You Should Read the Jan/Feb 2020 Issue of Backpacker Mag…

Because it is their best issue ever.

I’ve subscribed to Backpacker mag for  over 25 years.  I plan to ride my mountain bike and hike for another 2020 miles this calendar year, so I spend a good part of my time outdoors.  While I’m an experienced backpacker my interest in reading about and acquiring new gear and clothing has almost totally diminished, as well as my interest in reading about all the possible places in the world that I could go  backpacking.  Most months  I am done with the magazine in less than a half hour.

Then “The Long Trails Issue”  came into my mailbox.  Hmmmm.

“What up?”  I asked myself?

Maybe its the new Editorial Director, Shannon Davis?

After the initial pages of the usual highlights of dozen or more of places throughout where I’m not interested in hiking, I came to page 31- “Skill Set:  The Thru-Hikers Handbook”.   It contained “Food is Fuel” where personalized meal plans, and sketching out of resupply strategies was of interest and reeked of experienced input from two thru-hiking record holders: Heather (Anish) Anderson and Jennifer (Odessa) Pharr-Davis.

I was suspect of page 34’s 10 multiple choice questions that result in knowing   “How Fast Will You Make It to Kathdin?” as a continuous hike.  My first  thru-hike was the AT in 2007 for 5.5 months.  My score resulted in a “About 4 months”.  I am certain I would take me approximately 5 months to do it again, so the quiz came out pretty close.

Page 35 was chock full of useful information, including rest day strategies, US Post Office decorum, and a great graphic –  “A 25 -Mile-Day-By The Minute” schedule, which is basically to start walking at daybreak, try to make 12 miles by noon, and then keep going until just before dark. Its not a big secret plan.  It does get boring some days , so passion for the sport better not be your main reason for thru-hiking.

I absolutely loved page 44 Warmup, Bed Down.  The whole page is hand drawn and colored, including the print and large image of a mummy bag.

Page 44 Backpacker magazine

I  now carry a small sketch pad,  colored pencils, and set aside some time to notice details that one misses when a point and shoot camera captures a place of interest.  Here’s my last effort, from Maine’s Namahkanta Public Lands :

Since I’ve decided to carry a satellite communication device the side-by-side review of four of the more popular products in this class was of interest to me, and convinced me that I had made the right choice in choosing the Garmin Inreach, paying $12.55 a month to be able to text back and forth word wide as well as trigger a rescue.

On page 59 Barney (Scout) Mann’s historical feature about one of the earliest thru-hikers that most people have never heard of was a home run.   In 1924 Peter Parsons burdened himself with a 60 pound pack and in one hiking season thru-hiked what would eventually become the Pacific Crest Trail.  The black and white photos only elevate Mann’s richly embroidered story.

Six more hand-drawn pages featuring double-page spreads of the three Triple Crown Trails come next, along with selected spots on each map linking the reader to successful thru-hiker commentaries.

 

Kidnapped On The Trail by Bill Donahue, is the last feature, and is a convincing argument that cautions us to understand that all is not peace and love on these National Scenic Trails.  The very nature of the accepting, inclusive community that welcomes the diversity of hikers into the backpacking family is exactly the same reason why a small minority of criminals find backpackers to be easy pickings.  I’ve experienced these folks up close and personal at least twice on the AT: one serial wallet thief and another criminally convicted harasser who triggered a multi-person law enforcement lock down and search near the Kennebec River in Maine.  It was bad enough that the police convinced the female thru-hiker to abandon her almost completed thru-hike and head for home as fast as possible.

One last shout out to the design team on this issue.  I cringe at the lack of clarity that some magazines produce when they fail to tone down the background color and then insert a typeface with inadequate contrast.  I cancelled my subscription to  Bicycling magazine after they were repeat offenders at obscuring the readability of their text.

So, I’m hoping that Shannon Davis is able to extend her  Editorial Director home run  streak with more to come.

Kudos, Backpacker magazine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to pick a trail that’s great for snowshoeing

 

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Today’s Bangor Daily News features an excellent column by Aislinn Sarnacki  about where to snowshoe in Maine.

Her first suggestion is the most important one- Can You Park At The Trailhead?

I do AT trail clearing on both Bigelow and Mt. Abram and both of those trailhead points are snowed in right now and will be into spring when the mud dries out.  Specific trail heads that are very popular in the summer and fall are only reached with additional snowshoeing mileage right now, some of it considerable.  Ask  somebody.  Alternatives are to check social media ( i.e. Maine Hiking on FB)  where these type of questions are posted and answered, although you definitely can’t be sure if specific information is current or accurate.  Allison is spot on that it is best  to contact a specific trail maintainer, and/or land trust or park ranger.

Navigation skills are essential, especially when snow depths obscure painted blazes and the hiker encounters unspoiled whiteness ahead.  Certain temp/wind/and snow conditions also coat blazes, making it impossible to view the trail.

