Nearly 70 years ago a group of friends at Waterville High School decided to head north to climb Mount Katahdin. For one of them, Stephen Clark, that hike set him on a much longer path that would encompass much of his life.

On that initial trip to Katahdin during his sophomore year of high school, Clark met Percival Baxter, the former Maine governor whose commitment to establishing a wilderness haven in Maine would give way to the creation of Baxter State Park.

Before long Clark was helping to clear trails in the park, and in the ensuing decades he’s filled several different roles with organizations that oversee the Appalachian Trail, which runs through the park and famously concludes (or begins) at the summit of Katahdin. That lifelong commitment resulted in the 85-year-old Clark being inducted last month into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame.

Stephen Clark, a Waterville native who now lives in Scarborough, was inducted last month into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Caia Judge

“Certain people’s instincts are to go out and clear trails. When I was in grade school, I would make paths in snow or make trails on my father’s land,” Clark said. “Later on I discovered I liked working with other people on things that didn’t deal with money. I think for me, it’s a combination of being in the woods and public service.”

Clark started decades ago maintaining sections of the Appalachian Trail. He then oversaw trail maintenance in western Maine and elsewhere. He served stints as president of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and vice chairman of the New England Appalachian Trail Conference. He was also elected to the board of the Appalachian Trail Conference, which is now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Clark has redesigned, manufactured and placed hundreds of signs along the trail in Maine. He credits his ex-wife, Barbara, for helping with the signs. He said she deserves just as much credit for them. He also was involved with improving the sanitary facilities along the trail.

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“I’ve started a lot of projects,” he said.

And when he wasn’t on the trail he was often writing, overseeing various publications including spending 16 years as the editor of the “Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine.” He also authored “Katahdin: A Guide to Baxter State Park & Katahdin” and “Following Their Footsteps,” an account of  Col. Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Québec in 1775.

Clark was born in Waterville in 1936 and brought up in Oakland. A member of the Waterville High School class of 1955 and Maine Central Institute class of 1956, Clark went on to attend the University of Maine. He had four children with his former wife.

In the mid-1950s he worked with his father at the family’s heating and air conditioning company, Clark & Company, before shifting into teaching. He taught from 1970 to 1989 at Waterville’s Mid-Maine Technical Center.

He also coached different sports at Waterville High. As the cross-country coach, he saw his team advance to the New England championship.

“That was a wonderful experience for me,” Clark recalled.

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And he was employed by Kennebec Valley Community College helping young people manage the transition from the classroom to the workforce.

Clark now lives in Scarborough with his wife Sherri and has three stepchildren, along with several grandchildren and great-children. He maintains connections to the Waterville area and continues to be drawn to the outdoors and enjoys traveling and visiting state parks.

“I love camping. My wife and myself did lots of canoeing,” he said.

Last month he traveled to Pine Grove Furnace State Park near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the 2020 and 2021 Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inductees were honored. Those who are admitted must have had “exceptional and positive contributions to the Appalachian Trail or the A.T. community,” according to the Appalachian Trail Museum website.

Jim Foster, the chairman of the museum’s Hall of Fame selection committee, said in an email that, “Steve Clark is a legend on the Appalachian Trail.”

Foster said that Clark “is synonymous with the 100 Mile Wilderness portion of the A.T. in Maine. In fact, he reportedly coined the term in the 1980s to describe this most isolated section of the trail.”

Clark is the third Mainer to be inducted into the hall. The others were David Field of Hampden and the late Myron Avery of Lubec. Clark was nominated by Field for the hall.


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