I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, the Continental Divide Trail in 2013, the Camino Portugese (2016), and Newfoundland's East Coast Trail (2017) . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
My first book is back from the printers and ready for reading!
The book is also available on Amazon, with the “Look Inside” feature online within a week.
The softcover book lists for $ 28.95, with 286 pages, including 34 pages of full color photos. Most pages have two photos. The book builds on my 2013 Trailjournal of my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike. Originally written on my iPhone, additional dialogue and background was added. Over 50 hours of professional editing completed the process. Thanks for your support over the past ten years of hiking!
Have fun making a lightweight stove that you can use on day hikes and on backpacking trips. Created from metal cans and fasteners, these downdraft stoves efficiently burn wood, liquid fuel (alcohol), and solid fuel tablets. Each participant will be assisted in drilling, cutting, and fastening component parts to make their own stove, plus receive instruction in lighting and tending the stove. Class size is limited. Registration $20, plus $10 for materials to be paid to the instructor. 1 night 6:00-8:30 p.m. Class Tues 10/17 CHRHS Rm 112.- Instructor Tom Jamrog lives in Lincolnville. Tom has been awarded the Triple Crown of Backpacking for having completed thru-hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails.
Register here or at Camden Hills Regional High School at 25 Keelson Drive, Rockport, ME04856
I tuned into Maine Pubic Broadcasting’s Maine Calling show yesterday at 1 pm in order to listen to Bernd Henirich discuss his newest book (he’s published 20), The Naturalist’s Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You.
Listeners and/or readers should check out this 5 minute Vimeo that shows Bernd living in a tiny primitive camp, running and cimbing scary high trees in Maine. I have watched this brief video at least a dozen times over the past few years and continue to be ovewrhelmed with tears every time I revisit it. It just happened again.
Looking forward to checking out Namakhanta Lake Wilderness Camps for the Columbus Day weekend. The fall foliage is moderate, and 70% full. NLWC has been on my list for years. I love checking out the old sporting camps, and this one has some history. Hope the library is as good as others I have visited, particularly with the rain in the precision. I expect mushrooms will be presenting and hope to forage a few choice specimens.
Bad Influence and I paid $30 each for the shuttle from the Cappahayden back to Wild Roses B & B just outside St. John’s yesterday. This is the last day before we catch our flights back to New England tomorrow.
We saved the Cape Spear path (one of the best) for last. Not only that, we’re slack packing it !
A slacked pack has no overnight gear or extraneous meals in it. Mine is tiny, filled with just a water bottle, a Steripen water purification device, wind shirt, and a snack.
Mary, our host at Wild Roses, advised us to do the hike northbound. She was right. The wind was at our backs and it was good to put the climb out of Petty Harbor/Maddox Cove behind us as we covered the first two and a half miles of oceanside meandering.
The whales feeding off the coast are here no longer, or at least we haven’t seen even one surface in the past few days.
Guided by Map #2, Blackhead Path, the terrain broke out of woods and entered low lying heath by the water side with Cape Marsh to the interior. Long sections of board walk wound gradually uphill as we approached the lighthouse.
Eventually we spotted tour busses moving toward the large parking area downhill from the Cape.
Day hikers and families were coming and going.
Of all the locations on the East Coast Trail I passed through, Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site is clearly the most popular with tourists, with Ferryland coming in a distant second.
The lighthouse location is dramatic with an accidental slip into to Atlantic only blocked by a single white picket fence. The lighthouse tour is good, with rooms inside set up to reflect what life was like for the family (11 kids) that once lived there.
I am not much of a shopper, but hit the EC Trail gold mine in the Lighthouse gift shop. There are only two official guidebooks to sections of the ECT: Vol. 1 and Vol 2. I now have both of them. Volume 1 is now out of print. I also bought an excellent book about the discovery of L’ ans Au Meadows, a World Heritage Site on the northwestern side of Newfoundland.
It was a relatively short descent from Cape Spear to the tiny settlement of Blackhead.
There was a useless detour away from the path on the coast just as you came into Blackhead where a landowner refuses to allow access to the trail that hugs the coast.
When we concluded out hiking in Blackhead I called Wild Roses to be brought back to the B & B. I was surprised to see that a very old convenience store there was actually open. I consumed three Popsicles and a can of soda wile we chatted with the lady who lived in the title house by the rickety store. She was sweet, and another representative of the exuberant welcome party that extended whenever and wherever went on this magical and wondrous place.
