All along the U.S. border with Canada — even deep in the willywacks of the Maine woods — field crews dispatched by the International Boundary Commission are responsible for maintaining a cleared strip, 20 feet wide and marked with thousands of petite obelisks. To get a good look at one of them (number 446), you can hike right up that border swath to the nation-straddling crest of 3,855-foot Boundary Peak — also known as Panther Peak, about 20 miles northwest of Eustis, as the crow flies — a fairly gentle hike that nonetheless offers some stunning views of the rugged surrounding border range.
Scenes from Boundary Peak. Click to enlarge.
The remote mountain might not see much traffic if it weren’t number 83 on a list of summits known as the New England Hundred Highest. Peakbaggers who stand atop all 100 earn a patch and certificate from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Four Thousand Footer Club. To do some bagging of your own, first dig out your passport, because the easiest access is from Quebec, off a tangle of dirt roads southeast of Woburn’s Mt. Gosford park (consult the web and/or a Gazetteer for details on the route). From the trailhead, it’s less than two miles to the peak, mostly following the arrow-straight, somewhat surreal boundary corridor, which is flanked here and there by blinds for moose hunters. (They’re out in force in the fall, so best to plan this as a summer hike.)
The first land-based marker along the U.S.–Canadian border, installed in 1843, is a cast-iron column in a swamp at the headwaters of the St. Croix (south of it, the border follows the waterway). It’s known as Monument 1. Some 165 miles west-southwest, Monument 475 sits atop a mountain ridge where Maine becomes New Hampshire. The international border comprises a series of straight lines that connect at such markers. For the International Boundary Commission charged with their upkeep, Maine’s mountains represent one of “the most difficult and demanding sections” all the way to the Pacific, in part because the height-of-land boundary requires more markers than out west (where, even in the Rockies, the border is the straight line of the 49th parallel).