Looking forward to those end-of-the season college football games tomorrow? Not so much?
Then how about watching a very interesting survival scenario episode where a genuine Maine bushcraft master uses smarts, strength, and dogged determination to extract himself from extremes of winter weather and “win” the survival game.
If you missed the live-call in hour, here’s the link to listen to the 1 hour audio of the show. We discussed Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. “Wild” is now a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon.
I tried to convey two points on the show:
(1) The premise of the book may be over-reaching. On an actual long distance hike where one spends months in the wilderness traversing challenging terrain, in difficult conditions, and often nursing some physical pain, there is often no psychic energy left for one to process the stress, wounds, and psychic scars that we accumulate before we set foot on that trail. In the book ,”Wild”, Strayed devotes just as many pages to relationship/lifestyle issues (mother/daughter, sibling coherence, domestic violence, heroin use, sexual habits, death) as she does conveying the actual walking.
It’s tough to average out 20 miles a day, week after week, month after month. The experience of moving across America on your own two feet on a National Scenic Trail is often so compelling that we find ourselves in a parallel universe where our old shells are dropped like useless antlers, or dwarfed to the size of a speck, as we allow ourselves to experience force of the real Wild world. Like this- “Problems? What problems, I can’t even remember what they were?”
Bill Irwin thru-hiked the AT in 1990, and wrote, “Blind Courage”, one of the best hiking books ever. I just started tearing up just looking at the pictures in my signed copy (with Orient’s foot print) Bill was the first blind person to thru-hike the AT, where he fell thousands of times, despite the aid of Orient, his seeing-eye companion dog. If anyone needed it, Bill is the prime candidate to receive a redemption, but he is surprisingly realistic in his post hike appraisals.
From Bill in the Appalachian Trail Reader: “But it is unrealistic to expect the wilderness to resolve a lot of issues for you, issues you’ve never resolved anywhere else. The answer is not on the Trail. It’s in you.”
(2) Post-hike depression is an under-reported issue about long distance hiking. Irwin was the first writer/hiker I came upon who warned others that it may be dangerous to thru-hike. He does not necessarily recommend the practice to others. He writes that, ” I have even heard of people who have committed suicide because they couldn’t make that return.”
Here’s an an essential post from The New Nomads that details the kind of unexpected troubles that thru-hiking can bring you – ..My Notes on Post Trail Depression. I might have reblogged this entry back in March, but it deserves another look, especially the Reader Comments section.
So did Wild (the book) ring true to you, the walker in the woods?
Back in February, Carey Kish laid down a challenge that I decided to embrace- walking 1,000 miles in Maine in a calendar year.
Here’s Carey’s original article about that idea. As Kish notes, ” Consider the enormous health and fitness benefits of such a sustained challenge. Regular hiking and walking are proven to help decrease the risk of all kinds of nasty stuff, like coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon and breast cancers. You’ll lose weight, and reduce stress and anxiety levels. And you might just establish a new exercise pattern for years to come.”
Carey’s right in that you do it mostly by regularly walking a 3-5 mile sessions from your home. In my case, I added close to a hundred miles in Baxter State Park this season. I added another 50 in the Hundred Mile Wilderness, hiking with the Jocomotive and G-Man. Camden Hills State Park got a fair number of sessions. I thought I was going to add up another 42 miles via the Grafton Loop Trail up off Route 26 above Newry, but that will have to wait until 2015. I logged a few longer days of hiking with my pal Guthook in Acadia National Park this fall.
I was thrilled to pick up 7 more miles yesterday in Acadia doing the South Ridge Trail to the summit of Cadillac Mountain ( 1,528′). I had the pure pleasure on cranking out a fast pace with my son Lincoln and his fiancee Stephanie.
It was one of my best Holiday presents.
Did you know that Cadillac is the highest mountain on the Atlantic Coast north of Brazil (another cool fact from Carey Kish’s Maine Mountain Guide) ?
The 2014 numbers primarily came from data that I was tracking via the Strava app. I have hit 1,094 miles to date. Strava only aggregates miles for runs, bike rides, and swims. You have to enter backpacking and walking mileages as runs. I usually gather my data from my iPhone 5S, but sometimes log exercise using my Garmin eTex 30 GPS to gather .gpx tracks that I then download into my Macbook air and upload to Strava.
My iPhone 5s also allows me to run the free Fitbit app, without requiring the $99 wrist band. With the launch of the M7 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 5s, Fitbit has decided to offer “basic” tracking from the phone itself. Fitbit is fun to use, automatically counts daily steps, and also allows me to enter my daily food intake, and log body weight.
Goals are a big part of what keeps me going. I plan trips this way- think of things I want to do and then jot them down on the calendar and they take place, as the time nears. I tell others , and goals take firmer form- finally as actions. Carey’s 1,000 mile goal is a welcome addition to my life.
