Writing About Hiking Again

It happens to me every springtime, since 2007 when I set off on my first long distance backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It’s the compelling desire to be on another long hike. But, I’m not taking a long hike this season. So what ?

This year’s alternate plan is to hike (except for one bicycling/camping trip in Maine) for one week every month from now until October. I am really pleased to report that I have walked some 250 miles in the last two months, mostly on trails and roads around my home town in Lincolnville, Maine.

This morning I have started to write more about one of my thru-hikes hikes. I put in two hours revising the first 2.5 days and 57 miles of my 2013 Continental Divide Trailjournal, the section from the border at Palomas, Mexico to Deming, New Mexico. If you want to read the revisions-  the hotlink about takes you right to my first day of hiking.

There are not many hikers who opt for the Columbus alternate, and I thought it might be useful to future hikers  to have someone lay down details. I have added additional sections about prices,  geographical locations, and had data that I am extracting from hand-written logbooks and references that I did not have the time for when I created by daily posts in the tent each night, where I was under the influence of a blend of fatigue, stress, and general catatonia.

I also want to add additional photos to the CDT Trailjournal, and am not having much luck in remembering how to to that, so if there are Traijournal wordsmiths out there who have it down, hit me up.

Plus, here’s new photos from those first three days.

We find the water cache !

We find the water cache !

Shade but tanks are empty

Shade but tanks are empty

Train, the General, and Wizard striking off toward the Floridas

Train, the General, and Wizard striking off toward the Floridas

 

 

The Others

For the past 36 years I’ve been walking up the driveway to get the Bangor Daily News that gets delivered to me sometime around 5:30 each morning.  Today, like no other day, a majestic bald eagle greeted me-  circling not 50 feet above my head as I reached into the newspaper box up on the road.
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I don’t work on my birthday anymore, and try to let the day unfold a bit before I go hiking.  It’s a tradition that I have started in 2008, on the one year anniversary of starting out walking from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Maine.  I know that the new year is something that is thought to start on January 1, but for me it starts on my birthday, just a few days after the Spring equinox.  The light is brightening now, the days most years are warmer already. It’s time to walk again.
I wanted to backpack at least half the day today, but sometimes we have to improvise.  Improvisation is one of my major lessons this year. The Improv Wisdom book is a big help these days.
Yes, it’s just as good as it ever was- the hiking today. Maybe not as long a walk than I first wanted, but it’s what worked out. I loved the feeling of stretching out my legs, kicking forward, and leaning toward the horizon a bit- saw no one.
The trail ahead is slippery

The trail ahead is slippery

What a privilege it is to have the miles of trails and warm shelter to myself right now. The sun is setting, skies are clear and it’s definitely back into the 20′s tonight.
Just as I was walking, someone sings  “Sorrows are flowing downstream down the mountain”on the iPhone that I’m listening to . I was in the process of taking this photograph at that exact moment- I’m not kidding.

Flowing but mostly frozen

I just set up final details to do a 100 mile hike down on the Appalachian Trail in May to hike into Trail Days. I’ll be in Tennessee,  North Carolina and into Virginia ! I hope hike a few of those miles with Duff, who is setting out on a thru-hike of the AT this season. Plus Guthook will be breezing through at autobahn level mileages as he storms through Virginia as a total act of devotion to updating his ever popular AT Hiker app. Bob Peoples is helping me with logistics, and I’ll be sure to stay at his place- Kincora- the best hostel of the whole AT.

I am hoping see Crazy Horse down there. When he had the Captain America Corvette he was easy to track down. Now his car is nothing flashy.

It’s not that big a bunch that hikes a lot. These people tend to get to events like Trail Days  and AYZPCTKO ( PCT kickoff).   I will likely spot a few folks that I have not thought about in years but, when I do run into them, I’ll be filled with excitement instantly due to some deep connection we made between each other while out there with The Others. That’s who I belong to- the ragtag bunch of backpackers who do not have upward mobility anywhere even close to their home screens.  These noble folks are the masters of forward mobility.

