Time for backpacking again

I have come alive in these past couple of weeks again after a tough winter. The snow is gone, and even the mud is firming up. In the past week, I have enjoyed some mountain bike trail rides with The Bubbas and also started some longer backpacking excursions in Camden Hills State Park. I can’t say enough about how enjoyable the hiking was here on the coast of Maine this week where it is still cool out, the black flies are not much if an issue ye, and the views through the bare trees allow glimpses of the Atlantic waters in unexpected places.
It still rains, but not enough to stop me from going out.
Two nights ago a dozen of riders took to the Rockland Bog for a couple of hours’ riding bikes. It was still raining when we started and there were a few serious mud pits that I splashed through. When go got back to the parking lot, my feet were soaked but I forgot to bring dry socks, so I changed into a pair or bandannas. Stevie Hawk tried to make fun of me, but I knew I enjoyed dry feet, mo matter what the social cost.

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An app that I have been enjoying lately is Fitbit, which normally links to a wristband that costs $100. Those of us who have an iPhone 5s can forgo the purchase, and utilize the phone’s motion sensor to track movement related to walking. I tracked yesterday’s 12 mile backpacking hike in the Camden Hills and ended up with these results for the day:

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It’s reinforcing to see this type of screen at the end of the day, and the ease of entry for foods consumed that day allows me to make progress in keeping my weight down some 10 pounds below normal for me this time of year.

Strava also works into the mix, tallying mileage from my walks, hikes, and bike rides. It all adds up to motivate me to do things outside again. I love generating the elevation profiles, too.

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Here’s yesterday’s alternative to the Stairmaster- actual walking in the spectacle of an awakening forest.

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The Walking Man

Who is the walking man?

It’s me, it’s you, it’s everyone, as it has been for millions of years. But we don’t do much anymore, unless you live in a city, where parking spaces are sold to the highest bidder. People who live in rural areas walk the least, because we have to drive so far to get milk, drinks, or even a cup of coffee. I can walk a few miles to a rural convenience store from where I live in coastal Maine, but have to ford a couple of streams, and walk through a tangle of under and overgrowth on an abandoned town road to get there. If I want to head back home, there’s 400 vertical feet of ascending to do so. 99% of the time, I crank up a vehicle to get there.

But, you can’t deny the effectiveness of “the walk” to keep one’s weight down, prevent our range of motion from deteriorating, and from triggering our bodies into a mode that can ward off or even reverse prediabetic biomarkers, improve heart function, and reduce the negative effects of bad cholesterol and subsequent heart disease.

Here’s a story of a regular guy who turned things around by just walking—>>  The Walking Man ( from NYTimes)

It’s so much easier and safer to walk here now that the winter’s ice is gone. Maybe this story will inspire you, too.

Sky Blue Trail/ Camden Hills State Park

Sky Blue Trail/ Camden Hills State Park

 

Another birthday- another hike planned. Join me?

Another Nor’easter predicted for tomorrow, I’m not sure who may join me on my birthday hike and sleepover the next day–> Thursday, March 27.

No work on my birthday, the seventh anniversary of the first day of my 2007 thru- hike of the Appalachian Trail (2007).   Marcia usually makes be a great breakfast. This was the spread last year!Double espresso, eggs, croissant, presents!

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!

I have rented the Ski Shelter in the Camden Hills State park for Thursday night.  There’s six bunks in there.  Friends are welcome to stop by and even snag some bedroll space if they want, free. 

I walk from my house across town, my own march to the sea.  It’s a 7 or 8 mile hike, depending on the route.

La, La, la!

There will be plenty of snow when I start out on the abandoned Proctor Road.  I wind my way down through Lincolnville Center, mostly a downhill. Then the climb starts up the Thurlow Road, and onto the abandoned section that crosses Youngtown Road, where it dumps me onto a snowmobile trail that heads up the back side of Cameron Mtn. I may turn left at the base of Cameron Mountain and  link to the Multipurpose trail.

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Two of my friends, Karl Gottshalk and Pat Hurley, came by last year 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!

 

Picture Perfect Ride to Pitcher Pond

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The days are sunny and cold, the nights in single numbers to below zero and I’m not complaining. Cracked car engines and splitting thumbs are part of this time of late winter in Maine.

Aided by the persistent polar cold, the snowmobile trails here in Lincolnville are primo for riding bikes right now. I saddled up the Pugsley early yesterday afternoon and had a fast, 11 mile ride from Steven’s Corner at the edge of Camden Hills State Park. I took the snowmobile trail out to Pitcher Pond. It’s a direct route with one turn at a T- a right that takes you over through Tanglewood 4 -H camp. I ran past the parking lot there, and took a left over the suspension bridge spanning the Ducktrap River where I eventually reached the Pond. This ride is perfect this week. A few bare spots of brown undergrowth were spotted on the trail. It’s coming -Spring !

