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 linted 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!

 

Death on the CDT

screenshot.pngvia–>>> Snowbound | Outside Online

Outside Online posted this excellent report, which includes three short Youtube videos taken shortly before the hiker, Stephen Olshansky, perished in 2015 at the end of his southbound thru- hike attempt  in the Southern San Juans in New Mexico.  “Otter” was an experienced long-distance hiker who died on the trail  waiting rescue, despite having adequate food, and using a heated tent.   I can relate to the dangers of that section of the CDT.  In 2013, I was forced to bail out on the “official” CDT and take alternate forest roads in the San Juans in early June due to weather and excessive snow depths.

Otter’s death was similar in one aspect of the death of a hiker named Geraldine Largay, AKA  Inchworm, who died on the Appalachian Trail in the summer of  2013, 26 days after she set up camp.  Both hikers died less than 8 miles away from a highway,  both patiently awaiting rescues that never came.  Both hikers were without their own personal locator beacons.

For more stories of backpackers and day hikers who have fallen into the abyss where they experience multiple unfortunate mistakes in the wrong places and at the wrong times check out these two excellent books: Not Without Peril: 150 Years Of Misadventure On The Presidential Range Of New Hampshire Paperback by Nicholas Howe  and  Desperate Steps: Life, Death, and Choices Made in the Mountains of the Northeast, by Peter Kick.

Since Largay’s death, I’ve been using a satellite based communication device, and  subscribe to the $12 a month charge.

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Garmin InReach Explorer+

It allows me to text messages via sattelite, so now the numerous areas I explore without cell coverage are not a problem.  I’ve started packing  it in my day pack.  Who knows what might happen out there, where age is not our friend ?

As  famous teacher once advised me, “Avert the suffering before it comes” .

Please considering commenting if yu do take the time to read and view the Outside Online material.

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 5 of 5

Start: Seely Beach campsite
End: Fundy Trail Interpretive center
Mileage:  6.7 miles         Elevation gain :1,279ft

Today’s map:

Elevation profile:We were up by 6 am, when we packed up all of our gear, which was heavy to carry. The campsite here was well protected but rather close and dank this sodden morning.  I had a brief midnight battle with a racoon who was pushing his nose into my tent’s screening.  I won.  Next time I will be more careful about eating in my tent.  There are excellent bear lockers at each of the official FF tent sites that are apparently there for a reason.

Seely Beach campsite

We had a noon deadline to meet our shuttle ride back to the Fundy National Park.  Although this section was reported to be the easiest of the Footpath, there was still a path relentless ups and downs,  although of a much more moderate nature.

Luckily it was low tide when we set off at 7 am, so we were able to walk on big rocks above the back flow of tidal water into the Bay.

Seely Beach, looking west

Here’s a feature of this section:  a formation known as the Dragon’s Tooth.  Too bad it also had one of those garish promotional signs right close to the rock itself.  I decided to keep this photo real.  The thick moss and lichen cover here by the shore is soothing to experience just by itself.

Funy Footpath meets the Dragon’s Tooth

The closer we got to the Western end of the Fundy Footpath the worse the footing became.

Rotten and missing foot bridges

That surprised me.  In my experience, the mile or so of trail that leads for trail parking lots is often the best kept aspect of a longer trail, as that seems to be about the extent of most people’s comfort with leaving their safe shell of a vehicle and entering the wild stuff.  Not here.  It was very apparent that the focus of the work down on this part of the Footpath is going into the development of an access road that will parallel the shoreline and lean toward the Fundy National Park, a mere 30 miles of line of sight up the coast.

We had a difficult time rediscovering the Trail when it passed through the new Long Beach parking lot, visitor’s center, picnic tables and privys.  Everything was locked up and the lot was vacant even though it was 9:00 in the morning.  Eventually we had to push through some very thick brush to return the last section of trail.  The intersection here might be more clearly marked and the access opened up a bit.  It would probably be easier to pass through here if one were heading east on the FF.

Eventually we reached the long suspension foot bridge that leads to the main parking lot and the Visitor’s Center, which unfortunately sold no maps for me to purchase and enjoy viewing at home.

Footbridge over Big Salmon River

Apparently the maps are out of stock everywhere and are awaiting a fresh print run.

In summary, this is a grueling hike, given the heat of the summer, the humidity, our tow days of rain, and depending on which valleys you include,  at least a dozen times when you go down and up or up and then down as much as 750 feet in elevation above sea level.

