Snow Walking, Snowshoes,Powder.

It was a chance to bask in the pleasure of walking in powder snow one more time, and was our best little hike so far this winter. Ryan and I decided to take advantage of the clear skies and head for the hills, the Camden Hills State Park, that is, where we ended up bagging two peaks and covering a 4.5 mile loop last Saturday.
We went in from the Route 1 side, where we met at 2PM in the parking lot at the base of Mount Battie ( 800’). There were dozens of cars in the lot, where Ryan spotted two others than mine that had AT thru-hiker stickers on them. I strapped on my Stablilicers and Ryan slid into his his Kahtoonas as we walked up the ice-covered apshalt road to the top, stopping to talk with several friends who were one their way down. We took photos near the tower overlooking Penobscot Bay.

Uncle Tom and Guthook

Back down we went, backtracking another half-mile where we found the Tableland Trail on the left, minus the sign. Time for the snowshoes. The trail was now in the woods, where it dipped down some 200 feet, then went up, up, and up. Some of the ups were loose and steep, whih made it hard to ascend. Even the big aluminum claws on my shoes sometimes slid backwards, required repeated lunges to walk and eventually grip. It was work, for sure. Some 1,000 feet of climbing later, we got to the ridge leading past Ocean Lookout up to the top of Mount Megunticook ( 1385’) .
Mt. Battie from Mt. Megunticook

It was at this point that Ryan exercised leadership, by suggesting that we curtail our original plan to descend the 1.1 mile Slope Trail to the Ski Lodge, where we planned to have a boil up and snack. Yeah, we had to get down, but that would leave us close three more miles on the Multiuse Trail to reach the cars, and the sun was starting to set.
West to Mt. Washington

Ryan looked around for a ledge to set our stoves on, but the snow was too deep for that. No Ledge to be FoundInstead, we packed down sitting places with our snowshoes, and set right down and fired up the stoves for hot drinks. We both had extra jackets that we put on. Ryan struggled with generating a decent boil with his Caldera cone alcohol stove. I had my own challenges with keeping my Bushcooker LT1 upright as the fire melted the snow beneath, causing the stove to tip.
Boilin' Up
Next time, I’m packing a 1 quart paint can lid, which fits the base of the Bushcooker perfectly and would enable me to keep it stable on packed snow. I think I remember that any alcohol stove requires some type of insulation from the snow to get it up to speed. I was able to hit a rolling boil after throwing in a Coghlan hexamine tablet that got the wood burning in the LT1, and warmed my hands near the flames, then cradled the cook pot of tea. I had some chocolate from Christmas that went down just fine.
The temperature was dropping rapidly and both Ryan and I decided to keep fully dressed as we slipped, skied, and slid our snowshoed way down the 1.5 mile Mt. Megunticook Trail.
Two days later, the Camden Hills was hit with 47 degree temperatures and three inches of rainfall, a combination that would dramatically reduce the snow cover, and make snowshoeing history. However, the deep freeze coming tomorrow ( single number temps) will coat the trails with ice, which may set things up the next sporting event- mountain biking with studded tires!

Spinncycles and Snowshoes

My To-Do list is taking on the specter out of a Stephen King horror story. Yikes, my wife reminded me that I have 90 days or so before I start hiking in California. One thing that is coming along OK is my fitness, especially this past week, when I got in four 1-hour shirt-drenching Spinning ( bicycling) workouts at the YMCA, and two snowshoeing hikes on top of decent conditions, with 5-10 more inches of fresh powder predicted for today.
I did the first full blown winter snowshoeing night hike of my life on Tuesday night when five of us did a 3 mile loop up and over 1,100 foot Bald Rock Mountain in Lincolnville, ME. It was down to the single numbers out, and the wind was blowing on top, so the requisite photo was quick, but we did get the unique pleasure of looking out across Penobscot Bay and checking out the lights on the islands and the more concentrated glow of Camden and Rockland in the distance.

Bubbas on Top in the Cold

I was the only one without snowshoes, but my Stabilicers did fine at keeping me upright, and the loop that we chose had been traveled before, and was packed down enough and refrozen so that I didn’t posthole through the crust.
Then yesterday ( Sunday) I joined my friends Rick and Craig over to one of our regular mountain bicycling routes in Rockland known as The Bog, where we were shocked to find out that we would be breaking trail in the deep fresh powder than fell in last week’s storm.
Craig and Rick on Highland Path
We took turns (mostly Rick and Craig) going first, which is always the most work in fresh snow, and wound out way along the Georges Highland Path, finishing up with 4.5 registered on Rick’s GPS.
One of the rituals we’ve been launching is to take the time to have a “ boil up” in the latter part of these hikes.
Enjoying a Boil Up
Like little boys, we’re excited to playing with fire, as we cook up drinks and eat our snacks.

Some Bubbas Meet a New Friend

It was 20 degrees out, dark and overcast this morning . After eating a breakfast of espresso , scrambled eggs, bacon, and a pumpernickel bagel slathered with Queso’s own strawberry fig preserves, I was fueled up for a hike. The PCT related action for today was meeting my new friend Ryan, (AKA Guthook GA-ME 2007 AT thru hiker) to talk trail strategy and get in a training hike at Camden Hills State Park. We have been e-mailing each other ever since December when we both learned that we were both starting the Pacific Crest Trail this year, that we lived in the same county here in Maine, and that we lived about 15 miles apart.
My dependable snowshoeing fellow Bubbas Craig and Rick joined us at the Stevens Corner parking lot at the edge of the park at 8:30 AM for this one.

