I first began to imagine and write about a self-propelled trip from Kittery to Fort Kent back in 2005. My original plans for the southernmost leg of the trip started with a fast bike ride from Kittery to Route 2 in western Maine and then a switch to the Appalachian Trail.
Over the years the plan got more complicated as I realized the huge number of trails that could be linked together on such a trip. I also joined the Maine Island Trail Association during this period of time.
Suddenly, the first couple days of the dream trip became much less of a mad dash to begin the “real trip” in the mountains.
The Maine Island Trail — the nation’s first water trail — is something that could have only happened in Maine.
Where else in the United States could there have been 40 state-owned coastal islands that went mostly unnoticed, undeveloped and unappreciated until surveyed by the state in the late 1970’s? This core of publicly owned lands was organized into a trail concept in 1987.
Where else would the idea of public access to public islands be linked from the start with stewardship and conservation of the wilderness character of the islands? The Maine Island Trail Association started as a cooperative management effort between the Island Institute and the Maine Bureau of Public Lands in the late 1980’s.
And where else would private island owners be so impressed with a volunteer organization’s low-impact ethics, and its hard work in developing and monitoring responsible island recreation — that they would agree to share multi-million dollar properties with its members? The trail has grown over the years to include more than 190 islands and mainland camping sites.
So instead of dodging summer-time traffic on Route 1to begin this journey I will spend the first few days dodging lobster trap buoys along the southern coast. I’ll be on an established water trail that gives me access to free island campsites that enjoy the same late-summer views as some of the most expensive vacation properties in the nation.
It could only happen in Maine.