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Kudos to the Maine Appalachian Trail Club

Bog Bridges - Maine Appalachian Trail

Bog Bridge in Southern Maine

I just wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation to the Maine Appalachian Club (MATC) for the outstanding work they do maintaining the 267 miles of Appalachian Trail under their stewardship.

Last month, we had a spell of heavy rain and high winds in Maine, and I was very impressed to see MATC trail maintenance crews out cutting up blow downs and clearing hazardous debris from the trail within a day or two of the weather event. The dedication and coordination required for this kind of response says a lot about the priorities of the people who live near the trail and their love for what it stands for.

Stone Stairs along the Maine Appalachian Trail

Stone Staircase in the 100 Mile Wilderness

Unless you have an eye for it, it is easy to underestimate the amount of work required to maintain a hiking trail. The sheer logistics of the effort, which is largely manual, can be simply overwhelming. Building privies, shelters, stone steps, bog bridges, bridges, and water bars is backbreaking work, particularly in the backcountry where motorized transport and power tools are often not available, or banned under Wilderness regulations.

Log Bridge over Pierce Pond Stream

Three Log Bridge near Kennebec Ferry

Instead, long lasting trail structures have to be crafted from local materials, by hand, using rudimentary tools. It's really a monumental undertaking spanning decades and generations of volunteers.

Anyway – hat's off to you MATC, and thanks!

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6 comments

  1. AMEN! I spent a long summer in 2008 working on the Long Trail, building a crazy walkway near Stratton Pond. Then, at the end of the summer, I went through the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine and was completely humbled by almost every staircase and bog bridge that had been built. MATC does some of the most amazing work.

    Also mind-boggling is the number of multi-year projects they do. I saw a trail crew working on a staircase going up Baldpate in 2006, which was part of a five or six year project. They should be opening that staircase soon, if not already. I can't even imagine the planning it takes to build a section of trail over that many years. Pretty awesome.

  2. I think more individual hikers should put some effort into clearing the trails they're on. I'll get my camp saw out or heave logs off the trail where plenty of people have just went around and torn up the topsoil. I get overwhelmed after a while and quit but if everyone would pitch in a little we'd have much nicer trails.

  3. What saw would you recommend?

  4. I recently bought an 18" sawvivor for about half the weight of my trusty old 21" sven but it doesn't seem very sturdy while the sven's been working hard for years.

    You'll probably want the lightweight of course.

  5. Silky Ibuki makes the best trail saws in the world. They never get dull and cut really nice. I spent 5 months in Idaho working trails high in the wilderness. We rebuilt almost 10 miles of trail that used to be a wagon road but really had become a stream. It is incredible how much work and ingenuity is required to build great trail. Cross-cut sawing is the most fun trail job there is, cutting trees the way people did before chainsaws. They were dead beetle kill trees by the way and being put to a good use. I'll be in Colorado back at it with my own crew this summer, Rawah Wilderness. Would love to hike the AT and work on the trail for the summer.

  6. I second this, and extend the hurrah! to all the trail maintainers. I am one myself with the Cayuga Trails Club in Ithaca, NY. Our group has responsibility for about 85 miles of the Finger Lakes Trail and a number of side trails. We have had some unusual weather events causing major trail damage in the last year or so and our folks find the time to get out in the woods and get the trails cleared and repaired. In a sense I think I enjoy the trails more wherever I go knowing what it takes to keep them open and passable. Nature has this habit of aggressively reclaiming whatever humans have altered unless we keep after it. Thank you to all trail crews everywhere.

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