Looking to hit just one clean note.

Clouds at Disneyworld

At least I am camping for a few days.
I’m here in Florida at Disneyworld sleeping in a tent at the edge of a creek. I scored a round trip flight from Portland, ME . Cheap for $164.26.  I am a staying at a campsite with my oldest friend in the whole world, Edward, and his wife Jane . Edward and I grew up next door to each other. We have been hanging out since we were babies.
I try to walk 3- 4 hours a day down here, but so far, I have not been able to find an actual natural surfaced trail anywhere. What trails they used to have here are now concrete walkways, easier to keep clean. So what we have here are walkways that used to be covered with pine needles, gravel, and sand that are now concrete surfaced. To frame this even more strangely, recently there was a big renovation in the Fort Wilderness campground where they took out all the tile floors in the wash houses and the replaced them with actual field stone floors to make the facilities more rustic. Whaaa?

I think a lot about being back on the AT while relaxing here.

As of 10:49 am, some 4 days after I arrived, I have only spent $5.15 cents since I left home. Coffee is a 1 minute walk away at the Meadows Trading Post, and Edward has a raft of insulated Disney mugs that allow for unlimited free coffee or tea, and we have not bought any meals out. Jane has a  kitchen set up in a screen house where she cooks natural meals and makes huge salads for both lunch and supper. We did drive out to Sam’s Club for groceries, but Edward wouldn’t allow me to pay anything for my share, nor do they allow me to pay for any of their daily camping fees. They have been down here since November.
n   I was also the recipient of a couple of free day passes that allowed me into Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studio, thanks to Eddie’s friend Wayne, who is a Disney employee.
So, no trail here, but it is fun to be camping in warm, shirtsleeves weather again.  I saw that it got down to 26 degrees below zero in Allagash, ME  last night, a place very close to where I will be winter camping in February.

Edward has a spare REI dome tent he set up for me with some blankets and a pillow. I didn’t bring much of my gear except my Petzl head lamp and my Big Agnes Air Core mattress. When I went to take a shower the first day, I realized that I forgot my towel. Rather than borrow one from Edward, I decided to pull some extra paper towels off the roll in the wash house and that has been it.

Since the Trail, I am much better at just sitting around enjoying looking at trees, cloud patterns in the sky, and water, which is much of what we do. Being a farmer who is away from the fields, Eddie is a master at it, and he likes to talk. A lot. He is famous for it. He is also an amateur expert at making martinis, and has some real martini cocktail glassess. I have been enjoying chocolate martinis as well as my favorite, the Dirty martini.

Edward has two mandolins and a guitar here, and we make time to play a few hours a day.

Today, Edward said that if we actually had to pay for legs instead of getting them as part of being a human,  people would have a whole different perpective on what a life this is that we have been gifted. I love these fresh glimpses of life, these off beat thoughts that bring laughter and richness to our day.

My friend Petro Wigleymon has Christmas-gifted Marcia and I  a subscription to The Sun , and here is blurb about it:

“The Sun has been selected to receive the 2007 Utne Independent Press Award for Best Writing. For nearly twenty years Utne magazine has honored the best of the independent media: publications that offer perspectives not found in mass-market magazines and newspapers. This is the fifth Independent Press Award The Sun has received.   In its announcement, Utne describes The Sun as “an intimate forum where some of the finest contemporary writers share their most polished, provocative prose, and then everyone else is invited to join in. . . . In Readers Write, one of our favorite sections of the magazine, readers are invited to contribute short pieces on a broad range of topics, such as Airports or Nine To Five, resulting in a lively, nationwide dialogue.”

The Sun is awesome. I read it from cover to cover. The last inner page, is where they put Sunbeams, a themed collection of quotes. Here is one that is perfect for what I was feeling when Edward was talking about legs:

“This body that we have, this very body that’s sitting here right now in this room, this very body that perhaps aches, and this mind that we have at this very moment, are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. Furthermore, the emotions that we have right now, the negativity and the positivity, are what we actually need. It is just as if we looked around to find out what would be the greatest wealth that we could possibly possess in order to lead to a decent, good, completely fulfilling, energetic, inspired life, and found it right here”.
Pema Chödrön

