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.
Three long-distance backpacking DVD projects were released in 2013 while I was away thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail: “Mile, Mile and a Half”, “Embrace the Brutality”, and “Tell It On the Mountain”. I’ve secured all three, watched them, and will review each on separate blog entries.
The first- “Mile, Mile and a Half”, is a gorgeous production by the Muir Project.
It’s their collective record of a 25 day thru-hike of the 219 mile John Muir Trail, in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Lest one think that this 8.75 mile per day schedule was chicken feed, it’s important to consider that these individuals not only carried their own backpacking gear and food, but also their respective artictic tools. Some of these folks were packing weights up to 75 pounds. No joke.
Here is the trailer for the video.
The John Muir Trail is considered to be the premier hiking trail in the United States. The trail starts in Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, and ends at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft. ( from http://johnmuirtrail.org/). With the exception of the first 9 miles at the northern end climbing out of Yosemite Valley, the elevation of the JMT seldom dips below 8,000 feet. The trail crosses seven mountain passes in excess of 11,000 feet; from north to south, they are: Donohue Pass, Muir Pass, Mather Pass, Pinchot Pass, Glen Pass, Forester Pass and Trail Crest. At 13,153 feet, Forester Pass is the highest point along the Pacific Crest Trail and the second-highest pass along the JMT ( -from WiKiPedia).
It is estimated that, when hiking north to south, the amount of ascent of the JMT is just over 46,000 feet and the total descent is over 38,000 feet, for a total of about 84,000 feet, or almost 16 miles.
I pledged financial support of this product as a Kickstarter project when it was in the formative stages, allowing me to receive my “Special Edition DVD”, as well as a drink flask and sticker for my bear canister.
Five hikers, who were also accomplished artists in their own disciplines, were inspired to carry additional video and audio recording devices, still photography tools, musical instruments, and graphic materials for the purpose of producing a multimedia production of their journey.
I have watched it twice to date.
The second viewing revealed details I didn’t recall from the first viewing- a pleasant surprise that is not often the case with lower budget productions of this nature.
These are not accomplished backpackers- all these individuals are primarily artists, who happen to be backpacking in order to carry out this unique task. For some individuals, it was their first time walking at elevations over 10,000 feet, or walking on snow.
These folks suffered- you will see the standard “horror-show-of-my-feet” images of tumescent toe blisters and gushers from strategically lanced areas of the foot with subsequent audience groans guaranteed.
There was one drop out- it was that tough. We see the punishing ascents, post holing parties, and experience the unique frosted terrain that greeted these hikers in 2011, where the snow pack was off the charts.
I hiked 160 miles on the JMT in 2010, where it shares the path with the Pacific Crest Trail.
The segments that show the group getting up over the high passes were definitely thrilling and possibly scary, especially my personal horror show at Mather Pass, the site of my most terrifying traverse.
The footage of the notorious Bear Creek ford will put a lump in your throat.
This is a five star production that will be interesting to both hikers and non-hikers alike.
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.
Here’s what it has been like at the 10 day mark, or
” 150 Days of Backpacking Vs. 10 Days Back At Home”
The grime is winning. Who cares? Two weeks left into Canada. Yeah! http://trailjournals.com/tjamrogCDT/
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.
Check out this brief, super cool trailer for Jester’s new hiking feature film.
Embrace the Brutality is a feature length documentary that follows a group of hikers as they attempt to thru-hike the entire Continental Divide Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, a bit of Idaho, and Montana.
The website for the film, EmbraceTheBrutality.com, is not yet live. Until it goes up you can find updates on the release date, screenings, and other good stuff by liking the ETB Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Embrace-the-Brutality-A-Continental-Divide-Trail-Adventure/522214734486256
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.