As I experience a restricted life under the spectre of Covid-19 I am being led to a doors that appear to be more expansive than restrictive.
Yesterday I was one of 15 folks who took part in a free Transcendental Meditation group meditation Zoom session. I enjoyed taking the time to further hone my technique and started to explore some online course offerings in the practice.
I feel I have some history in common with Dr. Kitchin: I also grew up on a small dairy farm, have a service career, and although I am not into skating, I experience a similar spiritual elevation from riding my bike through the forest.
Slowmo appeared to be speaking to me when he explains about the sensation of flying that he achieves while slow skating. Pay attention to the audio that begins at 8:15, where Slomo explains the allure and physiological basis of lateral acceleration.
I had a lifetime history as a gym rat, dating back to when I first entered the Fall River, MA YMCA when I was 16 years old. I left the gym in September of 2013 after I felt flat and unsatisfied after engaging in yet another 45-minute treadmill session, where I elevated the pitch to the max and ground out three more 15 minute miles.
Now, I ride bikes and hike instead- outdoors, all year round. It’s much more satisfying to me and feels more genuine, and is sort of like flying.
While many of us are frustrated that our favorite trailheads for hiking are overused right now, fresh options are available.
There has been enough rain that has fallen that streams are swollen and flowing strongly.
Maine is a very wet state. It’s been said that walking here for a straight-line mile in any direction will lead to water of some type, be it a river, stream, pond, lake or at this time of year vernal pool. One of my favorite activities the time of year is to follow streams in my neighborhood to trace their source, as well as walk them until they reach the sea.
I invited my friend Craig to join me in one of these microadventures after a strong rain. We walked out of my driveway and only had to venture a few hundred feet down the road until a large culvert was underneath us, swollen with clear, cold rainwater that came down off the South face of Moody Mountain. We both had on boots and gloves as it was a bit cold. Up we went, beside and in a meandering stream that passed along ancient stone walls, bordered by a lichen and moss encrusted forest floor that was alive with color and textures.
Wild walking is often punctuated by a shocking amount of fallen trees. This was an area where the only other visitors are hunters who venture these parts during deer season. I really enjoy the problem-solving of how to advance uphill, as we weave our way from one side of the stream to the next, moving around fallen giants and avoid thickly grown shrubs that would tear our clothing if we pushed through them.
At one point the stream took a 90 degree right turn as it fell through a gap in an ancient stone wall after the stream ran the length of the wall for fifty or so feet on the uphill side.
It was uncanny that the crumbling wall held the water so tightly for that length.
As Craig and I went further up, the stream began to peter out as it exited a large bowl-shaped ravine that was covered with a thick mantle of decades-old decomposing deciduous leaves. We couldn’t see it, but we could hear it trickling underneath our boots. There was still higher ground above so we continued up. Eventually, we spotted small pools that punctuated the increasing elusive stream bed, as we reached the high point of the ridge. We walked across an old logging road and then there it was- an actual pool that I thought was the source of the stream.
I was wrong. Craig pointed up to a adjacent massive wild blueberry field that gradually continued uphill to a higher point above the forest. As we walked up to a ledge that was the viewpoint of the expanse of Penobscot Bay, Craig pointed to numerous small depressions filled with rainwater and said, “This blueberry field is the start of the stream!”
The source pool below us was likely filled by water seeping down from under the thin mantle of organic material that was itself atop the igneous granite bedrock, which served as an impermeable layer that funneled it to our tiny pond.
This kind of natural history analysis is a form of forest forensics, a term I picked up from the work of Tom Wessels, from his book, Reading the Forested Landscape.
Also, this stream exploration idea was not mine. It’s actually from a chapter in Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes.
Note: Be sure that you seek permission from landowners to pass through their properties if there is any question at all about possible trespass. And do wear tall rubber boots, as it is often easier to just walk right up a stream rather than stumble along through impassable thickets.
If you decide to explore the source or reach the mouth of a stream, post it up !
