Day 5 Moose River Winter Walk

Map of the area.

Map of the area.

Finishing any multiple day walk ramps my excitement up a notch.  On last days, I have always acted like a horse getting closer to the barn, often speeding up and taking on longer mileage days as the idea of coming home catches fire inside of me.  I like being in the outdoors, and this trip has only confirmed my desire to get back somewhere in Maine for another longer winter walk in 2015.
Several things stand out about these past few days:
First, we had no set itinerary to stick to- something that is difficult for me.  I’m goal oriented, however a fresh goal is embracing improvisation. If you want to explore how improvisation can improve your outlook on the inevitable changes in life- here it is-Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson.  Thanks to Brad Purdy for bringing me this information!
There was serious democracy in action out here. By the third day, no one had to talk about what to do – cutting firewood, splitting it, fetching water, cooking, washing up.  It just got done.  Fine men around me, all. The best example of this was our “rest day”  where each person was free to walk all day on a day hike, or to lay around inside the sleeping bags and read and sleep.
I learned that cold hands are inevitable when it gets below zero and there is close handwork to do, like packing toboggans, and cinching ropes.
Despite being one of the top snowmobiling capitals of Maine, Jackman is still far away from civilization.  We were surprised to see just a half dozen sleds on the Pond.  Consider midweek vacations if you want to avoid crowds.
 Old stuff works.  Old snowshoes, traditional cotton tents, mukluks, axes, saws.

Just yesterday I read a interesting story that came to me from my stove/fire guru and proprietor of Four Dog Stove,  Don Kivelus.  Fresh from Minnesota Public Radio, it’s about one man’s shift from cold to warm winter camping–>click on the hotlink below for a superb article about another guy doing just what we what we did.

Why would you camp in the winter?”

Here’s one reason why ( from the MPR article)!

photo by Chris Gibbs/For MPR News

photo by Chris Gibbs/For MPR News

Day 3 Moose River Walk

Day 3 Moose River Walk
Early morning rising is easy when the lights are out at 7 PM.     Hard to believe but it was even colder last night.

Sunrise over the freeze

Sunrise over the freeze

Pat was up first – his coffee Jones propelling him to head down to the open lead and fetch water, and then kindle the wood stove and start the coffee percolating.
By 8:30 AM, the bacon was ready, and the rime frost that lined the acreage of the 9 x 12 Egyptian cotton tent had already thawed, so the thin fabric was dry again.  The double whammy of bacon and coffee fragrances makes the heart want to reach out again and embrace the frozen world around us.
Who knows what adventures the day may bring?   There are no set plans.  We have a big pile of firewood that we worked up yesterday so I might just hang out and stoke the fire and eat, read, and write. Or I could head back to Attean Pond and explore along the shore, or pack a track partway back to the car in order to make our exit easier.  Or we could move back up river over the superhighway that we laid down yesterday and set up there.

In the end, I spent a few hours stoking the stove while finishing up Journal of A Trapper: A Hunter’s Rambles Among the Wild Regions of the Rocky Mountains, 1834-1843.

Diary of a Trapper

Diary of a Trapper

If you feel like it is a big deal to be out and live in the cold for a few days, read this.  Nine years of wandering around the Yellowstone region trapping beavers, eating basically nothing but meat, and befriending or, if that fails, getting Indian arrows stuck into you.  Unbelievable.  I was reading from this book and came up with a passage that had Osborne eating pemmican.  IMG_2574  I had some  with me made by my friend Craig and we snacked on that .

Pat and Matt went back up the river for a six mile walk.  Bad Influence and I walked across the frozen river to a small bog where we sawed down three dead, standing spruce, delimbed them with the axe, and then hauled them back to our firewood processing yard.

Bad Influence sawing our fuel

Bad Influence sawing our fuel

We worked quickly with two saws and then I split up the larger pieces while BI stacked them inside and more outside the tent.

We then did some architectural renovations to the heating system, adding extra crib work under the stove, shoveled more chunks of ice and snow into the pit that had melted under the stove, and secured some of the two foot sections of 4″ stove pipe that had come loose during the day’s wind and stove’s settling into the pit.

