The Winter Whites: Day 2

The Sunday $8.95 breakfast buffet at Welch’s Restaurant in Gorham is the only deal in town on Sunday morning. Where else in Gorham do you get a live acoustic guitar rendition of Here Comes the Sun with your individually prepared omlet? Welch’s is easy on Rt. 2, adjacent to the abandoned Mobil station, across the street from the empty insurance company.
Right now the ‘Goon and I are leisurely reading the Sunday NY Times. Waiting for our Room 7 pals to get mobile. After they get back from breakfast The plan is to strike up the Carter-Moriah Trail off Rt 2 and see how far we feel like suffering until we turn around and make for the cars to head home.
It was no walk in the park, compared to the relatively gradual first 2 miles up Nineteen Mile Brook yesterday. In fact, the side of the pyramid entry path immediately shot right up out of the parking lot at the end of Bangor St. , with Rangoon once again leaving a vapor trail, his trail thickning with the increase of the angle of the footpath.

This initial two miles was an unrelenting up. Toward the top we encountered two dicey ledges that would have dashed bones to broken piles if we somehow neglected to strap metal screws or twisted wires to the bottom of our footwear.
Two miles and some 2,000 verticle feet later, Ohm and I were begging for mercy and filing a special request that no matter what, where we were be considered the top of Mt. Surprise and that we retreat, and start gulping Peanut M&M’s as soon as we sheltered ourselves from the cold.
On the way down, I wish I had a whole functioning body so that I could slide down the steep sections like everyone else, but I was just too sore and hobbled to risk an out of control hit. The known wincing steps I took were better than the possible downsides of unrestrained luge-like velocity.
It’s been a long time since I hiked up these snowcapped trails in the Whites.
I’ll be back. There’s nothing here that three ibuprofen can’t help.
Where on earth can a guy like me get a chance to hike in formation with the likes of these genuine souls, unheralded veterans of five to six months of living in the woods, true knowers of a unfettered take on 21st century life?

Carter Dome

We had an exceptionally pleasing day summiting Carter Dome today, a 4,800 footer in a range of just to the east of Mt. Washington.
The footpath was almost perfect, given the fact that concussion city would have been a real option without the use of Stabilicers or Yaktrax on our feet. There were some nasty ice flows along Nineteenmile Brook on the way up, one in particular that was sloped to send you straight down one the ice covered waters just below it. One the way down we encountered an immobilized trio of young women who were in rubber boots and I decided to help one across rather than have to deal with a possible serious fall.
No need for snowshoes, but there was freshly packed powder on the last section, on the AT, heading 1.5 miles south to the summit. Ohm fell off the trail once and swam for a while in the powder before he was able to grt back upright. The snow was shockingly deep. Rangoon reached off trail and was not able to reach bottom even entending his Leki pole and his long arm.
We ran into two women at the summit from Portland who were good friends with a couple I know from Lincolnville.
It was around 30 degrees out most of the day, with enough sun breaking through the clouds to make it pleasant.
It was deeply satisfying for me to be hiking in formation again behind Rangoon, with Birdlegs, Quartermoon, Ohm,and BL’s librarian friend David right behind.
The descent was a blast. We ran down the middle 1.9 mile section; skittering, shuffling, and sliding through the seven switchbacks and safely remaining upright in the process.
We made record time today, taking just 6 hours to complete the 10.4 mile round trip. Plus we get to hang together tonight and go out on the trail tomorrow and do it all again.

Paradise Lost

Twenty minutes past eight and the Goon and I are all packed up and ready to go. We’re waiting for our friends who rolled into their room at about 1:15 last night. Going up to Carter Dome takes 4 hours one way. Should be interesting up high if it is blowing 60 mph at 10 degrees on Mt. Washington this morning.
The plan is to drive down to Rt. 16, find the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail for 2 miles, Carter Dome Trail for 2 more, then 1.2 miles south to the summit of Carter Dome at 4832 feet elevation.
I’m packing my headlamp.

Hikers in Paradise

We’re already sliding back here at Hiker Paradise.
Rangoon and Uncle Tom are waiting for Birdlegs and the rest of the crew with the hopes for a good day of hiking tomorrow.
To slide back one just has to exist here. Although we had originally rented a room with three beds, and now there were just the two of us, the wife of the owner, Mrs. Janicki told us, “There’s nothing I can do about that,” as she proceeded to charge us the full $75 per room per night.
Then I volunteered myself to take the key to Birdleg’s adjacent room, but now Bruno himself appeared and requested that I pony up my credit card for the additional charge of $150 to do him the favor of not getting out of bed after midnight to let her and the other two guys in tonight.
I asked him why he couldn’t just bill the credit card she reserved the original two rooms with and he replied, with a deadpanned, “I need to run the actual card, or else they charge me two percent !”
So the Goon and I are safely ensconced here, tucked into our cigarette hole burned quilts away from the spiderwebs along the medicine chest and the leaky toilet noise in 26 degree downtown grey Gorham, New Hampshire, where the wind outside is nowhere near as strong as it is on the top of Mount Washington where it is 11.6°F and the wind is 52.6 mph, putting the wind chill at -15.1°F.
We’re going up someplace near there tomorrow.

White Mountain Weekend

Heading Over to Gorham, NH for a weekend of hiking in the White Mountains with Birdlegs, Rangoon, Ohm, and Quartermoon.
Outside here on the coast this morning it is sunny and warm. Here’s the present report from the top of Mt. Washington: Temperature 13.7°F, Wind 53.7 mph, Wind Chill -12.3°. Got to pack for the cold and wind.
Here’s the link to the Webcam on the Observation Deck on top. I’d suggest bookmaking it and referring to it when you think things might be interesting up there. It is uncanny how often the winds are up over 100 MPH.

