In the next couple of days I am simultaneously prepping for two events.
I present this coming Sunday at the 41st Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s biennial Conference “Views from the Maine Woods,” which runs August 4-11 at Colby College in Waterville.
Here’s my Sunday, August 6 workshop description: Why Walking Matters: Benefits of Walking and Improvisational Skills in Long-Distance Hiking. Tom Jamrog, Triple Crown thru-hiker, author, and Maine Guide with Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures. From the ages of 57 to 63, “Uncle Tom” thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking, and discusses pre-hike training and mental practices that can bolster an aging hiker’s continued success on the trail.
Two days later, I fly out of Boston to St. John’s to attempt a 185 mile thru-hike of Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail.
Foot care will be a priority activity that I’ll discuss in my workshop and that I’ve been applying on as I approach this rugged hike. I’ll tell the audience that I’ve been walking barefoot as much as possible in the past week in order to toughen up my feet. I have also been applying rubbing alcohol to the soles of my feet toes and heels, a technique I picked up years ago from Colin Fletcher,’s The Complete Walker IV book, formerly described as “The Hikers Bible” when it came out in 2002. Alcohol cleans, dries, and toughens the skin. Addition to the alcohol, I use an artificial pumice block to buff up callous areas in my forefoot, toes, and heel.
I’ll be backpacking in thin wool socks from Darn Tough and my broken-in New Balance boots, a combination that has resulted in blister-free freedom over the past 5000 miles of hiking. Roomy footwear is best.
Right now, I’ve signing off to work on my updated Powerpoint for the Colby ATC talk.
Today, I ate my usual eggs and toast Sunday morning breakfast that precedes my regular “Bubba Church” mountain bike ride with my aging off-road posse. On early morning Sundays, I read the digital version of the NY Times and catch up on the news, fake or not. I didn’t find much of interest today, so instead I clicked on my Instagram feed where I download media to read later at my leisure. Instapaper is my own custom newspaper.
I don’t ever listen to podcasts when I eat breakfast, but today I am pleased that I did. I listened to Texas Parks and Wildlife Podcast’s Epidode 13: Hiking Across Texas. It is short, only 12 minutes long, but it spoke deeply to me today. It’s a refreshing interview with Dave Roberts, 72 years old. Dave is currently on a 3,000-mile “ramble” across Texas, weaving through at least 40 national parks.
I remember reading about Dave a year and a half ago, and dug up the following article about Dave, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who has found his unique retirement groove- long distance walking, biking, and kayaking. Dave’s on a $20-a-day budget for this Texas adventure, but more importantly appears to have exactly the right attitude to keep on doing what he enjoys best- being outdoors and having varied experiences.
As Dave puts it, ” If everything does according to plans, you are not having an adventure yet.”
Do listen via the podcast link above, and if you like what you hear, read the Jan. 2016 Times feature below, to learn more about Dave and other retirees who have stood up to leave the couch for later.
I just received my copy of the new DVD put out by Grandma Gatewood’s family in collaboration with a grant from the Ohio Historical Society’s History Fund. Nominated for an Emmy, the 50 minute video explores Emma Gatewood’s 1955 solo thru hike of the Appalahian trail, after she had raised 11 children and survived domestic abuse. Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person – man or woman – to walk it twice and then went on to hike it a third time.
I first learned about Grandma Gatewood in the classic two volume series published by Rodale Press in 1975 entiiled Hiking the Appalachian Trail. At one time, she was the most visible personality that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Sure, Earl Schaffer completed the first thru hike of the AT in 1948, but his personality was more taciturn and he tended to shun publicity. Emma’s first 1954 attempt at the AT was unsuccessful, but she ditched her a pack, repaired her broken glasses, and transform herself into an ultra light hiker that resulted in a northbound through hike in 1955.
Emma was schooled up to eighth grade, living in a log cabin with her 14 siblings. She married at age 19 experiencing almost daily physical abuse from her husband for 33 years. She grew up and spent her adult life on farms. A product of 60+ years of hard physical work, Emma Gatewood took to the trail after her youngest of 11 children was independent and she had divorced her husband.
Grandma Gatewood hiked in Red Ball Jets hightop sneakers. She carried her gear in a cotton dufflebag that she placed on her shoulder. She was a tiny woman, but as the song goes, “Oh what those five feet two could do.”
The movie contains historic photos, and interviews with past and present AT hikers, as well as commentary from Emma’s daughter and granddaughter. I particularly enjoyed seing some of the actual gear that went on these hikes.
