Book Giveaway to Blog Subscribers

I just completed reading an American West trilogy that was sent to me by one of my long time blog subscribers, Rockdawg !

The story covers settlement of southern New Mexico, with may of the scenes on and along the area one experiences when hiking the Continental Divide Trail.   It covers one family’s 100 year history beginning in the 1880’s.  I couldn’t put it down.

It is curious how similar the issues were 150 years ago:  drought,  cattle ranchers that were struggling to feed their animals in the dry sparse terrain,  and marginal survival at many levels.

If there are any readers who would like a gift of the three books ( including free shipping) post in the Comments section at the end of this post .  I’ll draw name(s)  on Wed. April 15.

Happy Trails !

Uncle Tom

Happy Birthday to Me

I boss myself and set my own work schedule so I celebrate my birthday with a solo hike or ride. With all the snow around and the temperatures below freezing at dawn, I chose to ride Camden Hills State Park this year. Refrozen snow is good. Thawing snow isn’t, for biking that is.

Whenever I go out on a hike or ride, I hope to notice something interesting. Today it was connecting shade and north slope conditions with good solid track to ride upon.

The Camden Hill State Park is a 10 minute drive away.

Heading Up

I started up the mile long climb on fairly packed surface- many folks walk this section, some with their dogs, and it shows.

Eventually I reached the left tun for Bald Rock Mountain, a 1,000 prominence that overlooks the Atlantic.

It has been deep enough with snow that snowmobiles have gone to the top yesterday. None up there today. I am trying to make the full 5 miles on this Multipurpose Trail and then turn around and come back. I am racing sunshine, which has the capacity to soften the surface of the trail and cause my 5” tires to sink in and wallow.

In the next mile, the Multipurpose Road flattens out and is bordered by hemlocks and spruce trees that not only shade the surface from the sun, but hold the cold overnight. Grip is better here.

Soon I encounter the right tun for the Summer Bypass Trail, left untouched all winter. You can see that entrance right above the top of my front tire.

At the 2.5 mile mark I reach the Ski Shelter, empty this morning.

I will enter on my way back and drink water and eat a snack.

Still pushing to preserve firm snow.

From this point to the Route 1 side of the Park, there is much less foot traffic , with a clean snowmobile track from a rider who probably came through here last night or early this AM.

I stopped just at the water tower, turned around, and came back, deciding to take a left up the Cameron Mountain Trail, a decision which was aided by fresh snowmobile tracks and two sets of foot prints going that way.

Cameron Mountain is at the very edge of the State Park. The snowmobile track swoops around the summit and then twists and descends through private property when it eventually crosses Youngstown Road and heads for Lincolnville Center. The down hill is steep and fast, but my Ice Cream Truck embraces the wobble and delivers.

I decide to continue on the snowmobile trail rather than ride the pavement of Youngtown Road back to the car. I discover a huge hay field where I thought that I had lost the trail, but then I saw a tiny red trail sign far across the center of the field.

Winding my way down toward the village, I encountered an active logging operation that I was able to ride through with little difficulty.

After more than two hours of pedaling, I decided to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Drake’s corner store where I took this distorted selfie in the window.

My car was still three miles away. I do not like riding on Rt. 173, due to the narrow road and inattentive drivers, so I decided to gamble on the abandoned section of Thurlow Road being tracked in.

After dodging thinly iced-over water at the start, I encountered unbroken soft snow as far as I could see. I decided to walk the bike through. I was tiring, with my heart rate spiking to 155 beats per minute through the snow. Soon I encountered a little maple sugaring operation half way through service via a couple of ATV ruts that assisted me getting back to better track.

A sort while later I was back on pavement, where I took a left on Youngtown Rd. and had a leisurely couple of miles on pavement back to my car and home. Today was a great start to my next season of exploring my local trails.

Polish Power Put to the Atlantic (x3)

Ninety-nine days after leaving Senegal, Doba arrived in Brazil. He was greeted by one journalist and the Polish ambassador. Nobody cares if you cross the Atlantic in a kayak.

 

I care.

I have followed the exploits of this  unique comrade for the past several years and feel a kinship to him for being older, Polish, and proud of his ability to put up with adversity and self inflicted pain.   As a farewell gift from my co-workers I was given a traditional rocking chair when I officially retired from full time work at the age of 52, after 30 years of work as a teacher and psychologist.  If I had known of the plans to get the chair, I would have requested a backpacking camping chair instead.

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Unless there really is life-after-life, we have only a certain number of days on this incomprehensibly alluring and abiding planet.  Just 30 minutes ago I just received an e-mail that John, a friend of mine who had recently announced his retirement, is now in hospice care for a rare form of incurable and rapidly progressing brain disease that only occurs in 1 out a million people.  I hope John will still be alive tomorrow when I pay him a visit.

Michael Meade writes, ” There’s an African proverb: ‘When death finds you, may it find you alive.’ Alive means living your own damn life, not the life that your parents wanted, or the life some cultural group or political party wanted, but the life that your own soul wants to live.

Do read this long article.  Maybe it will inspire you to live your own damn life.

