Dark Night on Snowshoes

I just spent much more time snowshoeing than I cared to.  I planned to walk for about two and a half, but ended up putting in 5 hours in Camden Hills State Park, where unusually deep snow obscured the Sky Blue Trail.

I knew the snow was deep out there.

Outside my bathroom window

Outside my bathroom window

Last week, by friend Bruce and I spent some collective trail finding out on the Park’s Frohock Trail, and now there’s at least another 15” of snow on top of the record breaking 4 feet of pack.  Here’s the view out my bathroom window right now.

I wanted to get going by 2 pm, but misadventures in the Steven’s Corner lot pushed my start time back close to an hour.  The lot was not plowed, with only a lonely Subaru wagon that had pushed it’s way in there when I arrived.  I tried to get in with my Voyager, but almost got stuck and quickly backed out back to Youngtown Road.  Then I grabbed my shovel and went at it, removing snow quickly with my shovel-the snow was light and fluffy still. I cleared out a parking spot for myself and was all set to try and get in there where then occupant of the Subaru skied over to his car, and then promptly got it stuck. He had no shovel, so over I went, in the true helpful spirit of my Maine Guide status. His tires were almost bald, and he was not experienced at rocking a car on snow.  I had to push him out, and it took us a while. Just as I was getting into my car to get it in the lot, another car came right in, using my work, and taking my shoveled out parking space.  At this point I decided to just park out on Youngtown Road, moving over as far over as  could.  It was now close to 3 PM.

I was carrying minimal day gear, a big mistake. I strapped on my trusty MSR Lightening Ascents, slipped my hands into my Leki poles and made great time on the first 1.2 miles. I was the second person to get in there. Heading onto the Cameron Mountain trail, I had a fresh snowmobile track.

Snowmobile tracks on Cameron Mountain

Snowmobile tracks on Cameron Mountain

The left turn after passing Cameron itself onto the lesser traveled Cameron Mt. Trail was a bit depressed, and untraveled recently.  Not too bad.

Starting up

Starting up

I was now 4 miles in and the sun was still shining when I started onto the 1.7 mile Sky Blue Trail, which had vestiges of prior use written on it that soon petered out to unbroken trail.  Unfortunately, I spent the next couple of hours weaving around, breaking through spruce traps, and even plunging into some hidden open water, until I stumbled out onto the Ski Lodge Trail in the dark, around 7:30 PM. My boots were soaked with ice water, and I had lost two mitten shells. I was hungry, and both legs were cramping, which also slowed my progress.

I was saved by my iPhone and eTrex GPS.  I was able to successfully move in the right direction  by following my forward progress on the Sky Blue Trail using Guthook’s Camden Hills Hiker App, that is until the cold locked down the iPhone.  The main problem that I had was that I was also trying to read blue blazes to ensure I was on the trail. There is so much snow at the higher elevations in Camden Hills that the snow is now up over the blazes, obscuring them in places.  Unfortunately, the same deep snow took me over deep, loose areas where I sometimes plunged in up to my chest, wallowing around, and using up valuable energy in trying to extract my snowshoes from entanglements way down where my arms barely reached.  I was thankful that I had poles to lean on and push against.

I made all the classic mistakes you read about tonight-walking in circles, moving around too much, and exercising fuzzy thinking.  I had a weak little micro flashlight ( with new batteries), and no headlamp. Dumb.

I made a phone call to Marcia that I’d be late. Then the phone died, and soon it was dark night.  I was able to maintain calm enough to haul out my GPS. I decided to forgo sticking close to the trail and bushwhack may way out. Thank God there was moonlight, and reflective snow, so I was able to see enough to discern white spaces between trees.   I set myself up a “GoTo” to a way point that I established at the closest point of the easterly Multipurpose Trail, and knew all was right with the world when I made it out, where I turned left and skittered my way back down the Ski Lodge trail to my car.  I was humbled, and stunned.

Tomorrow I’m assembling a permanent winter day pack.  I am enlisting the help of Auntie Mame to help me do this. I must smarten up and carry lots of gear in the event that I get off track again in subfreezing conditions, in the dark,  where there is no trail.

