Could it be true that Thoreau was only seeking the adventure of Mt. Katahdin for poetic “raw material”?  Did he traverse the range solely for a thrilling story for the public? As a hopeless literary romantic, I would dare say not; and will go further to defend the legitimacy of Thoreau’s expedition!

In Claiming Maine, Disabato accuses Thoreau of venturing into the wilderness in order to obtain an economic gain, the likes of which he claims to denounce in excerpts of The Maine Woods and the Economy introduction of Walden. She states, along with other authors, that Thoreau perhaps was only involved in such an undertaking to “extract” what he needed from nature, in this case the raw material for his journals.  Now, it is simple to equate that Thoreau, considering himself a writer or thinking – man by profession, has the right to define the means of his own income.  For this span of his life, while residing at Walden Pond, the successes of his labors were not the fruit of  work or of his chores, but the result of a fulfillment of something more true to heart – a man’s desire to relate himself to the natural world around him.  These economies related to no one but himself, and he himself acted as proprietor and consumer.  It is my romanticized idea to believe, within the entirety of my logic,  that upon traveling to the Maine woods Thoreau wished to only traverse a landscape more wild than previously experienced.  Is it too much that a man desire the shelter of a nature more desolate, in a sense of human stability?  Could a landscape deprived of human influence be more beautiful than that of a scenic hamlet? In this case, who is allowed to define beauty?  Is seeking such a place and solidifying an experience extracting a metaphorical raw material? Are we thinking way too far into this?

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Before reading this I have never thought of myself as “extracting” anything from nature as I immerse myself in a forest, but just the appreciation and joy of just being. The more I think about it, I am extracting moments, later to be memories, or particular species I see, or behaviors I observe, I am extracting knowledge and questions. Claiming Maine has helped me digest the Thoreau reading from last week. Lorianne Disabato exposes Thoreau’s deepest questions, including the ownership of land for humans or animals, or “why earthly creation often resists human control”, and even in naming nature. Another issue that I struggle with as a naturalist myself, is hunting. Thoreau is opposed to hunting because he believes that people hunt more than just to sustain themselves, but just for the sport. Although when he comes upon a dead moose, he is able to get observations he would never be able to if the moose were alive. Must we kill species to really learn about them? As humans we must know everything, and if we don’t know the answer there is someone in the world working to find it out. Why isn’t the appreciation of nature and the present knowledge that we have enough for us?

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Camp Ethics, Culture and Privilege:

One of the most impressive feats of Victorian era outdoorsman-ship (the word in itself is a reminder of it’s sexist attitude and it’s continuation to the present day) is that fails to identify any true connection to nature other than the romanticization of landscapes and features as wholly individual parts and mutually exclusive of each other. Reinforced through cultural traditions such as the Boy-scouts, Eagle-scouts, girl scouts and culminating in the military, most of our knowledge of living in the “wild nature” comes from the “war on nature” attitude and perspective. I find it at once ironic and very true that a connection with nature can be the very antidote for a militaristic mindset, due to that fact that people in the front lines of the military are the most well trained to survive and cope with these wild places due mostly to the rigorous training and disciplined mind set that comes along with ordered chaos that our armed forces tend to become. Life in the trail camp before the 2nd half of the 20th century was largely the realm of the man. It was the proving ground for the more rugged types who shunned or needed a respite from their banal urban existence. Flagship icons such as Theodore Roosevelt stood at once for preservation and wholesale destruction of the natural resources contained in the North American continent and beyond. The trophy hunting attitude that both ended wild nature and exposed what it once was to the general public came with a hefty price indeed that was to be levied on the next few generations or more. The question is will we learn from our past failed relationships with nature, and give her the freedom that she requires, or continue on our self destructive attempts at a failed relationship?

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Not sure exaclty how this works, but here it is. I think everyone should be able to edit it, let me know if you can’t.

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brandon outline


Brandon Learnard

*Region Similarities:

  • Weather patterns
  • Boreal and temperate forest mixing areas
  • Life style of layered clothing
  • relationship between deer and moose
  • The Northern Forest region has high alcohol use and abuse compared to the rest of the United States

*Regional Needs:

  • Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Constant job market
  • Funding
  • Regulation for growth on lakes, rivers and other water sources
  • A plan for today and tomorrow

*Region Opportunities:

  • Rural, large tracks of disturbed but not destroyed land.
  • Carbon production and selling of credits, for control
  • Energy production and selling (solar, wind, water) and storage for energy
  • Research and Development in NoFo, small organizations of like goals working together, CCC style programs
  • Like laws to help region not states, guiding license in Maine and New Hampshire
  • Research into Density by population like in the Adirondacks for other mountainous areas in the NoFo.

*Baby Steps to a larger Goal:

  • Federal and local (nonprofit) funding for Research and Development
  • College preparation to enter into Forest related industries
  • Initiate inventory and conservation techniques  to establish corridors for all types of life through the NoFo
  • Community outreach programs, public input sessions and using college course load to advertising for NoFo giving simple facts and leading discussions of local issues on a regional scale
  • Local representation of all industries on boards and committees
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Forest People Documentary

Final Project Outline:


Nature and Culture of the Northern Forest Video


To create a documentary film; “original” actor and “original” scene are better guides than their fictional counterparts to interpret the modern world; and that materials “thus taken from the raw” can be more real than the acted article. Creating a story that would benefit and enhance the diversity of voices we are able to hear in our daily lives and in our classroom excursions and discussions: a history of Northern Forest culture from the horses mouth.


PART ! – circa 1700 – 1950


  1. Lucy Terry Prince Bars Fight” (1746)
  2. Elinore Pruitt Stewart
  3. John Gyles

Voice over Narrative for character voices preserved in journals and other printed media overlapped with historic photographs, paintings, drawings, carvings and historical re-creations of music and audio.


PART !! – circa 1950 – 2100

Some photographs from 2nd half of century overlapped with video of living lifelong residents of the Northern Forest who have something to say about the region as a whole and where it is going.


  1. Thomas Rowell
  2. Phillis
  3. Dolphis Sweeny


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From Harvard to Ktaadn,

Thoreau saw the world through the eyes of a man who was both out of place in his time and our own. Or perhaps he is an ideal petrie dish for both, displaying, in journalistic terms, the sentiments of a amateur naturalist (or in today’s terms, and environmental activist). Preserving in his writing, a contribution to our culture’s twisted sense of a connection to the natural world as a tourist. His observations are at once charming and disconcerting in that they both romanticize the lives of truly wild people and places yet at the same time we may envy his timing to see these places in a more “wild” state than they exist today. While he was content eating alpine berries and hiking for leisure, I can only wonder what the inner dialogue of his companions had been relative to Thoreau, having more experience and work behind them while the educated man went for a stroll or scribbled in his notebook. Though we all love a great story of long lost worlds, I can only refer back to a book I once read, “How Much Should a Person Consume?” by  Ramachandra Guha, which revolved centrally around Eastern and Western perspectives on wilderness, preservation and humans relationship with nature, and how our cultures differ in that respect and who were the central figures who shaped the collective, or in the words of the publisher “offers trenchant critiques of privileged and isolationist proponents of conservation, persuasively arguing for biospheres that care as much for humans as for other species”. At the time I read this I had scarcely been to the Northern Forest, and over this course have seen a few of the different uses and jurisdictions in a vast and humanistically disconnected web of woods, and how the balance of human needs (or wants, and wherever lies the distinction) regulates and influences the health of the forest and it’s non-human inhabitants.

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