You gotta like slush and mud to be biking in Maine right now

It’ is not even winter yet, but it’s much more challenging to get outside and bike and hike in Maine right now.
First, we’ve already had two major snow storms that have resulted in serious downed limbs, branches, and even whole trees laying across our usual wooded trails.
One November storm was so brutal that we lost our electricity for five whole days. That’s what happens when you have gale force winds pushing against trees rooted atop soft ground that had not even shed their leaves. The weight of twenty inches of wet sticky snow accumulating on the branches makes the trees top heavy, resulting in uprooted messes toppling like pick-up-sticks across the countryside.
A week ago Andre, Buck, and I headed over to the Rockland Bog on snow shoes to clear out some of the usual riding loops that we have been favoring for the past twenty five years.
We all packed small saws that are surprisingly efficient at slicing through even larger trees that lay across the trails, but there were several behemoths that we left for the big boys on their snowmobiles to dispatch with their chain saws.
Here’s Andre using his snowshoes to stay on top of a particularly despicable half frozen mass of broken up ice partially frozen in nasty mudded-up water.

Andre atop ice

Andre atop ice

Sometimes there are no decent go-arounds, and you need to just work straight across, through the ruts and mud.

No place to tip over

No place to tip over

Thank God there are even a few bridges that we can cross. This is not a place to slip into the water, either on foot or a bike .

IMG_4053

Andre and Buck considering foot placement

Just before we got back to the cars in the lot along the Bog Road, we decided to just go around this particular nasty tangle of downed branches, and yes, normally we are in the habit of being able to ride right through this stream and along the path ahead.  Not going to happen.

Almost on the Bog Road

Almost on the Bog Road

Two days later, we three went back in, along with 5 other cultural iconoclasts. The Bubbas in the Woods have been stuck in a rut of sorts,  for a few decades now. We have these group rides on Sunday morning, and also Tuesday and Thursday nights, year after year- for decades. Incredible but true.  This past Tuesday night, it was pitch black at 5:15 PM, the temps were in the low 20’s, and much of what was soft and mucky was now frozen solid and slippery.

I had charged up my Turbocat handlebar and helmet-mounted lights for the event, my first night ride of the fall season. And yes, I realize my ancient Turbocat system is now old history, and after the ride I realized it would be way cheaper for me to upgrade to a Magicshine LED helmet light than to buy another replacement lead-acid battery that was acceptable way back when.

I also hope not to fall, so just in case, I wore my Fox padded shorts underneath my tights to prevent a broken hip or tailbone ( Right,  Lincoln Jamrog ?).  A recent Men’s health magazine article  about winter fat-tire biking, The Winter Sport That Burns 1,500 Calories an Hour, helped explain why I was a hurting unit just a half-hour into Tuesday night’s ride.

It was ridiculously tough going for me- churning through snow, mud, half-frozen water, and trying to see the path through partially fogged up /frozen safety glasses.  Here’s a map of the 7.5 miles that I somehow managed to finish on Tuesday night:

Bog Ride.  Green dot on Bog Road.

Bog Ride. Green dot on Bog Road.

Here’s a pic of the Hawk, taking a quick break in the middle of a particularly wet piece of the Bog ride.  The darkness at the bottom is black pools of water , interspersed between elevated hummocks of land and mounds of solid ground with trees somehow surviving in there.

The Hawk usually churns right through everything

The Hawk usually churns right through everything- not tonight, though.

It’s what we do, and I’m actually looking forward to my next ride in the dark with these guys.

I’m hoping that my new Magic Shine headlamp works it’s magic on my performance out there!

Maine’s Past Is It’s Presence

photo

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!

Ibex customer service rules!

Ibex does it right,  again .

Ibex does it right, again .

Men’s woolies tights -replaced, again.

I am hard on gear. I can find a company whose products are robust enough that I don’t break their stuuf, that’s great.

It’s even greater when I do break stuff, and deal with a company that comes through for me.

Ibex is on that short list.
Steripen, Four Dog Stove, and Patagonia are also on that list. [For full disclosure, I have received sponsorship donations from all three companies.] Leki trekking poles are on that list (But only if you stay away from their carbon fiber poles, which are apparently so breakage prone that their warranty is limited to just 1 year. The aluminum pole line is a much better deal, with lifetime replacement on any broken pole sections). Western Mountaineering (superb sleeping bags), and Cascade Designs (thera-rest-sleeping pads) both came through when their products failed on the trail. ULA Packs also backs up the hiker.

