Real Training Should Be Challenging

Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

If you are interested in surviving or enjoying a  backpacking adventure this season  you better be ready to embrace some suffering.     At our house, I am constantly buffering my workout plans so that I don’t get into a disagreement with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. She is encouraging me to behave like a normal 68 year old guy and chill more often.

For example, I was falling behind in mileage regarding my goal of hiking 1,000 miles this year and outside the rain was falling.   Skipping today’s 75 minute hike in favor of better weather would be what normal people would do.

Well, if you are a backpacker, then  you will someday walk in the rain.  Better get used to it . Also, most of us have purchased rain gear but you won’t know how it works unless you wear it in the rain, drizzle, sleet, or snow.  Doesn’t it make sense to get out when you are close to home and you can warm up and dry out after the outing?

I am reading more and more about Stoic philosophy and mental/ physical training.

Check out this brief, but excellent email that I received from a Stoic website I subscribe to.  It’s perfect!   If ancient Stoics can practice in the rain or snow, why shouldn’t we ?

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Henry Flagler, a top lieutenant for John D. Rockefeller and one of the pioneering developers of Florida:
“I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”
Like Cato, Flagler trained himself in doing without. He wore only a thin coat, he carried his own lunch, he economized. He did this so he could get used to feeling the sting of the cold, the laugh of his peers. He didn’t want these things to have power over him, and he never wanted to feel fear—the fear of what if something bad happens.
As a result of this training, he became stronger, he became invincible to fate and misfortune and as he said, tyranny. No one could be harder on Flagler than he was on himself, and while that might seem like hard living it was also free living. And that’s the point. It’s not easy to be a Cato or a Flagler, but when things get hard, real hard, you’ll regret being anything but a Cato.

(Want to discuss today’s meditation in more depth? Join Daily Stoic Life.)

Humbling Heart Rate ?

I’m concerned that I’m pushing my heart rate too high on the bike. I’m 68 years old. Two weeks ago I rode my typical Sunday ride up and around Ragged Mountain, where I averaged 155 beats per minute for over two hours with a maximum reading of 173.  For a full 30 minutes of the ride my heart pushed  out 161-171  beats per minute.  My normal resting pulse ranges from 47-55 bpm .   I record data wearing  a Garmin chest strap that is linked to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS unit.  From there I send it to Strava for saving o my profile.

Here’s a Veloviewer 3D elevation rendering of the ups, downs and all-arounds of the same 8 miles ride that I took this past Sunday:

Here’s the traditional view of the ride.  It ain’t easy! These  two images are not aligned correctly, but I bet you can rotate them  in your mind’s eye.

I talked to my doctor about it last week while he was trimming away at a plugged sweat gland that was causing me pain on the side of my foot.  He thought my heart/arteries were OK, but also said that he had at least a handful of apparently healthy patients who were athletes in their early 70’s that dropped dead from unexpected heart attacks.

So he’s getting me a referral for a consultation with an electro-cardiologist who has a exercise specialty.  That’s all I want, a chance to talk to someone who has knowledge and background to address concerns.  My own father died at 72 of heart disease, and my paternal grandfather died from what might have been heart disease when my father was a baby.

In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing it on the bike, rest up adequately between my two-wheeled adventures, keep up the meditation, and start ramping up the relatively short summer/fall veggie consumption season.

Here was my lunch today:

Spring onions, fiddlehead ferns, my own kimchi, tempeh, rice noodle oup.




Why I am going back to hike the East Coast Trail

First read this overview, released today ( May 9, 2018) –>>via Newfoundland, Canada: The travel spot that the natives love | CNN Travel

Not only are there no ticks in Newfoundland, the hiking is world class on the East Coast trail (ECT).


I flew from Boston to St. John’s there last year to hike the 170 mile East Coast Trail, dubbed one of the Top Ten Backpacking Trails by National Geographic in 2011.

This coastal trail definitely lives up to its description as a “genuine wilderness walking and hiking experience”.  Printed materials from the East Coast Trail Association describes the trail as passing directly over the most easterly point in North America at Cape Spear as it connects over 30 communities (some were abandoned) along the route.

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Hiking to Cape Spear lighthouse

I enjoyed visiting the communities along the way where people were welcoming and were interested in speaking with us.

I have written a daily blog report, complete with daily pics spanning my two weeks there that can be viewed here.

Here’s three minutes of drone footage from last August that was shot and produced by Mark Shaw of HMS Images, my hiking partner on this adventure.  Recently I have been giving presentations on this thru-hike.  Please contact me if your organization would like to have me present this summer.

Day Hiking in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

I spent Saturday on a longer hike than I expected in the northern half of the Monument. I was in the area presenting “The Allure of the Long Distance Hike” at  the Annual Meeting of the International Appalachian Trail – Maine Chapter on Friday.

A particularly strong thunderstorm on Friday night blew out the power to Shin Pond from 6 AM until approximately 6 PM. I moved one tree and drove around three others that had blown over the road last night between Mount Chase Village ( on Shin Pond).

