Polish Power Put to the Atlantic (x3)

Ninety-nine days after leaving Senegal, Doba arrived in Brazil. He was greeted by one journalist and the Polish ambassador. Nobody cares if you cross the Atlantic in a kayak.

 

I care.

I have followed the exploits of this  unique comrade for the past several years and feel a kinship to him for being older, Polish, and proud of his ability to put up with adversity and self inflicted pain.   As a farewell gift from my co-workers I was given a traditional rocking chair when I officially retired from full time work at the age of 52, after 30 years of work as a teacher and psychologist.  If I had known of the plans to get the chair, I would have requested a backpacking camping chair instead.

screenshot 25.png

Unless there really is life-after-life, we have only a certain number of days on this incomprehensibly alluring and abiding planet.  Just 30 minutes ago I just received an e-mail that John, a friend of mine who had recently announced his retirement, is now in hospice care for a rare form of incurable and rapidly progressing brain disease that only occurs in 1 out a million people.  I hope John will still be alive tomorrow when I pay him a visit.

Michael Meade writes, ” There’s an African proverb: ‘When death finds you, may it find you alive.’ Alive means living your own damn life, not the life that your parents wanted, or the life some cultural group or political party wanted, but the life that your own soul wants to live.

Do read this long article.  Maybe it will inspire you to live your own damn life.

Why He Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the Third Time) – The New York Times

First Time Inside Maine’s National Monument

This past Columbus Day weekend, I finally set foot on the spanking new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.   It was easy.

To the Monument!
To the Monument!

I followed a marked, signed 1.8 mile trail from Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps on the (Map Adventures) Katahdin/Baxter State Park map.   I was spending the four day weekend at Windy Pitch cabin at the most excellent Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps (KLWC), which is presently into year 7 of their 20 year lease from Baxter State Park.

Windy Pitch cabin
Windy Pitch cabin

The collection of log cabins goes way back to 1885.

The Monument encompasses 87,500-acres of mountains, rivers, and forests abutting the eastern edge of Baxter State Park, land donated by Roxanne Quimby, whose company, Bert’s Bees, sold to Clorox for $925,000,000 in 2007. Through President Obama’s executive action, the unit was added to the National Park Service in September as a national monument, bypassing the need for Congress to authorize it a national park.

Despite media portrayal of this Monument as an unfair land grab by the Feds, it’s 87,000 acres represents less than 1 percent of the total forested lands of Maine.  According to the North Maine Woods website, there are 3.5 million acres that are considered North Maine Woods. That’s a whopping 0.236% of those privately held lands.
The move to make the land public was a long, protracted battle that is still being waged by a local faction that strongly resists any government encroachment on their traditional uses of the land, be it hunting, snowmobiling, or riding ATVs . There are still prominent National Park-NO! signs greeting the approaching tourist who exits I-95 in Medway to reach the Monument. Unless the citizens of Millinocket decide to upgrade unimproved gravel roads leading out of town into the area, this won’t be much of an issue for them, because both the South and Northern entrances to KLWWMN completely avoid traffic into Millinocket or even East Millinocket.

I stopped into the new storefront office of KWWNM on Maine Street, Millinocket, just a few doors down from one of my favorite eating establishments, The Appalachian Trail Cafe.  The ranger there informed me that entrance, lean-tos, campsites, and even some cabins are free right now on a first-come, first-serve basis but campfire permits are still required from the Maine Forest Service (207-435-7963).

Downeast Magazine has an excellent review on the Monument that is full of  tips, pictures, and places to go.

In my case, I was pleased to finally walk it, although it was a brief visit.  Make no mistake about it, these is not 87,000 acres of pristine forest. This lower portion of the Monument is made up of recently cut-over land and it still shows.  Critics point this out, but my review of Governor Baxter’ initial purchases of what is now Baxter State Park was largely made up of land that had been burned or denuded. Here’s an example of Baxter land pre Baxter State Park.

