My First Bike Commute of the Year

Great read from one of my favorite Maine writers.  It’s a glimpse of the freedom of early morning on a Mt.  Desert Island microadventure. 

maine: the way life turned out

I wake up at 4am and start looking out my French doors into the darkness of my backyard. It should take me about an hour, I keep telling myself, the last time I biked from Bar Harbor to the Parkman lot it took me a hair over an hour. Yet that was a couple years ago, and I am acutely aware of the softness of my body. I had only rode my bike for the first time the evening before, and I worried what I was about to attempt was more a reflection of my ambition than my ability. Part of me just figured my ability would soon catch up to my ambition, and I would just let the two work themselves out.

While I waited for a hint of light, I dressed for as if for a winter’s hike: long underwear, layers of shirts to wick away sweat, and…

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When a Mile and a Half is Enough

My Ice Cream Truck is back from the bike shop.  The big, black, two-wheeled tractor has suited me well on the 10 mile loop that I put together for myself on this Patriot’s Day holiday here in Maine.
The bike went to the shop after my 4.7” 45N Dunderbeist rear tire sported a two inch tear right along the rim line last Thursday night on Ragged Mountain.  It wasn’t my fault. The tire had 161 miles on it.

This

This

I hit nothing that tore it.  It just failed.  Luckily I was not running tubeless. I was sporting a minor bulge, due to the 6 pounds of pressure I had in the tube.
My upgraded tire is the improved version of the Dunderbeist, with the same grippy tread pattern as before, along with additional interior layers of fabric that were added to the sidewall. Under warranty for the next two years, there was also no charge for mounting either.  Thanks, Sidecountry Sports, and 45North for the quick service.   I am ready to roll again.

I continue to be interested in backpacking, hiking, and riding my bike close to home. Since I  have read Microadventures, I have experienced increasing satisfaction in my outdoor recreational activities. I have also been outside almost every day.  The radius of my path today was just a mile and a half, yet it took me thirty-nine years to discover two distinct segments of today’s ride. Yes, I have mountain bike trails from right out my door. I have NEVER seen anyone else riding this loop other than when I  meet up with snowmobile riders, but that might not ever happen some winters.

Here’s one of the views on this ride, this one not 10 minutes ride from my driveway.

Hidden pond

Hidden pond

On the abandoned Martin Corner Road, there are often these large waterholes that linger after any hard rain. Martin  My riding pal Andy Hazen rides though here often. He tells a story about escaping the jaws of a snapping turtle that was hanging out in one of these pools a couple of years ago.

After ascending the steep section of Moody Mountain Road, the middle of this ride is along and around the French Road that runs north along the back side of Moody Mountain toward Levensellar Pond.  This loop is the product of decades of my clearing and connecting the old snowmobile trails.

Here are a couple of shots of an old woods road that loops off the French Road.

Pretty clean

Pretty clean

Headed out

A blow down blocks the trail ahead, where I have cut a go-around that hardly visible to the unschooled eye.

Make no mistake, this loop requires at least two and a half miles of climbing.  After the ascent up to the high point on Moody Mountain Road, the climbing continues along a woods road that almost reaches the ridge above High Street.

One more climb off the Muzzy Ridge Road leads to  a huge blueberry expanse that comes with a view of the Atlantic beyond. FullSizeRender 11

The end of the ride includes three miles of descent, part of which is freshly maintained snowmobile trail that leads off the blueberry field, where it twists and turns its way back down to High Street and then back to my house.  I have been hiking it for a few times before today. This is the first time that I have ridden this segment.  Unfortunately, a new blow down really needs a chain saw to clear it out.  I plan to bring along a small hand saw next time to clear a route around the blow down.

Sometimes, going around is better than forging ahead.

selfie

Thank you,  Strava.

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Desperate Steps: Life Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast- my book review

images-2   Desperate Steps is the late 2015 book release from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The subtitle is “Life, Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast”.  I just finished my second close reading.

The book is a sobering account of twenty hiker, swimmer, canoeist, and camper tragedies.  The earliest dates to 1963, when the first of 22 known fatalities was recorded in Baxter State Park.

When I was a young man, and an active member of the University of Massachusetts Outing Club during 1967-197, I faithfully read accounts and critiques about the latest mountaineering and caving tragedies in the pages of Appalachia, a twice-yearly magazine published by the AMC.  The magazine continues a regular feature – “Accidents: Analysis of Incidents in the White Mountains”.  In the Accidents section, experts dissect the actual sequence of events that led to rescues, and frequent death.  I read those stories in order to learn from the mistakes of others in the hope that I would not become an updated statistic.
This book follows that same successful format. The first part of each story includes photos and annotated maps of the actual events. Each account concludes with an Aftermath, where the author, Peter W. Kick, deconstructs, analyzes, and examines the details.  Most of the individuals that survived their ordeals were willing to be interviewed for the book.
Being from Maine, I paid particular attention the four reports of deaths in Baxter State Park.