I started hiking north on the AT on my birthday in 2007.  One thing I really enjoy right now is reading my original Trailjournal from that long hike.  I start reading about today on today, just 7 years later.  And over the next few weeks, I wake up and re-read that day’s journal, reliving the past, refreshing my outlook for the coming season.  No thru hikes for me this year, but I am excited about my progress in completing Cary Kish’s “1000 miles of hiking in Maine in one year” challenge.   I put in six more miles today.

 

 

Hiking Close to Home

I spent the last three days hiking away from my house and camping with friends and family. When I mean hiking away from, I don’t mean driving someplace and hiking there. I mean walking out the door, and stepping away from the house and crunching over the thick mantle of snow through the fields and forest to be outside for a while.

UT and Roy heading out- photo by John Clark

UT and Roy heading out- photo by John Clark

I’m very fortunate. While it’s probably true that anyone can walk out their door with a backpack on and eventually embrace trails and walking paths, if I walk for five minutes in just about any direction from my house then I’m in the woods.
Yesterday, brother Roy, my hiking buddy Tenzing, and I walked 7.2 miles to get to this cabin. We used snowshoes to break out the first half mile of trail, then put them away for a 2 mile road segment.

On the way there, we had a couple burgers and a sub sandwich at Drake’s, the only liquor/ gasoline/convenience store in this part of town.  Later, I was walking up a steep segment of steep trail when I shouted out,” Hey, we all forgot to pay for our  food!”

“I paid,” said Roy.

“So did I,” said Tenzing.

I was only able to make it right, via my pleading  “$10-bill-down-to-the-store” phone call to ever-faithful Auntie Mame, who helped me out yet again, as she does each and every single day.

Roy and Tom fueling up

Roy and Tom fueling up

We made good use of a freshly tracked snowmobile trail that had us chugging up 600 vertical feet. We put the snow shoes on again for the last two miles of our walk. We met a porcupine who was overhead, chomping bark along a branch of oak .  Roy learned that in Maine, you always look up in the woods, to see if there is a porcupine above you.

Twenty feet up in a tree- photo by John Clark

Twenty feet up in a tree- photo by John Clark

At the camp, we welcomed Dave and Kristi, who arrived on the back seats of two snowmobiles, with their sled full of gear in tow.  They made a couple of new friends on the way up here.

Kristi snags trail magic

Kristi snags trail magic

Auntie Mame and my sister-in-law V8 showed up an hour later after I cranked the wood stove and had the building warmed up.  Plenty of dry ash for us to throw into the cavernous stove.
The Jamrog brothers cooked up a Polish feast for dinner: three kinds of pierogis, grilled kielbasa, horseradish, sour cream, and mustard.
It was warm enough in the cabin that we let the stove go out overnight.
Different day the next morning- warmer and raining. Roy, Tenzing, and I perked up a few cups of coffee and headed back up the ridge for a four mile loop back to the cabin.  It was raining, in the 40′s, and the footing was like walking on sand.  The ice was melting.

Moist Weather Conditions- by John Clark

Moist Weather Conditions- by John Clark

I was packing light: iPod Shuffle, earphones, Garmin eTrex30, and my iPhone ( for  photos). The trail had softened up enough to make snowshoes a must, even with 1/4 inch of ice coating the branches of trees up on the 1200 foot ridge.

Brothers on another Summit

Brothers on another Summit

When we got back, Tenzing cooked an over-the-top mess of bacon, sausage, eggs, and onion home fries on the wood stove. IMG_2767

Inside my down sleeping bag, settled atop my Neo  Air,  I read Outside magazine and Cache Lake Country: Life in the North Woods.  We gabbed, and I was back and forth between z-time and reading.

Later, they’ll be more from Mame’s bottomless pit of appetizers, along with Kristi’s chili, Dave’s corn bread, and Jan’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

It’s getting windier, and clearing. Winter left for just a bit.

