#WEOUTSIDE Program – Quick Update

#WEOUTSIDE is a partnership program between the Maine Association for New Americans (MANA) and the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, with a focus on youth ages 13 to 25 who were are currently are housed in hotels or the Portland Expo Center, and other immigrant youth participating in MANA’s Peer Support program. These participants traveled through harsh outdoor conditions to arrive in Maine in detention centers and then shelters and hotels. They are currently navigating the asylum system and seeking stable housing, but as summer approaches many of these young asylum seekers will have more free time to explore their surroundings. 

We will have more updates on this really amazing program as the summer progresses!

Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Up for LTA Accreditation

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust has an important announcement! The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce it is applying for accreditation. A public comment period is now open.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. Accreditation is an important step for the organization as it continues to grow and meet the challenge of protecting land surrounding the Appalachian Trail in Maine for public benefit.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see https://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-elements.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org. Comments may also be mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments, 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s application will be most useful by May 1, 2023. Thanks you for your input and continued support!

Four Ponds Trip Report

The group.
Height of Land view.
One of the ponds…

The Four Ponds Preserve hike along the Appalachian Trail near Height of Land* in Township E, Maine is one of our tamer hikes, but it is not without its challenges. Although there are no tall mountains to climb this day, there were plenty of hilly ups and downs to get our blood pumping. The weather was chilly at the start, around 9 degrees but there was no wind; we had bright sunshine and bluebird skies.

6 MATLT hikers met at the snowmobile parking lot about a half mile northwest of the trailhead. We grabbed our gear and walked to the trailhead dodging a little traffic along the way.  It was clear no one had been on the trail in ages, so we were prepared to do some trail breaking. We donned our snowshoes and immediately began a gradual climb into the woods.  Fortunately, the snow was not too deep, and as it was crunchy and frozen on top, trail breaking was less arduous than expected.

The Four Ponds Preserve lies just east of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. The Appalachian Trail traverses the length of this 6,000-acre unit with a lean-to at Sabbath Day Pond and a campsite at Little Swift River Pond. Fishing and swimming are popular activities during the warmer months.  Snowshoeing and nearby snowmobile trails are the winter activities.

We wandered in about 2.5 miles of the trail, stopping often to hydrate and snack, take pictures, admire Long Pond or to examine some animal tracks. We think we identified some moose tracks, maybe coyote, probably some hares and some kind of feline. Lynx, bobcat? Alas, no experts among us.  It is a beautiful hike through the woods in the winter and everyone remarked how just how beautiful and peaceful it was.  As we got a later start than planned, we exited the woods in the late afternoon. As we headed back to the cars, we all spent a moment admiring the spectacular views from Height of Land. All in all, a great day.

* Height of Land is perched beside Route 17 in western Maine and offers an expansive look at the sprawling Rangeley Lakes Region and the mountains beyond. This viewpoint is considered one the finest in the state and maybe in all of New England.

Old Speck Trip Report

Starting out!
View of Old Speck from top of the Eyebrow.
Summit scene, with fire tower.
Baldpate Mountain in the distance on the descent.

Oh Snap! Old Speck hike, postponed until after a record-breaking cold-snap, a success.

Record-breaking low temperatures would not stop a group of six hikers from ascending Old Speck on Sunday, February 5, 2023. In fact, it was the cold snap on Saturday, February 4, the originally scheduled hike day, that convinced trip leaders to reschedule the trip to occur 24-hours later. Four individuals from MATLT and two community guests gathered at the parking lot around 9 am and trekked throughout the slightly-below freezing morning until they summitted the A.T. Old Speck trail just before 2 pm. About halfway through the ascent, the group was very close lands of the South Tract of
the Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve project. In 2023, MATLT continues to work with the Northeast Wilderness Trust to acquire a forever wild conservation easement to ensure permanent protection of this landscape, though the preserve was not visible through the dense and fluffy snow blanketing the thickly forested mountain.

