From Garage Grown Gear comes this article about a Biddeford, ME based company that is rapidly growing and connecting with ultralight backpackers. Who would have predicted that an old mill in Biddeford Maine would be making a splash due to backpacking, and perhaps other portable cases and devices? Read about the rapid rise of Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
Bubbas continue to rule the Midcoast trails.
Where else would you find twelve mountain bikers saddling up on a November Sunday morning where a “wintry mix” weather report was on the radar when we went to bed last night? <
Even better – nonstop banter and solid comarderie weren't dampened by rain or snow today. It was sunny- but cold, and made colder by the 15 mile-per-hour wind blowing straight out of Canada some 100 miles to the north.
The trail below our tires was firm today, and generally free of the thick leaf cover that Fall brings to the Midcoast. The recent rain washed out debris and wind has blown the trail open. Mount Pleasant has serious ups, and downs, and is usually the place where we congregate on Sunday mornings.
Ian demonstrated some impressive bike handling skills when he went up and over a downed tree while climbing uphill on a mossy and wet ledge on the way to the top of Pleasant Mountain.
The group enjoyed a break on top in the sunlight, overlooking Penobscot Bay.
Embrace The Brutality: A Continental Divide Adventure is the second backpacking documentary that was recorded, directed, and edited by Triple Crowner Shane “ Jester” O’Donnell. Released in 2013, it follows up Jester’s initial “big screen” production- “Wizards of the PCT”.
Definitely check this DVD out. Let Jester take you through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana over some 3,000 miles on a 5 months roller coaster of a hike that he eventually completes with friends. Where else can you view a forlorn middle-aged man whine about losing twenty five pounds, with a sincere promise to try and eat more – “somehow”, in order to prevent further weight loss. Seriously.
After two viewings ( I bought the DVD), the most striking impression about their journey is the positive tone conveyed by this DVD. These folks just keep laughing and smiling as they experience the most challenging terrain and weather in this ” Walk in the Non Woods”.
Crawling over sand and cactus needles while wriggling under barbed wire fences? No problem- let the gang show you two useful techniques to make it happen. Rain on successive days in Colorado, where the trail is generally up over 10,000 feet? Let’s crack a few jokes and move on. Falling down while filming- feature it!
Lost? Jester gives new meaning to the term, which is parsed out and redefined in fresh new terms like “ off trail but not lost”, I empathize with Jester’s episodes of hiking and camping alone at altitude- it’s definitely a task to get back to your hiking mates after wandering off-trail, and once you are back on trail, you then realize that you don’t know if your peeps or partner is ahead or behind you. Do you speed up or slow down? You’ll see.
Included are the obligatory gross-out clips of hikers pointing to the incomprehensible clusters of bubbles of blisters on their feet and the subsequent gushers that occur when such painful blisters are pierced and drained by sewing needles.
There are no teaching segments, no gear reviews, no recommendations for outfitting your self for such a unusual life pursuit. That’s best left to other film makers who are focusing in on the How-To’s of pulling off this ultralight backpacking thing these days. (For that, check out Dave Collins’ Clever Hiker tutorial series.) What’s left is the experience of what it’s like to hike- all day every day- for 5 months straight- no matter if it’s raining, snowing, or a blowing sand in your face.
I definitely recommend viewing this DVD if you are considering hiking a long-distance National Scenic Trail. If you are not sure about whether you want to hike for 5 months straight, you may think twice after seeing some of the real-life challenges faced by these members of The CDT Class or 2012.
The DVD can be purchased from Amazon ($24) or directly from Jester for $20, which includes domestic and international shipping. An even better deal is $36 and free shipping for both DVD’s. Trust me, if you have seen one, you want the other.
Three long-distance backpacking DVD projects were released in 2013 while I was away thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail: “Mile, Mile and a Half”, “Embrace the Brutality”, and “Tell It On the Mountain”. I’ve secured all three, watched them, and will review each on separate blog entries.
The first- “Mile, Mile and a Half”, is a gorgeous production by the Muir Project.
