Bubbas Riding The Bog – Dec. 26

Wierd warm weather brings me teetering to the cusp of 2016.
I can’t ever remember riding my mountain bike through the midcoast Maine woods and waters when it was this warm. It’s sweet calm today at fifty-seven degrees, windless, with blue skies.
I ride bikes with a regular dozen and a-half of local mountain bikers- The Bubbas.  We’ve been at it for thirty years, riding year round except for hard rain or most snowstorms.

This time of year, riding might involve the whole gamut of weather from dusty dry in the summer, to a winter like last when record breaking feet of snow made the snow-covered trail more difficult to move through.  In typical winters, multiple layers of lesser snowfalls thaw and refreeze, resulting in a much firmer tread underneath.

It’s my first pain free ride since October 6, the date of my first night ride of the cold season.  On that dark evening, I pulverized the skin of the top of my left shin when my bike threw me sideways while I was riding across a fairly shallow, but rocky stream. There was a loose layer of freshly fallen leaves obscuring the true nature of the nasty path underneath.

I learned two valuable lessons that next morning.
First, if you need to close a wound, you better get it stitched within an 8 hour window, a medical fact that least one emergency room doctor cited in his decision to leave my wound open. However, I was sent home with with enough really big band-aids, extra gauze, and enough leukotape to fill a paper bag. Second lesson: “Scabs that are really vast, deep, and wide may stick around for almost 3 months.”

There were six of us riding in the Rockland Bog today, with five of us on fat tire bikes and Buck on his 29er. My Surly Pugsley is grinding into its 6th season this spring, and churn it did today, through black pools of thick, cold water with various depths of mud underneath.  Here’s an example of a wet area here in The Bog.

At the end of this post, you’ll see this 100 foot bridge in action.

I kept the rubber on the ground today, and rode well enough to get my third best time heading up The Bog Road Climb.

Sometimes it’s wiser to walk than ride. Here’s Craig and Rigger walking a stream today.

Stream Crossing on The Highland in the Bog
Stream Crossing on The Highland in the Bog

On these group rides I often ride behind Rigger.

Rigger- ready, and in control.
Rigger- ready, and in control.

Rigger is known for steadily getting through mud, tough climbs, and impossibly rocky twists. He sometimes lifts his bike to fly when he launches off a ledge’s lip on a steep downhill.

Signing off with a video of Rigger and Craig riding that bridged section that Chris McKearney built so well.

Eight to twelve inches of snow is predicted tomorrow. While the terrain will be dramatically different in a whiter shad of pale, we’ll definitely be back at it again.   Soon, I hope.

Here’s your boomer New Year’s Resolution, and thank you! 

This is all truth, boomers- found amidst this NYTimes’ fitness trends wrap-up for 2015:   Fit Body, Fit Brain and Other Fitness Trends – The New York Times

“… the ideal exercise dose seems to be about an hour per day of moderate exercise, such as walking, and less if we ramp up the intensity of a workout and make ourselves really sweat.

Personally, I’d go with 75 minutes. You get a worthwhile bang for that buck. It’s the cut point for good.

I’ll follow up with a post about how to stick with a plan of an hour a day in 2016.  It worked for me!

When is a fitness myth not a fitness myth?

I’m frustrated with the deluge of information that is channeling into my  computer and phone. Even with my ability to filter out “disinformation” , plenty of stuff slips by to leave me scratching my head, wondering how to make sense of it all.

For example, I am now down to three print magazine subscriptions  and Outside is one of them. I also follow Outside Online’s Twitter feed. Outside’s Twitter feeds draw upon current articles and reruns of past published snippets and longer pieces.