Snow-shoes were required the entire way up and down the mountain. All had a challenging but happy time – brightened by plenty of amusing bum-sliding on the way down. Most of the trail was slightly packed by perhaps a half-dozen other hikers, but rare moments without snowshoes were met with frequent steps into one-two feet of unpacked snow. Frequent snack
breaks and layer adjustments were warranted due to the length of the hike, which purports to be 7 miles total but was tracked on several smart watches as closer to 9 miles. At the top, hikers posed for some photos, rested briefly,
and opted not to climb the incredibly dangerous and icy fire tower. As the group neared the parking lot, sunset approached but headlamps were not necessary. All were incredibly relieved to step onto solid ground (asphalt) and remove their snowshoes. The two vehicles which carried the hikers departed and all made it home safely that evening. Though tiring, this hike was a success and those who were new to MATLT’s community hikes program appeared interested in continuing to participate.

Puzzle Mountain Trip Report

MATLT’s first community hike of 2023 and of the winter season was scheduled for Saturday, January 14, but the weather a few days before and the day of was less than ideal. Fortunately, everyone agreed to postpone the hike and it was worth the wait. Sunday proved to be a sunny, almost bluebird sky kind of day, with moderate temperatures and although a bit windy, nothing to stop three happy hikers from summiting Puzzle Mountain in Grafton Notch.

Puzzle Mountain is part of the Stewart Family Preserve, named after Bob Stewart, who donated the land to the Mahoosuc Land Trust for permanent protection from development. The Puzzle Mountain Trail, part of the Grafton Loop Trail, ascends from route 26 and continues to the open summit of the mountain after passing several ledges with great views of the Bear River Valley, the Mahoosuc Range and the Presidential Range. About 0.1 miles before the summit, there is a sign for the Woodsum Spur trail that branches toff o the right. As expected, the spur was not broken out so was not on our itinerary.

The views from the ledges and the summit were beautiful as promised, but the ascent was slow. Although, micro-spikes were adequate, there was a light covering of crunchy snow that kept us marching along at a slow to moderate pace. Once at the top, and after some obligatory pictures, we sat behind the summit cairn to get out of the wind and enjoyed our lunches. A few other hikers summited while we ate but did not hang around for long. One very friendly hiker did stick around just long enough to take our group picture for which we were grateful. Of course, we returned the favor.

We did not leave the summit until after 2 PM as our ascend was not exactly timely but the trail on the way back was now packed down from our tracks and those of the other hikers. This made for a quick decent and we were down in just over two hours. As we headed down over the ledges, we were treated to the same lovely views but with that late winter afternoon sunlight that is easily more beautiful than any other time of year.

The sun was starting to set as we pulled out of the parking lot, and we were treated to a beautiful sunset. The perfect ending to just about a perfect hiking day.

Stewardship of Lands and Trails 2022

Ready for some trail work on the White Brook Trail.
The view from White Cap Mountain in the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
Sometimes it rains.
Sometimes you have to walk on old roads to get the views.
The Erratic on the Berry Picker’s Trail to Saddleback Mountain.
Mount Abraham in autumn.

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust owns and/or manages nearly 25,000 acres of land (and counting…) along the Appalachian Trail in Maine! We monitor conservation easements, maintain trails, follow boundaries, bushwhack to sensitive ecological areas, climb mountains, and put up signs. It’s a lot of work but we have a great team of volunteers and supporters who make this happen. Check out the gallery above for some highlights of our work in 2022.

New Signs Installed at Saddleback Mountain and Bald Mountain Pond

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust was part of the installation of two kiosks this summer, adding wayfinding in two key locations in order to facilitate public access to lands along the A.T. in Maine. At Saddleback Mountain, hikers have long used a ski trail from Saddleback Maine to reach the summit of the mountain on the A.T. Though this trail is not an official Appalachian Trail side trail it is heavily used and the information on the panel provides information to help hikers protect the sensitive alpine environment on the summit, engage in good practices while exploring, and learn about the A.T. and the lands in Maine’s High Peaks area. Thanks to Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Saddleback Maine, FatBird Design and Signworks for helping to get this done.

