Still Slots Open for your Local October Adventure !

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures Trip- Camden Hills State Park, Camden, Maine–Dates: October 23-25, 2015
We’ll hike into the Ski Shelter scenically set amidst birch, maple, and balsam forest on a Friday afternoon.

Ski Shelter

Ski Shelter

We will hike out on Sunday.  The shelter is located approximately 2.5 miles inside Camden Hills State Park. While the focus of this trip will be on backpacking cooking, the weekend will also serve as an opportunity for anyone without backpacking experience to “taste” what it’s like to walk on some beautiful trails and spend a couple of nights in a back country setting in a tidy spot in the woods.

I will be giving a more in-depth course in cooking with home made multifuel ( wood, alcohol, solid fuel tablts) stoves on Saturday night. I will provide the tools, materials, and fuel to allow each person to to make, cook on, and then go home with their own multifuel backpacking cook stove, complete with custom titanium air mixing base plate.

Home made multi-fuel backpacking stove

Camden Hills has 25 miles of excellent trails, including the summit of Mount Megunticook (1,385’). Megunticook is a nearly three mile long mountain ridge extending out to Ocean Lookout which overlooks the expanse of Penobscot Bay. During the day, participants will be on their own to explore the park, or we can group up, if folks choose that option instead.

I am most familiar with the Park’s trails and can provide participants with insight about my personal favorite hikes.
I encourage folks who have iPhones to acquire the $3.99 Camden Hills Hiker app, which is also available in an Android application. We’ll become familiar with the App’s features, and use it to stay “found”.
This trip is permitted for up to 5 participants.  The wood-stove heated shelter has 6 bunk beds, but no mattresses, so participants will need to bring their own sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and personal gear. We will purify water from a stream, and there is a clean outhouse adjacent to the wood-heated shelter.  I can help provide items, like packs  and sleeping pads and bags, if necessary.

Price drop! $100.  Includes lodging/usage fees for 2 nights, and food for Saturday night’s dinner that we will prepare on multi-fuel backpacking stoves. I will send you a packing list.

Contact Information:
207-230-4156 cell, texts.  Your  reservation can be secured with a 50% deposit via mail (to Tom Jamrog, 290 High St., Lincolnville, ME 04849).

ABOUT ME:   I am a Registered Maine Guide.  As a Maine Guide, I adhere to a code of ethics, provide quality service, promote safety, and have trained to be prepared to handle any potential problems.   My professional credentials include Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Nationally Certified School Psychologist. My background and training has prepared me for assisting clients to engage in a successful wilderness experience by bolstering mental preparedness as well as advising clients about gear selection and on-trail techniques.

IMG_2896 I am a Triple Crown Backpacker who has thru-hiked  the three major long distance US National Scenic Trails:  Appalachian (2007), Pacific Crest (2010), and Continental Divide Trails (2013).

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Join me on a Microadventure: Sunday’s Harvest Moon/ Supermoon/Lunar Eclipse

Local adventure opportunity !

Lunar eclipse

Lunar eclipse

Anyone up for a #microadventure to check out the Harvest Moon/ “Supermoon”/ and total lunar eclipse tomorrow night (Sunday, Sept. 27)?



As Alistair Humphreys states in Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes,  “A microadventure is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and 100% guaranteed to refresh your life.  A microadventure takes the spirit of a big adventure and squeezes it into a day or even a few hours.”

The Harvest Moon in 2015 comes on the night of September 27. It’s also a supermoon, and the closest the moon will come to earth this year.  What’s more, this Harvest Moon will stage a total lunar eclipse on Sunday night.

According to my stargazing brother-in-law Gene, ”The total eclipse will start at 10:11 p.m. EDT Sunday evening and will last one hour and 12 minutes.”

This particular astronomical situation hasn’t happened in 33 years, and won’t for another 18 years.

Good background, including a video here.

I plan to watch it all unfold come up over Penobscot Bay from the top of Bald Rock Mountain in Camden Hills State Park. I’ll head up after supper, starting from the Steven’s Corner lot at 6:30 pm.  Should be able to reach the top by dark.

If you also plan to head up, definitely bring a headlamp.

I also plan to sleep up there and make it down early enough to get to work on Monday, so I’ll be packing a sleeping bag, ground mat, and a bivvy bag.  There’s a campfire ring in front of the lean-to as well.  That might happen, too.  It is only a 2 mile walk from the parking lot to the top, so if someone wanted to, they could go up and down on Sunday night.  I don’t rush any more.

