I just unpacked my 4 person SeekOutside tipi for shoulder and winter season heated tenting.
Don Kivelus of Four Dog Stove is crafting me a tiny custom titanium airtight wood stove for the tent. The total weight of the tipi/stove/stovepipe should come in at around 10 pounds, and will sleep two very comfortably with the stove in use. I plan to use it on winter fat tire bike trips, fall and spring canoe trips, and on winter toboggan hauling trips either solo or with 1 other person sharing the tent.
Composed of a floorless ripstop nylon tipi and utilizing wood-burning titanium stoves, the Seek Outside Hot Tent allows you to carry a heated shelter into the back country.
Despite being the only guest in the Mount Chase Lodge last night I was served a most excellent breakfast at 7:30, the time of my choice. Sky prepared pancakes, fruit slices, and bacon from a pig that had secured full employment here, on table scrap duty this past season. Fresh coffee, home made muffins and a fresh fruit bowl rounded out the meal.
I was more than willing to take up Sky’s offer of leftover bacon and last night’s brisket. At two degrees outside, I was not concerned about food spoilage.
I’ve waited for this winter bike camping trip for a long time. My last bike packing trip was in 2012 on the Sunrise Trail when I joined my neighbor and biking pal Andy Hazen on a stretch from Ellsworth toward Cobscook Bay. You can check out that most interesting bikepacking trip here.
I have that same Surly Pugsley now. It was the perfect choice for these two pristine winter biking days.
It’s a fat tire bike, with 4 inch wide tires, inflated to 7 pounds of pressure, enabling the wide footprint to track easily over this packed groomed snow.
It is a 15 mile ride directly west over a roller coaster of a tarred road from Mt. Chase Lodge to the parking lot for the Monument.
Ask the staff at the Lodge about the signage that marks the left turn after the bridge over the Penobscot River just before the end of the pavement. A short drive down a plowed gravel road leads to a small parking lot where the winter trail begins.
I parked right next to Guthook’s VW, as we were the only visitors here for these two days.
The map on the KWWNM website is detailed enough to be all you’ll need. One caution-print your own copy in color. Mine was in gray scale. I would have been easier to navigate if my map was color coordinated with the red, orange, yellow, and blue triangles marking intersections and trails.
With my parking pass visible on the dashboard, I unloaded the bike from inside my Honda Element and took off, smiling from ear to ear at the superb condition of the surface beneath my wheels. Access to trails and these huts is free of charge, however, overnight use requires reservations.
There hasn’t been any fresh snow here for more than a week. KWWNM’s snowmobiles tow dedicated groomers that have packed the trail! There were two faint cross country ski grooves that I stayed out of, preferring to ride to the side of the fresh snowmobile track.
The surface was not at all icy, but composed of groomed snow that refroze into a decent grip of a track.
This screen shot of my Strava feed summarizes my mileage, speed, and moving time. It was a relatively quick 10 mile ride into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.
Here’s the elevation profile.
There were three parts to this ride.
The first was four miles over relatively flat terrain on the Messer Pond-Orrin Falls Road, an old logging path eventually passing through a summer gate leading to Haskell Hut on the shore of the expansive Haskell Deadwater.
Haskell Lodge is only a tenth of a mile off the trail and is worth a rest stop.
It is the smaller of the two cabins that are options for your over night in The Monument. The doors are unlocked, but day users are asked to refrain from using the propane cook burners, lights, and firewood.
These are community huts, where everyone is welcome up to the maximum number of sleeping platforms and reservations are required.
Next, I rode along the edge of the Deadwater where I made a brief stop at the spectacular view at Haskell Rock Pitch. I heard it well before I saw it. Impressive!
From there the trail enters thicker, older forest for almost a mile when you reach a fork. With the spring melt down, extra caution is advised with regards to deep meltdown holes on the bridges and sections of deep animal tracks on the trail.
This is dangerous:
The riding is fast and the setting is isolated.