Pat was on for supper tonight, which we put off as long as possible yet commenced at 4:40 PM. Carr’s Crackers with cheddar cheese and pepper salami made up the appetizer, with chili and cornbread, and home made chocolate cookies for dessert.

The cold doesn’t seem so formidable to me tonight.  I must be getting used to it.

PCT Hiker Survey: Meaningless Numbers From Meaningful People

I’m reblogging a “report” of what appears to have taken considerable time and has good data. I was surprised that the completion numbers were this low, and like the concept of the composite “typical hiker”.  This is interesting for any long distance hiker.

PCT Hiker Survey: Meaningless Numbers From Meaningful People | Halfway Anywhere.

Uncle Tom / Portland Press Herald

One should expect a lot of challenges over the course of a six-month backpacking journey, yes. But on the 3,200-mile long Continental Divide Trail, challenge takes on a whole new meaning.

Just ask Tom Jamrog of Lincolnville, who recently completed this epic five-month hike from Mexico to Canada through four states along the sinuous spine of the Rocky Mountains. With the AT and the PCT already under his hip belt, Jamrog has now joined a rather elite group of hikers who have achieved this Triple Crown feat.

Jamrog atop 14,440' Mt. Elbert, CO

Jamrog atop 14,440′ Mt. Elbert, CO

Kish’s complete article here –> Continental-sized challenges on the Continental Divide Trail | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Know Pain, Know Gain… If You Are Walking For Health.

via Why a Brisk Walk Is Better –

photo from NY Times

photo from NY Times

Gretchen Reynolds’  Well New York Times blog entry from Dec. 4, 2013 is  mindblowing-

It suggests that those of us that regularly walk or backpack should consider moving a bit quicker, but only if you are interested in living longer !

The design of the research study ( initiated in 1998 ), recruited 7,374 male and 31,607 female walkers, who represented almost every speed of fitness walker, from sluggish to swift. Those findings were published online this month in PLoS One.

The research design even corrected for total energy expended, where the slowest walkers were required to walk longer distances, in order to adjust up to an equivalent energy output with the speediest walkers.

Dr. Paul T. Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cross-referenced his data against records that confirmed which of the almost 39,000 walkers had died in the decade or so since they had joined the survey.  The 2,000 deaths over-represented the slowest walkers, even if they met or exceeded the standard exercise guidelines and expended as much energy per day as someone walking briskly for 30 minutes.
“This effect was most pronounced among the slowest of the slow walkers, whose pace was 24 minutes per mile or higher. They were 44 percent more likely to have died than walkers who moved faster, even if they met the exercise guidelines.”
The article correctly  notes one huge confounding variable, “The slowest walkers may have harbored underlying health conditions that predisposed them to both a tentative walking pace and early death. But that possibility underscores a subtle takeaway of the new study, Dr. Williams said. “ Measuring your walking speed, he pointed out, could provide a barometer of your health status.”

Not to panic.
Ms. Raynolds leaves us with hope,

”The most encouraging news embedded in the new study is that longevity rises with small improvements in pace. The walkers in Category 3, for instance, moved at a speed only a minute or so faster per mile than some of those in the slowest group, but they enjoyed a significant reduction in their risk of dying prematurely.”


Learning to walk again

“A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?
Where do I begin?”
-Walk, Foo Fighters

I celebrated the first sunny day in over a week by walking 8 miles around town today. I’m still healing up from hernia surgery three weeks ago and am restricted from carrying a backpack, but plan for fewer miles and to begin carrying light weight on my back this week.

I’ve been nervous about being able to keep up with MeGaTex when I start walking the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico in 33 days. After today, I am more confident that I can hit the trail with a full pack and start putting in those 15 to 20 mile days.

I’ll start backpacking on flat terrain in the Chichuahan Desert. We’ll be caching water for the first five days, and there will be a motel stop in Deming, NM after the first 68 miles. That means 3 nights out, camping in the desert. I’ll be in my Moment tent. No sharing my sleeping bag with rattlesnakes, scorpions, or tarantulas, thank you!

