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Katahdin Art Project

About Bart Smith and Image Pathways

The photographer-hiker behind the Katahdin Art Project


About Bart Smith

Bart’s love of nature was nurtured by family outings. Old family photos show Bart as an infant being held by his mother in front of a canvas tent in the woods. Growing up, his father’s career, as a world-renowned research pediatrician, provided opportunities to hike in England, Germany, the Alps, Hawaii, and throughout the US. Bart’s Eagle Scout project was building a new trail through the woods in his hometown. In 1988, while working as the Audiovisual Coordinator at a hospital, Bart met his future wife, Bridgie, at a Nursing Conference. He was given his first Professional SRL camera as a going away present when quitting his “good career job” to travel around the world to hike in 1991.

Bart returned home, after nearly a year, now with 2 loves: hiking and photography. He then decided to hike and photograph the Pacific Crest Trail with the goal of having a photo coffee table book published.
It took about 5 years to hone his skills because Bart is color-blind. Four days after submitting an unsolicited book proposal with no writer involved, just his slides, the owner of the publishing company called offering him a contract to publish his first book Along the Pacific Crest Trail. Based on that success, Bart decided to hike/photograph the Appalachian Trail. 

Then on a whim, he was able to convince Earl Shaffer (the legendary long distance hiker, who in 1948 was the 1st person to complete the Appalachian Trail in one year--his boots and pith helmet have since been donated to the Smithsonian.) to join forces for his second book, The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back to the Hills. It covered Earl’s historic 50th Anniversary Hike of 1998, which he completed weeks shy of turning 80. Half way through the Florida Trail, Bart decided to hike/photograph all 8 of the National Scenic Trails with the goal of finishing on 40th Anniversary of the enactment of the National Trails System Act. At the time, it seemed like a reachable goal. His third book is Along the Florida Trail. The Ice Age Trail was his next adventure, hiked during what became known as a “hundred year mosquito blood drive.” U.S. House of Representative David Obey (the former U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 7th congressional district, who served 21 consecutive terms from 1969 until 2011) wrote the forward to Along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail.

In January 2005, the hiking on the Natchez Trace Trail was perfect. 
Upon returning to complete 27 added miles there was a high heat index warning. While walking along the Parkway of flat Mississippi, he nearly suffered from heat stroke. The Potomac Heritage Trail was hiked during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Allegheny section making Bart one of the first to hike the entire trail. The next 2¼ years Bart spent hiking 4,400 miles on the North Country Trail. While walking 1,000’s of mid-west miles, Bart used equipment such as a jogger stroller to transport his 60-pound gear along the highway. This is called “Road Walking.”

He finished the Continental Divide Trail on October 1st 2008.

Bart found himself frequently commuting cross-country over the years from his home in the Pacific Northwest. Making the most of this opportunity, he began following the Pony Express Historical Trail. His fifth book, Along the Pony Express Trail, came out March of 2009.

In the early spring of 2008, Bart headed into the final months of his ambitious 16-year long quest. He needed to finish the rugged Continental Divide Trail by October 2nd which was the 40th Anniversary of the enactment of the National Trails Act which was signed into law by President Johnson.

In order to accomplish this feat he ended up flip-flopping several times to deal with bad weather such as the June 5th zero visibility blizzard in Montana.  It was touch and go from June on if he would finish on time. The hiking was only part of the equation since the whole purpose of the project was to create a captivating photo archive of the entire National Scenic Trail System. With Herculean effort, Bart finished on October 1st at Yellowstone in front of Old Faithful--where he was warmly greeted by National Park Ranger Tim Townsend. 

Tom Richardson Bart’s friend since childhood photographed the historic moment and then they quickly drove to Bozeman, Montana so that Bart could continue his adventure. There he boarded a airplane bound for Washington DC. Twelve hours after arriving, he was giving a slideshow at the Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History, host of the combined 40th Anniversary of the National Trail System and Bart’s Grand Finale Celebration.

Bart found himself frequently commuting cross-country over the years from his home in the Pacific Northwest. Making the most of this opportunity, he began following the Pony Express Historical Trail. His fifth book, Along the Pony Express Trail, came out March of 2009.

Around this same time, March 30, 2009, Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, one of the most sweeping pieces of conservation and public land management legislation in decades was signed into law by President Obama. 

It created for the first time in 26 years new National Scenic Trails. Not one to rest on his laurels Bart started immediately to finish the task again. Jokingly we called it Photo Finish 2. The first of the three trails Bart finished was the Arizona Trail. Then a mad dash back to the East Coast where he hiked the New England Trail. For the first time ever he had a hiking-buddy, Ron Strickland, the creator of last of the 3 new trails. The Pacific Northwest Trail started at the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, traversing west along the Canadian border before dipping down to Cape Alava.

During 2010, Bart spent the year cataloging his huge backlog of images and started scan slides from his years of shooting with a film camera. There was the lure of Montana, which is “so close” to his home, to re-photograph one section of the Continental Divide Trail during the summer months. (A hiking man cannot be expected to sit at a computer during the summer!!!) 

A current focus of The Partnership for the National Trail System is on the “Decade for the National Trails” which is leading to the 50th Anniversary of the National Trail System in 2018. Bart decided he too wanted to help promote the national trails. Starting in the summer of 2011 Bart hiked his first of the 19 National Historic Trails. He finished the Nez Perce Trail on October 1st which is the date that the Nez Perce surrendered to the US Army 40 miles shy of the Canadian border. 

Bart’s next project was another sad Historical Trail, the Trail of Tears. He chose to follow the Cherokee braid because his wife hails from Illinois. 
The El Camino Real de los Tejas will be his final trail for 2011. El Camino Real, or "Royal Roads", were established by Spanish explorers and missionaries in the 1700's by following century old footpaths that the Native Americans had used for trade from the Great Plains to the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.  Starting in March of 2012, Bart will begin his trek of the Oregon National Historic Trail.

The only other historical achievement that compares to this is John J Audubon’s desire to paint the birds of America. Both Audubon’s and Bart’s dreams required a willingness to be separated from loved ones for extended periods. Everyday comforts of life became rare luxuries to be savored. Both men traipsed tens of thousands of miles in the wilderness. Carrying the tools of their art upon their back, along with all their other provisions they were steadfast in the pursuit of their dream. In the end, John J Audubon and Bart Smith produced unprecedented portfolios to share with Americans and the world.

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