Lots of people died in Baxter Park

I had no idea that so many people died on Mt Katahdin and throughout Baxter State Park. We have a camp on the edge of the park, and have enjoyed everything from it’s brooks and ponds  to its mountains.

Randi Minetor’s book, Death on Katahdin, published by Down East Books, includes fatalities from falls and exposure to cold weather to cardiac arrest and drowning. But thankfully, she also includes catastrophes that turned out okay.

Randy did a huge amount of research in order to write this book. And she reassures us that our visit to Baxter State Park “will not be dangerous if you proceed with caution, carry what you need for any situation, and stay aware of your surroundings.” Good advice.

Some of the stories are very sad including the teenage boy who went hiking with his three-year-old brother, got lost, and both died. And then there was the 18-year-old young lady who was working as a summer waitress at Kidney Pond Camps and was mistaken for a bear in the woods and shot and killed by the camp owner.

Of course, there were many falls resulting in death, and one of the most surprising was Jeffrey Rubin, who had scaled mountains all over the world, reaching the tops of 99 of the hundred highest peaks in the New England. All he had left was Fort Mountain in Baxter State Park. Somehow, climbing to the peak of Fort Mountain, Jeff fell into Wassataquoik Stream and drowned.

There is another story about Fort Mountain, because a US military plane crashed on the mountain during World War II, killing all aboard. I hiked up Fort Mountain once, with a friend, to see the plane. On one peak is a memorial to the men who died, and on the other is the remains of the plane.

There’s a trail up North Brother, but then you have to bushwhack your way up Fort. There are some hard-to-find and confusing trails, so we went very slowly making sure we were going in the right direction. It was a very memorable hike and I said a prayer for those men.

I found the stories of people killed by lightning strikes to be particularly concerning. I was once enjoying a picnic with some friends at the top of OJI Mountain, when I saw a bad thunderstorm approaching from the west. We quickly packed up and started hustling down the trail but the storm came quickly and we got drenched. Most alarming, lightning kept coming right up the trail in our direction. That was scary. Fortunately, we made it back alive. But I certainly have never forgotten that hike.

Having hiked all of Baxter’s mountains, and fished many of its ponds and brooks, I could put myself right into each place where somebody died. That was sobering.

Randi has written more than 30 books including Death in Glacier National Park, Death on Mount Washington, and Death in Zion National Park.



George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.