The last segent starts with a right on the blue diamond trail for three more miles or so out past Little Messer Pond where the path ascends to a high point on 900 feet.
You will know a turn is coming when you pass over a flowing stream up high and then see the signage pointing left for the 0.3 mile descent into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.
It took me two hours to cover the 10 mile distance, which included stops for photos, and my snack break at Haskell Hut. Guthook skied in earlier, pulling a plastic sled that was loaded with 5 days worth of food and gear. It took him 5 hours. Fat bikes shine under these travel conditions.
Big Spring Brook Brook Hut is appointed with basic pots and pans, and is heated with a wood stove with drying racks above for hanging wet clothing.
Water in drawn from the stream in front, with an outhouse out back. There is a large sleeping loft as well and half dozen wooden sleeping platforms on the first floor. The capacity of his hut is listed as sixteen.
Guthook and I combined forces to come up with a superb one pot supper. I added Mt. Chase Lodge’s bacon and brisket to his tortellini, cheese, and tomato sauce.
This trip was brief but rewarding. I spent one night sharing the Lodge with Guthook, who was bushwhacking round the area on several long day hikes.
The snow was solid enough that you could walk anywhere, and with no leaves on the trees your line of sight is immeasurably better in the winter than in the summer when the green word covers all. It was a most satisfying and unique experience for us to warm ourselves by the glowing embers of the stove as we pondered the vast wilderness surrounding us.
I joked with Guthook that we finally made time to do nothing.
We were the only people spending our time within this 87,000 acre National Monument. God bless America!
And I thank you, Roxanne and Lucas, for allowing me to have this unique place to explore for the rest of my life !
The staff at Mt. Chase Lodge are knowledgeable about current trail conditions and travel within The Monument. They are ready to serve as a launch point for your own adventure. Information and Reservations: (207) 528-2183
Prequel: “Bear and Sparkles say come on up! The fat biking is great :-)”
I missed this sign for the Mt. Chase Lodge when I passed through here a few minutes ago.
I’m headed 14 miles further down a roller coaster of a frost-heaved road to explore the northern end of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days. Bear and Sparkles are the trail names for two of my hiker pals.
I walked with both of them for the last cold wet days as the thee of us completed our thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010. The couple are the two full time winter staff at Mt. Chase Lodge. Bear and I are also Maine-based Triple Crown Hikers, who also shared the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails in 2007 and 2013.
Sparkles is a Registered Maine Guide.
My Honda Element is the only vehicle that is not a 4WD pickup truck in the parking lot outside the tiny convenience store here beside Shin Pond . I plunked down two packs of chemical hand warmers and a bottle of Gatorade on the counter.
“Ya think yer gonna get yer hands frozen, dear?” asked the perky woman behind the counter. She reminded me of my mom, who turns 91 this summer.
“I’m buying these so my hands don’t get cold. Didn’t it drop to zero here last night?” I replied.
Welcome to Shin Pond, a tiny rural settlement in bona fide rural Maine that has registered several of the coldest winter readings on record. Three locals were gathered around a table behind me.
I asked the clerk for directions to the Lodge, when one of the fellows chimed right in, ” Go up across the bridge, head up the hill and take your second right”.
I made it up here after I received a spur of the moment invitation from my hiker pal Guthook to visit him on his own 5 day adventure in the winter Maine woods.
Despite my last minute decision to drive north, I had my reservation completed and parking pass in hand within 30 minutes of logging onto the KWWNM website, and never left the house to do so. The whole exchange was assisted by an actual person, who was e-mailing me back and forth. I made a reservation for Big Spring Brook Hut, which is a recently built log cabin, that is unstaffed and set up with propane fuel for cooking and lights, pots and pans, coffee percolator, water jug, airtight wood stove, and stove wood.
Although the Monument promotes travel only via skis, snowshoes, bicycles, and on foot the major winter trails are groomed at least weekly by snowmobiles.