Rodney Yee is Kicking my Butt

The other form of Maine exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with my friend Frank, who he asked me if I wanted to join him on a hike up to the top of Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park . It’s a three mile walk with an elevation gain of 600’ that has frequent ocean views, particularly this time of year when the leaves are off the hardwoods. The road is closed to cars in the winter, but even so, a lot of people go up, so the trail was packed into the snow. We had a good walk and talk, and in no time were at the summit, where we walked up the stone tower and enjoyed the “ commanding view of Penobscot Bay below and the ocean stretching out to the horizon”.
Frank has a black belt in Kempo and is always talking about different activities he is involved in , be it mountain biking, or hiking around. He encouraged me to get a hold of a DVD entitled Yoga Burn, by Rodney Yee, subtitled “ Challenge your body and mind like never before”. It is different than classic yoga poses in that the moves are done slowly, in a continuous manner, and the sequence emphasizes three “ reps” of most of the poses, in order to build strength as well as flexibility.
My wife Marcia, finally tracked down the DVD for me in Augusta and the first time I did it, I was pretty discouraged. It was freaking’ hard, 54 minutes of hard! I did like what Mr. Yee was trying to get me do, and could see that I really needed to be much more flexible and get strong in this manner, not by just standing at attention and curling an old school barbell. My second session was surprisingly better, I was more familiar with the moves, and even was able to complete one that was impossible for me the first time. I plan to do another session tomorrow.

I felt I was in shape this fall, coming off my AT thru- hike, but I am doing all I can to keep things that way, so that when I start hiking again for longer periods of time, I may not have to suffer so much in the initial stages of the season.

What I do now is walk outside still, try and get in at least 5 miles on the road out here. I go to the YMCA, where I favor the Stairmaster, and ramp it up for half hour sessions and try to keep my hands off the bar and let the full weight go to my legs. Most folks on the machine are hunched way over, actually holding up body weight to make the leg work easier. It is hard to do with no hands, and requires really fast stepping. I think keeping my hands off actually helps my balance too.

The one other program I favor is the Core Performance materials, which is Mark Verstegen’s work. I now subscribe to the program on the web site, which is http://www.coreperformance.com/ . I can download my workouts, which I print out and take to the gym with me. I like the variety, and again, I particularly need to be strong in a more flexible manner, which is what is emphasized in the program. The web site is pretty overwhelming, it has so much on it you might not know were to start. The easiest way to get into it is to read one of his books, and the one I think is a good one to start out with is Core Performance Essentials.

I am headed down to Florida in two days to hang out and camp and play music and walk a lot. I should have time there to write some more entries into this web log of mine. I have some ideas that I want to ramble about.

Show and Tell: Tattoo Version

Thought I’d do a visual shout out of the new MEGATEX tattoo. The redness has mostly gone out of it and there are a couple of pink lines that will fade, but the final concept was the summit cairn atop Mt. Katahdin’s Baxter Peak, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The letters capture the Texas aspect of the group, and the whole thing works well. I give the artist, Straightjacket ( Richard Ware) from Extreme Images in Rockland, ME , credit for pushing me to arrive here. I like the dramatic aspect of the composition, and will be able to remember always the group of men I traveled with for 6 months of my life in 2007.

MEGATEX Tattoo

Needles for Hoping, Needles for Healing

     Lots  of needles pierced my skin today, which began with my first  acupuncture session ever, and ended up with a custom Appalachian Trail tattoo, ever.
Since I have completed my 6 month AT thru hike, I have continued to experience unabated discomfort in both forefeet.  Sometimes they feel hot, sometimes numb, sometimes tingly and throbbing, sometime really cold, but the sensations radiating out to my three smaller toes on each foot are never stilled . The good foot doctor has set me up with a program of  wearing custom full foot orthotics as well as a daily program of stretching my Achilles tendons, but not much has changed in two months since I have been following the routine.
I have been advised  that my astrological chart is most favorable  to me being a positive responder to acupuncture.   I’ve never tried the procedure until today.
I had a one hour session with a local acupuncturist  and although things aren’t much different now, some three hours later, I have some  degree of hope that things will get better.  I don’t like getting blood drawn, never can look at the needle going in and this was not different.  The procedure involved Abbey taking my pulse at both wrists, her taking my history,  prodding me in some suspect areas, and  then applying a half a dozen tiny needles along my wrists,  thumbs, and the rear of my feet and then she massaged some herbed oil on the affected areas.  I  left with some herbed paper tape affixed to the affected areas and was set up with a another appointment next week.  I signed on to up to a half dozen sessions to see if things got any better.

Right after lunch, I  went over to Extreme Images for my 12:30 PM tattoo appointment.  I didn’t like the original concept of my AT tattoo that Straightjacket had worked up for me, so we spent an hour or so redoing the image.  I felt it was not dramatic enough, and it turns out so did Straightjacket, the artist and shop owner.  The outline of Mt. Katahdin was overshadowed by the MEGATEX lettering below. It just was not right for the image of the mountain to be smaller than a bunch of letters.   We are talking permanence here.
So, Straightjacket fired up his computer and searched through dozens of Google photographs of Katahdin.   While some of the images were promising,  it was the one I had on my laptop that my fellow MEGATEX  crew member  Louis   took that had the visual drama to make the cut, so to speak.
While I sat on the couch and waited for Straightjacket, I wrote this entry , overlooking Rockland Harbor with the Route 1 traffic humming by.  I’m getting kind of nervous, but a stroll to glance over Straightjacket’s shoulder to view the new  image was all I needed to know  that this is the right thing to do.

