Great read from one of my favorite Maine writers. It’s a glimpse of the freedom of early morning on a Mt. Desert Island microadventure.
My Ice Cream Truck is back from the bike shop. The big, black, two-wheeled tractor has suited me well on the 10 mile loop that I put together for myself on this Patriot’s Day holiday here in Maine.
The bike went to the shop after my 4.7” 45N Dunderbeist rear tire sported a two inch tear right along the rim line last Thursday night on Ragged Mountain. It wasn’t my fault. The tire had 161 miles on it.
I hit nothing that tore it. It just failed. Luckily I was not running tubeless. I was sporting a minor bulge, due to the 6 pounds of pressure I had in the tube.
My upgraded tire is the improved version of the Dunderbeist, with the same grippy tread pattern as before, along with additional interior layers of fabric that were added to the sidewall. Under warranty for the next two years, there was also no charge for mounting either. Thanks, Sidecountry Sports, and 45North for the quick service. I am ready to roll again.
I continue to be interested in backpacking, hiking, and riding my bike close to home. Since I have read Microadventures, I have experienced increasing satisfaction in my outdoor recreational activities. I have also been outside almost every day. The radius of my path today was just a mile and a half, yet it took me thirty-nine years to discover two distinct segments of today’s ride. Yes, I have mountain bike trails from right out my door. I have NEVER seen anyone else riding this loop other than when I meet up with snowmobile riders, but that might not ever happen some winters.
Here’s one of the views on this ride, this one not 10 minutes ride from my driveway.
On the abandoned Martin Corner Road, there are often these large waterholes that linger after any hard rain. My riding pal Andy Hazen rides though here often. He tells a story about escaping the jaws of a snapping turtle that was hanging out in one of these pools a couple of years ago.
After ascending the steep section of Moody Mountain Road, the middle of this ride is along and around the French Road that runs north along the back side of Moody Mountain toward Levensellar Pond. This loop is the product of decades of my clearing and connecting the old snowmobile trails.
Here are a couple of shots of an old woods road that loops off the French Road.
A blow down blocks the trail ahead, where I have cut a go-around that hardly visible to the unschooled eye.
Make no mistake, this loop requires at least two and a half miles of climbing. After the ascent up to the high point on Moody Mountain Road, the climbing continues along a woods road that almost reaches the ridge above High Street.
The end of the ride includes three miles of descent, part of which is freshly maintained snowmobile trail that leads off the blueberry field, where it twists and turns its way back down to High Street and then back to my house. I have been hiking it for a few times before today. This is the first time that I have ridden this segment. Unfortunately, a new blow down really needs a chain saw to clear it out. I plan to bring along a small hand saw next time to clear a route around the blow down.
Sometimes, going around is better than forging ahead.
Thank you, Strava.
Desperate Steps is the late 2015 book release from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The subtitle is “Life, Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast”. I just finished my second close reading.
The book is a sobering account of twenty hiker, swimmer, canoeist, and camper tragedies. The earliest dates to 1963, when the first of 22 known fatalities was recorded in Baxter State Park.
When I was a young man, and an active member of the University of Massachusetts Outing Club during 1967-1971, I faithfully read accounts and critiques about the latest mountaineering and caving tragedies in the pages of Appalachia, a twice-yearly magazine published by the AMC. The magazine continues a regular feature – “Accidents: Analysis of Incidents in the White Mountains”. In the Accidents section, experts dissect the actual sequence of events that led to rescues, and frequent death. I read those stories in order to learn from the mistakes of others in the hope that I would not become an updated statistic.
This book follows that same successful format. The first part of each story includes photos and annotated maps of the actual events. Each account concludes with an Aftermath, where the author, Peter W. Kick, deconstructs, analyzes, and examines the details. Most of the individuals that survived their ordeals were willing to be interviewed for the book.
Being from Maine, I paid particular attention the four reports of deaths in Baxter State Park.
The publication of this book was timely for me. In the depths of winter, sitting by the wood stove, I like to read adventure stories that outdoor folks post online. In fact, it is often difficult to read between the lines and see who is smart, and who is just spouting dumb.
For example, this past winter, I was on a quest to put together the perfectly outfitted day pack. I wanted be ready for most any accident or emergency, even the possibility of having to spend the night outdoors. This book’s Appendix features an updated list of the Ten Essentials, the proven, must-have items for safe back country travel. My own day pack’s final contents were guided by this list. However, not everyone who ventures into the outdoor world of mysteries and pitfalls believes in carrying a well-stocked day pack.
There is a subset of wilderness adventurers who have taken the concept of going fast and light to extremes. Andrew Skurka came out with the term “stupid light” to describe the practice of sacrificing crucial survival items and comfort levels to shave some weight. Skurka has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic Adventure, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker. Here’s Skurka’s original article: Stupid Light.
