Limitation

I enjoy a Sunday morning newspapers, specifically the print version of the Maine Sunday Telegram and the online NY Times. After skimming most of the political pieces , I checked out the brief video demonstrating “5 Yoga Poses to Know”.  I was dismayed to learn that due to carpal tunnel and lower back issues I am now qualified to practice just two of the essential poses: the Child’s Pose and the Tree.

That’s the way 2021 has been going- my “Year of Limitations”

My 94 year old mom, Isabel died 11 days ago. While she lived an amazingly rich life, and was free of any disease for 90 years, Isabel succumbed to Alzheimer’s.  I am half-sad, half-relieved that she spent a relatively short time confused, angry, and withdrawn.  My life is surrounded by items that she gave me.  I’m sitting on this little pillow that depicts the front of this little camp.  I slept with one of her quilts over me. 

Pillow on quilt

My daily I-Ching reading today was #41 -Limitation, where I am advised to “Take care of yourself. Don’t expect others to do for you. Recognize that you are helpless, and reach out for to others to assist you.”

I‘ve been injured since September. I’m also out of my usual Sunday morning routine- riding mountain bike rides with The Bubbas, as I have done for over thirty years now, year-round.

Riding at Camden Hills State Park

In September, a lower back/buttock pain was initially diagnosed as periformis syndrome. Then came ten sessions of physical therapy, twice-daily stretching and strengthening treatments at home, ice and heat applications. Varying dosages of ibuprofen, Alleve and now Tylenol were faithfully carried out. Things worsened as the location of the pain shifted toward my spine. Two lower back X-rays and a subsequent MRI revealed three issues: spinal stenosis, the presence of a cyst that was beginning to impinge on my spinal cord, and one misaligned vertebrae. I head down to the big city of Portland later this week to have a respected neurospinal surgeon review my X-rays and MRI and render me a few options, I hope.

I’ve received my second Covid-19 vaccine shot. I’m still living exactly the same as I did before the shot, starting on March 19, 2020, the last day I went to work. Maine has a state public mask mandate, so that is no different. Even though I am not likely to exhibit any outward symptoms of COVID-19, I may yet be capable to passing on the virus to others.

At my annual physical in November. my physician listened to my heart through his stethoscope, but became concerned about an erratic heartbeat, which he followed up with a EKG test right then and there. I have had normal blood pressure, low pulse, and an active exercise/lifestyle trajectory for decades. A couple of days later he called to tell me that I had left ventricular hypertrophy, or athlete’s heart. There is a complete chapter explaining the benefits of athlete’s heart in this book, which I’ve previously written about.

Mr. doctor explained that he was not concerned, after ruling out maladaptive conditions that can accompany such a larger, muscular heart. Think Jim Fixx, (From Wikipedia).  Jim Fixx was an American who wrote the 1977 best-selling book The Complete Book of Running. He is credited with helping start America’s fitness revolution by popularizing the sport of running and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging. He died of a heart attack while jogging at 52 years of age; his genetic predisposition for heart problems and other previous lifestyle factors may have caused his heart attack.

Expanding the positive, I’ve been experiencing almost daily episodes of synchronicity, to the point that I now am jotting down incidents in yet another 2021 first- a “synchronicity journal”. Yesterday, a Bald eagle and a Cooper’s hawk made it into the“What are the chances?” section.

So I try and take control when I can. I am staying at my camp for a couple of days-  it is only 10 miles from our house. There is no water here now as we normally pump from the pond, which is now covered with eighteen inches of ice.  A decent  amount of fuel is under dry cover of the woodshed. A gas cook stove gets water boiling and my Tempwood stove holds a glow, snugly.

 

It’s quiet here now, after everything became encased in ice overnight.

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Ups and Downs on My Continental Divide Trail Thru-Hike

If you missed my 7 pm launch Friday night on LLBean’s Virtual Speaker series, here’s the 30 minute YouTube video of the whole presentation.  Check out LLBean’s YouTube channel, which has these weekly presentations as well as a slew of other options to fight winter/Covid-19 boredom!  Feel free to share to other long distance hikers.  I regret there was no opportunity for Q and A afterwards, but I’ll respond to viewers questions.