There are flat spots on top that can serves as tent sites, and floor of the worn-down lean-to just below the top can serve as a sheltered space as well.

The weather could not be better for the viewing on Sunday night:  clear skies and low in the 50’s .

Who is in?

Sponsored by Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures


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Summer’s End: Fall Comes On Stage

Maine woodland

Maine woodland

It’s finally happened.  The heat and humidity that have been making me lazy are gone. It was 45 degrees here in Maine this morning, and the sticky wet thickness in the air went vamoose.

I want to move again. Before breakfast, and not yet 6 AM, I am out the door and trekking down through the acreage of newly mowed fields around my house to re-establish an overgrown trail.

I placed myself on a fitness program this year to average an hour a day, walking fast or riding hard, almost exclusively in the woods here on the Maine coast.

The forest in part of town is riddled with ancient roads and snowmobile trails.

Cleared trail

Cleared trail

In cases when these places are used when there is snow, foot powered passage during the summer and fall seasons is relatively possible.

Abandoned road

Abandoned road

For the past two weeks, I have been clearing trees and brush from a mountain biking loop that is now up 10 miles long. Just to be clear, that’s 10 miles from rolling our my garage and back in.

Wild blueberry field

Wild blueberry field

It is over superb woodland, granite ledges, through wild blueberry fields, beside ancient spreading oaks and maples, with the chance to hop off the bike at then end and take a dip in one of couple of crystal clear ponds.

Levensellar Pond

Levensellar Pond

It won’t last. The light is already dying.

First time in Levensellar this summer, maybe my last?

Posted in Bicycling, Fitness, hiking | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility- my book review

My friend Brad gave me this book as a gift. The last two books that I received from him were gems: Journeys of Simplicity by Philip Harnden and Imrov Wisdom:Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. This is a companion piece to those two superb books. These two books have been essential aids to my understanding of the universe for the past two years.

I recently became aware of Dr. Langer’s work. She is best known for a unique 1979 study of nursing home residents. A group of research psychologists from Harvard University placed a group of eight men who were in their late 70’s to early 80’s into a controlled setting for a one week study. The participants moved into an old monastery after a series of baseline psychological and physical tests were administered. The setting was retrofitted to “replicate” 1959. The group living there were instructed to go about their lives as if the present was 1959. A control group of 8 went on a second retreat in exactly the same setting a week later but aspects of the second condition were altered to reflect more present day issues and topics. Post testing revealed greater improvement for the target group, not only on physiological measures ( height, weight, gait, and posture), but demonstrated improvement on IQ tests, and even differences in pre and post-test facial photographs. Since then the study has been replicated in three other countries.

I was aware that Dr. Langer has been associated with several psychological studies on Transcendental Mediation and aging from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Those findings reported benefits for the elderly from TM practice, which included: increased longevity; increased cognitive flexibility; improved mental health; and reduction of blood pressure. I have been practicing TM for the past 45 years.

The gist of this book is that word choices in speech and written material, choices in decision making, or even slight changes in the physical environment can improve health and well-being. It urges readers to question medical advice from doctors (which I take to include Langer), particularly in the area of diagnostics. Langer explains why medical decisions tend to rest on uncertainty, that doctors are sometimes wrong or sometimes overstate their case, and that they use language with patients that can be viewed as being manipulative.

This is a hopeful book, and should encourage people to wake up and becoming a more genuine, thinking person. There are increasing levels of bullshit that are affecting our quality of life, and this book is one tool that could assist you with making better sense out of a puzzling overload of information.

Thanks, Brad, for helping me to fill my toolbox. You have inspired me to lighten up, looosen up, and now smarten up.

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A Walk in the Woods: My Movie Review

I attended the opening night screening here on Sept. 11 in mid-coast Maine, where a good-sized audience of seasoned moviegoers were in the vast majority.
Big names are associated with this production: Bryson, Redford, and Nolte. The movie was based on the 1998 best selling book of the same name, written by Bill Bryson. I consider the book to be a gem. It is funny, and chock full of factoids about the AT itself, although those departures from the interchanges between the main characters are the book’s only weak point.

When I thru-hiked the AT in 2007, just about everyone I met who found out that I was hiking asked me, “Did you read a Walk in the Woods?” It was that popular then, and with this movie now, too.