The cost to enter the Monument and stay in the tent sites, shelters, and huts right now is zero, but that will change after the Monument goes through it’s period of public input as it crafts the rules and procedures that will ensure that this most unique gift is used to it’s potential.
On August 24, 2016, President Obama signed an executive order designating 87,000 acres to the east of Baxter States Park as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The previous day Roxanne Quimby, of Bert’s Bees fame, transferred that land to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Monument came complete with a $20,000,000 cash gift as well as a pledge to raise an additional $20,000,000 in matching public funds. Despite the lingering opposition to the Monument’s very existence, I believe that there is more than enough open space in this vastness of forest to provide for the needs of those of us who seek opportunities to backpack and immerse our spirits in the healing forces of trees and leaves. There are more than three and a half million acres of timber growing in The North Maine Woods. The Monument’s footprint is exactly 0.024% of that vastness. Fact check this yourself by standing on Katahdin’s summit to view a undulating sea of green that stretches out to the horizon along every single one of those 360 degrees of sight line. Haven’t we all just worked this out?
The Monument is staffed by Recreation Managers who work out of Lunksoos Camps, a most historic establishment in it’s own right. When the 12 year old Donn Fendler stumbled out of the Maine wilderness in 1939, he came out on near Lunksoos. His shriveled and pin cushioned body was administered to and the nation’s newspapers and radio stations came to Maine to report the events recalled in Donn’s classic book Lost In The Maine Woods.
Tomorrow I head into the Monument, but tonight I’m staying here at Mt. Chase Lodge, on upper Shin Pond, all by my lonesome. I love looking at the historic photos of the trophy deer and bear that were harvested in this area.
From their brochure:
“Mt Chase Lodge was established in 1960 as a recreational sporting lodge catering to sportsmen, hikers, family vacationers, snowmobilers and other outdoor oriented folks who appreciate the adventure and tranquility of the north Maine woods. Situated on the shore of Upper Shin Pond, in a quiet wooded setting, our comfortable lodge and private cabins offer excellent accommodations. Full bathrooms, automatic heat and electricity, and cooking equipment for those who prefer, are offered year round.”
The Lodge itself rents 8 rooms, and four cabins. My three course dinner was top notch and prepared by Bear himself. Breakfast came with the price of the room, which was a most reasonable $79 plus tax.
I plan to wait a while for it to get warmer before I bicycle into the Monument tomorrow morning. It is supposed to drop to around zero degrees tonight. Time to turn out the light!
My bunk room morphed up to warmer last night.
The crew told me the building was so well insulated that a person’s body heat was often sufficient to turn things around. The bunk houses are heated to around 60 degrees in the off season as well, as there is a caretaker for each hut. However since it is not a full season with a dedicated hut staff to stoke the fires in the basement on a regular around the clock schedule, there might be small fluctuations in heat (never below 50, between 57 to 65), depending on the outside temperatures. Hot water prevails, as well.
In the morning, I made myself drip coffee from the pile of filters and fresh ground Carabasset the boys set out for me before they went up last night. Normally, breakfast is served st 7:40, but I suggested that they sleep in, courtesy of me!
At 8 sharp I was sitting in the dining room in front of a hot plate of eggs, sausage, and toast.
Lunch fixin’s were set out for me to make my own peanut and jelly sandwich, accompanied by a brownie and granola bar.
The morning light illuminated the shore and the few leaves that remained on the deciduous trees.
I’m heading back today. On the way in here, it was unsafe to listen to music via earphones and iPhone- too many pulp trucks thundering down Long Falls Dam as well as the gravel Carriage Roads to be distracted by tunes. I needed to hear these trucks coming. They don’t slow down at all and the roads are narrow.
This is the last weekend for MH&T to offer their full service meal plans as part of the package here (at regular rates). Twenty folks are coming in today to stay for this last serviced weekend- a ” yoga group”.
