Conquest of Katahdin

November 1, 2010

In AMC’s early years, as the organization was just beginning its efforts to protect New Hampshire’s White Mountains, members were also exploring Maine’s remote 100-Mile Wilderness.

The Penobscot had bestowed the name “Katahdin,” meaning “greatest mountain,” on the region’s most spectacular peak, but Maine’s highest summit (5,267 feet) remained largely ignored well into the 19th century.

“Mt. Ktaadn [sic] is so inaccessible that practically it is remote even to New Englanders,” wrote Charles Hamlin an 1881 Appalachia article, “Routes to Ktaadn,” which was accompanied by one of the first maps of the mountain. “A hundred Bostonians have been among the Alps for one who has climbed Ktaadn.”

“The new region…well deserves the distinction of being the first region outside of the White Mountains to receive the attention of our Department of Improvements,” read an 1887 AMC report. That same year, 19 members joined the club’s first excursion to the mountain.

In 1933, AMC members Dorothea Marston and Alice Allan, along with Margaret Hills and guide W.L. Arnold, became one of the first groups to hike the 100-Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail, which was still a work in progress. They did so in August and September—around the same time that the final AT blazes and trail markers were being placed in Maine, along a route connecting the region’s many sporting camps. Only later was the trail rerouted along ridgelines.

A playfully illustrated map commemorates their excursion—and provides a glimpse at the original nature of the AT in Maine. One of the first landmarks on their 13-day trip, which eventually took them up and over Katahdin, was York’s Camp on Long Pond—now the site of AMC’s Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins. Metal markers from the original trail can still be found on trees behind the cabins.

Images seen here appear courtesy of the AMC Library and Archives. Duplicates can be ordered for a fee. Funds support efforts to preserve the club’s historical collections. Contact Library and Archives at 617-391-6629, visit the website, or send an e-mail for details.

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