A couple of hours later, found Tenzing, Roy, and I atop the summit of Bald Rock Mountain, on a full-moon 5-mile hike to a summit overlooking Penobscot Bay. The rest of our gang had walked a more sensible three miles and turned back when it started to snow a bit.

Full moon weirdness- by John Clark

Full Moon Man Greeting – by John Clark

Roy maintains, “Up here, you can hike 20 miles in the snow and rain, and still gain weight.”

“May be, Roy, may be”.

Hiking Clark Island

Clark Island, a little known, private island in St. George, on the rocky coast of Maine, is definitely worth a hike. Pat, John, and I checked it out yesterday, as we dodged and weaved through serious winter wind on our 4 mile loop around the mostly abandoned territory.

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I found few little web details about this hike. We parked at the edge of the causeway, where there was space for just one vehicle. From there we walked straight ahead through the yard of the caretaker’s house and followed the well trodden winter path all the way to the end.
20140302-091431.jpg From there we decided to walk the shoreline rather than double back. The rockweed was slippery and tread uneven, so we were careful not to fall.

20140302-093426.jpg Part way back, we spotted an ancient trail that wound it’s way back over the main (unplowed) road. Here a photo of John beside a couple of balsam furs that have been stripped by what must if been a hungry deer.

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Here’s reference material from a 2002 Courier-Gazette:

“At the end of the causeway is a lone house that stands at the entrance of Clark Island. Beyond it are trails that wind through fields, stately pines and other trees and fragrant wild flowers. In a few places it was evident where deer traipsed through. A few of the trails led me to different granite quarries. Standing on the edge of one of the quarries and looking out and over the tree line I could see the ocean. Large slabs of granite and trees make the quarry secluded and private. Some of the rocks that border the area are a perfect spot to sit for a picnic or to lay back and sunbathe..”
This island is still untouched and has a great deal of history. One side of the island is built up with granite walls that form a pier. In the early 1900s, ships used to dock there and load up on granite that had been cut from the quarry. The operation stopped more than 70 years ago when workers struck water and it filled up and was never used again. Evidence of the quarry operation abounds. The rock pier still has steel or iron spikes where the tug boats used to tie up. And large slabs of granite still have ridges in them from where they were cut.

“Opposite the island, on the Clark Island peninsula, even more granite was taken. Operations there continued until 1969, when a fire destroyed the building that housed all the tools for the operation.

“At the time the quarry was at its peak was in the late 1930s and 40s,” said Arnold Hocking. Thomaston. Hocking’s father was superintendent of the quarry during the 1940s. “About 300 men worked there and they shipped out about 1,500 tons of paving blocks by barge a day.” The island and quarry operations were owned by John Meehan & Sons out of New York and Philadelphia, Hocking said.

“Hocking and his brother took over the operation of the quarry until the fire destroyed everything. Granite had been taken from the area since the early 1900s, before the island was serviced by electricity, Hocking said, and everything was operated by steam or compressed air.

Historical evidence, beautiful scenery and solitude make Clark Island a worthwhile destination.

Carey Kish: It’s time to step up to the 1,000-mile challenge | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

As part of a regimen for the 1,000-mile goal, include hiking time in Acadia National Park. With views like this, you’ll be invigorated in both body and mind. Carey Kish Photo

As part of a regimen for the 1,000-mile goal, include hiking time in Acadia National Park. With views like this, you’ll be invigorated in both body and mind.
Carey Kish Photo

Carey Kish’s idea is superb. I like the idea of setting a long term goal that requires bit of a stretch. Totally in the right direction, which is getting outside. It’s also Maine-based.

