Monumental with Jamie Walter
Katahdin Woods and Waters has been the focus of a lot of media attention in the past year. We feel that few people actually know KW&W well, so we were excited to pick the brain of Maine photographer and adventurer, Jamie Walters, who recently joined photographers Chirs Shane, Cait Bourgault, and Taylor Walker on a trip around the monument to get a better sense of what’s within. They created this film, Monumental, from their time in the woods and on the water, to share with us the vast beauty this land has to offer.
Maine The Way: Where/how did this idea begin?
Jamie Walter: The idea began early last year, when Chris Shane and I were scheming different human-powered expeditions that we could do in Maine to spread awareness to the outdoor potential that the state has to offer. At the same time, the debate over National Monuments, including Katahdin Woods & Waters, was really heating up on a local and national level. Despite all the chatter, nobody was talking about what existed inside the boundaries of KW&W, so we decided that would be the perfect place to go.
MTW: What was your goal going into the trip?
JW: Our goal with this trip was to go explore Katahdin Woods & Waters, and document what we found along our adventure. Our group was made up of three photographers with different styles and backgrounds, along with a cinematographer to produce the film side of the journey. Besides Taylor Walker, none of us had been there before, so we were really excited to go in with open minds and a fresh perspective. I think those two aspects allowed us to bring back a lot of unique images and video that hopefully do justice to the beauty and potential that exists there.
MTW: How did your perspective on the land change?
JW: Well, when we started, I really didn’t know what to expect as far as the land was concerned. It ended up being a lot more wild and pristine than I had imagined, and was just stunningly beautiful because of the remote feeling you get out while out there. Our trip really made me appreciate that part of Maine so much more; now, I’m really interested in being involved in helping protect KW&W along with other areas, so that more people can have the same sort of experience that we were so fortunate to have.
MTW: What does this project mean to you?
JW: I’m absolutely blown away by the response we’ve gotten so far now that Monumental has been online for a couple of days. We put in a lot of work as a group to make this happen and we didn’t know what to expect for a reaction. It means a lot to me that people are so genuinely interested in what we produced, and are inspired to go out and either see KW&W for themselves or just go have their own adventure with their friends. That sort of reaction is really humbling and rewarding.
MTW: What do you hope others to gain from this?
JW: I hope people who watch Monumental learn two things. First, I hope they have a better understanding of what Katahdin Woods & Waters is all about, and ideally, are inspired by the beauty we captured to get out there and see it for themselves. In addition to that, I hope people understand the power of spending time with others in nature and what it can do to strengthen relationships. We walked away from our trip as a group of four great friends that were able to bond during, and thanks to, our time spent in KW&W.
MTW: What is something you wish everyone knew about KWWNM?
JW: There’s a lot of really interesting history behind the land usage before the Monument, from the Native Americans who lived along the East Branch of the Penobscot River, to the booming logging industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also fascinating to hear the arguments surrounding the recent developments from the local community members too. If you are interested in learning more, I would recommend stopping by the KW&W Headquarters in downtown Millinocket.
MTW: What was the biggest challenged you faced in putting this together?
JW: We definitely underestimated the amount of work it would take after-the-fact to put the whole piece together. I have to give a shoutout to our whole team for taking the time and making sacrifices to get to where we are today. For example, we ended up having to re-record the narration three separate times - Cait Bourgault was a trooper for reading each line over and over again - and Taylor Walker spent a LOT of time behind his computer editing, color grading, and doing sound work, often late into the night as we got closer to the release. I really think that everyone’s dedication shows in the end result.
MTW: Tell us a story from your adventure.
JW: Haha, I think the best story from our trip was when Cait discovered that her bike’s front brake was stuck with some force applied to her tire about halfway through our entire bike route. This was after several miles of hilly roads and some long, nasty climbs. I don’t blame her for not enjoying the bike section that much!
MTW: Any advice or recommendations for people headed to KWWNM?
JW: My recommendation is: GO! Be sure to check out the Katahdin Woods & Waters Headquarters to get information from the rangers there - they are full of knowledge and can point you in the right direction for whatever you’re hoping to do in the Monument. And be sure to watch out for Moose, the Loop Road is full of them!
Fantastic work on the film, team! We can't wait to make it up there ourselves.