I had a great day yesterday, combining some decent work with spending time outside. I have been traveling to work via tiny airplane to Vinalhaven Island one day a week for the past five weeks, and the weather yesterday made for the best flight yet. I was in the plane by 6:55 AM, riding out with the mail. Inside the tiny storage compartment there was a racket I had never heard before on any of my prior flights. Amongst the mail was a box of baby chickens, cheeping away like crazy. The ride only takes 10 minutes, with a takeoff from Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head. A quick ascent to 2,500 feet then the descent to the scary, sketchy gravel rumble strip of a landing zone carved out between rocks and trees. Here is a shot of the Penobscot Bay islands:
I finished work and was whisked off to my return flight at 1:15 PM. The views were just as good as in the morning.
In the afternoon, I decided to walk the Uncle Tom trail, and took Jody the dog along. It was really fun walking in the woods again, with soft easy footpath, and just a start of shoots rising up out of the ground. On top of the ridge up near 1,000 feet I found one huge cluster of daffodils near an abandoned stone wall, likely planted there by someone, who lived maybe generations ago. When I came home, I played with Woolie in the field for a while.
In three weeks I take 10 days to canoe the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. We hope to squeeze some decent traveling days just after ice out and just before black fly hatch.
rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have just re-read this book, in anticipation of a 100 mile journey on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway coming up in a month or so. I don’t remember a finer, more enjoyable read. This book is slim, but perfect. It has history, unique characters, and an honesty about the conflicts and follies of group travel that is wincing in its honesty. Part of the story occurrs where we will go, and that is so tantalizing right now, as winter is fades and spring is harrowing in its brutal carnage around here this year. This is an other reminder of the pleasures, a few of the real challenges and in many ways the stunning power of simplicity.
After 34 years of living in this town, I finally walked the length of Lincolnville, one step at a time, and all in one day. I live right near the edge of town, on the southern side of Moody Mountain, about as close as anybody to the border that is shared with Searsmont. When I stand on my front porch at night, I look toward the horizon and am blessed with a view across the valley between High Street and Camden Hills State Park that is free of any lights of any kind, miles of a view. About a month ago, I had the thought, “Maybe I should walk there?”
The idea was sweetened by the recent renovation of the Megunticook Ski Shelter, a rebuild of a 1930’s structure that fell into disrepair and was razed in the early 1990’s. I has some friends and family come along. I didn’t want to strap myself with organizational responsibilities of any kind, so the deal was,”You are on your own as to when you get there. Plan and cook your own meals, and bring your own gear.”
The seven campers who joined me were my brother Roy, who came up from MA for the weekend, my wife Marcia ( AKA Auntie Mame), my friend Pat, and the trio of Neal, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend daughter Cassie. The trio were in Maine for the weekend for the purpose of moving Neal up to Maine from CT. Pat, Neal and I had done numerous motorcycle camping trips together. Auntie Mame and I have traveled together almost our whole lives. Roy and I were to walk the 8 miles from my house overland through town to get there. The rest of the group were planning to drive to Stevens Corner and walk 3.3 miles to reach the Hut.
We left early to be sure that the snow was still frozen and that we could avoid the use of snow shoes. It was a decent day, below freezing cold, but not windy, and even the sun came out for us. We left the house, took a left and walked up High Street for a couple hundred yards and turned left on the first section, where we traveled along the abandoned end of the Proctor Road.
There had been some foot and snowsled traffic that had granted us refrozen ruts, but there were still some open wet muck holes that we stepped around. After about a half mile, we made it to the maintained end of the road where we met my neighbor Matt, who told us we could avoid roads if we just walked the main snowmobile trail that went through town to Camden. “For another time,” I thought.
Our next section was road walking, first on the Heal Road, then picking up Route 173 in Lincolnville Center. We banged off a quick couple of miles in a direct line south past Norton Pond, stopping at the Drake’s Corner Store, where I had them pack me up a lunch: a chicken salad sandwich, which I supplemented with Dortios and chocolate milk.
From here it was straight up the Thurlow Road right into Camden Hills State Park. Earlier this morning Roy and I drove down and stashed our backpacks at my friends Dave and Kristi’s house on Thurlow road, saving us a few miles of carrying extra weight. Roy was really enjoying his new Leki trekking poles that he had purchased at LL Bean’s on his drive up. About a half mile on tar, we traversed an abandoned section of the Thurlow Road, and from this point we launched into the 1,000 foot ascent into the middle of the State Park. Here is a photo of Roy and I starting our ascent of Cameron Mountain from the Youngtown Road.
The photo was taken by a woman that I know who lives across the street from the trail who she came over to grill us about our intentions after she saw the fluorescent tape on my pack and assumed that we were tagging the big field for a housing development. She sure was relieved when we promised her we were just hiker trash.