Hey, Carey, I’m on this bus! Maybe we can hike together sometime in this 2014 campaign. I vowed to stay close to home this year, and your plan is making me look forward to the next few months.
I’d like a third hike of the Hundred. Carey’s thru-hike of Baxter state park inspired me to do the same this coming August. And yes to Grafton Loop. Definitely will do a thru hike of the George’s Highland Path and all of Camden Hills State Park

Readers click here—>>Carey Kish: It’s time to step up to the 1,000-mile challenge | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Still Space to Build Your Own Multifuel Backpacking Stove

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Class runs one night on Tues, first week in March.  As of today-  4 spaces left.
Make your own multi-fuel backpacking stove! Have fun and learn how to make a lightweight stove that you can use on day hikes and on backpacking trips. Created from metal cans and fasteners, these downdraft stoves are compact and efficiently burn wood, alcohol,  and solid fuel tablets. Each participant will be assisted in drilling, cutting, and fastening component parts to make their own stove, and receive practice in lighting and tending the stove. Class size is limited. Registration $20, plus $10 for materials to be paid to the instructor. 1 night 6:00-8:30 p.m. Class Tues 3/4 CHRHS Rm 112

adulted@fivetowns.net • 236-7800 ext 274

Click here to learn more about the stove and it’s history.

Tom Jamrog lives in Lincolnville, and has extensive backpacking and stove construction experience.

After the trail: The return of the existential despair

Occasionally I repost material written by others that I feel a connection with. Carrot Quinn has given us one of the best post-thru hike accounts of how it feels to stop walking after exercising 12 hours a day, for day after day, and months at a time.

photo by Carrot Quinn

photo by Carrot Quinn

It’s a bit long, but has good photos and deserves to be listened to.–> After the trail: The return of the existential despair.

I experienced some of this post hike depression in 2007 after I completed the AT. I was better after the 2010 PCT hike, and am almost back on track after completing the CDT this past September. I do have a great place to live, and a family and friends that love me.

It still feels feels selfish when I whine after being on “vacation” for 5-6 months a year, but thru hiking was definitely not a vacation. My MeGaTex buddies and I used to joke about how nice it would be to just be able to “camp” and walk a bit each day, but we were generally asleep after boiling up a pot of food, and staring at the campfire until the tiredness took us away into the darkness.

Basic GPS setup via Starman

I carried a Garmin eTrex 30 for 5 months over 2500 miles in 2013 on my Continental Divide thru hike.

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, 30

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, 30

I was not alone in relying on the device to find my way.  When I was preparing for the hike  I quickly became frustrated with the poor Garmin documentation. Their web support was no better. This stuff is  not easy to understand.  Nothing is intuitive about it.  I needed to learn lots, and fast.

One great source of hiking information, specifically about that trail,  is via the CDT list serv.  The following GPS set-up information has been just listed on the CDT-l by Frank Gilliand, AKA Starman.  He’s known in long distance hiking circles as the guy who knows about GPS.  He’s also one of the rare individuals who is able to communicate how-to-info about GPS that’s understandable by ordinary people, like me.  Thanks, Starman for letting me share your info on this blog!

Here are the facts from Starman himself:

There seems to be a lot of general confusion about the set up and operation of GPS units (Garmin Etrex in particular)
In the next couple of days I will put together a basic breakdown of step by step procedures to load data (waypoints, POIs, Maps and tracks)
I will post NEW set-up info on my “Web Site” soon:      https://www.sites.google.com/site/frankgilliland/

Go to my Info page for some basic definitions:  https://www.sites.google.com/site/frankgilliland/information

For purposes of setting up a handheld gps for CDT hiking you need:

1)  Purchase a GPS unit (I prefer a Garmin Etrex 20 or 30)
2)  Purchase a Micro SD card (4 or 8 gb)
3)  Purchase a Garmin topo map DVD (either the TOPO 24k West or the TOPO 100k US)
(you can purchase the SD card version but it complicates things IMHO)
4)  install Gamin’s Free software on your computer:  BaseCamp, MapInstall, and WebUpdater
5)  update the GPS units Firmware using WebUpdater  (need to do this at purchase and check once a year)
6)  install the needed Garmin topo maps on to your GPS using MapInstall from your computer
7)  download and install the FREE Bear Creek POI file.
8)  Optional: install Tracks I have posted

