Day 1 Moose River Winter Walk.

7 Miles of hard pulling today. It was snowing when we got up and snowing when we went to bed at 6:30 PM. Three friends accompanied me today: Pat, Bad Influence (BI) , and a new friend of BI’s- Matt, an interesting guy who has just moved to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom from Taos, NM. We stayed at #9 Cozy Cove Cabin in Jackman last night, where Pat cooked up a breakfast of bacon, eggs, English muffins and brewed several cups of great, rich coffee.
The snow made the walking more difficult. Although it was cold out, fresh snow crystals stay sharp, and they have a way of causing friction. After the snow melts a bit in the sun, the edges get duller, and the bottom of the toboggans slide better over the packed snow.

We are really tired tonight, after just 4 miles of pulling: one mile on a snowmobile trail to Attean Pond, two miles on top of the frozen Pond, and then one into and along the Moose River. We are all in bed by 6:30 PM. The Egyptian canvas 9 x 12 wall tent fits the four of us side by side toward the back of the tent. The front serves as our kitchen, complete with a small titanium box stove with stove pipe that heats the tent up quite nicely. Despite temps in the teens tonight , it got so warm that I had to strip down to my undershirt. We have a taught line rigged up below the ridge inside where our wet and damp clothing can dry out. We let the stove die out when we decide to sleep, and each are prepared to stay warm to 20 below zero, up here over 1,000′ in elevation about 10 miles from Canada.
I made up a 5 bean and pork/ beef stew. My appetizer was warm roasted mixed nuts. Dessert was walnut brownies. BI and I carefully approached an open lead in the river where we were able to draw off water for our drinks.
We spent a lot more time than usual setting up our tent tonight. There is less than a foot of snow in the ground. It was hard to plant side pole on the frozen ground. There were not many branches around the site that we could attach ropes to hold out the side walls.
I really like having four people on this trip. It was fun listening to conversations, and very satisfying to me having a pair of us setting up the tent while Pat and Matt sawed down standing dead spruce. They sawed it up into stove lengths and then split it with an axe.

20140206-090439.jpg
Pat tending the camp stove

Packing up , Stressing out…

photo by Dave Wilkinson, UK
photo by Dave Wilkinson, UK

The following is based on work taken from The Snow Walker’s Companion, by Garrett and Alexander Conover and a web packing/report from Northlands, a Uk based adventure group who has expeditioned here in Maine. I want to thank these folks for excellent, proven info, as four of us prepare to head up north for our own winter walk.

A Typical day on expedition
Our days start in the warm wall tents- breakfast can be cooked on the wood stove. Camp is then broken down, equipment packed onto toboggans and its time to hit the trail. In camp, we heat the tent to comfortable temps. A drying line is strung up high for clothing. We will not run the stove while we sleep- not safe, nor will it be practical to cut the wood we’d need to keep it
going.
We will snowshoe along the wind-packed waterways, which provide ideal travel for us. As well as ‘easy going’, one of the main reasons to stick to these riparian corridors is to maximise our chances of seeing wildlife.
Lunches of cheese, salami, crackers, dried fruits, and sweets as well as cups of steaming hot teas are enjoyed along the trail. Then we will continue trekking, trying to pitch camp early, chop our wood,in the candle lit tents. Best are usually precooked meals that can be thawed on the stove. I find it best to spread one pot creations on a flat cookie sheet, then freeze and after it’s solid break it into smaller pieces. It is just too much work to cook a meal from scratch in the jtent.

I will bring group gear such as toboggans, tarps for wrapping gear on the toboggans, a wall tent, and titanium box stove and stovepipe. I will also bring along an axe, and a couple of saws for processing firewood. I have a big chisel for chipping a hole in the ice for water, along with a bucket, an scoop for rmoving ice from the water hole. I will bring a larger cooking pot set, and a griddle, so that we can boil water for meals and washing, if desired.

