Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, over 87,000 acres of wild beauty, is a natural treasure awaiting discovery. A place of turbulent rivers, misty mountaintops, and complex ecosystems, its rich history is written in ancients rocks and the annals of early exploration. Designated in 2016, on land donated by Roxanne Quimby’s family foundation, its huge expanse lies to the east of Baxter State Park.
In the summer of 2018, Maine author Laurie Apgar Chandler was longing for a new challenge. The year before, after becoming the first woman to solo thru-paddle the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail, she published her first book, Upwards, about that inspiring journey. Chandler found she loved the author life and dreamed of embarking on another wilderness trip with journal in hand.
“When you have traveled far in the Northern Forest, known its rhythms and become part of them for a time, the woods and waters call you back,” Chandler writes in the prologue to her new book, Through Woods & Waters: A Solo Journey to Maine’s New National Monument.
This time around, Chandler crafted her own unique route. One of her goals was to explore two alternate NFCT routes on Maps 11 and 12 – the West Branch of the Penobscot above Roll Dam and the Allagash Lake loop into the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
“I would follow the Wabanaki people, and Thoreau, and countless others whose names I did not know, but whose spirits would flow with mine. There would be plenty of whitewater, old-fashioned carries, and wild weather in wild places. Darkness or circumstances might force me to stealth camp, which, in truth, I greatly enjoy.”
Chandler began by backpacking up and over the panoramic peaks of the International Appalachian Trail, whose first miles cross the national monument. Afterward, she traded her hiking boots for the trusty 13-foot solo canoe that had carried her from Old Forge to Fort Kent. Following age-old waterways into the upper watershed of the Penobscot River’s East Branch, she descended its rushing rapids and quiet byways, through the heart of the monument. As readers will discover, circumstances did indeed require her to improvise a camping spot on more than one occasion.
Upwards and Through Woods & Waters, both published in cooperation with Maine Authors Publishing of Thomaston, Maine, are available in the Northern Forest Canoe Trail store. For more information, visit Laurie’s website at laurieachandler.com.