Wet winter biking in Midcoast Maine

The fat tire bike movement is alive and well with the Bubbas in the Woods, with Nate showing up today with a sparkling new Trek Farley, and the price was right.

A proud owner about to defile his spanking new ride.

A proud owner about to defile his spanking new ride.

It was a group of seven today at Bubba church, six of us riding fat- when we finished, it was 20° out, with a steady wind chill.

Nelson had to hike-a-bike to his truck early on after his compression fork blew a seal and all the oil in his fork ran out. Before he left, his bike looked like cartoon vehicle, with a layer of crispy crown leaves encircling the perimeter of his wheels as the protruding sheet metal screw tips skewered those leaves against the rubber.

Check out that natural tread

Check out that natural tread

Buck’s 45North rear tire suffered a couple of tears, and his tubeless set up required a tube to keep him moving. A cold day to have a mess of white goop to deal with.

Buck deal with a flat

Buck deal with a flat

There was a great deal of water out on this segment of the Georges Highland Path today.

Like this:

 

The bridge engineers

The bridge engineers

Here’s Rigger and Nate fashioning a makeshift foot bridge to get us across a flowage that had no other way around.

I rode pretty well today.  I thought I might have neglected to bring enough food, but my friend Amy Barnett’s two home made cookies got me through 4 hours and 10 miles of hard going today.  I’ve been experimenting with the type and amount of food that I take along with me of my rides and hikes.  I find i really don’t need too much to keep going right now.

One thing that did not work out so well today was me staying dry.  I was alone, at one point, moving pretty well and following Andre, churning my way over the hummocks and splashing the flowages , and came to a large rock protruding over a small stream with a black hole of water between me and the other side.  I decide to push across, except the front wheel dropped into the water so deep that it jammed against the bottom and I went right over the handlebars into the black wet.  The bike ended up on top of me and my whole lower body was soaked, with the water making it’s way deep into my boots, and it completely filled my pogies ( cordura handlebar covers).  I took off my boots, dumped the water out of them,  wrung out my socks and soldiered on.

The combo of the constant water and deeply cold temp wreaked havoc on our drive trains.  Chains were seizing up, front derailers would not budge, and the water was refreezing so frequently on the pedals that clipping in was difficult, if not at times impossible.  Here is a shot of a rim encased in muddy ice.

A sorry mess

A sorry mess

Check out the mini glacier above the front derailer.

I am hoping to get another Bog ride in Tuesday night, but now it looks like there will be a storm again- more rain.

You gotta like slush and mud to be biking in Maine right now

It’ is not even winter yet, but it’s much more challenging to get outside and bike and hike in Maine right now.
First, we’ve already had two major snow storms that have resulted in serious downed limbs, branches, and even whole trees laying across our usual wooded trails.
One November storm was so brutal that we lost our electricity for five whole days. That’s what happens when you have gale force winds pushing against trees rooted atop soft ground that had not even shed their leaves. The weight of twenty inches of wet sticky snow accumulating on the branches makes the trees top heavy, resulting in uprooted messes toppling like pick-up-sticks across the countryside.
A week ago Andre, Buck, and I headed over to the Rockland Bog on snow shoes to clear out some of the usual riding loops that we have been favoring for the past twenty five years.
We all packed small saws that are surprisingly efficient at slicing through even larger trees that lay across the trails, but there were several behemoths that we left for the big boys on their snowmobiles to dispatch with their chain saws.
Here’s Andre using his snowshoes to stay on top of a particularly despicable half frozen mass of broken up ice partially frozen in nasty mudded-up water.

Andre atop ice

Andre atop ice

Sometimes there are no decent go-arounds, and you need to just work straight across, through the ruts and mud.

No place to tip over

No place to tip over

Thank God there are even a few bridges that we can cross. This is not a place to slip into the water, either on foot or a bike .

IMG_4053

Andre and Buck considering foot placement

Just before we got back to the cars in the lot along the Bog Road, we decided to just go around this particular nasty tangle of downed branches, and yes, normally we are in the habit of being able to ride right through this stream and along the path ahead.  Not going to happen.

Almost on the Bog Road

Almost on the Bog Road

Two days later, we three went back in, along with 5 other cultural iconoclasts. The Bubbas in the Woods have been stuck in a rut of sorts,  for a few decades now. We have these group rides on Sunday morning, and also Tuesday and Thursday nights, year after year- for decades. Incredible but true.  This past Tuesday night, it was pitch black at 5:15 PM, the temps were in the low 20’s, and much of what was soft and mucky was now frozen solid and slippery.