Equipment Checklist:
Clothing:
Wind-proof shell parka with hood. This may be a lined or un-lined parka, surplus anorak (if you can find one), or best of all an expedition style anorak in high count cotton.
several Pairs of socks (use with silk or synthetic liner socks if you can’t wear wool directly on skin.
I 1 x Wool or synthetic hat that can completely cover head and ears, or alternatively a Balaclava style hat.
o 1 x Pair wool mittens with leather ‘chopper” mitt shells. A spare set of liners is not overdoing things for back up, or having a different weight for extreme cold..
o 1 x Down or synthetic filled parka. This should be carried in it’s own stuff sack for easy access during the day for lunch stops.
o 1 x Scarf. Long enough to wrap face and ears in extreme cold or wind.
o 1 x Pair wind pants to be worn over pants in windy conditions. Preferably ventile or quality cotton, rain pants can serve in a pinch, but won’t breath, and skier’s warm-up pants work. Full side-zippers allow them to be put on or removed while wearing snowshoes.
o Several bandanas or Buffs, primarily as nose wiping equipment.
o Rain gear (jacket and pants). We hope to never need these, but if we do, we’ll really need them. Also rubber bottomed boots in the event that we encounter overflow water or
slush.
o Knit headband to keep ears warm when a full hat is too hot, and as a nose warmer at night in the sleeping bag.
Footwear
Bring along warm boots for walking in. I prefer mukluks with 2 pairs felt
boot liners.
– traction devices for the bottom of your footwear should we encounter sheer ice.
Sleeping System
• Sleeping bag, preferably a good quality expedition / 4 season bag (or two 3 season bags).
• Full length self-inflating sleeping mat- you will be sleeping on a tarp placed directly on snow or ice. Be sure that your pads work on ice.
• A full length closed-cell foam mat does an excellent job of adding insulation to a softer pad on top
Carrying System
• Daypack, to be lashed to top of loads with all small frequently used items and extras for ready access, and use on side trips on layover days.
Cooking System- bring your own utensils and silverware
• Knife, fork and spoon
• Large stainless steel or insulated mug
• Stainless steel bowl / deep plate
Sun Protection System
• Eye protection for sun on snow, and wind protection. Goggles are best, glacier glasses, or good dark glasses are suitable.
• Sun block
• Lip balm
Lighting / Location System
• Headlamp (and spare batteries)
• Small LED torch
• Whistle
Water System

• 2 x 1-Litre strong water bottles
• personal water purification system
First Aid System
• Small first aid kit, including safety pins, plasters, blister kit, tweezers, foot powder and any personal medication.
• Emergency food e.g. a power bar
Tool System
• A fixed blade sheath knife
Hygiene System
• Wash kit, preferably containing biodegradable soap, wet wipes.
• Towel
• Bring your own toilet paper
Optional Extras
• Notebook and pencils
• Sewing kit
• Camera
• Binoculars
• 10 meters of parachute cord
• A folding saw
• Large Ziploc Bags
• Mobile phone
• Foam sit-mat

Thoughts:
Clothing: The major consideration regarding clothing is that it be thought of in terms of breathability, and for the outermost layer in some conditions – wind-proofness. Layering maximizes ones ability to thermo-regulate and facilitates faster drying should anything become wet. As many items as possible should be wool. Despite the recent infatuation with ‘vapour barrier” systems, natural breathable materials are safer, warmer, easier to maintain and regulate, cleaner, and on all counts easier to manage in the field. One should always adjust their
clothing to the level of activity and wind conditions. Over-heating to the point of sweating is the first step toward being cold. Maintain warmth without being hot. If you sweat you will have wet clothing that will cool by evaporation. Transpiration should be maintained at a level, which passes moisture through your clothing as a gas. In this way you cannot get cold even if the level of exertion changes because there will be no wetness in the clothing to rob you of heat.