Robert Redford bought the film rights, and stars as Bryson in the movie. In the book, both Bryson and Katz are in their mid forties. Redford just turned 79, and Nolte is 74 this year. That’s a bit of an issue, but not a major one, for me. I’m old, too !

There were rumors in 2007 that the movie was being put together, however with Paul Newman cast as Katz, the overweight, alcoholic, womanizer portrayed in the book. But Newman died in 2008. A reunion of Redford and Newman, who were devastatingly correct together in both “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting,” might have transcended this weak production.

In 2007, a reputable source told me that that he had a trail encounter with Bryson, who revealed that he made up Katz, who was interjected into Bryson’s trail journal in order to bolster the appeal of the book to a broader audience. Daily journals of long distance trail thru-hikes don’t end up as best sellers.

I suspect the same literary license is what made Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” possible as a best-seller, another book where the author initially plans to thru-hike over 2,200 miles but ends up skipping many long sections and ends up hiking 800 miles instead. That best-selling book was propelled by a huge public relations machine that I wrote about in my 2012 book review.  . In Strayed’s case I believe that she dug out her 1995 Trail journal from her Pacific Crest Trail adventure once she became a famous writer and decided to bolster that dated account with additional “ footage” from her past.  Brilliant.  And then came Oprah.

This movie details a middle-aged man’s quest to rerun to a simpler life, where multitasking is nonexistent. But Bryson’s worried wife insists that he find someone to walk with him, so that he would be safe. He finds a partner, but he’s probably less safe with his choice. Hiking in 2015, Bryson would have gotten away with purchasing a Spot GPS tracker that he would have clipped to his pack , where an e-mail message would reach his wife nightly, complete with a map of his present location.

Back in 1998, enters Bryson’s sidekick Katz, who is the saving grace of the movie. He’s a believable character, a highly imperfect being who stumbles and mumbles his way into your heart, where is drooping moist blue eyes ring true.

Emma Thompson plays Bryson’s wife, and she does a very adequate job at carrying out that role.

The real disappointment in the movie was Redford, who comes across as stiff, bewildered, and distant throughout.

Being from Maine, I was looking forward to the segment where Bryson and Katz hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, which in the book, proved too daunting for them to complete. The movie never makes it to Maine.

Being an experienced AT hiker, I was on the lookout for authentic details on and about the Trail. Certainly, the footage of the AT in the movie was mostly all true Trail (with no New England portions), and those scenes were sumptuous. But, apparently numerous details weren’t important enough for the producer to get right. Here are a few missteps:

1) Trekking poles do no good when they are lashed to the sides of one’s pack, especially when the hiker is negotiating rocky stream crossings.
2) Big Agnes sleeping bags were not around in 1998.
3) If a hiker wears one pair of off-white pants for 800 miles those pants are not clean or devoid of rips.
4) Hikers are often balls of grime.  These two are too clean.
5) Real hikers always like to show off their bandaged, bloody, blistered feet. There was none of that here.
6) The walking scenes would have been more believable if the packs had actual weight in them. Packs that big are very heavy and difficult to even lift off the ground. Huge packs don’t get picked up with one hand and then lightly flipped onto one’s shoulder.
7) There are no grizzlies east of the Rockies.

The ending of the movie was weak as well. It just trickled out. I wasn’t even sure that was it, but then the lights came on and people started walking out. And then the credits began rolling out ,and some amazing scenery of the AT began to unfold. Do stay after the movie itself is over and get a feel for the majesty of the AT.

NOTE: Not one to be known as a whiner, I offer the reader a couple of alternative video experiences of the Appalachian Trail. I have two recommendations for those readers who would like a more authentic rendering how a real AT thru-hike works.

If you want to weep:
5 Million Steps is the 1st video by filmmaker Lynne Whelden. It is an older film,  1987, but the AT is still the AT.  The movie profiles 14 hikers on the Appalachian Trail, whose  personal stories will strike a chord with all those who dream about long distance hiking or who have done it and want to relive the adventure.

If you want to laugh:
The three DVD AT series by filmmaker Scott “Squatch” Herriott as he, “ attempts to hike the entire 2,100+ mile-long Appalachian Trail in one hiking season while simultaneously searching for the interesting, inspiring, sometimes whacked-out and always dirt-laden folk who make up the long-distance hiking community.”
Squatch’s initial plan was altered significantly once he experienced just how rough the AT was on his body.  Squatch’s AT completion took him three years, yielding three DVD’s: Flip Flop Flippin’, Flip Flop Flippin’ 2, and Flip Flop Flipped.

