Ducktrap Forest

I like to hike in the Tanglewood forest right here in Lincolnville.

River Trail

I was unaware that it is also part of the Camden Hills State Park, and that there are more than 7 miles of trails there. Tanglewood encompasses over 940 acres of rolling mixed forest, and is a pleasure to visit any season. It is particularly good in fall and winter, due to stunning foliage, and groomed winter cross country ski trails.
The majority of paths are rustic forest trails, with some roots and rocks, and several trails include steep inclines. Bridges are provided over most streams and in areas which regularly accumulate water.

Slippery Much?

Note that some areas of Tanglewood are open to hunting during Maine’s hunting seasons.
I was over there for a couple of nights, where I stayed in a cabin. On Saturday morning, I went for a two hour hike with my friends Hank and Joe. We first went down to the Ducktrap River where we walked onto the old snowmobile bridge and we looked down at the black racing current of wide water below us.  Then we enjoyed a riverside ramble meandering our way down the Ducktrap River until we came just above a set of falls, where we then took the Forest Loop Trail toward the entrance, where we picked up the Tanglewood Road back to the parking lot.
Pre-printed trail maps are  available at the trail-head kiosk beside the turning circle on Tanglewood Road.  Tanglewood lies approximately 3 miles inland from Lincolnville Beach on US Route 1.

Sometimes, We’re Sure It’s Gold.

Richard WIZZ and General Lee both connected with me today.

General Lee and Richard WIZZ- California, Grillin' Spam
I’m increasingly confident about seeing them both in April 2013, somewhere on the Mexican border in New Mexico, shouldering their backpacks north to Canada. YEEEAAAAAAGH !!
Gonna make it through this coming darkness, winter, and cold. Good training just to live up here in Maine.

Fall is Hiking

So much nature coming at me, I’ve been outside rather than typing.
First of all, the BEST loop up here, for my money, is the one that Auntie Mame and I took recently.

Auntie Mame Along the Great Big Sea
In Camden Hills State Park –> Bald Rock Mountain from Youngtown Road via the Frohock Mountain Trail. You can complete more of the woods walk by coming down the Bald Rock Mountain Trail to the Multiuse trail. Probably somewhere a bit over 4 miles of walking over a gravel road, with real hiking trails branching off into the woods.
The view from the top reveals 180 degrees of Atlantic waters, punctuated with greenish clumps of granite islands, a view that stretches far out into the eastern sky.
I want sleep up on top of Bald Rock some night soon, and wake up to the sun rising over Penobscot Bay. There are several grassy flat places up there to rest on.

Effectively Using Hiking Poles: The Gas-Brake-Coast Method @ Backpacking Light

Good stuff here: Many people I see hiking don’t use poles, and a number of them that do use them clearly don’t understand the range of use that these poles provide. Be sure to check the reader comments at the end of the article for additional info. I do think that Leki’s are unbeatable, due to their lifetime warranty on breakage of their aluminum line. The customer service is the best you could hope for.

Hotlink—> Effectively Using Hiking Poles: The Gas-Brake-Coast Method @ Backpacking Light.

ALDHA Gathering

Now in the back seat of the Caravan with V8 at the helm and Auntie Mame riding shotgun. We’re heading back to Maine after attending the Gathering, sponsored by the Appalachian Long Distance Hiking Association these past two days at North Adams, MA.
Incredible value for the $15 registration fee. Two days of backpacking related workshops, plus camping in a green grassy meadow that overlooked Mt. Greylock. Hiking stars all over the place: Billy Goat, Andrew Skurka, Squatch, Stumpknocker, Weathercarrot, even Ms. Janet!
On Saturday I attended Guthook’s slide show of the north- south New England Trail, which links the northernmost Cohos Trail in NH with the 200 mile National Scenic New England trail on the southern end.  Many hikers are unaware of the fact that Connecticut and MA share this brand new National Scenic Trail that still is a work in progress. Guthook’s full story on this trip is on his most excellent website: Guthook Hikes!