GPS and phones fail due to weak batteries, a real problem with smart phones in the deep cold.  One additional point I’d add to Aislinn’s suggestions is to carry a old school compass in your day pack, which should be contain winter day hike  essentials.

I add my Garmin Explorer InReach + to my winter day hiking pack as well.  With the inReach’s satellite technology  and a satellite subscription ( $12/month) , I can send and receive messages, navigate my route, track and share my hike and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium satellite network.

Alison’s is 100% right on that one needs to know basic navigational skills in the winter.  I was engaged in a solo winter late afternoon hike a few years ago in Camden Hills State Park where I  was the first person to break a snow trail on the Sky Blue Trail off the Cameron Mtn. end.  We had a huge dump of snow and most of the blue blazes were obscured.  I was foolish and didn’t check the batteries in my headlamp before I left, and my phone’s light waned in the shorter winter light.  (Aislinn’s tip #8 applies here).  I couldn’t find the trail after getting 3/4 of the way out  in the dark.  Luckily the moon came out and I knew it came up in in the east.  I applied the navigational skill of handrailing, where one establishes an entry point into the wilderness on the map and memorizes features like roads, trails, highways, or rivers in each of the cardinal directions.  I ended up bushwhacking east, where I knew I would eventually reach the Multipurpose Trail that transects the State Park.  Once I reached that well traveled path, I followed it two miles back to the car.

So, good luck out there snowshoeing this season.  Hike prepared, hike smart, and do read Aislinn’s excellent tips for staying safe and enjoying yourself out there.

via How to pick a trail that’s great for snowshoeing — Act Out — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

My book review-The Great Alone: Walking the Pacific Crest Trail by Tim Voors |

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Exerpt:

I really enjoyed this unique book. Published in Berlin and printed in Italy in 2019, this book was written, richly illustrated, and photographed by the Netherlands hiker, Tim Voors. I picked it up in a bookstore in Maine, lured in by the striking black and white photo of Voors on the front. It’s a cut above the usual hiking memoir, due to the hardbound cover, and also the graphic content: multiple double-page panoramic color photos, professionally illustrated maps, and colored drawings. I’m increasingly intrigued by the use of hand drawn renditions of trail location that accompany text reports…. 

Continue to whole review here:  The Great Alone: Walking the Pacific Crest Trail by Tim Voors

New Year’s Resolution? How About A Yearly Fitness Goal ?

Here’s my mileage goal for the coming new year:

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While the graphic above is from today’s New York Times article about fitness trends and facts, it also is my mileage goal for 2020.   I’ve worked up to 2,000 over the past several years after one the the most active hikers I know, Carey Kish,  first posted a plan for hiking 1,000 miles up here in Maine on his blog, Maineiac Outdoors .

Kish suggests walking for an hour three times during the work week,  adding a couple of longer half-day weekend hikes a month,  and even to consider adding an 8-to-10 day traverse of the Appalachian Trail’s Hundred Mile Wilderness to reach your own 1,000 mile total.  Check out his original 2014 challenge here->  1000-mile challenge kish .  It may inspire you!

In 2015 I succeeded in reaching 1,000 miles of hiking by following Mr. Kish’s program and have evolved to doubling that mileage for figure the past 3 years, with 1,000 miles of biking and the other 1,000 hiking. I believe that alternating both sports reduces injuries from repetitive use and varies my outdoor experiences as well.

I’m a data driven individual, always have been. It’s one of the reasons I continue to enjoy my work as a school psychologist. A big reason I go out on days when the fickle Maine  weather says, “Stay in” is the reinforcement that I receive, both positive and negative, from the Strava app that I mate to my iPhone or Garmin eTrex30 GPS.  Right now, I’m feeling flush due to this end of the year  information:

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and this hiking data:

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I’ve been working with yearly fitness goals long enough to know that it helps to log mileage when the weather is more favorable.  For example, when I was reviewing my end of the year data in early December last year I saw that I had made an error that resulted in my need to cover 100 more miles in 3 weeks of dark, cold, and unusually frigid conditions.  It was not so much fun to make up those miles.  Another reason I try to bank miles is ensuring that I have miles to draw on when I get injured, which generally ends up in me having to lay off hiking and/or biking at least a month out of the year.

Strava is a free digital service accessible through both mobile application and the web, which offers various advanced features for a monthly payment.  If you want to  check out the goal setting features for either distance, or time, get a free trial, and if you like the new features, pony up for $2 a month to  bolster your chances of sticking with more  frequent rides or hikes.

Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for my review from any particular company, product, or service mentioned in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Walk Like Groucho Marx !

I live on the coast of Maine, where the winters appear to be increasingly warmer and freezing rain is a more frequent event.  Sometimes it warms up outside and rain falls on top of a fresh snow cover to make a real mess, with the weight of that sodden snow making for tough plowing and snow shoveling.

