Tag Archives: gary-stellpflug

Acadia trail, once scary in ‘Pet Sematary’ movie, gets new life

The bulging tree roots that used to dominate a section of the Deer Brook Trail in Acadia National Park appeared so scary that they were featured in a scene in the Stephen King horror film, “Pet Sematary.”

A new stairway on the Deer Brook Trail in Acadia National Park

This new stairway on the Deer Brook Trail replaced part of a rooted, eroded section that was in a scene in the Stephen King “Pet Sematary” movie.

An elegant rehabilitation, led by the park’s trails crew, gave the Deer Brook Trail a major facelift, but the old rooty section was ideal for a spine-chilling scene in “Pet Sematary,” filmed in Maine in 1988, according to a newly released documentary on the movie production.

Today, the tree roots are replaced partly by a 13-step wooden stairway with hand rails and a landing for a rest stop. The rehabilitation relocated the Acadia trail out of the brook in some spots, ending some tricky rock hopping and water crossings.

Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, said the rehabilitation of the Deer Brook Trail occurred during parts of two summers and then a portion of a third summer.
Stellpflug said the mangled tree roots needed to be replaced with the stairway and log cribbing.

Deer Brook Trail in Acadia National Park.

In this photo taken before the rehabilitation of the Deer Brook Trail, jagged boulders created some tough terrain for hikers.

“That was so eroded,” said Stellpflug. “There was nothing else we could do.”

“Pet Sematary,” which King calls his most frightening book, focuses on Dr. Louis Creed, who moves his family from the Midwest to a small town in Maine to become head of medical services at the University of Maine in Orono and later faces the tragic deaths and horrifying rebirths of his toddler son and wife.

The movie’s lead actors, Dale Midkiff and Fred Gwynne, hike along the Deer Brook Trail on their way to a Micmac burial ground, where the dead – both pets and people – resurrect after interment.

Midkiff, who plays Creed, and Gwynne, who is Jud Crandall, a neighbor and authority on the burial grounds, first hike “beyond the deadfall,” the piles of tree limbs that line the pet cemetery.

After scaling the deadfall, the two step along the spreading roots of the old Deer Brook Trail leading to the Micmac cemetery, situated above the more peaceful pet cemetery.

The Deer Brook Trail was not identified by name in the movie or in a new documentary about the film, but Charlie Jacobi, a resource specialist at Acadia, confirmed that the Acadia trail, situated off a carriage road, was a location in the movie. Continue reading

Five peregrine falcon chicks fly at Acadia, but one nest fails

UPDATE 8/01/2017: Park today announces that trails associated with the Precipice, Jordan Cliffs and Valley Cove will reopen on Thursday, Aug. 3, after five peregrine falcon chicks fledged this year — down from 11 in 2016. Trails were closed on March 17.

Five peregrine falcon checks have fledged at nests at two sites in Acadia National Park this year, but for unknown reasons a nest failed at a third site that has yielded chicks in recent years, a biologist at the park said Friday.

peregrine falcon chick

Acadia National Park wildlife biologist Bruce Connery holds a peregrine chick that has just been lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding. (NPS photo)

Bruce Connery, wildlife biologist at Acadia, said there was a pair of adult falcons at Jordan Cliffs and it is believed they started a nest but then one of the adults disappeared around the middle of June, and the nest failed. Connery said he does not know why the nest at the Jordan Cliffs failed but he said it was not related to the chicks or the nesting.

“My guess would be that one of the adults either left or was killed by a predator like a great horned owl,” Connery said.

On the positive side, the peregrine falcon chicks at the Precipice and Valley Cove have been flying since about July 1, and seemed alert and healthy when they were spotted by researchers, he said. At least one chick at each of the two sites was flying before the others, he said. “They are all flying now and they are doing great,” he said.

Three peregrine falcon chicks fledged at the Precipice and two at Valley Cove, he said.

The park usually waits for the peregrine falcon chicks to fly for five weeks before reopening trails, including the wildly popular Precipice Trail, that are closed in the early spring each year to protect the nesting falcons and chicks. The trails opened July 29 last year and usually open by early August each year.

peregrine falcon chicks

Peregrine falcon chick being banded in Acadia National Park this year. (Photo courtesy of Erin Wheat)

Connery said the nest failure at the Jordan Cliffs was disappointing because the birds were there and everything seemed to be going along pretty well.

“It would be more understandable if we knew what caused it to fail,” he said, such as the male being attracted to another place.

“We just know we started seeing only one adult …. There was no real rhyme or reason to why it happened.”

Male and female adult peregrines both play vital roles in nesting. Females usually lay eggs in early spring and females incubate the eggs while males hunt and bring food to their mates, according to the web site of the Chesapeake Bay Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Researchers at Acadia don’t know if it was the male or female adult peregrine that disappeared because the feathers of both sexes are mostly similar, but Connery said he would guess that it was the male that left or was killed.

Connery said he was pretty positive it was a “natural event” that caused the nest to fail. He said there is no evidence that human interference was a factor in the nest failure.

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Acadia National Park trails work takes crew with special skills

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

UPDATED 6/13/17: Description of new North Portico staircase at White House.