[Disclaimer: I was a financial supporter for Squatch’s Flipped series via Kickstarter, but receive no remuneration, or consideration from that donation. ]

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Backpacking | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A Walk in the Woods | Local Opening- September 11, 2015

I’ve got my tickets in hand for Friday night’s opening here in Midcoast Maine- at the Thomaston Flagship Cinemas. My review will follow.

Official movie site for A Walk in the Woods, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

Click  here for  trailer–> Trailer & Movie Site

PS –    For a much more intense hiking movie- I really liked Beyond the Edge, a 2013 DVD from Netflix.  11178831_ori This movie totally works- a focused replay of Hillary’s 1953 ascent of Mt. Everest.  The original recordings and photos combine with stunning vistas and tight production to cut to the quick.  A beekeeper and humble high altitude Sherpa ( Tenzing) walk into history.

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My ups (and some downs) with Strava

I began tracking my biking, hiking, and walking efforts with  the Strava app on Christmas day back in  2011.  According to their website, “Strava lets you track your rides and runs via your iPhone, Android or dedicated GPS device and helps you analyze and quantify your performance. Strava provides motivation and camaraderie”.

I had been using the free version of the program until Dec. 31 of this year when I decided to pony up the $59 a year Premium fee and avail myself of the additional features at that level.  Three Premium features that I have used so far include GPX file downloads and transfers. I have not yet downloaded any other hiker or rider routes to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS, but plan to do so in the next few months.

I also sometimes strap on my Garmin chest monitor and record my heart rate, which converts to a Suffer Score, which quantifies my suffering and allows me to visualize exactly how hard I have worked on a particular hike or ride. My most intense workouts yield a a special class of Points in the Red.  My Polish suffering gene interfaces well with the Suffer Score.

But the one feature that convinced me to pay for the use of the program is the ability for me to set goals and monitor them.  On Jan. 1 of this year, I took the advice of my son Lincoln, where I set a goal of 1 hour a day of either biking, walking, or backpacking for the whole year.  Strava allows you to set goals for distance or time.

I religiously track my progress week over week.  Simply put, I need 7 hours a week to stay on track.  I often take a day off between particularly hard workouts to recover, and things come up so it’s good to have some way of sticking with the program, even it it is an hour a day.  I often put in a longer ride or hike a few hours at the end of any week where I was slacking  in the beginning.

Here’s one of the visual presentations that has encapsulated my progress from Jan. 1, 2015 up to today:

Hourly achievement to date ( 2015)

Hourly achievement to date ( 2015)

As a psychologist, I am awed by the power of the reinforcement of this cart- to me.  To others, it may mean nothing.  This is the real data deal.

What is also satisfying about the program is the ability of Strava to aggregate data and present it in a manner that compares not only hourly progress, but progress within repeated walks, hikes, or rides.

There are stories about individuals that become obsessed about moving up the rankings for speed on segments of popular rides.  For instance, there is a Strava segment of the climb up Moody Mountain Road, which is just 1.2 miles from my doorway.  There are 87 people that have recorded their effort climbing this 1.8 mile section of 4% grade of 383 feet of elevation gain.  All are ranked in order, and there is one King of the Mountain on the top of the list.    I am not motivated by moving up the list, but I am motivated by knowing that I  am improving on my own performance.

For 2015, I am shocked and pleased  to see that I have broken 67 personal records,  when I compare my times since Dec. 2011.  Most of the time, I feel that I do pretty well out there, but there are days like yesterday when I nearly bonked on a ride that we call The Bog From The Pit.  Here’s that data:

Sunday ride

Sunday ride

But I didn’t totally crash and burn out there yesterday. If I had lost my mojo and landed on the ground in a weeping heap, then either Rigger or Kevin would have picked me up and helped me out.  I really enjoy riding with these Bubbas in the Woods, a group of Midcoast Maine faithful who have included me in their thrice weekly mountain bikes rides for close to 30 years now.

Bubbas in The Bog

Bubbas in The Bog

The big picture is what Strava offers me, and I like it.

Between Strava and The Bubbas, I am still moving along.

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