FARMINGTON — A local Maine guide is hiking more than 200 miles through Franklin County this summer to call attention to the scenic landscapes.

Ten of Maine’s 4,000-foot mountains are right in our backyard, Doug Dunlap said.

“Many people outside think Maine has no mountains — just lobster and a rugged coastline,” he said. “A lot of people are just discovering the landscape of this area.”

Dunlap is hiking a circuit through Franklin County that takes him from south to north and then north to south. It has already taken him along numerous trails, through several towns and from Coburn Gore on to Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a sister city to Farmington.

While planning his trek, Dunlap mentioned his plans to visit the sister city to Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis. Davis, in turn, spoke to selectmen, who decided they wanted to reach out to the northern city, he said. 

In his backpack, Dunlap carried a letter of goodwill from Farmington and a gift, a small watercolor painting of the downtown.

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“We hope you are experiencing a renewal of faith and hope in the wake of the tragedy that befell you four years ago,” the letter signed by selectmen reads. “Though we are divided by the miles and an artificial border, we are one people with common hopes and aspirations.” 

Lac-Megantic is rebuilding with a forward spirit, Dunlap said, after a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the downtown July 6, 2013. More than 30 buildings were destroyed and 47 people died in the subsequent fire. 

Dunlap received a warm reception from Lac-Megantic Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier on July 25. The mayor thanked selectmen and said he’d like to come to Farmington in the near future.

There is potential for the two communities to plan something together, Dunlap said.

Dunlap, who has paddled, snowshoed and skied much of Franklin County, decided to investigate the area from a different angle: by traveling on foot.

He plans to share his journey with others — a story not just about himself, but one meant to prompt others to explore.

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“I  hope that my hike will encourage those who live here or visit here to enjoy our outdoors by foot or paddle, and particularly to introduce children to the joys of time spent in the outdoors,” he said.

The trek began with a day hike from Jay to Farmington on the Whistle Stop Trail, formerly a railroad track.

“It is a beautiful trail,” Dunlap said. “From a sign found on the trail, I learned about the white granite quarry in Jay and how it was used for Grant’s tomb and buildings in San Francisco.”

Some trails are flat and accessible; others scale those 4,000-foot peaks, he said. From the foothills of Strong, you can see Mount Blue and Day and Pratt mountains.

“What an extraordinary view,” he said.

He has walked from Jay through Wilton to Farmington, then through New Vineyard, Strong, Freeman, Kingfield, Carrabassett Valley, the Bigelow Preserve, Stratton-Eustis and on to Coburn Gore to Lac-Megantic.

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Coming back, he reached Oquossoc and Rangeley, Madrid and Phillips.

“In the final leg of the hike, I plan to hike from the Phillips area to Weld, then back to my home in Farmington,” he said.

His journey has taken him along a network of established trails, but sometimes he had to hike along a road or bushwhack.

He has even had to travel by water to access a trail. Larry Warren of Kingfield met him at Chain of Ponds with a kayak so Dunlap could paddle across about 60 feet. Pete Christensen of Oquossoc provided canoes for a paddle across Rangeley Lake, he said.

“I’m grateful to be in such a place of remarkable beauty, wildlife and long views,” he said.

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Doug Dunlap for Aug. 4
Doug Dunlap atop Saddleback Mountain.

Registered Maine Guide Doug Dunlap of Farmington is hiking a circuit through Franklin County this summer to encourage others to enjoy the scenic landscapes.

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