Click to check out Aislinn’s feature about my backpacking life in today’s Bangor Daily News–>
Click to check out Aislinn’s feature about my backpacking life in today’s Bangor Daily News–>
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.
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.
CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine, By Alex Barber — Just like the lost boy atop Mount Katahdin in 1939, two filmmakers are in the midst of a long journey with an uncertain outcome. Waterville, ME native Ryan Cook hopes his project turns out with a happy ending, just like the person whose story he’s telling — Donn Fendler.
On July 17, 1939, 12-year-old Fendler was separated from his family and became lost on Mount Katahdin. He emerged from the woods nine days later after the search for him had made headlines across the country.
<–check out the full story, with video trailer.
Surprised at the continued presence of the ice and snow on the trails in Camden Hills State park.
Normally I’m walking and biking the north side from Lincolnville. Today I tried the Route 1 approach just to play it safe and hike a bit on dry ground. Other than the road up to the top of Mount Battie, I regretted leaving my Stabilicers in the car. Whenever there was no ice or crumbly refrozen snow on the trails, there was mud, with a few choice pits obscured by the fallen leaves.
My walking day began after eating an early breakfast in Rockland with my friend David. I enjoyed the renovated Home Kitchen, where I had a most excellent vegetarian Eggs Benedict, clearly one of the contributing factors to knocking out breakfast at the nearby Brown Bag.
By 9 AM I was hoisting 30 pounds on my back, when I walked from Rt. 17 to the top of Ragged Mountain ( 1300’) and back. So pleased to have the Leki poles on the dicey descent.
Then Rockland again, for lunch with my friend Robert, at the Atlantic Bakery where I enjoyed a hot bowl of soup with turkey on onion foccaccia. I was dressed in my admittedly tattered hiking clothes, which likely inspired pity from a pretty girl at an adjacent who had finished her soup and offered me her unbitten foccacia on her way out the door. Trail magic!
Zipped over to Camden Hills where I was armed with my newly minted season pass ($35).
I wanted to get into double digit miles today and had no real plan. After descending a bit from my slow stepping up to the top of Battie ( 800”) , I bypassed the Carriage Road Trail, just 0.2 miles from the top, in favor of the Table land trail, where the snow pack did not appear as thick.
I was too lazy to dig into my pack paper map to check what possibilities were ahead, but had my iPhone with me, primarily laying track for Strava, when I remembered I had the Camden Hills App (Guthook’s Hiking Guides- iTune App Store, $3.99). [NOTE: the App includes a bonus- 11.6 miles of the Georges Highland Path plus the Thorndike Brook access to Ragged.]
I fired it up, and voila, there I appeared on the map, with the route choices in colorful array.
I tracked my progress on the screen, and I decided to head up to the top of Megunticook (1385’).
From there, I had a very quick, slippery descent, thankfully with no falls down the Slope Trail. I successfully skirted \ numerous post holes perforating the trail, some several feet deep. I exited at the Multipurpose Trail right by the Ski Shelter. I took a right and tramped out, with 12 miles and 2,300 feet of vertical work completed, definitely beat and desperately in need of chocolate milk and a candy bar at Village Variety.
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:
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.
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.
After 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. !
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.
Join me in the Camden Hills, on March 27, the anniversary of my first night of my 2007 Appalachian Trail hike, and also my birthday.
I’ve rented the Ski Shelter for the night, with 6 bunks available for any hikers or bikers who want to spend the night.
My treat. The cabin is insulated, with a wood stove, and ample dry firewood to warm the space. It’s 2.9 miles, and about an hour’s walk on the Multipurpose Trail from Lincolnville side parking lot, so even those who have to work on Thursday morning (that would be me) can work this out. Walking from the Route 1 side is even shorter miles) . A clean outhouse awaits you ( with toilet paper!) , with fresh snow melt water available from the stream nearby. Bring your own food, etc. and a headlamp or light. It’ll be dark inside without them , but the full moon should help illuminate the event.
Tenzing and I celebrated our last full moon campout in the Park in December of 2011, when we stayed on top of Bald Rock Mountain, where close to 20 people stopped by the fire to say hello.
