One Month Post-Surgery Update

I am entering the last week of restrictions on my physical activity since neurospinal surgery on April 7. I’ve had to put off bicycling, operating my riding lawnmower, washing dishes, loading laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, raking, was well as strength building. I was able to drive after two weeks. Thankfully, I am encouraged to walk. Since September, I spiraled downward with sciatic lower back pain that eventually extended into my right hip socket, down the back of my leg, and into my calf. The two hour surgery was a true success with immediate results. I noticed the improvement as soon as I stood beside my cot in the post-operative recovery room. Zero pain then and now.

This coming Friday I’d have my first post-operation consult with Max Barth, MD, the surgeon who preformed the microsurgery. I’m hoping to receive the go-ahead to start biking, ride my lawn mower, and be given the green light for gardening, as I am psyched to put time into painting, tending, and harvesting a vegetable garden.

Riding at Camden Hills State Park

My rehab has been guided by limiting my siting to no longer than 20-30 minutes at a time.
Thankfully, I have been able to gradually extend my walking stints to the point where 4 miles is possible and even pleasant. Using my trekking poles while walking around my neighborhood is forcing me to walk a bit more upright, which is part of improving my posture.

I’ve set a couple to goals that I hope to complete by the end of the summer. I have August plans to join my hiking pal Tenzing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where we both need to bag two more summits. For me, that’s all need to finally complete the sixty-seven 4,000 foot summits in New England, a lifelong pursuit that began when I was just 17 years old and a Freshman in UMass’s Outing Club.

UT on Willey

I also hope to ride all 83 miles of the Cross Northern New Hampshire Adventure trail, a collection of rail trails, dirt roads, bike paths and quiet paved backroads across the state of New Hampshire. The route travels along river valleys and through the northern White Mountains.

If August brings me back to my former hiking fitness, I’ll spend most of September and part of October on a Southbound thru-hike of the 272-mile Long Trail in Vermont.

This hike is on my Bucket List. I plan to time the hike so that I can walk in as much peak foliage as possible. I hiked it Northbound in 2011, the year when Hurricane Irene dumped 17 inches of rain in 1 day, and devastated Vermont. Houses were washed away, businesses demolished, flooding destroyed roads, farms were decimated and the environment was severely impacted by this tragic and massive flood in Vermont. More than 500 miles of roads and 200 bridges were damaged or destroyed.

I won’t be in a rush to finish this time!

 

CDT Thru-hike Anniversary!

Today , April 17, marks the anniversary of my first day setting out on the CDT at the Mexico/ New Mexico border below Columbus in 2013.  

As part of my big day, I will be offering a 30% discount (essentially offering at cost), for my CDT book, published  in 2017:  $20 plus $3 shipping, for autographed copy, when ordered directly from me.  The 265-page book has 50 full-color photos, and details a route starting at Columbus, working through the Gila River alternate in New Mexico. 

 Colorado included summiting Mt. Elbert, and Grays Peak.   

After passing through Wyoming, I did a variant through Yellowstone National Park hooking up to the Big Sky alternate back to the official CDT through Whitehall, Montana.

Atop Lone Peak, Big Sky, MT

After a fire closure reroute in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, I completed the rest of the main route  through Glacier National park.

Daily mileages and start /stop point for each day are included.  

I sincerely thank all and every one of any of my crew dubbed  MeGaTex, and the numerous trail angels and friends who helped me, because without them, I would not have made it.

Order here through the sidebar on my blog.

Best wishes for safety and success for all in their backpacking hopes and goals in this crazy 2021 period.

Embrace the Brutality! 

 

Kindle a Fire in the Damp/Cold and Keep It Going

I’m here “out to camp” again, taking a little time to get away by myself, as the last patches of ice and snow melt away to make room for the green world to come back.   It has been an easy winter to get into camp, with less than a half a dozen serious snowstorms, and mostly bare ground here. 

I spend time moving firewood and starting fires.   I’ve burned wood continuously for the last 45 years, feeding feed four wood stoves: two at the house and two here at camp. Both house stoves are on the first floor and here at camp there is one wood stove (Tempwood) in the main building and one in the hut by Hobbs Pond. My other three stoves are coal/wood combo models. All were purchased used except for one small Petit Godin that was my father’s stove.  I also have two hot-tent camp stoves. 

Although I have successfully kindled thousands of fires in my lifetime, I’m still practicing and adding to my fire building skills. 

Fire ring at Fort Wilderness, FLA

Check out this blog post from Paul Kirtley:  Tactics For Fire-lighting In The Damp, Cold Months.  The discussion homes in on a few key points when starting a fire outdoors, or even (in a stove chamber) indoors this time of year. 

