Maine’s Past Is It’s Presence

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I’m waiting this morning for the start of the next winter Nor’easter snowstorm by reading this stained old library book that was published in 1942. Just about every page is dog-eared, and most of them stained with coffee, grease, and several worse-looking colors.  It’s We Took To The Woods, and is the suggested background reading for the winter outdoor skills course I’m taking from Mahoosuck Guide Service in three weeks that will be taking place somewhere out in the bush on Map 18 of Delorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer.

Map 18 is one of the fringe maps in the Gazetteer.  It’s on the border of Maine and New Hampshire, and only 1 map down from Quebec.  Andover is the town with the largest and boldest print on map 18, however it boasts around 800 residents. The last time I was up there was a couple of years ago when I helped out my hiking pal Old Buzzard, who maintains the very remote and steep stretch of Appalachian Trail from the South Arm Road to the top of Old Blue Mountain.  Andover center is a tiny place, and home to The Cabin, a renown AT hostel where I plan to stay this coming hiking season.

Last month, I passed the requirements that let me wear this patch on my plaid wool coat.  IMG_3718 2 The course I’ll be taking in December is designed to cover the skills needed to safely guide others in the winter.  Some of the topics that will be covered are hypothermia, reading winter ice, preventing and treating frostbite, and navigation techniques in white-out conditions.  I suspect we’ll each spend a winter bivouac with just the clothes on our backs- possibly in a snow & bough shelter. I’m excited about picking up some skills on fire building without matches, and learning the basics of dog team use.  We’ll get some time on a snowmobile as well.
Back to the book.  We Took to the Woods was initially published in 1942, and is about a young couple from away who move to one of the most remote spots on the far edge of Map 18, overlooking the Rattle River somewhere between Pond in the River and the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.  Life in the 1930’s in backwoods Maine was tough back then, and is tough even now.  Louise Dickinson Rich and her husband had to cut, split, and haul 10 cords of wood to heat their living space each winter.
A couple of weeks ago, I joined a dozen other neighborhood men as we sawed, split, hauled and stacked 10 cords of firewood for our neighbor Andy, who was down and out with a back problem that will put his wood hauling off the to-do list for a few months anyways.
I’m so worked up right now about living and working in Maine.  The same basic survival skills that I am reading about in this gem of an old book is going to be be my curriculum for four days in  a couple of weeks.  If we are confident in foundation skills that are necessary to be comfortable and safe living outdoors, it doesn’t matter if it is 1934 or 2014.  Freezing cold,  fire building, moisture management, and staying warm with less can not only save a life, but assist us in making that vital connection with our ancestral past.  It’s somehow all in side us, but has to be rekindled, like a skillful application of a tiny flame.

 

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

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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.

 

It’s Official- Triple Crown Award !

Small size, big deal

Small size, big deal

I opened the beat-up padded envelope that just came in my mailbox and was blown away to finally see this physical object in my hands.  I’m in a club of  230 individuals world wide !

The American Long Distance Hiking Association-West sent me a congratulatory letter with three statistics:

“On a single day in May 2012, more people summited Mt. Everest than have hiked the Triple Crown.

More people have circumnavigated the earth than have hiked the Triple Crown.

More people have been in space than have hiked the Triple Crown.”

Triple Crown patch

Triple Crown patch

I didn’t do it alone.

My deepest appreciation goes out to Dick Wizard,  Train, General Lee, Paddy-O, my wife Auntie Mame, my mother Isabel, my brother Roy, my son Lincoln and his fiancée Stephanie , Don Kivelus ( Four Dog Stove)  and my Trailjournal transcribers Jan Munroe (v8), and John Clark (Tenzing).  Special thanks to all the other hikers who helped me ( it’s an impossibly long list to do justice to) , my faithful Traijournal readers, and all the individuals , past and present, who worked or are working  to make our National Scenic Trails a reality that anyone can step onto and return to our ancestral purpose in the grand forests, deserts, mountains, and plains that grace the United States of America.

