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?

Still Space to Build Your Own Multifuel Backpacking Stove

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Class runs one night on Tues, first week in March.  As of today-  4 spaces left.
Make your own multi-fuel backpacking stove! Have fun and learn how to make a lightweight stove that you can use on day hikes and on backpacking trips. Created from metal cans and fasteners, these downdraft stoves are compact and efficiently burn wood, alcohol,  and solid fuel tablets. Each participant will be assisted in drilling, cutting, and fastening component parts to make their own stove, and receive practice in lighting and tending the stove. Class size is limited. Registration $20, plus $10 for materials to be paid to the instructor. 1 night 6:00-8:30 p.m. Class Tues 3/4 CHRHS Rm 112

adulted@fivetowns.net • 236-7800 ext 274

Click here to learn more about the stove and it’s history.

Tom Jamrog lives in Lincolnville, and has extensive backpacking and stove construction experience.

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.

How To Live In A Heated Tent

Three buddies are heading up with me to the Jackman, Maine wilds next week for a five day winter camping trip.

Photo by Paul KIrtley

Read another superb blog post from UK’s Paul Kirtley, blogger, wilderness bushcraft instructor, and general expert in outdoor skills.

Paul’s blog entry has loads of info about how we will survive, in style.

Click it!  – How To Live In A Heated Tent.

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

 

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.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

I’ve received numerous comments from my post about the arrest of Christopher Knight, now dubbed “The North Pond Hermit”. Here’s an update on his continued resistance to connecting to a society he walked away from decades ago.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

The link brings you to additional new stories about this most unusual situation.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

Carey Kish: “His toughest trek beckons”

In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.

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

Dozen Bubbas plus 3, 4? on Crispy Crust in the Bog

There were so many Bubbas and guests on their bikes in the frozen Bog this morning that I lost count. Jason thinks there were 16. There were so many of us that the group broke apart right at the start, with most of us backtracking the Bog Road for the climb up Benner Hill into the trails that led off the powerline on top.I do know it was a Bog record, even bypassing the numbers from the three warmer seasons this year.
Why? Surely it was not the conditions. It was 11 degrees out, and in the open sections like the power line, there was wind as well, driving the wind-chilled temps into the single numbers.
Eric's ride
How long was the ride today? Depends on who you were with. Nelson and I were toast after just 5.7 miles, but Jon Anders put up 7.1, Eric checked in with 10.5, and the Hawk trumped all comers with 12.1. These were not summertime miles. They were mostly hard earned.
What were the riding conditions? There were places where the packed and refrozen snow settled down over rock gardens and evened them out, making travel zipper than usual.  However, some things were more difficult, like finding the trail. John and I found ourselves off-trail descending the first section from the power line to the wooden bridge over Branch Brook. Without a defined trail, the deep double-rutted ATV tracks led the way, but sometimes it was the wrong. The absolute best assistance winter bikers can get on their favorite trails is from snowmobiles, who pack the trail evenly, and if that surface is refrozen, it’s generally easy to stay on top and not break through no matter what type of tires you have on your bike. ATV’s left a narrow berm between the two icy tire tracks that were just deep enough to catch my pedals when I tried to ride in the slots. When I was in the berm between, refrozen footprints and deer tracks lumped things up and sometimes threw me back into the ruts.
There were 7 riders on fat-tire bikes out there today. He’s a pic of my group:

Mostly Fatties

Mostly Fatties


There were a few sections of trail that were sheer ice, and the guys who were riding studded tires were able to go straight over them. Fat tire bikes had an option here, which was to pull off the trail, head right into the woods along those sections, and pick your way around trees to rejoin the trail after the ice receded. I did this successfully a number of times.
Climbing out of Branch Brook, there was the biggest blow-down we’ve seen yet this year on this ride.
Uncle Tom over the big one

Uncle Tom over the big one


And finally, here’s the real deal- footage of today’s ride posted by John Anders mixed in with a ride that John and Tim Sewall took on the Warren trails the day before.

Adventure Cycling: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts Ever, 2012 Edition

This time of year, my Twitter feed is jamming up with “Top Ten” lists from 2012. While I think it’s great to compile the best from the avalanche of information that’s that’s cascading over us, most of it is just clever advertising.

That being said, I am filtering through and blogging up the good lists. Here’s one:

Adventure Cycling Association: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts Ever, 2012 Edition.

My last post, the “Cycling Eight“, came from this Adventure Cycling Association list. I can see where my interest in both bicycling and camping is headed. I am not a member of the ACA, but I just requested a trial issue of their magazine.

I really enjoyed three off this ACA list: The Cycling Eight, A Fat Tire Year-Touring on a Pugsley, and #4 Ten Things You Don’t Need.

I decided to modify the “10 Things You Don’t Need” to address backpacking.
1) You don’t need an expensive backpack. I have a pricey Arc’teryx and customer service has been a curse. Never again. Best to have something that fits well. Most packs hold up, even used ones.
2) You don’t need special Goretex/waterproof backpacking boots. They’ll plague you with blisters. Go with lighte, breathable alternatives.
3) You don’t need lots of money. In 2007, I thru hiked the AT with Lifetraveler, who also completed the trail in 5-and-1/2 months on just $2,000, and one pair of boots.
4) You don’t need “backpacking clothing”. You can outfit at a Goodwill. If stuff wears out go back.
5) You don’t need multiple sets of spare clothing. I use one set. When I reach a washer and drier, I change into my rain gear and wait for my clothes to clean and dry. If it is warm out, water sources can be a place to get water to wash, and the sun works well as a drier.
6) You don’t need a lot of stuff to cook and eat with. I use 1 pot, one spoon, and a cup.
7) You don’t even need to be physically fit. I just watched “Walking the Great Divide“, where three guys each lost at least 20 pounds in their first three weeks of backpacking. You start slow and get more efficient. Weekend warriors may need to be in better shape.
Time for me to get out and shovel away a half foot of snow.

Fresh powder out the front door

Fresh powder out the front door