First question:  Would you redo a thru hike of the CDT ?

Answer:  No!   I consider myself extremely fortunate to have escaped alive and relatively unscathed, considering…

Nomadland

Gripping movie. Free with Hulu subscription, which is currently offering a free trial. I am also enjoying the book, which differs in plot construction, and contains updated personal horror stories about retirement pitfalls in the coming years.  If you are thinking of ever retiring, only 17% of retirees don’t work at all.  Selling your home and going mobile in a van or camper might not cut it, but for some it is absolute salvation. Mega western vistas of wide open spaces. Boondocking abounds.

DISCLAIMER:  You might cry.

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Check out Nomadland on Hulu!

A life well lived- my mom Isabel

My mom, Isabel, passed at age 94 in her sleep last week.

Mom taking a break on our last walk together in Somerset, MA

Isabel’s obituary  can be viewed here on the Hathaway website.  She lived in the County Street ( Somerset, MA) family farmhouse from the ages of 5 through 90, enjoying many aspects of her unique life. 

One of the highlights of my life with Isabel was our two-week Amtrak trip to Montana  in 2014.  We shared a tiny roomette on a round trip train from Boston to East Glacier, Montana.  Mom was excited when I pointed out to her the Continental Divide trail, where I completed my 5 month long hike of that National Scenic trail in 2013. 

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Isabel asked if we could walk a bit on the CDT together.  After we left the campground an started walking she rummaged around in the brush and extracted  a walking staff.  We put in a whole mile absorbing the expanse and grandeur of Glacier National Park.  Mom was 85 years old in this photo. 

I deeply miss her.  

9,000 Miles of Attitude: Aging and Endurance

 
Check out last year’s (March 2020) 30-minute YouTube presentation at one of North America’s premiere wilderness adventure gatherings in Toronto. I just received this video yesterday.
 
The Wilderness & Canoe Symposium is a mid-winter gathering of kindred spirits in search of knowledge and a sense of place. Its purpose is to educate and remind us of how sacred, fragile, and endangered the remaining natural wilderness areas are, and to celebrate wilderness experiences in our northern Canadian habitat. Each speaker offers a unique perspective on far-ranging topics that include subjects such as ecology, First Nations, guiding, history, unique trips, conservation, etc.
 
Here’s the speaker’s bio that ran in the program:
“Tom grew up on a dairy farm. In 2014 Tom was the 230th recipient to be awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association after his thru hikes of three of the USA’s longest National Scenic Trails. 
 
His first book, “In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail” was published in 2017. After retiring as a psychologist and mental health counselor in 2002 Tom has been guiding individuals and groups on four season adventures in the Northeastern US. His current interest is inspiring others to engage in wilderness adventures at any age.”
 
 link below:
 

Indigenous Nepalese Achieve What Had Not Been Possible

Against the backdrop of a year long climbing ban due to Covid-19, two teams of Nepalese achieved the first winter ascent of K2.

I followed the 1987-1988 Polish K2 winter attempt, which was foiled due to regular low temps that reached minus 67 F. Heavy snows near the summit damaged tents, covered fixed ropes and introduced severe avalanche dangers that forced retreat. The 1980’s were the decade of achievement for Polish climbers who summited Everest and six other 8,000 meter peaks in that period.

There is folklore about a Polish suffering gene that has been woven into success stories ever since the world learned about the Polish obsession with achieving winter climbing trophies. My previous blogs about Polish winter attempts of K2 can be accessed here.

It is immensely satisfying to me to hear of such miracles, graced through cooperation and the indomitable force of the human spirit.

New film about Acadia made by Maine cyclists to premiere on PBS

 

One of the main draws for folks that hike, snowshoe, ski cross-country and meander around on foot in Maine is Acadia National Park.  I’ve enjoyed the Park in all seasons but was disappointed to learn that Blackwoods Campground has been closed all winter due to Covid-19.  The Park’s access road into Blackwoods has been left  unplowed, with campers allowed in at no charge if they are willing to hike or toboggan in their tents or bivvy bags.  There is a frost-free hand pump there as well, which is a real boon to winter campers.   