I called it quits tonight after I walked a mere mile on the flats outside my door. It was a huge accomplishment.
For the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to walk that far. My absence from my usual 75 minute a day average of brisk walking or riding bikes was caused by a very nasty fall coming down the from Bigelow ridge after three days of volunteer work on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Guthook and I team up a couple times a year, spring and fall, volunteering for trail work on the Appalachain Trail. He has a long section up and over Mt. Abe that connects to the AT near the Spaulding lean-to.
The snow was still deep on that connecting section due to 3,00 feet of elevation, north side exposure, and thick conifers.
The last day, Sunday, brought us back to my section: the Safford Brook trail up to he AT, a short section on the itself AT, and lastly the side trail to and the Safford Notch campsite itself, where we cleared up fallen trees,a nd pruned away like madmen.
Three days of work was finally done with only two miles to go to the car when I caught the toe of my boot on a rock or root that pitched me staggering down a descending grade until my increased speed of stumbling eventually pitched me smack down onto rocks that left me a quivering mass of hurt, with my left leg doubled up under me. Thank God that my hiking pal Guthook was right there to assist me in eventually unraveling myself from my ancient external frame pack that carried the pruners, loppers, axe and other tools of the trail corridor trade. Unfortunately, the impact of falling on those solid objects in my pack imbedded a series of grotesque blood filled tattoos, emanating from a hematoma that a doctor later told me held over a pint of blood. Guthook cut me two walking staffs that I used to brace myself as I shuffled, in pain, downhill two miles to my car, which was parked on the shore of Flagstaff Lake at the base of the Safford Brook Trail, which I maintain, along with a brief section of AT and the side trail to the Safford Notch Campsite, which is also my responsibility.
After I reached my car, I had Guthook drive it back to the Chalet, where had spent last night, as I sat as still as possible in the passenger seat. If I didn’t move at all, I was stable, but when I exited the passenger’s side and gingerly inched my way over to the driver’s seat, I was fighting passing out, but made it and promised Guthook that I’d pull over if I became faint while driving. I headed straight for the Belfast Hospital Emergency room, after downing 800 mg of ibuprofen that didn’t seem to do much for me.
Two hours later I was able to barely get myself in the door to the emergency room, where I was unable to sit until a nurse assisted me in laying down on a bed. It was a circus of the wounded and infirm in there on Sunday night, with only one doctor making the rounds. I wasn’t out of there until 4.5 hours later, after the Dr. determined I had no broken bones, however I also learned that I partially tore my left hamstring. Thankfully, there was no blood in my urine (One of the big hits was directly over my right kidney.). He gave me one muscle relaxer pil, and with a prescription for more tomorrow. I headed home, where I shuffled to bed under the very concerned eye of Auntie Mame, my faithful wife, and apparent nurse for this new round of lifestyle consequences. She measured what morphed into at least three square feet of techicolor- black and blue, yellow, green on my back, buttocks, and side.
It’s been exactly two weeks today of laying on ice packs, with no biking, and no hiking, other than brief trips to do things I must do outside the house. I’m still hurting, likely due to bone bruising. The blood has continued to draining back into me, with new vistas of bruises extending into my groin area and then down my leg into the back on my knee.
I’ve been my time feeling distressed, depressed, and now impressed with a newfound resolution to ALWAYS have my trekking poles with me when I’m on trail. I even bought myself a new pair, on the recommendation of Andrew Skurka- a set of Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles.
I left my trekking poles them in the car, since I would be walking with either pruning shears or my chainsaw in hand. My free hand was also in the habit of throwing the slash back into the bush and off trail. I’m convinced that if I would have been using my Leki poles, I would have not fallen. The very act of descending with poles in hand forces me to be a bit more present in choosing pole and foot placement. Isn’t it true that accidents happen in the late afternoon when fatigue is at it’s peak?
A follow-up visit to my own doctor last week put my fretting to rest. He told me that I could start activity again, with pain as my limit guide. I walked a mile, then did two more with Mame in the last two days.
I’m getting better. My spirits are lifted a bit after yesterday, where I rode my riding mower, then walked behind the edging mower, and even felt decent enough to work the string trimmer in attacking the overgrown grass in the yard. Fitbit gave me 14,000 steps and some 7 miles of ambulation for my efforts. I’m getting back.
Reblogging this 1/4/17 article from The Hiking Project!
Welcome to the low pay lives of some of the best hikers in the world!
