I blame Alastair

I’m reblogging a great entry about having local adventures . Who is up for a micro adventure atop one of our local hills?

There has been a little shift in my perceptions of late, a kind of a broadening of how I see things, it’s getting more and more prominent in my day to day thinking and in how I view my surroundings…

Source: I blame Alastair

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Kicking off a September Week of Hiking at Baxter State Park

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate make my 20th summit hike to  Maine’s highest point via the newly rerouted Abol Trail.

I returned last week to hike in my favorite backpacking destination, Baxter State Park, joining my Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails hiking pal Guthook as we explored some of the lesser trails in the park – ones that are usually bypassed in favor of ascending Katahdin,the crown jewel of the wildest state park east of the Mississippi.

Kaahdin

Kaahdin

It’s the third week in September and the humidity that has dogged coastal  Maine for the past two months has followed me up here to Baxter State Park.

Leaves  are turning colorful

Leaves are turning colorful

The technicolor fall foliage show is just getting to the beginning Kodachrome stage, delayed this season, likely due to a drought.

Tonight, we’re settling into Lean-To #3 at Neswadnehunk Camp Ground for a fresh roasted veggie/kielbasa dinner cooked to perfection on a cheap portable gas grill.

The view from Lean-to #3

The view from Lean-to #3

We’re here after a 10 mile afternoon walking the Park’s Kettle Pond, Cranberry Pond, and Rum Pond Trails.

Hiking Near the Southern Gate

Hiking Near the Southern Gate

These low lying trails are the among the first the hiker encounters after entering Baxter through the Togue Pond Gatehouse.  Even these relatively benign,  unfrequented forays were satisfying sojourns from my multi-tasking life.

img_8381 The softness of the ground, and the textures of the kaleidoscope of greens and greys of the leaves and the trees are  immensely satisfying.

Our  reservations for the first three days are at Lean-do #3 at the Neswadnehunk Field Campground.   It’s a drive in site with a view toward the incomparable Doubletop, at 3,489′ a distinctive mountain, with a short ridge connecting the two prominent exposed granite points on top.  Approach trails reach it from either the north or south. I went up for the second time two years ago, so I’ll appreciate it from afar this time.

The ranger here told us we are the only campers tonight. It’s just Betsey and us, enjoying the Milky Way star show.  $12 purchased us enough dry split wood to see us through for an evening fire each night.

The weather looks to be mostly dry and warm, and we are very pleased to be here.

Lift Off !

Lift Off !

September is a superb time to find yourself enjoying the wilderness, especially anything away from the perennially packed approach trails to Katahdin where 90 per cent of people who come this Park congregate.

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It’s a Wrap: Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

On Friday, I finished up my third complete hike of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail.

The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family:  my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend.  It might have been 1989.  I hiked it again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet.  img_8334  The perennially slippery trail is punctuated with beaucoup roots ,rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.

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AT thru-hikers walking through this prelude to Katahdin are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas. We came out in 7 days instead, pushing the daily average to about 15 miles.
Here is a particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking LIght magazine.
The Hundred is made up of two distinctly different trips of approximately 50 miles each.  The southern section is an advanced hike, with the other half, (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort when walked at  8-10 miles a day, with the exception of a relatively short but steep ascent of the prehistoric Nesuntabunt Mountain.

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Heading out

If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. Alternatively, catch a float plane shuttle from Katahdin Air,  which drops you off on the shore of Crawford Pond where  side trail puts you on the AT in 100 feet.

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Ready for lift-off

Three and a half miles after you depart Crawford Pond you reach the pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter- a must swim.  Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and Sand Beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.

If you have the bucks , consider a side trip of 1.1 miles and splurging for a night at the Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps.    I haven done that yet , but plan to do so the next time I go through.

Make no mistake, spending  a week backpacking The Hundred is tough.  If you stuff your pack with lots of food, you can eat your way as you move along. My rationing of  a 3,000 calorie a day plan resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took me to make this 100 mile trip.

 

 

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Walking Baxter’s Rerouted Abol Trail

I’m guiding two clients on their first experience in Baxter State Park.  Their request was to take them someplace where they would not see many people. In Baxter State park, if  you walk away from Katahdin rather than toward it, you will definitely leave the crowds behind.  In our first four days in the Park, we encountered more moose than people (5) , hiking north out of Roaring Brook to South Branch Pond.

Our last night found us camping in lean-to #12 at Abol Campground where I enjoyed my first time sleeping in my newly purchased “used’ Honda Element.  I pivoted the two folded rear seats against the sidewalls, opened the sunroof and windows and  viewed the stars through the glassed panel above my head.  The car easily allows me to stretch out my full length Neo Air XLite mattress.  Gaspedal was in his new REI solo tent, so Rokrabbit had the lean-to all to himself.

Drying shirt at Abol lean-to

Drying shirt at Abol lean-to

 

“Multipurpose piece of birchbark, Uncle Tom”

Abol was the first campground that I encountered way back in 1970 when I was a newcomer to Baxter. Packing a week’s worth of food and gear in early June,  the snow was so deep up high that the Saddle Trail was still closed.  Back then, it was considered macho to carry big pounds. Now, you are considered a dweeb if your pack is big and heavy.  The scene from the movie Wild where Reese Witherspoon is so over loaded that she is unable to lift her pack was not that unusual back then. My pack that day weighed 65 pounds, when my sidekick Kevin Weir and I labored up the Abol Slide on that June morning. As tough as the ascent was, our decision to cross the Knife Edge and then wind our way down the Dudley Trial to spend our second night at Chimney Pond left us in even tougher shape. I  had blisters; we all did all the time. I continue to be blessed by making the moving from MA to ME in 1973.  Since then I have returned to Baxter many dozens of times, where wild forest and bogs trump gift shops and smartphone charging stations.  “Forever Wild” is the real deal here.

