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.The link brings you to additional new stories about this most unusual situation.
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.
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.
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 !
Super pleased with walking 11 miles today over snow and/or ice. It’s now been 4 weeks since my hernia surgery and I still am under wraps, with two more weeks of restricted activity before I’m cleared to add significant weight to my backpack. I had 10 pounds in my pack today, and a couple of extra pounds under my belt, after the Polish food fest that the three Jamrogs and V8 put on last night. Here’s the main course, cooked on the wood stove, of course. Serious kielbasa, sauerkraut, and 4 types of pierogis in action:
Seven of us spent last night at the Ski Shelter, which is located between the words Brook and Valley at the bottom of the map photo.
My brother Roy, and my traveling partners Tenzing and Pat left the shelter at 9 AM and did the toughest stuff first.
Here’s where we went.
- Ski Lodge Trail to Zeke’s
- Zeke’s to Cameron Mountain Trail
- Cameron Mountain Trail to Sky Blue ( my favorite)
- Sky Blue trail to Ski Lodge Trail
- Ski Lodge Trail to top of Bald Rock Mt.
- “Unmarked Path down to Frohock Mt. Trail
- Frohock Mt. Trail to summit of Frohock
- Backtrack up to top of Bald Rock
- Bald Rock down to Ski Lodge Trail–>Return to Ski Shelter
There were numerous sections of trail that were solid ice, and there’s just no use taking chances on a fall. Hiking poles helped. It was cold all day, never breaking freezing, and in the afternoon, a northerly breeze felt like someone left the refrigerator door ajar. I feel fortunate to be living in an area where I get to walk over refrozen snow, and also to do a bit of afternoon postholing. Why?
There is a piece of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado that has a couple hundred miles of walking up over 12,000 feet, and I expect to be on snow for all of that section. This Maine trail is nearly constantly treacherous, with refrozen pits and holes from previous travelers scattered all over the path. It’s a great workout for strengthening the ankles, if you don’t sprain or break one yourself. Here’s a picture of Roy on the Sky Blue Trail, where we encountered an ancient fieldstone wall, one probably set up from 1830-1850, when the trees had been harvested
and the land was likely populated by sheep.
Everyone member of this group pitched in to make the whole weekend a non-stop party. The hiker kind of deal.
Great first night out at Tanglewood 4H camp. No hauling toboggans this year. The snow has melted away and the 1 mile access road is covered with ice.
Sometimes we are not able to shift our approaches to problems. We had a great example of this tonight when Dave was determined to alter the position of the new metal guard that they have installed here on the top bunks. The guards keep the kids from rolling off the top bunks onto the wooden floor. The camp services kids , who generally have slim butts that can slide in and out of the narrow slot adjacent to the metal guard in these top bunks. Dave is bigger than me, and I’m a widebody. His ass was too big to climb in and out of the top bunk easily. We have no tools with us to loosen the bolt heads that would allow widening that opening. I saw Dave and Hank beating on the frame with sticks of firewood in their futile attempts to force the rail open. It didn’t budge. Then they started talking about walking a two mile round trip to get a wrench out of Pat’s truck in the parking lot. It all seemed too much when I suggested that since the wall side of the bunk had no gate, that we turn the bed around and the problem would be solved. It was pretty funny, and they were embarrassed to be woodworkers and visual problem solvers with a collective 100+ years of experience that just couldn’t see the most simple solution.
Why do we get stuck , and keep reaching for a bigger stick to beat things into submission ?
Several presentations at Snow Walkers Rendezvous this past weekend highlighted polar travel, albeit by foot, ski, dogsled, and even kites. How about bikes? How about the Surly Moonlander, with clownish 5″ diameter low pressure tires?
From Outside, written by Joe Spring:
“Eric Larson plans to start pedaling toward the South Pole this December, on an expedition he’s titled Cycle South. It will be the fourth Christmas in the past five years that he’s spent in Antarctica. This time, he’s given himself a pretty small window—about a month and a half—to get things done.