Craig, Ryan, Rick
The wind was already tunneling down the open spaces of the Multiuse Trail so we quickly strapped on Stablilicers ( me) and Kahtoola Microspikes (Ryan). We quickly ascended 1.2 miles to the Cameron Mountain Trail, where I was able to stay with the Stabilicers until we hung a left on the Cameron Mtn.Trail where it was snowshoe city for all of us ( CM Trail = 2.5 miles). We ascended steeply along a stream bed until we reached the highest point of the hike at 1,000 feet in elevation. It is super important to avoid the obvious left turn at the Sky Blue Trail, which would add another 3.1 to our destination. Just 0.1 miles further on is the preferred solution, Zeke’s Trail. It was untouched and covered with 2-3 feet of powder snow.  Crag broke trail and the 0.5 miles to the Ski Lodge Trail was all that one can hope for when snowshoeing- a 400 foot drop sliding and skidding away , with Penobscot Bay in the distance. Where else in the eastern USA can you skid your way down from 1,000 feet elevation with the shore of the Atlantic less than a mile away?
It was a quick 0.4 walk on the Ski Lodge trail to the rebuilt Ski Lodge, which we found empty. There was wood already inside, and I soon had a decent start of a fire going in the wood stove. Here is a brief video of the crew in action at the hut.
While we were in the hut, a group came in , and Craig and I recognized them as the same group that we met when we had been by here last year on mountain bikes. It was a friendly time inside, as they were no doubt pleased that we had already started heating up the shelter. They were staying the night.
After we boiled up our drinks and ate our home made energy bars and pemmican, we hightailed it back the 3.0 miles over the Ski Lodge Trail down to the cars. All in all we had covered 8.0 miles, and it sure felt like it. We were beat. At the car I realized that I had left my Leki poles outside of the shelter, but wisely decided that they were safe, in the company of the group that was camping for the night. I was in no shape to do another 6.0 miles to get them back . Rick convinced me I now and an excuse to get back tomorrow morning, perhaps riding my mountain bike up the hill and back again to rescue them ?

Backyard Wilderness: The New England Trail @ Backpacking Light

The Northeastern United States are a backpacker’s dream, with two National Forests, well over a thousand miles of hiking trails, and several hiking clubs that maintain those trails. Backpackers looking for short trips have dozens of options within a few hours’ drive of the major population centers, and those looking for longer trips have several long-distance trails to choose from…. Read more via Backyard Wilderness: The New England Trail @ Backpacking Light.

Deer In the Dooryard

We had a big snow storm here this weekend.  Deer, deer everywhere.  The new snow makes it easier to see where they came from and what they are looking for.

The morning after the big storm

When I walked up to the road to get the paper this morning, there were loads of deer hoof prints just outside the door.


My neighbor hit three at once a couple of nights ago right up the street and demolished his front end.  I saw the wrecker hauling it off this morning, while I was shoveling snow, again.

Just last night , I starting reading this book:

The Hidden Life of Deer

I learned that whitetail deer are the most written about mammals in the world, mostly coming from the hunting angle.  The writer closely studied the habits of deer that came to feed at her farm in Vermont.  Last night, I fell asleep with images of deer traveling their ancient paths, and then the first thing that  I see when I walk out the door in the half dark is the evidence of a  multitude of actual deer at my doorstep, eating the shrubs around the house.

Santa knew! Christmas 2009 gifts.

Here is what I got for Christmas this year:
A carload of free coal on Dec. 24!  Mine for the taking, as long as I wore a bandana over my face to keep from choking on the dust, shoveled it out of the bin in a basement 18 miles away,  passed each bucket out of a door in the foundation, hauled them to the car, out of the car, into an outbuilding, washed the coal dust off my face , and stretched my back out. This is a holdover gift from 2008, as I had not completely cleared out a bin full of coal that has been sitting in a friend’s basement since, maybe 1952! Each 5 gallon bucket hold about 50 pounds of coal.

A video: “Lion King” is at it again. Another long trail down and another great film. This time the ‘Lion King’ tackles the Pacific Crest Trail, a grueling 2,600 miles, give or take. Lion King sets off from Mexico and heads for Canada, on foot, of course. This film touches on the travails and joyous moments that occur when you are hiking a long, long distance. This is not a ‘How To’ film but more a study of what it takes to do it, the culture and the great people you meet along the way.  I’m not in agreement that the soundtrack is ” marvelous”, but there is some footage here there is thrilling. The end of the video, which stretched way past when he should have left the trail in Washington in the ice and snow is motivation for anyone who is planing such a trip to keep those town break days in mind when movin’ north.

A book: “New York City-based journalist Wilkinson consulted 60 experts—among them Andrew Weil, M.D. (on wellness), Ina Garten (on the kitchen), Rabbi Harold Kushner (on the spirit)—to compile lists of all the top requirements for a healthy life. Here, she categorizes her findings into three handy sections: “Body” (e.g., exercise, nutrition), “Mind” (e.g., connection, acceptance), and “Spirit” (setting aside time for reflection, having a sense of purpose). Particularly suited to busy people who want to cover all bases of life improvement in the least amount of time; highly recommended for all libraries.” –Library Journal

A storage solution: It’s the Smart Spin!  What more can I say?   I know that my receiving this product will finally shut up my cursing and rummaging around in this big kitchen drawer with 30 years of assorted and lidless containers .  Here’s the actual before and after scene. Its true!  

A piece of camping gear:  Silk jacquard 36 inch size “wild rag”.  The wild rag has long functioned in the west as much more than merely an adornment.  Silk wild rags are  made of a natural, breathable silk that helps wick away moisture and filter out the wind.  They have been used in summer heat to keep cool and winter cold to keep warm.  Wild rags can be worn over the face to filter out wind too.  They use them out west as an alternative to duct tape or to help doctor hurt animals. This is the more colorful one of the two that Santa brought me.   More “trail flair” for me.