The sunrise awakened us as we prepared to pack up and complete this most southern portion of the East Coast Trail.
It’s always exciting to make it from one end of a long trail to the other.
We were warned about the mud and wet trail here by local day hikers that we encountered up north, so this was a morning to slide into wet footwear that would stay wet, but not cold.
The closer you stick to shore here, the lesser the mud. It was also recommended that if it were REALLY muddy, one could drop down to the beaches and walk there.
Passing the lighthouse itself in the first half hour, we observed numerous ATC tracks and flat areas where we might have camped. We learned that nighttime is when locals come out to visit the lighthouse on their ATV’s, so I’d try and find a place a but stay away from any ATC tracks if you like sleeping.
Many of the bridges and stairways in the first half of this day’s hike are in very worn shape and caution is necessary to avoid injury.
On the positive side, there are plenty of trees here so it is an excellent place to hang a hammock, if camping the ECT is your thing.
Readers should review YouTube videos that Randy Best has posted on his East Coast Trail Thru Hike web site. He breaks down the trail into map sections which have their own on-trail views of what the hiking in each section is like. This is one of the muddiest sections. In fact, Randy’s segments #17-18 video was taken in early spring when there was still snow and ice on the trail.
Randy chose to do that because it is easier to walk over ice and snow that it is to walk this exceedingly muddy trail in the summer, especially after it rains.
We made short work of the brief section for trail from the Renews lighthouse to the settlement itself. Renews has some serious history that features includes pirates, shipwrecks, secret midnight meetings and even a resupply visit from the Mayflower en route to Plymouth Rock.
Renews is where we met Gerard, who owns one of the first houses that you come to as you enter the settlement of Renews. As we were walking by he came out of the house and asked us if we needed anything. I was keen to check out the situation and asked for fresh water- the streams here produce light brown water. After filling our vessels, Gerard asked if we’d like him to make us a breakfast. Of course we said, “Yes!” In no time we were seated at an ancient formica table graced with plates of eggs, toast, and hot tea. Gerard showed us around his house, where several of the tiny bedrooms were either in original or close to original condition. The road walk through Renews to the start of the trail to Cappahayden is 3 miles long. Our host provided us a ride across the road walk, with a little tour of the notable places thrown in to boot.
Renews is part of what is known as the Irish Loop. The Irish Loop website notes that, “Since 1500’s the migratory fishery attracted Europeans to fish off the of the Avalon Peninsula. Beginning in the early 1800’s, large numbers of Irish began settling year round and caused the regions demographics to be changed forever. By the mid 1800’s, unlike other parts of Newfoundland, the overwhelming number of settlers in The Irish Loop were Roman Catholic and of Irish descent. In almost 400 hundred years of permanent settlement, the people of the Irish Loop have endured countless marine tragedies that include hundreds of shipwrecks off their shores.”
Few Americans understand just how close Newfoundland is to Ireland, with Dublin just 2,000 air miles away.
After Gerard took us on his tour, he joined us to hike the segment from Renews to Bear Cove, which meets Highway 10. He planned to hitch back to his car, and we’d continue to hike the last 6 miles to the end of the trail at Cappahayden.
Gerard was an excellent ornithologist. He spotted several interesting birds that he let us view through his binoculars.
It was also very encouraging to meet up with a large trail crew who were working their way north from the end of the trail in Cappahayden.
They were on assignment to keep moving until the snow got in the way of their work. The crew here had corded power tools that were juiced with small Honda generators. Big drills and Sawzalls helped ! I maintain a section of the Appalachian Trail back in Maine on Bigelow Mountain. I lump a chainsaw and hand tools, but these folks have much more to do in dealing with these extensive bogs and mud pits.
Eventually we made it to Cappahayden, which might have been the littlest settlement of all. There are no places to buy food, or pulling a signal for a cell phone here. We were fortunate to have reserved lodging through John Nidd, who encouraged us to resupply when we were passing through in Aquaforte and to tell the cashier to hold our resupply for him to pick up on his way back from St. John’s. He planned to bring it to the mobile home and have it there for us whenever we arrived.
There is not much to do in Cappahayden, but there is some history that defines the place.
