The largest hiking gathering in North America is happening right here in Maine this summer, so now is the time to gather up your boots and day pack of gear so you’ll be ready to hit the trail, make some miles, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the woods and mountains.
Every two years, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy holds a conference somewhere in the eastern U.S. in close proximity to the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail. This year’s event, “Maine 2017,” will be held Aug. 4-11 at Colby College in Waterville. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Mountain Club are co-hosts. Dedicated members of both groups have worked to create a world-class event that wil;l showcase the best of our beautiful state. “Views from the Maine Woods” is the perfect theme.
The weeklong AT funfest features more than 250 guided hikes, 50 workshops, and many special activities, field trips and tours. There will be musical entertainment, plenty of good food and lots of great company. Some 1,200 outdoor enthusiasts from around the U.S. and the world are expected to descend on Waterville and then fan out across Maine each day.
The list of hikes is amazing with 60 unique trail outings for every interest and ability that will be repeated multiple times. For regular hikers, families and seniors, the super fit or thee amblers, there’s a menu of suitable hikes.
Hikes are segmented into AT hikes and non-AT hikes. Many of the non-AT hikes are convenient to the Colby campus, anywhere from a half-hour to 11/2 hours drive away.
In the Kennebec River valley, get a good look at the trails of the Kennebec Highlands on French Mountain, Mt. Philip, The Mountain, Sanders Hill and Roundtop Mountain. Just west of Augusta, the granite obelisk atop Monument Hill in Leeds and the 60-foot fire tower adorning Mt. Pisgah in Winthrop are wonderful destinations.
Head south to the Midcoast to hike the Camden Hills at Mt. Battie, Cameron and Bald Rock mountains, Mt. Megunticook and Maiden Cliff. Trek a section of the Georges Highland Path on Ragged and Bald mountains, or Frye and Hogback mountains.
Travel north to gain some elevation on Mt. Blue, the ridges of Tumbledown and Little Jackson mountains, and the ledges atop Blueberry Mountain. Tackle the Firewarden’s Trail to reach the Alpine heights on 4,049-foot Mt. Abraham. Get a stunning view of Sugarloaf’s summit cone and ski slopes from lightly visited 3,600-foot Burnt Mountain right next door.
The AT hikes will cover the highlights of the famous trail along a 137-mile stretch from the Height of Land on Route 17 in Oquossuc north to Barren Mountain in the 100-Mile Wilderness.
Explore the Bigelow Range, and bag Avery Peak and West Peak, a couple of 4,000-footers, as well as North Horn and South Horn. Sample a portion of the Arnold Expedition Trail, which coincides with the AT through the Carry Ponds between the Dead and Kennebec rivers. Visit Flagstaff Lake and the comfy Flagstaff Hut, one of the four backcountry facilities of Maine Huts & Trails. Challenge yourself on the high peaks between Routes 17 and 4 with ascents of Saddleback, Sugarloaf and the Crockers.
Tackle the ledges on Moxie Bald and Pleasant Pond mountains for sweet views over Moxie Pond and lots of blueberries. Near Monson, scale the craggy peaks of Borestone Mountain, then check out the slate canyon and 60-foot cascades of Little Wilson Falls.
Back at the Colby base camp, expand your outdoor knowledge base with workshops and presentations on the International AT, Alpine plants of New England, Maine songbirds, Leave No Trace, map and compass use, thru-hiking the AT, ultralight backpacking, and a host of conservation and other interesting topics. Nightly programs will keep your attention well beyond dinner.
Online preregistration ended July 15, but you can register on-site at the conference starting Aug. 4.
Participate for a day or stay the entire week. Pitch your tent on campus, stay in a residence hall room or park your RV. Three meals a day will be served in two dining halls; grab a trail lunch to go when hiking.
For everyone who enjoys hiking, is a friend of the AT and adores the Maine outdoors, the 2017 ATC biennial conference in Waterville is a summertime adventure not to be missed. Find complete details at atc2017.org.