Logging in present Baxter lands previous to State Park
Logging in present Baxter lands previous to State Park

Pretty bleak, I’d say.  Regrowth will also happen here, but it may take 50 years or more. I have walked thousands of miles of trails in the past 10 years, and cut over and/ or burned forests show up, but then they tend to grow back to be enjoyed by future generations.  Same here.

fullsizerender-10
Ivan  heading out of Katahdin Lake

Today, my hiking partner Ivan and I decided to walk up as far as the first new lean-to and then meander our way back to KLWC. There were exactly 9 cars sitting in the parking lot leading from the gravel Loop Road.  Others were in there, on overnights, or day trips. The lean-to was a mile from where the Baxter side trail came into the Monument. The path was still a logging road, and damn straight as well.

Southern End of the IAT into Monument
Southern End of the IAT into Monument

The lean-to was built in 2012, of standard log construction with a new outhouse nearby. There was water flowing close for drinking ( purify!).

Katahdin Brook lean-to
Katahdin Brook lean-to

We sat and ate lunch and then headed back.

We decided to try and walk back one of the old logging roads that went in just below Rocky Pond, east of the outlet of Katahdin Lake.  The road looked relatively new, and was probably upgraded ten years ago for timber. A half mile in, it dead ended. I fired up my GPS and saw that if we went directly south through the woods, it would take a quarter of a mile to intersect he mid-point of the same trail we took from KL camps to get to the Monument.

Bushwhacking it is!
Bushwhacking it is!

Ivan was totally up for it and led the way, bushwhacking through fairly thin saplings and dodging several unruly blow downs.

It didn’t take very long for us to reach the KL trail back to the camps.  In fact, we came out within 50 feet of the northernmost section of that trail, a very fortuitous happening. I have done a bit of bushwhacking, where results are generally more elusive.

I plan to get further into the Monument, for canoeing and backpacking. I might even pack my fly rod.  I hope to get away for a couple nights during deer hunting season here in November, as the largest western parcel bordering Baxter is free from hunting. Four additional parcels east of the East Branch are established for traditional hunting ( minus bait and dogs on bear).

I have enjoyed walking most of the trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park, which is just 90 minutes drive along the Maine Coast from my house.  I think it is time for me to explore my share of the Maine woods.

Desperate Steps: Life Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast- my book review

images-2   Desperate Steps is the late 2015 book release from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The subtitle is “Life, Death, and Choices made in the Mountains of the Northeast”.  I just finished my second close reading.

The book is a sobering account of twenty hiker, swimmer, canoeist, and camper tragedies.  The earliest dates to 1963, when the first of 22 known fatalities was recorded in Baxter State Park.

When I was a young man, and an active member of the University of Massachusetts Outing Club during 1967-1971, I faithfully read accounts and critiques about the latest mountaineering and caving tragedies in the pages of Appalachia, a twice-yearly magazine published by the AMC.  The magazine continues a regular feature – “Accidents: Analysis of Incidents in the White Mountains”.  In the Accidents section, experts dissect the actual sequence of events that led to rescues, and frequent death.  I read those stories in order to learn from the mistakes of others in the hope that I would not become an updated statistic.
This book follows that same successful format. The first part of each story includes photos and annotated maps of the actual events. Each account concludes with an Aftermath, where the author, Peter W. Kick, deconstructs, analyzes, and examines the details.  Most of the individuals that survived their ordeals were willing to be interviewed for the book.
Being from Maine, I paid particular attention the four reports of deaths in Baxter State Park.

The publication of this book was timely for me.  In the depths of winter, sitting by the wood stove, I like to read adventure stories that outdoor folks post online.  In fact, it is often difficult to read between the lines and see who is smart, and who is just spouting dumb.

For example, this past winter, I was on a quest to put together the perfectly outfitted day pack. I wanted be ready for most any accident or emergency, even the possibility of having to spend the night outdoors. This book’s Appendix features an updated list of the Ten Essentials, the proven, must-have items for safe back country travel. My own day pack’s final contents were guided by this list.  However, not everyone who ventures into the outdoor world of mysteries and pitfalls believes in carrying a well-stocked day pack.
There is a subset of wilderness adventurers who have taken the concept of going fast and light to extremes. Andrew Skurka came out with the term “stupid light” to describe the practice of sacrificing crucial survival items and comfort levels to shave some weight. Skurka has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic Adventure, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker.   Here’s Skurka’s original article:  Stupid Light.