The publication of this book was timely for me.  In the depths of winter, sitting by the wood stove, I like to read adventure stories that outdoor folks post online.  In fact, it is often difficult to read between the lines and see who is smart, and who is just spouting dumb.

For example, this past winter, I was on a quest to put together the perfectly outfitted day pack. I wanted be ready for most any accident or emergency, even the possibility of having to spend the night outdoors. This book’s Appendix features an updated list of the Ten Essentials, the proven, must-have items for safe back country travel. My own day pack’s final contents were guided by this list.  However, not everyone who ventures into the outdoor world of mysteries and pitfalls believes in carrying a well-stocked day pack.
There is a subset of wilderness adventurers who have taken the concept of going fast and light to extremes. Andrew Skurka came out with the term “stupid light” to describe the practice of sacrificing crucial survival items and comfort levels to shave some weight. Skurka has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic Adventure, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker.   Here’s Skurka’s original article:  Stupid Light.

I was stunned to read some of the reader comments that I encountered in my research about a proper winter day pack. Here’s one of the most misguided statements, “ I know a lot of people who go out to travel in the wilderness.  Not one of them has even had any serious problem.  You don’t need all that stuff if you know what your are doing out there.”
History permeates the book. The earliest fatalities occurred before many of modern supports were in place, before there were any organized search and rescue (SAR) organizations, when hurricane forecasting was just starting, and when communications were much more limited than today.

One story from 2003 was about the first private person in the USA to buy and activate a personal locator beacon (PLB).  Despite his good intentions, the protagonist ended up requiring not one, but two helicopter rescues out of Adirondack Park in November, while deer hunting out of a canoe. He ended up spending $10,000 after his arrest and imprisonment for two counts of falsely reporting an incident.

The book is grouped into 4 chapters: Unprepared, Know the Route, Taking Risks, and Unexpected.    The final chapter is about Inchworm’s mysterious death 3,000 feet off the AT near Sugarloaf Mountain.  An editor’s note from Oct. 15, 2015 brings the reader to date on locating her skeletal remains, found in a tent within 100 yards of where cadaver scent-trained dogs searched previously.

What’s the take from this book?

Fatigue reigns high. Baxter’s records indicate that most exhaustion cases occur while descending, with the majority of fatalities resulting from medical emergencies. The age group most requiring Search and Rescue is 60 and above.

The book was required reading for this Maine Guide, and should be studied by any person who puts a pack on their back or in their canoe and ventures out into the wilds of the Northeastern USA.

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Ancient Indian Highways in Knox County- Kerry Hardy- April 10 | Camden Public Library

Local historian and cultural anthropologist, Kerry Hardy,  is giving a presentation at the Camden Library.  Hardy’s topic will be the old Indian highways and roads of the early days in Knox County.

Matt Silerio, Tom Jamrog, and Rosey Gerry “Some of my co-conspirators for the field trips required by this hobby,” said Kerry Hardy, “are Matt Silverio (L) and Tom Jamrog (R) in background; Rosey Gerry in foreground, on a mid-winter trip up around Zeke’s Lookout in Camden Hills State Park.”

Hardy is the author of Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki.    Hardy’s topic will be the old Indian highways and roads of the early days in Knox County. Hardy brings together his expertise in forestry, horticulture, and environmental science to tell us about New England when its primary inhabitants were the native Wabanaki tribes.

In addition to his work on Indians of this region, Hardy is part of a local group which has been studying early paths and roads of this area, and their relation to settlement and subsequent land use patterns. Come hear his discussion of those roads and how they relate to the present day.

Hardy’s book and lectures are presented in an entertaining and accessible style, making them of interest and useful to adults and students alike.

Source: Upcoming Events Camden-Rockport Historical Society Hosts Kerry Hardy April 10 | Camden Public Library

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Treating Depression with Meditation Plus Running

My digital subscription to the The New York Times often leads me to think about health and fitness.  This recent article about treating mood disorders through meditation combined with running is interesting.  Here’s the primary source for my comments :  Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression – The New York Times

images-1A disclaimer- I am a long term meditator.  I continue to practice Transcendental Meditation for an hour a day, as I have for the past for 44 years (two half-hour sessions daily).   I was also fortunate to have had the opportunity to have acquired several advanced TM meditation techniques.

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I am also a fitness buff.  OK, I’m a fitness nut.  Since Jan. 1, 2016 I’ve averaged an 80 minute daily workout just about every day ( 84 sessions in three months). I am blessed to live in this time in history where we have something like the Strava Premium app that allow me to monitor my activity level and keep it up. I can’t recommend Strava enough!  It has been immensely useful to me in improving my engagement with the outdoors.  Here is  one of my 2016  training records graphics that is reinforcement for my continuing bicycling and hiking/jogging practice:

screenshot 18Check out the reader’s comments section after finishing the NYTimes article.