 

Walking out of The Hundred Mile Wilderness

We backpacked 16 miles today in order to reach my car, that was spotted at Abol Bridge at the end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness.  I pitched it to the guys that our goal was to walk 12 miles again, a distance that we had been accomplishing the past few days. That 12 miles would have put us at the last lean-to, at Hurd Brook. When we reached that empty shelter, on a day that was clear and sunny, with ample daylight left,  four more miles ( flat terrain) to the Appalachian Trail Cafe for dinner in Millinocket were easily completed.

Here are some photos from our last day:

Jocomotove and I successfully shuffled over the slippery log bridge above Rainbow Stream. G-Man walked right through the water.

G-Man gets to try his waders

G-Man gets to try his waders

The floor of Rainbow Stream shelter has the original baseball- bat style saplings.  Only in Maine.  No so comfortable for sleeping on a thin foam mat.  My Neo Air had no problem with it.

No plywood in this place.

No plywood in this place.

The only uphill of the day was just 400′ of elevation over the always astounding Rainbow Ledges.  Joe and I took a break here. We had an 18 year old female thru-hiker named Sprout take our picture. I was in awe that a young woman just out of high school could arrive at Katahdin looking as fresh as a spring daisy after 5 months on the AT.

Two old friends near Katahdin

Two old friends near Katahdin

After we descended the Ledges, the trail meandered through a Lord of the Rings landscape.

Our last memories

Our last memories

When we reached Millinocket, we bee-lined it to the AT Cafe, where I phoned up Ole Man to find out how the thru-hiker evacuation played out.

It was no surprise to me that it did not end well.  Ole Man said that when he got the guy in his Suburban, the hiker’s ankle didn’t seem to be that much of an issue. The trouble started when the hiker absolutely refused to leave the Suburban to go into the clinic and have his injuries assessed.  Next!  Other than the $20 bill I gave the guy, he had no money, nor any credit cards of his own.  So the next issue was how he would pay for his expenses in town. The young man had told me that he planned to call his father and have his father help him pay for stuff.  Ole Man said that didn’t pan out either.  The guys’ father only had an American Express card, which Ole Man was not set up to process, either at the AT Lodge, which is the hiker hostel in town, or at the AT cafe, which Ole Man also owns.  Normally, folks have a backup to an American Express card, which is increasingly declined at business establishment.  So, at the end of that day, Ole Man brought the  fellow over to stay at the Hostel.  Maybe a solution could be achieved to help this guy get back home how.  That next morning, Ole Man had to leave early to shuttle some folks to the AT.  When Ole man got back to assist the hiker, he discovered that the guy had just left, without a note. Vamoose !  End of story.

Ole Man said that he has usually just one thru-hiker case every year that leaves a bad taste in his mouth.  I was the guy that made that happen in 2014!  Ole Man let me know that there were no hard feelings between him and I. I volunteered to cover the charges that the felow rang up, but Ole man would have noting to do with me paying.

In retrospect, I would have done the exact same thing if I encountered an injured hiker in need out in The Hundred. People can get lost and die out there.

So Ole Man would get in his Suburban yet again, probably sometime soon, to evacuate the next injured hiker.  I hope that hiker, has a means to pay for the time, gas, and lodging that Ole Man would offer, as he does day after day, many times a day, in assisting the genuine thru-hikers as they experience all the jewels along the path that the Appalachian Trail has to offer.

Day 4- Walking Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness

10.2 miles.

Started walking today at 7 AM.  I was first to the top of Nesuntabunt in 75 minutes. As I approached the top, I passed the Jocomotive, who had been on point, and had been storming up ahead of me.  He had stopped to catch his breath and eat a Snickers bar, and told me that he was fine.

