The Others

For the past 36 years I’ve been walking up the driveway to get the Bangor Daily News that gets delivered to me sometime around 5:30 each morning.  Today, like no other day, a majestic bald eagle greeted me-  circling not 50 feet above my head as I reached into the newspaper box up on the road.
I don’t work on my birthday anymore, and try to let the day unfold a bit before I go hiking.  It’s a tradition that I have started in 2008, on the one year anniversary of starting out walking from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Maine.  I know that the new year is something that is thought to start on January 1, but for me it starts on my birthday, just a few days after the Spring equinox.  The light is brightening now, the days most years are warmer already. It’s time to walk again.
I wanted to backpack at least half the day today, but sometimes we have to improvise.  Improvisation is one of my major lessons this year. The Improv Wisdom book is a big help these days.
Yes, it’s just as good as it ever was- the hiking today. Maybe not as long a walk than I first wanted, but it’s what worked out. I loved the feeling of stretching out my legs, kicking forward, and leaning toward the horizon a bit- saw no one.
The trail ahead is slippery
The trail ahead is slippery
What a privilege it is to have the miles of trails and warm shelter to myself right now. The sun is setting, skies are clear and it’s definitely back into the 20’s tonight.
Just as I was walking, someone sings  “Sorrows are flowing downstream down the mountain”on the iPhone that I’m listening to . I was in the process of taking this photograph at that exact moment- I’m not kidding.

Flowing but mostly frozen

I just set up final details to do a 100 mile hike down on the Appalachian Trail in May to hike into Trail Days. I’ll be in Tennessee,  North Carolina and into Virginia ! I hope hike a few of those miles with Duff, who is setting out on a thru-hike of the AT this season. Plus Guthook will be breezing through at autobahn level mileages as he storms through Virginia as a total act of devotion to updating his ever popular AT Hiker app. Bob Peoples is helping me with logistics, and I’ll be sure to stay at his place- Kincora– the best hostel of the whole AT.

I am hoping see Crazy Horse down there. When he had the Captain America Corvette he was easy to track down. Now his car is nothing flashy.

It’s not that big a bunch that hikes a lot. These people tend to get to events like Trail Days  and AYZPCTKO ( PCT kickoff).   I will likely spot a few folks that I have not thought about in years but, when I do run into them, I’ll be filled with excitement instantly due to some deep connection we made between each other while out there with The Others. That’s who I belong to- the ragtag bunch of backpackers who do not have upward mobility anywhere even close to their home screens.  These noble folks are the masters of forward mobility.

I started hiking north on the AT on my birthday in 2007.  One thing I really enjoy right now is reading my original Trailjournal from that long hike.  I start reading about today on today, just 7 years later.  And over the next few weeks, I wake up and re-read that day’s journal, reliving the past, refreshing my outlook for the coming season.  No thru hikes for me this year, but I am excited about my progress in completing Cary Kish’s “1000 miles of hiking in Maine in one year” challenge.   I put in six more miles today.



Another birthday- another hike planned. Join me?

Another Nor’easter predicted for tomorrow, I’m not sure who may join me on my birthday hike and sleepover the next day–> Thursday, March 27.

No work on my birthday, the seventh anniversary of the first day of my 2007 thru- hike of the Appalachian Trail (2007).   Marcia usually makes be a great breakfast. This was the spread last year!Double espresso, eggs, croissant, presents!

I don’t work on my birthday. At least one day of my life should be scheduled to be free of responsibilities to the economic machine!

I have rented the Ski Shelter in the Camden Hills State park for Thursday night.  There’s six bunks in there.  Friends are welcome to stop by and even snag some bedroll space if they want, free. 

I walk from my house across town, my own march to the sea.  It’s a 7 or 8 mile hike, depending on the route.

La, La, la!

There will be plenty of snow when I start out on the abandoned Proctor Road.  I wind my way down through Lincolnville Center, mostly a downhill. Then the climb starts up the Thurlow Road, and onto the abandoned section that crosses Youngtown Road, where it dumps me onto a snowmobile trail that heads up the back side of Cameron Mtn. I may turn left at the base of Cameron Mountain and  link to the Multipurpose trail.