I had charged up my Turbocat handlebar and helmet-mounted lights for the event, my first night ride of the fall season. And yes, I realize my ancient Turbocat system is now old history, and after the ride I realized it would be way cheaper for me to upgrade to a Magicshine LED helmet light than to buy another replacement lead-acid battery that was acceptable way back when.

I also hope not to fall, so just in case, I wore my Fox padded shorts underneath my tights to prevent a broken hip or tailbone ( Right,  Lincoln Jamrog ?).  A recent Men’s health magazine article  about winter fat-tire biking, The Winter Sport That Burns 1,500 Calories an Hour, helped explain why I was a hurting unit just a half-hour into Tuesday night’s ride.

It was ridiculously tough going for me- churning through snow, mud, half-frozen water, and trying to see the path through partially fogged up /frozen safety glasses.  Here’s a map of the 7.5 miles that I somehow managed to finish on Tuesday night:

Bog Ride.  Green dot on Bog Road.

Bog Ride. Green dot on Bog Road.

Here’s a pic of the Hawk, taking a quick break in the middle of a particularly wet piece of the Bog ride.  The darkness at the bottom is black pools of water , interspersed between elevated hummocks of land and mounds of solid ground with trees somehow surviving in there.

The Hawk usually churns right through everything

The Hawk usually churns right through everything- not tonight, though.

It’s what we do, and I’m actually looking forward to my next ride in the dark with these guys.

I’m hoping that my new Magic Shine headlamp works it’s magic on my performance out there!

Tom Jamrog on Channel 2 and 6 tonight at 7 PM

Uncle Tom on the Long Falls Dam Road in Maine

Uncle Tom on the Long Falls Dam Road in Maine

Rob Caldwell’s Maine-based TV news magazine “207” (named after Maine’s one and only area code) interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago. Rob’s program will feature a conversation we had about adventures, walking for months on end at a time, and being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

The interview is airing tonight: November 24 —part 1. Part 2 airs on Tuesday. Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channel 6 in Portland and channel 2 in Bangor. It will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com, where it will remain online for approximately 6 months.

Rob told me to, “Tell everyone you’ve ever met. We want even people on hiking trails who are fifty miles away from the nearest TV to watch.”  I’m trying!

Uncle Tom on Channels 2 and 6 Monday and Tues. nights

IMG_1668

UT atop Katahdin, Sept. 2014 – photo by Ryan Linn (AKA Guthook)

Rob Caldwell’s Maine-based TV news magazine “207” (named after Maine’s one and only area code) interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago. Rob’s program will feature a conversation we had about adventures, walking for months on end at a time, and being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

The interview will air in two parts : November 24 & 25th—part 1 on Monday, part 2 on Tuesday. Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channel 6 in Portland and channel 2 in Bangor. It will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com .

Rob told me to, “Tell everyone you’ve ever met. We want even people on hiking trails who are fifty miles away from the nearest TV to watch.”

A superb hike in Acadia National Park

West Side Trail map

West Side Trail map-click to enlarge

After hiking some 8,000 miles of National Scenic trail in the past six years, I have a feel for the best segments of trail.  I found that yesterday, in Acadia National Park, 65 miles and 90 minutes away from my house on the coast of Maine.

I was invited along on an all day hike by a good friend, and increasingly frequent hiking sidekick Ryan Linn, AKA Guthook, owner of Guthook’s Trail Guide Apps.  We had been up to Acadia together a few weeks ago for a long day hike in this same area, but this time, I felt as if I discovered the best kept hiking secret in Maine.

It’s still beautiful on the coast of Maine on this Halloween hike- there is still colorful foliage lingering in the trees.

Green World

Green World

The rich hues of green imbedded within the carpets of moss on ancient hummocks punctuated by glacial boulders in a landscape framed by the chilling grey waters of the Atlantic Ocean make this loop a definite to-do on any hiker’s checklist.

We started early and hiked until late, reminding me that from now on, I’m packing a flashlight on any day hike.

Take a good map- I  had the Acadia National Park Waterproof Trail Map by Map Adventures. Carey Kish’s 10th Edition Maine Mountain Guide has a full map of the much more popular eastern side of Acadia, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for some of the western side map details, for example Beech Mountain.  There is so little traffic on these western side trails- we saw not one hiker out on our 14 mile step-fest today.

Here was our itinerary: Park at the Pine Hill lot by Seal Cove.  Up the Great Notch Trail, down to the lower part of Sluiceway Trail.

