Tearing away..

I am not sure in what order to list these events in my life. I know that I want to write about the winter camping trip I took last week. But right now there is something more important to me that is on my mind.

I am actually living alone in this home . I have never lived alone in my whole life. Maybe there a a lot of us out here, but I wonder? My wife is off on her own 6 month hike of the Appalachian Trail. I know, because I drove her through the aftermaths of a snowstorm yesterday so that she could catch the bus to Logan Airport , then Atlanta, then Dahlonega, GA. She’s sick, and doesn’t have the fuel to start tomorrow , and we are all hoping that things brighten up her own layered palette.

I shared the same room with my brother until I went to college. I got married just at the end of college, and have lived with my wife for these past 35 years. It feels real different not having someone here to share the space and energy . Scary, and exciting.

I think about the Appalachian trail a lot.

I will quote from the legendary Trail Angel, Paddy-o, who states that,
“Where else can one go to get so much out of life? Day in and out, for our own unsought after betterment and that of others. Those that set foot on this Trail for any duration can receive more than they can dream.”

Next I will write about our trip outside on Canada Falls Lake, where it was 15 below zero in our tent one night.

We like the price, not the product

I have to pass on this article that was printed in a recent NY Times Business section.  It is entitled My Cortex Made Me Buy It.It is a must read for all of us that strive to place a smaller footprint of consumption on this earth .  Basically the research is now there to prove that the brain is now programmed by advertising to fire up at the sight of a higher price tag on an consumable good, regardless whether the product is any different at all than a cheaper, less “desirable” version.

What have we done to ourselves to deserve this?  !

“A good walk in fresh air sorts things out.”


I am into a fresh appreciation for walking outside again. My friend Clarkie came up from Portsmouth, NH for Friday night and Saturday morning as part of a visit where we went to see the Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile at the Strand in Rockland. If you like music that is sort of bluegrass, sort of oceanic, with very dramatic range from super soft to crescendo, then check it out. I am a big fan of Chris Thile, and consider him the premiere mandolin player on the scene right now.

Anyway, the show was sold out, I may or may not buy the new album. I really miss the beat sometimes in his extended pieces, but he is a musical genius, and who am I to judge his direction?

Clarkie requested just one thing when he was communicating with me about coming up here- “Would you and Marcia be interested in dragging me along for some not too strenuous snowshoeing Saturday morning? I’d love to hike the “U.T.” (Uncle Tom Trail) you carved out. I’ll likely be like Bill Bryson’s (imaginary) friend, [Katz] huffing and puffing along behind; except I promise NOT to strew the trail with Snicker’s wrappers.”

So, it was just Clarkie and me up and over on the sunny very cold ( 15 degrees) morning, with me in the lead with my bigger set of snow shoes breaking trail up to the ridge walk. Just as we were setting out to walk up High St. a bit to get on the tril , we watched a Bald Eagle soaring in the blue sky, but we were fighting to see it silhouetted against the blinding sun, and it vanished somewhere. It was such a freshness for me to be outside walking in the woods again. I have only had one other person walk the UT trail , Marcia , and she has only done it once. Maybe it is too steep?

Clarkie did real well, he was a steady Eddie out there. In one of his comments back to me that was listed under another photo, Clarkie wrote, “Carol had asked that Tom not kill me, and as you can see from the steep ascent, he tried!”

Here is a shot I took of him coming over the last steep section, making it to the flatter ridge:

Clarkie on the UT Trail

I consider Clarkie a true outdoors person. He regularly sends me photos he takes of sunrises, and he knows many of the trails in the White Mountains . He sent me an awesome Christmas card of a photo he took near Evans Notch where the Appalachian Trail moves its way up to Katahdin.

I went up the UT Trail again yesterday accompanied by my trusty sidekick Jody dog. We did well. Today it is raining out, and tonight my friend and fellow AT long distance backpacker Bad Influence is heading over from Vermont. We are joining Rangoon and 4 others for 5 days of winter camping in the western section of Maine. I am attaching a JPG of our route that one of the campers, Roger, sent us . We will likely walk over Canada Lake to reach a vehicle we would spot at Pittston Farms. Click on the photo to get a readable map/ route.


I plan to bring my Pocketmail and do daily trip reports that I’ll post to this site when I get back on the 25th or so.