My Blackwoods camp site from March of 2018.

Check out this new 1-hour documentary about biking in Acadia National Park.   The film will premiere on Maine PBS at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17 and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. Created by Brenda and Alan Jepson of Stockholm, Maine, “Cycling Acadia — Carriage Road Encounters” explores the park’s historic carriage roads during every season.

In the 1-hour documentary, the Jepsons explore numerous bike routes, from easy to arduous, featuring landmarks such as scenic bridges, waterfalls and pristine lakes along the way.

— Read more about the film and view two trailers in the Bangor News article from Aislinn Sarnacki.  I may see you up there soon.   : bangordailynews.com/2020/12/11/act-out/new-film-about-acadia-made-by-maine-cyclists-to-premiere-on-pbs/

Moosehead Bikepacking Adventure

Two of my backpacking pals, Ryan and Hans, invited to join them on a 135-mile bike-packing circumnavigation of Moosehead Lake. 

Moosehead is the largest lake in Maine and largest mountain lake in the eastern United States. It’s a gargantuan body of water!  At an elevation of 1,023 feet, Moosehead is approximately 40 by 10 miles long, with over 400 miles of shoreline.

I’ve traversed Moosehead Lake twice in winter pulling my toboggan and hauling a heated tent: in 2005 and The Great Slush Walk of 2009.   It’s a great winter adventure. 

My 2009 trip account ( including videos and photos) and can be reviewed by hitting the link above. Both adventures took a week with downtown Greenville and Pittston Farm as put-in/take-out points.

In 2014, I was the first fat tire bike rider to ride over the snow to spend a couple nights at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins.

  That adventure is featured in this blog post.  Our first and last nights’ campsite on this bike adventure was only 3.5 miles from there. Due to concerns related to COVID-19, Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins have been closed for the 2020 season.

Cold-weather adventures should have tentative plans. Our initial goal to make a 360° off-road route around Moosehead Lake was foiled after we learned that bicycles are prohibited by North Maine Woods from traveling on our route.
From the NMW website: “No bicycles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles or horses are allowed at any time of year in the North Maine Woods area. This is necessary for logging road safety and to reduce the possibility for forest fires in hard to reach locations.” Specifically, we would be stopped at the Burbank Road checkpoint northeast of Moosehead Lake, between Northeast Carry and the Seboomook Dam.   On to Plan B, exploring east of Moosehead Lake where we would venture into the Appalachian Mountain Club’s recreational holdings and into the Namakhanta Public Lands, where biking is increasingly welcomed.

AMC welcome sign

For the past two months I’ve been patiently rehabilitating  a strained periformis muscle, which is located behind the gluteus maximus in my right hip. It is part of a rotator cuff that attaches from hip to pelvis. Treatment involves progressive stretching of the hamstring, calf, and the periformis itself. I’ve been performing six stretches twice daily that were prescribed by a physical therapist. I am getting better. The problem is no worse after biking or hiking, so I took up the invite.  

Shaw’s Hostel in Monson has been famous in the backpacking world for almost 4 decades.   We used it as a base to park our cars as well as pick up  current info on our route. 

Me, Hans and Ryan at Shaw’s

With a breakfast known to be one of the best on the Appalachian Trail, comfortable beds, and understanding management I’ve frequented Shaw’s many times. Now closed for the season, Poet and Hippie Chic welcomed us to leave our cars there for the 5 days that we’d be out.

THE RIDE (maps/data indicated below are from Strava)

Day 1- Shaws (Monson) to Phoenix shelter (@ AMC Little Lyford map). 23.6 miles and 1,942’ elevation gain. 37°/10:40 AM

Elliotsville Road–> Bodfish Valley Rd.–> Unnamed Rd.–> Morkill Rd.–>  Katahdin Ironworks Rd.–>  Trout Brook Trail –>  Phoenix Shelter

 

After our drive up that morning, we didn’t leave Shaw’s until 11 AM, but we were able to cover our miles before the darkness settled in.   I was initially shocked by the handling of my 2010 Surly Pugsley as I labored under the most weight I’ve ever carried bike packing.  The bike’s frame was flexing and moving about as we made short work of the first paved section.