Guthook detected the remains of an ancient granite step staircase off to the right on the way down the Sluiceway. Here’s a shot looking down the steps. It appears to go straight up Bernard Mountain. I plan to go back and try to tease that out through a bushwhack that might get steep.

Mystery steps

Mystery steps

Then up the Bernard Mountain Trail back up to the Great Notch and down the upper part of the Sluiceway Trail onto the Gilley Trail.

Great Notch

Great Notch

Head east to the Cold Brook Trail through the Long Pond parking lot where we picked up the Valley Trail.

Guthook plots the next moves at Long Pond lot

Guthook plots the next moves at Long Pond lot

From here we ascended Beech Mountain via the South Ridge.

Beech Mountain fire tower

Beech Mountain fire tower

From the summit, we took the Beech Mountain Loop north.

Looking north up Long pond.

Looking north up Long pond.

Here we picked up the Valley Trail  all the way back to the parking lot at the south end of Long Pond. Then a long shore side walk on The Long Pond ( Great Pond) Trail to where it terminates on the Great Notch Trail back to our car.

You may not want to do all of this is one day, so let me cut to the quick:  the best stuff was on Beech Mountain.   The trail was what I call “World Class Hiking”.  Trust me.

Going up Beech Mountain

Going up Beech Mountain

All in all it was a great , long, and highly rewarding day, capped off by a visit with Carey Kish, who welcomed us to his new place on the western side.  Kish has seen and done most all of what there is to do in Acadia.  The high point of the evening was when Carey dug out  the hand written notes that proceeded the original 1970’s vintage Appalachian Trail Data book (he has that too) that he used on his 1977 thru-hike of the AT.

 

Hiking on Acadia is Primo in October

Our route

Our route

It was able to make a couple of scheduling adjustments and free myself up to join Guthook on an all-day summit fest on the lesser populated trails that run across the western side of Acadia National Park.  It’s not often that I get an offer to hike my heart out on a warm October day in Maine.

The weather was a bit iffy, with a 50% possibility of afternoon rain.  As it turned out, we were spared the wet, and instead blessed with a steady, cool, drying wind that came at us right off the Atlantic Ocean, which was often within sight.  No drenching our shirts today, either with water from the sky or from our own sweat.

Despite an early 7:30 AM start from Belfast, ME , ittook 5 hours to walk the 12 miles of trails, at an average speed of 2.3 mph. Guthook and I did not take many breaks today, and any that we did were relatively brief.  However, a few road construction delays and the dwindling daylight put me back home  after dark.

I was running two apps on the walk: Fitbit for the iPhone 5s ( no band needed) and Strava-tracking my hike, and playing with distances.  Guthook was packing a GPS, an also running Fitbit to double check steps and mileage. Its fun to know as much as I can about my hikes.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve walked the Acadia trails.  The last time camped here was on a 2009 February winter trip in Blackwoods Campground where I set up my heated wall tent  for a few nights as we explored the snow-packed trails and roads.

I would characterize Acadia’s trails as “ Camden Hills on steroids”.

Atop Acadia Mountain

Atop Acadia Mountain

While the tallest mountains in Acadia are about the same height as my nearby Camden Hills State Park (roughly 1,000 feet in elevation), there are many more of them, and the trails are often wilder, with more fallen dead tress, and a footpath that is often much gnarlier.  Here’s a shot of Guthook and Casey dog on a rocky section up to Bernard Mountain. IMG_3626 Yes, that’s a blue blaze marking the trail in the lower part of the picture.

The flat light today and the still vibrant foliage made for Zen gardens, all day long.

Really....

Really….

It is the absolute best time of the year to hike in Acadia right now. At least one parking lot was almost empty. IMG_3605 We only saw a dozen hikers all day, averaging just one person per mile on a warm weekday. The Park’s website states,  “Acadia National Park generally receives more than two million recreational visits each year, making it one of the most-visited national park in the United States. The busiest months are July, August, and September.”

We each drove up, spotting my car at the end of our hike off the Western Mountain Road, and with Guthook’s car at the start in the parking lot on the East side of Echo Lake on Route 102.

Here’s what we did today:  Acadia Mountain (681′)—> St. Sauveur Mt.( 679′)  via Canada Cliff Trail/plus Beech Cliff Loop—> Beech Mtn.(839′) —>Mansell Mtn. (949′) —> over the Great Notch and Bernard Mtn. (1071′) and then back down the West Ledge Trail to the other  car.

Elevation, baby.

Elevation, baby.

It was up and down all day long.

