At the Bangor Daily News, Gabor Degre spotlights in an article and terrific video narrative a 16 day canoe trip commemorating the 150th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau’s famous trek through the Maine wilderness, recounted in his popular book The Maine Woods.  The trip is an example not only of smart marketing aimed at fostering economic development and tourism that values and respects the natural resources and beauty of northern Maine, but also of the continued allure of a pristine vision of Nature in American culture.

The initiative was organized by the  Maine Woods Discovery, “a cooperative marketing initiative designed to position the Maine Woods region as a top quality travel destination.” At the web site for the trip, you can follow the 16 day trip itinerary, check out an interactive map of the trip, learn about the organizers and participants, see images taken by photographers along the way, and follow the trip on Twitter.

The continuing allure of the Maine Woods and Thoreau’s writing reflects what historian William Cronon calls the “wilderness ideal” in American history. In an influential essay appearing as part of an 1995 edited volume, Cronon argued that Thoreau and other 19th century writers imagined in Nature a vision of what they believed to be the ideals of a good society, and this sacred relationship to Nature would be later enacted in legislation and an environmental movement that strove to protect “untrammeled wilderness.”  As I wrote in a 2013 Harvard paper, present day environmental writers and activists carry on this tradition of Thoreau’s idealism and vision, framing debates such as those over climate change through the image of a pristine wilderness apart from humans, a place where we find redemption and healing, and that must be protected and preserved at almost any cost.