Why He Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the Third Time) – The New York Times

Bicycling/ March 2018

I enjoy cycling for many reasons.  I love the feeling of riding a bike through the forest, over natural terrain.  Health benefits are just icing on the cake. I equate riding with freedom. My red 26″ Schwinn bomber was the vehicle that I rode out of my driveway as a kid and explored the neighborhood.  It is still fun for me to ride for an hour or more.

Spring is official.  With almost 2 feet of snow on the ground,  it is not be easy to get on my road bike to dodge the potholes, slush, and dust that comes with riding this time of year.

My crappy yard- yesterday

The two feet of snow that fell in the last two weeks has not firmed up enough for me to be to be back in the woods riding snowmobile paths but that should all change this Sunday, when temps drop into the single numbers gain.

I’m very excited about the 2018 riding season.  Last week, I finished the  four week “Fix Your Own Bike”  FiveTowns.com adult education course taught at Maine Sport by Mike Hartley .  We’ve covered tires, flats, replacing cable, hubs, and adjusting rear dereillers.  My friends Frank and Pat are also in the class. I do fix many things on my bikes, but now I am learning from a professional how to round out the rough edges of my wrenching skills.

There is also a new 1 x12 drive train on my Ice Cream Truck (5″ fat tire bike) that I am becoming familiar with.  I plan to bolt the rear rack on my Surly Pugsley and do a short bike-packing trip in Acadia National Park, sleeping in my new Seek Ouside tipi, warmed by a brand new titanium wood stove.

February 2018- Blackwoods CG, Acadia NP

In the meantime, I need to get out on two wheels when ever I can.

Last year’s 3/17 trip into Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

I’m 57 miles behind schedule to make 1,000 miles on the bikes again in 2018.

regular cycling cut the risk of death from all causes by more than 40%, and cut the risk of cancer and heart disease by 45%.

via Cycling keeps your immune system young, study finds | The Guardian

 

 

 

Outside inside

I’m at home today, snowed in with at least 12″ of fresh white on the ground and more coming.

I plan to head out this afternoon and snowshoe for at least an hour or so.

I read the new issue of Outside magazine (April 2018), cover to cover. This is one of the best issues ever. I found all the articles fun to read and took inspiration from this paragraph, written by Nick Heil in his feature piece, The Ultimate Fitness Machine.

“it struck me that a lot of what passed for health and fitness now was just an attempt to synthesize what humans have done for eons: move around outside, sometimes intensely; eat food from the earth; sleep a lot; hold onto each other.”

Georges River Land Trust’s new SnowDog clears the way for groomed trails !

SnowDog Brent

–>> Georges River Land Trust’s new SnowDog clears the way for groomed trails | PenBay Pilot

Great news announced today for our local community recreation area.  Before now, it was down to snowshoeing in a large group of walkers doing this in order to ride bikes in the snow.  Or we’d line up to ride our fat tire bikes and pound the snow down with breaking trail and multiple passes of those wide 5″ tires.

This is the brightest thing that may come my way this snowed-in day!

Snowdog!

Snowdog!

Study vs. Action ? Improve Your Backpacking Success

People get better by putting time and effort into understanding and practicing the components that are necessary to complete a task,  job, or even a sport, like backpacking.  I recently read an article by Tim Herrera in his NYTimes Smarter Living column that challenged my thinking about improving my long distance backpacking skills.     Here’s the article:  Just Working Harder Won’t Get You Ahead. Working Smarter Will.    In sum, Herrera postultates about variables that affect skill levels in advanced  performers. Herrera claims that the strongest predictor of skill wasn’t time spent practicing; rather, it was time spent in serious study.  Unfortunately, Herrera draws on just one example- the “sport” of chess, as his example.

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In my experience hugely more productive to engage in the activities and practice the basic principles that bolster one’s chances of success than spend that equal time in serious study of backpacking books, websites, and videos.

Backpacking and hiking are activities that should be as natural as waking up or going to sleep- after all, once we learn to walk as babies, life is just putting one foot in front of the other, right?   Well, yes and no.

Walking is easy until you turn your ankle and sprain it, or worse.  It’s easy unless you find yourself off-trail in a unfamiliar area, or if you need to cross a raging stream that has the power to sweep your feet out from under you.

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

Walking is no problem, until you are walking on ice slanted on an impossibly steep slope, or a bear rips into your backpack at night and absconds with your food.

Experience trumps familiarity, which brings up another pitfall of trying to master a set of physical and mental skills by reading, listening to,  or observing others engaged in the practice.   You fall into the pit when you follow up unreliable advice that comes your way  due to the ability of media to make a pitch look polished and professional when in fact it may even be uninformed ofreven false.  For example, I attended a workshop in April 2010 in Southern California as I was starting my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail  dubbed ” the foot talk” where a former PCT-thru hiker told us anxious group of wanna-bees that blisters were inevitable.  At the time, I had just switched to a pair of military issue desert boots that were supplied by New Balance that were loaded with mesh panels to dump moisture.  I was fortunate to complete that hike blister free, as I have with any other long distance hike since then.  Sure there were a few more things that I had learned bout taking care of my feet that I applied on my hikes, but the point is that experts don’t know what is best for you, and maybe not even themselves.