With food and cached water, I’ll be shouldering a relatively light 25 pound pack.

I have charted out 16 actual conditioning days, alternating each training hike with a rest day, gradually increasing miles, ruggedness of terrain, and the weight on my back. My goal is to walk 12 miles with 35 pounds on my back two days before my flight to El Paso on 4/16. I follow Ray Jardine’s conditioning program, which he details in Trail Life

My surgeon advised me to wait 6 weeks before I can resume unrestricted loads, a plan that just leaves me just 8 training days with my base pack weight of 18 pounds. Base weight is my gear without food and water.

Today was a glorious experience. The first picture above is the long downhill into Lincolnville Center. While most of the walk was along paved roads, I hike on the gravel shoulder. I do this to reduce the pounding from walking on pavement. I also aim foot placement on irregularities and sideways slopes off the road in order to strengthen my ankles.

Part of the hike was along the unplowed Martin Corner Road, which gave me more opportunities to strengthen my ankles as I postholed over snow for a mile and a quarter.


I averaged 3.8 mph over the up and downs of 676 feet of elevation gain. I’m freakin’ elated with feeling good again. Listening to music helped today, especially Dave Grohl’s roaring voice encouraging me to learn to walk again.

Following the Otter

Surprised my self on the third week anniversary of my surgery. I walked with Frank again today to the summit of Battie and back.

20130309-041454.jpgI thought I was plodding, and panicked a bit, thinking I’d lost all my training base. Thanks to Strava, I see that I kept up a 2.9 MPH pace, over a steep steady grade.

20130309-043107.jpg Our spirits were lifted by the blue sky and the ocean views on our descent.

Our conversation was absorbing. I shared with Frank some if the stories that moved me recently. Like the story of the Ojibuay, and their migration from the Eastern North American seaside to the Great Lakes via the St. Laurence River. Lake Superior is significant to the tribe because the Ojibway believe their ancestors migrated there from the east coast of No. America and it was their final stopping place after 500 years of migration following the dream of the prophet of a shaman to move or be destroyed.
Teachings about Ojibway history are passed down orally. Birch bark scrolls were used to write down things using pictographic writing (a mneumonic or memory device using pictures and symbols rather than a phonetic writing system). They were initially guided by an otter.


Uncle Tom, why are you wearing boots?

“Uncle Tom, why are you wearing boots? “ – One of the Kiwis, at Third Gate on the PCT (2010)
“I’m curious about your choice of shoes.  Comment please…”- Dennis on (3/2/2013)

You’ll see a fairly regular number of hikers wearing boots on the Appalachian Trail. You won’t see many boots worn by long-distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I bet I’ll be the only long-distance hiker wearing boots on the Continental Divide Trail this season.

Here are some of the reasons from today’s Google about boot shunning, mostly from hikers on
Boots are considered so old-school as to be relegated to the slag heap of slide rulers and hand-held calculators that cost $50.  They are considered unnecessary, and so heavy that they are  a sysiphean drag on the energy required to lift each foot. They don’t dry out as fast as lighter, fabric trail runners. They supposedly “reduce blood circulation” (therefore your feet won’t be as warm than if they were in trail runners). Boots, ”increase the chance of ankle injury by masking features in the terrain that would turn an ankle”.  Boots cost too much to replace when your feet grow on a thru-hike ( compared to trail runners).  Gore-tex and other membrane boots don’t stay waterproof for long (Thru hiking “abuses the membrane” through dirt, sweat, and body oil….in as little as 45 days.)
Here’s an answer ( that begs critical analysis – “I thru hiked with boots. I had no issues with ankle support. ..Boots kept me from spraining or injuring my ankle”.  This answer illustrates the generalization fallacy, illustrated by substituting one word to change the statement to, “ I thru hiked with sandals. I had no issues with ankle support. Sandals kept me from spraining or injuring my ankles”.
People do complete thru hikes in minimalist footwear.  In fact, I saw a barefoot thru hiker on September 13 this year on the  summit of Katahdin.  It was this guy:

Look ma, footloose!

photo by Laura Hartenstein

He swears in this most interesting blog entry, “I will never wear hiking boots again.”