I was concerned that the gravel driveway headed into the Monument would be too muddy but it was dry, solid and well-graded down to the lot adjacent to the gate. Copies of the trail map that were encased in a plastic bag at the kiosk by the gate.  I had the only car in the parking lot.  I didn’t see anybody else all day.

My plan was to hike out and back to Haskell Rock to view the swollen and majestic East Branch of the Penobscot River. The leaves were still off the trees, there were no blackflies, the footpath was (mostly) navigable, with immediate views to Baxter State Park’s Horse Mtn.  The backside of  The Traveler was still graced with abundant snow up high.

But make no mistake.  In this section of the Monument on this weekend the featured attraction is the Penobscot’s East Branch. I heard it roaring most of the day.  Copious streams of clear water and snow melt cascaded through the forest and fed the countless low lying areas that I walked through today.

I saw a variety of wildlife: a frog ( swimming in a pool in the main trail), a toad, a beaver, a mature Whitetail deer with a very dark coat, a garter snake, numerous birds and even one duck !

What I had planned to be a 10 mile day hike turned out to be a 15 mile trek, and I never reached Haskell Rock.

Why?  Water, in the form of river overflow.  I was here last year in March on a most succsessful overnight fat biking trip that I wrote up on my blog,  Back then, I stuck to the main route,  foregoing the side trails.  When the water in frozen solid in winter, you can go most anywhere you like, but not this weekend.  This time I wanted to take in all of the optional side trips along the East Branch.  That didn’t happen.

My first departure from the main trunk trail was the Old River Road.

I was happily trekking along, listening to the roar of the river when the trail came to this:

Old River Road Outflow

I should have brought shorts and crocks, but still, it would have been very painful to walk through such cold water for so long.  With no idea of how far the trail ahead was underwater, and no success in me trying to bushwhack around the massive flood to the right side, I backtracked to the main trunk trail (IAT).

The walking was high and dry, for the most part,  except for an area where beavers had been and still were prominent:

Old beaver lodge in center

After 3.5 miles on the Orrin Falls Rd. ( IAT) and reaching the Haskell Gate I decided to check out the side trail to Stair Falls.

Several blowdowns blocked the side trail to the Falls.

Haskell Hut

Eventually I dodged some large trees beside the trail that had been recently felled by more eager beavers.

Freshly cut


Being so close to so much thunderous, rapidly moving water was a powerful experience.

After bushwhacking through the overflow and then walking a half mile or so on the main trunk trail,  I took the left into Haskell Hut where I was blocked again. It was flooded too.  It took a while to bushwhack left.  I needed to get into the hut, take a break, eat lunch,  and then try and reach Haskell Rock Pitch.

Haskell Hut side trail
Haskell Hut

That didn’t happen, due to another river over flow half way between the Hut and the Pitch that reached into the path ahead as far as I could see. 

It was past 1 pm now, I was tired and I still had to get back to the car, so I decided to call it quits and head back.  I was dragging at this point and decided to listen to some of my music and give myself a lift in spirits and a lively soundtrack to pace myself.

In this last photo, looking west approaching the Haskell Gate you can see the snow up high on The Traveler, and some of the melt from that snow flowing right across the trail.  Last

Nature is powerful, unpredictable, and hugely refreshing.  I’m changed each time I spend a few days in this magical area, and treasure the new opportunities that will come with the development of this National Monument.   Thank you,  Roxanne and Lucas.

Camping at Shin Pond Village? Not Tonight !

I am here alone at Shin Pond in a 5 person cabin at  Shin Pond Village (It’s a 100 acre estabishment) for my gig this weekend at the Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail‘s annual weekend of meetings.  Shin Pond is the real deal.  It is the absolute last settlement as you approach the northern entrances of both Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

I’ve worked up a new presentation entitled  “The Allure of the Long Distance Hike”  to share with the whole group after dinner on Saturday night,  at Mt. Chase Lodge. I enjoyed my stay at the Lodge last March the night the night before I packed up my fat tire bike, load it with overnight gear and explored the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days.

Biking The Monument

Here is the link to that blog post, complete with pics of the Monument and Mt. Chase Lodge.

The Maine section of the IAT/SIA is 130 miles long. Heading north from the Katahdin Lake East (KLE) Access trailhead of Baxter State Park, the route passes through boreal forests and follows trails, old logging roads, an abandoned railroad bed, and rural public roads to the potato fields of Aroostook County. Beyond Fort Fairfield, the trail enters New Brunswick.

After I read the following yesterday I planned to hang at a campsite tonight and sleep in my Honda Element.  With the rear seats folded to the sides, I have 6’6″ to lay my sleeping mat and bag down and either look out the window above my head or if the night is right, have that window open to the stars.

But 44 degrees, mud, clumps of ice and snow on the ground and hard rain convinced me to trade up to a warm cozy room for $36 .

So, I’ll watch The Untouchables on the DVD player, while eating a piece of coconut creme pie from Dysart’s .  Shaping up to be a good weekend.