From October 29 until December 19 daily rates drop more than 50%, down to $35 for nonmembers and $30 for members. For that price, you get everything this place offers except the meal plan. Guests are free to bring in their own food and use the kitchen.
In sum, I enjoyed my stay here. The facilities are unique- interesting and comfortable. I liked being taken care of. The shower was hot, the couch and reading chairs were super comfortable.
One of the parts I liked about the trip into here along the trail from Sugarloaf/Route 27 was crossing the Appalachian Trail at the exact same place that I walked over on my 2007 thru-hike.
It brought back positive memories.
People need to know that the terrain that surrounds the MH&T trail is mostly low country, and right now is surrounded by fresh logging activity.
It’s often not so scenic. Don’t get me wrong- in the warm weather the deciduous leaves will hide the freshly cut slash and stumps. Conversely, when the area is blanketed by snow the skiing, snowshoeing, and even mountain biking will be framed in a more natural situation.
I could be wrong, but there is one more reason why MH&T lets their crews go for the next month and a half. It’s deer hunting season in Maine, and folks will definitely need to be wearing hunter orange if they travel these woods in November. This looks like prime hunting territory.
This is quite an undertaking- these ” wilderness hotels” that are steadily coming online up here. I am really pleased to finally experience what they are all about.
I appreciated the care and attention that the staff gave me here, even though I was the only client.
I plan to be back here before the rates double up and return to normal just before the Holiday season.
I have viewed enough YouTube clips to know that I want to ride my Pugsley along the groomed snow pack.
I don’t buy much of nothing, but would spend $$ on this. You hear me Google analytics? Seriously glossy, although the price continues to present as unreasonable. Shows what a man with a a fatbike, a computer, or possibly only a smartphone phone can put together these days.
Several presentations at Snow Walkers Rendezvous this past weekend highlighted polar travel, albeit by foot, ski, dogsled, and even kites. How about bikes? How about the Surly Moonlander, with clownish 5″ diameter low pressure tires?
From Outside, written by Joe Spring:
“Eric Larson plans to start pedaling toward the South Pole this December, on an expedition he’s titled Cycle South. It will be the fourth Christmas in the past five years that he’s spent in Antarctica. This time, he’s given himself a pretty small window—about a month and a half—to get things done.
In 2010, 41-year-old Eric Larsen completed a year-long Save the Poles expedition in which he climbed Everest and traveled to both poles. The Minnesotan has snowshoed, dogsledded, swum, trekked, and skied across polar habitats on a slew of expeditions.
He’ll stay in touch using a DeLorme beacon and Iridium satellite phone to tweet, post Facebook messages, and provide online updates. You can follow him on EricLarsenExplore.com, @ELExplore on Twitter, and on Facebook.”
From time to time I post from other peoples’ blogs related to hiking, biking, and the outdoor experience. Here’s one with content that stands out above and beyond what you’d expect.
On October 5, I posted an entry about my disappointment with Fatbiking the Arctic- to date, an apparently failed Kickstarter project which I funded. This was in response to Outside Magazine’s Oct. 4, update on the project, which appears to have been halted in the town of Pink Mountain, somewhere near the southern start point of the Alaska Highway. That article is here- Fatbike Expedition Comes to a Quiet Halt.
Today I will highlight an hour long interview with another Yukon/Alaskan adventurer, but this trip was a resounding success.
Krudmeister is one of my online friends, and I know that I’ll meet him in person someday. This April, Krud completed a 4,700 mile human powered trip on bike, foot, and canoe.
Here’s the lead-in, from Trail Runner Nation– “Our second interview with Adam Bradley, aka Krudmeister, a record-holding long-distance trekker! The last time we talked to him he had just set a world record for a self supported Pacific Crest Trail trek. This summer Adam did a self-supported, human-powered trek over 4700 miles from Reno, NV to the Bearing Sea in Alaska. This is an amazing story of endurance. We talk “Krudmeister” about his 2 1/2 month journey through some of the American Continents most beautiful country, the wildlife he encountered, and his determination to keep going day after day.”