I have hiked and sometimes camped with 5 of these 6 folks, on my 2010 PCT and 2013 CDT thru-hikes. They are all truly genuine individuals. Freebird told me that his goal every year that he thru hikes is to be the first person on and the last person off the trail.
Here is a pic of me and Billy Goat on Sept. 8, 2014 at the Millinocket Hannaford’s in when Billygoat was resupplying while he was providing car support for a buddy who was hiking the International AT from Katahdin to Quebec.
The collection of log cabins goes way back to 1885.
The Monument encompasses 87,500-acres of mountains, rivers, and forests abutting the eastern edge of Baxter State Park, land donated by Roxanne Quimby, whose company, Bert’s Bees, sold to Clorox for $925,000,000 in 2007. Through President Obama’s executive action, the unit was added to the National Park Service in September as a national monument, bypassing the need for Congress to authorize it a national park.
Despite media portrayal of this Monument as an unfair land grab by the Feds, it’s 87,000 acres represents less than 1 percent of the total forested lands of Maine. According to the North Maine Woods website, there are 3.5 million acres that are considered North Maine Woods. That’s a whopping 0.236% of those privately held lands.
The move to make the land public was a long, protracted battle that is still being waged by a local faction that strongly resists any government encroachment on their traditional uses of the land, be it hunting, snowmobiling, or riding ATVs . There are still prominent National Park-NO! signs greeting the approaching tourist who exits I-95 in Medway to reach the Monument. Unless the citizens of Millinocket decide to upgrade unimproved gravel roads leading out of town into the area, this won’t be much of an issue for them, because both the South and Northern entrances to KLWWMN completely avoid traffic into Millinocket or even East Millinocket.
I stopped into the new storefront office of KWWNM on Maine Street, Millinocket, just a few doors down from one of my favorite eating establishments, The Appalachian Trail Cafe. The ranger there informed me that entrance, lean-tos, campsites, and even some cabins are free right now on a first-come, first-serve basis but campfire permits are still required from the Maine Forest Service (207-435-7963).
In my case, I was pleased to finally walk it, although it was a brief visit. Make no mistake about it, these is not 87,000 acres of pristine forest. This lower portion of the Monument is made up of recently cut-over land and it still shows. Critics point this out, but my review of Governor Baxter’ initial purchases of what is now Baxter State Park was largely made up of land that had been burned or denuded. Here’s an example of Baxter land pre Baxter State Park.
Pretty bleak, I’d say. Regrowth will also happen here, but it may take 50 years or more. I have walked thousands of miles of trails in the past 10 years, and cut over and/ or burned forests show up, but then they tend to grow back to be enjoyed by future generations. Same here.
Today, my hiking partner Ivan and I decided to walk up as far as the first new lean-to and then meander our way back to KLWC. There were exactly 9 cars sitting in the parking lot leading from the gravel Loop Road. Others were in there, on overnights, or day trips. The lean-to was a mile from where the Baxter side trail came into the Monument. The path was still a logging road, and damn straight as well.
The lean-to was built in 2012, of standard log construction with a new outhouse nearby. There was water flowing close for drinking ( purify!).
We sat and ate lunch and then headed back.
We decided to try and walk back one of the old logging roads that went in just below Rocky Pond, east of the outlet of Katahdin Lake. The road looked relatively new, and was probably upgraded ten years ago for timber. A half mile in, it dead ended. I fired up my GPS and saw that if we went directly south through the woods, it would take a quarter of a mile to intersect he mid-point of the same trail we took from KL camps to get to the Monument.
Ivan was totally up for it and led the way, bushwhacking through fairly thin saplings and dodging several unruly blow downs.
It didn’t take very long for us to reach the KL trail back to the camps. In fact, we came out within 50 feet of the northernmost section of that trail, a very fortuitous happening. I have done a bit of bushwhacking, where results are generally more elusive.
I plan to get further into the Monument, for canoeing and backpacking. I might even pack my fly rod. I hope to get away for a couple nights during deer hunting season here in November, as the largest western parcel bordering Baxter is free from hunting. Four additional parcels east of the East Branch are established for traditional hunting ( minus bait and dogs on bear).
I have enjoyed walking most of the trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park, which is just 90 minutes drive along the Maine Coast from my house. I think it is time for me to explore my share of the Maine woods.
On Friday, I finished up my third complete hike of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family: my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend. It might have been 1989. I hiked it again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet. The perennially slippery trail is punctuated with beaucoup roots ,rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.
