The 2,170-Mile Appalachian Trail That Runs From Georgia To Maine Twists And Turns Its Last Hundred Miles Through This Area, Ending At The Top Of Mount Katahdin. Most People Trying To Hike The Whole Trail In One Year Start In Georgia With The First Blush Of Spring And Walk North With True Spring Following Closely Behind. At Some Point In The Journey, Spring Catches Up And Becomes Summer, And By The Time They Make It To Maine, Summer Has Turned To Fall.
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Of The Estimated Sixteen Hundred People Who Start The Hike Each Year, Only A Few Hundred Make It This Far. This Section Is Called The Hundred-Mile Wilderness And Is The Most Remote Section Of The Trail. There Are No Stores Or Post Offices Where Supplies Can Be Picked Up; What You Enter With Is All You Will Have. Although It Is Called A Wilderness Because It Is Remote From The Conveniences Of Civilization, The Timber Companies That Own This Land Log To Within A Few Hundred Feet Of The Trail. The Appalachian Trail Has Been Nicknamed “The Long Green Tunnel” Because It Is Surrounded By Forest, But Only A Minuscule Fraction Of The Tunnel Passes Through Old Growth.
While Crossing The River, I Met A Through-Hiker. It Had Taken Him Months To Get To This Spot, And It Had Taken Me Many Hours Of Driving, But We Could See Almost All Of The Hermitage Preserve While Standing In One Spot. These Few Acres Couldn’T Really Be Considered A Forest, But The Towering Trees Gave Us An Idea Of What The Surrounding Forest Used To Look Like.
Although The Hiker Had Seen Very Little Old-Growth Forest, He Had Seen Millions Of Trees In The Past Few Months. As We Hiked Together We Talked Trees, Discussing How Some Seem To Live Long And Well Even Under Poor Conditions And Others Die Young Even Though They Landed As Seeds In Seemingly Good Locations. We Were Speaking Of Trees, But I Was Thinking The Same Was True For People: How Some, Seemingly Blessed At Birth, Lived Short Or Painful Lives, While Others, Born Into Difficult Circumstances, Outlived Or Outloved The Majority As If Some Special Light Shone On Them. Nothing Is Certain In This Life, For Humans Or Trees.
The Trail Was A Delight Of Waterfalls And Fallen Leaves, Chipmunks And Clean Air. Although We Were Soon Out Of The Old Growth, We Were Still Surrounded By Forest. Here In The North, Needle-Leaved Trees Dominate Besides The White Pines, There Are Red Spruce And Hemlocks. Broadleaf Birches And Maples Give The Forest Its Fall Color, But Many Other Broadleaf Species, Such As Oak, Sweet Gum, And Sassafras, Are Missing From This Forest; The Growing Season Here Is Too Brief For Them. If I Were To Continue Traveling North, Out Of The U.S. Even, I Would See Fewer And Fewer Deciduous Trees Until I Was In An Entirely Evergreen Forest, The Great Boreal Forest Of The North.
Main Has A Particularly Interesting Arboreal History. In The State’S Early Years, The Government Granted Or Sold Vast Tracks Of Old-Growth Forest In Plots Measured Not In Acres But In Miles. Thirty-Six-Square-Mile Plots Were Typical, And Most Became The Property Of Investment Groups Men Who Lived Elsewhere, In Civilized Cities, But Directed Local Loggers To Cut And Sell In Their Name. As Thoreau Noted, “The Mission Of Men There Seems To Be, Like So Many Busy Demons, To Drive The Forest Out Of All The Country, From Every Solitary Beaver-Swamp And Mountain-Side, As Soon As Possible.”
Things Haven’T Changed All That Much. As Corporations Finish Logging Their Land Today, They Sell It To Other Investment Partnerships Willing To Hold It For Longer As Part Of A Diversified Portfolio. Pension-Fund Holding Companies, In Particular, Are Fond Of These Long-Term Investments, And You Can Be Sure They Plan To Cut The Forest Again Eventually.
Throughout Maine, Acre After Acre, Mile After Mile, The Big Trees Have All Been Logged Out. Where Did They Go? The Answers Are Myriad. Some Uses Spring Quickly To Mind Ship Masts, Barn Timbers, Railroad Ties But Most Were Put To Much Less Dignified Uses. Giant, Ancient Trees Were Cut Into Little Tiny Pieces To Make All Sorts Of Things; Thoreau Mentions Shingles And Matches, But We Should Not Forget Shoe Pegs, Tongue Depressors, And Pencils. Many Stately Old Trees Were Burned For Heat Or In The Steam Engines Of Trains And Ships.
Not Far From This Trail Is An Old Iron Furnace Where Ore Was Heated To Extract Metal. Hundreds Of Men Were Employed Just To Cut Timber For The Furnace, Which Burned Fifty Cords At A Time. It Operated From 1843 Until 1890 And Incinerated Twenty Thousand Cords Of Wood Each Year.
And Then There Were The Many Acres Burned For The Sole Purpose Of Clearing Farm Fields. Thoreau Writes Of Traveling Through Maine And Coming Across “More Than A Hundred Acres Of Heavy Timber, Which Had Just Been Felled And Burnt Over, And Was Still Smoking…And No Man Be Warmed By It.”
In Maine, Everything Seems To Happen On A Large Scale. First It Was All Covered In Trees, And Then Almost All The Trees Were Cut. Between 1998 And 2003, Five And A Half Million Acres Traded Hands: Big Deals, Involving Big Money, Carried Out In Big Boardrooms Far From The Forest. In 2003, With A Pocket Full Of Money, Roxanne Quimby Joined The Game.
Quimby Got Rich By Starting Burt’S Bees. She Was Living In A Cabin With No Plumbing, Trying To Earn Money By Buying And Selling At Yard Sales. She Started Making Skin-Care Products In Her Kitchen, Then Expanded The Business To An Unused Cabin, And Finally Moved Into Real Production Space. Her Products Were Pure And Her Marketing Savvy. Eventually A New York Investment Group Noticed And Bought The Business. Suddenly She Had 175 Million Dollars.
Quimby Started Using Her Money To Buy Cut-Over Timberland. In The Same Year She Sold Her Business, She Paid More Than Nineteen Million Dollars For About Forty Thousand Acres Of Forest Land. She Could Think Of Nothing She’D Rather Do With Her Money Than Save Some Of Maine’S Forests From Being Cut Yet Again.
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