Here’s a Tweet from Outside Online them that came through this morning:

screenshotI’m not a runner anymore, but I do like to walk fast, and I’m a backpacker, so I expected to gain some tips from checking this out.
Here’s The New Injury-Proofing Rules for Runners-By: Erin Beresini. Published ( in the print magazine) on Oct 15, 2014.
From the article:  “Renowned physical therapist Kelly Starrett lays out movement standards for runners. Meet them, and you’ll stay out of his office. Don’t meet them, and you shouldn’t be running.  The problem, he believes, is nobody’s set movement standards for runners—the stretches and simple moves runners should be able to do before they ever lace up their shoes. If you run when you can’t perform certain baseline movements, it shouldn’t be surprising when you get hurt. …And don’t think you’re off the hook if you don’t log long miles. Running works its way into so many things we do.”

Just what are these rules?  They come from fitness’ old pal Stretch!  The article details two stretching moves, plus the use of an obscure mechanical roller device that “massages” your calves.

And then I started thinking, “Wait, didn’t Outside recently debunk stretching?

Outside magazine promoted a very successful article that had originally published in their magazine and subsequently Tweeted on entitled The 10 Biggest Fitness Myths of All Time ?

Fitness myths
Fitness myths

Guess where static stretching fits into all of this?

It’s the headliner!
Myth #1: Stretching Prevents Injuries
“Truth: It could ruin your 10K time.  Chances are some bogus training advice has wormed its way into your fitness regimen. Time to root it out. Most physiologists now believe that when you elongate muscle ­fibers, you cause a “neuromuscular inhibitory ­response,” says Malachy McHugh, director of research for the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an expert on flexibility. By triggering this protective  counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, you render yourself less ­powerful……But stretching prevents injuries, right? Actually, in several large-scale studies of athletes and military recruits, static stretching did not reduce the incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendino­pathy and knee pain.”  This online article was shared 5896 times.

What’s the takeaway?
I was talking to my wife this morning about this. She pointed out that what is going on here may be just the perennial difference between research-based primary sources and popular press media. Magazines exist to get people to read them, turn the pages, and support their advertising clients. They hold to lower standard than do peer-reviewed journals.

Are we being hijacked by the sheer volume of data that is supposed to make our lives more informed and thereby better, but in reality is putting a choke hold on our ability to understand just about everything?

I am going to head out for a fast walk this afternoon.  No static stretching is required, or is it?

Searching For Old Roads

This month I’ve had the fortune to join three fellow Lincolnville, Maine residents on two exploratory hikes where we walked where old footsteps, carriage wheels tracks, and hoof prints achieved a degree of frequency that was sufficient to establishing primitive roads that ascended these coastal hills.

Rosey and Kerry above Route 52 looking west
Rosey and Kerry above Route 52 looking west

There are close to 30 miles of official trails in Camden Hills State Park.

Map of Camden Hills
Map of Camden Hills

What we are looking for does not appear on this map.

Now is the time of year to explore the remains of routes that date back to when white settlers began to settle this area previous to 1800.  It’s approaching mid-December right now, when deciduous leaves have been stripped off the trees and the ground cover has died back to reveal the visible foundation of the landscape.    What’s left are bare ledges and rock outcroppings that posed considerable navigational challenges to the earliest settlers to this midcoast Maine area.  Here is an example of an ancient roadbed passing through the side of a rocky area:

The bright area above the slot is out path
The bright area above the slot is our path

The particular road that we tried to establish was one that came up from Youngtown Road  above Lincolnville Center over the Camden Hills and then down into the settlement of Camden itself.  Before 1804, there was no Route 52- the sheer cliffs on the west side of the Camden hills dropped right into Megunticook Lake.  That all changed in 1806, after four years of hard labor of some forty men resulted in Daniel Barrett’s toll road. The flatness of that narrow winding road was much quicker and easier than the mountain road above Maiden’s Cliff that twisted its way near 1,000 feet of elevation.

Our walk today started at the “old Barrett homestead”, or as it is better known, the Maiden’s Cliff parking lot. We walked up the Maiden’s Ciff route for a short time, then veered right before the trail crossed a wide rocky stream.  From there, we were able to follow a steadily ascending old road.