A search of the Internet in preparation for hiking the the Fundy Footpath suggests that having the Fundy Footpath-Hiker’s Guide Book is essential for hiking the 30+mile trail.

Out of Print ( as of 8/6/18)

The problem is that the book is sold out and out of stock at visitor’s centers on either end of the path as well as at the office of Red Rock Adventure, the guiding service that best  serve the FF hiker.   If you have unlimited time,  and the ability to carry as much as 5 day’s worth of food (ten extra pounds in my estimate), then take it as it comes, but a four night experience I advise taking along tide charts of the region, or you may find your self crossing Goose Creek at the 2 AM low tide, like I did on my 2008 thu-hike of this highly interesting hike.

 

 

 

 

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 4 of 5

Start: Little Salmon River campsite
End: Seely Beach campsite
Mileage:  7.0 mi

Today’s map:

Hiking direction = from earplug right to left

Mark Shaw, AKA Bad Influence,  posted this 2 minute drone footage that takes off from  Goose Creek and then continues along the coast. Mark is a professional sound engineer who also owns and operates Trail Head Shuttle, a Vermont AT and Long Trail hiker shuttle service, and now is available for commercial drone work in real estate, 3-D mapping, via  Skyview VT.   It’s very informative about the breadth of some of these tidal crossings.

Goose River/Low Tide Bay of Fundy

Mark and I joked about forgetting how challenging  this trail really is, especially given the fact that we hiked it 10 years go.  While he swears this is the last time on the FF for us, I started thinking how we might streamline a future walk along the coast, via engaging the drone to view any possible passage along the cliffed shoreline during low tides.   Mark successfully put the drone up to get us out of a huge marsh that confounded us on the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland last summer.  It’s like having s SUPER tall guide who can really view an obscure trail.

Another tool that worked well for me was my Delorme InReach Explorer+.

Satellite GPS unit

The unit is able to serve as an emergency locator and communication device.  I entered in a few pre-set messages, essentially confirming that I was OK.  I sent evening messages to both my wife and the shuttle operator with a map pinpointing the location of our campsites, along with GPS coordinates.  I have added the unit to my day hikes. When I find myself injured and need of assistance, I should be able to get help.  I believe it is an essential part of my kit, particularly when I am guiding clients in the wilderness.  There was very spotty cell service available on this hike.  I pay $12 a month for the service, which can be turned off for any months where travel might not occur.

It rained yesterday and rained today as well.  With the very high humidity the first two days, we were forced with the very unwelcome situation of donning cold wet socks, footwear, and clothing each morning.  I’m in the habit of leaving any spare clothes home these days, in an effort to reduce my pack weight.  I do carry a dry set of sleep wear  on all my hikes, that allows me to be very comfortable when it’s time to sleep.

One tip that I  can offer the wet hiker is to put on a wind shirt or light synthetic jacket over your wet shirt when you reach camp.  If you are fortunate enough to have found clothing that is truly breathable, your body heat dries out the wet clothing in an hour or two.  I have had great success with Patagonia’s Houdini windshirt and their 10 oz.  Nano-Air Light Hoody.  The Hoody was developed to pass copious amounts to perspiration while at the same time providing adequate insulation for winter use.  I have been amazed at the width of the range of temperatures that I wear the Hoody, from winter biking in freezing conditions to summer evenings.  I like the blaze orange version for visibility.

If your clothing is not totally sopping wet, it can also be dried by wringing it out and putting in on top of your sleeping pad and under your sleeping bag where your body heat drys it out overnight.

 

I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast.

Another brisk, steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

I’m a hiker and a backpacker and I’m peeved when people react negatively to my speedy walking on trails.
Here’s what this is about: I’m descending a trail, trekking poles in hand and moving quickly. I am a heavy guy, around 200 pounds, and this much weight isn’t often the ticket to quick uphill climbs, but put me on a descent and I usually do better than most. Momentum helps! I also believe that my decades of off-road biking have trained me to discern sight lines that are the best for foot placement. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had folks tell me to slow down, or they might mutter a disparaging word or two as I hop my way past them. “Excuse me, but I can”.

