First Impressions: Tarptent Double Rainbow ( DR) Lithium

-from Tarptent website

I’ve been a fan of the DR since 2007 when I purchased it to complete my northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail that year.   My first DR was different than this version and was replaced for free a short time after purchase by Tarptent after the company substituted velcro closures with zippers, and improved the single strut situation over the top of the tent, so this is a review of my third Double Rainbow !

I switched to the DR in 2007 when I reached Harpers’ Ferry, VA . I’ve got bad shoulders, after bilateral surgeries. In addition, my right shoulder has been recommended for complete replacement after I was given 3-5 years of expected service way back in 2007. Yes, I’ve been putting it off. I was experiencing considerable pain in that right shoulder in 2007 when I slept on the ground, so began hiking the AT in a Clark’s Jungle Hammock. I had no pain while sleeping, but became increasingly dissatisfied with life in the hammock. If I wasn’t an author, it might not have mattered. The problem became the sense of cramped confinement I experienced lying back in the hammock and typing out my daily Trailjournal entries. That plus periods of confinement on bad weather days where I was stuck in the hammock.

I successfully completed the AT in the DR, and then used it for shorter backpacking trips from 2007 through 2010. The tent was solid to the point where I was able to complete my 2010 Pacific Crest Trail in that same DR, which was deposited in the first trash can that I found in Canada.

What I liked about the DR was the floor space. I’m 6’2”. The original fit two 20” wide mats side by side with ample room to sit up. The space was then luxurious for the two-pound 8-ounce weight. The double entry doors with vestibules were appreciated on my thru-hike when the main zipper eventually failed on one of the doors. I taped and pinned that one closed and used the other door instead.
In freestanding mode employing two trekking poles, the DR also adapted well to the wooden tent platforms in increasing use here in the northeastern US. I remember snagging a terrific tent site on a shallow ledge that resisted the use of tent pegs.

In 2010 my wife bought me a brand new Tarptent for my birthday This time it was the smaller single-person Moment model, using just one center pole, and only two stakes. It worked fine for my whole Continental Divide Trail thru-hike in 2013, and went on thru-hikes of the Vermont’s Long Trail, Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail, and New Brunswick’s Fundy Footpath. When I last used my Moment a month ago while bike camping in Vermont I tore again a previously repaired area. It became apparent that I would not be sending back the Moment for any more repairs. Another one bites the dust !

I lost my job as a school psychologist on March 19 this year due to Covid-19 and am not going back, due to my wife’s medical condition, the nature of my job, and our ages.  Auntie Mame and I continue to quarantine since then. While we’ve been through so much these past 48 years of marriage, being at home together so much gets stressful. Earlier this August was constantly grumbling about the heat and humidity, so Mame suggested that I spend some money for a new tent and take four days to go backpacking.

I bought a new tent!  I planned to buy another Double Rainbow but there is now a brand new lighter, stronger, bigger, and improved version- The Double Rainbow Lithium.

From the Tarptent website: “New for 2020, the patented Double Rainbow Li is our lightest arch pole supported shelter. Made with Dyneema®, this tent is ideal for users who want floor space to fit two long, wide pads. Dual side entry with dual vestibules, free-standing capable with trekking poles, and hybrid double-wall with optional liner, the Double Rainbow Li gives you the freedom and security you want for a wide range of conditions”.

The DR Li is shipped-seam taped, with reflective Spectra cord guylines,  improved venting, and moisture management features. The DR Lithium website includes a long 23-minute Backpacking Light video review that convinced me to shell out the extra cash and purchase what is likely to be the last backpacking tent I’ll ever need, although if I ever wear it out on other 2,000+ mile thru hikes, that might change. Setup time is 2 minutes. At $649 is this model twice as good as the original DR?

I love doing business with Tarptent. When I called to discuss I wasn’t that surprised when the owner, designer, and original sticher Henry Shires answered the phone and even remembered me from previous contacts. I also met him at a backpacking festival out West in 2010.  We chatted and he added that this tent is manufactured in China in a factory that is specifically designed for cutting and assembling ultralight backpacking tents. Henry explained that as a prior Tarptent consumer, the workmanship of this Lithium model will be immediately noticeable. Prior to the decision to go to off-shore assembly, all Tartptents were made in the US. Increasing difficulty at finding experienced sewists in the US contributed to this decision. My tent arrived two days later with free shipping, just in time to test it out on a multi-night section hike of the Appalachian Trail here in Maine.

The tent impresses right away. Packed size is 18×4×5 in. and weight at 1.75 pounds. Even the stuff sack is Dyneema, waterproof racing sailcloth, trademarked as “the world’s strongest fiber”.

What was it like on the trail?   Excellent!