AT thru-hikers walking through this prelude to Katahdin are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas. We came out in 7 days instead, pushing the daily average to about 15 miles.
Here is a particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking LIght magazine.
The Hundred is made up of two distinctly different trips of approximately 50 miles each. The southern section is an advanced hike, with the other half, (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort when walked at 8-10 miles a day, with the exception of a relatively short but steep ascent of the prehistoric Nesuntabunt Mountain.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. Alternatively, catch a float plane shuttle from Katahdin Air, which drops you off on the shore of Crawford Pond where side trail puts you on the AT in 100 feet.
Three and a half miles after you depart Crawford Pond you reach the pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter- a must swim. Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and Sand Beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks , consider a side trip of 1.1 miles and splurging for a night at the Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps. I haven done that yet , but plan to do so the next time I go through.
Make no mistake, spending a week backpacking The Hundred is tough. If you stuff your pack with lots of food, you can eat your way as you move along. My rationing of a 3,000 calorie a day plan resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took me to make this 100 mile trip.
I’m guiding two clients on their first experience in Baxter State Park. Their request was to take them someplace where they would not see many people. In Baxter State park, if you walk away from Katahdin rather than toward it, you will definitely leave the crowds behind. In our first four days in the Park, we encountered more moose than people (5) , hiking north out of Roaring Brook to South Branch Pond.
Our last night found us camping in lean-to #12 at Abol Campground where I enjoyed my first time sleeping in my newly purchased “used’ Honda Element. I pivoted the two folded rear seats against the sidewalls, opened the sunroof and windows and viewed the stars through the glassed panel above my head. The car easily allows me to stretch out my full length Neo Air XLite mattress. Gaspedal was in his new REI solo tent, so Rokrabbit had the lean-to all to himself.
Abol was the first campground that I encountered way back in 1970 when I was a newcomer to Baxter. Packing a week’s worth of food and gear in early June, the snow was so deep up high that the Saddle Trail was still closed. Back then, it was considered macho to carry big pounds. Now, you are considered a dweeb if your pack is big and heavy. The scene from the movie Wild where Reese Witherspoon is so over loaded that she is unable to lift her pack was not that unusual back then. My pack that day weighed 65 pounds, when my sidekick Kevin Weir and I labored up the Abol Slide on that June morning. As tough as the ascent was, our decision to cross the Knife Edge and then wind our way down the Dudley Trial to spend our second night at Chimney Pond left us in even tougher shape. I had blisters; we all did all the time. I continue to be blessed by making the moving from MA to ME in 1973. Since then I have returned to Baxter many dozens of times, where wild forest and bogs trump gift shops and smartphone charging stations. “Forever Wild” is the real deal here.
But today, I’m ascending an improved version of that Abol Trail. In the 1850s, Abol was the route Henry David Thoreau used in his failed attempt to reach the peak. A rock slide sent car-sized boulders down Abol Trail in 2013. The rockslide forced Abol Trail to be closed to hikers since the 2014 season until it reopened this July. Abol is your choice for the shortest route to Baxter Peak from a roadside trailhead. The trail formerly utilized the prominent Abol Slide. From Abol Campground to Baxter Peak (one way) is now 4.3 miles, with 3,900 feet of elevation gain. Abol joins the Hunt trail ( A.T.), intersecting it at Thoreau Spring, before becoming more moderate for the final mile to Baxter Peak.
The relocated section of the trail uses the ridge to the west of the slide and provides a steady, but steep ascent with excellent views.
Water is limited after the first mile, with the trail fully exposed after 2.5 miles. I reached into my pack for sustenance, in the form of a shot of B12 and jerky.
The new trail veers off to the left of the base of the landslide. The path is so fresh that there is soft cushiony tread underfoot for at least half this switch backed portion.
Initially, you walk in a long, relatively straight line to the left, one that is moderately ascending. Eventually you reach the first turn and then bear up toward the right, still on a mild to moderate incline. The switchbacks become increasingly shorter while the degree of ascent begins to steepen.
Eventually the trail works through close boulders and ledges, and it was clear that the trekking poles had to go in my pack.
It is precisely these surprising and spontaneous challenges that keep me coming back to the most wild State Park east of the Mississippi. The fresh blue blazes were shiny, and at times, necessary in order to discern unblocked upward movement.
There is a wicked uphill ending after the new detour returns to the main Abol Trail at the top of the old rock slide.
Here you need to get into serious upper body action. I was sorry to leave a light pair of gloves at home. Granite is tough on the palms and fingers.