Some definitions for clarity:

1)  Waypoint is a stored point.  (name, coordinates, elevation, etc) It can be downloaded from another source usually saved as a .gpx file
(the Etrex 20/30 is limited to 2000 of these loaded or field created points)

2)  POI point is an un-editable “waypoint” that can be loaded on to your Garmin GPS
(I have not found the upper limit of the total number that can be stored on a GPS)

3)  Loaded/stored TOPO Map:  A USGS based map that is installed and viewable on your GPS screen and Computer.
(You must get the Garmin TOPO 24k west or 100k US)

4)  Tracks are no more than “line segments” between “track points” that are drawn on software or they can be “active” tracks created in the field.
(I turn off the “active” track creation feature on my GPS)

( For the purpose of hiking the CDT if you choose to load tracks I would only use the tracks I created roughly following the Bear Creek Waypoint/POI points)

5) Routes are generally reserved for lines showing “routes” on roads.  So, for hiking purposes using the phrase “routes” only confuses the conversation.

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Garmin does a really poor job of documenting basic operations of there handheld units and instead focuses on the bells and whistles…..
I feel your pain on the jumble of words and operations.  Call Garmin on their Help line and ask for better documentation.

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If you just can’t figure it out the set-up of your GPS I am willing to set up your Etrex 20 or 30 sent to me via USPS Priority mail.  I have done several setups already.  Contact me for mailing instructions.  (You need to have the TOPO map file loaded onto either the GPS internal memory or the SD card)

Contact me off line at     frankgilliland    <@>    gmail   <dot>     com

I am in the middle of planning my own Summer hikes, so I am busy and can not walk you thru “BASIC” GPS loading operation questions.
I would prefer to just load your GPS up with data and set it up once.  But, you need to decide soon……

If you prefer Bear Creek will also do some GPS or SD card set-up for you for a nominal fee:

http://www.bearcreeksurvey.com/Reroutes.htm

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Bottom line: this is what I do in the field (on-trail) once I load the TOPO Map, POI point file and optional Track files:

1) Turn on your GPS and and you will see your location on your GPS screen as a digital USGS topo map
(this is helpful by itself and then you can find or verify your location on your paper map)
2)  you should also see the loaded Bear Creek Way-point or POI point(s) near you.
3)  if you have loaded and turned on the track viewing feature you will see the trail location as a line(s).
4)  If you are “Off Trail”  walk towards the closest or most logical Waypoint/POI point.
5)  Walk to the next Waypoint/POI in your direction of travel
6)  If it is obvious that you are on the trail then turn off your GPS to save your batteries until the next time you are “Off Trail”
(or you just want to see what the next POI point is and your physical location on your paper map)

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Final Words of Wisdom:

You are responsible for learning the operation of your GPS.  In the field in the Middle of Montana is to late…..
GPS units are known to fail, batteries die and you should always have Paper Maps and the skills to use them.

Get an Etrex 20, load your TOPO map, load the POI and Track files…….Stay Found!

StarMan

My Favorite Books Read in 2013

Lists, lists, lists…

This time of year, it’s easy to scan countless columns of the best movies, best books.

I haven’t seen “Best Meals I’ve Cooked in 2013″, but there is a list for that, for sure.

I am tired of going to such lists online and then experiencing ads popping up in the middle.  Outside mag. is the worst offender, their content is generally great but they are killing me with their creeping advertising campaign.

Here are my one dozen best reads from 2013.    No ads.

Can't resist- Here's #1

Can’t resist- Here’s #1

Disclaimer:  I’m shooting you over to my Goodreads bookshelves via my blog.  You can see what I like, and then you can click on each book and get more details. I have reviewed most of them.  You can also friend me on Goodreads and then I can also see what you like to read and get more recommendations for like-minded folks.  Thanks to my hiker buddy Birdlegs for turning me on to Goodreads!

From Goodreads –> Tom Jamrog’s Favorite Books Read in 2013 .