I’ve worked up a new presentation entitled “The Allure of the Long Distance Hike” to share with the whole group after dinner on Saturday night, at Mt. Chase Lodge. I enjoyed my stay at the Lodge last March the night the night before I packed up my fat tire bike, load it with overnight gear and explored the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days.
The Maine section of the IAT/SIA is 130 miles long. Heading north from the Katahdin Lake East (KLE) Access trailhead of Baxter State Park, the route passes through boreal forests and follows trails, old logging roads, an abandoned railroad bed, and rural public roads to the potato fields of Aroostook County. Beyond Fort Fairfield, the trail enters New Brunswick.
After I read the following yesterday I planned to hang at a campsite tonight and sleep in my Honda Element. With the rear seats folded to the sides, I have 6’6″ to lay my sleeping mat and bag down and either look out the window above my head or if the night is right, have that window open to the stars.
But 44 degrees, mud, clumps of ice and snow on the ground and hard rain convinced me to trade up to a warm cozy room for $36 .
So, I’ll watch The Untouchables on the DVD player, while eating a piece of coconut creme pie from Dysart’s . Shaping up to be a good weekend.
TOM JAMROG – – THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )
FEBRUARY 1 @ 6:30 PM- 8:00 PM
Tom Jamrog will present on Thursday, February 1 at 6:30 PM on his 5 months of experiences on the CDT, one of the toughest long distance hikes in the world.
The 2,500 mile National Scenic Trail is now 70% completed. It starts at the Mexico border and travels along the spine of the Rockies as it winds through New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Montana into Canada. The presentation will draw on images and stories from his newly released book: In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey Along America’s Continental Divide Trail.
Blue Hill Books will assist with book sales at the event.
I’m spending a week in Disney World where I’m sharing a tent site at Fort Wilderness Campground. I was in shirt sleeves and shorts yesterday and racked up 13 miles of walking on day 1 and 10 more on day 2. I’m hanging with my best friend, Edward, who lets me stay at his campsite here any time for as long as I want and he won’t take any $$ from me. Of course, I have have no rental car.
Edward has been here from November and will stay until early March, as he has done for every single winter for the last 40 years. When March comes, he’ll head back to his fruit and vegetable farm in Masschusetts where a 100 hour per week schedule awaits him for the rest of the calendar year.
I ‘m testing out a brand new tent, made by SeekOutside. It is 6’10” high and 12′ in diameter, weighing in at 4 and a half pounds. There’s just a single telescoping carbon fiber pole. Here is a a picture of the unit from Seek Outside set up with interior heat with a titanium stove and stove pipe, probably somewhere during elk hunting season in the Rockies.
From the website: “The Four-Person Tipi is roomy and storm worthy. Extremely lightweight for the square footage, this tipi is a palace for solo use. It is capable of sleeping up to four with minimal gear, but is better suited to the luxurious solo trucker, or for two with late-season or winter gear. Handmade in Grand Junction, Colorado, the tipi features: Dual zipper doors with storm flaps, Single peak vent, stove jack with rain flap, 6 inch sod skirt with rain flap, ultra robust stake loops, interior hang hoops for tying clothes line for hanging gear, and external guy-out loops to steepen walls, or pitch the shelter down in tight spots.”
I am awaiting shipment of a custom titanium stove and stove pipe from Don Kivelus, owner of Four Dog Stove out of St. Francis, MN.
I have been using one of Don’s full size titanium stoves for 15 years of winter camping and it is still like new. The big stove pairs with with a much larger, custom 9 x 12 foot Egyptian cotton wall tent that stands 7′ high. It easily houses 4 winter campers and all gear.
This tent is targeted for personal use, and will hold only one more camper and all the accompanying gear in winter. I plan to experiment with this tipi and stove later this February on a multi day winter camping trip in Acadia National Park. If everything works out, I should be able to transport the tipi and stove on racks bolted to the rear of my Surly Pugsley fat tire bicycle and embrace winter riding and camping in style.
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.
With half of 2017 gone, there are six months of adventures still available for the rest of year. Here’s what’s on my plate right now:
Finish up writing my first book!
I have completed the writing and the editing process for In The Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail.
My CDT Trailjournal has logged 275,000 web visits to date. The book is completely revised version of my 2013 Trailjournal, adding new historical material and dialogue. I’ve scheduled a design meeting with the publisher tomorrow to discuss selecting the color photos for the book. I plan for 30 pages of photos, and have been going through thousands of them in the past two months. We’ll be discussing fonts, graphics, and map placements. Copies of the manuscript are already out for final checks as well as possible endorsements. If all goes as planned, the book should be out by Sept. 1. It will be carried on Amazon, and will go into a Kindle version as well. Stay tuned!
Complete my recovery from my May 22 accident while descending the Bigelow range.
I’m 95% through rehab on a torn hamstring and severely bruised back. Riding my mountain bike is better for me than hiking now. I have to take care not to overextend the range of the hamstring.