And here’s a sample of citizen hiking-speed-police attitude that was only one of many reader comments from a recent national newspaper column on the added benefits of brisk walking: “What about the pleasures of feeling the breeze, watching the toddlers earnestly examining a leaf, marveling at the astonishing variety of canine life at the end of every leash? For heaven’s sake, enjoy your walks! It’s not a job, not a race to be run, it’s a walk. It feeds the human spirit. Chill out, people.” (Eleanor, CA) in reaction to Walk Briskly for Your Health. About 100 Steps a Minute. The New York Times by Gretchen Reynolds, June 27, 2018.

Auntie Mame hiking to Katahdin Lake

What do I mean by fast walking ?
A steady walk is 3 miles per hour. A brisk walk approaches 4 miles per hour.
A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says John Shuna, Ph.D.,  one of the study authors. He recommends trying for a minimum of 100 steps per minute (roughly 2.5 to 3 miles per hour) or as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace). Keeping up a conversation tops out for most folks at a speed over 3 miles per hour.   Brisk walking ramps up the pace and results in a noticeable increase in breathing and starts for me anytime I walk over 3.5 miles per hour. Some very fit folks hit this level at 4 miles per hour on a flat terrain. The very fastest walkers are race walkers who are able to reach 5 to 6 miles per hour or even faster.

Morning visitors atop Katahdin

Research is showing that a faster walking practice results in prolonging your life. Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. The benefits of walking are far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found. These findings appear in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine dedicated to walking and health, edited by Emmanuel Stamatakis, at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.

80+ year old hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine

Even Consumer Reports recommends brisk walking.
“Another way to get more out of even a shorter walk is to do it faster. A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says Schuna, one of the study authors. He recommends trying for as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace).- Sally Wadyka, April 04, 2018.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently revealed that overweight people who walked briskly for 30 to 60 minutes a day lost weight even if they didn’t change any other lifestyle habits.  Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent the bone disease osteoporosis.

“Walking is a refreshing alternative to complicated aerobic routines and overpriced gym memberships,” says personal trainer Lucy Knight, author of Walking for Weight Loss.    “Bones are like muscles in the way that they get stronger and denser the more demands you place on them,” Knight says. “The pull of a muscle against a bone, together with the force of gravity when you walk, will stress the bone — which responds by stimulating tissue growth and renewal.”
To burn fat quickly and effectively, you should master power-walking. Adding hills to your route will speed up calorie burning.
“On really steep inclines, it’s not unusual for even a fit person’s heart rate to increase by about 20 per cent,” writes Knight. Going downhill, you have to contract your leg muscles to work against gravity and slow your descent.
Walking on softer surfaces, such as mud, sand or grass, also uses more energy than walking on concrete. Every time your foot hits the ground, it creates a small depression so that the leg muscles must work harder to push upwards and forwards for the next step.

Walking on uneven ground may have even more benefits. Physiologists at the Oregon Research Institute have found that cobblestone walking lowers blood pressure and improves balance. Uneven surfaces may stimulate acupressure points on the soles of the feet, regulating blood pressure.

“We can still create a plan that has a fair amount of lower level aerobic movement, such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling at a moderate pace, etc. a few times a week and keep it at under an hour. Then, we can add a few intense “interval” sessions, where we literally sprint for 20, 30 or 40 seconds at a time all out, and do this once or twice a week”.-Mark’s Daily Apple (Mark Sisson) June 20, 2007.

In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking of any intensity and pace, but if you are able and wiling picking up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, will result in increased bang for the walking buck.

Summer is Officially Here: Get Moving

“Aires ( March 21-April 19). To get where you want to go, you’ll have to make your way through the crowd.  Start moving and people will get out of your way. Movement is what makes things change.”- Daily Horoscope-Holly Mathis, 6/25/2018

Nature is ahead of me on this one.  Somehow,  in a surprisingly short amount of time, the vista outside of my big kitchen window is a mass of slowly expanding movement of green: my lawn, the hay fields all around me, and the three hundred and sixty degree panorama of forest that surrounds our house.

My ever-expanding vegetable garden is fully planted and growing steadily.  I’m already harvesting lettuce, green onions, beet greens, parsley , and celery.  Unfortunately the deer are also moving in to eat my plants, and I plan to install my electric fencing tomorrow after this rain lets up.

Bugs are moving.  I’ve pulled out one tick and plucked off a dozen already.  Did you know that tics are blind, and detect animal hosts through body odors, breath, heat, movement and vibrations?