“To Walk a Landscape Is to Know It”

Published: January 6, 2008, New York Times , Travel section

“COMES over one an absolute necessity to move. And what is more, to move in some particular direction. A double necessity then: to get on the move, and to know whither.” The unforgettable opening of D. H. Lawrence’s “Sea and Sardinia,” a work written in six weeks flat. “Why can’t one sit still?” he asks.

Why can’t one? For a million years we stalked elk, monkey, crab; we gathered nut, grub and leaf. We had to move to live. Then half a minute ago we stooped to sow seeds and the rest is history. Here we are, with the stock exchange, the Internet and the Hummer. Who wouldn’t want to bust out, to taste the air of the open range, to “swagger the nut-strewn roads,” as Philip Larkin put it, to be out in the weather, to feel the lay of the land vital beneath your boots? Travel is deep in the blood.

But we can still pull on pack and boot and head to the hills. Tread the coastal paths of Wales or Cornwall, say, where the day is one long rainbow of mist, crying gulls and sour heather, and evening brings a fishing harbor clustered in a cove, and a pub with a slate roof gleaming with sea spray, where pints may have been pouring for half a millennium and more. Or hike the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide — anyway travel with our own locomotion, and see close up what this planet has in it. Nothing brings satisfaction like that.

As soon as I could, when I was 14 and deemed old enough, my friends and I would gather sleeping bags, an old pan from the larder, a pack of sausages and a can of beans, and walk out our front door — up the river, down the valley. In the long dusk of English summer we’d find a place to spread ourselves and build our fire. No tent: we called it sleeping out. It was the first real travel I did. Nothing had ever seemed so right as a line of smoke climbing into an evening sky while the biting aroma of a frying sausage reached the nose. And the taste of the first sweet cup of tea boiled over an open fire with water from a stream — surely this was how we were meant to live, outside. The desert tribes say a house is a tomb for the living.

On one of these rambles I met Speedy. He was that all-but-vanished British phenomenon, a true tramp. Wrapped in an overcoat tied with string, with a plastic bag or two, sometimes suspended from a pole over the shoulder, tramps were like the sons in fairy tales who set off to make their fortunes, only years on, in bulky, stiff middle age, they were still wandering. You’d see their cryptograms chalked on town pavements, telling each other in code at which houses a cup of tea was to be had. Speedy’s migrations were like a wild animal’s. You’d hear he’d come back to the valley before you ever saw him. He bedded down in the derelict mill, and was a fount of homespun wisdom. “Less you have the more you have,” he used to say, standing stiffly in his coat that reeked of straw and cow-pats, of years under hedges. “Trouble is, most folks don’t know that.”

The first thing I did on leaving college, after three years in the library, was dig out my old backpack, tie a sleeping bag to it, and a sheet of plastic in case of rain, and walk out the door. I had no plan. It was summer, and I didn’t have to think about my life until the fall. I headed west because that felt right. I didn’t even bring a map, just a compass. I slept in the corners of fields, in copses, at the foot of oaks. I swam when there was a river, and when I needed to cross one I’d walk until I reached a bridge, however far that was. Or if it was narrow enough, I’d hurl my pack to the other side, then scale a tree, teeter on the end of an overhanging branch, and launch myself to the far bank. (Sometimes I made it, sometimes I got soaked.) I hitchhiked if I felt like it, making my way through the Cotswolds into Wales. I wound up on the Pembroke coastal path, which brought me to St. David’s, the country’s smallest city, dwarfed by its 12th-century cathedral.

Even then, in the late ’80s, England was still medieval. Thatched villages, pubs on village greens, little stores where I would stock up on minimal staples, and hill after rolling hill of field and meadow. There’s no telling what you’ll find once you start walking.

That was the best traveling I ever did. I didn’t know it then, but I belonged to a backpack generation. Nothing seemed more important in this brief life than to get out into the world and see it. I worked in Argentina and traveled up the Andes in the open backs of trucks, I hitchhiked across the Sahara, I slept under olive trees in Greece — anything to be out there. I even endured five days on a “Magic Bus” that limped through Yugoslavia with a broken suspension. Along the way I discovered what seemed wildly exotic food: chicken stewed in an oil drum filled with garlic; bread baked in sand; camel’s milk; and spit-roast guinea pig. But nothing quite matched the self-sufficient delight of walking with one’s needs on one’s back.

