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.

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.

Uncle Tom in the Bangor News- Lincolnville retiree completes Triple Crown of hiking


Click to check out Aislinn’s feature about my backpacking life in today’s Bangor Daily News–>

Lincolnville retiree completes Triple Crown of hiking, nearly 8,000 miles on the trail — Outdoors — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

First time out on Maine Huts and Trails

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.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  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?
Snow- flurries.
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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

Birthday present: Walking eight miles in the rain over snow

In the wee hours of the morning ( 4:12 AM), I realized that the weather would not compel many friends to accompany me on my birthday walk in the Park today:

First This !

First This !

I don’t work on my birthday. At least one day of my life should be scheduled to be free of responsibilities to the economic machine!   Tonight will also feature a  full moon, plus today is the anniversary of my setting foot on my first National Scenic Trail thru- hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2007.

Marcia got up to make me a birthday breakfast, along with providing a few cards and gifts.  She’s the best.

Double espresso, eggs, croissant, presents!

Double espresso, eggs, croissant, presents!

I knew that I would be going it alone today, but hoped that I’d have some company in the Ski Shelter that I rented for tonight in the Camden Hills.

I’m fortunate to live here, where I can look out two big glass windows and take in a view of the valley and assess my destination today, up and over the sloping back side of the Camden Hills.  After breakfast, I put on my Patagonia Specter rain jacket, shouldered my loaded pack, slide my hands into the rain mitts and under the straps of my Leki poles, and  proceeded to walk across town, my own march to the sea.

I started walking on the crumbling snow coating the abandoned Proctor Road. It’s slippery underfoot, but I tried walking without traction devices on my feet and it seemed good. I’m getting used to walking again with a full pack. It feels familiar, but a bit uncomfortable, like a draft horse in a dry old harness that both need to loosen up a bit.

screenshotAfter I walked through some mud at the other end of the Proctor Road I wind my way down through Lincolnville Center. It’s been easy going so far, mostly downhill. Now the climb starts, first up the Thurlow Road, where it gets sketchier on an abandoned section that eventually crosses Youngtown Road, where it  dumps me onto a snowmobile trail that heads up the back side of Cameron Mtn.  This time of the year the terrain appears foreign, primarily due to the lack of leaves, so the tunnels seem lighter, longer, and more desolate. It’s cold, spitting light rain from the sky, and as long as I’m moving,  I’m comfortable but I’m getting tired.  I’ve been moving steady and at a good clip for two hours straight.

I forgot to pack snacks. I  turned left at the base of Cameron and planned to take the downhill to link onto the Multipurpose trail. If you are following the map, I am right at the “4″ mark.   I take a brief rest,  reach into the pack,  eat one of the lemon-filled cupcakes that Marcia made me for my birthday, and drink a pint of water from Tiki-man. My lower abdomen still is uncomfortable, residual healing from the hernia surgery from 5 weeks ago. The doctor tells me to walk through it, and assured me that I am healing well.

I really hope that more healing is done by the time I leave for the CDT in 16 days.

Two of my friends, Karl Gottshalk and Pat Hurley came by after 4 PM to  spend the night in the shelter with me.  Pat and I  grilled up steaks out in one of the grill stations, and then we ate cake, provided by Karl. !

La, La, la!

La, La, la!

I plan to put in 9 more days of hiking, alternated with 9 rest days. I’m following the conditioning program favored by Ray Jardine, where I hope to culminate on a 12 mile day over these hills with 35 pounds in my pack. That should do it.

Carey Kish: “His toughest trek beckons”

In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.

Carey Kish: His toughest trek beckons | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Up, High in the Whites

Big day hike in the Whites.

First, about the New England 4,000 Footers. This is an official list of mountains in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont that reach or exceed 4,000 feet in elevation. There are 67 on the list. I have less than 5 left to go, after picking off the rest of Vermont last August on my Long Trail thru-hike. I am now quite interested in finishing up, possibly before winter.

Mount Carrigain is on that list- at 4,710′. Normally a 10 mile up and back round trip, it was 14.7 miles today. The additional mileage consisted of walking back to the car after a night camping at Fourth Iron on the Saco River, plus the 4 miles of road walking on the Sawyer Pond Road, still gated after major washouts from Hurricane Irene last August.

Hikers need to know about Fourth Iron. The tent site appears on the map enclosed in my AMC New Hampshire Guidebook, but with no printed mention of it in the Guidebook itself. The parking area is about 3 miles west of Bartlett and leads to a hike-in group of 8 maintained tent sites, less than a half-mile, walking on flat-ground-to-get-there, off Route 302. All the sites ($8, USFS Honor system) were taken, so we meandered down the side of the Casco River until we found a most excellent spot that allowed us to roam around in the river.

