November 27, 2011

Author Q&A: Peak experience

Donn Fendler, who famously was lost for days on Mount Katahdin as a young boy, co-writes his story in graphic novel form.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

From left, Lynne Plourde, Donn Fendler and Ben Bishop. Plourde and Fendler co-wrote and Bishop illustrated the “Lost Trail” graphic novel.

Courtesy photo


TODAY: Book signing, 3 p.m., Barnes & Noble, 9 Marketplace Drive, Augusta; 621-0038

MONDAY: Presentation and signing, 6:30 p.m., Stearns High School, 199 State St., Millinocket; 723-7020

SATURDAY: Presentation and signing, 10 a.m., Guy E. Rowe Elementary School, 219 Main St., Norway, in conjunction with Books N' Things; 743-5183

DEC. 6: Signing, 5 p.m., Maine Coast Bookshop, 158 Main St., Damariscotta; 563-3207

DEC. 7: Presentation and signing, 6 to 8 p.m., Auburn Public Library, 49 Spring St.; 333-6640

DEC. 8: Presentation and signing, 5 to 7 p.m., Newport Cultural Center, 154 Main St.; 368-5074

DEC. 10: Signing, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., main lobby, L.L. Bean flagship store, 95 Main St., Freeport; (877) 755-2326

Q: Do you think you would have lasted another night out there on your own?

A: From Mr. McMoarn's cabin to the next point of civilization going downstream, by going down the east branch of the Penobscot, was the town of Grindstone 16 miles away. If I'd been able to cross the river and got to Mr. McMoarn's cabin and nobody was there, there is a trail that goes from that camp into the town of Stacyville, which is about 10 or 12 miles away.

But I'm looking at it as an elder person now. I don't think I would have made it 16 more miles. I'd pretty much reached the end, because I'd been passing out, and everything was getting blurry. Who knows? Maybe God had something else in mind, I don't know. But the reality is, probably not.

Q: After this experience, did you ever go fishing and camping again?

A: Oh sure. I've gone back to Katahdin, and it doesn't bother me. I've climbed it again. Of course, they wouldn't let me go alone. I did it with my son, camping and hiking with the Scouts, and it never bothered me to do it.

Q: How old were you when you first went back to climb it?

A: Thirteen. We went back the next year. We tried to find the route I took, but we never did.

Q: Did you ever see Mr. and Mrs. McMoarn again?

A: I only saw them one time after (the rescue), at a parade they gave for me shortly after I came out of the woods, in Millinocket.

Q: It's a good thing they were there that day you were found.

A: Yeah (laughing). I knew they had been living there, because I could see these canoes. One had a motor down at the shoreline, and a couple up at the cabin. The problem was, how was I going to get across? I thought of swimming, but I knew I would never make it swimming. Then I had the bright idea of floating across on a log, but by the time I got across, I'd probably be eight miles downstream in a bunch of rapids.

You'd have to see the DVD that we made. We found film about three years ago. One of my uncles came in the day that I was found, and he took film. My younger brother found this film in a footlocker and had it developed, and there, lo and behold, are these pictures showing the cabin and everything, and showing Mr. McMoarn and me, taking me downriver by canoe and meeting my mother. Now I show it to kids every place I go, along with my talk.

Q: Do you think this kind of thing could happen to a 12-year-old on Katahdin today, given all the technology we have now?

A: Probably not. He could be lost, but I think they'd find him pretty quickly. They can't use cell phones, because they don't work up there. But, you know, you've got helicopters and a whole breed of people who are really trained for this type of thing. I'm not saying that whoever the young person is who gets lost wouldn't be lost for a period of time, but I think it's more likely that they'll find him.

Q: Are you glad this happened, or do you wish it would just go away?

A: If you asked me a long time ago, I wish it had never happened, and I wouldn't wish it on anybody. But what I like about it is, I get to meet a lot of great kids. I get to meet a lot of great teachers, I get to see a lot of terrific schools. I get to see a lot of Maine.

I enjoy being with the kids. I don't know what I'd do if I had to stop.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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