As one reader thoughtfully points out, the answers to some of the concluding questions in the article are already well established, and have been for thousands of years.

The science of yoga established that exercises and breathing techniques are performed in preparation for meditation.   When I was taught TM , we were also encouraged to engage in a brief 15 minute program of asanas (postures)  followed by a few minutes of pranayama (breathing techniques) before closing our eyes to start the practice.

Another way to think about the relationship between the two is this: rigorous exercise engages the fight/flight response, while meditation affects the parasympathetic nervous system ( reductions in blood pressure, breathing , heart rate).

Over the many years that I have been pairing exercise and meditation, I have gone both routes. At this point in my life I generally have a vigorous workout, then shower, and sit to practice a half hour of TM.  In my opinion, my meditation feels deeper than when I meditate first and then go at it outside.

My critique of this study is the same as my critique of other studies about meditation.  Many of these studies assign the term “meditation” to a broad range of mental practices  that have little in common with each other.  Some are concentration techniques, some are ” thinking about thinking”,  and at this point, I can tell you that what I am doing is  neither.  I can assure you, it is definitely not “hard work”, as one of the commenters states.

We are all exploring our own personal alternatives to stay on top of the tsunami of depression that modern society engenders.

I suggest you will need to do your own research, listen to your body, measure, and act accordingly.  But do take action, and consider pulling back the bow with a form of meditation that is enchanting enough that you might even continue the practice.

 

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My Birthday Weekend- Hiking The Hills

Exiting the car in the iced-over parking lot on Friday afternoon I decided to leave my Stabilicer traction devices in the vehicle. 

My brother Roy was already walking on the multi-purpose trail and he shouted over, “No ice here” so in they went. I hate carrying extra weight and with all the pierogis, kielbasa, and my 8 person car-camping cook set bloating my pack I was well into 30 plus pounds on my back.  Stabilicers would have helped this weekend.

I started humping up the big hill.  Auntie Mame was walking beside me, decked out in her rain poncho.  My brother Roy was up ahead, as he was for most of the weekend’s hikes.

Mame and Roy embracing the real world of backpacking

Mame and Roy embracing the real world of backpacking

Less than a half-mile up the hill, we encountered the two lead hikers in our party, Kristi and David Kirkham, who love their granddaughter’s baby carriage so much that they use it any chance that they can !

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No child was smothered on this hike

It was alternately sleeting and raining, so the following 9 miles were a slush walk.

Walking in cold rain at under 40 degrees is a setup for hypothermia. Once again, I was slightly under dressed:  two thin merino undershirts- one short  and one long sleeved, and a ratty, old Patagonia Specter rain shell holding it all together. In these conditions, I have to have something covering my hands. Today, the fix was waterproof mitten shells with felted wool mittens liners.

Who cares? We are staying in a cabin heated by a wood stove. Wet clothes will be dried out. Miles were traveled.  Old friends are also with me.

After we dropped off  our packs at the shelter, I accompanied Auntie Mame out to the alternate parking lot.

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A Prudently Prepared Auntie Mame (Note poles, poncho, Stabilicers on her feet, and a hat!)

We were bringing in the last member of our overnight party. Both of us decided to accompany Ann Breyfogle on her walk in to join us.

Those two ladies had no problem walking up yet another big hill and making a couple of more miles as the foggy evening light started to fade.
Mame and Ann heading to shelter

For me, this weekend was also about hiking, and my plan for Saturday was to roll the walking odometer over into double digits for the day. I am fortunate enough to still have people who not only want to do this with me, but have the ability to make it happen.

Ann, Pat Hurley, and my brother Roy joined me.  Here is a photo taken at the today’s high point atop Mt. Megunticook.

Roy , Ann, and Pat

Roy , Ann, and Pat

Unfortunately there are no views from the summit so we descended on the often icy Ridge Trail.

Pat, making good use of his trekking poles on the ice

Pat, making good use of his trekking poles on the ice

We quickly reached the highly popular Ocean Lookout.

Pat pointing to his house in Rockland

Pat pointing to his house in Rockland

From here we descended to the junction of the Jack Williams Trail, which we followed for two miles where we came back onto the Ridge Trail.  I showed the group a short cut that eliminated a dangerously icy incline at the start of Zeke’s, which we took back to the Multipurpose Trail and the end of our day’s hike.  Here’s the morning’s Strava data:

screenshot 17The 5.5 mile hike took us two hours, which was super good time for the often icy path.   After an afternoon of reading, sleeping, and gabbing, Roy, Pat and I decided to take a night hike up to the top of Bald Rock Mountain.  Here are Pat and Roy, just before the sun left u in darkness.