I was stunned to read some of the reader comments that I encountered in my research about a proper winter day pack. Here’s one of the most misguided statements, ” I know a lot of people who go out to travel in the wilderness.  Not one of them has even had any serious problem.  You don’t need all that stuff if you know what your are doing out there.”
History permeates the book. The earliest fatalities occurred before many of modern supports were in place, before there were any organized search and rescue (SAR) organizations, when hurricane forecasting was just starting, and when communications were much more limited than today.

One story from 2003 was about the first private person in the USA to buy and activate a personal locator beacon (PLB).  Despite his good intentions, the protagonist ended up requiring not one, but two helicopter rescues out of Adirondack Park in November, while deer hunting out of a canoe. He ended up spending $10,000 after his arrest and imprisonment for two counts of falsely reporting an incident.

The book is grouped into 4 chapters: Unprepared, Know the Route, Taking Risks, and Unexpected.    The final chapter is about Inchworm’s mysterious death 3,000 feet off the AT near Sugarloaf Mountain.  An editor’s note from Oct. 15, 2015 brings the reader to date on locating her skeletal remains, found in a tent within 100 yards of where cadaver scent-trained dogs searched previously.

What’s the take from this book?

Fatigue reigns high. Baxter’s records indicate that most exhaustion cases occur while descending, with the majority of fatalities resulting from medical emergencies. The age group most requiring Search and Rescue is 60 and above.

The book was required reading for this Maine Guide, and should be studied by any person who puts a pack on their back or in their canoe and ventures out into the wilds of the Northeastern USA.

67-Year-Old Transatlantic Kayaker’s Goal Achieved, Expedition Continues

 

from National Geographic- Alex Doba
from National Geographic- Alex Doba

67-Year-Old Transatlantic Kayaker’s Goal Achieved, Expedition Continues – Beyond the Edge.

Another Polak in his 60’s pushing himself. Polish souls are both cursed and blessed with the polish suffering gene.  God loves this man. His last name is so close to the polish word dobra, which translates to good.  

Tim Smith at Snow Walker’s Rendezvous

The 2013 edition of the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT was a superb.  Many tents were set up with wood smoke puffing out of 4″  stovepipes. Over 100 people attended the sold out weekend.

photo
We opted for a heated bunk room, took in the displays at the vendor tables, and scored up front row seats in the big room for Friday night’s  program.

Willem Lange kicked off the program with a reading of a couple of his highly entertaining Vermont- based stories. Will’s vitae includes 8 books, numerous careers, and founding the Geriatric Adventure Society.

For me, the highlight of the evening was Tim Smith‘s talk-  “Nature as Wallpaper” .  Tim is a nationally known bushcraft and survival skills instructor, with his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School running courses out of Marsadis, Maine.  He posted an entry about his talk on his blog.

Tim  told attendees that his talk would be on the web, soon.   Here is the podcast of that presentation-  it’s short, but drives right to the point.  Tim is an authentic voice connecting people to the natural world.  I hope to take a course with him.

iTunes Link | Play, Download Or Subscribe In iTunes
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 13:45 — 15.7MB)

FSTPKR: Human power from Reno to the Bering Sea

FSTPKR: BLC to the Bering Sea.—-< Click. Now!
You absolutely have to check out what Krudmeister is up to this season. It is practically inconceivable to me that someone has both the interest and the skills to undertake a solo excursion that combines bicycling to Alaska from Reno, then backpacking the Chilkoot Trail out of Skagway, then assembling a kayak and following traversing the length of the Yukon River, all the way to the Bering Sea! What is even more inconceivable is that in this day and age, there will probably be no one who will read about Krud’s adventure in the sport section of a newspaper, where we are exposed to the daily whining of multimillion dollar base and basketball stars.
Krud is one of my virtual friends. He figured into a couple of my gear acquisitions.  I came to know  him when he and Scott Williamson broke the Pacific Crest Trail Speed record, I think in 2006.  I went to my local Patagonia outlet and showed them his blog. He was and maybe still is a Patagonia customer service employee.  He was trumping up their Houdini jacket, and one of the employees gave me one, that I used on my PCT and Long Trail thru hikes. It is still as good as new.

