POWNAL — At his last post, in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Caribou native Chris Silsbee had a four-hour commute to work, left his family for nine days at a time to live in the woods and might see more deer than people on any given day.

Two years ago, deciding his family was ready for a change, they moved the farthest south they’ve ever lived, to Bradbury Mountain State Park.

“Depending on the time of year up on the Allagash, it could be days before I’d see somebody,” said Silsbee, 41. “Being so close to a high-populated areas down here, Bradbury is kind of nice because it’s so close to everything, yet once you’re here, you kind of feel like you are quite a ways away.”

On Jan. 1, he’ll lead his second First Day Hike as the park manager. It’s a part of a national park program to get people out and active.

Nationwide, nearly 55,000 people participated last year, according to StateParks.org, logging 133,000 miles. 

At Bradbury, they’ll log just two: One mile up to the summit via the Northern Loop Trail and one mile back down on the Terrace Trail.

It’s free to the public and takes off at 10 a.m.

“I’ll be telling about the ecosystem here, the animals we have living here, a lot of the park history,” Silsbee said. “If we see animal tracks, we’ll stop and look.”

Growing up in Caribou, Silsbee said he always loved the outdoors. At the University of Maine at Presque Isle, he got involved with the outing club and outdoor rec program.

His first job with the state was as a college intern with the Maine Forest Service and sent out West to fight fires.

“It wasn’t anything too drastic,” Silsbee said. “It was big fire danger year that year, there were many fires in many different states. I bounced around a lot: Washington, Idaho, Utah.”

His first ranger position was as an assistant at Lily Bay State Park in Greenville for three years. From there, he spent six years in the Penobscot River Corridor and seven in the Allagash as what’s called a back country ranger. Think lots of woods, few people and 11-hour working days.

Work was typically nine days on, four to five days off, and in the early part of his career, cellphone and Wi-Fi-free.

“You get up and you patrol your area, take care of your campsites, make sure you’re around to help people when they get into trouble,” he said. “At the end of the day you get back to your ranger cabin. I would spend my evenings fishing and just kind of going for a paddle in my kayak.”

Silsbee, who is also manager of Mackworth Island State Park outside of Falmouth, said his family has settled in nicely to the house provided inside the park.

“It’s a big house — I’ve got four kids, so we filled it,” he said. “Early in my career I never thought I’d find myself this far south, but living here now for a couple years, I’ve come to enjoy it.”

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Chris Silsbee, manager of Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, will lead the First Day Hike at the park Tuesday, Jan. 1. It is free and open to the public. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)

Chris Silsbee, manager of Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, will lead the First Day Hike at the park Tuesday, Jan. 1. The hike is two miles, round trip and is great for beginners. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)