Since I had spent hundreds of nights in previous DRs, I was able to set up in under five minutes.  Other reviewers on the Tarptent website have written about setup being trickier that the company video leads you to believe, but my results came out tight as a drum. The wider width allows for two 25-inch wide pads to go side by side with a few inches extra to spare. It’s a palace in there for me and all my gear. The only reason I’d ever need the vestibules while solo would be for wet gear and stinky shoe placement. The little ridgepole that was integrated into the previous DR is now separate from the tent itself and is reported to allow for increased performance in windier conditions. I can’t comment on how the tent did in the wind as both nights use of this tent were in heavily forested, protected sites, one right beside a stream.
Normally, camping beside water results in increased condensation inside the tent, and I was pleased when the interior walls were practically dry when I woke up. I’d highly recommend watching the 23-minute Backpacking Light Review on the Tarptent Website to help understand why this tent’s design assists with condensation management.

I’m super pleased after my first multi-night experience in the tent. A longer use review will follow as I’m currently planning a bike-packing trip through the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, hopefully before the snows hit.

NOTE: The tent is out of stock already !

Day 2: AT section from Caratunk to Monson

12 miles

Day 2: AT section hike Caratunk to Monson.

Start: camping “au sauvage” at stream before Moxie Pond) to campsite (Guthoook Guides  @ mile 2065.5)

I awoke with the dawn when the Dark Sky App reported the temp at 75 with humidity at 85%. I was pleasantly surprised to be free of condensation inside my new Tarptent Double Rainbow (Lithium). Most of the time, camping right next to a water source tends to bring copious condensation on single-walled tents. Perhaps 1100 feet of elevation at the campsite sent the wetter air down the slope for once.
I ate my usual breakfast right out of a baggie: homemade granola and Nido brand dehydrated whole milk powder. I filled my 32 oz used Gatorade bottle, whose wide mouth accommodates my trusty Steripen, with 4 packets of Starbucks Instant coffee, drank half, and started hiking around 6:30 am- shirtless. The day was already humid and hot enough that I was sweating in 15 minutes.

I hadn’t realized just how close I had camped to the Moxie Pond Road. Where I exited the forest I saw evidence of the old high cable winter cables over Baker Stream. There used to  be two cables stretched out over the end of Joe’s Hole. The hiker stood on the lower cable and held themself upright by holding on to the upper cable. I remember using a big carabiner to clip my pack to the upper cable and pushed it ahead of me. I am afraid of heights and it was terrifying. I am relieved its gone, and replaced by the reroute further downstream.
Unfortunately, the same sort of disturbing dead animal weirdness was back again with a rotting carcass of a fox sitting at the AT signpost just before the stream crossing. I was angry and moved past the sorry mess quickly.

Another long, hot humid day of hiking unfolded. I was hoping for a swim in Bald Mountain Pond at mile 7 but that didn’t happen. The side trail to get to the Pond led to a tiny strip of sandy beach with were several beached powerboats clustered together and a furious wind coming onto the shore so I moved on in the hope of a better choice to get in the water.

The day featured above treelike views along the ridges on Moxie Bald. Later, I was able to rinse off at Bald Mountain Pond, but had to be careful due to walking over slippery rocks to reach even knee-high depths. The muck was deep enough to discourage deep water swimming.

I know that there are hikers who report experiencing lasting insights while hiking. I’m mostly preoccupied with looking ahead, considering foot placement, and guessing how long it will take to finish certain segments of the footpath. That being said, it continues to astound me when I experience a childhood memory that appears novel and obscure. Today, I remembered standing next to a group of fourth-grade boys watching Mikey Mitchell chin a lug a whole icy cold bottle of Coca Cola on the playground of the Cathedral School in Fall River, MA. I remembered all the names of the starting football players on the 1967 team at Monsignor Coyle High School in Taunton, MA.    Heavy meanings?  I don’t think so! I believe it is brain synapses burping up adjacent connective fibers.

I appreciated my iPhone’s Atlas Guide in steering me to my tent site tonight and so did the two other hikers who came in after me today. Once I identified the potential campsite on the app’s map, I drew a couple quarts of water from a stream identified with an icon a couple of tenths of a mile before the campsite itself. We were able to spread out a good distance from each other at the grassy site, with one of the hikers hammocking up in the woods adjacent and the other a good thirty feet away.

I enjoyed chatting with the guys. We were all in our shelters before the dark even settled in. I fell asleep on top of my sleeping bag and slept better than I had the night before.

AT section hike: Caratunk to Monson: Part 1

I was grumbly sweltering in the house, on another oppressive 80+ degree/90% humidity summer day. My wife Marcia encouraged me to head north to take a few days off to hike the Appalachian Trail, where the weather was predicted to be drier and cooler in Maine’s western mountains.