But today, I’m ascending an improved version of that Abol Trail. In the 1850s, Abol was the route Henry David Thoreau used in his failed attempt to reach the peak.   A rock slide sent car-sized boulders down Abol Trail in 2013.  The rockslide forced Abol Trail to be closed to hikers since the 2014 season until it reopened this July.  Abol is your choice for the shortest route to Baxter Peak from a roadside trailhead. The trail formerly utilized the prominent Abol Slide. From Abol Campground to Baxter Peak (one way) is now 4.3 miles,  with 3,900 feet of elevation gain.  Abol joins the Hunt trail ( A.T.), intersecting it at Thoreau Spring, before becoming more moderate for the final mile to Baxter Peak.

The relocated section of the trail uses the ridge to the west of the slide and provides a steady, but steep ascent with excellent views.

First leg of the reroute

First leg of the reroute ( note red survey tape still in place)

Water is limited after the first mile, with the trail fully exposed after 2.5 miles.  I reached into my pack for sustenance, in the form of a shot of B12 and jerky.

5hourenergy

B12, caffeine,and jerky works

The new trail veers off to the left of the base of the landslide.  The path is so fresh that there is soft cushiony tread underfoot for at least half this switch backed portion.

New stone stairs on reroute

New stone stairs on reroute

Initially, you walk in a long, relatively straight line to the left, one that is moderately ascending. Eventually you reach the first turn and then bear up toward the right, still on a mild to moderate incline.   The switchbacks become increasingly shorter while the degree of ascent begins to steepen.

Note spongy tread

Note spongy tread

Eventually the trail works through close boulders and ledges, and it was clear that the trekking poles had to go in my pack.

It is precisely these surprising and spontaneous challenges that keep me coming back to the most wild State Park east of the Mississippi. The fresh blue blazes were shiny, and at times, necessary in order to discern unblocked upward movement.

There is a wicked uphill ending after the new detour returns to the main Abol Trail at the top of the old rock slide.

All hands needed

All hands needed

Here you need to get into serious upper body action. I was sorry to leave a light pair of gloves at home. Granite is tough on the palms and fingers.

Eventually you clear the lip and arrive at the edge of The Tableland, a surprisingly flat and expansive treeless domain that just happens to have the summit of Katahdin lifting up a bit over a mile to the right.

There was a good crowd on top of the mountain when we reached the top.

Morning visitors

Morning visitors

Here’s my AT tattoo that links me to this place.

As above, so below

As above, so below

It’s been a heck of a hiking season for me this year. For the whole month of June I was able to walk 250 miles along the Portugese Camino with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame.   I finished this week long Baxter trip in mid-August.  Last week,  I was able to successfully complete a guided trip through all of Maine’s Hunded Mile Wilderness.

There’s still more Baxter to come in the next month!  The Fall season is the best time to be walking through the technicolor leaf extravaganza, and I’m heading back for another week of hiking some lesser known Baxter trail with one of my my perennial backpacking pals.  And there is a long October holiday weekend return to Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps.

[ I’m a Licensed Maine Guide who offer a limited schedule of guided backpacking trips in Maine as well as custom trips for individuals and small groups.   Check out Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures to learn more about my angle to guiding backpacking adventures and review the 2016 season’s offerings. ] 

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Finishing up Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

fullsizerender-5    On Friday, I finished up my third complete backpacking adventure on Maine”s Hundred Mile Widerness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family:  my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend.  It might have been 1989.  It was tougher then, without smart phones and paid food drops.  I hiked The Hundred  again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet.  The slippery trail is laced with roots and rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.  Even when there is no rain, the rocks perspire, leaving the Monson slate very slippery under humid conditions.

Little Wilson Falls

Little Wilson Falls

AT thru-hikers are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do the side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas.
Here is particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking Light magazine.
I now understand that The Hundred is actually made up of two distinctly different trips of 50 miles each.  The southern section is what I would term an advanced hike, with the other half (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort, with the exception of a steep ascent of Nesuntabunt Mountain in that 50 mile section.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights.  The pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter is a must swim, and may even be time for skinny dipping.  Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and take in the sand beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks, consider splurging for a night at the classic Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps.  I haven’t done that yet, but plan to.

Flooded trail- Beavers at work!

Flooded trail- Beavers at work!

Make no mistake, spending most of a week backpacking The Hundred is tough.  If you are wise with food choices you can carry lots, and eat your way along. My more careful plan of rationing myself out some 3,000 calories a day resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took to make this trip.

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures is planning more hikes of The Hundred next season, halves and maybe even the Whole Hundred.  If you are interested, get in touch with me and I’ll put you on the 2017 notification list.  Spaces are  limited.

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Norbert Schemansky, Who Won Weight-Lifting Gold but Little Applause Back Home, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

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Credit John Orris/The New York Times


Norbert Shemansky was a Polish American hero.  I remember watching him compete in the Olympics when I was a child.  He inspired me to take up weight lifting when I started high school. Do read this article as well as the Sports Illustrated archive that is hotlinked in NYTimes. This was no dumb jock- his IQ was 132. I trust that his children and their offspring hold him in the highest regard.

“In competition largely outside the sports world spotlight, he awed crowds and was the first to win medals in four Olympics but felt unappreciated in his hometown.”

Source: Norbert Schemansky, Who Won Weight-Lifting Gold but Little Applause Back Home, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

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Just released- bio of Colin Fletcher

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