The second workshop I attended was a panel of hikers- “Ask the Class of 2011” where one can ask questions about thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Lots of opinions, most answers I agreed with. I disagree on the issue about the need to eat healthy food while thru hiking.  I crave and consume what you call junk food while thru hiking, and eventually start reading packages to discover those with the  highest caloric content.
After lunch I attended two more sessions. Warner Springs Monty asked me to sit in as a panel member for the Pacific Crest Trail discussion. There were about 30 in the audience, who were solicited for any and all questions about thru- hiking the PCT. All questions were welcome. The time raced by.
Then, over to “How to Lighten Your Load”, and get your pack weight down to 10-12 pounds by Kentucky Blue. Blue did an excellent job of charting her own progression from a 40+ pound load when she started her own AT thru hike in 2007 to less than a third of that weight today.
By this time, I needed a break, and begged a ride back to the campsite, some 5 miles away, where retreated to the tent to rest up, fired up the Coleman propane stove, and reheated some roasted squash/ kielbasa soup from home, with fresh tomatoes and sour cream thrown in for extras.

Our tent at the camping area

It was quiet, cool, and peaceful back at the tenting area. I chilled out and sometime before 6:30 PM yogi’d a ride to Andrew Skurka’s evening program at Williams College.

Andrew presented his Alaska-Yukon adventure that covered 4,700 miles over the span of six months, where he skied, trekked and pack rafted through eight national parks including Denali, where he skirted Mount McKinley. He descended both the Copper and Yukon rivers, and traversed the Brooks Range. Skurka’s Alaska-Yukon expedition was featured in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic. It was a supremely confident show, in typical Skurka detail.
Back at the campsite later I found my two tent-mates, comfortably settled into the roomy tent, laughing themselves silly with readings from Sole Mates, another AT book I knew nothing about.
It’s a long way to spend a weekend, humping from Maine to North Adams, MA and back again . We’ll see if this first-ever venue makes the list for future Gatherings. I’ve been doing much too much driving these past 10 days, and right now a Columbus Day at 290 in Lincolnville, ME sounds like it has to happen tomorrow.
Unless I feel like hiking up Bald Rock tonight to catch the sunrise come up over the bay tomorrow morning.

A Real Day In Maine

Today rocked, because I spent time doing meaningful work. Translation= actual physical labor. Life for most of us in America is insular, removed from water, land, and sky. Today, I chose to bathe my actions in sunlight and meaning. In the morning, I used my $4 four-tray dehydrator to process several pounds of fresh chanterelle mushrooms, that my mother and I harvested from my friend Steve’s woodlot in Searsmont.

Pile 'o chanterelles

The fragrance of those heady, earthy life forms brought me back to the days when I was a boy, living with my parents and grandmother, when I would leave my room and wander through the kitchen upstairs where my grandmother had lines of sliced wild mushrooms dangling from threads of cotton in the dark warm cupboards. Tonight a hard frost is predicted, so next on my to-do list was to harvest any remaining vegetables that would be ruined by the cold. Most of what I picked were bell peppers, Ace variety, with those bright reds and mottled greens into a basket, next to the eggplants, zucchinis and tomatoes that were left amidst the weeds at this time of year.

Garden veggies

I was still aching for more of the outside that I could not clearly identify. Thus the hour and a half of moving and stacking firewood. I had bought two cords of mixed 24” and 16” lengths of oak, beech, and maple a month ago and have been moving the pile from where it was dumped up by the road to the woodshed, several hundred feet away.

Two cords or 9,000 pounds of wood

Normally, I crank up the little John Deere, hook up the trailer and shuffle back and forth, moving the stuff. Today, was different. I used my wheelbarrow instead, lifting lots of heavy loads, and then pushing and grunting my way up the little hill to the shed. Lately, I have been seeking genuine experiences with real work that include heavy lifting, pushing, pulling. What follows is the sweetness of genuine fatigue, the kind that makes sleep come easy and deep. I have also enjoyed cooking for myself, with my wife away for four days. For supper, I fried up a mess of the fresh peppers, onion, and a half pound of chourico, accompanied by a half a plate full of fresh tomatoes, topped with mayonnaise, salt and pepper.


Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and before I laid out on the couch for a while, I put into the crock pot the fixings for a roasted butternut squash soup, including kielbasa, yellow split peas, sage and marjoram. The squash was one of two dozen that my mother grew for me in Massachusetts. When I come home from my ferry ride to work on Vinalhaven tomorrow afternoon, the house should be filled with the aroma of real food, from real vegetables, produced by real hands, from the very real world.