In my next post, I’ll explain how the hiker can use heat maps to seek out places where there is more dispersed social distancing.
Hard times for sure. I’ve been out of work since March 16, with no pay until October at best. At least I can hike, but not everywhere. My local Camden Hills State Park is still open to the public, but there are too many folks walking there for me to be comfortable now. Last Sunday the Stevens Corner lot there was full, with cars parked on both sides of the road like no one has ever seen before. A few days later the same scene appeared on the Barnestown Road parking area for the Georges Highland Path, where signs are posted prohibiting overflow parking on both sides of the road.
I listened to a public radio call-in show this week about accessing the outdoors in this COVID-19 world. I learned that as of Friday, March 27, the following Midcoast and Southern Maine coastal State Parks and beaches are closed due to overcrowding until April 8: Reid State Park, Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham, Fort Baldwin, Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, Scarborough Beach State Park, Ferry Beach State Park, and Mackworth Island. (Note that the closure could be extended depending on the spread of the potentially deadly virus.) Read Full Press Release
Where have all these folks come from? Part of the glut is due to gyms, health clubs, and yoga studios being closed. It’s understandable that when these supports in our community are not accessible, people who have been in the habit of regular indoor exercise think, “I’ll go out to public exercise areas”.
I’ve had a head start on dealing with no gym. I was a faithful gym rat for at least 30 consecutive years until I came back from my 2013 Continental Divide thru-hike. While completing one of these half year-long total immersion in nature deals is thought of as a grand mindfulness vacation where past traumas are resolved, in reality many of us have found it difficult to embrace our old ways and for some foks even those we love. For me, one session back on the treadmill was all it took for me to walk away from the YMCA and never return. It didn’t feel right to load up a bag of gear, drive 10 miles, look for a parking space, and breathe the stuffy stale inside. I was perennially plagued by fears of athlete’s foot in the shower area. Nature reeled me back.
Since September 2014 I’ve exercised outdoors, year round-on bikes or hikes. It’s been going well. I’ve also permanently dropped 15 pounds over my gym days.
After logging hundreds of hikes in Camden Hills State Park as well as many steps on the Georges Highland Path I offer a suggestion to those who are looking for ways to move your body outdoors.
From the dustcover-“What’s a microadventure? It’s close to home, cheap, simple, short, and 100% guaranteed to refresh your life. A microadventure takes the spirit of a big adventure and squeezes it into a day or even a few hours.”
I’ll lay out just one of the 38 microadventures that Humphries offers the reader: “A Journey Around Your Home”.
The microadventure takes an hour or two hours to a few days and leaves the method of transport up to you. You basically make a circular route around your home, the length only limited by the amount of time you’d like to spend out there and away from it all.
It is a brilliant idea of imposing concentric circles around my house on a paper map. Here are a couple of examples, using my own home in Lincolnville.
You need to look at your map’s scale which is usually on the bottom on the map, near the compass declination image:
Then you decide if you want a tiny microadventure or a more robust one. Humphries has done all the calculations for you and has a little chart to assist the reader, but it’s quite a simple equation for your specific map: 2πr+ 2r = circumference (the symbol is pi).
For example, for a radius 1 mile from your house, you do this: (2 x 3.14)1 + 2(1) = 8.28 miles. You scribe a circle with a radius of 2.25 inches on your map and can see close to where you would walk. In reality, you are not walking in a pure circle, but zigzagging a bit on gravel and/or paved roads, snowmobile trails, woods roads, hiking paths, and can even throw in a little bushwhacking! It works out that for every mile added to your radius, your circumference is increased by 8 miles, so a two mile radius would give you a 16.57 mile circumference , which translates to long day hike or a moderate 1-2 hour bike ride.
Give it a go. Let me know who decides to try this, please. I suspect that even with an 8 mile route encircling your place, you may go past places you’ve never seen before, or have never been to on foot.
I’m heading out on another Humphrey-inspired microadventure in 10 minutes and it involves water, lots of it. Stay tuned and consider subscribing to this blog, which is now in its 12th year.