There are many reasons to have a holiday. Reculer pour mieux sauter, say the French: draw back the better to leap. We may want nothing but relaxation and rest. But as Sherlock Holmes knew, the best form of R&R is to do something different: a change is as good as a rest, if not better; and the best kind of change is to enter another world. And while all other cultures — like Lawrence’s Sardinia — offer a different world, there’s always the wilderness, the hills, nature, waiting for us just up the road, wherever we are. In the woods and hills we find not just nature, but our own past; we remember who we used to be, we rediscover our need not just to be outdoors but also to be of no fixed abode. Is it really enough to slide self and trolley bag into a steel cylinder to be ferried a thousand miles to loll on a sun lounger?

In the 1870’s Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Last summer in Scotland my two boys and I foraged for clams, mussels, samphire, wild garlic. The meals we made of them, at the end of salty, rainy afternoons on tidal lochs, with the umber hills brooding over us, tasted better than anything you could buy. To be out under the sky on our own two feet awakens something older, more content within us, a wild creature inside itching to break out, who knows where to go to heal all ills.

Readers’ Comments Wanted:

So, What are your most memorable camping and hiking experiences? Please share in the comments section below.

A One Eyed Man Is Able To See

Waldoboro Field

In the course of my lifetime I was fortunate to have closely known two men who were both devotees of the I Ching; Paul Yakovenko and Fritz Weidner. For the life of me, I was unable to accept that any degree of wisdom could come from the throwing of coins. It took me a long time to come around, but now even I , from time to time , have thrown the three coins myself and then consulted a reference that has served as a useful form of additional guidance in proceeding down the big Trail.
It’s been a couple of years since I have consulted the Ching, but yesterday I hit pay dirt again. Some of the past benefits have been me catching myself in “white knight in shining armor” mode, or in dealing with those “ crescendo of awfulness” progressions that anyone can get caught up in.
I have tried to work through a few of the reference books before I found the one that works for me. It is “ A Guide to the I Ching” by Carol Anthony, the third edition of her initial 1980 publication. It is somehow soothing and quieting advice that all I  need to focus on at this point in my life is to give as much attention to tact and kindliness as is possible for me.   This  is a really fortunate position for me to be in, as  my past consultations have been much more challenging.  So this is my own New Year’s resolution.

The winter here continues to challenge as well. I snowshoed up to the top of Moody Mountain this afternoon, but this time it was warm enough for me to just wear a t-shirt and poly pro turtleneck. I did come up with a novel way to keep my wind breaker shell with me. It is a featherweight ( 3.6 oz.) Golite full zip hooded shell that I was able to stuff in the zippered flap of my tall gaiters. It was really tough going today, as I had to break trail again after the last 12” snowstorm. The snow was sticky and heavy on the shoes. It stuck. I was sinking about a foot with each step.

The newspaper warned us homeowners about a downside to the above freezing temperatures that would be the rule of the next few days. My neighbors and I have each shoveled as much snow as we can reach off our roofs and some of us are also breaking up ice dams that have formed on the edges of the overhangs. I have an ice dam about a foot thick on the north side of my house. If you do nothing, the melting snow is unable to flow off of the roof due to the ice dam holding the water back. With nowhere to go, the melt pools up behind the dam until it gets deep enough to flow underneath the shingles where it begins to migrate through the cracks in the roof sheathing and then drip down into the living space of the house, ruining the interior of the house and possibly inviting mold into the equation. Not good. So, out came the ladder, and up I went, first with my shovel, and then next with my ax, hacking away a 12” wide drainage ditch of sorts for the water to escape. I made two drains today, and then were working. It is pretty incredible what things I have had to learn about to be tactful in maintaining a life up here in the Maine woods.