Prepare for my Aug.6 presentation at THE 41st APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY CONFERENCE– AUGUST 4 – 11, 2017 AT COLBY COLLEGE | WATERVILLE, MAINE
I’ll be giving a Sunday morning presentation (W0613)- Why Walking Matters: Benefits of Walking/ 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 physical training and mental techniques that can bolster an aging hiker’s continued success on the trail.”
Hike a new trail in Newfoundland. -Private Trip- August 8-25
Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail is “One of National Geographic’s Ten Best Adventure Destinations in the World”
From the East Coast trail Association’s web site:
The East Coast Trail unites 26 wilderness paths, along 108 miles of North America’s easternmost coastline. The paths of the East Coast Trail take you past towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. Experience abandoned settlements, lighthouses, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, the world’s southernmost caribou herd, historic sites, a 50-metre suspension bridge, two active archaeological dig sites, and many more attractions.
Guide a trip of The Whole Hundred ! (Abol Bridge->>Monson)
September 1-10— SOLD OUT
Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness is a huge, largely uninhabited region, beginning on the outskirts of Monson, ME. Many thru-hikers consider Maine the best part of the whole 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. The Hundred Mile Wilderness appears on many hiker’s Bucket List. This southbound trip will take place over 9 nights and 10 hiking days, allowing for ample time to settle into a comfortable schedule. We will take advantage of a mid-point resupply service, so that we will not need to carry food for the whole 10 days. This trip is suitable for a hiker who is able to carry 30 pounds on a 10 mile average per day. We’ll stay in lean-tos, and/or tents, space permitting.
Price Includes: -Ground transportation from Lincolnville ME, mid-point resupply cost (you provide the food, etc.) packing list, and on-trail skills instruction. Meal assistance is available by arrangement.
-Up to 2 hours of pre-trip preparation consultation (via phone) is provided to participants. Group size is limited to 4.
19th Annual Winter Camping Symposium-Oct 26 -29, 2017. YMCA Camp Miller, 89382 E Frontage Rd, Sturgeon Lake, M.
23rd Snow Walkers Rendezvous -November 10-12, 2017 at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont.
Includes presentations, workshops, information about wilderness trips and amazing food! Participants may choose to stay in cabins, tents or commute to the event. I hope to offer a new presentation: Winter Fat Tire Biking/Camping in new Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
With a month and a half a backpacking scheduled for this coming season I’ve been going through broken and worn gear and replacing it. I am one of those people who are rough on gear. Every piece of gear and clothing that I started out with in 2007 when I hiked the AT as been replaced, worn out, or broken with the exception of Tiki-mon, my Triple Crown water bottle buddy, and I’m checking him out for a possible leak tonight..
Here’s the latest item I replaced, a pair of Point6 light hikers. I purchased two pairs of Point6 light hikers that have been totally satisfactory. Point6 sock have a lifetime guarantee, as do DarnTough socks. When a pair sprouted a hole, I washed and sent them back. Point6 replaced them in 2 days, no questions asked.
In the past month I have replaced or had gear repaired from MSR (Lightning Ascent snowshoe binding), Princeton Byte ( sending me a replacement cover for my headlamp (plastic broke on battery door), Patagonia (new zipper on my down sweater), and LLBean (replaced a pair of biking gloves). I have two sets of Leki trekking poles, and advise hikers to purchase the aluminum models since they carry a lifetime breakage warranty (Leki carbon fiber poles are only covered for a year).
I understand that companies don’t typically provide this level of customer service. Here’s my policy: I don’t deal with any gear or clothing company that gives me crap about their product quality. When I hear it starting on the other end of the phone , I thank them right away and that’s the end of it between them and me. I’m one of those decisive older guys who does not like to waste time with unnecessary burdens of any kind, be it on my back on in my head. It is for this reason I stopped dealing with Eastern Mountain Sports, Mountain Hardware, and Arc’teryx.
When you spend weeks to months at a time every single day outdoors using these products they have to work, and when they don’t, the company better assist this hiker in replacing that often essential item as soon as possible. Some of the companies that come to the front here are noted above. Tarptent and ULA have sent me loaners overnight in exchange for me sending them back my gear to be fixed ASAP. I like it when that happens. I rebuy from them in kind and it goes on from there.
It’s interesting that I have so little interest in checking out newer tents, sleeping bags, pads, and stoves, even though I am out frequently and even find myself guiding others along the path. I hear the same thing from other experienced long-distance hikers- that gear that works well tends to start settling in in a comfortable manner, better or worse.
One thing has changed though in my gear deal. I’m not shopping around much . I stick with these companies because they respect me as a customer. And I respect them for producing quality service, AND quality products.
My recommendation to this year’s batch of thru -hiker hopefuls is to be sure to have those 800 numbers written down somewhere when your gear fails you. If you pay the bucks up front and purchase from a vendor that has a replacement guarantee, you should be all set. In any case, be polite, and maybe you too will be a repeat offender when it comes to putting out the bucks for new stuff.