In 2010, 41-year-old Eric Larsen completed a year-long Save the Poles expedition in which he climbed Everest and traveled to both poles. The Minnesotan has snowshoed, dogsledded, swum, trekked, and skied across polar habitats on a slew of expeditions.
He’ll stay in touch using a DeLorme beacon and Iridium satellite phone to tweet, post Facebook messages, and provide online updates. You can follow him on EricLarsenExplore.com, @ELExplore on Twitter, and on Facebook.”
Big doings at the winter outdoor skills corral today.
There were some impressive whole group presentations today.
In the morning, Ed Belchner shared slides and stories from the early 1970′s in his program “40 Years into Nahmakanta by Snowshoe, Ski, and Dogsled”. Ed attempted a southbound AT hike in winter and struggled through the snow and ice until he decided to get off the trail at Nahmakanta Lake, where he straggled into an ancient camp and initiated a lifelong relationship with the camp and its owner. Very cool to see what the in and outside of the now extinct Nahmakanta Lake Camps and to view Antler’s Camps as well. Both are now just legends of the AT.
We also heard from Maddy McNair, who is recognized as the top woman polar guide in the world.
Maddy McNair is the real deal. From her website: “Matty has journeyed to both Poles setting several very impressive world records. She led the first women’s expedition to the North Pole in 1997. She also guided the Ultimate North Expedition; a dog sledding journey from Cape Columbia to the North Pole, arriving at the North Pole in just under Robert Peary’s 1909 record time of 37 days, thus proving that his disputed dash was in fact possible. Maddy has the distinction of being the first American to ski to both the North and South Poles. In 2004/2005 she completed an unsupported ski expedition to the South Pole, accompanied by her children Sarah and Eric, who became the youngest persons to ski to the South Pole. Adventure appears to run in the family. She presented photographs and tales from some of her expeditions.
In the afternoon I attended two small group workshops.
You can never be too careful with an axe and one person who knows about axes and their use is Maine’s Tim Smith. Tim runs Jack Mountain Bushcraft. In addition to more than a decade of 1-7 day bushcraft, survival, guide training and outdoor living courses, Tim has now taught 21 semester-length, college level, field-based bushcraft courses. Tim walked us into the woods, where he demonstrated proper felling, limbing, and sectioning techniques.
I learned a lot from Tim, and hope to take a course from him someday.
The second skills session that I attended was by Kevin Slater and Keiran Moore, entitled “Tips and Tricks of Winter Travel”.
Kevin runs Mahoosuc Guide Services. An active guide for 25 years, Kevin has traveled extensively in the north by canoe and dog team. He has done expeditions in Maine, Quebec, Labrador as well as a pioneer descent of the Grand Canyon.
Kieran Moore lived with the Dogrib Cree in the Northwest Territories between Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes from the early 1970′s until 2002 . Moore experienced communal subsistence hunts into the barren lands both by canoe and dog team, observing a vanishing way of life of a people at the farthest reaches of the tree-line and beyond. Moore is a fabled storyteller, and we have been held spellbound by some of his recollections of life with the Cree when he presented at a previous Snow Walkers Rendezvous.
Both men traded skills demonstrations:
Slater reasoned out out the contents of his day pack for an instructional session, as well throwing together a scaled model of a winter survival shelter, and a talk about how to build an emergency snow pit.
Moore demonstrated two Cree subsistence techniques: how to use three crafted sticks to set up a ice fishing gill net, and the use of cordage and an appropriately sized piece of fabric to pack up and transport a sectioned caribou.
The highlight of the large group session Saturday night was Ed Webster, an expert on the history of Mt. Everest.
“Ed wrote one of the best books ever written about Everest, Snow in the Kingdom , an account of the first ascent of Mount Everest’s Kangshung Face.
