Kittery to Fort Kent — the long way.

Poling the Allagash

Poling the Allagash











In August of 2012 I’ll be traveling on a completely self-propelled trip, from Kittery to Fort Kent. The vision is to canoe, bike and hike my way along the entire length of the state during a month-long continuous journey.

The devil, as always, is in the details. And the details are all-consuming at this point in the game. I have already written and thrown away a dozen different itineraries. The logistics of  this kind of adventure are mind-boggling. But a basic outline of the trip looks like this.

I’ll begin by launching my canoe in Kittery and traveling along the Maine Island Trail. This water trail, which extends from Kittery to Eastport, provides one of two alternative escapes from automobile traffic during August in southernmost Maine. After a couple of days on the water I’ll switch to the other choice for non-motorists – the Eastern Trail, a mostly off-road bicycle trail that follows an abandoned rail line from Kittery to Portland.

At Portland, I’ll turn inland toward Sebago Lake. The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, is working to create a contiguous trail from “Sebago to the Sea.” It uses part of another rail trail — the Mountain Division Trail through Windham. From Sebago I’ll work my way west again to the Town of Hiram on  the Saco River.

Poling and paddling upstream on the Saco will take me all the way to the foothills in Fryeburg and a switch to the road bike for a ride along Route 113 up through Evans Notch to Gilead and the Androscoggin River Valley. I’ll canoe along the Androscoggin to Rumford Point and then switch again to the bike for a ride up to South Arm and Lower Richardson Lake. I plan to combine a hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and some time on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail to carry me to the Maine Huts & Trails system and their newest hut at Grand Falls on the Dead River.

From there, a long backcountry mountain bike ride will carry me east to cross Route 201, and then east again, across Route 6, to the Audubon Borestone Mountain Center near Monson.   Still biking on remote roads and trails, I will approach the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) massive new properties near Long Pond east of Greenville. The mountain bike will take me on AMC trails up through the lands that form their Maine Woods Initiative. I’ll skirt the 100-mile wilderness and bike up through the Nahmakanta Public Reserve Unit to the north end of Nahmakanta Lake – where I can once again pick up the AT.

The AT will take me into Baxter State Park and to the peak of Katahdin. Following park trails north will get me to Webster Lake in the northwest corner of Baxter. And after paddling to Telos Lake it’s all downhill along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway to the confluence with the St. John and ultimately the final landing at Fort Kent.

Along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Part mid-life crisis and part homage to my native state, this trip will allow me the chance to explore Maine’s new trails and find creative ways to link them together.

I want to raise awareness that we live in a State where trails for moving long-distance across the landscape, without the use of motors, are not only available but increasing every year in number and variety.

This says something about Maine’s connection to the natural world.  A public priority that is increasingly at risk as we engage in a short-sighted and wrong-headed pull-back of environmental standards.

These trails don’t happen by accident and I hope the trip can highlight the organizations and individuals behind the scenes who work tirelessly to create, maintain and promote their vision for allowing people to connect with nature through muscle-powered travel.

Finally, the trip will pay tribute to Maine craftsmen and Maine products that have been making this kind of travel efficient and comfortable for hundreds of years. From wooden canoes to high-tech GPS systems — Mainers have been engaged in the business of supplying self-propelled adventurers since the days of  Henry David Thoreau.

I can hardly wait to get started.

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About jimandrews

Jim Andrews is an attorney, Registered Maine Guide, writer, husband, dad and sixth-generation Mainer who grew up in the hills of Oxford County and now lives in Farmington. He is a monthly columnist for the The Maine Sportsman magazine where he focuses on muscle-powered travel in the outdoors and specific applications to fishing and hunting in Maine. Late in the fall of 2010 Jim suffered a mid-life crisis and decided that the cure would be a self-propelled trip from Kittery to Fort Kent in the summer of 2012. The preparation, planning and execution of that trip will be covered here -- as well as his own ongoing attempts to reintroduce physical effort back into the increasingly-motorized world of fishing and hunting in Maine. Find Self-propelled on Facebook: