Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Katahdin Region: A Century of Conservation

Mondays 12:30-2:30 pm, 4 weeks beginning 4/1h

Instructor: Howard Whitcomb
email: whitcomb.howard; 721-8599


Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) made three expeditions to the northern Maine woods – 1846, 1853, and 1857 – on which he effectively circumnavigated what is now Baxter State Park. He reached the high flank of Katahdin, but not its summit, and canoed Moosehead Lake, the West Branch of the Penobscot, the Allagash headwater lakes and the East Branch of the Penobscot.

In his classic volume, The Maine Woods (1864), recounting his three expeditions, he asserted “The kings of England formerly had their forests ‘to hold the king’s game’ . . . Why should not we, who have renounced the king’s authority, have our national preserves . . .?” This was a clarion call for Americans to create parks to preserve the wild lands of the new nation.

After a century of far-sighted conservation efforts, the Katahdin region that Thoreau explored, now features Baxter State Park; the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument; the Allagash Wilderness Waterway; a terminus of the Appalachian Trail; and the International Appalachian Trail that connects the North American, European, and African continental land masses that carry pieces of the ancestral Appalachians.

With the assistance of three guests, I will be facilitating discussions of these extraordinary legacies of Thoreau’s clarion call.

Howard R. Whitcomb, a Ph.D. in political science, has spent the past fifteen years researching and writing about Percival P. Baxter and the creation of Baxter State Park. His publications include Percival P. Baxter’s Vision for Baxter State Park: An Annotated Compilation of Original Sources (2005); Governor Baxter’s Magnificent Obsession: A Documentary History of Baxter State Park, 1931-2006 (2008), and co-author (with John W. Neff), Baxter State Park and Katahdin (Arcadia Publishing, 2012).

April 17, 2017   Henry D. Thoreau and Percival P. Baxter (Whitcomb)

April 24, 2017   The History of Baxter State Park and the Early Years of the Appalachian Trail (Joint Presentation – Neff and Whitcomb)

John W. Neff, a retired United Methodist pastor, received his Master of Divinity degree from Boston University School of Theology. He is the author?of a comprehensive history of the Katahdin area, Katahdin: An Historic Journey, published by Appalachian Mountain Club Books in 2006. He also co-authored (with Howard R. Whitcomb) the 2012 Arcadia Publishing Company’s photographic history, Baxter State Park and Katahdin. He is a founding member and the first president of the Friends of Baxter State Park.

May 1, 2017 –Connecting Threads: Generations of Artists in the Katahdin and Acadia Regions and Their Role in Conservation

     David Little, MFA University of Iowa, has been painting the Maine landscape for thirty years. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and has had residencies at the Carina House on Monhegan Island and the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts. He is the author of Art of Katahdin, DownEast Books, which received a Boston Globe Award for New England-themed books in 2013. He is the co-author, with Carl Little, of Art of Acadia (DownEast Books, 2016). Little has co-curated art exhibitions at Bates College and the University of New England.

May 8, 2017 – Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument & the International Appalachian Trail

Donald Hudson, a Ph.D. in botany, retired as President of the Chewonki Foundation of Wiscasset, ME in 2010. Don has led wilderness expeditions and taught natural history for more than four decades. He is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including a Lifetime Merit Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Espy Land Heritage Award of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust; and the L.L. Bean Outdoor Hero Award on the occasion of his retirement from Chewonki. He is a founding board member of the following organizations: Friends of Baxter State Park, the International Appalachian Trail, and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation.

Textbooks/Assignments (the two items listed immediately below are available for pick-up at the Midcoast Senior College office) 

  • Parker Huber, The Wildest Country: Exploring Thoreau’s Maine, Second Edition, Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2008.*
  • Maine Woods Forever, Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail: Map and Guide, The University of Maine Press, 2007.

* Ideally the Huber volume should be read in its entirety prior to the first class. Alternatively, your instructor suggests reading of the following chapters prior to each of the class sessions: 4/17 – Foreword, Introduction, and Chapters 1, 2, and 11; 4/24 – Chapters 9 and 10; 5/1 – Afterword and Chapters 3, 4, and 5; and 5/8 – Chapters 6, 7 and 8.

Additional items may be added to the website as the four-week course progresses.

The Presidential Proclamation on the Establishment of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument 

Watershed Map


ONLINE RESOURCES (Click on each one)