“Just south of Cappahayden is the site of the tragic sinking of the SS Florizel. SS Florizel, a passenger liner, was the flagship of the Bowring Brothers’ Red Cross Line of steamships and one of the first ships in the world specifically designed to navigate icy waters. During her last voyage, from St. John’s to Halifax and on to New York City, she sank after striking a reef at Horn Head Point, Cape Race near Cappahayden, with the loss of 94 people.”- Wikipedia
Our lodging for the night in Cappahayden was in an empty mobile home right facing the ocean. There was a photo of the Florizel on the wall on the mobile home. The impact of such a tiny community dealing in February with the aftermath of 94 bodies to be brought to shore must have cast a pall on life here that extends to today. That legacy of tragedy is framed by a vastness of blue ocean of that held bounty, fear, and glory as it has for thousands of years.
We started walking today at 10:15. it took that long for the heavy rain that fell during the night to taper off in the morning and our host Dave to drive us back to Aquaforte.
After just 10 minutes we were completely drenched. Water from the rain clung to all of the foliage in front of us as we left the highway at Route 10. I used my trekking poles to whack the overhead branches in front of in order to throw the rain off before I brushed up against them. In addition to the rain on the foliage last night’s rainstorm topped off the levels of the copious black pools of muck that we slither and slide around multiple times an hour.
Bad Influence was excited to stop to take drone footage through and around the massive stone arch at Berry Head. He had the great big sea as the backdrop for some spectacular video, complete with thunderous ocean soundtrack. Just as he was filming the last portion at the arch the tiny Mavic Pro drone hit the wall and crashed into the deep. BI was lucky enough to have already transferred data from his previous drone recordings on to two SD cards. The portion of the footage around the arch was also preserved on the iPhone that served as the drone’s control and software module.
We continued to make good mileage and decent use of our time as we slogged through the wettest and muddiest section of the East Coast Trail so far. It was also section where the views were often obscured by the thick forest that flanked the ups, downs, and twist-arounds that characterized today’s track.
The section heading South from Fermuse interested me, due to the abandoned community that we experienced I was able to locate old foundations, piles of rock established by humans, and level areas at the edge scrubby forests that were important for sanity in the sloping terrain. There were numerous steep climbs today, as well as extended periods of walking through muck. I gave up the thought of dry feet earlier, and unless the nature and depth of a nasty mud hole was ascertained, I would walk on the sides of the mud pool and lean my body away from the foliage with the support of my trekking poles. BI sunk in up to mid-calf twice today. Best to have him up front, eh?
We walked late today. I didn’t want to and neither did BI. The issue was a lack of even one tent site that was level and not sopping wet. It went on and on. It was getting darker a bit. I was ready to stop, eat, and sleep in rapid fire execution. I loaded up 2 quarts of the brownish groundwater and expected to walk all the way to the Bear Cove Point lighthouse. BI liked the looks of a couple of trees just after the stream. He’s hanging in a hammock this trip, so he cares less about what’s on the ground under his comfy bedroll. I didn’t have a decent pick. I ended up needing most of the East Coast Trail track in order to accommodate my tent’s footprint. The stars out tonight were astounding, as I was swatting away mosquitoes.
Start: Long Will Campsite. End Aquaforte. 14 miles
Here are some photos from this amazing day of hiking oceanside.
We scored a breakfast at mid morning.
At noon, we encountered a young German couple who told us that they spent last night tenting in the rain. They apparently didn’t realize that when it rains any descending ground turns into a watercourse. They reported adjusting for rain water flowing around and under their tent during the night. They had two weeks to hike from Cappayden to St. John’s. BI and I counseled them to consider hitching up past St. John’s to start with the two newest sections and work their way south. BI and I have been grumbling about the unkempt nature of the trail in this last quarter section and the numerous mud pits and bogs that we trudge through.
BI and I did a little bit of “overland exploring” or better put as bushwhacking today. It was on map #13. We’ve been seeing these green dashed access trails but have avoided them until today when we decided to explore an alternate route from Church Cove to Slaughters Pond. The intersection was signed, pointing to Calvert.
Things went fine until the trail petered out entering the Church Cove Marsh. We entered an area with multiple ATV tracks and quizzical routes in a huge marshy bog. BI got the idea to launch the drone as a reconnaissance tool and find us a way out. This is a pic of what it discerned. We found our way to a road in no time.
