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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at

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Posted: February 26, 2018

Conservation efforts have preserved 100 miles of Maine heaven

Written by: Carey Kish

Snow is falling gently as I ski deeper into the wooded wilds. It’s a pleasurable kick and glide, kick and glide along the winding trail for a while longer before I pause.

There’s no wind, not a sound, except for the white crystals pinging gently off my wind shell. I spy critter tracks here and there, but other than my wife and I, nothing moves, accentuating the solitude.

Every now and again, the snowfall abates for a brief moment and the scudding gray clouds part just enough to reveal the dark outlines of mountain peaks I have come to know so well over the years.

This is the 100-Mile Wilderness, perhaps Maine’s most enigmatic landscape, a vast 750,000-acre expanse bounded roughly by Greenville in the west, Brownville Junction to the east, the West Branch of the Penobscot River to the north and Sebec Lake on the south end.

The Appalachian Mountain Club became a landowner in the heart of the 100-Mile Wilderness region in 2003, a bold move that helped establish a continuous 65-mile corridor of conservation lands. To date, the club has assembled 70,000 acres, built many miles of hiking and skiing trails, and opened three backcountry lodges in the Maine sporting camp tradition.

After several weeks of bone-chilling cold, I’m taking advantage of the mid-January thaw to venture into AMC’s lands and stay for a couple nights at their beautiful off-the-grid facilities, a wonderful 21-mile circuit with comfy cozy respites in two historic log cabins. The trek is also a perfect opportunity to ponder how my beloved 100-Mile Wilderness has been transformed since I first explored here as a teenager.

A few days before the trip, I got some welcome news on this special place. The Forest Society of Maine, with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, and the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, had just completed a conservation project that permanently protects a 10,000-acre chunk of land east of Gulf Hagas and south of the White Cap Range.

The two nonprofits and the state worked with Pine State Timberlands, a Maine-based forest products company and landowner, to complete the deal. In addition to conserving 7,000 acres of productive timberland, the project also protects the views along the Appalachian Trail corridor on the southern slopes of Gulf Hagas Mountain, West Peak, Hay Peak and White Cap Mountain, and preserves recreational access to trails and campsites along the West Branch of the Pleasant River.

After clicking out of our skis, settling into the cabin at Little Lyford Pond, and reveling in a sauna and shower at the bathhouse, we made our way to the main lodge. In the time before the dinner bell rang for the sumptuous meal of bacon-wrapped filet mignon and mountains of side dishes, I couldn’t help but notice the large poster on the wall. There in full color was the wealth of conservation land ownership in the area along with major private land owners, an impressive and highly satisfying graphic.

As a young man visiting the 100-Mile Wilderness 40 years ago, I remember that other than the National Audubon Society’s 1,600-acre preserve on Borestone Mountain and the 35 acres of old-growth white pines at the Hermitage, the region enjoyed no other conservation protection. My, how things have changed.

Between 1985 and 2004, the National Park Service acquired 15,000 acres of AT corridor. In 1990, the state of Maine secured the 43,000-acre Nahmakanta Public Lands unit. The Nature Conservancy established the 46,000-acre Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area in 2002. AMC made its four purchases between 2003 and 2016. Elliotsville Plantation owns 40,000 acres. And then there’s the 210,000-acre Katahdin Forest Easement (2009) and the monumental 363,000-acre Moosehead Region Conservation Easement (2012). Amazing conservation success stories, all of them.

On the morning of our third and last day in the 100-Mile Wilderness, we reluctantly struck off from AMC’s Gorman Chairback Lodge, heading due west across the frozen expanse of Long Pond, its surface coated with a one-inch layer of fluffy powder. Halfway along, I stopped for a few minutes to stare at the rich and glorious scene all around me. Thanks, I whispered to myself, to all those who had the foresight to protect these wild lands.


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