I also need to call Leki about a broken pole. They once gave me a bandanna with their customer service number on it, which is answered by a friendly human !
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.
I returned last week to hike in my favorite backpacking destination, Baxter State Park, joining my Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails hiking pal Guthook as we explored some of the lesser trails in the park – ones that are usually bypassed in favor of ascending Katahdin,the crown jewel of the wildest state park east of the Mississippi.
It’s the third week in September and the humidity that has dogged coastal Maine for the past two months has followed me up here to Baxter State Park.
The technicolor fall foliage show is just getting to the beginning Kodachrome stage, delayed this season, likely due to a drought.
Tonight, we’re settling into Lean-To #3 at Neswadnehunk Camp Ground for a fresh roasted veggie/kielbasa dinner cooked to perfection on a cheap portable gas grill.
We’re here after a 10 mile afternoon walking the Park’s Kettle Pond, Cranberry Pond, and Rum Pond Trails.
These low lying trails are the among the first the hiker encounters after entering Baxter through the Togue Pond Gatehouse. Even these relatively benign, unfrequented forays were satisfying sojourns from my multi-tasking life.
The softness of the ground, and the textures of the kaleidoscope of greens and greys of the leaves and the trees are immensely satisfying.
Our reservations for the first three days are at Lean-do #3 at the Neswadnehunk Field Campground. It’s a drive in site with a view toward the incomparable Doubletop, at 3,489′ a distinctive mountain, with a short ridge connecting the two prominent exposed granite points on top. Approach trails reach it from either the north or south. I went up for the second time two years ago, so I’ll appreciate it from afar this time.
The ranger here told us we are the only campers tonight. It’s just Betsey and us, enjoying the Milky Way star show. $12 purchased us enough dry split wood to see us through for an evening fire each night.
The weather looks to be mostly dry and warm, and we are very pleased to be here.
September is a superb time to find yourself enjoying the wilderness, especially anything away from the perennially packed approach trails to Katahdin where 90 per cent of people who come this Park congregate.
We’re back in Lean-to #4 at Russell Pond Campground for another day. Russell is a grand place to take a rest day, explore the surrounding area, or just “watch the bark peel”.
We did as a short day hike of 5 miles today, as we explored Grand Falls, on the Wassataquoik Stream.
A trip to Grand Falls is most rewarding, particularly on a hot day. It’s 2.75 miles out to the east, and there are a couple of interesting features to pass by before you get there.
The first is a unique boggy area at around the two mile mark where you can observe one of Maine’s carnivorous plants, the pitcher plant. Pitcher plants are several different carnivorous plants which have modified leaves known as pitfall traps—a prey-trapping mechanism featuring a deep cavity filled with digestive fluid liquid. Here one cluster:
Next comes Inscription Rock.
Here’s what it looked like back in the logging period:
This time of year, the waterway is much reduced. One can only imagine the force of the flow here when the winter snow and ice thaws.
We found a spot to cool off in the water just above the Falls, where small groups like this one have been doing what we are doing for thousands of years. Gaspedal told me this place was the highlight of his Baxter experience.
On the last mile back before reaching camp, Rokrabbit hiked exceptionally strong. He charged the uphills, and appeared determined and focused in his foot placement in areas where the rocks were frequent and prominent. I had guided these same two men last year through the last 50 miles of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness and the growth of this young man’s comfort and skills along the trail are very satisfying for me to experience.
Here’s Rokrabbit displaying his knife collection, which gives a twist to the term ” heavy metal”:
Another feature of the day was meeting the newest addition to the ranger staff, another Greg, who comes with a trail name of Rainer. It didn’t take long for him to decipher my leg tattoos and realize that here there were two Triple Crown hikers settling into Russell for the day. Rainer was 27- I am just about 40 years older. We found some time to talk trail a bit. Even better is that Rainer will be working on Sept. 22, when I’ll be spending the night in Lean-to #4 during another week of hiking in Baxter with my pal Guthook. We planned to meet that evening and share more time together. I enjoy having outdoor events set up to look forward to.
A second commonality was discovered in that he and I are both graduates of the same Catholic high school in Taunton, MA. I graduated from Monsignor Coyle High in 1967.
Russell Pond is approximately in the center of Baxter State Park. You have to walk at least 7.6 miles to get there. It is an area about as wild as the park has to offer. Maybe that’s why Uncle Tom, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit had the whole campground to ourselves the starry, open night of August 25, 2016. How is it possible that the all the tent sites, the bunkhouse, and the rest of the lean-tos were vacant on this special summer evening?
Baxter is currently listed as occupying 210,000 acres, with a maximum occupancy rate of 1,100 people. I understand it is never completely filled. Stepping away from the crowds around Katahdin brings rewards to those who take the chance to walk further from it’s main draw, the highest mountain in Maine.
We’re finishing up this trip by climbing up to the summit of Katahdin tomorrow. We want that, too !
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.