It’s their collective record of a 25 day thru-hike of the 219 mile John Muir Trail, in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Lest one think that this 8.75 mile per day schedule was chicken feed, it’s important to consider that these individuals not only carried their own backpacking gear and food, but also their respective artictic tools. Some of these folks were packing weights up to 75 pounds. No joke.
Here is the trailer for the video.
The John Muir Trail is considered to be the premier hiking trail in the United States. The trail starts in Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, and ends at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft. ( from http://johnmuirtrail.org/). With the exception of the first 9 miles at the northern end climbing out of Yosemite Valley, the elevation of the JMT seldom dips below 8,000 feet. The trail crosses seven mountain passes in excess of 11,000 feet; from north to south, they are: Donohue Pass, Muir Pass, Mather Pass, Pinchot Pass, Glen Pass, Forester Pass and Trail Crest. At 13,153 feet, Forester Pass is the highest point along the Pacific Crest Trail and the second-highest pass along the JMT ( -from WiKiPedia).
It is estimated that, when hiking north to south, the amount of ascent of the JMT is just over 46,000 feet and the total descent is over 38,000 feet, for a total of about 84,000 feet, or almost 16 miles.
I pledged financial support of this product as a Kickstarter project when it was in the formative stages, allowing me to receive my “Special Edition DVD”, as well as a drink flask and sticker for my bear canister.
Five hikers, who were also accomplished artists in their own disciplines, were inspired to carry additional video and audio recording devices, still photography tools, musical instruments, and graphic materials for the purpose of producing a multimedia production of their journey.
I have watched it twice to date.
The second viewing revealed details I didn’t recall from the first viewing- a pleasant surprise that is not often the case with lower budget productions of this nature.
These are not accomplished backpackers- all these individuals are primarily artists, who happen to be backpacking in order to carry out this unique task. For some individuals, it was their first time walking at elevations over 10,000 feet, or walking on snow.
These folks suffered- you will see the standard “horror-show-of-my-feet” images of tumescent toe blisters and gushers from strategically lanced areas of the foot with subsequent audience groans guaranteed.
There was one drop out- it was that tough. We see the punishing ascents, post holing parties, and experience the unique frosted terrain that greeted these hikers in 2011, where the snow pack was off the charts.
I hiked 160 miles on the JMT in 2010, where it shares the path with the Pacific Crest Trail.
The segments that show the group getting up over the high passes were definitely thrilling and possibly scary, especially my personal horror show at Mather Pass, the site of my most terrifying traverse.
The footage of the notorious Bear Creek ford will put a lump in your throat.
This is a five star production that will be interesting to both hikers and non-hikers alike.
My bunk room morphed up to warmer last night.
The crew told me the building was so well insulated that a person’s body heat was often sufficient to turn things around. The bunk houses are heated to around 60 degrees in the off season as well, as there is a caretaker for each hut. However since it is not a full season with a dedicated hut staff to stoke the fires in the basement on a regular around the clock schedule, there might be small fluctuations in heat (never below 50, between 57 to 65), depending on the outside temperatures. Hot water prevails, as well.
In the morning, I made myself drip coffee from the pile of filters and fresh ground Carabasset the boys set out for me before they went up last night. Normally, breakfast is served st 7:40, but I suggested that they sleep in, courtesy of me!
At 8 sharp I was sitting in the dining room in front of a hot plate of eggs, sausage, and toast.
Lunch fixin’s were set out for me to make my own peanut and jelly sandwich, accompanied by a brownie and granola bar.
The morning light illuminated the shore and the few leaves that remained on the deciduous trees.
I’m heading back today. On the way in here, it was unsafe to listen to music via earphones and iPhone- too many pulp trucks thundering down Long Falls Dam as well as the gravel Carriage Roads to be distracted by tunes. I needed to hear these trucks coming. They don’t slow down at all and the roads are narrow.
This is the last weekend for MH&T to offer their full service meal plans as part of the package here (at regular rates). Twenty folks are coming in today to stay for this last serviced weekend- a ” yoga group”.
From October 29 until December 19 daily rates drop more than 50%, down to $35 for nonmembers and $30 for members. For that price, you get everything this place offers except the meal plan. Guests are free to bring in their own food and use the kitchen.