Marcia enjoying fire at Fourth Debskoneag Lake

Two key points in the video are:

(1) ” Don’t select wood with water frozen into it.”  (Kirtly adds:  “There is an irony with regards to fire-lighting, in that the more you need a fire, the harder it is to light one.”).  If you can’t find decent dry secondary and tertiary fuel to follow on from the primary kindling, then split larger wood to access dry fuel inside. Again it should be dead, dry and standing. By standing, I mean upright. Gravity acts at right angles to the ground. The more horizontal a piece of wood, the more gravity will tend to pull water into the wood. Vertical dead wood will have relatively little water penetration.

Feathersticks

If you can’t harvest dead, dry fine kindling directly from the woods, then you can produce fine material using a sharp cutting tool. Good feathersticks will form both the initial kindling and the next size of fuel up, both in one deftly made fire-lighting unit. The intention is for the whole thing to eventually catch light in one package, starting with just a small flame.

Brandy Brook campsite

-Seek Outside 12′ tipi

(2) “You should always select dead, standing and dry wood for your fuel. When setting your fire, you should always first create a platform of dead, dry wood. This raises your initial fire from the cold, damp ground, adds fuel into the heart of the fire and allows good oxygen flow into the base of the flames. Collect plenty of kindling. It should be a bundle, not a handful, particularly in winter.”

I’ve just employed two of Paul’s principles here at camp for the past couple of days.  We’ve just had 1.5″ of cold rain fall here, and the 20-30 degree temps over the last couple of days have left the interior of my unheated both cold and damp. I am in the habit of leaving camp with dry kindling and firewood right by the stove so that whoever comes in next to use it can get heat generating as fast as possible inside. I also bring fresh newspaper from the house here.  Even the ability to ignite so called ” dry” newspaper is compromised by the winter moisture that settles into an unheated building.  I am in the habit of laying a couple of pieces of firewood at the bottom of the stove, leaving a space between them.  I also do this with my two tent stoves- it preserves the base plate of the stove a mite, and also contributes to the burn in the firebox when the base eventually ignites.

Drying shirt at Abol lean-to

Even though it is approaching the end of March, I expect that there will be more snowstorms in my my part of Maine. I also have three cords of cut and split hardwood to stack and put under cover, so that i can have a steady source of dry hardwood when the real winter comes back at us next time around. 

Free Patagonia Repairs

I just received my fourth round of Patagonia fixes.  This time I sent the company three jackets that needed attention:  a down sweater, a lightweight backpacking rain jacket, and a wind shirt.  I had called in October and asked if they suspended the repair program due to Covid-19.  The agent told me that they were receiving repair requests but that they were backlogged for a few months.  

Since I had backups for each of these items I washed them all and sent them it.  Four months later I received repaired versions of two items. 

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I requested a new zipper on the down jacket and they did that, plus identified and repaired seams in both underarms that were wearing out.  The wind shirt had a big tear in the right shoulder that happened when I was bushwhacking on Redington Mountain here in Maine. That was repaired with a whole new panel of fabric integrated into the shoulder.  

Patagonia informed me that the rain jacket’s interior delamination could not be repaired so they issued  $148 ( the rain jacket’s list price in 2007) in credit to be applied to purchase a replacement from their online store.  I chose a 7-ounce Stormrider jacket that was a vast improvement over the prior rain jacket, which survived 12 years of service.   I could have waited for a sale, or used the credit at the Patagonia outlet store in downtown Freeport  however, I was so grateful that they have this lifetime repair or replace program  that I ponied up paying full price for the Stormrider, which required an additional $100 to have that in my backpack this season.

Thank you, Patagonia!  

PS: You can drop off your worn wear for replacement, fixes, or recycling at any Patagonia outlet. I had them replace all the snaps on my original fleece jacket at the Freeport Outlet, and I even got to choose any color I wanted ( orange snaps!), while I waited.

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You can also purchase worn Patagonia wear through the website at a discount.

The Trail Becons

This morning’s daily I-Ching reading is from The Wanderer (Hexagram #56). Receiving it is just what I needed to assist me in approaching things that have come up.

Wandering, you come to a resting place and use an axe to establish the rich comforts of home.   Prepare for change. Avoid making any commitment to any situation. This is the time to gather information, and be willing to adapt. You are wandering in unfamiliar territory without a map. Circumstances may change at any moment, but you will be safe if you observe ground rules. Continue to develop the ability to cope with the unfamiliar, moving cautiously and slowly“

Next, I just listened to a one-hour podcast (<-open link) from “ Trails Around the World”.    It is an interview with Stephanie Langer, AKA Pancake, a 2018 hiker who completed a southbound thru-hike of the 273-mile Long Trail ( LT) in Vermont.  The LT is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United States, predating the Appalachian Trail. It is rugged, challenging, and heavily forested.  Most people hike the LT northbound as I did in August of 2011.  Listening to this interview inspired me. 

My daily journals from that one-month long adventure are here. 