Newfoundland’s laws ensure that the edge of the landmass stays public property. A 10 meter strip of land that starts at the high water mark is legally open to the public for walking. This trail has the potential to keep growing, both in popularity and in scope. It deserves greater consideration by US long distance backpacking enthusiasts.
The closest I have come to experiencing a multiple day backpacking trip like this was backpacking the Fundy Footpath on New Brunswick. That experience was documented in this 4 part blog post from October in 2008, where Bad Influence and I teamed up with Rangoon and Zenon, who served as our host and guide.
Once we hitched a ride at the start of the Aquaforte community road walk it became readily apparent that escaping the rain in a room would be difficult to bring about. The young couple in the front of the car drove us to the first B & B where I had left a previous phone message and no one was home. Then we continued down the coast to a second B&B where 10 hikers had completely filled the place. The owner of the second B&B offered to call around to try and find us a room anywhere in the area. She eventually secured us a couple of rooms in Ferryland. Her husband drove us all the way back, close to where we started from today. Newfoundland hospitality saved us again and he was unwilling to take any money for his time and effort. When I tried to hand him a $20 bill after he reached our lodging he told me, “Buy yourself a good plate of fish tonight.”
Our place that night was in a newly renovated home where the bottom floor had two brand new rooms, huge comfy beds, a TV with DVDs, but no WiFi. We were within a short walk of the excellent Squid Jigger restaurant, which did have great WiFi, which we used to catch up on correspondence and the plate of cod was fresh and tasty.
Roaring Cove Campsite to Long Will Campsite 38,900 steps via Fitbit.
Dark and stormy skies opened the day. Today’s path was described by the map as “Difficult to strenuous” and the walking certainly reflected that. We made relatively good time from our campsite to the tiny first settlement of Brigus South which had nothing to offer us, even a roof to get under to get out of the light rain.
On we went to Cape Broyle, where we had an excellent lunch at the Riverside Restaurant and Lounge. I had a bowl of seafood chowder, a chef salad, rolls, coffee and pie. I also ordered a club sandwich to go, with a bag of chips, which set me up for a special dinner.
These ” community links” roads are sometimes long- this was was a road walk of over 3 miles, but after walking a third of it, we were picked up by a young fellow who was helping build a new house here. Hitching is easy now, folks around these parts recognize hikers.
The path after Cape Broyle was hard, with relentless ups and downs as well as sections that were mini- quagmires of dark mud.
Wet feet and socks went on all day again. You get used to it. They dry out later only to get put back into wetness after a couple of hours of walking, no matter how careful I am at dodging the muck pits.
In every one of my longer thru hikes I eventually get to the day when it appears the end is near. That day was today. Pulling out the remaining maps, I have 7 left, Maps #13-19. Total walking mileage without community links is a mere 30, or 50 kilometers. We have 5 days left here before flying out of St. John’s on Aug. 25. We reserved a room at Wild Roses B & B for the night of the 24th so that we can take advantage of being shuttled to the airport. We also missed a section to Cape Spear that we want to fit in on Aug. 23. BI and I agreed to try and make the 30 Miles of hiking in 2 days, leaving us an extra day to either complete that, or use it as part of finishing the Cape Spear path. I really enjoy trying to meet these logistical challenges , but only if it’s not stressful and obviously working against the tide, which has not been the case up here so far.
I’m set up on a tent platform tonight, with Bad Influence nested in his comfy hammock nearby. He has applied a down underquilt to beneath his hammock so his underside stays warm. That’s the one drawback to a hammock- unless you insulate the bottom, you get cold, even in summer.
I’m disappointed in the performance of my Nemo Hornet 2 person tent. It’s constructed of too flimsy a fabric to stand up to the kind of use I put my gear through. It’s the only tent that I’ve torn the stuff sack while walking (I carry my tent on the outside of my backpack because it is often damp or downright drenched). Even worse, a couple of small tears have graced my tent fly as well, which are likely due to the tear in the stuff sack, which must have snagged on a protruding spruce branch today. Back to LL Bean. Not interested in replacing it.
I look forward to a cozy night’s sleep under the protection of Nemo tonight. I want to be fair to Nemo. It is not his fault that he sports an ultralight outfit. But he’s headed back to the minor leagues.
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