Few plusses are found for boots:  Boots provide “ankle support”, “keep feet cleaner”, protect if something heavy falls or whacks against your foot, and  are, “more durable”.  Here’s a durablility dreamer, “Do I want a pair that will see me through this hike and others in the years ahead?”  Obviously from someone who is still contemplating a thru-hike.

     So why buck the current trend?
History–> I started the AT in boots that were highly recommended to me from experienced staff up at Winterport Boot shop. They sold me a pair of Merrill Phaser Peaks20138_366_45
In 2007, I  began to get blisters within a week of hiking in Georgia, and some of the people I was hiking with encouraged me switch to ventilated trail runners, so I went to a pair of New Balance, and the blisters stopped. I then switched to Inov-8’s in Virginia with Superfeet insoles that took me all the way to Maine.  Unfortunately that combo left me with nerve damage and low-grade left forefoot pain.  Despite physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture, medication, custom orthotics, and consulting the best sports podiatrist in Maine, I’m still affected.  It hasn’t gotten any better, but is no worse, even after two more thru hikes.

I was ready to start the PCT in April of 2010 in Asics Gel Trabucos when my brother Roy, who works as a costing manager for New Balance, told me that NB had just acquired a Vermont company, On the Beach, that manufactures military and tactical footwear.
“You are going to hiking in the desert, right?  These are the exact boots worn by Navy Seals in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I can get you a pair to try out.”
Long story short, I received free New Balance Tactical 802  boots for whole 2,700 miles, where I encountered NO blisters.

NB Tactical 802

NB Tactical 802

I did jump up to a size 14, with PLENTY of room in the forefoot, that ensured my toes were not able to rub when I walked.

That,  plus 2 pair of thin merino wool micro-crew Cushion Darn Tough socks that survived the whole trip. There is no finer hiker deal than Darn Tough.  There is NO other manufacturer whose hiking socks last like Darn Tough, and even better,  the $20 that you spend on a pair is a lifetime deal.  Made in Vermont. “If you wear these socks out, we’ll replace them. Free of charge. No questions asked.”  It’s true, I have 2 new pair of replaced Darn Tough socks for the CDT.
People get blisters on the PCT, even General Lee, who is usually blister free, but whose feet succumbed to the volcanic grit that was present in Northern California and Oregon.
I now hike three seasons in the Bushmasters,  now renamed the NB Tactical 802, which also allowed me a blister free completion of  Vermont’s Long Trail  (2011).
I like being free of blisters.  The boots ventilate exceedingly well, and this trip starts in the Chihuahuan desert in New Mexico.  After they are soaked from rain or stream crossings, they dry our very quickly.  The specialized Vibram soles wear and grip nicely. The laces don’t wear. They are fairly light, and don’t have any metal in them, which is a military consideration.  They weigh 1.5 pounds each, where my Inov-8’s with Superfeet insoles weigh 1 pound each.  No big deal.

My beef with the boots continues to be the exposed stitching on the toe and heel cups.  I  went through 4 pair on the PCT and in each case, the stitching rubbed through, and made a hole between the plastic cup and and fabric where debris entered, and the separations increased, primarily on the toe cups. I communicated my concerns back to NB. The primary manager for these particular boots assured me that there would be a design modification in future factory runs of the boot that would recess and then cover these areas, but it hasn’t happened yet.

My brother Roy has helped me to secure five new pairs of Tactical 802′s for this trip. One pair was free, and the other four were sold to me for 60% discount, with free shipping.
This time, I’m coating the toe and heel stitching with a sealant, probably more than one thin coat.  Auntie Mame will send them to me when I need them.
That’s why I wear boots.  These boots work for me, but as Auntie Mame so perceptively put, “You could also call them ankle height trail runners.”  Enough already.

Soon it will time to “Stop Talking, Start Walking”