July 6, 2013
The Most Important Sign In Baxter Park
This season, Park hikers headed toward Baxter Peak will notice a new sign. We have countless signs in the Park - trail signs, rules signs, policy signs, information signs. Of all the signs in the Park we post to help people to have a good experience while protecting the Park environment - this sign might be one of the most important. We hope it is.
Although hard to verify with existing scientific data, the past decade has left Park managers with the growing conviction that Park visitors are increasingly unprepared for the physical, mental and environmental challenges that are often a part of an excursion into a wilderness environment.
We realize that some of our most important messages may be getting lost in the ocean of information we try to make available to the conscientious hiker.
They will be placed on each of the four primary access trails to Katahdin: Abol, Hunt Chimney Pond and Helon Taylor trails. Placement is important. Too close to the trailhead and they may be overlooked by hikers amped up with starting a big Katahdin hike. Hikers at the trailhead are often nervous, excited and eager to get started. Too far up the trail and they may get lost in other signs or appear at a point when hikers begin to feel their plans are unchangeable.
The signs will be placed not too far up the trail, but far enough that the initial edge of excitement has worn off, the physical effort is beginning to be understood, and the initial anticipation has been replaced with an awareness of and openness to the different environment of wilderness.
We hope the simple but important messages on these signs will come to mind later in the day, at that point where decisions - sometimes critical ones - are made. If even one hiker averts disaster by adopting these ideals, we'll consider this "mission accomplished".