This is also the first winter that I have dropped under 200 pounds at this time of year. I think that hiking more miles has made the difference- that and cutting out french fries. Normally, I’ve run about 212-215 at the end of December. This is good!
I plan to take on the 1,000 mile walking-in-Maine challenge again for 2015.
Today (Wednesday 12/24) from noon to 1pm ( Eastern Time Zone) I’ll be on MPBN’s radio program Maine Calling to talk about Cheryl Strayed’s book ‘Wild.’ Maine Calling is a live, call-in show (1-800-399-3566) so please feel free to give a call and share your thoughts on Wild – the book or the movie.
Joining me today will be host Jennifer Rooks; Mary Pols, Feature writer for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Today, not entirely reformed movie/book critic, author of Accidentally on Purpose; and, Josh Christie, Independent bookstore manager. Author of MAINE BEER, and writer covering beer, books, and the Maine outdoors
People can also stream the discussion live by visiting news.mpbn.net People can post comments and questions on the Maine Calling Facebook page . We’re also on Twitter @mainecalling. Our email is Talk@mpbn.net.
With Wild, the movie making it’s way in theaters across America this week, let us not forget that there were people walking, and even riding the new PCT . Wild, the book harkens back to 1995. Back in 1969, this family demonstrated all that’s great about America.
Work, save money, and then have experiences that lift your life up, way up, but it ain’t easy.
I am very pumped to finally experience Master Maine Guide Kevin Slater in action. Kevin and his partner Polly Mahoney are MGS.
Kevin’s been a Maine Guide for forty years. In his early years as a climber, Kevin guided trips up Denali. MGS is now known throughout the world for guiding dog-sledding trips in Maine and in Northern Canada. Part of the mission is carrying on the bloodlines of the Athabascan sled dogs from the Yukon Territories. There are 42 dogs here.
It got noisy, really fast, when I pulled up in the pitch black dark here last night. The deep howls were truly wilding.
Tonight, Kevin kicked off the teaching with a slide show that conveyed winter knowledge, featuring Inuit and Innu Natives in scenes from northern Quebec, all the way up to Baffin Island, above the Arctic Circle. It was a show and tell that focused on acclimatizing to the cold. We also went deep into dressing appropriately for winter conditions.
As in backpacking, the name of the game in surviving and even thriving in the deep cold is moisture management. I learned a lot tonight, and especially appreciated the winter footwear segment, where a half dozen different types of winter boots were laid out in front of the group (there are four “paid sports”, and three apprentices attending) and discussed in detail, pro and con. I was impressed with the insulating layers exposed in a cross-section of a “ mouse boot”, a thick, off-white, rubber survival boot that is generally available through army surplus outfits. They have a few of them out here.
Scott Oeth, from Wisconsin, is attending. I enjoyed hanging out with Scott when I was presenting at the Winter Skills Symposium in Wisconsin this past October. Scott is also a Maine Guide, gets outdoors a lot and maintains Bull Moose Patrol, one of the better outdoor adventure blogs.
You’d think that the “wet-is-here” cut point would be 32 degrees. Winter moisture all about preserving body heat- via insulating and wicking off moisture, however, that critical decision point comes in around 25 degrees. At that point there’s a clear line where things are going to get wet- where sweating from exertion and wicking from snow makes it’s presence. This is where we discussed whether wool/ down or synthetics like fleece and pile.
It’s a top notch facility here. We are spending night one on the third floor of The Lodge, a relatively new building in the MGS compound. We have got a big radiant Defiant wood stove, braided rugs, and exposed post and beam rafters all around us.
There are separate bunk rooms with showers for men and women and all our meals are cooked right here in the main room.
Here’s the view out the window looking north toward Grafton Notch. That’s where we’re going to be heading for a couple of nights in the deep woods.
Morning light on the High Sierras, as seen from the crest of the Inyo Mountains. Lone Pine is the patch of green in the valley.
(In the first week of October, 2014, I set out to hike the Lowest to Highest Route with NotaChance and Orbit. This is the final installment of my trip report. For technical information on this route, go here.)
At six a.m. I wake after a single perfect, flawless nights’ sleep and begin to crow the lyrics to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” into the still darkness. This is our agreed-upon alarm clock- my singing voice is beyond awful, so it’s really, really funny. It’s a joke that started when I used the song to wake Jess and Lia for our four a.m. summit of Mt. Adams- another hit was me singing Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb
The fat tire bike movement is alive and well with the Bubbas in the Woods, with Nate showing up today with a sparkling new Trek Farley, and the price was right.
It was a group of seven today at Bubba church, six of us riding fat- when we finished, it was 20° out, with a steady wind chill.
Nelson had to hike-a-bike to his truck early on after his compression fork blew a seal and all the oil in his fork ran out. Before he left, his bike looked like cartoon vehicle, with a layer of crispy crown leaves encircling the perimeter of his wheels as the protruding sheet metal screw tips skewered those leaves against the rubber.