Krudmeister rode his bike from his doorway in Reno, NV up through Glacier National Park into British Columbia, Jasper, the Icefields Parkway, then Alaska’s Cassiar/Stewart Highways, all the way up to Skagway, Alaska, completing that segment of 2,847 miles ( in just 31 days).
Enjoy. What really impresses me is that he did this solo. Krud not only put it out there, he delivered. If Andrew Skurka gets on the March 2011 cover of National Geographic for 4,679 human powered miles through Alaska and the Yukon territory, don’t you think Adam Bradley deserves increased national exposure?
My funding of this Kickstarter adventure appears to be generating serious regrets. Here’s that Kickstarter pitch, the most impressive one I’ve yet seen. Watch the 6 minute video- It has a convincing feel to it.
Outside Magazine ran an initial article in February about Badenoch’s proposed expedition that no doubt fueled interest in this adventure.
In February 2012 I funded the Kickstarter project and today just got my first and only response to my Tweets to Andrew Badenoch asking him about what the heck is going on. This is what I just received from him (Oct. 5, 2012): “i’ll explain the details later, but i still don’t have full comm capabilities. the sat phone broke, so it’s worse in some ways.”
I tweeting back with a recommendation to think about purchasing a Spot locator device and service. In fact, the use of the Spot enabled me to follow a similar expedition this spring on a DAILY basis. Check out Adam Bradly’s completed expedition, where he rode his bicycle from Reno to Skagway Alaska, backpacked up the Chilkoot Trail to the headwaters of the Yukon River, and then paddled a canoe to its end in the Bering Sea. We don’t have Badenoch’s story but Bradley’s BLC to Bering Sea is compelling, and another one-man production of staggering logistics that he pulled off superbly.
Just before he left, Badenoch posted that Public Broadcasting Service would be involved in running either updates or clips of the completed trip. I subscribed to his YouTube page, as he instructed, to get more info about that aspect of the production, but his channel still contains nothing more than his initial Kickstarter funding pitch.
Just yesterday ( Oct. 4, 2011) Outside Magazine ran what was, in effect, an obituary for the project, which appears to have halted in the town of Pink Mountain, somewhere near the southern terminus of the Alaska Highway. Fatbike Expedition Comes to a Quiet Halt. Outside confirms that Badenoch had spent several weeks at a motel there, departing south in mid-August. I have funded what were several successful Kickstarter projects, all of them posting occasional updates to the backers. The updates are part of the tools supplied to all Kickstarter projects to make them the excellent packages that they are. To date, there have been NO UPDATES ( yes, I know I’m shouting here) from this Project.
Damn, I was hoping Badenboch would come up with something for us.
I own a Puglsey fatbike, and take extended adventures of my own. I sure didn’t think it would come to this. I’ll post further details as they emerge.
The Tour Divide is known as “The World’s Toughest Mountain Bike Race”. It is a self-supported, weather extreme, food management, multiple 100+ mile-a-day run through 2,700 miles of unfamiliar territory stretching across and along the Rockies from Canada to the US border in New Mexico.
My friend and neighbor Andy Hazen rode some 535 miles of the race, which started June 7 this year in Banff, Canada. Andy was over the worst of the snow and mud, and had just put together two back-to-back 110 mile days when he had a crash at 25 miles per hour coming into Lincoln, Montana. His accident required medical attention, and affected his shoulder, elbow, and ribs to the point where he had to abandon the ride. Andy was not able to lift his arm to reach the handlebar.
I caught up with Andy at his farm when after he drove himself back, and had a few questions I thought his legion of followers would like answered.
I found him hunched over his computer tracking info about this years Tour Divide.
Q: Tell me about your previous racing experience. This isn’t the first time you have put in hundreds of miles a week in training.