Long Trail Gear Report: What Broke, What Didn’t

I spent 25 days in August backpacking the 270 mile Long Trail in Vermont.  Here’s the lowdown on  gear that worked well, and what didn’t:

Kitchen Group:
Everything OK here. Nothing to be improved with the Four Dog Bushcooker LT1  kit I have stuffed into the Snowpeak titanium 700 ml pot. I used one box of Coghlan’s hexamine tablets and a single bottle of yellow Heet for the whole hike. Supplementing those with wood allowed me to boil twice per day. The Steripen worked fine, but the relentless humidity cause the unit to act as if it is wet, faulting the red light upon immediate use.  The fix is to dry the electrodes.  Different fabrics produce different results.  You have to find one that works, dry cotton works best. I continue to be impressed with my food bag, the Ursack Minor.  It survived the whole 5 month on the PCT and now the LT with no rodent holes.  The thing works!

Pack Group:
My Arc’teryx Altra 65 continues to be a concern.   I love the pack’s storage features and the comfort of the waist belt and the shoulder straps, but the expandable waist pocket on the right sideended up with puncture holes, just with less than a month of normal use. The sternum strap also was ripping apart at the stitching.

Customer service is still sub par. To clarify,  I did eventually receive a new waist belt and sternum strapunder warrantee, but it took some work to get there.  Initially two customer service representatives dealt with me- neither communicating with the other until I pointed that situation out. Arc’teryx also wanted me to send the whole backpack to them for repair/replacement, which was unnecessary, since both the waist belt and the sternum strap detach.  I had to point that out to them as well.  After I sent a photo of the two problems, they agreed that I didn’t need to send the pack back.  then it took 3 weeks from the time I first contacted them until I received my parts.  Another bummer was that they broke the shipment into 2 parts, with the sternum strap arriving in my mailbox via USPO. A week later a note from FEDEX appeared on my door, informing me that it was their last delivery attempt (It was the only attempt.). Then I learned that Arc’teryx stipulated that an adult  with a valid picture ID would need to be home to personally receive the box from the agent.  Irritating inconvenience.

Shelter Group:
I only used my Tarptent -Moment  two nights on the trip. Those were nights where I hung out with Paddy-O.  The rest of the time, I was content with staying in shelters.

Sleeping Group:
I loved the comfort of my Exped down mat 7.   I put two tears into my 1 Ibex long wool tights, which I use as camp clothing, and I sleep in them, preserving the cleanliness of my Western Mountaineering 40 degree down bag. Love the light, warm tights, but they are prone to tearing, especially if your legs have just been washed, and are not dry and smooth.  Both tears occurred as I was carefully pulling the tights on.

Clothing :
A new item for me was the Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Down jacket, at 9 oz. I love it, but had to be very careful with all the humidity and rain we encountered.  It is light enough that I was able to toss it in a drier with the rest of my clothes when I needed to dry it out a bit.
I started with a new pair of  New Balance/On The Beach boots.  No blisters, but the stitching around the toe cup started to unravel.  I have written about this issue before, and yet a year later, the same exposed stitching is supplied.

My iPod Touch took a big hit, shattering the screen when I dropped it on a ledge at Mt. Mansfield. It is coming back from repair, at the cost of $114. I will put an Invisible Shield on it to try and do better with protecting the screen.  There was never enough sun to charge the Solio solar charger, but it provided good service as a charging battery using the wall charger.

The $9.95 4th Edition Long Trail map is superb, waterproof, and places the whole Trail on the two sides. My only suggesting is to list elevations on road crossings and shelter sites.
While I snapped the middle section of one of my my aluminum Leki poles, Leki’s  customer service continues to be the best in the business. I have a Leki bandana that lists the customer service phone number on it. I called, got a real human, and she confirmed the model and that I needed the middle section.  There was no need to verify breakage, by going to a dealer, or sending it in.  I didn’t come home to find a note on the door that required me to leave work to be here in a couple of days to get the replacement .  – I came home two just two days later to find a UPS box that put the right part in my hand.

The 270 mile Long Trail was tough on gear.  Things broke  that didn’t on the ten times longer Pacific Crest Trail. I would suggest that anyone undertaking a long hike on the Long Trail to be ready to improvise, have some extra cash on hand to replace items that break, and budget some extra time to get to a phone, or a gear store to replace things.  Your experience may differ.  I’m tough on things.

