I took a hike last week in honor of John Christie, a ramble up the stone steps and iron ladders of Beech Cliff Trail in Acadia National Park, one of the many gems outlined in the “Maine Outdoor Adventure Guide,” a book that he co-authored in 2015 with his son, Josh.
John Christie, New England skiing legend, Sugarloafer since way back, prolific writer and author of three books, master Maine humorist, intrepid adventurer by land and sea, and good friend of so many, passed away suddenly May 7 while working at Camden Hills State Park. He was 79 years young.
At the top of the steep climb, my wife, Fran, and I meandered about the cliff edge, taking in the “stellar views of Acadia and Sargent mountains, Somes Sound and Great Cranberry Island,” just as John described in the chapter, “Ladder Hikes are a Step Up in Acadia.”
Settling down at an airy perch overlooking Echo Lake, I thumbed through the guide and noted the bounty of beautiful locales John and his son explored on their journeys. These outings led to the many “It’s Worth the Trip” columns that appeared on the pages of this newspaper over the last six years and ultimately to the collection that found a fine home in book form.
I’m a latecomer to the John Christie fan club, meeting him four years ago at the annual Ski Maine season launch party in Portland. Just a few months later we crossed paths again at the midwinter meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire, where John was the featured speaker.
“Now, people from away have got to know something about Maine people,” Christie told the audience after dinner. “It’s not that we’re not friendly, we’re just not that interested. Mainers really only want to know two things about you, especially in winter. Do you have jumper cables? And will you stop?”
I swear, as John carried on with his Maine humor and the misadventures of Virgil and Al and such, my friend and fellow journalist Dan Cassidy was having uncontrollable fits of tears and laughter at the table next to me.
Two winters ago, John caught me in the lift line for the Kennebago Quad at Saddleback.
“Carey, this old guy’s got a new pickup line for the bars,” said Christie. “Excuse me, dear, do I come here often?”
I last saw John Christie in early February at a NASJA meeting at Camden Snow Bowl. I got the usual huge smile and big bear hug, and from there we proceeded to laugh ourselves to tears, over what I can’t remember.
Commenting later to my wife, I said that even though I didn’t really know John all that well, we always greeted each other like old friends, infrequent as that was. Fran said maybe John saw a little of his younger self in me. How ironic if true, I thought, because I saw something of my future older self in the uber-active Christie.
This summer I plan to take a lot more hikes in memory of John Christie. Many times we thought to hike together but sadly it never happened. So I’ll retrace his steps to see a little of what he saw and hear the sounds of nature he loved on those ventures to Bigelow, Great Wass Island, Borestone Mountain, Tumbledown and more. And perhaps I’ll make a few trips by kayak and mountain bike, too.
I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the “Maine Outdoor Adventure Guide” and do much the same in celebration of this great man who never could get his fill of the Maine outdoors.