My title quote was from Helen Mirren, playing the lead role of Queen Elizabeth II in the movie “The Queen.” I highly recommend the movie to all that walk outside. I was moved beyond words at the scenery and the surprising role that walking in the wilderness had in bringing the Queen to her senses. The film 2007 won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Get Back ( From Where You Once Belonged)

  New Orleans Crowd

I spent more money in 5 minutes after hitting the street in New  Orleans  than I did in my whole 5 days  at Disneyworld a couple of weeks ago.   A twenty ounce Margarita and pulled pork sandwich purchased from a sidewalk take-out stand set me back $15.  With food and drink in hand, I  slid across the beer-sloshed sidewalk on Canal St. to join the  crowd of hundreds  of thousands  of sloshed revelers to greet the arrival of the Bacchus Mardi Gras parade, one of the biggest, with some 28 giant floats, 36 marching bands, and another 1,000  riders of horses and flame throwing marching groups.  I even got to see Hulk Hogan throwing handfuls of beads to the pleading masses.  He looked exhausted, and after all, he’s been parading for about 4 hours by the time he rolled past this spot.   Add the roar of the hordes of humans to the sounds of sirens screaming from police escorts, and mega decibel horns and you have it.  Almost.  Things definitely get schizophrenic as hell with  the projected image of my New England Patriots football team in their losing battle with the Super Bowl victorious New York Giants, high above it all plastered on the side of the Sheraton  across the street.   Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday night, two days before the real Mardi Gras blowout , New Orleans style.

I don’t know if me coming down here for a week is such a good idea.  How is my body going to be able to adapt back to the subfreezing  Maine climate, especially with me heading out on my annual winter camping week just two weeks from now?  I put an hour and a half of hard work this morning at the Health Club here at the Canal St. Marriott ,  where I was sweating like a pig after just a half hour of the treadmill.  The local television report confirmed 95 % humidity with a possible record-breaking  81 degree temperature for today, Monday, 2/4.  I don’t do that well in humidity and heat, especially when it just leaps out at me from nowhere.

Where is this all going?  I’m not sure.  I need a book to get me through the week.  I read “ Last Night at the Lobster” , a short novel about  on the airplane on the way down here yesterday, and also have read  everything in my new issue of The Sun.   I really don’t want to shell out $15.95  ( for one day) to connect to the Wi-Fi and access the Internet here from my hotel room .  If I had that going, I wouldn’t need a book.  A trip down to question the Concierge wasn’t useful to help me seek out a decent bookstore.  The staff member there told me that there weren’t any large bookstores anymore near here ( New Orleans!),  and that the Borders that was ruined by  Hurricane Katrina hasn’t reopened .

I am missing the woods already, and it has just  been a day that I have been away from Maine.  I can’t wait to get back.

Across the Universe onto Canal St.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail has left me with a set of narrow skills that surprises me,  no matter where I might be.  Last night found me really hungry, but with no  time to find even a fast food restaurant, due to my back-to-back schedule of paid workshops here at the National Association of School Psychologists annual convention  here in New Orleans.  Walking  across the street , I  spotted  a seedy combination liquor store/ mini mart down a bit on Canal St. here by the Mississippi River.  I headed down and quickly found an isle next to the beer and wine section that set me chuckling to myself. Big bags of beef jerky and bags of assorted nuts.  Bingo. Instant meal time. I was all set.

Several events are clustering together here to set me thinking.  First, Mardi Gras, where the centuries old masking  and costuming rituals  are tapping into a deep human need to interact with the world in a way that we are not able to do in normal life.  Then thinking about the culture of  AT trail  names that enables us to shed our old routines and habits,  and  allowing us the possibility for a fresh view of  ourselves in the world.  And now reading in the New York Times about the passing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who rose to fame by offering yet another transformation of perception, a transformation of consciousness for  anyone who would close their eyes and let go of thinking through the Transcendental Meditation technique. Maharishi’s death is impacting me more than any other death of a world leader , or media hero.
I  have practiced the technique daily  for some 38 years now, after learning it for $35 from my initiator, Bill Deknatel in Amherst, MA,  one auspicious day back in the fall of my 20th year.  One time was all it took for me to be hooked, with the quietest prompt and nudge from Bill in a quiet, sandalwood incense fragrant room.  It is a treasure of my life.
The Beatles have a part in bringing TM to me, for sure.  Read this article in today’s New York Times about the Beatles’ own need for transformation, for their desperation release from the cage of fame that prompted them to take their own turn at masking and renaming where they transformed themselves into Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and they gave the world what has been considered the greatest popular music album of all time.  It was around then that they traveled to Rishikesh, India to start TM and progress on their own path’s to Maharishi’s  map to “ unbounded infinite Being”.
I was fortunate to personally encounter Maharishi twice. Marcia and I spent a month at Queen’s University in London Ontario for a teacher training,  in 1972 I think.  One afternoon I was standing outside the lecture hall and was able to hand Mararishi a red rose, and that he gentle lifted and gazed at it for a bit and said, “Yesterday’s memories, tomorrow’s promises”.
Another time I was in La Antilla , Spain and preparing to be a full teacher of TM.   For two months , we lived in a small apartment on the ocean’s edge and met in a huge tent set up on the beach where we were taught by a Canadian , whose name might have been Guy Hatcher.  In the end, we received the final teaching instructions from Maharishi himself.  He was the real deal.