Two of my friends, Karl Gottshalk and Pat Hurley, came by last year after 4 PM to spend the night in the shelter with me. Pat and I grilled up steaks out in one of the grill stations, and then we ate cake, provided by Karl !

La, La, la!
La, La, la!


Bubbas Still Staying Up

Six Bubbas attended Sunday’s Church of Two Wheels 10 mile long service in Warren, Maine today.

After the melting snow cover caused me to cut short my plans for a long snowmobile trail ride on Friday, I expected that today would be the same: crumbling patches of ice, mud sections, and that sudden sinking on the front wheel scenario, complete with cockpit ejection over the handlebars. I’m very pleased to say that the subfreezing temps from last night and our 9:30 AM start set things up nice and solid.

For those of you who think that these well-attended winter rides are only suitable for us fat-tire riders, check out this video clip from the ride. Listen to the crunch of the ice beneath the tires while The Hawk comes into view on his Mukluk, closely followed by Rigger and Nate on their 26-inch-tire mountain bikes.

Another Wednesday snowstorm is predicted this week- could be at least 6″ of snow. Winter riding is still going strong in the Midcoast this Spring season.

The Sunday When Winter Went Away

There’s still a small pile of snow on the north side of my house but I’m declaring “Winter is over!”  No where is that more apparent than on today’s mountain bike ride on Mt. Pleasant, here in Midcoast Maine.  Just last week, a skeleton crew of Bubbas , labored our way up  the 800 foot climb to the top of the mountain, where conditions forced an early bail back to the parking lot.  Deep mud, ice, sleet, freezing rain , and then cold rain wore us down.  screenshot 3

That was then, this was now.  Nine of us went double the distance this week.  There is still mud and  water to churn through , but it’s not so deep.  And not so cold, and the sun was shining.  There was one big tree that had to be cleared out in order to to make the ledge challenge possible today. It was a very long and heavy tree.

Yo, Heave Ho!
Yo, Heave Ho!

Once we cleared the fallen timber, the challenge began and just a few of us made it up the ledge challenge. Here’s a video clip of  The Hawk and Rigger clearing it:

On the way up, I had what we call “a mechanical”. I had a chain suck, which is a dislodged chain jammed into the drive train somewhere, but not exactly. Then I saw a broken part situation like I’ve never seen before. One of the bigger rings on the rear cassette was bent sideways. IMG_2853
I hiked-a-bike up the last short portion to the top, where Ian launched into action, and went into the woods with a saw, cut a hardwood chisel, sharpened a point on it, grabbed a rock, and made it right. Then he adjusted the rear derailleur and I was able to complete the ride. The guy is an exceptional mechanical problem solver. Thanks, buddy!

Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders
Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders

The rest of the ride was much better, with the climbing over, well most of it.  Ian even made it up the super-challenging Abyss today, a feat that no one else was able to accomplish.  It’s astounding that  four-wheeled drive vehicles get in here right now, when it is so soft and muddy, and totally churn up these old forest roads.  We see parts of cars, lenses, headlight, grills , and undercarriage parts strewn all over the place.

It’s doesn’t get dark now until almost 7:45 PM.  Next up will be my first Rockland Bog ride of the season in two days, now that winter is over.  I hope to have my Pugsley’s rear cassette replaced by then, where I’ll join my Bubba pals in another wild ride through the forest and streams.

Hikers! Lose weight, save $$$$ !!

from Outside magazine
from Outside magazine

Weight Loss for Athletic Performance | Nutrition |  <–Click to read original Outside post

I’m actively trimming ounces of gear that lead to one less pound for my 2014 backpacking gear list.   While it’s a standard target for many backpackers to lessen the load they need to haul around, up, and down- I’m even more interested in keeping 15 pounds off my now reduced to 200-pound frame.

At the end of March last year,  I weighed in at 215.  It was less than a month before I was to step away from the Palomas, Mexico border crossing in New Mexico and walk some 2,500 miles over the Rockies to Canada.  I didn’t worry much about my weight, because I knew I’d lose lots of weight, even eating all the high calorie food I could carry.  By the 60th day, somewhere in Colorado, I stepped on the scales and I was down to 184. Pretty remarkable.  Thirty one pounds.