Matt and Kerry heading up
Matt and Kerry heading up

I expressed my doubts about whether a horse could draw a loaded wagon up the steep slope, or consider what is would take to hold back such a situation on a descent.  We later agreed that this might have been on of the paths where timber from above was skidded down the mountain in winter or spring.

Here’s a massive pine tree that must have been 200 years old that had somehow escaped cutting.

Big pine
Big pine

It is so much easier tracing old paths with a small group, that can fan out in questionable areas and discuss route options in real time in a real place.

“You can feel it underfoot.”

“There’s a hand built berm laid up just to the left there.”

“ As good as the road is underneath us, It’s as rough as a cob all around us.”

In 1754, militia men forged a rough trail from Thomaston overland to Stockton Springs through what some Lincolnville historians term The Gut. We passed over that saddle later today, where we located old boundary markers and some very distinctive triangular hunks of weathered granite that were important lines of sight or outright ownership.

Unique marker stones
Unique marker stones

Today’s adventure with this group reminded me so much of a trek in southern New Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail back in May of 2013. Back then, my backpacking buddies Train, Wizard, General Lee and I were having a difficult time picking our way up the long-abandoned Butterfield Mail Coach route as it wound its nearly invisible track through a bone dry arroyo in the foothills of the Cooke Range. That stage route across the west started in 1857, and operated until 186. This was the era where the real wild West was settled. We were dodging Spanish Dagger plants then, and now I am pushing my way through thickets of bare young maple trees.

I loved walking today on a historic footpath that holds deep mysteries that have all but vanished in just over 200 years.

In the end, we took the first old road all the way up until we connected along the Jack Williams Trail, and took that to over Zeke’s Trail for a brief time when we veered off and continued the high line on another old road that eventually dipped down to known connections coming up from the Youngtown Road.

On the way back, Kerry discovered a pretty crude bush shelter, where someone had been squatting for a while, well off the marked trail.  They left a mess.

Cheap lodging
Cheap lodging

If this mild December holds out any longer, I just might be up there again, spending the night on Bald Rock Mountain in the Camden Hills on Sunday  so I can wake up on the solstice and watch the sun come up over the ocean and place its rays upon North America.

The life-affirming light will start to come back, once again, revealing yet another meaning of Christmas.

Star atop Mt. Battie tower
Star atop Mt. Battie tower

Return to The Bike

Any December that I can ride my bicycle over the trail and ledges that head up to Mount Pleasant is fine with me.  When that ride includes two old friends like Craig and Rigger and we are riding on four-inch wide tires churning mud and gripping rocks both up and down it is even better.  Today’s ride up to Mt. Pleasant was punctuated by encountering three  four-wheeled drive vehicles right at the summit:  a jacked up off-road pickup truck and a couple of guys riding all-terrain vehicles.  Here’s a photo of Rigger, powered by his less than one horsepower legs going around the truck as he worked his way up to the Peasant summit.

Rigger moves along
Rigger moves along

There was a lot of mud that got churned up by our four wheeled friends today.  I got stuck in this rut heading up to the always challenging ” shit chute” .

Yup. Stuck standing.
Yup. Stuck standing.

The temperature dropped to below freezing last night, so this morning there was still ice to be avoided on the higher segments of trail, and everywhere the path was still in shade.  If  bright sun hit the earth, we were good to go.

I am so ready to put November behind me. Right at the start of the month on my first night ride of the Fall season, I went down hard and bashed my left knee on one sharp rock while crossing a stream bed in the Rockland Bog.   I suffered a deep gash, reaching down to the top of my shin bone.   I waited too long to visit the emergency room. It would have been stitched  if I went in before I went to bed that Tuesday night.  I was forced to take the next five weeks off the bike.

Six weeks later, a thick, unsightly scab is still lingering, and the bruised bone still hurts. I learned an important lesson six weeks ago-  wear my G-Form knee pads every time I am on these rugged midcoast Maine mountain biking trails.  Protective gear doesn’t help when it is  left in the van.

