ATC Volunteers of the Month
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy appreciates the efforts of all Trail volunteers!
MATC Volunteer Spotlight
Janice Clain – December 2011
This MAINEtainer issue’s volunteer spotlight is on Janice Clain, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club’s recording secretary. Below is her story.
Though I grew up in Piscataquis County, less than 25 miles from Gulf Hagas, I came rather late to hiking. There was one failed attempt to scale Borestone Mountain with some cousins when I was about 12 years old; we got to the ponds about half way up, but quickly turned around when we heard what seemed like a dangerous wild animal ready to pounce on us.
About 20 years ago, with one of those same cousins, I made my first hiking trip on the Gulf Hagas circuit. To say we were unprepared for the strenuous expedition is an understatement. However, it got me hooked on hiking. Soon after, I asked some of my students if they wanted to see the prettiest place in Maine, and they joined me for what would become an annual fall hiking trip and the beginnings of a hiking club at my school. I remember calling a group of kids to my classroom and asking what they thought about my idea. One young man said that he had always wanted to hike, but no one in his family had the interest or the physical ability to join him. That’s all it took. With support from the school administration, we were off. Over the next several years, we hiked most of the trails within a 100 mile radius of Hermon High School, and ended each school year with a stay in Baxter Park and trek up Katahdin.
After several years of hosting the hiking club, I felt it was time to give something back to the hiking community. I contacted Baxter State Park and got myself a slot as a volunteer on the trail crew in the last season Lester Kenway was in charge of the trail system there. A few years later, with recommendations written by a couple of my students, I was able to get on the Maine Appalachian Trail Club Trail Crew. I soon found I had an invitation to help with setting up and taking down the crew base camp, which led to an invitation to be part of the Trail Crew Committee.
In 2004, I answered a request for a volunteer to monitor the Register Box at Gulf Hagas. Before I had even seen that register box, I got a call from Don Stack with an offer I couldn’t refuse: the CARE Committee was looking for someone to supervise the Ridge Runner position at Gulf Hagas. There wouldn’t be much work involved, just a site visit once a month and a phone call each week. Little did I know!
Next came an answer to Dave Field’s plea to club members to take on corridor monitoring duties. Luckily, the section at Gulf Hagas running from the Pleasant River to the Cut-Off Trail, where “my” register box is located, was open.
In 2007, club President, Milt Wright, invited me to attend the January meeting of the Executive Committee, which he soon followed with an invitation to serve as a Director. When the position of club Recording Secretary became vacant, Milt twisted my arm. Like Don Stack before him, he said it wouldn’t be much work, just taking notes and compiling a report at six meetings a year. About the same time, Julian Wiggins, with whom I had worked on the Trail Crew, said he was looking for someone to help Sid Quarrier maintain the section of Trail from Crawford Pond to the East Branch of the Pleasant River. As Julian had helped out with the Gulf Hagas Ridge Runner site, I couldn’t very well say no. I still have that beautiful 4.6 mile section.
So my involvement with MATC has continued to grow since I joined the club in about 1999, mostly because I have difficulty with the word “no.”
I’m a little defensive on the subject of long-distance hiking. So many other members of the MATC Executive Committee have hiked the length of the AT. I don’t have the endurance, the carrying capacity or the time to take on such an ambitious undertaking. I was able in the summer of 2003 to fulfill a long held hiking goal. With a former student who now teaches Spanish, I was able to combine my strong interests in the Spanish language, history, art and hiking. We walked the medieval pilgrimage route from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, a distance of about 450 miles. We followed in the footsteps of countless pilgrims over the last thousand years, including St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul and the Brazilian author Pablo Coehlo. Unlike the AT, the path winds through towns established to meet the needs of walkers from all the European continent over the last thousand years. It passes over bridges and stone-paved walkways built by the Romans. It passes by sites where Charlemagne’s troops fought against the Saracens (Muslim moors who occupied parts of Spain for nearly eight hundred years). While the walk wasn’t as taxing as the trek between Georgia and Maine, it gave me a perspective on how AT thru-hikers feel when they see that sign on Baxter Peak that marks the end of their long journey.
Rebecca Clark – October 2011
Our volunteer in the spotlight this month is Rebecca Clark, life-long trail maintainer and the newest member of the MATC’s Board of Directors. On her first maintenance trip, Rebecca (age six months) learned to crawl at the now defunct Wadleigh Pond Shelter. Her mother, Ann Clark, turned around and she was gone, apparently making her first break for Katahdin. This October work trip was immortalized when the Clarks met a writer and photographer from National Geographic.
The Clark family has a long history of service to the MATC, beginning with John Clark, Rebecca’s grandfather. While the exact details of his introduction to the Appalachian Trail are lost to time, family legend has it that he became involved in the creation of the trail during his college years at Princeton, NJ in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. After his graduation, he accepted a job at the SD Warren paper mill in Westbrook, soon making contact with and joining the MATC. Besides being a maintainer, he was actively involved with the MATC for many years, including a short stint as Trail Overseer, (there was only one at that point) in the 1940’s.
