On the afternoon of April 8, a total solar eclipse will pass through the Katahdin region of Maine. This event is a rare and special occasion for our state. The path of totality will pass directly over Katahdin, Millinocket, Patten and many other communities in the region. People from all over Maine and the country plan to visit the Katahdin region to view the eclipse. Some have expressed interest in watching it from a special spot in the wilderness – perhaps a remote lake shore, viewpoint, or mountain summit, and perhaps in Baxter State Park, where Katahdin is located.

Early April is mud season in the Maine woods – one of the few times of year that you truly “can’t get there from here”, as the Maine saying goes. Baxter State Park is closed to most uses during April. The weather and conditions on the ground are impossible to predict, and this year is no exception. Sometimes there is still deep snow or even deeper mud that impairs travel. Roads can still be covered in snow and ice, and some remain as snowmobile trails with no wheeled vehicular access. Streams and rivers are often flooded with snowmelt and impossible to cross. If ice is still on the lakes and ponds, it is thinning and becomes unreliable as a travel surface. Much of Katahdin is still covered in snow, with drifts more than 20 feet deep in places.

Every spring we are called by motorists who tried to drive to Togue Pond Gate, when the road is not yet open, who either get stuck in mud or go off the road due to ice. We try to help, but, understandably, there are times when no tow truck is willing to risk driving in to get the vehicle out until the road reopens. On the mountain, even in late March, day climbers often experience firm footing on their way up, but very unstable and risky footing by the time they descend. Above treeline, their footsteps through slush and onto the alpine vegetation can crush or uproot and kill plants, leaving bare areas that may take decades to revegetate.

Because of these conditions, and because alpine surfaces are so sensitive to damage from foot traffic, all trails on Katahdin are closed during April; all roads in Baxter State Park are closed in April; and the park is completely closed to camping in April. Even in areas where access is not explicitly prohibited, attempting to hike, drive, or camp off the beaten path at this time of year is unwise. It can cause severe damage to our roads, trails and ecosystems, and to those of our neighboring landowners, who make access to Baxter possible through their lands. These annual seasonal closures are also important safety measures that should not be ignored, even for a special occurrence like a full solar eclipse.

The Katahdin region is excited to welcome visitors for the eclipse. Many excellent viewing locations have been designated as “star parks” in and around our communities, and some businesses and organizations are planning special events for the weekend and on April 8.

If you come to the Katahdin region for the solar eclipse, please keep your tires on the paved road and your boots on the sidewalks of our communities. Since they are largely inaccessible during mud season, the Katahdin region’s backcountry conserved lands are best incorporated into your plans as a backdrop for your solar eclipse view.

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