by Kim Rosenbaum
The Monson Visitor Center Life: A Reflection from ATC’s Northernmost Outpost
January 5, 2017
Fridays were the best days at the Monson, Maine Visitor Center.
In a Visitor Center, every day is unique and brings its own moments, but Friday nights were when the Monson Jammers played. The Jammers are a group of local musicians who get together and make music, and they are really good. People from all over came to listen or to bring their instruments and jam along (they always invited me to sing, but they should have known better).
These were the times when I felt most thankful for our place here in the community of Monson, a town of 687 people, give or take. Well, that and when the local kids stopped in after school to explore the plaster casts of animal prints in the display case before heading to the playground out back. The sounds of their play drifted in through the open window and inspired the hikers in the Center to laugh along, nostalgic for the everyday town moments that made them think of home.
At the Monson Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Visitor Center, we had the privilege of being a vital point of contact for northbound hikers before they set out on the last stretch of a journey that might have begun over 2,000 miles away in Georgia. We were also a key information source for southbounders and for hikers starting out in the Hundred Mile Wilderness, answering questions such as, “What are the fords like?”, “How rugged is the terrain?” or, “How many days will this take me?” It was fun to pull out the maps and explain it all.
This season — our first — we drew in over 1,100 northbound hikers, 110 southbound hikers and 1,150 day hikers and guests. We also reached 1,030 hikers while on the trail ridgerunning. We shared information about hostels, restaurants, resupply, water sources, the Kennebec ferry, weather, cell phone service and how to get back home.
Some of our best conversations were about Baxter State Park (BSP), Katahdin and what the hikers should expect in these areas. We had a model of the mountain on generous loan from Friends of Baxter State Park, and hikers loved tracing their fingers along the Trail that would mark the end of their long journey. We had a summit calendar to help hikers plan around busy days at the park. This was a high point for them, because they were able to see when friends were planning to summit.
This was the first year of BSP’s A.T. Long Distance Hiker Permit Cards — a required registration for northbound A.T. thru-hikers entering the park — and we helped northbound hikers pre-register at a Baxter State Park kiosk that sent the information directly to the Park.
Not everyone stopped in before reaching Baxter, but we were able to reach the majority of northbound thru-hikers. We expect our ratio to be even higher next season as word of our Center continues to spread throughout the hiking community.
We worked with BSP staff throughout the season to refine our messaging and, during our end-of-season meeting, we all expressed appreciation for this ongoing communication and relationship. We were honored to assist in managing and protecting the A.T., as well as supporting Governor Baxter’s vision that park lands be kept “forever wild.”
Being able to share in the joy of the A.T. this year was transformative — my colleague Patty and I met so many inspiring, creative, passionate and unique individuals that we would have never had the chance to encounter otherwise. We enjoyed the visits from all of those who stopped in and we loved being part of the community of Monson. In our off-season daydreams, we look to the hills and feel our A.T. connection, relishing the fact that a simple footpath ties all of these things together.
For up-to-date information about the Monson, Maine A.T. Visitor Center, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/monsonatvisitorcenter. For more information about the mission of the Visitor Center, click here.