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A Local's Guide to Maine's Katahdin Region

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Even if you’ve never set foot in New England, you probably know Katahdin by its reputation: Maine’s highest peak, the storied terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the spot where Thoreau had his melodramatic wilderness epiphany. You might not know that a hiker can’t simply show up at a trailhead there and start hoofing it up the mountain. Or that Katahdin isn’t found, as some reasonably assume, at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, designated amid some controversy in 2016. (It’s next door.) You almost certainly wouldn’t recognize the names of the other neighboring parks and preserves—each administered by a different outfit and governed by different rules—that together make the Katahdin region arguably the East Coast’s finest wilderness-recreation bloc.

And so, a primer. The patchwork management of Maine’s wild and woolly north woods can be confusing for a first-time visitor. Here’s what a would-be Thoreau needs to know.

Baxter State Park

(Photo: Cody Barry)

What’s there: Mile-high Katahdin, for one. More than a half-dozen intersecting trails reach its summit, Baxter Peak, with most of them falling in the alpine zone for miles and requiring some scrambling or climbing on iron rungs. AT thru-hikers start or finish their trek on the mountain’s western slope, but the showstopper is the eastern approach called the Knife Edge, a boulder-strewn ridge walk of just over a mile where the mountain’s spine is sometimes all of three feet wide with a 2,000-foot drop on either side. Less exhilarating but equally sublime is Chimney Pond, tucked into a cirque on the mountain’s north side, near a cluster of coveted backcountry lean-tos

But there’s more to Baxter than Katahdin. The 330-square-mile wilderness park encompasses more than 40 mountain peaks, backcountry ponds full of native brook trout, and a handful of idyllic cabins and campgrounds—all accessed by one gravel road and some 220 miles of trail. One of Maine’s most underrated hikes is the Traveler Mountain Loop, near the park’s north entrance, which stays above treeline for more than half of its 11 miles. The trail ends at Traveler’s 3,551-foot summit, and it has much of Katahdin’s grandeur and a fraction of its foot traffic.

Who runs it: The state, with limitations. Maine’s governor in the early twenties, Percival Baxter, wanted the state to acquire and protect Katahdin and its surroundings. His initiative failed, but after leaving office he spent 30 years buying the land and deeding it to the people of Maine. So while Baxter is a state park in name, it exists outside of Maine’s park system, legally bound by deeds forbidding anything that might intrude on its unique character.

Getting in: Entrance is free if you’re in a car with Maine plates; otherwise it’s $15. Things get tricky if you want to hike Katahdin. Unless you’re waking up inside the park (campsites and cabins book up months in advance), you’ll need a day-use parking reservation—a DUPR, or “dooper,” in Baxter parlance—to claim a space at a Katahdin trailhead. Non-residents can get a DUPR online for $5 starting two weeks before a planned trip. On the morning of your DUPR, you must be at the park’s south entrance by 7 A.M.—at 7:01, your space goes up for grabs to the DUPR-less hopefuls who often hover outside the gate. Once the park admits enough cars to fill the trailhead lots, Katahdin has reached capacity and you’re looking for an alternate hike.

Know before you go: Baxter has no cell service and no facilities with Wi-Fi. (Or electricity, for that matter.) The entrance gates are within a few miles of campgrounds with stores, but you’ll find nothing for sale inside the park, so come prepared. Pets are forbidden, and kids under six can’t go above treeline—rangers will enforce both rules. Some trails have rather conservative cutoff times, and rangers may turn you around if you’re caught hitting the trail too late in the day. Baxter is a bit of a rule-happy park, and so it pays to read up before heading in. 

What’s nearby: The recovering mill town of Millinocket, an AT trail town where you can gear up at Ole Man’s Gear Shop and eat amazing donuts at the Appalachian Trail Café while admiring thru-hikers’ signatures on the ceiling panels. Lodging in town is mostly budget motels, with a few campgrounds and lodges clustered outside the park entrance, including the sprawling New England Outdoor Center

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Maine North Woods
(Photo: zrfphoto/iStock)

What’s there: Katahdin’s forested foothills, several of them bald-topped, their summits accessed along 30 miles of the International Appalachian Trail. Mountain bikers come for a few dozen miles of old forest roads, and paddlers watch for moose along the East Branch of the Penobscot. The monument also has some of the planet’s best stargazing, as recently certified by the International Dark-Sky Association

Who runs it: The National Park Service, after President Obama’s Interior Department accepted a gift of 87,500 acres from Roxanne Quimby, the Mainer cofounder of Burt’s Bees. 

