Slippin’ and slidin’ in the Camden Hills

“Goals are good, “said Guthook, as we ascended the slippery as snot ridge of boulders and granite from Barrett’s Cove up above the Millerite Ledges on the Maiden’s Cliff trail this morning.

Guthook and the big cross
We had NO views, as the humidity was over the top, wind was blowing about 20 mph, and the fog was like pea soup. It was spitting, and sometimes raining, but nothing like the deluge that has hit Vermont lately. This is day 3 of our effort to hike all the trails In Camden Hills State Park. Five hours and 10.5 miles later we were back to the car that we spotted at Stevens Corner- wet, a bit muddy, and ” trained up”, as I call it.
Wet on Zeke's (It's the trail, you West Coast folks).
I had loaded 30 pounds of weight lifting plates into the bright red 1970’s vintage Trailwise external frame backpack, hoping I could morph into better shape for my Tennessee/Virginia section piece on the Appalachain Trail next week.
UT strapped into The Rack

After we checked off the Maiden’s Cliff region, we took the 0.3 mile connector to the Zeke’s Trail, where we went through the motions of reaching Zeke’s Lookout (1204′), then descended to the Ski Lodge Trail on Zeke’s, eventually reaching the Sky Blue Trail, my favorite in the park. It doesn’t have the views, but it is just laid out so beautifully, traversing lichen encrusted ridges, stone walls, and streams, gently going up and down all the while. We took the Cameron Mountain trail all the way back to the Heald Shelter ruin near the Bald Rock Mountain trail, and lumbered downhill the 1.2 miles back to the car.
I’m beat.

Thirty Pounds on the Back

Hit Moody Mountain late yesterday afternoon with a loaded pack. The ascent is a steep 200′ in elevation climb. I walked 45 minutes out and the same back.
I also received a phone call from M&M, AT GA-ME 2007. He’s from Rochester, NY. Today he’s in San Diego, setting ip to try and thru hike the PCT. He told me he’s had shoulder and knee surgery since the AT, that he’s 25 pounds overweight, that he hasn’t put on a backpack since 2007, that he’s got all new gear he hasn’t tried out, and he’s hiking with his inexperienced brother. What do you think the chances are?
Another approach is that of Craig, from Union, ME. He also thrued the AT, I think in 2004. He too had bought a ticket to San Diego to thru the PCT, but changed his plans after realizing the snowpack in the Sierras is the deepest since the 1960’s. Instead, he’s hiking the AT again.
I’ll keep you posted on how these two guys do on their big hikes.

Ramping and Mapping up the Training

On Sunday, Guthook and I put in just over 15 miles on the trails in Camden Hill State Park. We started at 8 AM and were finished by 2 PM.
The goal is to GPS map the whole park and we are bout half way there. Guthook got the idea for us to use bicycles to get into the heart of the park and save time to hike. We initially rode the big uphill from Steven’s Corner past the Bald Rock Trail until we reached the Ski Shelter, where we stashed our bikes in the woods and hiked the Summer Bypass Trail to the Multi-use Trail, then humped on to the Nature Trail over to the Tableland Trail, ascending to Ocean Lookout,

Ocean Lookout
then back to the top of Megunticook again. Over near the end of the Multi-use trail we encountered Trevor Mills, who was well into his 23 mile run.
Trevor Mills
Trevor is a superior physical therapist who has successfully treated me in the past at his business Snow, Sport, and Spine.
From the top, we descended the Slope Trail over some residual ice and snow where we hopped back on the bikes, and went a quick yo-yo onto the .07 miles we missed on the Multi-use Trail, then rode back to bang off the ( 1.6 mile) up and back trail to the top of Bald Rock Mountain ( 1100″).
Here’s the result of Guthook’s work in tracking our progress over two day’s hiking , and then working with software to establish the results on a Google map of the Park:

Entering the Training Zone

“Hey Tom! I think it’s supposed to be nice out tomorrow. Want to explore the Camden Hills trails a bit?”
That’s all I needed to take half a day off today and join Guthook (AT GA->ME 2007, PCT 2007) for an 8 mile roller coaster training hike where the Maine mountains meet the sea.
So at 1 PM today we met at the Route 1 parking lot and immediately headed up to the top of Mt. Battie (800’). I wore my backpack with about 8 pounds of gear in it. Guthook was hyped up about working on his latest project involving his new Garmin Etrex GPS–way pointing all the trails in Camden Hills State Park, with the hopes of transferring his knowledge to somehow develop an iPhone App. If anyone can do it, he can.


