Baxter makes Country magazine’s top 10 ‘Hidden Gems: Best Parks in the US’

Maine’s beloved Baxter State Park was recently named one of the top 10 “most magnificent, unheralded parks across America” in Country magazine’s June/July issue.

baxtercountryThe special section, “Hidden Gems: Best Parks in the United States,” was published in print and online, where it’s presented as a slideshow.

“It’s a true wilderness in every sense of the word,” Country photographers Pat and Chuck Blackley wrote of Baxter.

“For us, as nature photographers, the park’s remoteness and wildness are its greatest draws,” they continued. “Once we get there we can block out everything but what really matters—nature, as God created it.”

When the Hidden Gems series was launched last year, Country photographers were given three criteria: The places had to be public, beautiful and not among the 100 most-visited national parks.

In their written piece about Baxter, the photographers focused on the wildness of the park and its primitive accommodations. And to understand why, they did their homework.

Baxter State Park exists because of one man, former Maine Governor Percival Baxter, who began buying parcels of land in 1930, then proceeded in giving them in trust to the state of Maine to be set aside as a wilderness area. His efforts alone conserved more than 200,000 acres of Maine’s great outdoors.

BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Katahdin from Abol Stream Trail on June 20, 2013.

BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Katahdin from Abol Stream Trail on June 20, 2013.

Today, Baxter State Park operates according to Baxter’s wish that it “shall forever be kept and remain in the natural wild state.” The Baxter State Park Authority and the nonprofit Friends of Baxter take that mission seriously.

Stepping into the park is like stepping back in time. The main park road is narrow and gravel, lined by old trees. You’ll find no electricity, gasoline, food or running water. You bring in what you need, and you also must carry it out, as there are no trash cans in the park. Most campgrounds simply offer lean-tos and tent sites, though a few have rustic cabins and bunkhouses. In general, people who visit the park should prepare to “rough it,” to embrace the outdoors without any frills or extra comforts. And it sounds like the Country photographers did just that.

“Sitting on the shore of Sandy Stream Pond one morning, we spent hours watching a moose feeding in the shallow water, with Katahdin, dressed in its autumn colors, towering in the background,” they wrote. “Life just doesn’t get any sweeter.”

Surprisingly, a moose did not make an appearance in their photo for the piece. Other images they captured of Baxter for the Country story are of Katahdin Stream, Big Niagra Falls, Kidney Pond and a section of the Appalachian Trail, which ends in the park, at Katahdin’s Baxter Peak.

A digital edition of Country’s June/July issue is available for Google Play & Android, Nook and Kindle.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at