Getting in: As of yet, the monument has no entrance stations, so there’s no fee. Camping is free, too, available on a first-come, first-serve basis in a handful of primitive sites and lean-tos scattered throughout the park. Katahdin Woods and Waters abuts Baxter to the east, but it’s a wilderness border—you can't enter one park from the other by car. 

Know before you go: As a new NPS unit, the monument is still light on frontcountry attractions, other than a 17-mile scenic driving loop with overlooks and interpretive displays that will tax any lower-clearance vehicle. (As will all the monument’s roads.) There’s no road connecting the monument’s north entrance to its south entrance, and it’s a 90-minute drive between the two on roads outside the park, so seeing the whole place requires some trip planning. There is next to no ranger presence, and, as in Baxter, cell service is nil. Leashed dogs are welcome.

What’s nearby: A rural stretch of Maine, without much for amenities. You can get surprisingly good barbecue at Flatlanders in Patten, then check out a replica 19th-century logging camp at the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum. Near the monument’s north entrance, Mount Chase Lodge is a mellow old sporting camp that serves incredible family-style meals (currently available for takeout only).

Penobscot River Trails

(Photo: Courtesy Penobscot River Trails)

What’s there: Some 16 miles of crushed-stone bike paths (that serve as ski trails in the winter) along the East Branch of the Penobscot River, just south of the national monument. The private park opened just last year, and it’s maybe the most manicured trail system in New England, where bikers still have to watch out for ambling moose and black bears. 

Who runs it: The Butler Conservation Fund, a philanthropic foundation set up by retired finance titan Gilbert Butler, who bought the former timberland and funded construction of the trails and a pair of warming huts that look like small national-park lodges.

Getting in: Park in a lot right off the paved state highway, sign in at a visitor center that may or may not be staffed, and hit the trail. There is no fee. 

Know before you go: Ordinarily, Penobscot River Trails has a fleet of mountain bikes and kayaks (and in the winter, skis and snowshoes) to rent by donation, although the rental program is on hold during the pandemic. No dogs, ebikes, or camping allowed. 

What’s nearby: Not much! Medway, the next town south, has camping, a tackle store, and the rare lobster roll 100 miles inland at Noah’s Ark Food and Ice Cream Cart

Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area

(Photo: Ian Patterson)

What’s there: Some 46,000 nearly roadless acres of lakes and ponds, most of them connected by well-maintained portage trails and dotted with lakefront campsites. Also 15 miles of the Appalachian Trail, some stands of old-growth forest, backcountry ice caves, and so, so many loons.

Who runs it: The Nature Conservancy, which acquired the property in 2002 from Great Northern Paper Company, once Maine’s largest landowner.

Getting in: In contrast to Baxter, Debsconeag is sparsely regulated, with no permits, reservations, or fees. (No dogs are allowed, though.) Campsites are first come, first served and accessible via a handful of trailheads and three carry-in boat launches at the edges of the preserve.

Know before you go: As elsewhere, don’t count on cell service. Mountain bikes are verboten. You’ll want a vehicle with decent clearance to access the boat launches.

What’s nearby: The AT leaves the northeast corner of the Deb right next to the Abol Bridge Campground and Store, a clutch outpost for last-minute tent stakes, fishing flies, and beer, as well as a staging area for northbound thru-hikers about to launch their final push towards Katahdin. It’s also a base camp for whitewater rafting trips on the West Branch of the Penobscot, which separates Debsconeag from neighboring Baxter. 

Beyond the Katahdin Region: the North Maine Woods

Maine North Woods
(Photo: zrfphoto/iStock)

Wait, isn’t it all the north Maine woods? Well yes, but head north or west along the rutted logging roads that spider out from the Katahdin region and sooner or later you’ll reach a gated checkpoint. This is run by North Maine Woods, Inc., which administers recreational access to some 3.5 million acres of forests, mountains, lakes, and streams in the state’s undeveloped northeast corner. Most of the land is owned by commercial timber interests, but there are hundreds of remote campsites, plus a few sporting lodges and housekeeping cabins catering to anglers, hunters, and paddlers. Among other things, North Maine Woods regulates access to the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway, one of New England’s all-time classic river trips. The Allagash has its own fee structure, but out-of-state visitors elsewhere in the North Maine Woods can expect to pay a $16 entrance fee plus another $15 for each night of camping.

This story was produced in partnership with Down East magazine.

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Using Drupal Permissions to Manage Access in Central Organizations with Subsidiary Groups

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Drupal's versatile permission system, applied at scale, makes Drupal an excellent platform for managing large organizations with multiple subsidiary groups, each of which has particular needs and requires a unique web presence. For example, large enterprise companies, such as IBM, have many business units. In higher education, universities like New York University have many departments. And, umbrella government organizations encompass many related but independent programs and agencies, as is the case with Digital Services Georgia. Independent groups coordinated around a central structure may find a good fit with Drupal's access management system.

