Scott Jurek vs. Baxter State Park: Next Move?  

Here’s Scott Jurek’s blog post about his Baxter State Park experience. 

Scott writes that he was issued three summonses while hiking in the Park. On this blog post, Scott accepted responsibility for any rules that he may have broken, however, he is  yet to be fined.  My take is that Jurek may not even be guilty at all, may be guilty a little bit, or may be guilty a lot .  It depends on how he addresses the summons to court.

A Baxter summons does not automatically result in a fine, at least it didn’t in another well- publicized incident that occurred on Katahdin in 2007.

I wrote about the episode on my 2007 website. Here are selections from that entry:

In October of 2007, my friend Rufus Hellendale told me the following story. Rufus was highly skilled at paragliding, and had traveled in and out of Maine climbing mountains and hills with his 35 pound paraglider in his backpack . He launched off many of the highest cliffs and overlooks in the State, but neither Rufus, nor anyone else, had ever launched off Katahdin .

That changed on June 16, 2007.

On that day, Rufus and Christopher Kroot headed up the Appalachian Trail at 2:00 AM. Each hauled their 35’ wingspan dacron paraglider up the Hunt (AT) trail to the Tableland, just above the 2,000 foot granite face that points to the south, near Thoreau Spring, overlooking Millinocket. They were up there by 6 AM.  They managed to pull themselves and those heavy loads up the iron rungs as they negotiated the boulder fields that led to the Gateway. They waited until 9 AM, when the the granite face was sufficiently heated from the sun to generate a thermal effect to create the requisite 5- 10 MPH speed that was required in order to fly.

Krute went first, running down and then launching off the steep lip until he was airborne, and Rufus followed quickly. Both spent 40 minutes in the air, sailing over toward The Owl. They eventually steered toward a favorable landing spot across the perimeter road near Katahdin Stream Campground where they safely landed at the edge of a bog, on a solid piece of ground, where they emerged with dry feet.

Despite assurances from some Park personnel that their activity would not be illegal, both received a court summons some two weeks after their flight charging them with “ illegal parasailing “ in Baxter State Park, a charge that carried a fine of $200 for each. Rufus didn’t fight it, and sent in his money, but Chris challenged the rule, noting that what they were doing was paragliding, not parasailing. Parasailing is a different activity that is generally done over the water, where the glider is lifted into the air with the assistance of a powerboat. A parasail is different from a glider, which is an apparatus that requires the operator to be strapped into a rigid device.

On Jan. 23, 2008 Millinocket District Court Judge Kevin Stitham ruled that Christopher Kroot did not break Baxter State Park rules when he and Rufus  climbed Mount Katahdin in the early morning hours and used paragliders to launch from the Tablelands.

in 2007, the park rules stated: “No person shall fly, cause to be flown, or permit any model craft, hot air balloon or hang gliding device of any kind in the Park.” Kroot’s attorney, Richard Johnson of Lincoln, argued successfully that Kroot complied with the park rules because his aircraft was a paraglider, not a hang-gliding device. Here’s the compete writeup from the Bangor Daily News

Amazingly, the launch was recorded by a group of Canadians that were passing by the site, on their own summit hike to Baxter Peak.   

After the ruling, Baxter State Park went back to edit the rule book in order to add specific terms that make any sort of human gliding on or above the Park illegal.

PPS:  Rufus Hellendale, paid his $200, but then died accidentally on June 6, 2008, less than a year after he flew above Baxter State Park.  Rufus was just 53 years old. He had a freak fall from a ladder while he was alone, while pruning a fruit tree in the woods near his cabin. Rufus was a friend of mine. Rufus moved like a dancer, and had a slow but most unique and expressive movement of his arms and hands when he talked. I always enjoyed his unusual zest for the outdoors. We once talked about taking a road trip together out West to explore those wild open spaces.

Here’s a 2001 Bangor News article about my friend Rufus, who spent 40 minutes of the last year of his wonderful life flying above Baxter State Park like the wild ravens that are also drawn to the highest point in Maine.

PPPS:  Yesterday, I guided a client up and even more importantly, back down Katahdin. It was my eighteenth time up there.


You can be sure I followed all the rules.  A number of people who intended making it to the top decided to turn back today.  BSP has no interest in making things any easier for anyone.  It was a much longer day than I expected, as we rolled into Katahdin Stream Campground at 10:30 pm, guided by a couple tiny headlamps. I’ve never done a 15.5 hour day up there, but that’s what it took this time.  I was both surprised and pleased to see not a single light anywhere around site #17 when we reached our tents.   The campground was pitch dark and everyone else was in their tents or lean-tos.   We spoke softly as I primed and lit my Coleman white gas lantern and boiled up a little water to make supper on my Bushcooker LT1.   The silence, majesty, and hard-ass attitude to keep it wild here at Baxter is more and more to my liking as I get older.  I plan to act in a manner to keep things that way.  There was a 77 year old man that was still coming down behind me. He came in some time after midnight, on his own.  Nature doesn’t have motion-detecting lights to illuminate our path to keep us from getting hurt or lost.

It’s the real deal up here in Maine at BSP.

2 thoughts on “Scott Jurek vs. Baxter State Park: Next Move?  

  1. in 2006 my sixteen-year-old daughter Amy (“Whoopie Pie” now, but known as “Gummi Bear” then) hiked from Caratunk to Sugarloaf, traversing the Bigelow Range along the way. As luck would have it, we hiked from Avery Col to Horns Pond after nightfall. To our dismay the one headlamp we brought did not have battery power – we did not plan to hike after dark and I detest the idea. It was pitch black with occasional lightning except for Sugarloaf in the distance, a quadrangle of colored light hanging there like a picture frame.

    We managed to find the path down The Horns, and for some reason the surface of each seemed to be luminescent. My feet were drawn to them like a series of magnets being switched on and off.

    It’s actually one of my favorite hiking memories these days. we found two spots in the Horns Pond complex of lean-tos and awoke to a new day – and light.


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