I’ve got a few mosquito bites decorating my neck.  I’m not much bothered by mosquitoes after experiencing the massive numbers of them in Labrador on several of my motorcycle and canoeing trips there over the years.  Its all relative.

On thing that has assisted me in maintaining a level of activity that has kept my weight down, and in shape for backpacking is setting movement goals.  I have two: biking 1,000  and walking 1,000 miles a calendar year.

I monitor my movement progress through the use of the Strava app, where one of the functions allows users to view distance totals by sport on their Profile page.  As of today, I am 26 miles ahead of my biking pace

but 52 miles down on walking.

I plan to get moving on this by doing several two-hour hikes this week to climb back to hiking pace.

Lifestyle changes matter.  People who live in cities often walk more daily miles than us country residents, where services are too far away to access without driving a vehicle.

Looking for ways to move that are functional helps.  For example, I amassed 17,369 steps (8.4 miles via Fitbit) last Friday where I spent the better half of the day tilling, planting, weeding,  fertilizing, mulching, and watering the veggie garden.

When it stops raining today, I plan to fire up my little tractor and attach a cart and move down to the woods where I have stacks of unsplit rounds that I’ll haul up to the wood shed to split and move under cover for heating the house this winter.  I still cut my own firewood which leads to all sorts of strength, twisting, and core work.

This afternoon I plan to walk thee miles to my friend Dave’s house in Lincolnville Center where I’ll cop a ride to my weekly Men’s Group get together.

But I’ll be competing for a place on the path with the ticks, who will be waiting for me as I walk through the unmown hayfield and the brush that is filling up the abandoned Proctor Road as I move my way down to the pavement of the Heal Road that will lead me to open space walking to the Center.   I plan to wear long pants, sprayed with Permethrin and hope for the best.

The solstice passed on June 21.  Winter is coming.  Get moving !

 

 

 

Why I am going back to hike the East Coast Trail

First read this overview, released today ( May 9, 2018) –>>via Newfoundland, Canada: The travel spot that the natives love | CNN Travel

Not only are there no ticks in Newfoundland, the hiking is world class on the East Coast trail (ECT).

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I flew from Boston to St. John’s there last year to hike the 170 mile East Coast Trail, dubbed one of the Top Ten Backpacking Trails by National Geographic in 2011.

This coastal trail definitely lives up to its description as a “genuine wilderness walking and hiking experience”.  Printed materials from the East Coast Trail Association describes the trail as passing directly over the most easterly point in North America at Cape Spear as it connects over 30 communities (some were abandoned) along the route.

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Hiking to Cape Spear lighthouse

I enjoyed visiting the communities along the way where people were welcoming and were interested in speaking with us.

I have written a daily blog report, complete with daily pics spanning my two weeks there that can be viewed here.

Here’s three minutes of drone footage from last August that was shot and produced by Mark Shaw of HMS Images, my hiking partner on this adventure.  Recently I have been giving presentations on this thru-hike.  Please contact me if your organization would like to have me present this summer.

Back to Backpacking Up to Canada this Summer

I’ve decided to escape the impending army of ticks and hike in Atlantic Canada this summer.

I plan to redo the Fundy Footpath on the New Brunswick coast near St. John.

Its a 4 hour drive from my house on the Maine coast.  I completed this shorter thru-hike in 2008 in 4 days , with a group led by Xenon that featured my Appalachian Trail pals Bad Influence and Rangoon.  Here’e the link  to my trip report of that most excellent adventure.  I plan a full week, including the drive there and back.

I also want to hike for at least a week on the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland again, flying into St. John’s on the Avalon Peninsula and cherry picking sections of the trail  to redo.   I’ll likely be meandering around the northern half of the trail, camping where I feel and also visiting the oldest city in North America again.  The ECT is hard to get to, but worth the visit.  Check out my trip report here.

I’m open to company, if any of my backpacking pals would like to come along.  Let me know.

 

Maine International Appalachian Trail Chapter holds Annual Meeting

I’m the after dinner entertainment up to Shin Pond in couple of weeks.  I’ll be presenting after the full belly dinner at Mt. Chase Lodge on Friday night –  a  brand new hiking presentation entitled,  “The Allure of the Long Distance Hike”  Reservations are  being accepted until April 20 !  I bet there will still be snow on the ground in the campground, but rooms and cabins are available in the village.