This article focuses on a specific example—a nationwide parent organization with many local, regional chapters—to illustrate how this works. 

The example: National HQ with regional chapters

A typical scenario in Washington DC is one where a central organization serves as a "National Headquarters" or "Global HQ;" however, branches at the state-wide, regional, local, or neighborhood level may have their own operations and leadership, yet act as "chapters" for implementing the central program. Note that this concept applies across many different organizational models, but we're using this one to illustrate some of the details.

We'll call our organization "International Guild for Drupal Project Managers," which we will say is a dues-paying member organization with offices on K Street right near the White House.

Working with different levels of users

Users may log in and register to a centralized instance of Drupal, e.g., the main office. However, local branches may also spin up subsites to allow for different levels of users to access only the content that is relevant to them. Doing this simplifies the implementation of editorial controls or permission management details.

For example, a Dues Manager role may be assigned to a user who only reviews new orders and existing orders around dues-paying individual members. The Dues Manager requirements and access may differ from the Sponsor Manager role, which allows that designated user to review new and existing sponsorships. Both of those managers may report to a Treasurer role, a person who prepares monthly reports on income, new and existing members, or new and current sponsorships.

Roles and Permissions Chart

At International Guild for Drupal Project Managers, a verified member gets the opportunity, upon payment, to input their contact information into a directory of all dues-paying members. In this case, it's a sortable list with filters by region and by specialty. 

In this model, you can set up Drupal to allow any new user to create and edit their listing in the directory once payment is received. You can also designate a Directory Manager role to handle any concerns or edits to the business details of a directory listing and keep the directory-related needs separate from the payment concerns.

Roles and activities chart

With the ability to manage the roles and the permissions available to users, it becomes easier to control the flow of information by allowing only managers with the "need-to-know" access the details relevant to them. For example, it may not be necessary for the Treasurer to handle individual directory listings. Likewise, it may not be required for the Directory Manager to process payment-related requests. The specificity of the roles, and the permissions associated with those roles, make it easier for the organization to divide up functional requirements. Drupal handles the assignment of user roles and permissions very straightforwardly, in a large "grid" of user permissions similar to the above.

Customizing pages

In a national organization, as with our example, that has local, neighborhood, or state entities, you can enable a dues-paying member to join a specific region. For example, a new member joins the National Organization, and is assigned to the programs that take place closest to their area, e.g., a "State Chapter" or even a "City Chapter." So if a new member joins, they can have access privileges to their local area leadership, where they can manage their local business sponsors, news, events, or advertising.

In this case, the same Drupal setup could include additional roles, such as Regional Managers or Local Managers who can add, edit, and delete content specific to their region - or, depending on their business model, business units, departments, or agencies. This way, a local news story, member highlight, event, or advertisement, might be targeted to a local region, rather than being pushed out at the national level. Similarly, nationally-organized negotiations could trickle down to the local chapter.

Sample Content for National and Local Chapters


With customized versions of content relevant to the geographic focus of the organization, the news may remain fresh and valid to the needs of local members while retaining the ability to highlight news from the national or international main office or parent organization, all the way down to the city or regional level.

Typical content types

When determining what works for membership-based organizations, an assessment with our strategy and design teams helps encapsulate the content types that work best to fit the needs of current and future users.

For example, the individual member browsing the chapter website in Southern California may only want to view local events in San Diego and Los Angeles. However, the regional corporate sponsor based in the Midwest region may wish to view business members in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Furthermore, the national corporate sponsor may request the total number of paid members available through all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Drupal can help manage the needs of the organization to "think globally, act locally" by splitting content into relevant categories based on local programs.

Typical content types in this scenario might include: localized landing pages, events, directory listings, advertising, blog posts or articles, meeting agendas and minutes, videos, and more. An organization-wide announcement might be required, such as an "alert message" that is relevant at all levels, on all pages.

Based on the requirements, this organization might choose to implement a standard type of content so that, at the local level, participants and leaders may access their local content. Meanwhile, the main administrator in the national office can pull up standardized reports across the country by region, state, or other designated filters.

Understanding the needs of users and the specific customizations they need will help the organization generate an approach to content that serves requirements across the spectrum.