In 1988, American alpinist Ed Webster teamed up with Robert Anderson, Paul Teare, and Stephen Venables to climb a new route up Mount Everest’s massive 12,000-foot-high Kangshung or East Face. The four, in contrast to most expeditions, attempted it in the best possible style—on a new route; without supplemental bottled oxygen; without radios and satellite telephones; and without Sherpa assistance.
Below the South Summit, Ed saw prayer flags strung between rocks and purple-robed Buddhist monks chanting a blessing ceremony. Not thinking he was hallucinating, he simply watched them before passing out. When he awoke he realized the perilous place he was in and that if he continued on to the summit of Mount Everest that he would never return alive. “From out of my mental haze came the inescapable conviction that if I continued I would probably be killed.” At 28,700 feet and 3:30 in the afternoon, Webster turned around and started down. Life was more important than summit. Stephen Venables continued solo to the summit, becoming the sole expedition member to reach the top and the first British climber to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.”
We only were treated to 10 minutes of slides and a phenomenal demonstration of what it was actually like to actually walk and breathe in the Death Zone. It’s one thing to experience, another to read about it, and to hear and watch Ed gulp air for 10 loud breaths and then walk two steps and do it again I’ll never forget.
Ed presented a gripping 30 minute history of North and South Pole discovery, using original photographs from the Nansen, Peary, and Cook expeditions, and he made sure we knew that Matthew Henson belonged in that pantheon as well.
I agreed with several of other people who attended that the quality of the presentations at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous was the best yet.
So it sold out again at 100 people and will be held next year in Vermont the weekend of November 8,9, and 10. For more information, past program lists, or to be included on the mailing list, please check out the website http://www.alohafoundation.org/hulbert-outdoor-center/community-programs/outdoor-conferences/snow-walker-s-rendezvous/. Sign up early if you are fortunate enough to get the chance. I’ll be there!
There are over twenty winter, heated tents housing the hardiest participants this weekend in Fairlee, Vermont. The event sold out again, with 100 of us in attendance.
While it sound bracing, the keen eye will note woodsmoke emitting from some stove pipes. These folks aren’t suffering, but are languishing in shirtsleeves within their
The program began with several large group presentations.
Elizabeth Bradfield kicked off the weekend with a gripping poetry reading. She read from Approaching Ice and held the attention of the large group with her polar imagery and genuine voice.
The highlight of the evening for me was viewing 30 minutes of “The Romance of the Far Fur Country”, an almost forgotten silent movie produced in 1920 by the Hudson Bay Company in celebration of their 250th anniversary in North America.
From the website:
“lIn spring of 1919, two cameramen from New York City set out to film Canada’s northern wilderness. They first boarded Canada’s most famous icebreaker, the HMSNascopie, and headed from Montreal toward the Arctic Circle. For the next nine months, the film crew lugged their crates of gear by foot, canoe, dogsled and icebreaker, trudging through the Arctic, the boreal forest and up some of the fiercest rivers in the world.
The filmmakers perched their cameras in places never before filmed. By the time they completed filming at the end of December, they’d gathered 75,000 feet of film, some eight hours of viewing time. The footage was rushed to New York where editing began. By mid-April, a first draft was complete, and clocked in at four hours. A month later it was cut in half.”
This restoration project is currently in progress with the cooperation of Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, the British Film Institute / National Film and Television Archives in London, England and additional funders such as the Manitoba Arts Council.
Marcia and I retreated to our bunks to settle in for a night of vivid dreams, with images of trails and winter.
Back into the late winter/ early spring Maine forest. Here tonight with a half-dozen family and friends sitting in a handmade Adirondack chair by the side of the radiant wood stove at Camden Hills State Park.
The air is clear and clean, blown in from a Canadian cold front. The stars are magnificent, with rushing melt waters triangulating our shelter tonight.