Here are some additional pictures:

The beach at Long Pond

The beach at Long Pond

Looking south down Somes Sound

Looking south down Somes Sound

Panorama  from Beech Mountain

Panorama from Beech Mountain

Check out Aislinn’s blog entry about hiking Mansell Mountain for some historical background on Mansell and her own account of a great walk in an astounding National treasure.  Thank you U.S Parks  !

Day 3 Report- Where We Evacuate a hiker in the Hundred Mile Wilderness

10 Miles- Potaywadjo Spring to Wadleigh lean-to

The three of us rolled into the Potywadjo Spring lean-to at the end of our day’s hike last night to find a trio of men who told us they were thru-hikers that had just flipped from Hanover, New Hampshire up to the end of the AT in Maine and were now hiking south.

My bullshit radar activated immediately.  We’ve encountered several southbounders on the AT in the Hundred right now. Most told us they flipped from Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, while others were bailing from as far south as the Shenandoahs on their Northbound hikes to then hike south through Maine. This trio’s plan made no sense to me, as they had been right at the doorstep of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, known for the worse weather on the AT. No reasonable hiker would stop at that point, in early September, when the chance of encountering snow and ice was minimized, compared to what it will be like there in late September into October.

I over heard them talking while they all smoked cigarettes in front of the shelter.
Here are some exact quotes I jotted down:
” I have hiked all the Superstition Mountains in the Grand Tetons, Arizona.” [Fact: The Grand Tetons are in northwestern Wyoming.I walked through them last year.]
“We’ll be in the White Mountains in just 70 miles!” [Fact:  They are approximately 240 miles away.]
” I paid $750 for my North Face backpacking tent. It is fireproof so I can cook right on the floor inside it .” [Nope.]
“I haven’t washed up at all in three weeks.  I’m really hiker trash.”[So pleased this guy was not bedding down next to me in the shelter.]
“ I have a great hammock that I bought at WalMart for 20 bucks.”[“Great backpacking hammock” and “twenty bucks” are not generally stated in the same sentence.  The same individual said that he had started hiking  carrying a home-made tattoo machine.]
“I pulled one of my own teeth out last week. I had another hiker pull out another one two weeks ago. ”  [Yikes- they were in the front, too !]
” I started hiking from Georgia May 15. I made it to Philly for the Fourth of July.” [Fact:  That’s over 1,000 miles.  That would have made his daily average  close to 20.  It didn’t jive with his previous quote, “ I lost 90 pounds.  I was so fat I could only walk 3 or 4 miles at the start of the trail. I have these big flaps of skin I hope go away.”]
“ I was going to punch that guy who owns the hostel in the face when I asked him how much it would cost for him to drive me to Katahdin and he told me $30.” [Now my intuition was glowing strong.We had to get away from these guys.]

Later, Chris ( AKA G-Man) told me that he was holding on to his wallet as he listened to these guys and looked at their gear collection, which was tattered and was at least in part Walmart branded. But they slept in three tents in a non-authorized camping area in front of the lean-to while The Slocomotive, G-Man, and I commandeered the shelter. It was just the six of us.

We three were up early the morning, the Southern boys were still in bed but rustling around when we left.

After starting out rested and strong, we quickly became absorbed in  a beautiful, green palette of moss, leaves and grasses.  Flowing through the unfolding canvas were glinting shimmers of mirrored water that appeared in clearings off the side of the AT- impressions from the numerous streams, springs, and bodies of water that we hiked through on our northerly walk toward Namahkanta Lake today.

We were walking smooth and strong, with G-Man moving strong on point  for maybe three hours when I thought I heard a sharp yell, not a common occurrence on the AT in these parts.  I heard it a short while later, and mentioned it to Joe. It seemed to come from in back of me.

Slocomotive chugging up out of Tumbledown Stream

Slocomotive chugging up out of Tumbledown Stream

We had just crossed Tumbledown Dick Stream when  I had stopped and who should be limping quickly toward us but one of those three guys.  He was in a crazed state, highly agitated, snot coating his lower jaw and neck, and clearly banged up, with his arm in a makeshift sling with white tape around his ankle. He was initially incoherent, and agitating to go forward.

He eventually told us that he was the first of his trio to leave Potawadjo Springs shelter but then found himself off trail and at the spring itself, on a blue-blazed trail instead of the AT.  But he’s now steaming north like a true mad man, alone and disoriented on the AT.  He told us that he must have got turned around when realized that his compadres had gone head ahead and he fell.  It was a woefully inadequate an explanation for how banged up he was.

