NORTH TO KATAHDIN
178 pages, Milkweed Editions, 2005
“A descriptive, insightful book
that makes us think
about our place in nature.”
“Well written and descriptive”
Leslie Mass, Library Journal
Why do we like to hike? Why do we walk through the tick-infested woods, risk getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and mooseflies, endure windburn and hypothermia on rugged mountain slopes until our feet ache and our knees throb and our forty-pound packs squeeze our spinal cords like an accordion? Why do we willingly lose brain cells in the headache-inducing thin air of Mount Everest, or go for weeks at a time without a shower along the Appalachian Trail? Why do we do these things, and then go back and do them again and again? North to Katahdin is my nearly 200-page attempt to find an answer.
This year, hundreds of thousands of people—hikers, families, school groups, and urbanites alike—will turn to the mountains. In North to Katahdin, Eric Pinder probes the allure of the wilderness experience. Using Maine’s Mount Katahdin as his laboratory, Pinder considers what draws people to the mountains and how the experience they find there is changing. Are the urbanites who are now trekking the trails with cell phones, high-tech synthetic fabrics, and GPS units having remotely the same experience that Thoreau did in 1846, when he ventured into the Maine woods for the mere sake of seeing what was there? Are they even trying to? And if wilderness means “an absence of humanity,” what do we call it when it’s filled with people?
For some, Mount Katahdin is a symbol of accomplishment: the end of the 2,160-mile long Appalachian Trail, stretching from Georgia to Maine. For others, Maine’s highest peak and the mountains surrounding it in Baxter State Park are the closest they can come to wilderness. Pinder tells stories—at times hilarious, reflective, and terrifying—of this place and the people who flock to it every summer. Stories of thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, of conflicts between wilderness devotees and their detractors, and the story of a mountain itself—its history, geology, mythology, and Thoreau’s long obsession with its clouded slopes—come together to shed light on the beginnings of the American wilderness obsession and its persistence today.
“An exciting and colorful description of the beauty, glories and ruggedness of Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin.”
-Donn Fendler, author of Lost on a Mountain in Maine
Read more about Donn Fendler’s mountain misadventure in this North to Katahdin excerpt.
More excerpts: Read about hiking Mt. Katahdin on a foggy day.
This picture of Katahdin’s Knife Edge and other Baxter State Park photographs by Eric Pinder are available on a wall calendar and postcards. Click the photo to learn more.
“So many fascinating aspects to this book...I scarcely dare to try to summarize them, for fear that I’ll omit something very important.”
-Bradford Washburn, Mt. Everest cartographer
Read the rest of Dr. Washburn’s thoughts about this unusual book
Book Reviewers Opinions
of North to Katahdin
Bookslut: a review
Nature’s Song: a review by Keith C. Heidorn, “The Weather Doctor.”
A New Hampshire Writer’s Project review
Listen to author Eric Pinder discuss his book North to Katahdin on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Front Porch, with host Shay Zeller. What scared Thoreau? What happened to Donn Fendler? What’s the allure of walking the Appalachian Trail, and how is the wilderness experience changing? This half-hour interview originally aired on August 16, 2005.
Photos: Katahdin’s Knife Edge, deer at Sandy Stream Pond, (photos by Eric Pinder). Directly above: The author “doing research” (photo by Jennifer Paigen)