Big Bunch of Bubbas on Snowshoes

The Bubbas are feeding the mountain biking spirit right up to the doorstep of 2013.

Packing the trail
Packing the trail- photo by John Anders
Eight of us pounded down one of our riding loops over in the Rockland Bog this morning, donning snowshoes after the Midcoast region was blanketed with what must have been a foot of snow. We’re doing this in part to prepare the Bog for more winter mountain bike riding, hopefully with New Year’s day ride. This work will need to set up for a day of two, when the sub freezing temperatures will harden up the track. It’s what we are know for in these parts, riding through ALL the seasons.
Here’s the map of the hike. We’re going counterclockwise from the “S”.
Bog map
Bog map
We parked on the side of Bog Road, across from the white house on the left then went backwards 50 feet from the cars on our usual exit route. We saw no evidence of anyone else but the deer out before us, with Jason Buck breaking trail for the majority of the distance. We wound our way along old woods roads up to The Culvert, where we picked up the George’s Highland Path (GHP) and followed it uphill all the way back to the Big Pine tree, where Ian and Suzy, Walter, and John A. took Exit Ramp back to the cars.
Rick on last uphill  on Two Arrows
Rick on last uphill on Two Arrows
Nelson, Rick, Jason and I kept at it, on the GHP back down to loop back on Two Arrows and then doubling back to to Exit ramp and out.
Jason and Nelson crossing the powerline on GHP
Jason and Nelson crossing the powerline on GHP

The map and the descriptions of the trail should make it possible for any other bicyclists, snowshoeing enthusiasts, or even walkers to get out and follow our tracks, at least until the next big snow storm fluffs things up again.

Snowshoeing started today

Since the last appreciable snow feel here on Halloween, the ground has been bare, until yesterday, when we had 6 inches blow in from the northeast. I spent the morning inside, with a package of fluorescent highlighters, plotting possible route for an upcoming hike through New Mexico, but that’s another upcoming story.
Snowshoeing started today. I decided to spend a couple of hours walking around the route just outside my door. Reading the data on the GPS, I was stunned to see that all of the walking I did was within one square mile. I wanted to listen to my iPhone while I walked, so I tracked my progress with my Garmin eTrex30 and this time, was able to successfully upload the file from my computer right into my Strava app to register my progress.
Here’s the map:

Up over Moody Mountain, down around Moody Pond
Up over Moody Mountain, down around Moody Pond

I’m still totally pleased with my MSR Lightening Axis snowshoes. They are still perfect after two seasons. The bindings are ” lightening fast”, and never need adjusting on the trail.

Most folks own large pieces of property here, ranging from 130 to over 1,000 acres. In fact, just three families own all the land on both sides of High Street for 1.3 miles heading up to Moody Mountain road. I have permission to walk all of it. I cut the “Uncle Tom ” trail that runs up to the summit of Moody Mountain on one of these tracts. IMG_1191

Once I got up to the ridge, my navigating was aided by a deer path.

Natural directional
Natural directional
I had just a Patagonia Wool 2 long sleeve shirt on top under a soft shell, but 500 feet of elevation in a mile of snowshoeing had me sweating profusely. From the top, I bushwhacked down beside Moody Mountain road on an ancient road that probably is a couple of hundred years old. I heard that there were several families that used to live on the north side of this mountain, way back. I’ve not yet found old foundations where they lived.

Normally, I use High Street to walk home, but today I wanted a longer workout with the snowshoes, so I walked down hill and turned left onto the closed gravel Martin Corner Road where I followed fresh ski and snowshoe tracks around Moody Pond. The tracks eventually stopped and doubled back, so I broke fresh trail all the way back home.

I was exhausted when I reached the house, and still am. Snowshoeing is tougher than hiking, especially in powder. You have to widen your normal gait to account for the width of the shoes, and despite the claws underneath, you are not immune to sliding as you traverse sloped terrain.

I’m hearing the distressing, high-pitched whine of a snowmobile outside as I write this. Looks like the Pugsley has a freshly packed trail that will freeze up nicely overnight. I’m riding snow this weekend.

Adventure Cycling: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts Ever, 2012 Edition

This time of year, my Twitter feed is jamming up with “Top Ten” lists from 2012. While I think it’s great to compile the best from the avalanche of information that’s that’s cascading over us, most of it is just clever advertising.