I’m reeling from the smashing of my old patterns and habits as we all try to adapt to this new socially distancing pandemic.
Normally, this is the time of year when my professional school psychology services are at peak demand. That’s all done. All five of the schools where I work are closed until April 27, with hints mulling about that this school year may even be over. We’ll see. If that is the case, I’m out of a job until at least September. I’m a private contractor — I’m not on the payroll, so if I can’t work, I don’t make money. Also, other areas where I “work” are gone-book signings, workshops on backpacking, and guiding opportunities.
I’m still physically compromised, and restricted for any of my normal physical due to surgery on my wrist on 3/6. The stitches are out but I can’t yet increase the stress on my hand. I can’t prune my apple trees-I hope it won’t be too late when I’m finally able to do that. I also really riding my bikes, which I do year-round here in Maine.
At least I can hike. I’m buffered by the fact that I live in the country, and not a city dweller. Our rural house is on five acres and I also can go to our little camp in the neighboring town of Hope. It’s busy there in the summer, with nearly two dozen cottages, cottages, and even a couple of real houses there but right now, there is no one on either side of me or across the street, so I can isolate there as well as at the house.
I have permission from folks that live in the neighborhood to walk out my door and roam around on over a thousand acres. Years go by where I’ve never seen anyone but me hiking and biking out there. I feel safer outdoors than in.
Marcia and I have closed the door at the house to all visitors. I turn 70 in a couple of days. Marcia is not far behind me in age, plus her immune system is not 100%. We’re entrenching on the advice of the CDC which advises only essential trips (i..e hospital) for vulnerable populations.
I plan to practice is such the same routines that I’ve adopted for a while now. If you are looking to lay down some new routines and habits read Atomic Habits by James Clear. It is the 11th most popular book on Amazon’s charts this week. :
A) Continue to build and maintain a healthy immune system.
B) Reduce stressors. Stress impairs immunity. It doesn’t matter whether it is physical, or mental-emotional. Stress is a common and primary cause of poor immunity.
C) Meditation-I’ve practiced Transcendental Meditation daily for 50 years. I’m up to two 45 minute sessions-upon awakening and then before dinner. It’s the keystone habit of my life.
C) Targeting 7-9 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep. Educate yourself about sleep. I recommend reading the incredibly interesting book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
D) Daily exercise. I’ve been averaging 75-90 minutes a day of moderate hiking. It’s important not to overdo it. Too much, and/or too frequent exercise can impair the immune system too, due to stress. This leads to the next practice of…
E) Daily reading of heart rate variability, a scientifically validated measure of heart health and the need for recovery rather than over-stressing our physiology by using our bodies when we should be resting. I like DailyBeat from SweetWater Health.
F) Vitamin D supplementation. There’s conflicting evidence for the efficacy of vitamin pills but in my case, it’s all I have left. I’ve tried everything, including 12 hour-long, daily sun exposure of my bare arms and legs for 5 months at a time. The only thing that brought my vitamin D up to even the lower end of the normal range was experimenting with dosages including ingesting 50,000 units a week for months at a time. I’m now on a much lower daily dose.
G) Healthy eating, which means (for me) lower-carb, moderate protein, lots of veggies and modest levels of natural fats.
H) And now, I’m avoiding close contact with people, washing my hands every time I enter my house, and avoiding touching my eyes, nose and mouth after being exposed to others.
I) I’m learning how to set up Zoom meetings with my Monday Night Men’s Group. Seven of us have been meeting for 2.5 hours for over 30 years, which takes place over a meal that each of us prepares for the other men. We rotate the site at each other’s houses. We were able to get it rolling this past Monday, but are still trying to get in everyone on board. It’s hard to understand some of the expanded uses of technology, but the struggle to figure it out is OK with me.
We need each other right now, even though we can’t even sit around the table to do so.
