Play music, hike, live with passion

By Steve Cartwright | Jan 05, 2012
Photo by: Steve Cartwright Logan Sampson

Logan Sampson is an easygoing 19-year-old who doesn’t really know what his future holds. But he is off to a strong start.

In an era when we see news reports of teenagers doing drugs and drinking too much, Logan is about to set off on a two-month winter hike of the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont, with a friend. And that’s just a couple of months after hiking the entire Appalachian Trail with a different friend, all 2,181 miles of it, from the summit of Mount Katahdin to Springer Mountain, Georgia.

That experience may not be life changing, but it has to build endurance, resilience, and self-confidence and that hard to define concept we call character. Logan, from Lincolnville, doesn’t just hike. He is working at North End Shipyard for Capt. John Foss, where he has been sailing as a deckhand on the Rockland-based schooner American Eagle since he was 14. And he was learning and teaching sailing long before that, at the Rockport, Camden and Lincolnville boat clubs each summer.

On top of sailing and hiking, Logan has for years played violin with Odeon Strings, the Bay Chamber-sponsored group of young classical musicians who are beyond very good; they’re a joy to hear.

But back to the AT. Logan hadn’t really hiked much, other than trails in the Camden Hills and a school trip to Baxter State Park, but somehow he got it in his head that it would be cool to do the whole AT. He thought about it for a couple of years and then, just days after graduating from Camden Hills Regional High School, he and classmate Adrian Jaques, of Hope, set off from Katahdin on June 15, 2011.

“I just thought it would be a great transition into the next step,” Logan said, then laughed. “I think I’m still transitioning. I have no idea when that’s going to stop.”

He said he his mother and stepfather, a Maine Appalachian Trail Club member, supported his decision to hike the AT. These guys moved, hiking as much as 30 miles in a day. Some days were “zero days,” time to rest or hitchhike into town for a shower and indoor meal. Some days were “nearo days,” just a few miles’ walking.

It’s grueling. Logan said mosquitoes were vicious in the swampy 100-mile Wilderness south of Katahdin. You wear out a pair of hiking boots when you walk for a thousand miles. Your ankles are rubbed raw. There are times, wet, sore, cold, when you wonder what in hell you’re doing out there. There are adequate shelters, but sometimes they are full of hikers when you arrive. One creative shelter was three stories high.

When Hurricane Irene struck in late August, they waded a trail under several feet of water in southern New England. Logan said New England is by far the wildest and prettiest part of the AT; in Pennsylvania you might cross six highways in a day.

They lived on countless Pop Tarts, Logan said sheepishly. Right now, he wouldn’t mind if he never saw another Pop Tart in his life. But they were easy and full of calories for tired hikers.

Adrian and Logan managed to get along despite inevitable tension and minor disagreements. “We’re still friends,” Logan said. “We hiked pretty much the same speed.”

Scary moments: A mother bear racing down a tree to protect her nearby cubs from intruding hikers, a rattlesnake in the path, a strange guy. They put serious distance, and fast, between themselves and all three encounters.

The AT is hard. It’s not for everyone. “I would want to caution people,” Logan said. “But at the same time it’s really a great thing.” His pack included a sleeping bag, a pot stove, a spork (combined spoon and fork) and a headlamp. He kept his wits about him.

Finally, after two snowstorms in Virginia and three bears in Shenandoah National Park, they reached their goal on November 11,  ~ also known as 11-11-11 ~ Logan and Adrian and five friends they’d made along the trail arrived at the end of the AT. They wore $4 suits they picked up at a thrift store for this “formal occasion.”

The next hike starts later this Vermont, as Logan and his partner, Nora Willauer, 17, another accomplished Odeon musician, set out on the Long Trail, part of which overlaps the AT. Nora, from Hope, will graduate from the Watershed School in Rockland. This is her senior project.

They’re packing snowshoes, down jackets, goggles, ice axes, flint and steel, but maybe no Pop Tarts.

To Logan and Nora I say: hike on, play music, and remind us to live fully and passionately.

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