That being said, I am filtering through and blogging up the good lists. Here’s one:

Adventure Cycling Association: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts Ever, 2012 Edition.

My last post, the “Cycling Eight“, came from this Adventure Cycling Association list. I can see where my interest in both bicycling and camping is headed. I am not a member of the ACA, but I just requested a trial issue of their magazine.

I really enjoyed three off this ACA list: The Cycling Eight, A Fat Tire Year-Touring on a Pugsley, and #4 Ten Things You Don’t Need.

I decided to modify the “10 Things You Don’t Need” to address backpacking.
1) You don’t need an expensive backpack. I have a pricey Arc’teryx and customer service has been a curse. Never again. Best to have something that fits well. Most packs hold up, even used ones.
2) You don’t need special Goretex/waterproof backpacking boots. They’ll plague you with blisters. Go with lighte, breathable alternatives.
3) You don’t need lots of money. In 2007, I thru hiked the AT with Lifetraveler, who also completed the trail in 5-and-1/2 months on just $2,000, and one pair of boots.
4) You don’t need “backpacking clothing”. You can outfit at a Goodwill. If stuff wears out go back.
5) You don’t need multiple sets of spare clothing. I use one set. When I reach a washer and drier, I change into my rain gear and wait for my clothes to clean and dry. If it is warm out, water sources can be a place to get water to wash, and the sun works well as a drier.
6) You don’t need a lot of stuff to cook and eat with. I use 1 pot, one spoon, and a cup.
7) You don’t even need to be physically fit. I just watched “Walking the Great Divide“, where three guys each lost at least 20 pounds in their first three weeks of backpacking. You start slow and get more efficient. Weekend warriors may need to be in better shape.
Time for me to get out and shovel away a half foot of snow.

Fresh powder out the front door
Fresh powder out the front door

Hiking and Biking in December

Crazy weather here in coastal Maine in December.
I do what I can, trying for daily outdoor sessions.
A couple of days ago, it was still raining, but I had to get out-  I did a 4 mile hike from the house around Moody Pond. We’ve had 4 inches of rain here in the last week.  I started out walking down the abandoned Proctor Road, which is just a stream on top of mud.

Proctor Road
Proctor Road

After I leaped over a stream, I cut onto a snowmobile trail that led to the “closed” Martin’s Corner Road, where I was careful to stay out of the water here.

Blow down on Martin's  Corner Road
Blow down on Martin’s Corner Road

This was a big blow down from the wind a couple of days ago, which gusted to 60 MPH.   I was afraid I might get electrocuted, so I pushed through thick brush where I scratched my legs on the briars.
Here’s a map of the hike. screenshot My house is just at the edge of the map, up top.

Yesterday the thermometer read 21 degrees when I left the house to join 8 other Bubbas for our regularly scheduled Sunday ride.  Nate said that we’ve been able to get some good miles out each month this year, even through last winter. There was some mud out here in the lower portions of the ride, but major ice flows on the long exposed ledges up on the top of Mt. Pleasant.  Not many of us were even willing to try and ride up, and chance a bone-crushing fall on the solid ice.  Hike-a-bike is what I call it.

Nelson, Eric, and Jason on the windblock
Nelson, Eric, and Jason on the windblock

This was also the first time that we took an alternate route back down, heading way right off the summit, and snaking our way over abandoned jeep trails interspersed with dry steep granite, and low growing shrubs. Scary steep in places, but my trust in momentum and tire adhesion worked again.
I chose my fat-tired Pugsley for this ride.  It continues to shine in these in-between-seasons conditions.

Eric, Nelson, and Craig Mac on the powerline
Eric, Nelson, and Craig Mac on the powerline

Lately, I have been able to keep ascending through muddy climbs and rocky stuff, even passing some of the guys who usually toast me when it’s dry and grippier.  Love the white bike!
The best part of the ride for me today was the long descent at the end.  You can see it starting on the elevation profile below, right about the 5.4 mile mark. screenshot 2  I was riding behind Rigger, who waited for me half-way down. I like to follow him, because he’s excellent at picking good lines through impossible stuff.   There have been some serious crashes on this downhill over the years ( Nelson comes to mind), so we all continue to watch out for each other.
I had some battery left in my iPhone, so I  inserted the headphones, cranked up the volume, and had Neil Young and the Horse as my soundtrack for the ride out to the car.  Do check out “Driftin’ Back”, the 27 minute extravaganza off Mr. Young’s  most recent CD, “Psychedelic Pill”.  I thank my peretually-musically-enhanced buddy Lock for being persistent in bringing Mr. Young to my ride today, and most every day this December.
The weaving through the winter countryside was magical today.  I even pulled some holiday spirit back home with me.