When the National Park Service needed people with special masonry skills to replace the steps on the acclaimed North Portico of the White House, the agency picked two top trail builders from Maine’s national park and sent them to Washington to do the work.

acadia national park hiking

Jeff Chapin, crew supervisor, shows where stone steps were taken out on the Valley Trail, to be shored up and reset in the proper order. His masonry skills also came in handy for replacing the White House North Portico steps in 2015.

After all, who better to replace the famed staircase at the White House than two people experienced at building stone steps and repairing historic masonry on the Acadia National Park trails? The park service, which maintains the grounds and exterior walls of the White House, assigned Jeffrey Chapin, crew supervisor on the Acadia National Park trails crew, and Peter Colman, another veteran trail crew leader, and they both spent about two weeks in late summer of 2015 replacing the marble steps at the White House with Vermont granite.

At the time, there was no publicity about their work at the White House because of security reasons. “I could not tell my family,” Chapin said.

The North Portico staircase faces Pennsylvania Avenue and is used to greet dignitaries.

Chapin said the staircase is three separate flights and three patio landings and includes a new ramp for disabled people. “The old ramp was metal and added on to the old stone work,” he said. “The new ramp is a permanent stone ramp to match the stairs.”

Starting another busy season in the park, Chapin, who lives in Trenton, provided a tour of an upgrade by his Acadia National Park trails crew on a nearly mile-long section of the historic Valley Trail near Beech Mountain west of Somes Sound. The section runs from the intersection of Canada Cliffs to the junction with the Beech South Ridge Trail.

acadia national park hiking

Jeff Chapin, crew supervisor, describes the cable and pulley system, strung high between trees, that is used to move huge boulders during Valley Trail reconstruction.

Part of Acadia National Park trails work includes searching the woods for boulders and then cutting them to fashion stone steps for a staircase, a wall or decorative cap to a culvert. In order to avoid dragging the rocks and damaging sensitive habitat and terrain, the huge stones are chained to a cable strung between trees, hoisted into the air, and carefully moved with ropes and pulleys, in a bit of a high-wire act.

A cable and pulley system strung high in trees might seem a risky way to move boulders, but Chapin said the key is for everyone to be positioned in the right spot to avoid injury in case a tree falls, for example. “Everybody knows where to stand,” he said. “Everybody knows what they are doing.”

Acadia National Park trails foreman Gary Stellpflug dumps gravel into the trailer manned by David Schlag, for the Valley Trail work.
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A new path is emerging for Acadia National Park hiking

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

The trails crew has launched an overhaul of an historic path that connects the Jordan Pond area with the village of Seal Harbor, providing a new way to experience Acadia National Park hiking.

Harold Read of Orono

Harold Read, trail worker at Acadia National Park, points to improvements on the Seaside Path intended to remove water from the path.

The work is being financed with donations to the nonprofit Friends of Acadia during an annual fundraising benefit last year. In a traditional “paddle raise,” sixty donors contributed a total of $318,000 to restore Seaside Path, according to Friends of Acadia.

There are no sweeping views from the path, but it is a “beautiful example” of a late 1800s to early 1900s gravel path for Acadia National Park hiking, said Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park. “It’s all woodland,” he said. “It’s nice mature forest.”

seaside path

A hand-crafted sign marks the way through the primeval woods of Seaside Path.

Stellpflug said Seaside Path is a village connector trail and will be the first newly-improved such trail for Acadia National Park hiking since Quarry and Otter Cove Trails were inaugurated on National Trails Day in 2014. The Quarry and Otter Cove Trails link the park’s Blackwoods Campground with the village of Otter Creek, Otter Cove and Gorham Mountain Trail.

A lot of Seaside Path is on private property and it is currently unclear exactly where it will terminate when the park is finished with the upgrade, he said. “We’re not sure where the south end will go,” he said.

Unlike the cliff and mountain climbs of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, Seaside Path and other Seal Harbor trails go over “a gentler terrain,” according to the National Park Service’s “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island.” As a result, “many woodland paths were  surfaced with gravel or simply unconstructed, marked paths through the woods,” in contrast to those in the other villages, according to the report.

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Cadillac ecology focus of protection by alpine group, others

Cadillac is tough as granite, yet the alpine zone of Acadia National Park’s tallest mountain is fragile as eggshells.

cadillac south ridge trail

BEFORE – Erosion on a section of the Cadillac South Ridge Trail (NPS photo)

With the approximately 3 million visitors a year to the park, and Acadia’s highest peak a must-see stop, it’s a constant battle to protect the bald summit and ridge, and the special Cadillac ecology.

One recent victory in the conservation battle: Fixing a couple of sections of the popular Cadillac South Ridge Trail, which had become eroded and could turn into a muddy mess, tempting hikers to trample rare alpine plants.

cadillac south ridge trail

AFTER – Crushed rock tread helps protect fragile Cadillac ecology. (NPS photo)

“We created about 100 feet of rock-lined causeway in two distinct locations that clearly defined the trail, eliminating the standing water and mud that was there,” according to a December 2016 Acadia National Park report, by Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist; Rebecca Flesh, recreation technician; and Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman. “Deer hair sedge…and mountain sandwort…, two species of growing concern in the park, are now better protected in the vicinity of the project.”