My brother Roy, friend Tenzing, and I walked 8 miles from my house in the other end of town to get here. We are in for two nights. Tomorrow we will walk all around the Park. There is no way anyone can get around here this weekend without Stablicers, Kahtoolas, or some such traction devices. Here’s a brief video clip of the icy path that was with us for 60% of the trail this weekend :
Thinking that treachery had avoided him, Tenzing removed his Kahtoolas after descending most of Zeke’s Trail to the Ski Lodge. Less than 10 yards after he started out, he slammed down to his right side, and before he struggled himself to right up, the micro spikes were strapped back on the feet.
Today, I became aware of how stubborn I can get. It had to do with strapping on my Stabilicers. It is a parallel hiking behavior to putting on my raincoat, where I delay like crazy, to the point where I am wet by the time I put it on. Today it was my resistance to strapping on the Stabilicers, an action that takes all of two minutes to complete. I came to my senses on the steady descent to this shelter, where I put them on. I have had more than my share of trail disasters at the end of a day. This is too good to screw up.
Frigid in the tent, below zero. BI’s cheap thermometer is broken, so no measure, but the frost covering the outside of my sleeping bag and the thickness of the ice over out water hole in the river this morning spelled COLD. The wind was loud enough to hear, and thankfully we were sheltered from the full force of it’s chill.
Unfortunately, Birdie is still not doing well. She shivers, even when bundled up in the down over quilt that is covering her. She’s still demonstrating some type of unfathomable pain, with intermittent sharp yelps that now happen when you don’t even touch her, when she’s walking outside. She runs outside into the cold and wanders back and forth, hunched up. BI is worried enough about her that he decides to get her to a vet, which means walking out today, in the cold, and right into this wind. We’re baling.
Not that we could have done much else but hang right here, and maintain the camp for another day and night. After cutting more wood, we would stoke the stove, read, sleep, drink coffee and tea, and eat the piles of food from our feed bags.
We tried going down river yesterday, but the over flow stopped us. I would explore the edges of the open leads around Attean Falls nearby, plus walk out to poke around on the lower reaches of Attean Pond.
There are ample opportunities to explore animals tracks on this snow. Yesterday, Birdie led us to an otter den that was clearly active, marked by characteristic snow troughs and cylinder shaped scat.
A great resource for learning about ice, snow, animal signs, and how to forecast and deal with winter weather is Exploring Nature in Winter: A Guide to Activities, Adventures, and Projects for the Winter Naturalist by Alan Cvancara.
So the tedious procedure of breaking camp was launched. Packing up on a cold morning in winter is one of my top least favorite activities, but it comes with the territory. My hands have the circulation of turtle feet, especially my left index finger, which was partially severed some 35 years ago when I slipped on ice while I was chopping wood. I use packets of chemical heat warmers out here. This morning I had brief periods of exposing my fingers while we released all the strings, bungees, and ropes that held the tent upright, and then we packed away the various bundles onto the two toboggans. I’d work fast for maybe three minutes, then my hands would become unbearably cold and I’d have to slip them into my chemically heated expedition mittens for three minutes and then repeat the cycle until done.
Eventually we hit the trail, and after struggling up the only bump in the route, around the Falls themselves, we came upon a newly created crater in the ice where it appeared a snowmobile had plunged.
There were numerous tracks all over the bend in the river that were not there when we came in a few days ago.
We were careful to keep our toboggans from plunging into the hole. We both worked each toboggan around the pit, where we took turns standing on ice pieces in the hole itself as we braced against the loads as each sled passed along the foot wide shelf.
We made quick work of reaching the mouth of the river. Looking out over the expanse of ice and swirling surface snow ahead of us, we both exchanged a glance where we recognized that we’d be heading into the vortex of cold.
The next couple of hours of travel were among the most difficult I can recall. The cold was unbelievable. To avoid frostbite, ever inch of your face had to be covered.
I remember being in this same situation walking across Moosehead Lake, where stopping was not a reasonable act. It was zero out, and the wind was strong, steady and powerful enough that it pushed our loaded toboggans over more than once. Mine was heavy enough that it took me considerable effort to haul it upright. BI and I slogged north over the frozen expanse, and survived by chunking down the work by aiming for the lee side of several small islands that were along the path ahead.
