Carey Kish, outdoor adventurer and writer
BY PETER VAN HORN
Carey Kish was 18 years old when he through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He got the idea when he was 11 and, until he was ready to begin, he carried Edward Garvey’s “Appalachian Hiker” with him like a bible. In his hometown of Bangor, Maine, the high school principal and teachers and Kish’s parents agreed to let him graduate early so he could start the 2,150-mile trek.
“The experience was so powerful that I think about it every day,” Kish said.
He hiked south to north, from Georgia to Maine, so every step brought him closer to home, and when Kish smelled the Maine air, he slowed down and opened himself up to the experience. It was 1977, after four months of hard work he was on the home stretch. Kish could finally relax and enjoy the adventure.
Years before he was prepared for the Appalachian Trail, Kish developed an interest in writing. In his childhood, he wrote about many outdoor explorations. His hometown and his enthusiasm for hiking earned him the nickname the “Bangor Maineiac.”
After high school and the Appalachian Trail, he started working a day job to support his adventures and his writing. Kish also wrote the newsletter for the Maine Outdoors Adventure Club, a group he cofounded, without pay. It was a preparation for bigger and better things.
The time he spent on the Appalachian Trail eventually motivated Kish to become one of its many stewards. Dana Thurston maintains a stretch adjacent to one of Kish’s. The two have been good friends since they met in the late ‘80s through a mutual friend. Thurston through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1991 with Kish’s help. He also saw the early days of MOAC.
“He was instrumental in the first decade of the club, either as the president or being on the board to some capacity,” Thurston said.
Then in the summer of 2010, the Appalachian Mountain Club offered Kish the chance to edit the 2012 edition of their “Maine Mountain Guide.” The job suited him perfectly.
“I had hiked 80 percent of the trails in that book already, it’s like I had been researching to edit that book for years,” Kish said.
Kish set to work hiking some of the trails in the book again, making corrections and incorporating his own observations. The 10th edition of the “Maine Mountain Guide” included 200 new trails and 75 new peaks when Kish was done with it.
John Mullens serves as the education chair and coordinates monthly talks for the Maine chapter of AMC. He says Kish is his first choice to present to an audience. Photographs taken by Kish complement his easy-going, natural presence. The combination creates an experience Mullens says really draws a crowd.
“I know people who come to hear him are sitting there spellbound, listening to his adventurous tales, and wishing Carey would ask them to join him on his next adventure,” Mullens said.
Mullens bought land in Vermont after he went looking for the peace and tranquility Kish promised he would find on the Freezeout Trail in Baxter State Park. He has since built a cabin and made plans to move.
“It’s Carey’s fault that my wife and I are moving to Vermont,” Mullens joked.
Kish joined OWAA in 2010; for him it was the logical next step since he was already a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and an editor for AMC.
“I wanted to become a member because of their reputation,” Kish said.
The network OWAA provided was also attractive to him. He hopes to start establishing himself in that network by attending his first conference this year. Maine is still home for Kish and his wife Fran Leyman.
Leyman and Kish married four years ago. She is the perfect companion for his adventures, he says. Together they have a mountain of outdoor gear and two cats.
Kish has bachelor’s degrees in anthropology, geography and forestry as well as a master’s in business administration. He holds a day job at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, where he is the director of community outreach and cooperative purchasing, a title he wishes he could swap for “the director of stuff.”
He also edits the AMC Wilderness Matters newsletter and is working on another book. His book will be the next in the AMC Best Day Hikes series. The book will focus on a stretch of the Maine coast from Kittery to Lubec.
“I’m finding a lot of trails I haven’t done and fabulous hikes I didn’t know about,” he said.
In addition, Kish writes and takes photos for various publications, and the Portland Press Herald has featured his hiking column for 10 years.
Kish says he feels privileged to write about the outdoors and share his experiences with others. Inspiring young people to seek adventure through his writing, photography and public speaking is his goal, and he believes in the power journalists hold to conserve the environment and motivate the public.
“We need stewards, we need to motivate young people,” Kish said. “Don’t waste any time, you can do everything you want to do, I mean everything.” ◊
Peter Van Horn is a student at the University of Montana. He believes that outdoor journalism is an essential tool to address real environmental issues. Van Horn is also interested in feature writing and wilderness photography. He joined OWAA as a journalism intern for the summer of 2013. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org