The Saco, explored.

My partner for this hike was Tenzing, aka John Clark, who spent the night in his new LLBean solo backpacking tent, while inside his new light weight sleeping bag, and on top of his new sleeping pad.

Beside the River

Our dinner was comprised of us splitting one US Army dehydrated Enchilada MRE dinner, complete with all the fixins’. Plenty of calories for that to go around. Later, we had fun hanging our bear bag on a limb overhanging the side of the water. Big night for Tenzing and I both- to be resting aside the infant Casco River as it gathers momentum after descending in rivulets from the high flanks of the mountains surrounding Crawford Notch.

We were up at 5:30 AM and only had to move back to the car and drive it across the street to the parking area at the base of the gated Sawyer River Road. Those “in the know” had brought their bicycles with them to pedal up ( and coast 2 miles back) on the gradually inclined gravel road to the official start of the Signal Ridge Trail, which is now rerouted at the start and a short distance up Whiteface Brook, due to the massive logjams and washouts from Hurricane Irene ( 2011).

The trail is a gradual 1.7 mile hike up to the intersection with the Carrigain Notch Trail, where it continues itself over Carrigain Brook, eventually reaching 3 miles of steady climbing to the actual exposure of Signal Ridge, where the views just keep on coming. The end is now in sight, with the outline of the squat firetower ahead.

Signal Ridge with fire tower ahead
- photo by John Clark

On the way up, you pass the site of the old fire warden’s cabin, which would have been a peach of an assignment back in the day. There is ample water there in a boxed wooden spring. We reached the top at 11:30 AM, with views all the way to Washington in the east, to Franconia Ridge to the West, and all the way back south over the Kangamangus Highway to Mt. Chocorua. The Appalachain Trail and North and South Twins were to the north.

A large pile of pressure treated lumber and beams were on the ground, ready for a rebuild of the Firetower, the project starting this week, when access to the tower would be limited.

We passed just one lone hiker on the way up, who was finishing his New Hampshire 4,000 Footer list today. I took off my shirt, boots, and socks while relaxing on the deck of the tower, while I enjoyed what may be the best trail snack I’ve even had- Bacon Jerky !

Gotta love it!

A steady stream of hikers began to join us after 12 PM, when we gathered our gear and headed down. Surprisingly, it took us just about the same time to descend the first 3.3 miles as it took us to go up, due to the constant jumble of which-way rocks and crossways roots that made up the ancient trail.

I wish I had my bike waiting for me at the intersection of the Sawyer River road, so that I could have cruised back down those last two miles. They went on forever!

Tenzing’s complete photo album of the adventure is here:

The Approach Trail by Justin Lichter (Trauma) | via Section Hiker

Section Hiker is an excellent source for backpacking information for both experienced and beginner hikers.  I subscribe via Twitter feeds, and generally read the whole content.

Today and tomorrow I am going to post two blog entries about selecting  gear for backpacking.

Today’s entry is especially good- written by Trauma, who has hiked and written extensively about hiking since his initial steps on the AT with a grossly overloaded pack.

Check out this entry from his first day on the Appalachian Trail, from way back when:

Day 1: The Approach Trail by Justin Lichter (Trauma) | Section Hiker.

My $5 Plane ticket to Texas


I spent $5 yesterday at the website purchasing a ticket that will take me from Portland, Maine to El Paso, Texas on April 16, 2013.  Of course, I had previously spent thousands more over the 5 year period that my United Mileage Plus credit card accumulated 43,000 air mile credits, but what’s not to like in being able to actually use those credits?  I only had to use 12,500 of those points , so I have enough left over to buy my return trip ticket, which will be on or around October 1,  likely from Bozeman, Montana.

Here’s the deal:There’s this National Scenic Trail out there, The Continental Divide Trail,  that runs the length of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, and I plan to walk the thing in 167 days , some 3,000 miles long.  That’s an average of 17.96 miles per day, if no days off, so I gotta keep moving on this one.

People who hear about the trip ask me about this trail- nobody knows about it. Few attempt it, fewer complete it.  As a comparison, approximately 3,000 people attempt to thru hike the Appalachian Trail , 300 the Pacific Crest Trail, and 30 the CDT  in any given year.

Now that I have set it up, I have to get ready.

One of the most complete and up to date sources I’ve found on the CDT is PMags’ A Quick and Dirty CDT Guide.  I highly recommend that the reader click on the link and give it a quick scan to get a sense of how different this experience may be for me.

For instance, the AT and PCT are actual trails.  The CDT is not yet complete and, from PMags’, “The concept of purity on the CDT is nearly non-existent.  A choice of routes can be made due to weather,  desire for resupply, fires, trail closures,  wanting to see certain highlights or “just because”.

I hope to make it.