Ch-ch-ch- Changes at Baxter State Park
By Andrew Vietze
Created May 22 2008 - 11:30am
With the gates finally open, new campers are returning. And I'm just counting the hours until I hear someone tell me how pleased they are that "nothing has changed" at Baxter Park. (Usually this statement comes from a camper back after a few years away from the place.) And while I'm gratified people feel that way - it means we're doing our job - I always find it amusing. The only constant in my six seasons as a Baxter Park ranger has been change. Every year is different, sometimes dramatically.
I've changed duty stations from Katahdin Stream to Daicey Pond, and though I've only made those two stops, I've been bunked in four or five different locations. I've changed ratings, moving up the ranks. I've seen two park directors and many new rangers. I've had three or four supervisors, and my unit number has changed. I've driven umpteen park trucks. I've been directly involved in the construction of two cabins, and indirectly with several others. I've helped close trails and blaze trails. I've helped take down bridges and erect new spans.
The weather is one of the most volatile factors in what happens in these 200,000 acres, and global climate change has made it anything but predictable. Some years we can get in to the park sooner than others to open up for spring - this was the first year in my experience where the camping season in the roadside campgrounds was delayed due to weather conditions. It was also the only year I worked my first week at headquarters in Millinocket.
Some seasons Daicey comes through winter better than others. Last spring, we spent a whole day cutting blowdowns to clear the campground. The year before that, Daicey was relatively unscathed, but I spent days on a crew clearing the road up the gut of the park, which looked like a game of prickly pick-up sticks so tangled was it with fallen spruce. It took a crew of four or five rangers the better part of the week to get it cut and chipped enough to be passable.
This year the campground saw a few of its coniferous sentinels crash to the ground, but was in pretty good shape overall. One of my favorite spruce trees cracked in half, and another fell dangerously close to cabin 9, but, for the most part, everything looked as I left it in October. Unchanged. Our campers will be happy.
Many of my campers have a real aversion to changes - if we put the wrong curtains in a cabin several people will comment and some will track down the originals and switch them back. Same goes for porch chairs. They seem to have not only a preference that things remain the same but an actual need.
I don't really mind all of the changes I've seen - it's what makes the park a fascinating place to work. If these woods around Katahdin were always exactly the same, they wouldn't be quite as interesting for those of us who spend our summers there. Week to week, I never really know what to expect. Weather, campers, duties, events - these things are always different, always new.
I'm pleased, of course, that people find the park fundamentally unchanged when they come back. The Governor intended this great reserve to be immune to the vagaries and trends of the rest of the world, a natural wonderland unbothered by the ticking clock, a refuge from the various and sundry upheavals of the world.
So far, so good.