Examples of common tasks

Local Level

Local chapter managers may periodically need to do the following: 

  • Pull up lists of local members
  • Create meeting agendas and minutes
  • Determine the event calendar
  • Manage the local directory
  • Post blogs and articles relevant to the chapter
  • Designate local chapter sponsors
  • Pull together financial reports to send to the national office

State and regional levels

Regional managers may need to fulfill all the needs at the local chapter level, but may also need to:

  • Generate reports within their state or region
  • Convene state or regional gatherings
  • Determine policies at the state or regional level
  • Respond to sponsor inquiries and financial or legal requests across multiple chapters

National level

National managers need to fulfill all requests from the chapter and state/regional level, but most likely also need to address the following across the entire organization:

  • Reporting
  • Federal compliance
  • Tax considerations
  • Auditing
  • National or international news
  • Policy-setting
  • Member-wide events
  • Sponsorships that affect the membership body as a whole

Paying Dues

Paying individual or corporate dues might be centralized at the national level and allocated down to the regions and chapters in a disbursed manner based on revenue. With a standardized system that automatically assigns an individual or corporate user to their appropriate role, the burden is removed from smaller or less active chapters to come up with a payment and reporting system. Likewise, having a standard offering enables determining the language related to membership benefits on a more holistic, global level. In contrast, add-ons such as local sponsorships could support specific chapters directly.

Some examples of products to be sold within this organization's Drupal e-commerce setup might include:

  • Annual Individual Membership 
  • Annual Individual Membership with Directory Listing
  • Annual Corporate Membership (i.e., based on # of employees)
  • Regional Advertising - Ad Banner to display on content pages within the region
  • National Advertising - Ad Banner to display on content pages nationally
  • Event Listing
  • Enhanced Directory Listing (e.g., with added photos, offers, or other premium information)
  • Certification Fees online
  • New Chapter Charters (for newly formed chapters)

With a standardized process in place, payments are handled and paid in a transparent and timely manner. At the same time, users such as Treasurers, Chapter Financial Managers, and Regional Financial Managers can access relevant reports.


If your organization struggles with the push and pull inherent in the relationship between subsidiary units and the umbrella organization, Drupal might be an excellent technical solution to provide transparency, accountability, and ease of use when implementing processes that impact all members at all levels. 

For next steps when planning a new website implementation:

  • Consider and document the types of content that the parent organization wants to centralize as opposed to content that the subsidiary groups might claim ownership over. 
  • Determine required functionality, e.g., dues payment, article publication, event management, etc.
  • Consider which types of special needs to address. In our example, shipping costs on membership materials might need an automatic increase of 20% for Hawaii and Alaska residents. 
  • Determine the priority of desired functionality and the overall estimated budget the organization can spend.
  • Establish the desired timeline. There may be drivers that impact your organization's deployment of the website, such as a milestone anniversary or extensive marketing campaign.

With the broad strokes of these requirements in place, it's possible to coalesce the universe of available options into a manageable, extensible tool that gives the organization more power and flexibility by centralizing options and offering content to repurpose across multiple instances. Governments, higher education institutions, membership associations, trade networks, chapter-based groups, professional networks, and dues-paying organizations all benefit from this centralized planning process.


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There's a new radiation-eating fungus strand growing at Chernobyl


Five years after the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl, scientists discovered a fungi known as Cryptococcus neoformans growing in the wreckage. Humans had known about this particular strain since the late 1800s, since it's known to cause some nasty infections in our decidedly non-fungal human bodies.

Now, after letting the fungus hang around in the radioactive wasteland for a few decades, they've discovered something else: that C. neoformans can actually thrive on that radiation.

From the Express:

The fungi, named Cryptococcus neoformans fungi, contains large amounts of melanin – a pigment found in skin which turns it dark.

The copious melanin levels absorb the harmful radiation, turning it into chemical energy, in the same way plants convert carbon dioxide and chlorophyll into oxygen and glucose via photosynthesis.

While the idea of a radiation-eating fungus sounds like the plot of sci-fi horror film and/or further proof that our reality is broken, some scientists actually believe this process (known as radiosynthesis) can be beneficial to humans. If harvested correctly, it could potentially be used to create a powerful sun-resistant cream to help protect astronauts from radiation; in fact, they've already tested it at the International Space Station. Other scientists have proposed that this fungus could help to store energy, as a biological alternative to solar panels, or somehow serve to help patients undergoing chemotherapy.

So maybe instead of a sci-fi horror film, we're headed more towards a cool biopunk symbiote scenario? Here's hoping, anyway.

Chernobyl news: Fungi discovered in nuclear reactor which EATS radiation [Sean Martin / Express]

Fungi found in Chernobyl feeds on radiation, could protect astronauts [Abrar Al-Heeti and Jackson Ryan / C-Net]

Image: Pxhere (Public Domain)

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174 days ago
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