I do enjoy the unique thrill of riding on a large body of frozen water. Ponds are of the canoe world- not biking routes.

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More riding, maybe today?  The Lincolnville Mountain Goats snowmobile riders have a town map with the snowmobile trails on it.  Where next, before the freezing cold leaves us for a while?

Snowshoeing to Camden Hills

After several days of now-we-have-it-now-we-don’t electricity due to one ice, and two snow storms I’m here tonight in a stone-floored, enclosed shelter with no electricity or cell service, but…. there are three bunk beds, two chairs, a wood stove, an an outhouse.

I backpacked about 7.9 miles to get here- out the door of my house, on with the snow shoes, and down a snowmobile track on the abandoned Proctor Road.

Down the Proctor Road

Down the Proctor Road

Then off with the show shoes, for two miles of road walking through the center of Lincolnville, where I was made to wait by professional sign holder while two utility crews had a couple of guys way up over the road in a boom-bucket trimming ice coated branches over the power lines.

Snow shoes back on for the Thurlow Road where the abandoned upper half frustrated me with major blockage due to ice and snow-coated tree branches that often were right down to the ground, blocking the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  More aggravation!  Cascades of freezing snow fell down my neck as I pushed my way through the ice-prison bars.

After crossing Youngtown Road I connected with another snowmobile track heading up toward Cameron Mountain.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was inconceivable the going would be even more difficult, but it was at the start.  At one point the woods were so thick and the limbs so interlocked and frozen in ice that I had to get down on all fours, then get on my stomach and squirm like a worm over the snow and press myself under the tangled mess. I made it through where a snowmobile stopped and turned around.

Then it got better, but now was getting dark and I still had at least an hour to go.  When I reached the intersection of the Cameron Mountain Trail up to Zeke’s it was untraveled.   I was running out of steam, so I took a hard left, continuing on the Cameron Mountain Trail that ran on a snowmobile track for 1.4 miles where it reached the Ski Lodge (Multiuse) Trail.  This would add an extra 1.1 mile to reach the Ski Shelter, but I did not want to head up the 600 extra vertical feet to Zeke’s, in snowshoes, in the dark and increasing cold.

I made the right decision.  Traversing the much wider road, any downed trees were easily skirted.

My hands were painfully cold.   Once again, I could have taken mittens and even some chemical hand warmer’s but no, my thru-hiker mentality sometimes has me so vigilant about keeping it as simple as possible that I over scrimp.  I ended up shoving a hand down my crotch, easing the pain after fifteen minutes when my other hand cries out for a warmth.

I turned on my headlamp when it became unsafe for walking, within a half mile,  made it into the shelter.
Two dark departing figures beneath a couple of headlamps told me that the shelter was still warm, with coals in the firebox.
I stoked the wood stove, stripped off my set socks and shirt, and settled in- reading, listening to music on my iPhone, and watching the cowboy TV through the glass doors of the wood stove while I waited for my bunkhouse buddies to arrive.

Guthook and his posse made it in after 10:30 PM, where we all spent another hour or so chatting up and claiming spaces for our warm night in the Maine woods.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s the map that I recorded on the way back the next day:

Home to the Hills

Home to the Hills

 

Still slipping and sliding in the Camden Hills

8 mile loop hike from Carriage Rd. trail head

8 mile loop hike from Carriage Rd. trail head

The day was dry, but the footing was often wet, but I made it up and around with nothing more than wet feet on today’s training hike.
The mandatory picture from the top of Mt. Megunticook shows the remains of snow along the edge of the plowed Mt. Battie Road.

Enough Said

Enough Said

Two miles of trail from Ocean Lookout back to the top of Megunticook and then down the Ridge Trail to Jack Williams Trail (JWT) is still covered with appreciable snow, and even ice floes on the descent to the connector to JWT. IMG_1473 I didn’t have traction devices with me and had to switchback along the untrodden snow to get down from the ridge.

It’s a mixed blessing to be walking in the Park this week, with more snow predicted tonight, April 12.

Scoring Focaccia and Miles

Surprised at the continued presence of the ice and snow on the trails in Camden Hills State park.

Still snow in April

Still snow in April

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).

Camden Hills from Moody Mountain Road

Camden Hills from Moody Mountain Road

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.

Me= blue dot .  Choices, choices?

Me= blue dot . Choices, choices?

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.

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.

Join me in the Camden Hills Wednesday night

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.

Ski Shelter

Ski Shelter

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.

Occupy Bald Rock Mountain !

Occupy Bald Rock Mountain !

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 !