These guys are definitely off my list: Mountain Hardware, Arc’teryx .

I don’t think these Ibex tights are going to give me problems. I only use my Ibex tights to sleep in, or wear around camp at the end of a day of backpacking. I like to put a clean layer between my often grimy body and the interior of my down sleeping bag. The old tights were prone to tearing, which happened when I was squeezing into the tights after a shower, more than once. The previous model was ultra-thin, with a light thread weave that’s not used for tights anymore. The new ones look tear proof.

Thanks Ibex, and thanks to all the companies out there that back up the hiker.

Uncle Tom on Channels 2 and 6 Monday and Tues. nights

IMG_1668

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.”

Snow Walker’s Rendezvous – welcome to winter 2014

Last weekend, I attended the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Vermont .

Home made tent and stove

Learn by Doing

I experienced the weekend through a new lens-through the eye of a newly Registered Maine Guide.  Other Maine Guides were in attendance, including Master Maine Guide Tim Smith, and another new friend I made at the weekend, Portland-based Lou Falank.

I really enjoyed hanging out with Tim on Saturday night.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith has been finding his way into the conter of the bushcraft/backwoods survival skills spotlight for some time now. He developed and continues to run his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School,  the highly respected Maine-based ” University of Outdoor Skills” .  Tim’s long-term immersion programs are the longest and most comprehensive bushcraft, survival and guide training courses in North America.

What’s bushcraft?  The JMB website explains: ‘Bushcraft is the active component of our interaction with the natural world. Both art and science, bushcraft is doing, making, crafting, traveling, building and living in the natural world. It is an inclusive term for doing things outdoors and is composed of activities such as, but not limited to, primitive skills, modern survival, classic camping, expeditionary skills, prepping, hiking, paddling, crafting and outdoor living, as well as more specialized disciplines such as hunting, fishing and trapping. Bushcraft has no political agenda or worldview, isn’t about preparing for the end of the world, and isn’t an “ism”. It is made up of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who share a love for being active outdoors.’
Now Tim’s going to be on our living-room or palm-based screens in upcoming episodes of Dude, You’re Screwed on the Discovery Channel.  Tim’s episode should be entertaining us before 2015 rolls around, sometime in early December.  Stay tuned for more details.

The normally bushcraft-distant New York Times gave considerable column length to the show in their Dec. 20, 2013 review :  “Dude, You’re Screwed” centers on five men, most with advanced military training, who take turns running gauntlets designed for them by the others. Episodes open with essentially a staged rendition — the mark is kidnapped, hooded and bound at the wrists, then spirited off to who knows where. Unhooded, he’s left to fend for himself with just a handful of tools provided by the team. (As for suspension of disbelief, wouldn’t the participants know their destination when they’ve presumably gone through passport control?)
While the contestant in the game — all the men refer to it as “the game,” though there’s no prize — makes his way through various struggles, the other four men observe him remotely, and sometimes say grim things like “Moisture kills out here.”
But more often, their mood is light. Its like the home run contest before the All-Star Game, an essentially meaningless display of skills where titans watch one another show off. But the casual mood also serves to take the edge off the very real struggle of the man in the wild.
I want to see this show, but I don’t subscribe to the Discovery Channel.  If tell you when it’s on, can someone help me see it?  

I also had a great time talking with Lou Falnak.

Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe

Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe

Lou runs his Mountain Bear Programs and Guide Service.
Lou has provided programs as a director, instructor, and co-facilitator at camps & schools across Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. He’s a Registered Maine Guide. His L.O.S.T.(Learning Outdoor Survival Techniques) Program specializes in bringing youth from a wide variety of backgrounds into the outdoors to learn skills and experience community. He’s making a difference in the lives of children in the Portland area, bringing after-school bush-crafting skills to the next generation.

Lou and I hit it off. We’ll get together in the near future, after Thanksgiving, to do something together in the outdoors.

I  was recruited to kick off the weekend at Friday night’s whole group meeting ( the event cuts off at 100 registrants) with a half hour reading from my blog. This was old school, no iPhoto or Powerpoint, just one guy trying to entertain the faithful by reading a half-hour story of an actual deep winter adventure in the Maine woods.

I  read about my one-week walk across the frozen Moosehead and Seboomook Lakes.    Here’s the link to the talk- this time there are photos and three video clips -The Great Slush Walk of 2009.

Mark Shaw exits our hotel room

Mark Shaw exits our hotel room

I plan to include at least one more entry about the weekend.

There was so much to be excited about !