2012-08-15 / Front Page

30 years ~on the Trail~

Bob and Leah Devine,
By BJ Bangs Irregular Staff Writer

Bob and Leah Devine have spent years maintaining and vacationing on the Appalachian Trail in Maine and New Hampshire. (BJ Bangs photo) Bob and Leah Devine have spent years maintaining and vacationing on the Appalachian Trail in Maine and New Hampshire. (BJ Bangs photo) EUSTIS RIDGE — Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts will gather in Carrabassett Valley to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail on Saturday, Aug. 18. This event will be special to many, but for Bob and Leah Devine, seasonal residents of Eustis Ridge, it will be very rewarding because they have spent much of their lives on the trail.

The Devines say they are too busy maintaining and managing their worksites to hike the trail, but the truth is they’ve vacationed for endless years on the trail spending summer vacations hiking and working on the trails while they brought up their four kids.

They are not through-hikers. Rather they’ve spent most of their hiking hours on the trails of Maine and New Hampshire. They jokingly say their youngest son, Peter, now 30, was basically brought up on the trail.

The Devines have received many awards and accolades for their work on the AT, as is shown here. (BJ Bangs photo) The Devines have received many awards and accolades for their work on the AT, as is shown here. (BJ Bangs photo) Bob is now retired from being a librarian at Auburn, Mass. High School, and Leah from being media clerk, and they still devote much of their time to giving back to the AT, something that’s been a huge part of their lives.

Now in their early 70s, they spend winters in Shrewsbury, Mass., and count their days till they can get back to the trail.

In those 30 years on the trail, they have many humorous anecdotes and several accolades to celebrate their years working on sections in Maine and New Hampshire. They recall the 50th year celebration, and look forward to being involved in the 75th anniversary celebration Saturday, Aug. 18.

Meeting with them on Eustis Ridge, Bob brought out boxes of index cards on which the Devines had written down what they saw, who they met, animals they encountered, weather conditions, the hiking conditions, and even what they ate for lunch. They planned to the nth degree —what to eat, what to put in their packs, how much clothing they would need. They used the cards as guides, and also as mementos so they could recall their numerous experiences years later.

They laugh about evolving from canoeing at the Otisfield Summer Camp to hiking the trails. Leah said the kids, Martin, 48, Cathy, 46, Thomas, 41, and Peter, 30, still help them maintain the trails when they are visiting the area.

Bob is now on oxygen and they have to pace their work. They’ve given up a much longer trail they had adopted in New Hampshire, and now work a .8-mile Old Age Trail at the Thompson Falls Trail near Wildcat.

They used to maintain the three-mile section from Cranberry Peak to Coplin. But the hike is too steep. Now, they maintain the section at the bottom part of that trail, about a one-mile stretch, collecting cards and keeping the brush cut for a nice canopy. “Now when we do trail work, we know when to stop,” Leah said.

They started at the Wildcat Ridge Trail in New Hampshire. It allowed them do things a high school librarian could not afford to do. “We’ve always lived by that adage to give back and volunteer,” Leah said.

They’ve found many people over the years that aren’t aware of the time and effort that goes into trail maintenance. The maintenance isn’t done for the convenience of the hikers, they explain. It’s for resource management. They cut brush to manage how much sunlight and rainfall get to the trail. They want hikers on the rocks and not on the soft soil. They cut branches so the hikers will stay on the rocks and have the foliage grow so hikers stay off the soft stuff. They create waterbars to keep the water off the trails and prevent erosion.

They recall coming upon a young couple at Wildcat Ridge Trail. It was a misty day in a swampy wet area. “We had paint buckets, a brush, paint and thinner in a bucket preparing to make the blazes on the trail. The woman came up to me and asked, ‘I thought this was done by elves,’” Bob said.

Saturday’s celebration which undoubtedly will be special for the Devines and many others begins with group hikes to a plaque on Sugarloaf Mountain marking the completion point of the AT.

The following hikes, with varying degrees of difficulty, to the commemorative plaque at Sugarloaf, will be offered:

* An eight-mile, all-day hike from Lone Mountain to the top of Sugarloaf will transit the entire last two miles of completed AT and pass by the plaque. Hikers will depart at 7:45 a.m. on a bus shuttle from the base of Sugarloaf Mountain and chairlift down the mountain in the afternoon.

* A moderate, four-mile afternoon hike to the plaque where hikers are assisted by a chairlift at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort ski area.

* Short walks or observation from the mountaintop chairlift.

The day will conclude with a ceremony featuring guest speakers including Mark Wegner, Appalachian Trail Conservancy Executive Director. There will also be a social gathering at the Rack BBQ, featuring music, food, trail displays and raffles to benefit the Crocker Mountain Conservation Project.

Event information and registration is available at www.matc.org or by email, mainetrails@comcast.net.

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