Fast Walking: Know Pain, Know Gain – take 2

In 2013, I reblogged a health article about the benefits of fast walking.
”The most encouraging news embedded in the new study is that longevity rises with small improvements in pace. The walkers in Category 3, for instance, moved at a speed only a minute or so faster per mile than some of those in the slowest group, but they enjoyed a significant reduction in their risk of dying prematurely.”

It’s now 2015, where chapter two in the book, The Brain That Change Itself, discusses updated research and clinical applications of more rapid walking. index

In 1998, Frederik Gage discovered that fast walking produced new cells in the human hippocampus, the area of the brain that play a key role in producing new cells to replace those that had died, just as the liver, skin, blood, and other organs are able to do. The theory put forth made perfect sense to me. From Doidge’s book:” Growth happens because in a natural setting, extensive fast walking occurs when an animal is venturing into a new, different environment requiring exploration and new learning, sparking what Gage calls “anticipatory proliferation.”

Months of my own long-distance, often rapid walking lead me to believe that my own theory of fast walking is on track with this current information base. I view rapid walking as an activity that triggers a form of mammilian “flight or fight” response. In this enhanced state, our fretting minds are quieted by the biological electro-mechinations that accompany a gait that produces these remarkable surges of cell growth that can only occur when we move from sauntering to speeding up our pace.

Winter Into Spring

I’m blessed by having friends who walk outside in the winter. The picture below illustrates just how varied the modes of outdoor travel become this time of year: bikes, skis, snowshoes, toboggans, boots, and traction devices.

Comrades on the winter trails

Comrades on the winter trails

Three successive days of walking on local trails just culminated with exiting the Camden Hills State Park. IMG_4468 It’s the warmest morning in over a month, finally above freezing, and instead of the anticipated 6-10 inches of new snow from this weekends storm, it’s raining now.

Rime snow obscures  blue blazes

Rime snow obscures blue blazes

Who cares ? I sure don’t, because after a mere two miles of slopping over the snow pack, I’ll be heading home to dry myself out by the glowing coals of the wood fire.

In 2015, I’m orienting my outdoor life to align with several goals I set for myself: hiking 1,000 miles in Maine, and walking or biking 365 hours. An hour a day average.

I’m also working on snowshoeing all 30 miles of trail here in the Camden Hills. I’m now down to just five miles more.

Surprise! Did you know that Tanglewood 4-H Camp is located on Camden Hills State Park land ? I didn’t. So I need to strap on the snowshoes and walk or ski 8 miles of trail over there, where the stunning 1.1 Ducktrap River Trail is the featured attraction.

Conflict emerges.

I want to focus on winter biking more than snowshoeing. It’s March 15th today, and when this almost-spring sunlight beams loud and clear the snow melts quickly. We lost six inches of snow cover on one of the few bright, sunny days that unfolded last week.

I need to make like a sugar maple and hope for below freezing nights and warm sunny days in order to keep my personal force flowing.

I dream of riding over frozen snow and skittering down the Cameron Mountain descent just one more time. IMG_0022

Where To Play Outdoors in Midcoast Maine This Week

Yes!

What's up for today?

What’s up for today?

The yearly ritual of turning back of clocks today came with the a clear turn toward Spring, which officially arrives this year at 6:45 pm March 20. The light is different now. It’s clearer, warmer as the longer days arrive, and still below freezing every single night.

It’s a banner year for cold, school storm days, and especially for snow accumulation. There is thee to four feet of snow on local trails, and even higher depths at elevation.

Bruce Bicknell storming up the Ridge Trail

Bruce Bicknell storming up the Ridge Trail

While struggling up the steepest sections of Ridge Trail in Camden Hills State Park on Saturday, my extended Leki trekking poles went all the way up to the hand grips before the connected with solid ground.

I was able to do it all this week: snowshoe hikes, bike rides on the snow and ice, and even a run on a clear tar road where I didn’t have to fear a slip or fall on the ice, which had finally melted.

High Street toward Levensellar Mountain

High Street toward Levensellar Mountain

Several places are really prime right now. For skiers and snowshoe fans, you can’t beat the conditions in Camden Hills State park.   Regular snowmobile grooming on the Multipurpose/ Ski Lodge trail has put a packed surface of deep snow down for foot ( and bike) traffic.

The sheer number of people out and about has also packed down several of the side trails.

On Saturday, Bruce and I were able to walk without snowshoes all the way up the Carriage and then Tableland Trails to the intersection of Jack Williams where we donned snowshoes to break the untraveled 1.7 miles of that route. A slight inconvenience that is not a problem in the summer is the nearly constant pushing aside of small branches from my face. it’s because there is so much snow on the trails that you are actually elevated three to four feet above into a canopy that’s normally overhead.

Here’s a Google map rendition of a sixteen mile winter mountain biking route that I took yesterday, with this graphic provided by John Anders, a local bike trail building force. AndersGoogle

To orient, the blue line intersecting Route 173 is at the Stevens Corner parking lot.  Frohock Mountain is just to the left, Bald Rock Mountain is to the right, with the largest mass of Megunticook touching Penobscot Bay below.  The  blue line is all trail. Most of the traveling that we did in the foreground is impossible in any season but winter, unless you have a canoe, or an amphibious vehicle, as it is Swamp Thing country.

Pace line over Coleman Pond

Pace line over Coleman Pond: Eric, Andre, and Buck

Maiden’s Cliff is packed down, especially the left turn route up to the Millerite Ledges.

Maiden's Cliff  overlooking Megunticook Lake

Maiden’s Cliff overlooking Megunticook Lake

The road walk up to the top of 800′ Mount Battie from the Route 1 parking lot is plowed and the pavement is almost 100% clear right now.

Cameron Mountain is really easy to get to,  and serviced by many snowmobiles each day, packing that trail solid.

Descending Cameron Mtn.

Descending Cameron Mtn.

Drive on up to Tanglewood 4- H camp and ski the Road in from the parking lot/kiosk.  it’s groomed and packed solid.  The Ducktrap River trail, starting at the suspension bridge, looks great for skiing.

 

If you decide to head out into the woods this week in Lincolnville, do remember that’s it’s still pretty wild out there. Bring a day pack that can keep you going ( food and water), keep you warm ( dry extra clothes), keep you on track ( map, compass, and GPS), and keep you alive if you run out of daylight (warm clothing, fire starting devices, bivy sack).

Check out what’s in my present winter day pack, if you need some ideas.

If you exhaust the possibilities in and around the Camden Hills, you can also head up to Acadia, which now has it’s own Guthook’s Hiking Guide app for the iPhone/iPad available within his New England Hiker app.

Screen shot

Screen shot

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.