I have to make it home every time I go out. Now, I’ll be better prepared for the next possible disaster.

[Future Post:  What’s in my winter day pack ?

I’m taking suggestions! ]

Video: My Triple Crown Experience

It’s been over a year since I’ve returned from completing my 2,500 mile thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. In October, I was fortunate enough to focus my experience, step up to the plate, and give the Keynote presentation at the Midwest Winter Camping Symposium.

While attending there, I was interviewed for a series of instructional videos produced by Don Kivelus, of Four Dog Stove.

Here’s the video ( 9 minutes) that was just released yesterday by Four Dog Stove:

Published on Feb 16, 2015
“Triple Crown packpacker Tom Jamrog reveals some realities of long distance hiking with Don Kevilus of Four Dog Stove. Tom talks about overcoming obstacles and surviving winter camping.”

[Disclaimer: Four Dog Stove was Tom Jamrog’s primary sponsor on his Pacific Crest (2010) and Continental Divide (2013) Trail thru-hikes. ]

Snowshoeing up Bald Rock Mountain

Snowshoeing.  It’s where it’s at right now.  At Camden Hills State Park, I enjoyed a quick loop up to one of the best lookouts around these parts-  Bald Rock Mountain, elevating itself a mere eleven hundred feet above adjacent Penobscot Bay .

Here’s the map of the loop. screenshot  I had originally planned to head out to Frohock Mountain, but that trail had not been broken out, and I wasn’t sure I had the time to head out there and back before dark. There is a lot of snow here. Several places in Maine broke the all time record for 10 day snowfall totals- approaching 6 feet. There is three to four feet of snow out here and it is still powdery.

Frohock is the hill just northeast of this loop.  I would like to get out to Frohock, but want someone go with me so that we can take turns breaking trail.  I just got this crazy idea to snowshoe all 27.5 miles of trails here.

I hiked right up the Multiuse Trail, then took a left a half mile out to veer toward Frohock. I made it all the way to up the summit of Bald Rock Mountain where no one had yet broken a trail from the lower lean-to up to the summit. Here’s the second (upper) lean-to, a place where folks like me can stay the night for a quick local adventure.

After I hit the shelter, I slogged up the steep granite ledge to the top, which was buried in snow today. I was alone, but had dozens of islands to communicate with from the top.

This hike is so good. After you take in the view, it’s really all of two complete miles of downhill to the Steven’s Corner parking lot.

Descending Bald Rock

Descending Bald Rock

I like completing this hike in the late afternoon, when the sun is starting to set.
Frohock from Multi-use Trail

Frohock from Multi-use Trail

I plan to journey out to Frohock this coming Saturday morning at 8:30. If any one else wants to help me break trail to Frohoc before the next blizzard comes in Saturday afternoon with a foot or more of new powder, come on by.

YouTube: Four Dog Stove Talks with Uncle Tom at Winter Camping Symposium 2014

Four Dog Stove | Talk with Tom Jamrog | Winter Camping Symposium 2014 – YouTube.

In October I went to Minnesota as the Keynote Speaker for the Winter Camping Symposium.  My presentation was entitled Adapting Winter Skills to Survive Snow Conditions on the PCT and CDT.  I also assisted with sales and answering gear-related and technical questions at Four Dog Stove‘s vendor booth during the weekend. I appreciate the sponsorship given to me by Don Kivelus during my two most recent thru-hikes: The Pacific Crest Trail (2010), and in 2013, the Continental Divide Trail.

In this brief video, Don and I discuss our mutual upbringing in farm families, the lack of spontaneous outdoor play in many communities, and my impressions about a most enjoyable weekend and meeting new friends while learning skills and techniques for enjoying the outdoors in all seasons.

Resolution for 2015: Visit Maine State Parks and Public Lands

Start 2015 off by doing the right thing and purchasing your very own Maine State Parks Pass (day use).  Veterans and those that are 65 (and over) get in for free!

I just sent in my $35 , primarily for  bypassing the $3 daily fee to hike the extensive and superb trails in nearby Camden Hills State Park.