I’ll be hiking the Camden Hills in the daytime and plan to be in the shelter by 5 PM.
Hope to roust up some company. If you’ve never had the chance to spend the night in the shelter, this is the best deal in Camden !
Super pleased with walking 11 miles today over snow and/or ice. It’s now been 4 weeks since my hernia surgery and I still am under wraps, with two more weeks of restricted activity before I’m cleared to add significant weight to my backpack. I had 10 pounds in my pack today, and a couple of extra pounds under my belt, after the Polish food fest that the three Jamrogs and V8 put on last night. Here’s the main course, cooked on the wood stove, of course. Serious kielbasa, sauerkraut, and 4 types of pierogis in action:
Seven of us spent last night at the Ski Shelter, which is located between the words Brook and Valley at the bottom of the map photo.
My brother Roy, and my traveling partners Tenzing and Pat left the shelter at 9 AM and did the toughest stuff first.
Here’s where we went.
There were numerous sections of trail that were solid ice, and there’s just no use taking chances on a fall. Hiking poles helped. It was cold all day, never breaking freezing, and in the afternoon, a northerly breeze felt like someone left the refrigerator door ajar. I feel fortunate to be living in an area where I get to walk over refrozen snow, and also to do a bit of afternoon postholing. Why?
There is a piece of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado that has a couple hundred miles of walking up over 12,000 feet, and I expect to be on snow for all of that section. This Maine trail is nearly constantly treacherous, with refrozen pits and holes from previous travelers scattered all over the path. It’s a great workout for strengthening the ankles, if you don’t sprain or break one yourself. Here’s a picture of Roy on the Sky Blue Trail, where we encountered an ancient fieldstone wall, one probably set up from 1830-1850, when the trees had been harvested
and the land was likely populated by sheep.
Everyone member of this group pitched in to make the whole weekend a non-stop party. The hiker kind of deal.
Dateline: Spring Brook, Camden Hills State Park, Camden, ME
The normally staid water bottle, AKA Tiki- Man, barely survived a harrowing fall into the rushing, frigid Class V rapids along Spring Brook on March 16, 2013, in Midcoast Maine.
Glancing straight down the side of the road to the surface of the maelstrom below, Tiki-man was sighted, in an immobilized state within the backwaters of an eddy, but beyond human reach. Tenzing leaped into rescue mode, and quickly fashioned a three-pronged branch, that he used to dislodge and release Tiki man, only to realize that the valiant water bottle was facing yet another harrowing scoot down the icy water.
Tiki-man courageously traversed at a diagonal across the channel, where he eventually struggled to maintain a tentative hold on the far-side shore.
At this point, Tiki-man was clearly up against very thin ice.
The three-pronged stick guided Tiki-man past this last challenge into a still pool, where he was airlifted to safety by the selfsame stick.
Most importantly, Tiki-Man lived to tell the tale. He described his dunking as the most harrowing experience that he has ever been through.
Tiki-man is a seasoned, 6 year old water bottle. Tiki-Man has recently become increasingly despondent at his persistent failure to lose enough weight to qualify him as an ultralight backpacking accessory. He occasionally mumbles about being teased as “a bloated relic” by Platypi and even the young upstart plastic soda bottles.
The colorful character has risen through the ranks of backpacking water bottles through his persistent dedication to thru-hiker hydration.
A veteran of three National Scenic Trails, Tiki man has endured unparalleled adventures on the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Vermont’s Long Trails.
The closest the battered water bottle had come to the slag heap of also-ran hiker gear was in 2007, when he was dropped from a day pack on the AT and left for dead in a crevice between a rock and a hard place. Extracted from his impending tomb by a hiker named Big Sky, the revived Tiki-Man survived a dark passage through the US Postal Service, adorned with a mere one dollar and thirty-two cent stamp and a tattered Uncle Tom address label.
Undaunted by his early morning sub-freezing soak today, Tiki- man bucked up, and settled into place in the backpack, where the wizened vessel supplied his human partner, Uncle Tom, with hydration on a long winter day hike in the Camden Hills.