1950’s Katahdin Trip Plan: a Wonderful Gift

Back in August, I got a message from Vianna Zimbel. She is a friend from the local endurance sports community. We both have a passion for triathlons, mountain biking, and many other outdoor activities.

She wrote:

Hi Scott- I know you have a special affinity for the AMC, and your license plate would infer Katahdin too! I have a 1952 AMC Katahdin guide book and map that I’d like to give you, if you’re interested. I’m sure the scene has evolved over 69 years! I had contacted The Book Moose in Lincoln NH to see if there was re-sale value, but because my father put our name & address on the documents, he wasn’t interested. LMK.

I wrote back confirming my love of KTAADN (Thoreau’s spelling as displayed on my plates)

I can drop off at Horst if that’s a ‘yes.’ I’m so glad these items that have been gathering dust will have a solid landing spot with you.

We made arrangements and within hours, she had swung by the shop with these incredible heirlooms.

Everything was neatly folded and packed in the same envelope that stored them for more than six decades. The contents:

  • Map of the Maine Woods
  • 1952 Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) Katahdin Section Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine
  • 1973 AMC White Mountain Guide Supplement, list of 4,000 footers in New England?
  • Letter from her father Joseph to his friend Chuck. This is the special part of the package. On one side is a handwritten message to his friend and on the backside is his “Tentative check list” for their Katahdin trek.

Vianna knew a bit about the story including the fact that her father was a military veteran and outdoorsman. We both chuckled when she read me the letter, including the bit about the $29.95 sleeping bag and liner. The letter isn’t dated, but based on the date of the guide, the trip was in the early to middle 1950’s. Seeing that the White Mountain info, including the list of 4,000 footers in New Hampshire was in the envelope, her father likely continued to adventure in the New England mountains.

Katahdin is a special place for me. My Mom and her family are from Aroostook County in Northern Maine. She grew up in Upper Frenchville, and during my childhood, we made many trips north to see my Mémère and Pépère. The route was I-95 north to Route 11. Between those two roads, the westward views to Katahdin became imprinted on my mind. It was the first big mountain I ever saw and has become an important part of my life. When I was an infant, my father and mother climbed it with her siblings and it’s become a generational ritual for the Roy Family.

My Mom’s youngest sister is Therese. Aunt Terry lives in Portland, and gets back to The County several times a year. Every time she drives north (and back south), she texts me a photo of the mountain.

I visited Baxter State Park on various Scout trips in the 1980’s. I made a solo trip during college. Debbie and I were engaged at the I-95 scenic viewpoint in the year 2000 on a drive north to introduce her to my Mémère. I made a solo trip to celebrate the last day of my 30’s.

We were last there during our 2017 Mountain Katahdin Family Adventure. It was awesome to climb the mountain with Debbie and our kids. I’m most certainly headed back later this year to celebrate my 50th birthday. In addition to AMC, we continue to support the Friends of Baxter State Park, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.

I’m looking forward to creating more memories. I’ve never hiked the mountain in winter, so that is definitely on my bucket list. Someday, Debbie and I intend to hike the Appalachian Trail south to north and we intend to finish on Katahdin. Vianna can be assured that I will make sure her father’s mementos get passed on to another Katahdin lover in the future. After all, the mountain will be around a longer than any of us.

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