A $3,200 grant from the Waterman Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on conserving the alpine areas of northeastern North America, helped protect the Cadillac ecology, along with matching funds from the National Park Service and Friends of Acadia.

cadillac south ridge trail

Busting rocks on Cadillac South Ridge to create new trail tread. (NPS photo)

Similar to a 2014 project on Sargent Mountain, also supported by the Waterman Fund, the July 2016 work to protect the Cadillac ecology involved park staff, and teens and young adults participating in Friends of Acadia supported programs. Some crushed rocks with sledgehammers, and others moved rocks from a big cairn at the junction with the Cadillac West Face Trail. Signs and workers would educate hikers about the project, and hiker behavior before and after the trail rehabilitation was studied. Continue reading

Top platform at Beech Mountain fire tower open in Acadia

One in a series of historic hiking trail highlights leading up to the Acadia Centennial

Most people who hike Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park may not be aware of a rare opportunity that could await them at the peak.

Beech Mountain fire tower

Only during a fire tower open house can you get the topmost views from Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park.

The National Park Service has begun opening the top platform of the steel fire tower on the peak of Beech Mountain, giving people spectacular, unfettered 360-degree views of landmarks such as Echo Lake and the Cranberry Isles. Previously, only a lower platform was open for viewing. The park service calls the opening of the top platform an open house at the fire tower.

During a recent visit on a clear day, we enjoyed the views from the tower’s top platform for the first time, even though we have been hiking in Acadia for nearly 20 years including many trips up Beech.

In an interview, Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, said he is pleased to see the top catwalk open.

“It should be,” he said. “It is a wonderful place. Everyone wants to go up there. It’s just cool. You see fewer and fewer fire towers that you can safely go up and down.”

The top platform of the fire tower will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, through the end of August, according to the park’s online calendar.

beech mountain fire tower

On a clear day, you can see forever – or at least to the Cranberry Isles – from the Beech Mountain fire tower in Acadia National Park.

The fire tower’s cabin, however, remains closed. The cabin has a wooden floor, unlike the steel grating on the platforms.

Mary Downey, a ranger who was staffing the fire tower during our recent visit, said she didn’t believe most hikers were aware it was unusual for the top platform to be open.

Beech is a popular hike. Many people likely put it on their agenda without checking the park’s calendar for the open house or even realizing that the top platform is normally closed.

“On a clear day, it’s great,” Downey said. Continue reading

New edition of Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park

UPDATE 4/3/15: Just learned of a way you can get a copy of “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park” for free – by joining the American Hiking Society​ at the family level. FalconGuides, publisher of the guide, is one of AHS’s partners in its Families on Foot initiative, to encourage families, particularly those with kids, to hike.

Officially published today, April 1, and Amazon.com is already selling our new third edition fast! Only 15 copies of “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park” in stock as of this morning, and more will be on the way.

(See sidebar for note about Amazon.com links in this blog. The book is also available for purchase online at www.barnesandnoble.com and elsewhere. And it should also be available in Bar Harbor at Sherman’s Bookstore and at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center when it opens up for the season.)

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Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park gets new protection on peak

Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park is benefiting from an important project aimed at protecting the fragile terrain on its peak.

Using rocks and stones mostly from a massive cairn on Sargent Mountain, workers are completing a new 50-foot causeway on the Sargent South Ridge Trail. The work is being done to encourage hikers to stay on the trail instead of venturing to the subalpine zone around the mountaintop.

Members of Youth Conservation Corps swing sledge hammers to bust rocks as part of project on Sargent Mountain

From left to right, Liam Hassett, 16, of Cleveland, Ransom Burgess, 18, of Bar Harbor and Billy Brophy, 15, of Hyattsville, Maryland swing sledgehammers to bust stones into tiny pieces for creating a new 50-foot-long causeway atop Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park. The three are members of the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps.

The new causeway is being constructed with two layers – rocks and stones on the bottom and gravel stones on top, along with a stone border on each side. The work is shoring up a section of the trail that was deeply eroded, said Acadia Trails Foreman Gary Stellpflug on the peak on Tuesday.

“It’s really a good project,” Stellpflug said while he and other workers moved dozens of stones and rocks into the new trail section. Continue reading

Acadia National Park boosted by trail workers

Acadia National Park is benefiting from the most trail workers this summer than at any time in the past 80 years at the Maine park.

Largely because of a federal grant, the park has hired 51 people to work on the trails, including 35 federal workers and 16 from the Youth Conservation Corps, according to Acadia Trails Foreman Gary Stellpflug, who did all the hiring.

Memorial path on Gorge Path in Acadia National Park

Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, has refurbished this memorial plaque on Gorge Path for Lilian Endicott Francklyn. Separately, a federal grant will also help finance improvements to stone steps on the path.

Stellpflug said it’s the largest crew since the Civilian Conservation Corps established two camps on Mount Desert Island in 1933 as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. Continue reading