Scott Jurek and his sour grapes

Seriously, Scott Jurek? Jurek’s attorney denied he had knowledge of the rules at Baxter State Park before completing his 46-day run to complete the Appalachian Trail. This lack of knowledge has resulted in an agreement to pay a $500 fine for alcohol consumption on the summit of Katahdin.

I don’t get this story even before you bring alcohol into it.

A dedicated runner achieved a feat, completing the Appalachian Trail in 46 days — amazing, yes, but dedicated runners have been achieving feats since the first Olympics in ancient Greece. And 2,189 miles in 46 days is impressive, but still pales in comparison to how fast a Tarahumara runner could have done it barefoot — probably without champagne involved.

Everything is relative.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail takes extensive planning. Doing it at the speed Jurek did must have taken an extreme level of logistical coordinating. Jurek described the process for just trash alone in one of a series of articles in Runner’s World.

He said his wife Jenny handled the trash, and “she sorted through everything, picked out all the Clif Bar wrappers and pouches, saved them until she could send them to Terracycle to be recycled. Over the course of 46 days, she sent four packages of wrappers (1400+) … Let’s keep our trail waste out of landfills.”

World-class ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek finishes his 2,180-mile run of the Appalachian Trail atop Mount Katahdin on Sunday, July 12, 2015.  (Luis Escobar | Reflections Photography Studio)

World-class ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek finishes his 2,180-mile run of the Appalachian Trail atop Mount Katahdin on Sunday, July 12, 2015. (Luis Escobar | Reflections Photography Studio)

Jurek’s level of planning should have involved knowing the rules at Baxter State Park. Most people probably don’t have a clue what Terracyle is (it turns trash into new products), but I’m assuming people who do know are conscientious enough to be able to research rules. Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin are internationally renowned entities, and the rules for BSP are readily available, including the statement that drinking alcohol in public in Maine is illegal.

Expecting users not to demean the summit by having tacky champagne spraying, commercialized locker room moments is okay. And why champagne anyway? Was there no health drink sponsor anxious to capitalize on the moment?

The park is governed for the people of Maine, based on the desire of former Gov. Percival Baxter, by a board made up of the Maine attorney general, the commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the director of the Maine Forest Service. The board’s mission is so stringent, which includes the authority to police the park, it may as well be written in Baxter’s blood. But it is that stringent adherence to the mission that makes the park the wonder that it is. I’d like to think Jurek would have appreciated and respected that.

Instead, in a blog post, he asserts that he’s learned “a lot about Governor Baxter … and I’m pretty sure he would have celebrated my accomplishment as an inspiration to others.” Maybe so, but it’s a stretch to say Baxter would have endorsed the public drinking part. Or the film crew who was reportedly summonsed for filming within 500 feet of the summit.

I’d also like to think Jurek would have appreciated that the rangers waited until the celebration passed before raising the issues of the summonses — initially there were three. The only thing that could have made the incident tackier would have been for the rangers to have intervened while the cameras were still rolling. In one of the Runner’s World articles, both Jurek and a friend complain that the rangers who witness the incident should have been more proactive during the celebration.

Our rangers were prudent not to engage in such a scene. The choice was the polite thing to do, the right thing to do, and the Maine thing to do. They respectfully allowed Jurek his moment and avoided becoming the latest internet meme.

In the Runner’s World articles and his blog post, Jurek’s complaints about the incident at Baxter State Park sound like sour grapes. Maybe he can start a new line of sour sparkling wines — with a label warning people not to bring any to Baxter State Park.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.