I pulled out the Map and Guide to the AT in Maine and decided that this section would be good for me to rehike. I’ve done this 36 mile section twice before.  I planned to spend three and maybe four days to enjoy myself. The route skirts Pleasant, Moxie, and Bald Mountain Ponds, as well as Lake Hebron. The path is relatively benign, except for climbs of Pleasant Pond (2477’) and Moxie Bald (2629’) Mountains in the first half of the section Five miles of downhill after Pleasant Pond Mountain and fifteen miles of downhill off Moxie Bald toward Monson sweetened the deal.

Day 1 start and finish

I called Shaw’s Hostel in Monson to schedule a shuttle to Caratunk where the Appalachian Trail picks up again after it crosses the broad Kennebec River. After paying the $70 shuttle fee, one of the staff trucked me over to the Caratunk AT parking lot just uphill from route 201. I started hiking at approximately 11:30, but not before I encountered some weirdness.

First, came a frustrating conversation with a fellow with Massachusetts plates on a completely loaded Subaru wagon that stuffed with camping gear. He was from Boston, had a European accent, and when I asked him why he found himself to be in the lot he indicated that he stopped to make some “adjustments” to his car. The conversation turned to hiking where he told me that he was headed to Baxter. When I asked him about his reservations he told me emphatically that they were not necessary, as he planned to day hike. I started to school him up on Baxter’s unique reservation system and he cut me off, then launched into a diatribe about how Baxter hates hikers and that Baxter won’t even take peoples’ garbage and trash. He went on to blame the policy for  “Trash all over the place up around Baxter making the towns look like garbage dumps.” I wished him luck and as I walked toward the entrance to the trail I gagged from the stench of a big dead bloating porcupine that had been placed on the signpost marking the trailhead. Not an auspicious start. When I  finished the trip I called an area game warden to report the problem.

Not the greeting I expected

Within 5 minutes of sweating in the heat and oppressive humidity, I removed my shirt, hiking shirtless for most of my trek, changing into my dry t-shirt each night before slipping into my tent. Prior to hitting the sack I‘m in the habit of rinsing off so that I don’t grime up my down bag. It cooled off enough each night that I draped the summer weight bag over my body after falling asleep unclothed on my pad.

No one was in any of the four shelters that I passed on the AT. It was understandable, as Appalachian Trail Conference discourages hikers from congregating in the shelters due to the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Sign = altered trail life

I became very angry about some graphically obscene graffiti in a couple of the shelter walls. I lost the one pencil I brought with me but none of the registers in the shelters had writing implements with them.

High point of the afternoon

I was forced to hike until 7 pm due to no water in the 6 mile stretch from the Pleasant Pond Shelter to a weak stream just before Moxie Pond Road where I scored a flat spot to set up my new Double Rainbow Li Tarptent ( review forthcoming).

Double Rainbow Li

A hawk had let up on his attacks:

I needed water to complete my dinner and breakfast as well and found enough to rinse the grime and sweat off, which was probably my most pressing want.

The problem was I couldn’t eat the freeze-dried ( Good-to-Go) Bibimbap, a spicy Korean mixed rice with sesame carrots and spinach. I was so tired I had no energy for hunger, and in my diminished state the “ immensely flavorful spicy sauce” tasted like spiced ground cardboard and was too hot for even me on one of hottest days of the summer. I ate about a third of it and packed the rest away to try again tomorrow. I usually can ingest Fritos, and had a fresh bag with me but only ate a little.

I did not experience the AT that I remember today where I only encountered one southbound hiker, who didn’t even look up when I greeted him as moved off the trail to let him pass by. The AT in Maine in mid-August is usually populated with northbound thru-hikers eager to finish up and chat a bit about their long hike.

It was a big afternoon of walking nevertheless with twelve miles down even with a zero morning of miles. I had hope for thunderstorms, showers, or even a downpour to come in while I slept, but no.

A Return to the Appalachian Trail in Maine

I’m excited about returning to the Appalachian Trail for several days of backpacking. The last time I was on the AT was a couple of weeks ago, when I went up to the Bigelow Range with my saws, pruners, and axe to remove any obstructions on the Safford Brook Trail as well as a short section of the AT and cleaning up the Safford Notch campsite for summer use.

Safford Brook intersection

This time I am on my own to hike where I want, and I won’t be carrying any extra saws. I’m a member of a few hiking groups on FaceBook and one post suggested checking out a shorter hike of the AT between the Kennebec River and Monson. Over the 36 miles, there will be  Pleasant Pond, Moxie Pond, and Bald Mountain Pond to swim in, a relatively brief ascent of Moxie Bald Mountain at 2,629 feet, and 17 miles of descent!