It was dramatic how calm, settled, and more tolerable the space was when we sat on the lee side of the islands. I treasured the hot, rich, black coffee that was in my thermos. I devoured roasted nuts, peanut butter crackers, and cookies as we brought our pulses down to reasonable levels. The cold soon had us up and moving; our rests never lasted reached 10 minutes.
Eventually the path veered toward the east, toward the parking lot. With the wind now from the rear, our lagging energy relished the good fortune. It was still cold and difficult for my hands. I stuffed all my gear haphazardly into my empty Voyager, and was done. I high-fived BI. We made it. Our homes would now be cradles of comfort and warmth. The wonder of the shower world, oh those hot showers.
Late yesterday afternoon BI’s leg busted through the thin ice near the water lead while he was chipping a hole through the ice for drinking and cooking. It submerged up past his knee, so his mukluk, felt liner, sock, long underwear, and pant leg were saturated with icy cold water. I had him kneel in some powder snow and we pressed it against his leg, wicking off as much of the moisture as we could.
This morning we fired up the stove around 7 AM and kept the heat going up but the wet footwear was still not dry. BI had left his rubber boots in the car, which would have been his walking option, so our plans changed a bit. He suggested that we use the day to head upriver to scout out a possible campsite for tomorrow night. With a lunch, axe, snowshoes, and a saw we could move much quicker than we would with loaded toboggans. We hoped to pack down a tent space and even prepare the firewood for an easy arrival afternoon tomorrow. I let BI use my rubber boots until I would need them, if ever.
So, after breakfast, we stayed here a bit, found another half dozen standing dead spruce, limbed off the branches and had a complete day’s firewood sawed up ready to go when we got back.
Unfortunately, I misjudged just how much the stove had cooled off, and the arm of my down jacket came into contact with the surface, quickly melting a series of holes in the sleeve that I patched with McNett clear non-stick tape, that held the down in until I could make a more permanent repair at home.
The air wasn’t too cold, and although there were snow showers coming on, the skies eventually broke from the west.
There were two snowmobile tracks still heading upriver and we stuck to them.
There were sections of the river where the machines had burned through deep slush that had refrozen. Mostly. We had been walking quickly for about 90 minutes when I stepped on the frozen track and my boot broke through the crust and went into slush.
It is the bane of any winter walker, as it not only soaks through the moose hide of the mukluks, but if and when you shift over to snowshoes, which you eventually need to float on this icy soup, they ice up in sub- freezing temperatures, gathering increasing thickness of ice, as the water cakes onto the snowshoes. It you are hauling toboggans it freezes to the bottom. Both situations require stopping and beating or scraping off the ice on the toboggans with the axe head in order to just keep going forward. It is not good.
For more on the topic of overflow, and skill-based winter camping knowledge, I refer you to Snow Walker’s Companion, by Garret and Alexandra Conover. I consider them my mentors on all aspects of winter walking. No better guide exists. They are also excellent writers.
Within the next steps, BI and I were both breaking through, in a section of river where the brush on the sides of the channel was so thick that it would have been close to impossible to move toboggans up and around the slush, which at this point appeared to be a hundreds yards or more long. Of course, there could have been even more, or no slush around the bend. When 50 pound Birdie was repeatedly breaking through until mid leg in whatever direction she bounded , we both realized how fortunate we were to have used the day as a reconnaissance mission.
There wasn’t much discussion. We turned around and headed back, in relief that we hadn’t disassembled our camp and brought it up here to an impasse. Both of us plugged into our respective iPods while we walked back, and I got in a little air guitar to the tune of Please Stand Up, by British Sea Power.
Volumes of prepared stove wood awaited us when he returned to camp about 2 PM. The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking hot cocoa, and eating nuts, dried fruit, chips, and hummus.
We both drifted in and out of naps as we took turns stoking the stove. BI’s mukluks dried, ready for tomorrow’s adventures.