In sum, I enjoyed my stay here. The facilities are unique- interesting and comfortable. I liked being taken care of. The shower was hot, the couch and reading chairs were super comfortable.
One of the parts I liked about the trip into here along the trail from Sugarloaf/Route 27 was crossing the Appalachian Trail at the exact same place that I walked over on my 2007 thru-hike.
It brought back positive memories.
People need to know that the terrain that surrounds the MH&T trail is mostly low country, and right now is surrounded by fresh logging activity.
It’s often not so scenic. Don’t get me wrong- in the warm weather the deciduous leaves will hide the freshly cut slash and stumps. Conversely, when the area is blanketed by snow the skiing, snowshoeing, and even mountain biking will be framed in a more natural situation.
I could be wrong, but there is one more reason why MH&T lets their crews go for the next month and a half. It’s deer hunting season in Maine, and folks will definitely need to be wearing hunter orange if they travel these woods in November. This looks like prime hunting territory.
This is quite an undertaking- these ” wilderness hotels” that are steadily coming online up here. I am really pleased to finally experience what they are all about.
I appreciated the care and attention that the staff gave me here, even though I was the only client.
I plan to be back here before the rates double up and return to normal just before the Holiday season.
I have viewed enough YouTube clips to know that I want to ride my Pugsley along the groomed snow pack.
Yesterday, I changed my plan to backpack up here when the weather report scared me. Last week’s unseasonably warm Indian Summer is history.
It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I’m here at the Maine Huts and Trails Flagstaff hut complex. This is my first time with Maine Huts and Trails, where they staff sustainable outdoor hotels in the forest. It’s 31 degrees out, with strong wind off Flagstaff Lake that’s pushing the cold even deeper today.
Snow flurries are scurrying about outside the insulated walls and windows of this main lodge- recently constructed on eastern shore of Flagstaff, a man-made lake that is the fourth largest in Maine.
I have camped in this area in all seasons, including one winter trip inside a heated wall tent about a mile from here when the temps dropped to 20 below, with an even colder wind off the lake that refrigerated the air around the tent’s wood stove. No amount of stoking could raise the heat in the tent to a comfortable level.
My original plan was to hike on the Appalachian Trail for a few days, in an area where I enjoy hanging out. I stayed at the local “hiker oasis”- the Stratton Motel last night, so that I could get an early start. My plan was to walk southbound on the AT from Route 27, then up and over the side trail to Sugarloaf summit. I like going up and over Sugarloaf- it’s the original Appalachian Trail route after all. I hoped I could get out of the elements and bed down in the now decrepit and supposedly vermin-infested Summit building. Today would have been a 12 mile day if it all worked out. But several factors combined to change my mind.
Cold- how about nights in the 20′s?
Uncertainty- about whether staying in the Sugarloaf summit building was still possible. It has been gloom and doom about the place for at least the past 5 years. In the warmer weather many options exist for sleeping, but right now I don’t want to either stand around in the long hours of dark and freezing cold. I envisioned getting way up there and finding the doors nailed and locked shut. Spending tonight up high in a little flimsy tent is definitely not on my Bucket List. I have not so fond memories of a yet another very cold, miserable December night- up on Bigelow- that does not need repeating.
Two other factors pushed the hiking into the “Nope” zone. Both were unsettling.
Both involved a connection to Sue Critchlow , the proprietor of the Stratton Motel/ Maine Roadhouse.
The first was a 2012 article from the Boston Phoenix where Sue was one of the local Stratton/ Rangely residents who was quoted heavily concerning the history of weird hovering lights in the area. Shades of extraterrestrial visitation.
The second was the 2013 mysterious disappearance of 66 year old Appalachian Trail hiker Geraldine Largay, who left the Poplar Ridge Lean-to shelter near Rangeley on Monday, July 22, after checking in with her husband via text message as she headed toward the Spaulding Mountain Lean-to, eight miles north. “Inchworm” (her AT trail name) had already hiked from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, almost 1000 miles, with her final destination the AT terminus at Katahdin. She was last seen by three male hikers that afternoon near Lone Mountain, about three miles from the Spaulding shelter. To them, Largay, seemed fine. Then she vanished, launching one of Maine’s largest missing-person searches in memory. For 11 days, hundreds of people on foot as well as ATVs and horseback, along with a helicopter, airplanes, and nine search dogs failed to turn up any perceptible trace of her passage.
