Barnard Mountain – Trail Review

Maine’s Katahdin Woods &  Waters National Monument is one of the most recent additions to the National Park System. President Obama designated the monument by executive order on August 24, 2016. But the story begins long before that. As early as 2001, Burt’s Bees’ cofounder, Roxanne Quimby, began purchasing logging land with the intention of creating a national park. Despite years of planning leading up to the 2016 designation, the monument still faces backlash today.

I won’t dive into the complex politics of the monument, which lies just east of Baxter State Park in north central Maine, but to give you a sense:

  • Many people in Sherman, the town nearest the monument entrance, still have “National Park NO!” signs in their front yards
  • The logging company that manages timberland adjacent to the monument, Prentiss & Carlisle, mark their roads and bridges with large yellow signs :”This bridge owner says ‘National Park NO!’
  • More recently, Maine’s governor attempted to block the installation of road signs directing visitors to the new area managed by the National Park Service until a few weeks ago
Mount Katahdin
The monument provides a few great views of Mount Katahdin.

Yet, in Sherman alone, rental and, guide services are springing up, the gas station is expanding, people are coming and spending money in places that have been experiencing steady economic and demographic losses in recent decades. Maybe the monument isn’t such a bad thing?

More on this another time. Now, to the Barnard Mountain Trail Review!

Barnard Mountain Leaves
Maples changing color along the Barnard Mountain Trail

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Barnard Mt Summit Sign
Signage marks the way from the International Appalachian Trail to the summit of Barnard Mountain.


Includes: Scenic Scale, for pure beauty; Wilderness Factor, channeling Stegner or Zahniser, government designated Wilderness Areas receive an automatic 10; Moose-O-Meter, how likely you are to find moose, or other wildlife; and some wildcards. All ratings from 1 to 10. A “perfect” score is 30.

logging road trail
The start of the International Appalachian Trail, a logging road converted to trail, features gentle slopes and wildflowers.

Scenic Scale

  • Near peak fall foliage: +2
  • Not many features of interest along the trail: -2
  • Prize-winning views of Mount Katahdin, Katahdin Lake, and points west from the summit: +5

Scenic Scale: 5

View from the Summit of Barnard Mt
Incredible views from the summit of Barnard Mountain and a picnic table make this the perfect lunch spot!

Wilderness Factor

Wilderness Factor: 8

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
This ruby-crowned kinglet was one of many birds enjoying the shrubs along the logging road trail.


After three years, I finally saw a moose in Maine. The moose was not on the trail, but near the official entrance of Katahdin Woods and Waters, just past the Sandy Bank Stream camping area.

I was driving out of the monument after my hike, when suddenly a massive phantom appeared in the middle of the road only 100 feet in front of me. I stopped my car, lost my breath, and we stared at each other. Coming to my senses (as a photographer), I grabbed my camera and slowly opened my door ready to peek out. But before I could, the 7-foot tall bull moose vanished into the forest.

  • Moose potential in Maine’s north woods—high: +8
  • An interesting assemblage of migrating songbirds along the old logging road, including kinglets, warblers, and a scarlet tanager:+1

Moose-O-Meter: 9


Trail Boulder Bonus

An extra point for the trail crew that build the Barnard Mountain Trail! The trail goes between two giant granite erratics that look like a cracked egg: +1

Cracked Boulder trail Barnard
Hikers are encouraged to squeeze through a small gap between these two 12-foot tall (or more) slabs.

Final Score


This hike is a great introduction to Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. However, next time I visit the protected area near Baxter, I’ll definitely go for more than a day and hike along Wassataquoik Stream or bring my canoe to see its full beauty!

Katahdin Woods and Waters is full of interesting beasts and incredible vistas, so it’s no surprise that it receives a high score from our judges. If you’re looking for a real north woods adventure, Barnard Mountain Trail should be near the top of your list.

Stay tuned for more trail reviews and pictures from your humble photographer. In the meantime, please sign up for the email list, connect on Facebook or Instagram, and discover more Maine wildlife and landscapes in my gallery.

Wetlands in Katahdin Woods and Waters
This wetland pond is near the entrance gate to the monument—when you visit, leave plenty of time to explore!

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Leaves: A Fall Project

red maple

Of the many enchanting parts of plants, leaves may be the most wonderful. They add color, form, and oxygen to our world. The sheer amount of variation in leaves is mind-boggling, especially when you consider that most true leaves have one basic function: photosynthesis. This is a function so critical to life on this planet that you would assume plants would not want to mess around. But they do. The result is an almost incomprehensibly wide variety of shapes, sizes, arrangements, margins, venation patterns, pubescence, and almost any other characteristic you could imagine.

red oak

This fall I undertook a project to highlight my favorite part of autumn: the amazing variation in leaves. This was my final project for a class at College of the Atlantic that focused on the taxonomy and identification of woody plants.

After photographing 250 individual leaves, I had a plethora to choose from for the final video. Shown here: Quercus rubra (red oak, top), Fagus grandifolia (American beech, middle right), Acer pensylvanicum (stripped maple, bottom).

When I began this project I did not have a great idea of how the final product would look. While I had a stop-motion style video in mind after only a few weeks into the term, how I would carry out this video remained unknown. So during the fall I gathered and pressed any leaf that caught my fancy. This lead to a shortage of some types of leaves and an abundance of others, but overall I was happy with my collection through late October, when I individually photographed over 200 pressed leaves.

Using a light board to photograph leaves.

The final video I made is not a complete collection of these photographs, but merely a short clip meant to feature some of the diversity in leaf form. If you enjoyed the video, which draws from only six taxonomic families (Acer, Betula, Fagus, Populus, Quercus), I made a special gallery to showcase the most interesting leaves of all kinds that I photographed this fall, including the purple compound leaves of Fraxinus americana, white ash.