Kennebec River to Monson

The last time I walked this section was in early September in 2007 when it took me three days to walk those 36 miles. Here are my Trailjournal Entries from 2017 of this same section.  Since then I went on to thru-hike the PCT, CDT, The Long Trail, The East Coast Trail, the Fundy Footpath, and the Camino Portuguese.

I’ve scheduled a $70 one hour-one-way shuttle to Caratunk after I drop off my car at Shaw’s Hostel in Monson. I’ll walk from the Kennebec River some 36 miles northbound into Shaw’s where my car will be waiting for me.

Although I am in shape I won’t be trying for any speed records! As of today, I’ve logged 653 miles on my bikes, and 720 miles of hiking in 2020. My yearly goal is to amass 2020 miles combined, roughly half on foot and half on a bike.

I’ve been unemployed since March 19 due to Covid-19.

Since I have been home, I’ve focused on major renovations/construction projects at my Hobbs Pond camp, and at the house. I’ve finished an eight-sided office/writing retreat and installing a window, new side walls, and electricity in the camp loft.

Here at home I’ve just completed the removal of asphalt shingles and replacing two outbuildings with new metal roofing. The rest of my focus has been planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting vegetables.

I want to hike more and also return to completing my new book, which has 70 pages finished.

I went camping for three days last weekend in Vermont riding my Trek Stache 8.0 off-road on the world-class Kingdom Trails in East Burke VT. It was there that I accepted that my beloved tent, a Tarptent (Moment model) that Marcia bought me for a birthday present in 2013 is toast. It survived 165 days of all sorts of abuse on my CDT thru-hike plus subsequent years since then on my other backpacking trips. It has been sent back to Tarptent twice for repairs but the worn-out mosquito netting and the broken zipper and previous repairs just became too much for me to keep the wild stuff out so I have a brand new Tarptent on order, this time a markedly improved Double Rainbow model made out of Dyneema that packs tiny and weighs 1.7 pounds.

Double Rainbow Li

So, the weather window looks good so far for my backpacking adventure, this time surrounded by Covid-19. Monson is less than 90 miles from here, so I can fill up on gas locally and make the whole round trip without stopping. Normally, I like sleeping in the lean-tos on the AT but this time I’ll be tenting and wearing a mask in any close interactions with others.

Consider subscribing to this blog to stay posted for those upcoming daily trip reports.

I Rode to Labrador 25 Years Ago


In 1994, twenty-give years ago, I published my first feature article.  It was about a two week motorcycle ride from Maine to the newest leg of the Labrador Highway- Churchill Falls to Goose Bay.  My touring mentor and buddy, Alan MacKinnon and I had just read Great Heart, by Rugge and Davidson and were inspired by the book to explore the region.

screenshot 8

To link to a .pdf of the article, complete with original photographs, clink the link below, where you will be able to  download the .pdf in separate browser:

Lonely Road to Labrador

A Sunday Worthy of a Service

Even though its been 6 years since I completed the Continental Divide Trail my 9 year span of experiences gleaned from backpacking three of America’s long distance National Scenic Trails continues to affect my day-to-day life.

I’ve finally caught up with clicking off 2019’s hiking and biking mileages to the point where I’m slightly ahead of pace to achieve my 2019 mileage goal –  2019 total miles for the calendar year, half hiking and the other half biking. May was a slim mileage month, where the flu whacked me down for a couple of weeks.  The majority of my miles are off-road, either on trails, or gravel and/or discontinued public roads. My steps and pedal strokes generally come from places here in coastal Maine that I get to by walking right out my door.

My choices in literature are also increasingly colored by these outdoor experiences.  I’m currently reading A World Apart by Gustaw Herling, a Polish author who spent two years in a northern Russian labor camp in 1940 after he was arrested for joining a underground Polish army.


The book details the people he was imprisoned with, the hardships they endured, and the will and spirit that allowed some to survive. I find myself drawn to literature that embraces struggle and harsh natural settings. I have written about the Polish suffering gene in previous blog posts.

I came to Maine back in the 1970’s when my wife Marcia and I were hired to run Alford Lake Camp’s nature exploration program. Once I experienced the deep forests and lakes in Maine, with a shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean, there was no hope of ever returning to my previous life in Massachusetts.

At Alford Lake Camp this afternoon I attended a celebratory service to honor the life of Andy McMullan,  held in the Church of the Pines by the shore of Alford Lake.

Andy’s wife Jean ran the camp practically her whole life. Another circle in my life drew to a close today, and although more of life’s losses will invariably come, this day was a gem to be shared with my camping community.