The walk up Nesuntabunt is a true steep, rocky trail going up though a primal forest! Here, I was able to get my first phone call out to home where I asked Marcia to get a radar map up on her computer. She told me that a rain front was approaching us from less than 50 miles away.
Marcia also said that our 57 year old veterinarian, Jim Laurita, died from a fall and possible heart attack in the elephant pen, and that the two elephants that lived at his place in Hope, Rosie and Opal, are going back to Oklahoma.  It is so sad.  Each of us has such a short time on the planet. It’s a blessing and a curse that none of us knows the eventual end date on our tombstones.

After 25 minutes waiting on top, I started to get concerned about Jocomotive and G-Man. After 40 minutes had passed, I was uncomfortably cold due to my sweat-soaked shirt.  I headed back down to check them, and was relieved to see them both heading up. I learned that Joco bonked. G-Man stayed with Joco until he was ready to walk again.  The G-Man himself was pretty spent as he make it to the top of this 1,600′ mountain. Nesuntabunt is not that high in elevation, but a dramatic change in the land of relatively flat walking in this part of The Hundred.

After another short break on top, we all reoriented to the North again. When we finally all started heading down the other side of Nesuntabunt, it was 9:50 AM. It had taken us almost three hours to make just two miles. I had hoped that we could make the Rainbow Stream lean-to before we got wet.
The rain came a mile later as we reached Crescent Pond. We all stopped and put on rain jackets. Joe and I pulled out pack covers.  I had also lined my pack with a trash compactor plastic liner, so I had a double wall of protection for my meager set of dry clothes and sleeping bag.  Chris didn’t have either a rain cover, or a liner for his pack, but he did bring along a poncho, so I showed him how to wear it in a way that partially protected his pack.

Progressive misery advanced as the rain increased in intensity and the water seeped into my clothing, and ran down my bare legs into my boots, chilling my feet. I was experimenting on this trip with rain gear options. Instead of packing my trusty Patagonia Specter rain jacket, I substituted a brand new 2014 Houdini, which boasted a fresh water-repellant coating. In just one hour I became saturated and increasingly chilled. The rain became stronger, so I decided to forgo snacks, lunch, and even drinking water in order to keep pushing to reach the dry interior of the Rainbow Stream Shelter, where we experienced a bona fide deliverance.

While I was hiking in discomfort, I recalled the sage advice of my friend-for-life, David Hanc, who once told me, “You don’t have to like something to have the right attitude about it”.

I was impressed with the grit of both the Jocomotive and G-Man, who were learning to just keep walking in steady cold rain. I get chilled easily in rain this time of year, and unless I have bars or quick food packed in a jacket pocket to eat while I’m walking, I don’t eat. I press on.

Rainbow Stream lean-to is a pretty dark place. Even thought the rain let up later in the afternoon, there was no way anything was going to dry out for tomorrow AM.

Our wet clothes picture frame

Our wet clothes picture frame

Joe and I were able to dress in to dry warm clothes.  I cooked up hot drinks, and then spent most of the rest of the day comfortable in my sleeping bag, reading, listening to Podcasts and audiobooks, writing, and socializing.

Before we ate an early dinner, a totally drenched Brit in an aeronautical engineering program, with his lady, a pre-med student squished their way into the shelter.  They were from San Francisco. They had flown to Bangor, where they were picked up by a guide who brought them to Monson to walk The Hundred. They had a set date to come out where the guide was going to pick them up at Abol Bridge drive them back to Bangor for their flight back.  The young lady looked fine, but the Brit’s feet were shot, and he was limping around badly. I politely quizzed him about his experience with this sort of thing, and he told me that he was an experienced backpacker who had backpacked the John Muir Trail, and along with other walks in California.  They were honest in how difficult The Hundred was for them.  Their first day of 10 miles , with each carrying 10 days worth of food, had them endure 12 hours of suffering, walking into darkness-a day that saw the fellow’s feet get torn up and blistered, a situation that only worsened as the days went on.

This group spent a comfortable night in the shelter.  G-Man set up his little tent on a nice rise beside the rushing waters of Rainbow Stream.  One day to go!

Jocomotive walks across Rainbow Stream

Jocomotive walks across Rainbow Stream