A: I was attending college in Boulder, when I graduated in 1971. I started racing in 1973. I got into bicycling through commuting up 14 miles one way Boulder Canyon. This was road riding, before mountain biking became mainstream. I worked my way up to State Championship races that were 125 miles long. At that time I was training 300-400 miles a week. Then Emily and Ben were born, and the demands of staying home to help out put racing on the back burner.
Q: How competitive were you back then?
A: I was coming in at the middle of the peleton. I remember a couple of bikes I had: I had a Raleigh Pro, with Campagnolo stuff, and a Schwinn Paramount, with Campy components- Shimano had not started then. After I dropped the long biking, I took up running, putting in 12-15 miles a day. I had a weak gait for running, and needed orthotics. If you don’t have a good gait, you develop problems- shin splints, sciatica Then here in Maine, I bought a Nishiki rigid mountain bike in the mid-80’s. I totally rebuilt that with Deore XT group and rode that around here for years.
Q: Post race analysis of your ride?
A: My biggest mistake was not pushing more the first couple of days. I should have been in Elkford at the end of the second day. It’s a decent town of about 1,000 people. My mistake was camping up on Elkford pass when it snowed three or four inches during the night. I did 85 miles that first day, and stopped at 7:30 PM. If I rode until 10 PM, I would have been under cover in Elkford. My gear got extremely wet, it also started to rain. I was up there with three other guys.
Q: What about food? I understand you guys burn up 5,000-6,000 calories a day out there.
A: They say you go through 400 or more calories an hour. You can spend a lot of time and carry bulk to find, buy, prepare and consume 1000 calories in veggies or get your calories in 2 minutes if you eat two big Snickers bars. I wanted crackers, but didn’t want a whole box, I had no room for that. Hostess fruit pies had 410 to 450 calories in them. Beef sticks were good. I ate sardines in oil. I was buying two packages of Canada bacon. I would have one for supper and the other one for breakfast.
Q: What was the most surprising thing about the course?
A: It was tougher than I expected. Not so much the steepness, I trained for that. It was so varied. I had to go over rock and snow avalanches, and there were lots of blow downs [Ed. = trees] that had not been cleaned up yet. Some times there were two or three blow downs at a time, and it was difficulty to get the bike over them. There was also plenty of mud. The canadian section was the worst. The weather up there was not good at all; snow , rain, cold, and wet. Everyone had to find shelter to get dry. I would sometimes get to a laundromat, and dry things out. In a motel room, you spread out your things to dry, If I stayed in a room, a shower would warm me up.
Q: Any additional strategy that have you acquired after riding those first 535 miles?
A: The major thing I learned was that timing was critical. You have to be thinking about where and when you are going to get food, where to sleep, and yet there were three times when the snow depth in the passes slowed us down. We were riding on old jeep trails. I remember crossing a 60 degree steep than ran out for a couple of miles covered with snow where it was work to push the bike. There were six passes that had snow depths of 5 to 10 feet deep.
Q: Other things for people to know?
A: The maps for the trip are from Adventure Cycling http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/greatdivide.cfm . When you want to camp, you find a mossy spot right on the side of the trail. I chose not to cook on this trip, but hung my food at night. There are grizzlies in parts of Montana that are not going to let a tent stop them. I slept with my bear spray right at hand. Any of the Montana natives that I saw out in the woods had two cans of bear spray on them. Some people had sleigh bells on their bikes. I used a whistle. The bikes are quiet, and I yelled, “Bear!” coming up on any turn.
Q: Any change in training in the coming year?
A: I am doing it again. I won’t ride with the same intensity I did for the past year. I like to ride, and will ride recreationally during this summer, also some longer rides. In February, March, and April I will plow on the miles. I plan to put in 6,000 miles this year rather than the 8,000 that I did getting ready for this Tour Divide.
Here is a photo taken this week north of Livingston, MT viewed from the radio tower in town. It is the Willow Creek area- the wind shifted and the fire didn’t reach the town. It is the same area where the previous photo was taken.