Sometimes a great notion

Winter sunrise in Maine

hits me and I want to tell everybody about it. This time it is not my idea, but most of the great ideas I entertain are not generated here at 290 High St. I am grateful for a gift subscription to The Sun that was sent me by my friend Petro. The very first issue ( Jan. 2008) came and it was as if Petro dialed in a bull’s eye for me.
I don’t want to get into the issue of whether suffering is genuine, but I would strongly suggest reading the following article from a recent issue of The Sun magazine: Through A Glass Darkly ( hit the title for direct link) . It is still online, for how long, IDK.
It starts like this, and just doesn’t let up: “Why do you think it is important for us to pay attention to the dark emotions, in particular?”   and then it goes from there. The article hammers home my belief that at the very minimum, distracting ourselves from, and at the worst burying,  our sadness and grief  not only cheapens our chances for a true, rich life, but may lead us toward true danger.

I was the kind of guy that didn’t really believe it could get that bad with depression until this Fall, when I returned from my 6 month AT trip and found myself  falling, falling, deeper, and deeper into depression and grief. The article is like gold to me, plus it is readable!   I do believe that when we don’t have ways to befriend and work with sadness, fear, and despair, things can turn violent or we pay the price in other ways.

Reading the article really moved me forward in my understanding about why sadness comes, and how it is a part of life, and how we grow from it. If anyone takes the time to read it, I’d appreciate your comments .

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

There was a mistake in today’s New York Times.  The town of Kingfield, ME was profiled in the Havens section, page D5.  And, by the way, the sleepy hamlet of Kingfield, Maine  will no longer be a “… good little secret.”
I won’t  bother to send in  the correction about the Trail.  The article states that “The Appalachian Trail crosses over Bigelow and Sugarloaf Mountains…” I know it doesn’t cross over Sugarloaf.  It skirts the summit a particularly  grueling quarter of a mile from the top and I am not sure there is even a location on the Trail called Bigelow Mountain.  I’ve been there recently, and the writer apparently hasn’t .  The Times fact checker missed this one, thank God.
Nevertheless, I have been thinking about that area a bit recently,  after reading a  public relations message disguised as a feature article entitled  “Trekking the Backcountry” in Downeast Magazine about the opening of the first of what will be a dozen $600,000 “backcountry huts” on the Maine Huts and Trails initiative. You can read the piece yourself by clicking the link above. What is so ironic about the project is that it has evolved in so quietly, fueled by private funding, and if it reaches fruition, may dramatically alter the number of people that access the western Maine woods.  I have been looking closely at a map of Phase 1, which extends from Route 27/Rt.16  just below the drive in entrance to the Bigelow Preserve all the way to the West Forks on Rt. 201.  It only crosses the AT once in that section, at the east end of Flagstaff Lake. It is essentially  flat, with the only elevation gain in this section the 600′ climb from Rt. 27 up to the new Poplar Stream Falls Hut.  If you are not a member, it will cost you $80 a night to stay there, but you get a bed with linens, etc. and three squares. There is space for 42 people, but apparently they can start making a profit in 5 years if they only fill it a third.
I have some questions.  Since this path is private, can anyone walk on it and just camp where they want, following the general back country rules ?  Can anyone leave their vehicles  at the Trailheads?    Are they going to charge to use their trails?  I would definitely like to check it out, but since I like to camp outside in my tent or hammock will want to pass on the package deal.  Will they allow just buying meals if you go past one of these huts?