Here are some more photos and one video of what I call the Sunday morning Church of Two Wheels.

Nelly schooling Rigger overlooking Penobscot Bay from summit of Pleasant.

Mountain to the Sea
Mountain to the Sea


Rigger and Nelly ready to head up the power line

Here’s a 40 second clip of Nelly and Rigger clearing Nelly Falls while heading back up to Backside Blueberry Field on the north side of Pleasant.

Here is the map and the profile of one great ride anytime you can get it, but particularly so in December.

screenshot 6Good call, Nelly !

Uncle Tom’s EZ Gift Guide for Hikers

Wondering what gift to get that walker, hiker, or budding adventurer at this giving time of year?  Here are my suggestions for ten things that might be just the ticket, choices which won’t stress the pocketbook too much.

First off are some great books, the first three, brand new,  released in 2015:

#1-  Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alistair Humphries


“Refresh your life with a tiny little adventure that’s close to home and easy on your pocket. Inspiration is abundant in this brilliant and beautifully-illustrated guide.”

This is my top book recommendation in 2015.  With the ideas in this book,  I have walked away my gym membership, and put so many more miles and smiles into my life, that I have kept myself 10 pounds lighter through the whole year.  It is British-based, with parts unknown to me, but the ideas transfer so well to Maine, except for the ones that involve a public transportation infrastructure.   Who would even think of loading up a dry bag in the summer, putting on a bathing suit, and swim down a river rather than hike? $20.

#2- Cabin Porn by Zach Klein

Cabin Porn
Cabin Porn

Some people yearn to have a little place of their own where they can get away from it all. This book is a natural outgrowth of an online community that has existed over the past six years. I frequent the Cabin Porn website where photos of  12,000 handmade cabins have been posted. This book contains pictures of more than 200 of those cabins , as well as ten stories about featured cabins. I particularly liked “How to Live Underground”  and “How to Craft an Off- Grid Bunkhouse”, about a 17-acre  settlement over the bay from here over in Deer Isle, Maine.  The book brought me back to 1977, the year I finished  schooling up at the Shelter Institute, and then spent a very special couple years crafting timbers out of red oak trees that I cut down and built our own “four sided, insulated lean-to”  on 4.5 acres where we still reside. Hardcover only- $30.

#3- Camping In The Old Style by David Wescott

Camping In The Old Style
Camping In The Old Style

David Wescott is the author of Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills. He is an expert in primitive technologies and a leading figure in wilderness education for more than forty years.  In 2000,

From Amazon: “Back before the days of RVs, nylon sleeping bags, and all the other modern camping conveniences, people still went camping. This updated and newly designed color edition of Camping in the Old Style explores the techniques and methods used during the golden age of camping, including woodcraft, how to set a campfire, food preparation, pitching a tent, auto camping, and canoeing.  The book is loaded with nuggets of wisdom from classic books written by camping and outdoors pioneers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Daniel Carter Beard, Warren H. Miller, Ernest Thompson Seton, Horace Kephart, and Nessmuk, and author David Wescott includes his own methods, techniques, and philosophies as well. A generous addition of color photos of present-day classic camping enthusiasts supplements many of the fascinating archival black-and-white photos.”

A thorough book, and interesting as hell, howeer the photographs of modern folks engaging in old school camping in modern times are slightly off-putting.  Everyone is too damn clean.  Every single one of the unused canvas tents and bedrolls are pure unblemished white.  Things look overly staged, and some of the pics are positively wrong.  For example, on page 119, there is a pic of a man resting on a “stretcher bed”.  What woodsman would choose to put their smelly boots a few inches under their noses rather than as far as possible down toward the foot of the bed? Hardcover only – $30.

