Combining The Northern Forest Canoe Route, The Appalachian Trail And The International Appalachian Trail Into An Epic Journey
There is a romance and simplicity in journeys that start at your door. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins didn’t take a bus to a plane to another bus to a cab to start his journey. He had tea, put away his cups and dishes, shut his front door and started walking.
A few years ago while paddling Webster Stream with Fil Salonek, we talked about connecting the paddling route of the Allagash with the hiking trails in Baxter State Park. Fil said it sounded like a great challenge, and after we took off the river he went and did it. The following year he hiked the northern section of the Appalachian Trail, meeting up with his through-hiker friend Danger Ranger (trail name) on the NH/VT border and finishing the AT on top of Katahdin. Instead of heading into Millinocket for a night on the town, they continued hiking north through Baxter State Park. We had arranged for me to drop a canoe off at Chamberlain Lake on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, along with paddles and other necessary gear, which I did. They hiked north out of Baxter, got in the canoe, and paddled down the Allagash and St. John rivers. I met them just outside of Fort Kent and we had a celebratory beer at Bee-Jay’s Tavern in Fort Kent. The two travelers stayed at the field school for a few days, and we talked about epic trips and how people would be well-served to undertake one. After looking at maps, we came up with the idea of the Maine Traverse Trail (MTT). It combines canoeing and backpacking on several existing trail systems into a big loop.
The route we outlined starts at the Jack Mountain field school on the Aroostook river in Masardis. It begins with having tea, putting a canoe in the river, and heading downstream. The route continues: Canoe down the Aroostook to the border at Fort Fairfield. Hike south on the International Appalachian Trail to Baxter State Park. Continue hiking, south on the Appalachian Trail through the hundred mile wilderness and beyond. Near Stratton, Maine, hike the Bigelow Range to where the trail intersects with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Paddle north through Flagstaff Lake and the Dead River, up Spencer Stream and carry into the Moose River. Paddle down the Moose, across Moosehead Lake, down the West Branch of the Penobscot, the Allagash and St. John to Fort Kent (end of the NFCT). Then pole up the Fish River to Portage Lake. Carry over to Little Machias Lake and head downstream to the Aroostook. Pole back upstream to the field school. Then have tea.
A big, multisport loop, all within the state of Maine, so one fishing license will cover you. We’re planning to set this up and do trail support for our alumni. Vehicles will be safe at our field school. We’ll provide trail support, such as picking up canoes in Fort Fairfield.
So the question is, do you want to go on a journey?
Northern Forest Canoe Route trip planner. Look at sections 9-13