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.

 

Missed Part 1 ? Check out my Triple Crown of Hiking TV interview

Somewhere in Southern California

Somewhere in Southern California

WCSH’s  Maine-based TV news magazine “207” interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago.

If you were not able to watch the broadcast last night, the link to Part 1 of the interview is now up on WCSH’s web site.  <<-

The second half of the interview is Tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7 PM.  Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channels 6 in Portland and  2 in Bangor.

I’m talking adventure, about walking for months on end at a time, and what’s next after being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

My interview will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com, where it will remain online for approximately 6 months.

I’d like to thank all the hundreds of hikers, neighbors, family members, and even those complete strangers who assisted me during my year and a half of backpacking.

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.

 

Walking the Trails Near Katahdin Lake – Baxter State Park

Crafty Use of Birch

Crafty Use of Birch

Our second full day at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps was so interesting.

Last night I awoke to the sound of waves slapping against the sand beach below us.  I walked out on the porch to check it out and was pleased to see a starry sky. Right in front of me was the Big Dipper, boldly presenting right above the horizon behind Katahdin Lake.

Our front porch

Our front porch

This porch faces directly north, boldly defiant in it’s willingness to comfort any potential traveler.

I awoke to a still, cold morning with the thermometer outside registering 34 degrees. I took a number of photographs just after light appeared.

Katahdin to the Turners - Panorama

Katahdin to the Turners – Panorama

Here are two brave canoeists who were wearing winter coats and gloves.

North Across Katahdin Lake

North Across Katahdin Lake

The unmistakable sound of a powerful airplane engine echoed against the nearby painted hills. Just about everyone in camp was on the beach to greet Jim, ace bush pilot at Katahdin Air, who was taxiing right up to the beach. Jim flew three of us into the Hundred Mile Wilderness in August.   to pick up Chris Huntington, a landscape painter who was wrapping up a two week residence here today.

The Artist Exits

The Artist Exits

Three of Huntington’s paintings of Katahdin hang in the dining room here, along with two of Caren Michel’s pieces. He told me that he had been  here for two weeks, but usually lives here for  a month.  Marcia and I shared two meals with Caren, who is a Maine-based painter, and was bundled up and standing outside all weekend, creating new treasures.  I particularly enjoyed two of Michael Vermette’s small, thickly layered renditions of the mountain that were on display above our wooden table.

Classic Baxter signage

Classic Baxter signage

Marcia and I walked a 5 mile loop today to the Martin Ponds where a new lean-to faces yet another unique view of Katahdin.

Katahdin from Martin Pond

Katahdin from Martin Pond

It is the closest view of Katahdin that we’ve seen. Canoes for rent pepper the shores of the Lake and ponds here.  ($1 an hour in Baxter, $10 a day at KLWC).

We walked over a beaver dam to start our loop.

High Water Would Have Been Tough

High Water Would Have Been Tough

The path was rocky, rooty, and covered with moss in parts.

Marcia keeps dry boots

Marcia keeps dry boots

I was hoping to get in some canoeing this time, as walk all the way out to the end of the Twin Ponds Trail, which would have added 10 more miles to the day’s efforts.  Next time, for sure.

Marcia and had our last dinner in the Lodge tonight. We didn’t know the menu, but found out when the cook himself quietly tapped on our cabin door at ten minutes of six to ask how we wanted our sirloin steaks prepared. Caren and the two of us were the last “sports” served dinner this season, as the camp was closing tomorrow, on Columbus Day. They tend vegetable gardens here. The roasted potatoes, boiled carrots, and friend onions that accompanied our perfect steaks were especially tasty.

Auntie Mame

Auntie Mame

We lingered for an hour or so in the tiny, ancient library in the Lodge before we walked back to our car, the woods vibrant  in pulsing light.

Fall Treasure

Fall Treasure

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.