#4- Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light with Thomas Merton, Basho, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard & Others

Journeys of Simplicity
Journeys of Simplicity

My friend Brad Purdy gave me this and the next book on this list.  The books are permanent residents on the night stand beside my bed, where I refer to them often.  Journeys of Simplicity has the tone of a religious  book.  Certainly, here are numerous religious leaders who let us know what they carry with them when they travel through life:  Merton, Basho, Ghandi, and even Jesus, but it is the others who really interested me.  I particularly liked the references to Bilbo Baggins, Grandma Gatewood, and of all people Marcel Duchamp, whose was allotted two whole pages  that contain just forty words (and that include his biography).  And just wait until you see what is listed under “Baggage for the Arctic Tern’s 22,000-Mile Migration” !  $13.

#5- Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up

Improv Wisdom
Improv Wisdom

I wrote about this book in a post last year.  The gist of the book is that mistakes are blessings.  There is plenty that will go wrong when we are out in the wilderness, and this book gets your head straight to the point that you might take a big bow when people discover your ” fail on the trail”. Hardcover only- $17.

#6- The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard
The Snow Leopard

This is my favorite adventure book.  I have read it numerous times.  I am thrilled to no end that it finally was an e-book a couple of  years ago.  I have it on the Kindle app so I can read passages on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook.  Matthiessen is gone now, and this is a huge gift to us from him.  I read a little bit of it,  a lot.  The journal reflects Nepal, on a hiking journey that Matthiessen takes just as Fall is folding into Winter.  It’s bleak, sad, deep, and huge. $17.

#7-Fenix Flashlight E05

Fenix e05
Fenix e05

This flashlight came my way from my pal Chris, AKA G-Man. Chris is on a apparently life-long search for the perfect outdoor gear.  Do you know Everyday Carry?  If not, you may find it interesting.  EDC is a website where people form all over the world expose the contents of their pockets or shoulder bags and lay out what they use everyday.

The Fenix is in my pocket now because it is small and useful.  It’s  just lots of long nights and short days up here in Maine right now, and I love using the little light (with 85 lumens) to brighten up my evening trips to the woodpile or to tend the chickens.  Plus it uses just a single AAA battery, that’s been good now for over the three weeks.   $20.

#8- Glo-Toob AAA Waterproof Emergency Dive Light, Green


From the manufacturer: “The Glo-toob AAA is a three function, waterproof, reusable light with hundreds of applications. The AAA Glo-toobs are virtually indestructible and can take knocks and bumps in almost any environment. Glo-toobs are perfect for diving, camping, road side emergencies, action sports or any extreme situation including covert Military operations. Its compact design allows you to easily carry it in your pocket, on your belt, or in a glove compartment.

I use it hung on the lanyard attached to the bottom of the back my reflective walking vest on my night hikes.  If I am on the road, I look like a gigantic Christmas ornament.  It is the brightest warning light I’ve found, and again, uses just one AAA battery.  I also hang a clear one in my tent at night.  $20

$9- Energizer Smart Rechargeable Charger for AA/AAA Batteries, with 4 AA Batteries

AAA/AA battery charger
AAA/AA battery charger

Now that I have whittled down my outdoor electronics ( including my eTrex 30 Garmin GPS to just AAA or AA battery usage, it make so much sense to use rechargables instead of throwing away batteries.  It took me a while to figure out that my AA charger also handles AAA’s, I just had to notice the alternative metal AAA battery tab in each slot.  These chargers only come with 4 AA’s, so you have to purchase a set of AAA’s to make this gift complete.  $16.

#10- Gift certificate for weekend vacation at Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Hobbs Pond in Hope, Maine)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

UT's cabin
UT’s cabin

Reserve a two-night stay at UT’s cabin before Dec. 31, 2015 for the 2016 season for just $100.  Centrally located in Midcoast Maine.  Eight miles to Camden and 11 miles to Rockland. 2 hours/75 miles from Acadia National park.  Minutes from local hiking and mountain biking trails.  Personally guided adventures available by arrangement. Photos and details on hotlink above.  To reserve, email me at thomasjamrog@me.com