Then he posted a picture of some wildly garish New Balance shoes that I tracked down through my brother Roy, who works for the company. They are a product that is sold in Japan.
I though of Krudmeister yesterday when I was aglow with the shoes on my birthday.
Krud, want a pair to wear when you get back?

Not Turning Back Can Kill You

Reposting  a most excellent entry from our brethren in the kayaking school of adventure. The content is Labrador-related and references “the book” that got me and Alan MacKinnon into Labrador way back when.

Here’s the teaser:  “Their story has lessons for all of us who venture into the unknown, whether it be taking a back road to cut across town, guessing left at a fork in a hiking trail, or guessing right at a confluence of two rivers.  Their refusal to turn back, despite mounting evidence that they had taken a “wrong turn” followed stages many of us are familiar with.”

News Flash: Map & Territory Not Same | Waterlines — A Maine Sea Kayaking Journal.

An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe : NPR

An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe  by Emma Jacobs

via An Inuit Builder Crafts His Last Canoe : NPR.

Joe was the native guide on a 200 mile canoe trip I took on the Grand River in Labrador several years ago. He was the kindest, most humble, and most knowledgeable outdoors man I have ever met.  Joe, and especially his brother Horace, are probably the last of the line to possess the encyclopedia of skills that encompass trapping, bush survival skills, hunting, and survival in the harshest environment I have ever traversed.  For a glimpse of this life, read Rugge and Davidson’ Great Heart, now back in print.  I consider Great Heart a treasure of a read, one that I have enjoyed several times.  The book inspired my own motorcycle trip to Labrador in 1993, when my friend Alan MacKinnon and I were the among the first motorcyclists to traverse the newly constructed gravel-and-sand Trans Labrador Highway. The mosquitoes there were so bad that nothing I have encountered since seems too bad, including a month in Alaska and 6 months on the PCT.

“What I learned from hiking ?” from Joe Niemczura

A truly enjoyable and very informative read from my friend Joe. I truly appreciate the time he spent on this entry. Please take advantage of the numerous hotlinked references.

What Have I learned from hiking 
 by Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

The guy who played accordion for my old polka band, Tom Jamrog, is also a long distance hiker and backpacker. He blogs about his trips, and has a vigorous writing style. He recently posed a question on his blog; “what have you learned from Hiking?” and I decided to answer.

Troop 4 Marlboro, Algonquin Council B.S.A., Camp Resolute

I have been a hiker and backpacker all my life, ever since Boy Scouts. Growing up, my mom generally refused to let us ever play inside the house, even in winter. “So what if it’s cold, put on some mittens and your winter boots and go outside and play!” and I vividly recall games the neighborhood boys would play in the woods around our house or on the nearby golf course. Usually some variation of Capture The Flag.

As a youthful prank, my friend Kenny Paul and I once threw some firecrackers at the house of a neighbor boy. (Yes, it was us – the Statute of Limitations has run out, and besides, I think I was eleven years old.) The boy’s mom called the police. Ken was the star of the crosscountry team, and when the cruiser pulled up with blue lights blinking, I was surprised that I could keep up with him. Two cruisers spent some time in our neighborhood while Kenny and I spent the next three hours eluding them in an apple orchard. hmmmmm……. Later this inspired me to join the cross country team. I ran the the half mile in spring track. (2:14 was my personal best, if you really must know).

Kenny recently retired from his position as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, and he still is a runner. My older brother finally rediscovered his whereabouts after thirty years. Ken was also an excellent baseball pitcher. Once while on a training run though the neighborhood, a dog came out to chase. Kenny picked up a rock and beaned the dog from fifty feet away, knocking it unconscious. What coordination. I laughed when he told me his USMC specialty was artillery. He spent his adult life throwing stuff at people…..

Misery in the Great Outdoors

Camping with the Boy Scouts included a lot of miserable experiences amidst the fun. I never cooked for myself at home before going camping and trying it there. Baking my first potato in a campfire was half-burnt/half-raw, for example, and one memorable hike during a winter weekend, our patrol ploughed our way through thighdeep snow for three miles on a hike to nowhere. Ultimately I got Eagle Scout. why? mainly because my older brother had done it, and I looked up to him ( still do!).