I was stunned to read some of the reader comments that I encountered in my research about a proper winter day pack. Here’s one of the most misguided statements, ” I know a lot of people who go out to travel in the wilderness. Not one of them has even had any serious problem. You don’t need all that stuff if you know what your are doing out there.”
History permeates the book. The earliest fatalities occurred before many of modern supports were in place, before there were any organized search and rescue (SAR) organizations, when hurricane forecasting was just starting, and when communications were much more limited than today.
One story from 2003 was about the first private person in the USA to buy and activate a personal locator beacon (PLB). Despite his good intentions, the protagonist ended up requiring not one, but two helicopter rescues out of Adirondack Park in November, while deer hunting out of a canoe. He ended up spending $10,000 after his arrest and imprisonment for two counts of falsely reporting an incident.
The book is grouped into 4 chapters: Unprepared, Know the Route, Taking Risks, and Unexpected. The final chapter is about Inchworm’s mysterious death 3,000 feet off the AT near Sugarloaf Mountain. An editor’s note from Oct. 15, 2015 brings the reader to date on locating her skeletal remains, found in a tent within 100 yards of where cadaver scent-trained dogs searched previously.
What’s the take from this book?
Fatigue reigns high. Baxter’s records indicate that most exhaustion cases occur while descending, with the majority of fatalities resulting from medical emergencies. The age group most requiring Search and Rescue is 60 and above.
The book was required reading for this Maine Guide, and should be studied by any person who puts a pack on their back or in their canoe and ventures out into the wilds of the Northeastern USA.
Local historian and cultural anthropologist, Kerry Hardy, is giving a presentation at the Camden Library. Hardy’s topic will be the old Indian highways and roads of the early days in Knox County.
“Some of my co-conspirators for the field trips required by this hobby,” said Kerry Hardy, “are Matt Silverio (L) and Tom Jamrog (R) in background; Rosey Gerry in foreground, on a mid-winter trip up around Zeke’s Lookout in Camden Hills State Park.”
Hardy is the author of Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki. Hardy’s topic will be the old Indian highways and roads of the early days in Knox County. Hardy brings together his expertise in forestry, horticulture, and environmental science to tell us about New England when its primary inhabitants were the native Wabanaki tribes.
In addition to his work on Indians of this region, Hardy is part of a local group which has been studying early paths and roads of this area, and their relation to settlement and subsequent land use patterns. Come hear his discussion of those roads and how they relate to the present day.
Hardy’s book and lectures are presented in an entertaining and accessible style, making them of interest and useful to adults and students alike.
My digital subscription to the The New York Times often leads me to think about health and fitness. This recent article about treating mood disorders through meditation combined with running is interesting. Here’s the primary source for my comments : Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression – The New York Times
A disclaimer- I am a long term meditator. I continue to practice Transcendental Meditation for an hour a day, as I have for the past for 44 years (two half-hour sessions daily). I was also fortunate to have had the opportunity to have acquired several advanced TM meditation techniques.
I am also a fitness buff. OK, I’m a fitness nut. Since Jan. 1, 2016 I’ve averaged an 80 minute daily workout just about every day ( 84 sessions in three months). I am blessed to live in this time in history where we have something like the Strava Premium app that allow me to monitor my activity level and keep it up. I can’t recommend Strava enough! It has been immensely useful to me in improving my engagement with the outdoors. Here is one of my 2016 training records graphics that is reinforcement for my continuing bicycling and hiking/jogging practice:
As one reader thoughtfully points out, the answers to some of the concluding questions in the article are already well established, and have been for thousands of years.
The science of yoga established that exercises and breathing techniques are performed in preparation for meditation. When I was taught TM , we were also encouraged to engage in a brief 15 minute program of asanas (postures) followed by a few minutes of pranayama (breathing techniques) before closing our eyes to start the practice.
Another way to think about the relationship between the two is this: rigorous exercise engages the fight/flight response, while meditation affects the parasympathetic nervous system ( reductions in blood pressure, breathing , heart rate).
Over the many years that I have been pairing exercise and meditation, I have gone both routes. At this point in my life I generally have a vigorous workout, then shower, and sit to practice a half hour of TM. In my opinion, my meditation feels deeper than when I meditate first and then go at it outside.
My critique of this study is the same as my critique of other studies about meditation. Many of these studies assign the term “meditation” to a broad range of mental practices that have little in common with each other. Some are concentration techniques, some are ” thinking about thinking”, and at this point, I can tell you that what I am doing is neither. I can assure you, it is definitely not “hard work”, as one of the commenters states.
We are all exploring our own personal alternatives to stay on top of the tsunami of depression that modern society engenders.
I suggest you will need to do your own research, listen to your body, measure, and act accordingly. But do take action, and consider pulling back the bow with a form of meditation that is enchanting enough that you might even continue the practice.