The Mount Katahdin knife-edge deaths have prompted a national conversation about the role of nature and wilderness in human life. The events of October 22, 2016, were a reminder that a single fall can result in tragic death. The fall, which took place in dark, foggy conditions, took the lives of two hikers, Donald MacGillis, 75, and his nephew, Donald MacGillis.
Nathan Leigh Bell
A hiker found dead on the mount katahdin knife edge deaths identified as 27-year-old Nathan Leigh Bell of Walkersville, MD. The cause of his death is still under investigation, but the Office of Chief Medical Examiner has been notified. The death of Bell is the second on Mount Katahdin this week after another hiker died on the mountain.
Nathan Leigh Bell, a hiker who was 27 years old, died Thursday morning. His body discovered by fellow hikers at about 10 a.m. on Thursday. A recovery operation launched by Baxter State Park rangers at about 11:30 a.m. and completed at 3:44 p.m. on Thursday. His body transported to Caribou Pit on the southern boundary of the park.
A former Boston Globe editor and ardent outdoor enthusiast, Donald MacGillis, died after a 50-foot fall on Mount Katahdin. He and his nephew, Paul MacGillis, were hiking on the Knife Edge trail when they became lost and fell. They were airlifted to a Bangor hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Donald MacGillis was an editor at the Berkshire Eagle, and had been a national politics and editorial writer for the Boston Globe. The pair had set up camp at the edge of the mountain near Chimney Pond and headed toward the Knife Edge trail, a mile-long scramble that overlooks the basin lakes and woodlands.
Donald MacGillis was 75 years old when he fell from the knife edge on Mount Katahdin. He had been hiking with his nephew, who was a fellow climber. They had lost their trail after dark and the weather began to become foggy. After a few hours of waiting on the mountain, they contacted the authorities for assistance. A Blackhawk helicopter finally reached them, but it was too late to save Donald MacGillis. The nephew airlifted from the mountain the next morning. He died of his injuries.
Henry David Thoreau
In the 1840s, Thoreau was one of the most influential writers of the American wilderness. He was a friend and protege of Emerson, a Harvard professor, and spent his days at Emerson’s Concord home, writing about birds, weather, work, slavery, and even breakfast. But Thoreau’s tragic death remains a mystery to most people. Emerson knew Thoreau well and was proud of his achievements, but few people in the general public had heard of him.
In 1804 a group of Massachusetts surveyors climbed Mount Katahdin, but two men died on the way. One captured by the Abenaki, who took him on hunting expeditions up the Penobscot River. Another explorer, Charles Turner, Jr., a Massachusetts surveyor, made the first ascent in August 1804. A year later, Henry David Thoreau climbed the mountain.
The story of Mount Katahdin and Ben Thompson captures the imagination of a generation of outdoors enthusiasts. Mount Katahdin is a majestic, soaring mountain, which in the Penobscot language means “Great Mountain.” It rises above the quaint town of Millinocket, Maine. The mountain is timeless, pristine, and remote. It was protected in 1931 by Gov. Percival Proctor Baxter for those who love the outdoors.