I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist yesterday. I hoped to wait until May to have it done but the numbness, burning, and overall discomfort was severe enough that I scheduled it sooner. I’ve never regretted any of my previous surgeries, as every one of them improved my functioning.
I’m advised to back off normal use of my right hand for at least two weeks when the stitches come out. I consult the I-Ching more lately. Today’s hexagram put my approach to surgery and healing into crystal clear perspective. Here’s a copy from today’s notes about what I learned from today’s reading: it has to do with reacting to situations where “obstructions have been cleared out”, which would be an auspicious match for carpal tunnel surgery!
At least there isn’t much snow left to shovel, driveway and walkway ice to chip, firewood to bring in, or even biking in the woods right now due to increasingly bright sunlight, moderating of below-freezing temperatures, and deep oozy mud as the upper crust of frozen water and crystallized snow melts out.
I recorded one of the lowest of my daily Heart Rate Variability readings from the past four years this morning. Anesthesia plus physical trauma calls for parasympathetic recovery mode in all of us.
I’m treating my wrist with 20 minute cyces of an ice pack on and off this morning, and occasionally elevating my wrist while laying on the couch while catching up with my reading.
On the agenda for this coming recovery week will be organizing and preparing tax records, and preparing for the two 30 minute workshops I’m giving at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, Maine on Sat. March 16.
My first topic will be “ The Lure of Long-Distance Adventures” where I’ll present some biographical info on noteworthy endurance backpackers connected to Maine and introduce some of my favorite longer hikes in New England and the Maritimes.
I’ll also be exploding the current contents of my 17 pound backpack (without food or water) for all to see in “What’s In a Thru-Hiker’s Pack and Why”. It could just as easily be subtitled Or Why No Spare Underwear!
In the meantime, I can fire up Strava and add in several hikes after Daylight Savings time is adjusted once again tomorrow, as the clocks Spring Ahead an hour!
I’ve wrapped up my speaking engagement at the 35th annual Canoeing & Wilderness Symposium on Northern Travels & Northern Perspectives here in Toronto this weekend.
My presentation was entitled 9,000 Miles of Attitude: Aging and Endurance.
Last summer I worked for approximately 100 hours initially drafting my upcoming book about the topic.
This was definitely the largest audience I’ve spoken to; however, I was barely anxious. I’m crediting my friend Dave Kirkham for his coaching tips. Dave suggested that I record my spoken script and review it-for both content and quality of the spoken word. It made all the difference. I was limited to just 30 minutes and had to make the most of it. I tend to pack far too much info into my PowerPoints and this time pruning was the way to go.
If I had any regrets on the set up of the symposium, I would have preferred that questions and answer sessions be incorporated into the schedule, even if fewer individuals presented. Just to be fair, I made an offer to the audience at the conclusion of my talk. Since we still had a couple of breaks before the conclusion of the event, I invited any interested participants to connect with me during the breaks to extend individual conversations, and well as to sign copies of my first book, “In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail,” which just had its third print run.
It worked! I really enjoyed the feedback from audience members and was honestly surprised at which of my talking points resonated with the participants.
I’m a huge fan of exploring the wonders of Canada, particularly Prince Edward Island, Labrador, Newfoundland, and the displaced native communities that are impacted by the James Bay hydro projects in Quebec, and now Labrador. I have ridden my motorcycles though all of the Canadian provinces, except Nunavut.
I’ve appreciated the friendships I’ve made with numerous Canadians, and pleased to have met a number of the authors and expedition leaders that presented at this event. It is a very reasonable symposium to attend in terms of price and I encourage all of my American adventure pals to consider heading up to Toronto next February to experience a fun time learning about the amazing adventures that can be experienced when we say, “Yes” to opportunities that come our way.
Most exciting was “A New Home for the Canadian Canoe Museum and the George Luste Memorial” presented by Jeremy Ward and Carolyn Hyslop. The Canadian Canoe Museum is now well underway with preparation for a new world-class facility located in Peterborough along the Trent-Severn Waterway. The speakers offered a peek into plans for a brand-new $60,000,000 home for this Canadian treasure. It was a mind-blowing virtual tour and when the museum is completed few years from now, I’ll heading up to experience it.