What's up in that tree?

What’s up in that tree?

Kristi told us the moon rise over the Atlantic would not happen until 10:30 PM. She was absolutely correct. Although the starlight was astounding, we did need headlamps on the way down off Bald Rock and back to our shelter, where we added another 5 miles to our tally for the day.

Despite the crappy weather getting in on Friday, the weekend was a huge success.  If any of you know Ann, ask her about Uncle Tom’s uncanny ability to psychically locate lost car keys, including her’s.  I’d also like to thank John Bangeman for his Saturday visit, and a huge shout out to Martha Conway-Cole for guiding Pat and the rest of us through a most excellent, best ever, Saturday morning breakfast.

Special thanks also to Milllie’s PierogisTrouble Coffee, Leki Trekking poles, and this specialty paeo food that we consumed on on Saturday morning:

It's Bacon!

It’s Bacon!

My 2016 birthday present to myself was a weekend hanging with my brother, wife, and great outdoor adventure pals in ascending 3179 vertical feet in 21 miles.

Microadventure accomplished!

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Jamrogs left, Kirkhams right. Plus Hurley and the carriage.

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2016 Backpacking Schedule- Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures

Guided Backpacking Schedule 2016

June 7- July 6, 2016   Private backpacking trip

August 15-19, 2016Half of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

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General Lee, Queso, and Denny dog

Suitable to those with limited backpacking experience.  We will walk 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail on this remote section of the AT in Maine. This trip will take in the 50 miles from Monson to approximate 100 Mile Wilderness mid-point.
This adventure will take approximately 5 days (4 nights). We’ll stay in lean-tos, and/or tents, space permitting.
Price Includes: Ground transportation from Lincolnville, ME, packing list, and skills instruction.  Meal assistance is available by arrangement.   Gear rental is an option.  Rentals Available: Backpack, trekking poles, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad.
I can also help arrange your stay at local accommodations, which may include the night before & after your expedition. Up to 1 hour of pre-trip preparation consultation (via phone) is provided to participants.
Group size will be limited.
Price: $500
Link: My 2014 Half the Hundred Mile Wilderness blog report

September 2-10, 2016 The Whole Hundred ! (Mile Wilderness) (Monson-Abol Bridge)

Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness is a huge, largely uninhabited region, beginning on the outskirts of Monson,ME. Many thru-hikers consider Maine the best part of the whole 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail.  The Hundred Mile Wilderness appears on many hiker’s Bucket List.    This trip will take place over 9 nights and 10 hiking days, allowing for ample time to settle into a comfortable and reasonable schedule.We will take advantage of a mid-point resupply service, so that we will not need to carry food for the whole 10 days. This trip will be suitable for a hiker who is able to carry 30 pounds on a 10 mile average per day. If you are interested in this trip but are not sure about your abilities and match for this hike, contact me to discuss.  We’ll stay in lean-tos, and/or tents, space permitting.

Price Includes:  -Ground transportation from Lincolnville ME, packing list, and skills instruction.  Meal assistance is available by arrangement.
-Up to 2 hours of pre-trip preparation consultation (via phone) is provided to participants.  -I can also help arrange your stay at local accommodations, which might include the night before & after your expedition.    Additional cost for mid-point resupply is not known at this time.   Group size will be limited.
Price: $900
Rentals Available:  Backpack, trekking poles, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad.

ME: Registered Maine Guide, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Certified School Psychologist. I am also a Triple Crown Backpacker who has successfully thru-hiked over 8,000 miles on the three major long distance US trails- Appalachian Trail (2007), Pacific Crest Trail (2010), Continental Divide Trails (2013).IMG_2896 Successful backpacking requires engaging in a learning curve that is populated with multiple discomforting experiences. That list is agonizingly long: blisters, foot pain, shin splints, knee issues, dehydration, hypothermia, falls, burns, cuts, wild animal encounters, giardia, poisonous plants, and more. Too many of these experiences clumped together have the potential to cut short one’s hopes to connect with the actual experience of engaging in the natural world. I know what works.   My unique background and training has prepared me for assisting clients, both novice and experienced, to prepare for a successful wilderness experience by bolstering mental preparedness as well as advising clients about gear selection and on-trail techniques.

P1030010 We learn best by watching and then doing. More experienced backpackers can sharpen their own skills and gain “an edge” by watching and learning from a hiker who has accumulated over 10,000 hours in mastering the extensive skill set of this unique solo sport.

Private guided trips are also available by arrangement. If you have a Bucket List that includes backpacking, consider the advantages of contracting with me to help assure your success. For example, I have guided individuals to the summit of Katahdin. References available from hikers that I have assisted in this manner.

Contact Information:
thomasjamrog@me.com
207-230-4156 cell, texts

Your trip reservation can be secured with a 50% deposit.

 

 

 

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