At Bald Mountain Pond, the land trust received funding through a grant from The Trust for Public Land to install a kiosk on the access road to the pond. It is reached by logging roads which can be difficult to navigate, so this kiosk includes a road map and a description of the landscape. Maine Appalachian Trail Club volunteers provided 66 hours of time in helping to fabricate and install the kiosk, which is located on the Pinkerton Road in Moscow (Maine). If you head to the pond be sure to stop and take a look!

Mapping Maine’s Appalachian Trail: Just Add MATGIC

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that the organization is the recipient of a grant from the Land Trust Alliance and the Open Space Institute, the funds from which will be used to incorporate climate science into strategic land protection and stewardship efforts, harnessing the land’s natural ability to capture and store carbon. 

Specifically, these funds will be used for the Maine Appalachian Trail Geospatial Information for Conservation (MATGIC) project, which covers 1,708,013 acres of land within two miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Maine.  

“The MATGIC project is the best tool we have for analyzing the land along the A.T. in Maine for land conservation. Using this kind of data as the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust has put it all together is a way to take advantage of opportunities and also counter threats to Maine’s A.T landscape,” said Peter S. McKinley, land trust board Vice President.

The Land Trust’s work supports the Maine Climate Council’s mission, which includes protecting the state’s environment and working lands and waters as one of eight primary strategies for achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. If these goals are to be reached, the lands along the A.T. in Maine will play a significant role for the people of the state of Maine and beyond. 

In total, the Land Trust Alliance and the Open Space Institute are awarding nearly $400,000 in grants to help communities better plan for climate change and its impacts. This work will enable people, plants, and animals to better adapt to a changing climate. The grants, which have been awarded to 30 nonprofit organizations nationwide, also include nearly $50,000 of direct technical assistance for climate-focused planning and communications. The program is generously funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund, Jane’s Trust Foundation, the Volgenau Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, an anonymous foundation, and several individual donors.

An Appreciation: Tony Barrett

Longtime board member Tony Barrett, who was with the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust since its founding in 2002, recently termed off of the board of directors and will now be exploring new adventures. Tony is a former USGS employee who worked for many years as Vice President for Amoco in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Africa and the Middle East. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and as a trail maintainer on the Appalachian Trail. He thru-hiked the A.T. in just prior to that time.

It is a challenge to summarize everything Tony did for this organization but his contributions exemplify the best kind of service that conservation and recreation organizations can hope to get from their supporters. He was happy in the field exploring a remote property in inclement weather, providing expertise from his career but also from his countless hours volunteering for MATC and others. But he was also willing to serve on committees and roll up his sleeves on less exciting tasks like strategic planning or budgets. He was diligent and scrupulous in all matters relating to the governance and direction of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, always placing the good of the organization in perpetuity over quick options or easy answers.

The organization was happy to provide Tony with a surprise gift of a plaque honoring his many contributions to the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (photo above), but that is a small token of thanks in comparison for all that he has done for the A.T. in Maine. Thank you Tony!

Rangeley Hosts Ten Year Anniversary Trail Town Festival

Rangeley held its tenth annual Trail Town Festival over Labor Day weekend, attracting hundreds of visitors to one of the Maine’s High Peaks region’s A.T. Communities. There are now 51 towns along the Appalachian Trail, in 12 states, that have achieved this designation. These towns and cities are assets for everyone who uses the A.T., providing food, supplies, recreation, history, volunteer opportunities and so much more. There are many benefits for communities who join, including access to educational resources, national and regional recognition of tourism programs, and opportunities for grant funding.

Rangeley holds the annual Trail Town Festival to celebrate not only the A.T. but all the conservation and recreation elements that contribute to the region’s identity. The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust annually attends and distributes free maps, information about trails, and more, but there are dozens of vendors and other organizations around to make it a truly special experience. There’s music, guest speakers, games for kids, and of course…thru hikers. At the end of the day there’s an ice cream eating contest so they can head back to the trail fattened up for the last leg of their journey to Katahdin. There’s also a kids version of the contest so they don’t feel left out!

Check the festival info page next year for info about attending!