Read more about the puzzle, including the mystery phone call Creighton stated she received from a woman who told her that she wanted to get word to George Largay that his wife would be late in meeting him. Full story here.
So, instead on a night out in the cold, mulling about the strange events here in drama city, I biked 19.2 miles from Route 27 today, where I put in at the trailhead parking for Maine Huts and Trails. I had the official map for this route, but needed to study it frequently, as it was my first time out on the route. There were plenty of signage, but this same complex of trails is used by snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles, hikers, cross country skiers, and snowshoers. There was at least one intersection where there were four choices to decide upon. Sort of complicated.
Sizing up the day at 7:10 PM tonight- it turned out great. I am the only guest here tonight, sleeping out in a three person dorm room in another cottage that is heated, but definitely not over 60 degrees. I spent the bulk of the afternoon on a big leather couch, about six feet out from a wood stove perched on a field stone hearth, where the warming flames of cowboy TV were visible through the glass doors.
Two of the staff and I ate supper together- a stir fry over rice with homemade bread, brownies, and peanut butter cookie, capped off with a glass of cold milk. They even materialized a bottle of Allagash White for me ( $5).
From 10/28/2013 to 12/19/2013, MH&T stops cooking meals for guests, but the Huts remain open, with a caretaker on premises. For that time period $35 a night ( $30 for members) gets you all the amenities ( yes for hot shower), including the use of the kitchen – $70 for a cold weather weekend of exploring in this area is a screaming deal. You could get up and over on the AT for a day hike up the Bigelows, walk the shore of this Lake a bit, or bring bikes up and ride around in the woods. Then hit the hot showers, use the kitchen, enjoy safe drinking water out of faucets, have electric lights to read by, and sleep in a heated room on a mattress.
Long Falls Dam Road is plowed all winter. It’s important to understand that you cannot actually drive into any of the four available Huts. You have to hike, bike, ski, or snowshoe in. The 1.8 mile traverse into Flagstaff Hut from the TraiIhead parking lot is the shortest trip in to any of the huts. It’s a whoop on a bike.
Here’s the link to my updated Trailjournal.
Today’s entry is my “1 month post hike” report.
Lengthen your life by four years with 30 minutes of exercise daily. Appears to be true !
In preparing for a physical, I took a blood test this past week. I was also curious about my levels after spending 5 months backpacking.
I received a call from my doctor that indicated positive results in all bio markers with the exception of Vitamin D. The blood test for D was the 25(OH)D blood test.
The Vitamin D Council suggests that a level of 50 ng/ml is the ideal level to aim for. Mine is 23 !
The doctor’s office recommended that I immediately supplement 2,000 IU/ day. Cursory internet research suggests I need more. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D supplementation in order to reach and stay at this level.
The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements. Apparently you can’t get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food.
I should have been able to metabolize adequate D from my daily exposure to intense sunlight for 5 months (ultraviolet B rays). This should have happened very quickly, particularly in the summer.
The Vitamin D council suggests that you don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn.
I hiked through the summer when the light was lengthy, and it was my habit to hike in short sleeve shirt and shorts.
It appears that I will need to get vitamin D by taking supplements. Vitamin D3 is the best kind of supplement to take. It comes in a number of different forms, such as tablets and capsules, but it doesn’t matter what form you take, or what time of the day you take it.
This same problem surfaced after my 2010 Pacific Crest Trail hike, another 5 months stint where I bathed in sunlight 95 % of those 150 days. My doctor even had me take 50,000 unit doses once a week for a month. Only a meager increase was gained, I didn’t ever reach 30.
I do have some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency ( tiredness and general aches and pains), but those are also consistent with the extreme demands of averaging 20 miles a day over 5 months. People who are deficient also have infections. I experienced a infected tooth on the Trail.
Cause for concern? Anyone out there with some wisdom in this area to impart ?
Here’s what it has been like at the 10 day mark, or
” 150 Days of Backpacking Vs. 10 Days Back At Home”