My Park Story – Maggie’s Stars Over Katahdin
This featured Park Story comes from Maggie O’Hara, Katahdin Learning Project’s seasonal place-based educator. Maggie just graduated from Katahdin Middle High School and is headed to Eastern Maine Community College to study secondary education in the fall.
Going out in the woods is not every high schooler’s dream. And being entirely honest, at the beginning of last fall it was definitely not on my top ten things to do. The idea of big hikes, intense canoeing trips, and dealing with nature’s wrath truthfully scared me. But then, I was offered to run a fundraiser at one of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters programs: Stars Over Katahdin.
At that time, I was not looking forward to the scenario: out in the middle of the woods selling cookies to whoever would pass. But once I was there, gasping at the thousands of stars I saw through the telescope, I made a realization. Being outside doesn’t always mean long hikes or kayaking out in a lake, but it means to simply enjoy the natural world away from your home.
We were cautioned to stay off our phones and to try not to use any form of unnatural light (so that everyone could see the stars). So my phone-driven brain was already expecting the worst. But, as the night went on, I slowly forgot about the little computer that was in my back pocket.
Some of my friends came to help out with the bake sale and I was able to take a walk to where telescopes were scattered across the field behind Taylor’s Katahdin View Camps. I was amazed at the sight that traveled ahead of me. Trails sticking out around the field, apple trees fencing the trails, the orange autumn leaves that now looked like different shades of gray from the night, and most importantly: the stars.
Thousands of stars littered the sky above us. It almost felt like you were walking into one of those fish aquarium tanks. The ones that had fish swimming above your head? Yeah, walking out from the trail into that field felt like walking into a sea of stars. I swore I had never seen so many stars in my life. My friends that had followed along ran past me to the telescopes that didn’t have people stuck at them yet; specifically, the ones that were set to look at planets. But even if you weren’t looking through the advanced telescopes, you could still lay back against the grass and point out the shapes your brain made with the stars. Did I already say it took my breath away?
In that moment, watching my friends sprint around the field showing each other what each telescope held made me realize the beauty of outdoors. The seasonal autumn feel against the beauty ahead of me began my love for the outdoors. And I think my friends fell in love too, without even realizing it.
Sure, Taylor’s Katahdin View Camps isn’t directly on the monument, but it still symbolizes the mix of community and nature that we strive for. Katahdin Woods and Waters hosts other kinds of events that are similar to this. These kinds of activities are a wonderful opportunity to give people a chance to be outdoors even if they are not ready for the “big hikes”.