Other experiences

To answer the specific question, It’s hard for me to separate hiking from Boy Scouts, in terms of what I learned. Don’t disrespect the Boy Scouts – I have some philosophical differences with their current leadership, over the ir policy toward gay persons and atheists (each of which are just fine with me) but overall the Boy Scouts fill an important need. Paul Theroux summed it up for me when he described his experience with the Boy Scouts.

Taking a side trail

During the time I was in Maine I did all the outdoorsy stuff – cross country ski, canoe ( the Allagash and Upper West Branch of the Penobscot) , hike, telemark, etc. I climbed Mt Washington and Katahdin in wintertime more than once…. but by comparison, the last few years in Hawaii I went through a period of not doing nearly much adventure-type stuff in the outdoors. Oh well, yeah, I was spending every summer time in rural Nepal teaching with Christian Medical Missionaries and taking day hikes, doing the Asian Travel thing (no, I did not climb Everest at any time…….that’s the usual Nepal question I get from fellow backpackers…) and here in Hawaii I was going to the beach (Sandy’s) and day hiking… but .. it wasn’t the Real Thing. And the weather here is so nice that it’s missing an element …….

Passing it on

I always took my kids on outdoorsy adventures. Glad to have two daughters because then the pressure was off and I knew I would never have to be an adult scout leader. I was saved from having to spend any more weekends with bunches of eleven-year-old boys. (thank you God!) but taught both my girls all the skills anyway. Yes, both my kids learned to make a fire, paddle a canoe, predict the weather by looking at the clouds, and read a topo map. When they were six and eight, we took them on a week long canoe camping trip, retracing Thoreau’s path on the Upper West Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. When the younger one announced her intention to do a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2010, I was reminded of long-ago solemn promise made at a campfire, that I would join her on that quest, should the day ever come.

My 2010 hike

When the summons to hike long-distance came, I was old. And fat. But this served as a personal challenge to get into enough shape to be a respectable hiking buddy. And that’s where the learning began again. In order to keep up with Whoopie Pie, I decided I would do my own solo hike for a few hundred miles and get in shape before hand. And besides, she didn’t want to do the whole thing with me, she was going to hike her own hike. So in May I started off in the hundred or so miles that traverse Massachusetts, averaging eight miles a day through the Berkshires. A few days to recuperate and restarted in Vermont, about two hundred miles through the Green Mountains and into New Hampshire, by this time averaging eleven miles a day. Another hundred through Shenandoah National Park, and finally co-hiked with Whoopie Pie. By the end of the summer I was not so fat; and I learned that I was not so old, either. I hiked 475 miles in that summer.

Highlights

I think most writers focus on the physical challenge of doing this, but most of the highlights for me were a bit of the meditative variety, and a good hike serves as a daydream for a long time afterwards. A variety of mountaintops in seven states. Hearing loons on a pond on Vermont, for the first time in five years. The night at the Tom Leonard Lean-to listening to nesting hoot owls. Cleaning the dead leaves from a mountain spring, and the wonderment of finding a fist-sized jellylike clump of frog’s eggs. The evening Julie and lay in our bunks in a cabin in Vermont listening to the soft conversations of other hikers during six days of cold rain in the Green Mountains. The “problem bear” at Shenandoah when I was the only person in the lean-to that night. Having heatstroke on two occasions. The bedazzlement of thousands of butterflies, a cloud of butterflies, in a dewy meadow of wildflowers in Shenandoah National Park. Being sick with bronchitis and experiencing SVT overnight after taking cough medicine, wondering how I would get evacuated from such a remote place. Walking out on my own the next morning.

And of course – Smarts Mountain

The people who comprise the subculture of the Trail are always a highlight, and I learn a lot from them. One day’s hike sticks out. I got to the Fire Warden’s cabin at Smart’s Mountain New Hampshire at the end of a fourteen mile day, knowing for the last five miles that I needed to beat an oncoming thunderstorm. The approach from the south is very steep, with iron rungs forming a sort of ladder over the steepest sections. The rain pelted down, forming a waterfall on the trail as I ascended. At one point my heart sank when the clouds parted and I realized I was nowhere as close as I thought I was, darkness was approaching and I needed to skedaddle. Lightning was hitting less than a half mile away as I got above timberline, dashing the last half mile like a frenzied animal.