After we hit the top of Battie, we descended the Mt. Battie Road until we hooked a left onto the 0.8 mile Tableland Trail, and then slabbed the side of Mt. Megunticook on the 1.7 mile Jack Williams Trail, where we encountered Bill Gifford, storming right up to the sound track of The Cure, a most excellent choice.
Mr. Gifford

Guthook and I agree that these Camden Hills are prime training grounds for getting in shape to hike big boy trails. If fact, many of the sections we walked today are virtually identical to the venerable, but rigorous, Maine Appalachian Trail. They are always rooty, mostly rocky, uneven, slippery when wet, punctuated by blow downs, and sometimes also lung-bustingly steep. Guthook’s GPS tracked us scaling up 2,200 vertical feet this afternoon, and clocked us moving at a 2.5 mph pace. We then veered back on the 1.2 mile Ridge Trail when we eventually reached the viewless top of Mt. Megunticook ( 1385’).
Then we went down, sometimes over sections of snow that were icily treacherous. We passed Ocean Lookout, then hooked into the Mt. Megunticook trail back down to the lot.
Something like 8 or 9 miles, definitely feeling beat. Back real soon, though.

Lost in the Wild

Lost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North WoodsLost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods by Cary J Griffith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

O my God! I was totally absorbed into, and moved to tears by this book. It is a dual soundtrack experience, the true story of two young men who become thoroughly lost in the same area, but several years apart (1998, 2001) . The writing is excellent, not much to skip over, plus there are actual maps to refer to.
You are viscerally transported to the boggy, nearly impenetrable landscapes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quentico Provincial Park. We’re talking big trees, thick boreal treescapes, black flies, and mosquitoes.
Both stories start off as many of us have experienced, one a solo backpacking weekend, the other a Boy Scout canoeing expedition where the lead Eagle Scout guide become separated from his charges.
I’ve read stories like this before, where the rescuers open a shelter and 100% believe they will find a corpse inside. What comes to mind is the incomparable Great Heart, by Rugge and Davidson.
There are innumerable factual references to wilderness survival skills here as well, as the author successfully yo-yoed me up and down into the consciousness of two suffering, desperate men. The break was needed. Brutal stuff, observing death approaching, in this case cadaver sniffing dogs, capable of detecting a corpse sunken beneath the cover of a sphagnum bog.
I got a glimpse into the portal to real-life terror this past June, in the deep snow cover over the invisible Pacific Crest Trail, when I was twice lost. The courage to survive can take many forms and some may not be easy to stomach.
Best quote of the book: “A great thirst is a great joy when quenched in time.” Edward Abbey.

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Week #1 in the Moment

Last night was cold, had a 40 degree bag, and it was marginal. After I zipped up the tent it warmed up inside and I had the best sleep yet. Plenty of room. No need to adjust sag despite the 50 degree temp span. May not be obvious to the casual user, but improvement in the zipper function over the two-hands needed Rainbow is appreciated.
I also enjoyed the ease involved in moving the unit. I has to re-orient the opening to eliminate the bright lights of the Camp Bamboozle lighting extravaganza. All it took was pulling one of the two stakes, pivoting the tent on the remaining one, and then the nod stake reset. I used a tube of seam sealer to re pay the areas that showed some weeping after it rained a few days ago.
It’s awful hot here during the day, close to 90. Here’s Tenzing/ Clarkie demonstrating his latest WalMart camping goodie- a battery operated cooling fan which also mists water on your face. I hope he didn’t pay too much for it.

Living in the Moment

Just spent my fourth night in the Moment, loving it. I discovered that the two ends can be peeled back ( from the inside) and tied out of the way exposing additional screened panels. The door is a one handed unzipping experience. Better than the Rainbow in that function, which required two hands to zip and unzip. Plenty of room inside for me and my gear- at 6’2″ I can stretch out and also sit up comfortably. At 1 pound and 8 ounces, it’s a real miracle. I was hoping for some additional testing in rain sometime here this week, but that’s not in the schedule- gonna be warm and dry. gotta take what comes in the outdoors. Adapting every day here in Austin, TX.


Texas Sunlight

Ripplingly comfortable day out in the Hill Country outside Austin. Walked up the red granite dome with my buddy Louis guiding 7 of us to the top. The view was different, elevating and energizing us within the clear light of a bright Texas day. Vernal pools lined with cactus and mosses. Later we entered a long boulder cave that was challenging enough for me to feel grateful that I was careful and still nimble enough to squirm and squeeze my way down and reach the lower end. On the way back we ate at the world famous Cooper’s Pit Barbeque where I gratefully shelled out $13 for a good sized assortment of meats, baked beans, potato salad, white bread, and extra sauce.
I passed on the sunblock, and relished the vitamin D replenishing power of the Texas sunlight today.