My 45 year connection with Alford Lake Camp endures.  I own a camp on the shore of Hobbs Pond, located a mere 1.5 miles from Alford Lake Camp, as the crow flies.


What are the chances ?


Hot Tent Camping on Maine’s Moose River

This trip took place outside of Jackman, an area in northwestern Maine that is a dozen or so miles from the Canada border.  I’ve done several summer canoe trips around the Attean Pond/Moose River loop, as well as winter camping in this area.

Attean Pond – Start is at the top of the map

I was pleased with the rooms and service at the Northern Lakes Inn , smack dab on Route 201 and within a snowball’s throw from a gas/convenience store and two restaurants.  In Jackman, there are more snowmobiles around town than pickup trucks and Subarus.

Jackman view out of motel room

For me, the hardest part of heading out to engage in deep winter camping is getting the gear and food together. Spring/summer/fall trips are no problem, unless it involves canoeing, which invites one to bring additional stuff due to the ability of a canoe to carry hundred of pounds.   For a three days to a week of three-season adventuring I can pack in an hour. All my adventure gear resides in one spare room, where I work off a packing list that I’ve honed down to the point where I have 17 pounds on my back (before adding food or water).

Plenty of room = lots of stuff’

Winter camping opens doors that can lead to a pleasant experience due to the extra gear that assists in surviving and even thriving in the frozen north.

Foremost on that winter list is my 9 x 12 Egyptian cotton wall tent, weighing in at 17 pounds — a specialized piece of equipment that dramatically enhances the experience of being outdoors for extended winter periods due to the option of placing a wood stove inside as well as the addition of a pocket for a sheet metal thimble that allows stove pipe to pass through the front wall of the cotton tent.

9 x 12 McDonald Tent

I bought the tent fifteen years ago from Craig McDonald. MacDonald worked for 50 years for the Ontario Government as a Recreation Specialist, primarily in Algonquin Park. He’s mastered the sport after 40 years of snowshoe expeditions. In his spare time Craig manufactures winter camping equipment.

After parking the car at the end of a plowed side road, we stacked gear on two plastic and one wooden hauling toboggans, lashed down our loads, and trudged one mile over a relatively flat snowmobile track that eventually dropped us entered the edge of Attean Pond.

Moving out onto Attean Pond

At this point we are hugging the side of the pond on our left and continuing on over clearly defined snowmobile tracks. It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was much more snow up here than I had even seen before, with absolutely zero areas of visible ice. Instead, there were windblown ridges, berms and at last one hidden slush pocket under the ice, which I found by accident. Snowmobiles are not hampered much by surface irregularities like us humans so we followed tracks the best we were able.

No ice this time

Eventually the flat tracks ahead of us multiplied as riders fanned out as the pond’s width expanded and we were left with much fainter  traces that we sometimes could not even make out.

My two adventure partners on this trip were Pat and Mark, both who have been on one of these winter Jackman winter trips before. Each had also participated separately with me on prior trips. Pat is a self-employed contractor who is currently building a house for himself in Belfast and Mark wears many hats over in Vermont: professional sound engineer, Appalachian Trail hiker shuttle service, photographer, and recently a licensed drone operator, who will be putting to use his skills on this mini-expedition.

The sky was flat grey, and the wind down as we wound our way 4.5 miles across the surface of Attean Pond where we entered the mouth of the Moose River and made our way up just past the open falls.

Unexpected things happen when you enter the wilderness. We try to be prepared to deal such frustrations. On this trip we had multiple issues with plastic, which eventually breaks. Before we even got up here I was moving one of the plastic sleds out of the shed onto the top of my car. The upturned front end of one the industrial-grade plastic sleds I made all those years ago snapped off right ahead of the first oak cross piece. We had enough time before the trip left for Pat to fix it in his shop.

It didn’t matter, because Mark’s plastic sled’s front end snapped off on the middle of the pond, and then a short while later Pat’s toboggan broke again. There wasn’t much of an impact, due to the snow being packed by wind and snowmobile tracks. But then all of he plastic straps holding Pat’s MSR plastic snowshoes onto his boots either cracked and broke. Every single one of them.

Both Mark and I favor traditional wooden snowshoes on these flat land winter journeys; he prefers an oval Green Mountain style and I like the traditional Maine cruiser with the beavertail. My bindings are long lengths of lamp-wick, and have 10 years of trips of up to two weeks on the ice without incident. I’m carrying a spare pair of these cloth strips, so it would be a 5 minute deal to replace then when I have to. Mark has engineered his own bindings with elastic cord material that has served him well so far. Mark’s backup elastic cords harness was able to get Pat back pulling his toboggan again.