It’s Five Below Zero and Time for a Tattoo

Icicles

“Hi Tom, Aren’t you glad you’re not out on that Appalachian Trail today?” said the waitperson who took my order at The Brown Bag, my current favorite lunch spot in Rockland, ME. Ever since the picture of me stretched out on the road next to the white hand lettered “2000 miles” marker was on the front page of our local paper, complete strangers have asked me, “Aren’t you the guy who walked the Trail?” She even knew what I wanted when I told her, “Do you know my regular order?” Just to let you know, it’s home made haddock chowder with a half fresh roasted turkey salad sandwich , on rye ( with chips and a dill pickle).
Today, I’ve got to be talking about the depth of winter here. It was 5 below zero when I walked up the driveway to get the paper at 6 AM and the sky was still black, the moon was out and there were stars shimmering above my crunchy steps. The photo at the top of this page was taken this morning from the inside of our bathroom window looking out to the North. Those icicles get longer and thicker every day.
I am slowly getting excited about working on this blog. My “Wordpress For Dummies” book came in today, so I should be improving the look and features of this web site. It just came out and has a 2008 copyright date, so it should becurrent for a least a few weeks or so.
I was planning on hitting the YMCA this afternoon and working out on the trusty Stairmaster, but this afternoon I got hung up at the local tattoo parlor (Extreme Images Tattooing, 688 Main St, Rockland, ME 04841, 207-594-8282), which is also a fairly popular piercing establishment as well. The owner, Richard, who prefers to be called by his nickname, Straightjacket, didn’t even recognize me until I visually reminded him about his custom tattoo of the flaming accordion that I have on my right arm. It’s big.
I had a general idea of what work wanted to have done on my lower leg, as part of a larger piece of work. After he quizzed me for a while, we set to work coming to some sort of mutual end product. It is probably impossible to verbally describe this thing, but suffice it to say that I am having a sort of personal image of the AT done on my body. For those of you that have been visitors to my AT Trailjournal, you already about MEGATEX, the close band of eight (or is it nine ? ) men who met in Georgia and who generally hung together for the entire 6 month walk. If you haven’t seen my Trailjournal, the link is on the right column.
So the word MEGATEX is one component of the image, Mt. Katahdin is on there big time, and the classic AT symbol is in the mix as well. Most of my time with Straightjacket was spent with him quizzing me about what the AT meant to me. Once he had the larger elements of the piece set, he honed in on the graphic nature of the letters in MEGATEX, as he felt they had to somehow convey the feeling of the three individual states, Maine, Georgia and Texas, home to the members of our gang. It took about an hour and a half of me talking and then standing around the shop, looking at the tools and pictures on the walls, and Straightjacket scanning in a Katahdin photo and then him pencil sketching additional details before we had something. Right now I am not exactly sure of what the end product will be , but Straightjacket told me to come back in a week when he should have something for me to decide upon.
The tattoo is going to happen, and when it does, I’ll post it here. Should be impressing its permanence on me sometime this month.

New Year’s Day 2008

1/1/08

My romance with the outdoors continues. Last night, as part of our own private New Year’s Eve celebration, Marcia and I lay out on the couch and watched the AT classic video “Walking With Freedom” documentary that tracks the Lion King on his 2003 thru hike. Satisfying stuff, not too wild. Definitely a movie about another romantic, walking just to save his soul .

Tonight it is the real Jan. 1, and we sit here in the illuminated darkness on 8 PM on snowy winter’s night in Maine. Another 12 inches of snow predicted by daybreak. Don’t think we’ll be going too far tomorrow, unless we do a lot of shoveling between now and then. We get to wear our headlamps around our necks tonight, too, because the heaviness of this type of snow is probably going to break tree limbs ( big ones) , which tend to wipe out the power lines around here. We’ll be ready to see what is going on, these trusted light sources our secret allies. ( We did lose power!-Ed)
Marcia and I got to hike together today at just at the start of the storm. We both strapped on the snowshoes and slogged to the top of Moody Mountain. It is about a 600 foot elevation gain, and we were out there moving steadily for an hour and a half.  It is easy to be in the outdoors for us.  We just walk a bit down the road and then head on up, or down, one of the trails .

First,  we move through a pasture that rises high enough so that that at the top you can look back and see the great big Atlantic, our part called  Penobscot Bay. After that, we enter some recently cut woods , following a tractor path up over some fairly thick hardwoods , walking until that trail ends. So then we go on our own , up more steeply, following a narrow trail that I have established here over the past couple of years. We eventually reached the top, a long ridge that we cover in a half-mile before we reach the summit. It is now snowing so hard we can’t see squat for views.

I like walking in woods like this with snowshoes. You are forced to walk about half as fast as you can on solid ground. There are quite a few mini-slips that you deal with , and the whole process is not too far removed from another winter sport up here, ice skating. Walking gets much tougher when the elevation is steep, mostly because of the constant struggle with slipping backwards that you have to overcome in order to actually move higher up the slope. The best news is that it is much easier than regular walking on the descents , as the character of the deep snow allows you to take the opportunity to “ski” down the slopes on your snowshoes. I take the extra precaution of keeping my knees flexed a bit, just in case my body heads in a direction my knees know nothing about.
It is so hopeful , this year upcoming . My six months walk north along the spine of the seaboard set me straight. It keeps at me every day. Today was as fine a start to have one foot in the wilderness as there can be.