Like Rebecca, some of her father’s, Larry Clark, earliest memories involve worktrips to the Appalachian Trail. He remembers hiking in and being left with a baby sitter part of the time at sporting Camps at West Carry Pond while his father and mother, Peggy Clark, were out clearing the trail in that vicinity after WWII. His father made the first iron ladder for the Baldpates, their maintenance section at the time, in their Westbrook kitchen.
When the AMC took over the Baldpates, the Clark’s turned their eyes farther north, taking a section that started at the south end of Nahmakanta Lake, following near but not on the shore to Sand Beach Spring. From there, it turned up Wadleigh Valley following it all the way through to Wadleigh Pond. Then it meandered near Pollywog Pond and crossed Pollywog Stream near the Nahmakanta Lake Camps, the end of their section.
In those days of river-driving, few roads crossed the 100-Mile Wilderness, so the Clarks drove to Millinocket, then crossed Pemadumcook Lake to Mahar Landing by boat. Then they hiked up Nahmakanta Stream to the start of their section of trail at the foot of Nahmakanta Lake. The trail was not protected at that time. On their second worktrip, the Clark’s spent the first couple of days locating and reestablishing the trail through a clear cut along Nahmakanta Stream in order to reach their section.
On a later trip, while Larry was in High School, he and his friend, Richard Porter, bushwhacked up Nesuntabunt, discovering the outlook there. The Clark’s built a sidetrail up, a small portion of which is followed by the current AT. In fact, like so much of the AT in Maine, most of the section was moved during the 1970’s and 80’s. Skirting closer to Nahmakanta Lake until Sand Beach Spring, it still follows its old path through lower Wadleigh Valley, but turns up Nesuntabunt Mtn after the shelter. From Nesuntabunt’s Peak it descends to Crescent Pond and follows Pollywog Gorge down to the road bridge across the stream.
Rebecca has many fond memories of this process; helping peel trees for the new Wadleigh Valley Shelter, trying to locate the original flagline near Crescent Pond, running back and forth from tree to tree helping Carl Newhall choose exactly the right ones on which to paint the new blazes. These and many other Trail people and experiences subsequently inspired her to spend a summer working for Lester Kenway on the Baxter Park Trail Crew, to through hike the Appalachain Trail and later the Pacific Crest Trail. She and her father still maintain the section over Nesuntabunt.
Rebecca is delighted and honored to have been chosen as the newest member of the Board of Directors. Grateful for the opportunity, she hopes to carry on in her family’s tradition as an asset to the club.
Dr. Joseph Biegen -June 2011
The first member chosen for the volunteer spotlight is Dr. Joseph Biegen of Binghamton, New York. Dr. Biegen has been a member of the club since at least 2003, and may have been volunteering with the club well before that. Currently Dr. Biegen is one of the club’s data entry volunteers entering data from register box cards into a spreadsheet and sending the hikers requesting information about the MATC a brochure and letter. When asked why he wanted to volunteer for the MATC he stated “The AT in Maine was, and is, one of the best maintained sections of the Trail and if people don’t help, it won’t stay that way. I was impressed with the level of dedication and organization.”
Dr. Biegen thru-hiked the trail (North to South to avoid the “herd”) in 1993 after “discovering” the AT in 1990 while leading a troop of Scouts to Baxter State Park. Some of Dr. Biegen’s favorite places from his thru-hike are “The Saddlebacks, the Whites in NH, the Great Smokies (though I didn’t see much of them as it was raining most of the time). In Maine, I think perhaps the Bigelow Mts.” He has lived most of his life in the Binghamton, NY area having been born in Northport, schooled in Catskill, went to college at Clarkson University in Potsdam earning a PhD in Physics and Chemical Engineering. Dr. Biegen currently teaches Engineering and Physics at Broome Community College and Math at Excelsior College. Along with being a MATC volunteer, he also enjoys working with local scout troops, the Children’s Home, and raising money for the Cancer Society.
Some of Dr. Biegen’s favorites are: movie: The Lord of the Rings, music: Beethoven’s Ninth or Eine Kliene Nachtmusik, Book: Bonhoeffer (a biography), trail tool: My stove (I now use a small woodburner; no fuel to carry),trail food: Probably the Mt House freeze dried Hawaiian pork dinner.
When asked about interesting encounters along the trail during his hike, Dr. Biegen’s answers were: encounter with wildlife: “When I came to the left turn just after leaving Baxter Park property where it abuts the river, there was a moose and her just-born calf. I got out of there fast! No photo even!” encounter with another hiker: “A crazy (like a fox) guy in Shenandoah. I think he wanted to be alone in the shelter, so he was acting real nutty. A friend (who I was hiking with for two weeks) wanted to leave but we stuck it out and he left. We called him the “Ye, Sir” guy because that’s mostly what he said at the top of his voice!”