Initially, we made decent time over the paved Elliotsville Road first heading north, then northeast. My Surly Pugsley’s frame wobbled as I eventually became used to the effects of carrying big weight on a steel frame. We had some mild ups that were no problem for the tiny granny gear on the original 3-chainring setup I retain on my 3.8″ fat-tire Pugs.

Our first break was on a bridge overlooking Big Wilson Stream near an intersection that led to Mountain Road and the parking area for the trail up Borestone Mountain (1981’).

You also encounter a railroad track in the immediate area. Here we left the road proper and explored a lightly traveled section of exposed ledge where the steepness gradient increased to 22%.  Hike-a-bike time for me.    Later, Hans was skirting this icy slush pit when he fell in.

Wet already

The pushing was hard until we made a right turn just south of Rum Pond and connected with the Greenville Road, which we rode east into AMC’s Little Lyford-Chairback winter trails. Our destination, the Phoenix Shelter at Trout Pond was reached via a 0.9 mile turn south.

Our experience at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Phoenix Shelter was very satisfactory.

Phoenix shelter with tipi out back

The 8-person lean-to was clean and included a view of Long Pond.

The outhouse was clean, had a fresh roll of toilet paper in a plastic container, and even a bottle of hand sanitizer. There were one canoe and two kayaks complete with paddles for use.  

Beneath the overhanging roof at the rear of the lean-to we were overjoyed to find dry newspaper, kindling, numerous dead and dried branches, and even split hardwood firewood.

I volunteered to make dinner for all of us this first night. Each of us prepared one supper for three, with Ryan volunteering the extra night. Ryan also broke through the half-inch of ice that had already formed on Long and to fill the two on-site plastic buckets. My meal included roasted salted nuts (appetizer), Portuguese Caldo Verde soup, 1/3 a loaf of multigrain bread and butter for each, with Brad Bars for dessert.

Hot soup !

Brad Purdy was kind enough to stop by my house to grace me with a large bag of his megagood energy bars a couple of days before I went on the trip.

I slept in my heated tipi here. Hans and Ryan visited after dinner and hung out in the delicious warmth, which did double duty at drying out my damp clothes from the cord I set up in the peak of the tipi.  A side benefit is that the stove/ pipe dries out the day’s clothing resulting in less on the bike. The Seek Outside tipi is a four-person model (only in the warmer weather).  When you put the stove in and run the stovepipe up through the peak of the tent the space shrinks down to 2-person space, particularly given the increased gear needed to survive for several nights in the winter Maine woods.

It requires just a single 7 foot collapsible carbon fiber pole, and no floor. You provide your own groundcloth. I used the metal rake that was in the shelter to bare the ground in a 12 foot diameter circle. When the stove itself was put in place, I took extra time to clear away any dry leaves and other combustible organic matter that could be ignited by the heat from the glowing coals on the bottom of the stove.  As if I needed any more creature comfort, I found a decent plastic camp chair that was in the shelter that I brought into the tent and sat by the radiant wood stove where I lulled myself to slumber reading The Essential Lewis and Clark.

Day 2 Phoenix to Wadleigh Pond shelters=

35.8  miles,  2,227 ‘ elevation gain,   36°/ 8:00 AM

Trout Brook TR.–>Long pond Rd.–> Katahdin Iron Works Rd.–> East Side Rd.–>Frenchtown Rd.–> Big Springs Rd.–> Roach Pond Rd.–> Namakhanta Rd.–>Wadleigh Pond Rd.


We rode for six hours today, eventually reaching a large campsite with two 8-person Adirondack shelters flanking a huge stone fireplace and chimney that remained from a former cabin on the site. Daylight savings time brought darkness in at 4:30.  The weather today was sub-par, with light rain off and on and active snow at the higher elevations, which came in our first two hours of travel.

Today we entered the Nahmaknta Public Lands with 43,000 acres of forest and low mountains. 

Continue reading “Moosehead Bikepacking Adventure”