Our original plan was to advance further up the river to a sheltered area Mark and I had used on previous journeys beside a broad area of expanded river. It had been relatively easy to chip a water hole through the frozen ice the last time we camped here, when we learned the hard way that it was necessary to get out into the middle of the river to reach flowing water.

This time, we fumbled, and eventually tumbled into what I thought might be a reasonable place upstream of the open lead around the falls where I dunked my whole foot and lower leg into a slush pocket. The other two guys pulled me out onto solid snow and we brought in a downed spruce log that we used to support our stance as we filled cooking pots, buckets and canteens with water.

There was much more snow here than on any previous trip, and what was ahead of us with our plan to proceed up river as hard pulling on unpacked snow.

Plan B went into effect: Stay at our present campsite and do day trips out and back to here. This required one whole morning to locate enough dead spruce, harvest it, drag the lengths back to camp and saw, split, and stack enough wood to get us through the next couple days.

Life is good here, it just takes a bit of work to get there.

My Four Dog Stove and stovepipe weighs in at 14 pounds. That’s no burden since I’ve lost more than 14 pounds since I returned from my 2013 thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. This stove has proved capable of warming my tent to shirt sleeve conditions at below zero temperatures.

Our kitchen

There are real safety issues to consider when using an axe to split wood in this much snow. I suggested that Pat and Mark work together to so this, so we worked out a plan to place a spruce log on the surface of packed snow, which would be the base for splitting lengths of wood, and baton the axe head with a sizable pole so that no one’s leg would be impaled with the axe head (I’ve witnessed one such accident on a previous winter trip).

A few “situations” came up:
#1 I heard Pat scream in terror after he entered the outhouse when he discovered that his new winter glove had fallen down into the hole of the crapper. Neither Mark nor I came to his aid.
#2 Mark’s back is bad, so he came up with the idea of stacking thee mattresses to sleep on, but the tower of power underneath him was tippy, so he lashed a long strap around all three mattresses as well as his legs. Urinating became a confounding variable.

All in all, the trip was a success. We each provided complete dinners-from soup to nuts-for the group, with breakfasts, lunches, and snacks on our own. I had a successful experiment with freezing cracked eggs for frying one morning, and also enjoyed very large and delicious bacon and cheddar cheese sandwiches on fresh seeded rye bread for breakfast.  Pat was the coffeemeister, brewing up freshly percolated coffee for us every day.

Mark’s video drone footage is still being edited, so stay tuned for a bird’s eye view of our adventure that I’ll post on this blog as soon as he’s released it.


I’m still hoping for one more winter trip (with heat), and am  looking at Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park or  the Katahdin Woods and Waters National A Monument before all this snow goes away.

Stay tuned, and consider subscribing to this blog.


Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 2

I reached two fitness goals by the last day of 2018: riding my bikes 1,000 cumulative miles and also walking (via hiking or backpacking) 1,000 miles.

I have zero interest in indoor walking/running or biking, either in a gym or at home. After decades of continuous health club memberships, I walked away from my local YMCA in late September of 2013, due to my shifting preferences and awareness of what my heart ( literally) was telling me.  I needed to be outdoors more.  That fall I had returned from third thru-hike, amassing 2,500+ miles on the Continental Divide Trail. I was fully planning a return to my gym rat status, but all it took was for a single return session for me to change my long devotion to the gym.

For 2019, I plan to amass 2019 cumulative miles via foot, either hiking or biking.

Another goal on my list is to read 40 books this year. I “shelve” books to read and books that I’ve read and monitors my reading, with the help of the Goodreads app. It tracks my progress toward reaching my total book goal. I especially like the scan function which allows me to immediately scan ( via the app) a book’s barcode which links to the exact same info that appears in Amazon (also owns the Goodreads app). If I plan to read the book, I save it to my Want To Read list. So far I have read 3 books in Jan. I pretty pleased that one of them was the 557 page The Outsider, by Stephen King. I have it 4 stars, by the way, even though none of it included scene from Maine.

I’m here in Florida this week for 6 nights of camping with my older and closest friend Edward and his wife Jane. He’s here at Fort Wilderness Campground for a few months break from running his fruit and vegetable farm in MA.

I am becoming more familiar with my Seek Outside tipi. Is warm here but it sometimes rains hard, like it did last night, from around 2 in the morning until 9 am.  The 12 foot diameter span gives me a palace of a place here, with 6’10” of headroom in the center.

We are able to find leftover firewood that we have used every night to enjoy a warming fire.

I plan to get a lot of walking in while I am down here for a week. Yesterday , I logged 7 miles.