Since March 19, 2020:

-I’m out of work.

-My mother’s house where I grew up has been sold.  She spent 85 of her 94 years on a small farm. 

-I have experienced significant back pain since September 2020.

-My mother Isabel died due to complications from Covid-19 on Feb. 7.

-I have back surgery scheduled for April 7. 

After a year in Covid-19 quarantine, I received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine over a month ago, which is a huge relief.

After what may be a 3-month recovery from my surgery, I plan to take some time to be by myself and process how my life has changed and what these changes might mean.   I know of no better way for me to do that than heading back on the Trail for a month. 

I am not sure if I will be ready, but my plan is to spend the month of September re-hiking the Long Trail, but this time from the northern terminus on the Canada/Vermont Border 273 miles down to Massachusetts.  I have always wanted to experience the full majesty of New England’s technicolor fall foliage display for an extended time. The colors intensify to a peak level, and while I may have to shift the start date a little, my 2-3 mile per hour hiking pace should align with the speed that the leaves proceed to gain color as the event starts in the north and moves south. 

In the mean time, I plan to keep consulting the I-Ching each morning, take care of my home and camp, reconnect with my family and friends, and pursue any new angles and opportunities that may come my way. 

It will be good for me to finally have something planned for Vermont this September!

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My Review of Exercised

Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and RewardingExercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel E. Lieberman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t buy many books now, but I pre-ordered this one after totally enjoying Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. Since it came out in 2013 I re-read that book three times- twice as a traditional read and then listened to is as an audiobook. Lieberman is an evolutionary biologist whose laboratory is the real world of nomadic wandering tribes, subsistence farmers, and hunter/gatherer societies. He was at the forefront of the minamilist running shoe movement, and has now tackled our exercise dilemma- we know we should do it, but don’t find it easy to maintain a regular practice as we struggle with modern society’s forces that nibble away at our resolve.

In Exercised, Lieberman launches a bust of almost a dozen myths about exercise. I won’t list them here and risk spoiling a reader’s pure approach to the book. I keenly tuned into his exploration of aspects and genetic propensity related to strength, speed, and endurance, areas that some of us “armchair athletes” might show promise. In my case, I’m putting my efforts into endurance, especially after my hereditary profile from my Fitness Genes analysis.

I plan to listen to the audiobook version of Exercised. Lately I have been getting much more out of books by re-reading and also listening to them as audiobooks. There is something about taking information in through more senses that improves retention and there is a huge amount of useful info within these pages.

View all my reviews

Why I carry a multi-fuel backpacking stove

Aislinn Sarnacki just published the following article in the Bangor Daily News. It describes one of the drawbacks to using a fuel canister for outdoor cooking:

“It’s nearly impossible to get rid of a camp stove fuel canister in Maine.   They can’t just be thrown out. They aren’t recyclable. There’s no collection programs for them. In short, nobody wants them.”
— Read here: bangordailynews.com/2021/03/08/act-out/its-nearly-impossible-to-get-rid-of-a-camp-stove-fuel-canister-in-maine/

Alternative fuels do exist, especially here in Maine, with an estimated 17.6 million acres of forest that covers 89.1 percent of the land area in the State.  

There are several optional fuel sources to choose from when you are cooking in the outdoors. I am not a fan of canister stoves when backpacking.   The following 6-minute YouTube video from Four Dog Stove sums up the major fuel choices and assists the viewer in understanding heat values and pluses and minuses of those fuels.  It also schools the viewer about the detrimental environmental impact of canister stoves, particularly from the manufacturing and distribution angles.  The vast majority of fuel canisters sold in the US are imported from Korea, and the raw materials (petrochemicals, raw steel) that are used to make those stoves are imported  to Korea as well, resulting a large carbon footprint:

I purchased a Four Dog Stove LT-1 multi-fuel stove that weighs 2.5 ounces.

Here is my previous blog post on my long-term use of the tiny flamethrower. It continues to be my first choice for backpacking.

The Lure of Long-Distance Hiking

This two-session workshop will introduce four famous long distance backpackers, explore the benefits and risks, discuss mental and physical techniques, and provide resources for the aspiring hiker to engage in one-week to 6 months-long wilderness adventures.

Biographical Info: Tom received the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association in 2014. He has gone on to successfully complete additional thru-hikes in New England, Vermont, and Portugal, and is looking forward to thru-hiking in Newfoundland when the Canada border reopens.

Offered by: Five Town CSD, Adult and Community Education

March 9th, 2021 Tuesday for 2 weeks from 6:00-7:30 pm

Camden Legion Hall, 91 Pearl St., Camden, ME 04843- Lower Hall

Cost: $29

REGISTER HERE

Contact Information:

Five Town CSD Adult & Community Education
Phone: 207-236-7800 ext. 5
Fax: 207-230-1059
Email: adulted@fivetowns.net

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…