corner of Ladner Road and Route 1A at 7:30 AM for the drive to Curtis Road and the US/Canadian Border. Maine IAT Coordinator, Amy Barker, had called the Border Patrol on Thursday to let them know the IAT trail crew would be working on the Border Beaver Bypass (BBB) Trail.
After parking the trucks at the north edge of the field adjacent to the border, Eric, Josh and Bill set off on the half-mile walk to the southern junction of the BBB. The mosquitos were annoying in the border swath, but once the crew entered the woods on the BBB, they were hardly noticeable.
The first half of the 0.7-mile-long trail was in fairly good shape, with just a few small blowdowns (which may have been left when the trail was cleared last year). Eric applied more blue flagging while Bill added a few IAT tags to trees. At about the halfway point the crew encountered a very large, multi-tree blowdown that totally blocked the trail. After about 30 minutes of Josh de-limbing and Eric and Bill removing branches, the trail was clear except for three 10” or larger spruce trunks laying across the trail at about waist height (for Eric – chest height for Bill!). It was decided to leave these for the moment and push on to see what was ahead.
After clearing about another dozen small blowdowns and a few larger ones, the crew reached the north end of the BBB trail where it rejoins the Border swath. Along the way, Eric hung new flagging while Bill added blue-painted directional arrows at a few confusing turns. After a brief break for a snack in the border swath (where there was a brief shower) the crew headed back south on the BBB trail, taking time to better clear a few spots that had been left on the way north. This included the multi-tree blowdown near the midway point, as well as a couple of large spruce in the border swath.
After saying goodbye to Eric, Bill and Josh returned to Mars Hill to finish up a couple of small jobs from the day before. This included adding an IAT/SIA tag next to the gate in the Wind Farm fence near Tower 25.
Bill and Josh then went to check the signage at north end of the Mars Hill section where the trail joins the East Ridge Road. After a discussion, the two decided to drive Josh’s truck up the side of the field to check on the condition of the trail where it passed through last year’s logging operation. Arriving at the top of the field, Bill and Josh found the walk through the cut wasn’t any worse than the BBB trail and decided to re-flag the original trail. Bill used the GPS track of the trail he had on his phone to locate some of the old IAT tags while Josh added new flagging to mark the route. At the junction of the trail with the Wind Farm Access Road (between Towers 6 and 5), Josh found the broken 2×2 inch PT post with IAT tags off the side of the road, which he reset in a more visible location.
After returning to the Bear Paw Inn for a shower, Josh and Bill headed to Sleepers Department Store in Caribou where they met and had a long conversation with Joe Sleeper himself! After a stop at the Northern Maine Brewing Company to sample the local beer, Josh and Bill made their way to Elaine and Eric’s in Presque Isle for relaxing dinner. Thanks Elaine!
Overall, a very productive work trip with minimal bugs and just the briefest of showers.