Roy and I skirted the deep snow edge of the field until we traversed over to a snowmobile trail that made up the lower end of the Cameron Mountain Trail. The next photo is of Roy at the summit of Cameron Mountain ( elev. 811’).
If you look along the ridge line from the left, you can see where we started our walk, about 1/5 of the way from the left of the ridge line, where the ridge dips and comes back up again. We took a break after we descended from the summit, and then pushed on through the next phase of the hike, leaving the snowmobile path, and walking the snow covered foot path that we’d follow for most of the way in.
The trail here is really beautiful, and parallels, then crosses a stream, as it winds it way up to the highest point of the walk, the intersection of the Sky Blue and Zeke’s Trails. Descending now for the next half-mile, we headed due east until we reached the Ski Lodge Trail, where a quick walk of 0.4 miles brought us to our home for the rest of the evening, the Megunticook Ski Shelter.
The original building was constructed in the late 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and served as a warming hut at the base of several ski slopes on the northern side of Mt. Megunticook. This was in pre-ski lift days, and the slopes there remained open during the 1940’s , closed at the end of the 1950’s, deteriorated to a stripped shell with a roof by the late 1980’s, and finally was razed in the early 1990’s. It has been reconstructed from lumber cut in the park and the labor was “donated” by volunteers from the nearby Maine State Prison. After I had the idea I sent an e-mail to a dozen of my friends and made them the offer to spend a night in the Park. The cost of renting the facility was $32.10 ( any extras would have added $3.10 each). The shelter is 20’ by 40’, is insulated, and the split seasoned firewood is primo.
The airtight stove works fine. Bunk beds sleep six, and the outdoor toilet is clean and actually has toilet paper. For a minimum reservation fee of $32.10 paid up front by calling 207-236-0849 ( winter) or 236-3109 ( summer) , it is yours for the night.
These days, Roy is a worse hiking fool than I am. The guy floored me when he said that he still wanted to hike, after 8 miles over mostly snow, half with a pack. Roy is one of the major players in a walking incentive health program that they are sponsoring at his work at New Balance. He has a pedometer, and is a man on a mission. I pointed Roy back to the Multi use Trail, and a couple for hours later , he limped back after an additional 5 mile round trip out to the Route 1 entrance to the State Park, where he walked all the way down to the ocean. As we were relaxing by the fire in two adirondack chairs we spotted Auntie Mame and her 4 pound sidekick Jody rocketing by the window.
She’s one of the other real deal hikers in my family. The rest of the gang was in by 5 PM or so, and from then on it was eating, more eating, pack and gear talk, and the kind of tales that spill out when one is in the woods.
Everyone was doing really fine. I had no problem staying warm sleeping on the flagstone floor, with a thin 1/4 “ foam aluminized mat under my Big Agnes Air Core mattress. I woke in the middle of the night and threw a few more pieces of wood on the fire, ensuring that the cabin stayed reasonably warm through the night.
In the morning Pat and I cranked out the Rock City Coffee, my trusty little coffee percolator by my side. I heated up sausages, soft boiled eggs, and made some toast on the wood stove for Mame and me.
I was ready for a short hiking day of 3.3 miles out to the car with Mame and Roy , but it was not to be.
Roy looked at me incredulously and said, “ I thought we were going to walk back to your house. I came up here to hike, not ride in a car! ” Shamed back to hiking reality, Roy and I diverted from the rest of the departing group and trudged back up Zeke’s Trail. We had a rough plan for Auntie Mame to drive over to where we crossed the Youngtown Road and take our packs so that we could walk the last 5 miles without them, but it never happened, or more truthfully, we didn’t want to wait.
It was at this point that we entered new ground. I remembered that the snowmobile path that Matt told us about yesterday was just down the road, so Roy and I walked a bit west and found it on the Youngtown Road.
It was awesome to walk over parts of town that I had never seen before. We entered some huge snow covered fields, then paralleled a stream for a good part of a mile, where the trail crossed Route 52, right near Drake’s Corner. Crossing a large field on the trail, we approached Norton Pond, which we declined to cross, as the path was indiscernible on the refrozen ice. We opted to hop back onto Rt 52/173 for a very brief set of steps, then a hard left on Norton Pond Road, where we relocated the snowmobile trail, which bordered a meandering stream and carried us through a mature forest, with some surprisingly remote little houses and camps that were set way back in the woods. Coming onto Route 235, we skirted the edge of the ball fields in back of the Lincolnville Central School and hugged the stream as it wound its way through an old gravel pit , edged a man-made cranberry bog, and exited back at the base of the Proctor Road, which was now familiar territory to the two of us. From here it was mostly uphill back to High Street and the old homestead.
The last mucky spots were muddier, and the two of us had completed 9 miles on this run back to the house. For Roy, it still was not enough, and after a snack and some drinks he logged another three miles on the road before he put his new Leki poles up for good.
I look back on this weekend of walking through town as one of the realest things a person can do in any town they live in; walk around and see what is out there.