To get there I had elected to hop past the Trapper John leanto, but to my surprise I was passed from behind at the last minute by Roaring Lion and Snow White, two through-hikers who had hopped past two leantos, and come from six miles even further south than me that day. One other guy was already there. The cabin smelled of dead porcupine but the roof was intact. RL, SW, and I each got out of our clothes and did what all long distance hikers do – get into the dry sleeping bag, eat something, and regain some strength. As we lay there we agreed that the lightning was – exciting.

Everything I learned in Boy Scouts told me not to do what I just did.

Then we had dinner, and the usual bull session as we got to know each other. We shared that special comraderie of people who know that what they just did, (hiking uphill into a lightning storm,) was crazy; and yet, who know they are also in the company of others equally crazy.

Best summed in a saying

A friend is somebody who will bail you out of jail. A best friend is somebody who in handcuffed on the bench next to you saying “man, that was awesome”

Later that same summer, I did a 22 mile day in Shenandoah National Park. And a few other feats in which I picked them up and put them down. The highlight was to hold my own when I finally caught up with my old hiking buddy, Whoopie Pie.

From then on, for the rest of that summer, I knew: I can still push myself, further and harder than I thought.

And I have some best friends. On the Trail.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous, 2009 Part 1 of 3

Nov. 13-15  in Fairlee, Vermont on the grounds of the Hulbert Outdoor Center, a decades old historic camp on the shore of Lake Morey.  It sold out, as usual,  with 100 winter campers and a few snow walker wanna bees in attendance.
Last year at this time I made an entry about the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous,  where the big event was Alan Brown “torching some tents” , generating over a thousand of hits on my YouTube channel.  The Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous (SWR) is a November weekend focused on old-school human winter travel, be it assisted by snowshoes, cross country skis, dogsleds, or rubber boots.

We had a never ending ride over there from Lincolnville, ME taking a full 7 hours due to a wrong turn that put us in Portland, where we made the best of it by decimating the lunchtime Italian extravaganza at Ricetta’s which has a huge pizza/ salad/ smorgasboard of delights.

We got to Vermont in time to indulge in libations and snacks and then settled into supper and the evening program.

The folks who are regulars at this event continue to amaze me.  Marcia and I ate our dinners next to Joel and Bev Hollis from MA, a normal looking couple who have no problem taking off for a couple of months each summer and canoeing some arduous boreal rivers that have killed a number of lesser folk.

“Hey, Joel,  where did you go this summer, ”  I asked, not even considering the possibility that they do normal things, like remodel their kitchen?

“Northwest Territories,” he replied.

“And kayaked some river? ”

“Yep, the Yukon” , he replied.

“How much of it”,  I asked ?

“All of it.”  So that would be about 2,000 miles, which took them some 70 days.  Unsupported.  Yep. The Hollis’s are the real deal.

Then I turned to my friend Dick Hampton, and asked him what he was up to.  He talked about heading up to do a 35 mile loop off the St. John River this winter. We’ve done a couple of winter trips together, and when I asked him to give me a call if he wanted company,  he sheepishly replied, “Every once in a while I do crazy things, like walk over frozen rivers alone.  I am thinking I will do the trip solo.”

So a small sample of what this crowd is up to.

The program ran from 7:30- 9 PM.
The talks were started up by three readings from Willem Lange, who also opened up last year.  He even asked one of my friends what he had read last year, and then proceeded to read the same three stories.   Didn’t matter, I have one of his books, with those stories, and still enjoyed the surprise endings.
Next was Sayward Chartrand’s commuter assisted presentation about the past three years she had spent teaching in a tiny high school Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec.
Zabe McEachern wrapped up the evening with a photo presentation and stories of a recent winter skiing trip she made to Norway, with close commentary of the snowshoeing and skiing cultures.
The Saturday program looked to be one of the best I’ve experienced there. Insert a bunch of sleep relted-images here and then catch Saturday’s entry.