“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
― Wendell Berry
I met Mike leading a group on the Cadillac Cliffs Path, a spur trail off of the main artery leading to the summit of Gorham Mountain. We made some small talk, and he introduced me to his crew. They were getting ready for break, which gave me opportunity to have all of Mike’s attention. We walked the areas where the crew were working, and he pointed out some specific technical concerns, which seemed primarily focused on getting park visitors safely through the complex mountainside terrain, while ensuring the path would remain stable for the long-term. As Mike talked about his work, his walking pace quickened, and he lit up with excitement. He first described the obvious fun associated with moving large boulders across the landscape using pulleys, wire rope, and other mechanical advantage, and then the physicality tied to dry stone masonry in extreme locations such as this. I can say firsthand that it’s near sensory overload to experience the loud cracks, metal-to-rock sparks, and burning tinder smell left in the air as crew swing sledge onto rock, making smaller crushed material to incorporate into the trail (as means of structural stability and drainage and likely many other uses beyond my understanding). Pretty neat.
Mike then eloquently outlined how the trails at Acadia National Park serve a much larger role than just public enjoyment, having equally important historical and cultural significance. These trails have been here for some time with some paths even pre-dating Euro settlement. In function, all of the crew’s rehabilitation and maintenance efforts equally consider this with the ecological. Mike stated that the crew looks for and studies historic character-defining features when working on a trail, going to great lengths to use similar construction materials and approach to ensure historic integrity as part of their work. …and what struck me was how Mike sees himself, his crew and other colleagues, and their effort and connection as the newest part of the story playing out on this Maine natural area. You know, this is inspirational given today’s collective short attention span.
Lastly, I walked away thinking that Mike is someone exceptional. There’s a confidence about him on the trail that comes across based on what I’m guessing is lots of trial and error, having his hands in the dirt, by building thick calluses with the sledge hammer and rock bar, and by having to frequently make quick and accurate decisions. He is clearly tied to and cares about his crew and the work they are accomplishing in the park. Mike seemed at ease in his surroundings and had grasp of and could articulate a much bigger picture occurring around him. Smart. Yes, he sets a motivating example for sure.
Thanks, Mike, for taking time for me and for the education. You’ve made Acadia National Park someplace bigger for me for sure. Much respect…
Hasselblad 500C medium format SLR camera + Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 lens+ Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 black and white film
2015 Artist in Residence
Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park