I like to visually imagine this weight thing, and default to a mental image of a pound of fat—-pound of butter, 4 sticks. Fat-butter, yes- they are pretty close in density.  Four times 31 equals 124 sticks of butter being trimmed off my body. Yikes!

I’m yo-yoed through this up and down weight thing before , as have most other folks.  This time I have been able to keep off those last 15 pound that I have said bye-bye to.  I was able to fit into a pair or size 34 pants when I came back to Maine from this last long hike.  I am really pleased to say I can still fit them, and would like to keep it that way.

Why?  Because I am now fitter than I have been in previous winters, even at any age.  I feel it climbing hills on my Pugsley bicycle, which I have been able to ride at least twice a week just about every week this winter.  I have good endurance on longer snowshoe expeditions, and winter hikes.

How have I kept the weight off?  Portion control.  I have always exercised enough, but my lower metabolic rate has always worked against me.  I have a new perspective- EXERCISING IS NOT ENOUGH  FOR ME TO DROP WEIGHT.

One of the factors that has correlated with staying 15 pounds lighter this winter is  not renewing my YMCA gym membership.  I’ve been a gym rat all my life,ever since high school.  No more.  It’s not logical, I just felt it wasn’t right anymore to drive 15 minutes down and then 15 minutes back to work out for an hour.  I stay outside and do things- walking biking, hiking.  I have even vowed to cut my own firewood, and haul and split it myself.

I do have a medicine ball, a stability ball, a set of dumb bells and a program of exercises that I can do in the house if the weather is really bad and I don’t feel like going out.  But it’s the last resort.

from Jordan Crook (@jordanrcrook)

I give some credit to the Fitbit app that I have on my iPhone 5s as a contributing factor to my weight loss.

It’s free from the App store.  If you own the 5s you no longer have to purchase the $100 wristband to use most of the features of the Fitbit app. Apple’s M7 chip — exclusive to the iPhone 5S (and new models of the iPads) — keeps track of a user’s movements and allows easy retrieval of that data without sacrificing battery life.   Just keeping the iPhone in my pocket allows me track all the motion of my body during the day, which automatically converts to steps, and miles. The app also allows for manual data entry about how many miles biked, etc.  The Fitbit app also allows me to enter everything I eat, and registers calories. It has a vast array of foods already calculated for entry.  Over time, I realized that there aren’t that many varieties of meals and snacks that I eat on a monthly basis- they can be entered and saved for really quick meal/ snack entry.  I like that I am prompted for consumption of a specified amount of daily water- in my case 64 oz.

Intake/ output food calorie is not new.  Ever hear of Weightwatchers?

It’s new for me, and it’s working so far.  Plus I’m saving money that I’d spend on getting those last few ounces off my back, by losing pounds off my stomach.

The 4-Minute Workout

First came The First Twenty Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds. $T2eC16NHJH!FFl4W1Rm(BRbs2B4DVQ~~_35  In her 2012 book, Reynolds made the case that 90% of the health effects from a session of exercise are gained in the first 20 minutes that we get moving.  It’s a worthwhile attempt to answer the question about just what extent and degree of exercise is optimal?  More exercise is better?  Not really, she says.

Reynolds’ research suggests that for recreationally-oriented individuals who do not have some over reaching goal such as completing a half-marathon or so, the best bang for your buck comes in that first twenty minutes, with only incremental improvement coming after that first 20 minutes.  Good news, huh?

Now,  20 minutes may be overkill, but only if you are willing to go all out.

Check out—->  The 4-Minute Workout – from

This new study whittles that 20 minute figure way down – to just four minutes .  The research examined the effects of a relatively large dose of high-intensity intervals on various measures of health and fitness.

There may be something to it.  However, one’s actual engagement in brief exercise is not a logical undertaking.  Otherwise, why are the majority of adult Americans now clinically overweight?  How many of us vow to get moving , and use those pants that someday we believe we can fit into again?