How Exercize Can Strengthen the Brain

In the end, it’s all about mitochondria!

Uncle Tom

September 28, 2011, 12:01 How Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Can exercise make the brain more fit? That absorbing question inspired a new study at the University of South Carolina during which scientists assembled mice and assigned half to run for an hour a day on little treadmills, while the rest lounged in their cages without exercising.

Earlier studies have shown that exercise sparks neurogenesis, or the creation of entirely new brain cells. But the South Carolina scientists were not looking for new cells. They were looking inside existing ones to see if exercise was whipping those cells into shape, similar to the way that exercise strengthens muscle.

For centuries, people have known that exercise remodels muscles, rendering them more durable and fatigue-resistant. In part, that process involves an increase in the number of muscle mitochondria, the tiny organelles that float around a cell’s nucleus and act as biological powerhouses, helping to create the energy that fuels almost all cellular activity. The greater the mitochondrial density in a cell, the greater its vitality.

Past experiments have shown persuasively that exercise spurs the birth of new mitochondria in muscle cells and improves the vigor of the existing organelles. This upsurge in mitochondria, in turn, has been linked not only to improvements in exercise endurance but to increased longevity in animals and reduced risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease in people. It is a very potent cellular reaction.

Related More Phys Ed columns Faster, Higher, Stronger Fitness and Nutrition News Brain cells are also fueled by mitochondria. But until now, no one has known if a similar response to exercise occurs in the brain.

Like muscles, many parts of the brain get a robust physiological workout during exercise. “The brain has to work hard to keep the muscles moving” and all of the bodily systems in sync, says J. Mark Davis, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and senior author of the new mouse study, which was published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology. Scans have shown that metabolic activity in many parts of the brain surges during workouts, but it was unknown whether those active brain cells were actually adapting and changing.

To see, the South Carolina scientists exercised their mice for eight weeks. The sedentary control animals were housed in the same laboratory as the runners to ensure that, except for the treadmill sessions, the two groups shared the same environment and routine.

At the end of the two months, the researchers had both groups complete a run to exhaustion on the treadmill. Not surprisingly, the running mice displayed much greater endurance than the loungers. They lasted on the treadmills for an average of 126 minutes, versus 74 minutes for the unexercised animals.

More interesting, though, was what was happening inside their brain cells. When the scientists examined tissue samples from different portions of the exercised animals’ brains, they found markers of upwelling mitochondrial development in all of the tissues. Some parts of their brains showed more activity than others, but in each of the samples, the brain cells held newborn mitochondria.

There was no comparable activity in brain cells from the sedentary mice.

This is the first report to show that, in mice at least, two months of exercise training “is sufficient stimulus to increase mitochondrial biogenesis,” Dr. Davis and his co-authors write in the study.

The finding is an important “piece in the puzzle implying that exercise can lead to mitochondrial biogenesis in tissues other than muscle,” says Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of medicine at McMaster Children’s Hospital, who was not involved with this experiment but has conducted many exercise studies.

The mitochondrial proliferation in the animals’ brains has implications that are wide-ranging and heartening. “There is evidence” from other studies “that mitochondrial deficits in the brain may play a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases,” including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, Dr. Davis says. Having a larger reservoir of mitochondria in your brain cells could provide some buffer against those conditions, he says.

Dr. Tarnopolsky agrees. “Epidemiological studies show that long-term runners have a lower risk of neurological disease,” he points out.

More immediately, Dr. Davis speculates, re-energized brain cells could behave like mitochondrial-drenched muscle cells, becoming more resistant to fatigue and, since bodily fatigue is partly mediated by signals from the brain, allowing you to withstand more exercise. In effect, exercising the body may train the brain to allow you to exercise more, amplifying the benefits.

Revitalized brain cells also, at least potentially, could reduce mental fatigue and sharpen your thinking “even when you’re not exercising,” Dr. Davis says.

Of course, this experiment was conducted with animals, and “mouse brains are not human brains,” Dr. Davis says.

“But,” he continues, “since mitochondrial biogenesis has been shown to occur in human muscles, just as it does in animal muscles, it is a reasonable supposition that it occurs in human brains.” Best of all, the effort required to round your brain cells into shape is not daunting. A 30-minute jog, Dr. Davis says, is probably a good human equivalent of the workout that the mice completed.