View from Ocean Lookout- from Camden Hills Park page

View from Ocean Lookout- from Camden Hills Park page


The great State of Maine has over 700,000 acres of  Parks and Public Lands, with a huge variety of locations.  Their updated web site is easy to use and very helpful in planning your encounters in the outdoors.

2015 is my year to stay local, and have #microadventures.  I am very excited about the approach taken by Alistair Humphrey in his soon-to-be-released paperback ( Feb 3, 2015)  Microadventures.  The Kindle edition is available in the USA via Amazon. The book is my favorite outdoors read for 2014.  Check it out.  It’s highly British, but the approach can be adapted anywhere.

Have fun.

Nature is the Real Gym  !

 

1,000 mile Maine challenge completed !

Back in February, Carey Kish laid down a challenge that I decided to embrace- walking 1,000 miles in Maine in a calendar year.

Here’s Carey’s original article about that idea. As Kish notes, ” Consider the enormous health and fitness benefits of such a sustained challenge. Regular hiking and walking are proven to help decrease the risk of all kinds of nasty stuff, like coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon and breast cancers. You’ll lose weight, and reduce stress and anxiety levels. And you might just establish a new exercise pattern for years to come.”

Carey’s right in that you do it mostly by regularly walking a 3-5 mile sessions from your home. In my case, I added close to a hundred miles in Baxter State Park this season. I added another 50 in the Hundred Mile Wilderness, hiking with the Jocomotive and G-Man. Camden Hills State Park got a fair number of sessions.   I thought I was going to add up another 42 miles via the Grafton Loop Trail up off Route 26 above Newry, but that will have to wait until 2015.  I logged a few longer days of hiking with my pal Guthook in Acadia National Park this fall.

I was thrilled to pick up 7 more miles yesterday in Acadia doing the South Ridge Trail to the summit of Cadillac Mountain ( 1,528′).  I had the pure pleasure on cranking out a fast pace with my son Lincoln and his fiancee Stephanie.

That's the Atlantic out there !

That’s the Atlantic out there !

It was one of my best Holiday presents.

Did you know that Cadillac is the highest mountain on the Atlantic Coast north of Brazil (another cool fact from Carey Kish’s Maine Mountain Guide) ?

51qiqtVf0iL._AA160_

The 2014 numbers primarily came from data that I was tracking via the Strava app.  I have hit 1,094 miles to date. Strava only aggregates miles for runs, bike rides, and swims. You have to enter backpacking and walking mileages as runs.  I usually gather my data from my iPhone 5S, but sometimes log exercise using my Garmin eTex 30 GPS to gather .gpx tracks that I then download into my Macbook air and upload to Strava.

My iPhone 5s also allows me to run the free Fitbit app, without requiring the $99 wrist band.  With the launch of the M7 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 5s, Fitbit has decided to offer “basic” tracking from the phone itself.  Fitbit is fun to use, automatically counts daily steps, and also allows me to enter my daily food intake, and log body weight.

Goals are a big part of what keeps me going.  I plan trips this way- think of things I want to do and then jot them down on the calendar and they take place, as the time nears.  I tell others , and goals take firmer form- finally as actions.  Carey’s 1,000 mile goal is a welcome addition to my life.

This is also the first winter that I have dropped under 200 pounds at this time of year. I think that hiking more miles has made the difference- that and cutting out french fries.    Normally, I’ve run about 212-215 at the end of December.  This is good!

I plan to take on the 1,000 mile walking-in-Maine challenge again for 2015.

Who’s in with me for the ride, err…. the walks?

 

Tom Jamrog on Channel 2 and 6 tonight at 7 PM

Uncle Tom on the Long Falls Dam Road in Maine

Uncle Tom on the Long Falls Dam Road in Maine

Rob Caldwell’s Maine-based TV news magazine “207” (named after Maine’s one and only area code) interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago. Rob’s program will feature a conversation we had about adventures, walking for months on end at a time, and being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

The interview is airing tonight: November 24 —part 1. Part 2 airs on Tuesday. Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channel 6 in Portland and channel 2 in Bangor. It will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com, where it will remain online for approximately 6 months.

Rob told me to, “Tell everyone you’ve ever met. We want even people on hiking trails who are fifty miles away from the nearest TV to watch.”  I’m trying!