The winter of 2018-2019 was particularly bad. Hard times prevailed when it rained before a sudden deep freeze, and if that wasn’t bad  enough, the addition of  powder snow over the ice layer.  This is the worst of all conditions to walk over, because you can’t see hidden patches of ice under the snow’s mantle.  Fresh powder on top of ice is a wreck of a situation to walk on and sometimes even drive over as the unconsolidated crystals of snow lubricate the surface of the ice and make the pathway ultra slippery, and prime territory for a hard fall.

Falls last winter resulted in higher than normal emergency room admissions for wrist, elbow, back, and even head injuries.  Luckily, I escaped any falls.  Part of the reason was my choice of winter footwear, especially when I ventured out of the house and crept uphill on my driveway to get the morning paper and the mail from my street side boxes, one for the US mail and the other for my Bangor Daily News.

Ice, ice, baby!

My footwear of choice for ice are Muck Boots with a set of Stabilicers strapped to the bottom.

Stabilicers

I keep the Stabilicers mated to the boots during the winter where they stay on the porch for easy on easy off.

I just saw a media post from a friend that featured a recommendation to Walk Like a Penguin on ice.  Here’s the graphic:

For, me, there is a better way of walking over slippery conditions- walk like Groucho!   I  use the “Groucho glide” when hiking over uneven terrain, especially when it coupled with going downhill.  Here are a couple of examples, first from the original master:

Here’s a brief clip of students in a martial arts class practicing the “Groucho walk”:

So… get traction, stay low, keep movin’ like Groucho and even grab a couple of hiking poles as you deal with the winter’s ice.   Best wishes for all in 2010 !

www.pcta.org/2019/national-geographic-partners-with-the-pcta-on-new-map-series-68192/

Huge news! Although smartphones with navigational capabilities ( for instance, Atlas Guides AKA Guthook’s) that are accessed offline while in the wilderness are ubiquitous, I advise clients to always carry paper maps as backups. PCT thru-hiker hopefuls now have the capability to carry waterproof, state of the art paper maps ! When I thru- hiked the PCT in 2010 I carried selected pages from Delorme Gazetteers for each state. Now this!

New study shows the right workout routine can help fight dementia – The Globe and Mail

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It’s snowing like crazy this Thanksgiving morning here in Maine as I put together this blog post.  During the night, an inch of rain preceded the whiteout so I’m sure there will be some ice hidden under the new cover of snow.

The wind is howling, clouds of white are swirling, and the air temperature is exactly 32 degrees.  All of this adds up to me sitting beside the wood stove soaking up the heat before I fire up my heavily-studded-tire-equipped VW Golf and my wife Marcia and I creep out way down Route 1 to join two of her sisters and their families for a Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving morning of 2018 had no snow fall; however, the mercury in the thermometer that day bottomed out at a bone chilling 5℉.

My neighbor Andy and I ride our bikes year ’round and up to now, have embraced a Thanksgiving morning tradition of riding our bikes for an hour and a half or so, usually reaching Camden Hills State  Park.

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Andy, setting the route

Camden is a vacation destination in all seasons, and sits in a protected harbor off Penobscot Bay.  It’s at sea level. Our houses face the ocean sited at some 450′ in elevation.  All of this geographic data equals bike rides that undulate up and down on the numerous hills and little mountains that stretch from inland to the coast.  It is a workout that invariably pushes our heart rates back and forth into the zone that is normally characterized by the upper reaches of an interval workout of moderate to more intense intensity.

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This past Monday and Tuesday found me braving a drive of some 220 miles away to Pembroke, MA to visit with my 93 year old mother Isabel and bring her to a medical appointment. It’s a sad visit, only buffered by my appreciation that Isabel had experienced 90 good years of remarkably healthy life before she was diagnosed with late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

At my age, I worry if genes will overcome my efforts to remain cognitively intact as I age out.  My father, Chester died at age 72 of congestive heart failure, before any noticeable decline in his memory.  His own father died when Chester was a baby,  but my dad’s mother, Mary, died of old age and likely Alzheimer’s.  I was only little, but I do remember how strange it was for me to realize that in her later years, Mary was unable to recognize her own son.

The following Globe and Mail article came into my inbox a couple days a go.  Do check it out:

“In 2017, a team led by the lab’s director, Jennifer Heisz, published a five-year study of more than 1,600 adults older than 65 that concluded that genetics and exercise habits contribute roughly equally to the risk of eventually developing dementia. Only one of those two factors is under your control, so researchers around the world have been striving to pin down exactly what sort of workout routine will best nourish your neurons.”

Any and I might have missed our bike rides this morning, but we’ll probably both be back at it tomorrow, doing what we can to keep moving and remembering today all those that we treasure as we sit around the tables of bounty.

full article here –>via New study shows the right workout routine can help fight dementia – The Globe and Mail