I think that the body unconsciously recoils against pain-  intense intervals hurt.  And evolutionary biology  has programmed pain avoidance into our consciousness.  In order to engage in repeated bouts of night intensity exercise, one needs to trick ourselves into changing up for a sweat fest, no matter how brief.  I’d like to see the long term research on one’s ability to maintain such a difficult, albeit brief road to fitness.


Hiking Close to Home

I spent the last three days hiking away from my house and camping with friends and family. When I mean hiking away from, I don’t mean driving someplace and hiking there. I mean walking out the door, and stepping away from the house and crunching over the thick mantle of snow through the fields and forest to be outside for a while.

UT and Roy heading out- photo by John Clark
UT and Roy heading out- photo by John Clark

I’m very fortunate. While it’s probably true that anyone can walk out their door with a backpack on and eventually embrace trails and walking paths, if I walk for five minutes in just about any direction from my house then I’m in the woods.
Yesterday, brother Roy, my hiking buddy Tenzing, and I walked 7.2 miles to get to this cabin. We used snowshoes to break out the first half mile of trail, then put them away for a 2 mile road segment.

On the way there, we had a couple burgers and a sub sandwich at Drake’s, the only liquor/ gasoline/convenience store in this part of town.  Later, I was walking up a steep segment of steep trail when I shouted out,” Hey, we all forgot to pay for our  food!”

“I paid,” said Roy.

“So did I,” said Tenzing.

I was only able to make it right, via my pleading  “$10-bill-down-to-the-store” phone call to ever-faithful Auntie Mame, who helped me out yet again, as she does each and every single day.

Roy and Tom fueling up
Roy and Tom fueling up

We made good use of a freshly tracked snowmobile trail that had us chugging up 600 vertical feet. We put the snow shoes on again for the last two miles of our walk. We met a porcupine who was overhead, chomping bark along a branch of oak .  Roy learned that in Maine, you always look up in the woods, to see if there is a porcupine above you.

Twenty feet up in a tree- photo by John Clark

Twenty feet up in a tree- photo by John Clark

At the camp, we welcomed Dave and Kristi, who arrived on the back seats of two snowmobiles, with their sled full of gear in tow.  They made a couple of new friends on the way up here.

Kristi snags trail magic
Kristi snags trail magic

Auntie Mame and my sister-in-law V8 showed up an hour later after I cranked the wood stove and had the building warmed up.  Plenty of dry ash for us to throw into the cavernous stove.
The Jamrog brothers cooked up a Polish feast for dinner: three kinds of pierogis, grilled kielbasa, horseradish, sour cream, and mustard.
It was warm enough in the cabin that we let the stove go out overnight.
Different day the next morning- warmer and raining. Roy, Tenzing, and I perked up a few cups of coffee and headed back up the ridge for a four mile loop back to the cabin.  It was raining, in the 40’s, and the footing was like walking on sand.  The ice was melting.

Moist Weather Conditions- by John Clark
Moist Weather Conditions- by John Clark

I was packing light: iPod Shuffle, earphones, Garmin eTrex30, and my iPhone ( for  photos). The trail had softened up enough to make snowshoes a must, even with 1/4 inch of ice coating the branches of trees up on the 1200 foot ridge.

Brothers on another Summit
Brothers on another Summit

When we got back, Tenzing cooked an over-the-top mess of bacon, sausage, eggs, and onion home fries on the wood stove. IMG_2767

Inside my down sleeping bag, settled atop my Neo  Air,  I read Outside magazine and Cache Lake Country: Life in the North Woods.  We gabbed, and I was back and forth between z-time and reading.

Later, they’ll be more from Mame’s bottomless pit of appetizers, along with Kristi’s chili, Dave’s corn bread, and Jan’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

It’s getting windier, and clearing. Winter left for just a bit.

A couple of hours later, found Tenzing, Roy, and I atop the summit of Bald Rock Mountain, on a full-moon 5-mile hike to a summit overlooking Penobscot Bay. The rest of our gang had walked a more sensible three miles and turned back when it started to snow a bit.

Full moon weirdness- by John Clark
Full Moon Man Greeting – by John Clark

Roy maintains, “Up here, you can hike 20 miles in the snow and rain, and still gain weight.”

“May be, Roy, may be”.