View Full Version : Observations from the front lines aty BSP

09-08-2015, 11:00
While up at the BSP I was planning to do some trail magic inviting a few of the overflow crowd from the Birches over to my Daicey Pond Cabin for the night. Daicey is the former location of the AT thruhiker site which was moved closed to Katahdin Stream to the Birches several years ago due to thru hiker issues with other park guests . The intent was not to detour folks from the Birches but to give folks who got there after the list was filled up a place to stay in the park. Given the current press of the hordes of distance hikers entering the park I expected plenty of takers. I chose to visit the BSP turnstile north of Abol Bridge where the Birches sign up is posted around 2 PM assuming that most thru hikers would have entered the park already while leaving time for those who took me up on my offer time to hike to Daicey (about 6 miles). On Wednesday the list was up to 9 people and while I was there two others came thru. There was not a trail steward present and the rules were quite well laid out on the sign out board. I did meet one thru hiker who was going to wait up for some buddies at Abol Pines and stay the night. I figured the small sign up was an aberration and went back to Daicey for the night. The next afternoon after a hike up Double Top (a very dramatic secondary peak in the park), I headed out to the sign up board, there were 5 hikers signed up at 2:30PM. So much for crowds and riot equipped BSP rangers beating away the teeming hordes of thru hikers ;)

While driving around the Park, I noticed many empty sites including two of the group sites at Foster Field and even Daicey had a cabin open one night. Thus had there been more thru hikers who wanted to enter the park, if there was a way to coordinate the open slots in the park quite a few additional thru hikers could be accommodated in the park. The trade off is that these remote spots like the group campground at Fosters Field is administered by the KSC ranger and are 2.5 miles down a dusty road or a blue blaze, thus getting the thruhikers routed in the right direction would require resources. Foster Field is administered by the KSC ranger so campers need to go to KSC to sign in so it adds a lot of back and forth pedestrians on the park road which is dusty and dangerous. I was in the backcountry over the weekend and given the weather I expect the park was packed full.

I had extra food purchased so I stopped by the Birches Thursday night and did an impromptu hiker feed for the thru hikers in attendance. They appreciated the fresh corn on the cob, cider beer and steaks. The hikers at the Birches did mention that there were other thruhikers in the park that night, some had scored reservations recently and some met up with friends. The conversation did at one point go towards the thru hiker overcrowding in the park, the opinion of those present was that the overcrowding/bad hiker behavior this year was mostly due to hiker groups that were doing the trail together supported by individuals who had got off the trail that are yellow blazing to trail junctions to party with the groups (one reference was rich kids with dads credit card lying to their parents that they were still hiking) . The thruhikers present didn't have a lot of respect for these groups and avoided them. I didn't ask for specifics so am not sure to what extent these groups are an issue or trail gossip.

This is obviously not a detailed study over the course of entire season but its always interesting to compare the rhetoric to the actual situation. The weather had been perfect and continued to be perfect during this stretch thus no forced hiker backups due to bad weather on the mountain. I expect that that may one case where a group builds up and with nothing to do but wait to break in the weather, an impromptu party could build up and become a management issue. Abol Bridge sells beer, ice and junk food so the ingredients are present for a bad combination while waiting out a rainy stretch.

Based on these limited observations, it looks like with additional resources by an outside agency , a lot of the distance hiker impact is manageable. Strongly recommend to thru hikers that they plan their finish during weekdays unless they have reservations in the park. Station a full time steward at a convenient location at or around Abol Pines campground and make that steward the keeper of the Birches list. Get that steward a satellite modem and have them coordinate empty spaces with the park headquarters a portable solar array and battery pack would cover the power use of a tablet and a modem. Offer those who don't make the list the option of staying at the Pines and waiting, taking a shuttle to Millinocket for the night or finding them a slot in the park. If the group sites at Fosters Field got used (they are usually booked on weekends but open during the week), a steward would need to take a daily trip there to ensure that it was used responsibly and left clean. Unlike an organized group that typically uses Fosters Field where the group leaders are held responsible for damages and extra staff time, the thruhikers are a potential problem as non are responsible for the action of other thru hikers and without some supervision I expect they would wear out their welcome quickly.

Overall I had a great five days in the park and had a chance to revisit the Knife Edge trail and the summit as well as hike the North Peaks trail which is now on my list of favorite trails in the park (on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend we backpacked from Chimney Pond up over Hamlin down the North Peaks trail to Russell Pond over extensive alpine terrain similar to the table land on Hunt Trail completely to ourselves for a total to 10 hours without encountering any other hiker). Nothing close to this hike anywhere in Maine and NH.

09-08-2015, 12:09
it looks like with additional resources by an outside agency.


What BSP has stated it that they currently use a disproportionate amount of resources on AT hikers -- and are not going to increase it. And tossed the ball to the ATC and said problems need to be fixed WITHOUT additional resources from BSP. Maybe the solution is for the ATC to fund someone to work BSP and solve AT hiker problems and elevate that resource drain from the BSP employees.

Another Kevin
09-08-2015, 17:03
Your report sounds encouraging. It does begin to argue - based only on a day or two in near-ideal conditions, of course - that Bissell is wrong to insist that A-T hikers are too numerous to accommodate, even if everyone's behaviour were exemplary. Since most of his arguments supporting the claim are drawn from anecdotes of the "wicked few," that offers some hope for the well-behaved many. Perhaps I won't have to argue forever that hikers should simply avoid Baxter because there isn't enough of it to go around.

09-08-2015, 17:13
Bissell is wrong on that point. Thru's are not Martians. They are people. Percentages are not the issue. Behavior and preferential treatment afforded to thru's are the issues. If everyone acts the same and everyone has the same hoops to jump through, all arguments crumble. Thru's can be half the visitors and I would not care. Most visitors are not from Maine as it is. Just my opinion. Some thru's acting like entitled idiots and thru's being afforded special treatment will both have to change at some point.

09-08-2015, 17:55
There is now a steward (trailname LongJohn, I believe) working the trail from Abol Br to Birches. The main wave of hikers has not yet arrived, although numbers are increasing rapidly. In my experience, the rangers are working very hard with hikers to find them a place to camp or give them advice on how to get to town, although I am sure there is room for improvement as Peakbagger suggested. Thru hiker relations with Baxter are very good so far this season. Here's hoping they remain so!

09-08-2015, 23:31
A lot of hikers have passed through Gorham in the last couple of weeks and will be arriving at Baxter soon. The final push to finish is on. I heard from some hikers I meet in Gorham today that there is a big bubble in the area. Then there are those who are so far behind they may skip up to the end. The clock is ticking and Katahdin is still a ways from Gorham. But I think in the end, the number who finish this year will not be as large as might have been assumed.

09-09-2015, 18:37
There was 20 to 25 through hikers that passed the GF and I on Bald Pate this passed weekend. That's a lot of hikers still hiking.