I thank all of the volunteers and staff that made this event possible, especially Aleks Gusev for inviting me to Canada!
It’s snowing like crazy this Thanksgiving morning here in Maine as I put together this blog post. During the night, an inch of rain preceded the whiteout so I’m sure there will be some ice hidden under the new cover of snow.
The wind is howling, clouds of white are swirling, and the air temperature is exactly 32 degrees. All of this adds up to me sitting beside the wood stove soaking up the heat before I fire up my heavily-studded-tire-equipped VW Golf and my wife Marcia and I creep out way down Route 1 to join two of her sisters and their families for a Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving morning of 2018 had no snow fall; however, the mercury in the thermometer that day bottomed out at a bone chilling 5℉.
My neighbor Andy and I ride our bikes year ’round and up to now, have embraced a Thanksgiving morning tradition of riding our bikes for an hour and a half or so, usually reaching Camden Hills State Park.
Camden is a vacation destination in all seasons, and sits in a protected harbor off Penobscot Bay. It’s at sea level. Our houses face the ocean sited at some 450′ in elevation. All of this geographic data equals bike rides that undulate up and down on the numerous hills and little mountains that stretch from inland to the coast. It is a workout that invariably pushes our heart rates back and forth into the zone that is normally characterized by the upper reaches of an interval workout of moderate to more intense intensity.
This past Monday and Tuesday found me braving a drive of some 220 miles away to Pembroke, MA to visit with my 93 year old mother Isabel and bring her to a medical appointment. It’s a sad visit, only buffered by my appreciation that Isabel had experienced 90 good years of remarkably healthy life before she was diagnosed with late onset Alzheimer’s disease.
At my age, I worry if genes will overcome my efforts to remain cognitively intact as I age out. My father, Chester died at age 72 of congestive heart failure, before any noticeable decline in his memory. His own father died when Chester was a baby, but my dad’s mother, Mary, died of old age and likely Alzheimer’s. I was only little, but I do remember how strange it was for me to realize that in her later years, Mary was unable to recognize her own son.
The following Globe and Mail article came into my inbox a couple days a go. Do check it out:
“In 2017, a team led by the lab’s director, Jennifer Heisz, published a five-year study of more than 1,600 adults older than 65 that concluded that genetics and exercise habits contribute roughly equally to the risk of eventually developing dementia. Only one of those two factors is under your control, so researchers around the world have been striving to pin down exactly what sort of workout routine will best nourish your neurons.”
Any and I might have missed our bike rides this morning, but we’ll probably both be back at it tomorrow, doing what we can to keep moving and remembering today all those that we treasure as we sit around the tables of bounty.
Hosted by Maine Sport Outfitters, 115 Commercial Street, Rockport, ME 04856
Saturday Nov. 23, 10 AM- 12 PM
Tom Jamrog will discuss research from his forthcoming book on endurance related to essential psychological, physical, and mental training for long distance backpacking success.
Topics include: evolutionary biology, Stoic techniques to buffer pain management, negative visualization, recovery science, heart rate variability, meditation, gait analysis, coffee as performance enhancement, compression socks, overhydration (hyponatremia) , optimal walking speed, and maybe more.
Tom received the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association in 2014. In 2017 he published “In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail (CDT),” a daily account of his 2013 five-month continuous hike over the Rockies and the CDT.
Presentation starts at 10am followed by a Q&A session and book signing.
Every year I freeze 13 ten pound boxes of Maine wild organic blueberries. Half my freezer is full of them. I will continue to do so, primarily for the taste, but secondary gains regarding memory loss, and anti inflammatory buffering research shows that frozen Wild Blueberries offer more health-helping antioxidants called anthocyanins than fresh blueberries. Learn more.
— Read on www.wildblueberries.com/blog/freezing-enhances-wild-blueberry-nutrition/