Sleeping Bags: Goose down is lightest, warmest, compacts the smallest, breathes the best. However, if you are new to winter camping, are not sure of your commitment, or simply don’t
have the loads of money to invest in a winter expedition bag, there are some alternatives. You may be able to borrow a second bag to double with what you may already have as a three season bag. If you already own a good three season bag and wish to winterise it with a minimum investment, you have the option of buying fairly light bag that is intended to be used double with a full bag. Many of these serve as a hot weather bag by themselves.

north_woods_bushcraft_adventure

Adventure in My Back Yard

Our camp is a ten mile drive from the house. Finding a little authentic Maine camp so close to home was fortunate.

20140202-071017.jpgWe snagged it a decade ago- found it in Uncle Henry’s swap and sell.

I have ridden my mountain bike over land to get there before. I go up over Hatchet Mountain and back down to Hobbes Pond over some abandoned roads to do that in warm weather. One adventure that I have finally completed today was riding my bicycle to camp over snow mobile trails in winter. Here’s the route- a 15 mile round trip. Checkered circle is the start and finish, the unmarked body of water is Moody Pond.

20140202-070023.jpg

I took the car over to camp in the morning. It was 22 degrees inside. I started the wood stove and went home, with a plan to ride the Pugsley to camp to eat lunch, relax a bit , and head back home. It took me 50 minutes from the house to bike to the camp, some 6.2 miles away. I took a mix of road and trails to get there. 9 pounds of pressure in my 4″ studded 45N tires was just right until I reached Hobbes Pond where I started to slide on the shiny, slick ice.

20140202-075251.jpgDeflating the tires to about 3 PSI let me ride directly down the middle of Hobbes Pond and come right up to the front door of the camp. It was scary, fun, and exciting to roll over the hard ice at a good clip. I liberated an HTC cell phone ( US Cellular) that was partially frozen into the ice in the middle of the pond. Call me if it’s yours. I am drying it out – hope to locate the owner.

The camp had was now at 62 degrees, comfortable for sure. I hung out, read the new issue of Rolling Stone and cooked up a big bowl of pho. Then a slightly longer trip back, exploring new trail, and detouring around Moody Pond via the Martin Corner road- unplowed, and untracked except for some cross country ski grooves.

i was dismayed to see a string of barbed wire blocking entrance to an open field near the 90 degree turn on Martin Corner Rd.- nasty, rusted barbs at neck height.

20140202-075416.jpg A reminder not to do too much poking around here in dim sunset without headlamps.

When I reached the house, Marcia had fired up the sauna for me. That 185 degree heat was exactly right.

20140202-075052.jpg

Riding a couple of miles on the top of a large body of water is not something that is on many people’s bucket list, but it was on mine.

Riding my bike across a frozen pond

We are breaking out into midwinter riding conditions here in coastal Maine. The temps have been consistently in single numbers for a few weeks now, and with diminishing snow cover, the ground can freeze more deeply. Ponds, lakes, and even rivers are also now solid, with at least two feet of ice covering most areas.

I took my first ride over Moody Pond.

20140201-090249.jpg It is thrilling to me to be on top of a body of water that I pass almost daily. Moody is 1.3 miles down High Street from my house. It is both scary and exciting to launch off of land onto a frozen body of water.

20140201-093126.jpg Primitive survival defenses well up as you stand on a substance that you normally sink through. Yet it was safe.

Riding over Moody Pond is just one of three bodies of water that I plan to cross this week. Today I hope to ride over Hobbes Pond, about 5 miles from here. I have a camp there that I hope to check on today. While I have ridden there from the house in the summer, I have never taken the direct route over Moody Pond and then the 1 mile long ride down the center of Hobbes Pond. I’ m both frightened and challenged to do it.

I’ll be taking a two mile long walk over Attean Pond in Jackman this upcoming week, then three more days of walking on the frozen Moose River, where I hope to reach the spectacle of frozen cascades on Holeb Falls. I know it’s sort of nuts, but it’s what I do.