From Alabama to Maine; The Appalachian Mountains Have Always Been My Home

My heritage is that of the frontiersmen. I do not say this with a great degree of pride because it meant that the Hays family was never very settled. Every generation sought to push into the next frontier. We were settled in America 100 years before it was a country. We were settled into Tennessee before it was a state. Still other branches of the family pushed into Texas before it was part of the Union. When a Hays man did settle down, he was always seeking adventure. For the most part this meant being a warrior. Every generation of my family has served in the United States Military and fought in every major conflict from the Revolutionary war to the present.
If they were not at war they were often causing some type of civil unrest at home.
In bygone generations such characteristics were tolerated and even acclaimed because it is in such spirits that a nation has birthed itself.
But we live now, as I have before written, in a domesticated world. There is little true frontier left. And there is even less societal tolerance for such adventurous and nomadic souls.
This has lent itself to a soulical sense of being unsettled in the Hays clan over the past couple generations as the country ran out of frontiers. Some have lent their adventurous souls to our country’s service. Some have given themselves in service to the Cross of Christ, and others have wrestled against the domestication of our present age and lost, ending up on the wrong side of the law. Yet others can fall within more than one of the afore mentioned classifications.
I grew up as the son of a Home Missionary. This means that my father would move to a town needing a church and struggle to get one established. As soon as it was on good footing and we started to get comfortable and settled in to the community, it was time for us to move to the next town, the next mission, the next adventure.
There was, however, a singular geographic element to my early life travels. It was not intentional, but perhaps providential that our family sojourn stayed always, within physical sight of the Appalachian mountain range. As a child, I climbed Monte Sano in Huntsville Alabama. As a young teen I hiked and camped in the Smokey Mountain National Park of Tennessee and North Carolina. before I was 20 my family was in southern Maine and I was taking day trips into the White Mountains of western Maine and New Hampshire. This one thing God has given me as a constant; as the backbone of my life. Within a few short years in Maine, I began mushing my own team of sled dogs so that I might push further and further into the interior of the state.
After serving 4 years in the Marine Corp I too tried to settle into the sedentary urban life of southern Maine. But I began to feel the pull of adventure, the desire to struggle began to eat at my attempt to be sedentary. 

100_0118.JPG
I thought long and hard about becoming a mushing missionary to the far north of Canada in the mold of Hudson Stuck of the turn of the last century. But I had children by this time and had enough domestication within me not to want to embark on any long term adventure that did not include them. So I considered moving the family to Alaska. I began looking for work in the interior of that state.
But as providence would have it, I took a trip to northernmost Maine to compete in a dogsled race. Driving into Aroostook County was akin to driving into another country. I had heard it called ‘the other Maine‘ for the 10 years I had lived in the state, but now I had seen it for myself. In northernmost Maine, the pioneering spirit was still alive and well. Sure, Alaska is bigger and more remote, but qualitatively there is nothing there that I could not find in Maine: Mountains, vast expanses of forest, ocean, snow, trial… it was all here in my back yard. In this way I would not have to isolate my children from their extended family. And so I opted to move 4 hours north of Maine’s northernmost city of Bangor and stay in this cold and remote corner of the contiguous United States.
Here, on the opposite end of the Appalachian Mountain range from where I grew up- here in the North Maine Woods- I have found and continue to find great adventure. 

In the mid 1800’s, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau first brought the North Maine Woods to the attention of the world through his adventures here and called for it to become a “national preserve.” Since then, more than a century of poor logging practices has greatly diminished the grandeur of this rare and magnificent place.
Nevertheless, it still remains the greatest contiguous tract of undeveloped forest east of the Rocky Mountains. It is my hope that, as I share my adventures in the North Maine Woods with you herein, that I will be able to convert you to the noble cause of preserving this place, so that my children- and yours- will find in it a place to discover themselves.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Niki lynn Hayes says:
    Wow!!! I so enjoyed reading this. How true. Being adventurous was bred into us. I have traveled all over in search for something anything. Definitely myself. And realized I had found her. She was right here the entire time. And even now always opened ear to yet another. Adventure. I have written journals since I was very young. In hopes that after I am gone the youngers in our family may be lifted up enlightened and forearmed about many things in life before they take on there life’s journeys.
  2. admin says:
    Niki, my cousin! I just moderated 189 comments to this blog and you were the only one that wasn’t spam. It is little comments like this that keep me writing. Thank you.
    Peace to your house.
    JNH
  3. Felora says:
    Paula – beautiful! i still caonnt believe you hiked the entire AT! you are amazing 😉 ohhh, but the link to your trail journal did remind me of something .your spilling the beans section! oh nicole, the inability of the written word to convey sarcasm makes me sound horribly insensitive and unsupportive of your trip!!! lol! you never did clarify the underlying tone of comedy in our recorded dialog March 17, 2009 8:34 am

LEAVE A COMMENT