Joe is a war veteran who served in Vietnam, and was a nurse before he retired. G-Man is an Emergency Medical Technician. He was in luck in encountering some experienced medical personnel.  G-Man slowly engaged with the guy, who was settled down enough for G-Man to gently palpitate his shoulder and his back, the main source of his complaints.

The G-Man assist

The G-Man assist

G-Man’s eyebrows shot upward when he gently examined the man’s spine, and called me over and had me feel the prominent hard lump that was just off the side of the fellow’s backbone.  Later, G-Man told me that he thought that one vertebra was misaligned, and that it was very likely that the guy was in an incredible degree of pain, which became evident after he doubled over and threw up after he began to walk again.  When I was alone with G-Man a little later and the guy was in the care of The Slowcomotive, I told G-Man I that I didn’t buy his story of  falling as he turned around.  I believed that he had been beaten up by one of the two other guys , or at least picked up and thrown against the shelter, or onto some rocks.  His injuries were not consistent with a simple fall , especially a fall that would have been cushioned by a loaded backpack.  When out of earshot, the Slowcomotive told me that the guy told him said he was on meds for auditory hallucinations.  Oh, Oh……

What to do?
We couldn’t leave him after he told us that he had no money, and that he threw his phone away back near the shelter when he realized that he broke it when he fell on it.  At this point he was about 30 miles south of Abol Bridge where he could get a ride out to Millinocket. He told us he had money and food at a mail drop in Monson, some 70 miles south.

We had a quick triage, and decided to assist the guy by walking him out to get help via a medical facility in Millinocket.  We decided that since he was ambulatory at the moment, we could not call 911 and initiate a likely helicopter rescue.

I opened up his pack and distributed the bulk of his gear to our three backpacks. We headed out.  He was able to walk at a surprisingly good clip, considering his condition.  Eventually he became faint, and we all sat down and made him eat and drink water.  He was in and out, sometimes starting straight ahead with open eyes, and occasionally unresponsive to our efforts to converse with him.

Eventually we came to the gravel Nahmakanta Stream Road,  where we eventually listened to G-Man, who argued strongly that our new goal was to find a way to evacuate at him via this road.  The problem now was twofold:  no traffic at all and the fact that our very narrow AT strip map was inadequate to determine which was the best direction to get him out. It was here that I vowed to (in the future), take with me pages from the Delorme Gazetteer in future Maine hikes, so that I’d be able to see where these wilderness woods road might go.

Initially, I was not able to get a cell connection at all at this spot.  However, while we were waiting for something to materialize, a miracle came to us, literally out of thin air.

I heard by iPhone buzz an incoming text notice.   It was a message from Duff, a woman that I had hiked 2,000 miles with on the PCT in 2010.  She was messaging me from Baxter Peak at the top of Katahdin, and at that exact moment, completing her own AT thru hike!  I messaged her back before the intermittent Verizon signal faded and asked her to contact Paul Seneshal, AKA “Ole Man”, and get him to text me about this situaiton.  Old man owns both the Hiker Hostel and the AT Cafe in Millinocket.
After too much waiting, and some confusing responses, everything fell into place for a rescue, of sorts.

I texted Ole Man this photo to show where we were.

I texted Ole Man this photo to show where we were.

Here’s some of the texts:

Ole Man-“Hey Tom.  I can get him if he can get to the S end of Nahmakanta Lake. There is a camping area there and it would take almost an hr to get there.”
Hey Tom. Do I need to come out there?”

Me- “Yes! You coming?”
Ole Man- “Yes. I’m on my way.”

While we were sitting in the road waiting for Ole Man to get here, the injured party told us, “I hear a car.”  We didn’t.  Then he righted himself, squinted up one end of the road, pointed and  then said, “There it is!”

Just at that moment, I saw a grey truck up in the distance that appeared to be turning around and heading back.  I ran up the road, where I discovered a smaller gravel road curving off into the woods.  I bolted up there and discovered a couple getting out of their truck.  The guy had a big holstered pistol on his hip. After I carefully approached and explained to them what was going on, they offered to immediately drive the guy out to the Jo-Mary Road checkpoint, a manned gate that Ole Man would have to pass through in order to drive the 24 miles of gravel to reach us here at the south end of Namahkanta Lake. They told me that it might take as long as two hours for him to get to this point from Millinocket.
I got in their car and brought them to our victim.  Things moved fast and furious when we emptied all of our packs of the guy’s gear and loaded him in the front seat. I handed him a $20 and wished him better luck in the days ahead.

Later, I received a final text from Ole Man- “Got him.”

Our day’s mission was formally accomplished.

[Here’s how it all ended.  This is the entry from two days later, if you just can’t wait.]