I finally decided to add yet another goal for 2019. It came to my attention through Alistair Humphreys, whose Microadventures book and website promote cultivating a mind that leads one to enjoy adventures that are likely right outside the back door, rather than thinking of and treating them as distant journeys, every one.

For 2019, I plan to sleep outside at least one night in every calendar month.  January ?  Check!




Walking for Mushrooms at Debsconeag Lake Wilderness Camps

We started the day with a promising sunrise, followed by fresh omlettes stuffed with tasty hen-of-the-woods mushrooms that Ivan had gathered the at hometo bring here. Also nown as maitake, it is is a mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks.


A couple of events dominated today’s activities. First, we were able given permission to view the interior of Indian Camp between 9 and 10 am when the cabin was vacant between guests where the following photos of the interior  were taken:

Indian Camp detail

The following information is from “The People, The Logging, The Camps : A Local History” by Bill Geller (May 2015): One of the small cabins that is available to rent here is known as Indian Camp, perched right on the shore. Dating from the 1890’s, someone at the time intricately decorated the camp’s interior walls and ceilings with birch bark shapes. The birch bark artist is unknown but it’s something that history has lost even in that relatively short amount of time and no one really knows who did. Two two tales persist. One claims that the person living in there acquired an artistic native American wife. Others believe that an artist brought his wife to stay at the camps for health reasons and that he decorated the inside when he was not painting. Another aspect of the tale is that the owner’s grandson discovered birches on the hillside Southwest of the outlet with old cut out bark-shapes matching those in camp. Some also believe that President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the old Indian Camp somewhere between 1905 in 1909, visiting his Indian mistress. Take your pick of one or maybe all the stories are true!

Ivan and I were also able to take a long hike today (10.5 miles).

We hiked red, counterclockwise

Carey Kish’s new Maine Mountain Guide lists the major hiking trails the accessed from DLC, with routes depicted on Map 2 – Maine Woods, contained in the back flap of the book.  (Yesterday’s 2 mile loop up and along the cliffs near the camp is not in the book, but should be, as there are fine view of both Katahdin and the Southwest landscape from the ledges on top.)

We completed the Eastern half of the Debsconeag Lake Trail, hiking counter-clockwise and visiting Fifth Debonskeag Lake, Stink Pond, Seventh DL, Sixth DL, and then returned to our camp at Fourth DL. It took us 6 hours to walk the 10.5 miles, including a couple of side trails and an added 0.8 miles due to a wrong turn getting to Fourth Deb. Lake. While the trails here are brightly blazed and those markings are frequent, they are all blue-blazed and there are sometimes unsigned intersections where people like me make mistakes.

Here are some photos taken on that loop hike.  While the colors of the foliage have intensified there are still a number of deciduous tress that have not yet shown their true colors.

When Ivan and I get together in the Maine woods, we soon revert to mushroom hunting mode, especially in the Fall a few days after a hard rain. We had a very good day yesterday, harvesting two small edible and choice toothed hedgehogs, and a mess of freshly popped oyster mushrooms.

They will be cooked in butter and seasoned for sampling for dinner tonight.

Some background from the Bureau of Parks and Lands Nahmakanta Public Lands Guide and Maps : Debsconeag Lake Camp are within the Namahkhanta Public Lands, encompassing 46,271 acres of forest and low mountains, punctuated by numerous streams and brooks descending from higher elevations that flowing to the numerous lakes and ponds in the area. The area is at the far end of the 100 Mile Wilderness sectino of the Appalachian Trail. 24 of these bodies of water are characterized as “great ponds” which are 10 or more acres in size. Within the Namahkanta Public Lands is the state’s largest ecological reserve, an 11,800 acre expanse that includes the Debonskeag Backcountry.



Canoeing and Hiking at Donnell Ponds Public Lands

I finally got around to exploring the mountains and waters Donnell Pond Public Lands for three days over this past Labor Day Weekend.   This is the first combo canoeing/hiking adventure that I’ve taken in several years.  My shoulders have just not been able to handle the paddling, but things worked out this time, due to the limited water travel involved.

Big canoe- compact car

This summer has been a bit of a bust in Maine due to the almost unrelenting humidity and heat, but now that September and cooler weather has rolled around, I am again interested in exploring the best of what Maine has to offer.

From the Natural Resources Council of Maine web site: “The Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land unit includes mountains, pristine lakes, and remote ponds all spread out over 14,000 acres in eastern Maine. There are sites for camping along the pond’s beaches, and great options for those who enjoy paddling. The land included in the unit has grown over the years to reach this expansive size with the help of different conservation groups and generous private landowners.”

For those of you who are not familiar with Maine’s Public Lands, they are an option to the State parks, and Acadia National Park.  Permits are not required if you use established fire rings, and there are no fees for camping, where you are allowed up to 14 days at one campsite. Leave No Trace practices are encouraged.