Edward tells me that , ” It’s still not right”

I bought a new tent this year- a 12′ diameter tipi , with one 6’10” pole, that required  serious study and practice to set up.  I brought my new tent to Florida this past January where I was camping with my best friend Edward.   I had watched two videos about setting the unit up as well as read the instruction sheet that accompanied the tent.  I also read all the customer comments on the website about setting it up.  I laughed when I read the comment about the poor guy who took 2 hours to set his tipi up the first time  in an actual snowstorm.   Would you believe that it also took Edward and me two hours to set up the tent, and that was in warm weather on perfectly flat ground ?  The written instructions were confusing, and we ended up devising a much simpler method for doing the job right, getting the setup down to 10 minutes after two hours of actual engagement in the act of putting the thing up taught and secure.

In Zen Body-Being, Peter Ralston writes about developing physical skills, power, and even grace.   In 1978 Ralston  became the first non-Asian ever to win the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament held in the Republic of China.

Ralston writes about the wisdom of experience:  ” Studying techniques and training ritualized movement may be useful, but these are ‘details’ within a larger picture.  We need to  be able to discern the sometimes-subtle difference between just thinking about something and truly experiencing something.  One of the simplest ways to bridge this gap is to involve ourselves with hand-on experimentation and investigation.”

So,  make 2018 the year you experience the outdoors and engage in hiking and backpacking more than you spend those same hours on screen while sitting on the couch.  Set a goal to get out for many hours, where you might be blessed enough to be able to walk though rain, snow, wind, cold, and dark and have the realization that walking might just be putting one foot in front of the other, but it isn’t easy, and it doesn’t have to be done on blistered feet.

Book Release Talk – Thru-Hiking the Continental Divide Trail

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Next Tuesday night!

Feb 27, 2018  6:00-8:00 PM

Camden ( Maine ) Public Library

Full Information —>>>>In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail | Camden Public Library

In 2013, the 63-year-old Jamrog completed a 5-month long backpacking journey over the Rocky Mountains through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

In the Path of Young Bulls is the story of that desolate, yet majestic 2,500-mile journey, an effort achieved in the company of hiking partners half his age. Tom wrote the initial manuscript of the book on an iPhone while hiking. The 267-page book features over 50 full-color photographs.   Copies will be on sale via assistance of Camden’s Sherman’s Bookstore.

 

 

L.L. Bean’s Lifetime Returns Policy gone, while Patagonia Seeks to Stitch Up Rips

The news broke this weekend.

“In a letter to customers Friday, the Freeport-based outerwear giant said it would no longer honor a lifetime replacement guarantee that had become an integral part of its reputation. Instead, it will only replace items that are returned within 12 months, and for which customers can provide proof of purchase. After a year, it will replace items that have defects, on a case-by-case basis.”- via L.L. Bean’s Legendary Return Policy Has Ended – Boston Magazine

The returns policy change follows discouraging news from last week that LLBean is laying off 10 percent of its 5,000 employees and implementing other belt-tightening  procedures.  The measures, announced last February, started Jan. 1, with the aim of reducing its workforce by 500 full-time people.

In 2017,  Maine’s fifth largest employer took a political hit when one of the heirs and board member, Linda Bean, came under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for political donations that she made to the pro–Donald Trump organization Making America Great Again.

Unfortunately, Linda Bean’s support for Donald Trump backfired when President Trump Tweeted her up:

screenshot 7“Trump’s message landed with the subtlety of a hand grenade. Suddenly, the brand had been hijacked, those tote bags now symbols of political partisanship. In an anti-Trump frenzy, longtime customers cut up their L.L. Bean credit cards, returned orders, and pledged allegiance on Facebook to competitors Patagonia and REI.”-via Boston Magazine ( 2/21/2017).

At the same time that yesterday’s LLBean news arrived in my computer’s in-box, I received a pleasant surprise in my  rural mailbox- a package from Patagonia that contained my 10 year old pair of tights with a sticker and a thank you note.

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Sticker

A Thank You note was also included, which read, in part:

“Thank you for fixing your gear. As consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer, thereby reducing the need to buy more.  Thank you for sending your gear into us for repair and for being loyal to the threads that have carried you of mountains and maybe even been passed down through generations. If you’d like to share your Worn Wear story or learn how to fix your own gear, visit: patagonia.com/wornwear

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of service I obtained on my repair.  I originally brought the tights back to the Patagonia Outlet (Freeport, Maine) where I bought them to see if they would repair a short leg zipper that allowed the tights to be put on and off while wearing shoes.  The salesperson volunteered to send the garment into Patagonia in Reno, Nevada, where they would assess the damages and determine if the garment was able to be fixed.

Not only did they put in a brand new zipper, they repaired an assorted 12 holes/tears that had accumulated over 10 years of year round use.

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I have always been a lifelong customer of LLBean, and have only used their return policy in a reasonable manner.  I decry the abuses that the returns sales agents have had to endure, but I regret they have dropped the lifetime return for those of us who don’t abuse it.

L.L. Bean’s foundation policy is strongly linked to its brand , so it remains to be seen whether this change will assist in improving the last two years of LLBean’s flat sales.