Eventually you clear the lip and arrive at the edge of The Tableland, a surprisingly flat and expansive treeless domain that just happens to have the summit of Katahdin lifting up a bit over a mile to the right.
There was a good crowd on top of the mountain when we reached the top.
Here’s my AT tattoo that links me to this place.
It’s been a heck of a hiking season for me this year. For the whole month of June I was able to walk 250 miles along the Portugese Camino with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. I finished this week long Baxter trip in mid-August. Last week, I was able to successfully complete a guided trip through all of Maine’s Hunded Mile Wilderness.
There’s still more Baxter to come in the next month! The Fall season is the best time to be walking through the technicolor leaf extravaganza, and I’m heading back for another week of hiking some lesser known Baxter trail with one of my my perennial backpacking pals. And there is a long October holiday weekend return to Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps.
[ I’m a Licensed Maine Guide who offer a limited schedule of guided backpacking trips in Maine as well as custom trips for individuals and small groups. Check out Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures to learn more about my angle to guiding backpacking adventures and review the 2016 season’s offerings. ]
On Friday, I finished up my third complete backpacking adventure on Maine”s Hundred Mile Widerness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family: my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend. It might have been 1989. It was tougher then, without smart phones and paid food drops. I hiked The Hundred again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet. The slippery trail is laced with roots and rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways. Even when there is no rain, the rocks perspire, leaving the Monson slate very slippery under humid conditions.
AT thru-hikers are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do the side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas.
Here is particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking Light magazine.
I now understand that The Hundred is actually made up of two distinctly different trips of 50 miles each. The southern section is what I would term an advanced hike, with the other half (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort, with the exception of a steep ascent of Nesuntabunt Mountain in that 50 mile section.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. The pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter is a must swim, and may even be time for skinny dipping. Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and take in the sand beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks, consider splurging for a night at the classic Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps. I haven’t done that yet, but plan to.
Make no mistake, spending most of a week backpacking The Hundred is tough. If you are wise with food choices you can carry lots, and eat your way along. My more careful plan of rationing myself out some 3,000 calories a day resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took to make this trip.
Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures is planning more hikes of The Hundred next season, halves and maybe even the Whole Hundred. If you are interested, get in touch with me and I’ll put you on the 2017 notification list. Spaces are limited.
There is something mammalian about avoiding going outdoor when it is raining sheets. I voiced this point to Gaspedal and Rokrabbit, while I was driving them through the rainstorm above Bangor on I-95 this morning.
We’re on schedule for day one of a week in Baxter State Park. I would hike in this hard rain all day, if necessary, but my innermost core recoils from the image of my self at the end of a day of rain, especially when I am also run down from long miles of hiking through the woods.
So I conjure up a whacky Plan B for today that would not require any hiking in this rain. We would get a motel room in Millinocket and wait it out. Tomorrow morning we would drive to the north Matagammon Gate and begin to dance around our reserved space camping itinerary.
However, life would be much simpler if we just stuck with our original plan, which we did when we walked out of the Appalachian Trail Cafe and saw that the rain had stopped and the skies were starting to clear.
We only encountered four other hikers today walking into Russell Pond from Roaring brook.
The young woman of couple #1 said that the ford of Wassataquoik Stream was waist high. I could have told her that. Her long pants we’re still drenched as she spoke to us. We also met a couple of Maine women who we also headed to Russell Pond for the night.
I’ve hiked the Russell Pond Trail at least a half dozen times over the years. A few things stood out today.
#1- Wassataquoik Stream rises quickly after a strong rain of an inch and a half. The water was up to my waist during the ford. I have always experienced lower water levels coming through here. On the positive side, it was painless to do the fords with bare feet, even including the short walk along the trail that was on land that connected the two.
#2- This is moose country. Walking through the alder patches in an area known as New City, Gaspedal, who was walking point, turned silently gave us a hand signal. One second later, a bull moose with full rack of antlers crashed off into the brush. This was the first moose that either of my two traveling partners had ever seen in the wild.
I’m a Licensed Maine Guide who is guiding these two folks from Boston through their first visit to Baxter.
Last year I guided these two repeat customer plus one more though the north 50 miles of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. Our walking itinerary here is less demanding than out on the Appalachian Trail, but our trek up to 5,267 foot high Katahdin on our last day should test the tendons.
If I make it, it will be my twentieth summit of Maine’s best shot at reaching the heavens.