Eagle and the Overcoat

Sometimes what is real is more like a dream.
It happened to me on Friday, at about 8:30 AM , driving up Route 3 to Augusta for a legislative work session where the format was not familiar to me. It was an event that would be leaden with conflict, and as I was fretting about what to say, and how to say it, I encountered a most unique situation. We used to call such an event a Happening, like when you actually encounter a large tree spontaneously crashing to the ground in the still forest.
I was last in a line of several cars, behind a slower moving vehicle on the two-laned highway, heading uphill with several vehicles coming alongside us from the opposite direction. Suddenly, I caught the first glimpse of motion that appeared at the top of my windshield. A fully mature bald eagle swooped and hovered not 10 feet above the tops of the cars, it’s tail feather braking the descent, and although I passed below it rapidly, I understood that the giant raptor was likely waiting for a break in the traffic to lift some roadkill. The wingspan took up almost half of the roadway, and (I looked it up) likely approached the adult female maximum of 7 feet.
I didn’t know it then, but the eagle might have guided me on my long day in Augusta, where I had to be patient, dodge the oncoming traffic of ideas, and wait for the chance to get what I needed out of the day.
On the one hour drive back home, I plugged in the iPod and listened to the Podcast of my friend Lock’s Matinicus Wannabee 2/8/10 show on WRFR FM. Most of the music was familiar to me, but then I heard an beautiful deep voice speaking to me: Lock’s choice of Heather Masse’s I Don’t Wanna Wake Up Today, with the stunning repetitive last line of >
wake me up
pick me up
put an overcoat on me
and push me outside

You gotta love it when the universe gives you clear instructions.

French Toast and the Outhouse

` We made it through the frigid night by taking turns stoking the Tempwood wood stove when we each got up to pee.
I got up in the half-light at 6:30 AM and had the coffee percolator working it’s magic in no time. John had volunteered to make breakfast so it was egg and milk mix thawing time and before we knew it John had whipped up a masterful lumberjack-style breakfast of sausage, and french toast ( from cinnamon raisin bread), complete with Maine maple syrup and butter.

The Real Chef
John’s fine tuning of the crispy toast would not have been possible without Gary’s willingness to haul in his trusty Coleman camp stove year after year, and the duty that this appliance has served and the meals that it has fired are legendary in our memories.
Gary's Mighty Coleman

No summary of a Tanglewood weekend is complete without mention of the facility’s own elimination evacuation station, which itself was working overtime in response to the gustatory overload that we ours this February weekend. Two Johns Some know it as an outhouse.
This simple camp life has drawn us here for a winter walking and sort-of-camping break from the grind for the past fifteen years. Gary Rocketing Downhill We skidded down the hill and hauled our gear out for the last time in 2010, ready for showers, and yet reluctant to part company but….. We vowed to do it again .
Don’t try and bother us on Feb 11-13, 2011. We’re on it!

Saturday Night at the Fireworks

I freakin’ froze on the top of Mt. Battie. We planned on the fireworks being launched at 6 pm from information I downloaded from the Camden website. It only took us 17 minutes to hike out from Dogtrot to the car and got to Camden early so we went to Village Variety for a hot drink where a sign said the fireworks were at 5:30 and one of the twins working there told us that is what the local papers had as well. At that point it was 4:52 PM so we shot back up North on Rt. 1 to the parking lot and walked really fast, making it to the top by 5:29 PM. The sunset was impressive.

Sunset from Mt. Battie
No one else up there. We eventually dialed 1-800-askCathy, the standard information center for all my friends in the Midcoast area, where Cathy herself told us her and Hank decided it was too cold and they were home, warm by the fire. Ms. Information Central verified that was 5:30.
It was 6 PM when they launched the show, so we had to endure another 1/2 hour of bitter cold wind and single digit temps.
John and Pat Livin' It Up
While we were waiting, my friend Eric, his daughter Kayla, and his wife and dog showed up. The fireworks looked tiny from up at 800 feet above the harbor. The show was extremely impressive. Harbor LightsMore drama ensued after Eric told us that a woman wearing a long down coat passed them near the top, said hello as she passed, and she never passed them going down as they reached the top and joined us. John had invited his wife Anne to join us, but we had to leave before our intended 5:15 departure from the lot to the top. John couldn’t roust Anne at home and didn’t have her cell number with him. John never saw the fireworks, because he left to look for her. After watching the fireworks, Eric shared a thermos of hot chocolate with us and Pat and I jogged down, me desperately trying to get warm. We found John at the bottom but no Anne. While we were driving back to walk into camp again Anne called John and said she was not able to easily find us and headed back down. The warm camp felt great and we almost ate all of the pot roast.
Sent from my iPod Touch

Walking Along the Ducktrap River

Went for a hike this afternoon along the Ducktrap River.

Ducktrap River
There were huge chunks of ice littering the shores, remnants of a massive overflow that must have occurred a couple of weeks ago when we received three inches of rain in a 24 hour period and the temperatures rose into the 40’s.
Ice Along the Ducktrap
At one point, we have to detour around a broken bridge, but Iron John broke through the ice but emerged with dry foot.
John Deals with Treachery
I could launch into a rant about where the hell are all the outdoor enthusiasts, but I won’t. Well, not too much a rant.
Here we have a brilliant sunny clear weekend day with all these groomed cross country ski trails in this facility and we’ve only seen two skiers all day. Being out here again reminds me of how easy it is for anyone to ski or just walk in along a wild salmon river and explore bird and animal tracks in the powder snow. The patterns that the water and ice make in their interactions on the river are enchanting, and unobservable anywhere but right here, today.
Big Cube
I do appreciate that I can still find friends, and even some family, that are willing to walk through the snow in the dark and cold and be outdoors with me.
The Adventurers