The Tunnel Creek Avalanche story- New York Times raises the bar for newspapers

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, by John Branch


In September of 2010, I crossed US Route 2 at Steven’s Pass in Washington state, on day 146 of my walk from Mexico to Canada. At that point, my life was a daily, face-to-face meeting with adversity as I marched those last ten days into Canada. As tough as it was moving forward through 5 days of mid-forty degree rain, I made it.

Flash two years forward to February of 2012, when deep fresh powered dropped a mantle of snow on the Steven’s Pass ski area, when 16 expert skiers had the worst day of their lives, one where three of the group died, and the survivors will never be whole again.

The New York Times has just produced a long-form newspaper documentary of sorts about that day. What’s different about this web read is the depth of the research, and the inclusion of multimedia clips, active graphics, and moveable maps that accompany and enrich the article, which has generated over 700 reader comments. The images from this read have lingered with me for over 24 hours so far, hours that have left me with a desire to share this account with anyone who goes out into the outdoors and brushes against danger. It’s going to take you at least an hour to experience the “read”,  but do carve out the time.

Movie recommendation: Dersu Uzala

There are video foot-powered adventures, like The Hobbit, that use modern elements and technology to thrill and satisfy fans.

This movie is old (1975) , slow-school, and yet superb-  it has intrigue, natural scenery, life and death encounters with the elements, and a hell of a lot of heart. It’s not available to stream from Netflix, but do what you can to track down a DVD copy and enjoy it.

Netflix: Dersu Uzala.

140 minutes
A party of Russian soldiers hires aged hunter Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk) to guide them on a surveying expedition through Siberia in the early 20th century. Uzala leads the group through life-threatening conditions with reverence and concern for his surroundings. Based on true memoirs, Akira Kurosawa’s Academy Award-winning production is a testament to the value of lasting friendship, loyalty and mutual respect.

Fatbike Conquers the South Pole ?

In two days, Eric Larsen throws a leg over a stock Surly Moonlander and starts his 750 mile solo ride to the South pole. A good introduction to the expedition was posted online on Nov. 9
at Outside magazine’s website.  Here’s a video clip that conveys the enormity of the task, on a good day.

Larsen is well suited to this particular task. He’s proved it can be done. His previous claims to fame include reaching the North and South Poles and the summit of Everest in one calendar year. I think he’s going to battle cold feet.
Larsen is going alone. He’ll stay in touch using a DeLorme beacon and Iridium satellite phone to tweet, post Facebook messages, and provide online updates. You can follow him on, @ELExplore on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Riding the Bog in December

photoIt was 11 when I left the house and 18 degrees out when eleven Bubbas in the Woods folks rode in Rockland’s Bog this morning. screenshot

“You ride all year and sometimes don’t get conditions this good out here,” stated Rigger as he and I exited the woods and climbed up  to meet up and regroup before the next high-speed descent.  Good means frozen.  The Bog gets-well-  boggy in the autumn season, where we’re at, at least for one more day.   When it’s frozen ground, you don’t sink into moss, into deep piles of met leaves, into water, so much.  You roll quicker.

There is definitely ice here- two types.  We have hoar frost, which occurs when exposed ground is subject to freeze/thaw cycles, resulting in huge crystals that are not able to support weight.  You are riding along and bang- suddenly your front wheel drops into the ground.  You might or might not go over the handlebars.  Then there are regular sheets of ice that occur when pools of water freeze solid.  We go around them when possible, but when not possible you stay off the brakes and try to keep steady and just hope you don’t land on a hip, or break through the ice.

Here’s a very cool 6 minute YouTube video of today’s Bog ride recorded and posted by John Anders. John is following me after the initial bridge section- I’m with the white jacket on the white bike. Our favorite frog is at min 4:45. Check out the up and downs on the dreaded Meatgrinder (along the stream with ice on both sides). John closes with some scary, scary ice at the end.  It’s all good.