Here’s a overview of the DP area ( top of map), located some 12 miles east of Ellsworth:

A bit of history from the DP website:   “No notable Native American archaeological findings have been discovered here. During the nineteenth century, attempts were made to extract gold, silver, and molybdenum from Catherine Mountain with little success. The logging that has long been part of the history in the area continues to this day. Recreation and leisure play prominently in the history of the area. For nearly two hundred years before the advent of refrigeration, ice from Tunk Lake was harvested during the winter and stored in sawdust-filled icehouses for eventual sale and distribution. A lakeside fish hatchery on Tunk Lake supplied small “fry” fish for sport fishing until the 1970’s. Wealthy vacationers established an estate on the south end of Tunk Lake in the 1920s. This estate would later end up in the hands of famed Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and was a recognized historic landmark until it was destroyed by fire in the 1980s.   The land conserved at the Donnell Pond Public Lands was assembled in phases with the assistance of numerous conservation partners-The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Land for Maine’s Future Program (which helped to fund more than half the acreage acquired), the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and private landowners deeply committed to conservation.”

Our campsite on Redmond Beach allowed us to put in a full 9 mile day that took in Caribou and then Black mountains via the Caribou Loop Trail.

Approaching Caribou Mtn. summit
Granite land

Here’s a shot of our campsite.  I’m in the tipi, and my hiking pal Guthook is in The One.

Redmond Beach campsite
Another angle

The next day, we awoke early in order to beat the wind and explored much of the North shore of Donnell Pond, checking out the shoreline for possible campsites for future trips.

From our campsite on Donnell Pond

In my experience, the magic hour for wind picking up in favorable weather on lakes and ponds in Maine is 10 in the morning. It is uncanny.

My Bert Libby canoe

We eventually crossed over to the western side of the pond at the narrowest point where we followed the shoreline to the popular Schoodic Beach, which is more easily accessed by a 0.5 mile trail from the Tunk Lake Road/Route 183 parking area. As we were exploring the shoreline on our way down Schoodic beach we came upon two hikers with fully loaded packs trudging through the water heading for the Beach. We stopped and asked the two girls what was going on and one told us she was a student at Harvard University who came up here with her best friend. On the spur of the moment they drove up from Boston to Donnell Pond to camp on Schoodic Beach. When they experienced the overloaded level of camping and merriment there they had bushwhacked up the shore in order to have privacy and escape the noise. One of the girls had also been greatly distressed by the sight of a snake, so they took to aqua-blazing. They jumped at the chance to hitch a ride back to Schoodic Beach in our canoe. They asked us if there were any other places where they could camp for free Guthook steered them to Camden Hills State Park, where I agreed that they would find a better experience camping on the summit of Bald Rock Mountain in Lincolnville.

Tenzing at Bald Rock Mountain’s summit shelter
Schoodic Beach

We beached the canoe on Schoodic Beach and did a relatively quick hike to the top of Schoodic Mountain, a 1,069′ gem of a walk,  and 3 mile round trip that leads to  excellent views of Frenchman’s Bay and the mountains of Acadia National Park.

Schoodic summit view

Carey Kish’s AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast book was my best resource for hiking the Tunk Mountain and Hidden Ponds Trail that we were able to fit in the last day of our getaway.

Another resource for exploring the area is ‘s excellent review, complete with video footage:  1-minute hike: Caribou Mountain near Franklin

Kish’s 4.9 mile, 3 hour, and 1,060′ elevation info was spot on, as was the description of the extensive open mountain ledges and far reaching views of the Downeast landscape, and full-on views of the Hidden Ponds.   Sometimes we walked over a rooty path, lending a Tolkienesque quality to the experience:

Where’s Guthook? Hint-blue blaze

It was a kick to see the occasional ATV churning up a cloud of dust on the Downeast Sunrise Trail far below, where I’ve biked and even camped on a few years ago.
The Downeast Sunrise Trail is an 85-mile scenic rail trail running along the coast connecting multiple scenic conservation areas, and providing year round recreation opportunities. It is open to snowmobiles, ATVs, horse-back riders, skiers, hikers, bikers, walkers, and joggers. It passes through several sections of the Donnell Pond Public Lands between Franklin and Cherryfield. Here’s the link to my bike-packing experience on the Sunrise Trail.

Exploring Donnell Ponds Public Lands is a must if you haven’t checked it out.  The foliage should be coloring up soon , which will only add to the experience.

I’ve planned several hiking trips for the next few weeks.  Next up- 5 days of  challenging backpacking in Baxter State Park, including a long hiking day which includes The Traveler Loop.

Stay tuned!