Buck’s 45North rear tire suffered a couple of tears, and his tubeless set up required a tube to keep him moving. A cold day to have a mess of white goop to deal with.
There was a great deal of water out on this segment of the Georges Highland Path today.
Here’s Rigger and Nate fashioning a makeshift foot bridge to get us across a flowage that had no other way around.
I rode pretty well today. I thought I might have neglected to bring enough food, but my friend Amy Barnett’s two home made cookies got me through 4 hours and 10 miles of hard going today. I’ve been experimenting with the type and amount of food that I take along with me of my rides and hikes. I find i really don’t need too much to keep going right now.
One thing that did not work out so well today was me staying dry. I was alone, at one point, moving pretty well and following Andre, churning my way over the hummocks and splashing the flowages , and came to a large rock protruding over a small stream with a black hole of water between me and the other side. I decide to push across, except the front wheel dropped into the water so deep that it jammed against the bottom and I went right over the handlebars into the black wet. The bike ended up on top of me and my whole lower body was soaked, with the water making it’s way deep into my boots, and it completely filled my pogies ( cordura handlebar covers). I took off my boots, dumped the water out of them, wrung out my socks and soldiered on.
The combo of the constant water and deeply cold temp wreaked havoc on our drive trains. Chains were seizing up, front derailers would not budge, and the water was refreezing so frequently on the pedals that clipping in was difficult, if not at times impossible. Here is a shot of a rim encased in muddy ice.
Check out the mini glacier above the front derailer.
I am hoping to get another Bog ride in Tuesday night, but now it looks like there will be a storm again- more rain.
It’ is not even winter yet, but it’s much more challenging to get outside and bike and hike in Maine right now.
First, we’ve already had two major snow storms that have resulted in serious downed limbs, branches, and even whole trees laying across our usual wooded trails.
One November storm was so brutal that we lost our electricity for five whole days. That’s what happens when you have gale force winds pushing against trees rooted atop soft ground that had not even shed their leaves. The weight of twenty inches of wet sticky snow accumulating on the branches makes the trees top heavy, resulting in uprooted messes toppling like pick-up-sticks across the countryside.
A week ago Andre, Buck, and I headed over to the Rockland Bog on snow shoes to clear out some of the usual riding loops that we have been favoring for the past twenty five years.
We all packed small saws that are surprisingly efficient at slicing through even larger trees that lay across the trails, but there were several behemoths that we left for the big boys on their snowmobiles to dispatch with their chain saws.
Here’s Andre using his snowshoes to stay on top of a particularly despicable half frozen mass of broken up ice partially frozen in nasty mudded-up water.
Sometimes there are no decent go-arounds, and you need to just work straight across, through the ruts and mud.
Thank God there are even a few bridges that we can cross. This is not a place to slip into the water, either on foot or a bike .
Just before we got back to the cars in the lot along the Bog Road, we decided to just go around this particular nasty tangle of downed branches, and yes, normally we are in the habit of being able to ride right through this stream and along the path ahead. Not going to happen.
Two days later, we three went back in, along with 5 other cultural iconoclasts. The Bubbas in the Woods have been stuck in a rut of sorts, for a few decades now. We have these group rides on Sunday morning, and also Tuesday and Thursday nights, year after year- for decades. Incredible but true. This past Tuesday night, it was pitch black at 5:15 PM, the temps were in the low 20’s, and much of what was soft and mucky was now frozen solid and slippery.
I had charged up my Turbocat handlebar and helmet-mounted lights for the event, my first night ride of the fall season. And yes, I realize my ancient Turbocat system is now old history, and after the ride I realized it would be way cheaper for me to upgrade to a Magicshine LED helmet light than to buy another replacement lead-acid battery that was acceptable way back when.
I also hope not to fall, so just in case, I wore my Fox padded shorts underneath my tights to prevent a broken hip or tailbone ( Right, Lincoln Jamrog ?). A recent Men’s health magazine article about winter fat-tire biking, The Winter Sport That Burns 1,500 Calories an Hour, helped explain why I was a hurting unit just a half-hour into Tuesday night’s ride.
It was ridiculously tough going for me- churning through snow, mud, half-frozen water, and trying to see the path through partially fogged up /frozen safety glasses. Here’s a map of the 7.5 miles that I somehow managed to finish on Tuesday night:
Here’s a pic of the Hawk, taking a quick break in the middle of a particularly wet piece of the Bog ride. The darkness at the bottom is black pools of water , interspersed between elevated hummocks of land and mounds of solid ground with trees somehow surviving in there.
It’s what we do, and I’m actually looking forward to my next ride in the dark with these guys.
I’m hoping that my new Magic Shine headlamp works it’s magic on my performance out there!
I’ve been reporting the latest episodes from Carrot Quinn’s most excellent hiking blog. Here’s the most latest from her insane hike from the lowest to the highest points of the USA- all in California. Check out life in the sun- the real hot sun: