Steve and I combined forces to continue our exploration of the St. George River from Searsmont to the Appleton Preserve. For this hike, we’re linking to the southern end of the Ridge to River section that we completed a couple of weeks ago.
The day was perfect, and although it became a bit warm in the less forested segments on the hike, there were ample opportunities for refreshing ourselves in the shady, forested segments, and if we so desired (we didn’t swim), a jump into the river could’ve put a stop to any sweating. We spotted my car at the parking lot on Route 105 , then drove back in Steve’s truck to put in at the Ghent Road trailhead.
If you don’t want to spot two cars, I’d recommend parking at the Ghent lot and hike to Magog Falls and return. You’d experience the best this trail has to offer in terms of proximity to the watercourse and the interpretive historical displays. You can come back another time to hike north to Magog Falls from the Route 105 parking lot!
Strava recorded this to be a 3.6-mile footpath that includes travel along the banks of the St. George River.
The St. George River is a bit shy of 3.0 miles from my house, yet I’ve never walked this trail before. Staying at home and exploring local trails opens up possibilities like this!
From the Georges River Land Trust:
“Canal Path is a 3-mile trail in Searsmont that traces a section of the historic Georges River Canal dating to the late 1700’s. There are interpretive displays along the trail describing the aspects of the canal system that are still visible today. The trail also features a self-guided tour of the sustainable forestry practices of our partnering landowner, Robbins Lumber Company. This a level trail that meanders along the St. George River for about 1.5 miles. This trail connects to the Ridge to River Trail as well as our Appleton Preserve, and offers some of the most scenic, undeveloped riverside hiking in our region.”
Magog Falls, a deep pool, and a sandy beach await the hiker
I plan to come back to more closely explore the river. My plan is to walk the trail south from the Ghent Road lot to Magog Falls to trek and even swim back in the river itself
. I’ve never done such a “wild swim” before and the Canal Path might be the place for me to try it.
Travel is restricted. The Appalachian Trail is still off-limits, especially group camping at shelter sites and use of outhouses. Travel bans, quarantine regulations, and the establishment of social distancing procedures have forced many of us who enjoy the freedom of the woods and waters to shift to local sites for our reprieve from the stress of doing things in a highly restricted manner.
For, example, I’m very close to finishing up my “Ride Every Road in Town” challenge, where I’ve paired up with my neighbor Andy Hazen to ride every one of the 76 miles of Lincolnville, Maine’s town roads. We’ve done seven rides so far, with two more to go. When I get home, I really enjoy coloring in our tracks on a custom topographic map that I ordered that has our town front and center on the page.
This past weekend I joined a small pack of my Bubbas in the Woods riding pals to bypass a long drive to Vermont’s Kingdom Trails in favor of a stick-to-Maine 36 hour off-road mountain biking extravaganza that included two riding locations that I never visited before on Saturday: Farmington’s Titcomb Mountain and Kingfield’s Freeman Ridge Bike Park.
Titcomb is roughly a six-mile loop that has been created by Farmington locals and Central Maine New England Mountain Biking Associaton.
The system was well-laid out with above-average consideration to setting up wide turns linked to long, gradual stretches of uphill switchback climbing to “summit and then plummet”. Riding is free during the summer.
Freeman Ridge is a “.. private, professionally built, and family-run mountain bike trail network, located 1 mile outside of downtown Kingfield, ME. We offer machine and hand-built flow trails for riders of all abilities. We are just 15 miles south of Maine’s premier MTB destination, Carrabassett Valley Trails.” An adult day pass is $7, money well spent in supporting this very satisfying private venture.
Saturday night was spent with me back in a tiny tent along the South Branch of the Dead River in Eustis at a true Maine camp where we had no electricity, cell coverage, or running water.
One of the Bubs, Shawn, bought the gem of an antique camp in 2015 and has been using it as a base for winter fat biking, snowmobiling, and now mountain biking. Shawn invited us for the weekend and it was a welcome respite from the blackflies and mosquitoes that are in force this time of year.
Sunday was a big riding day riding morning and afternoon sessions out of the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center. In the morning we rode the south side of Route 27 on a long climb up to a high point that afforded us long stretches of exciting but reasonable downhill acceleration.
The afternoon put us across Route 27 where we headed east for about 5 miles on the Narrow Gauge Trail.
Then we switched back to a long gradual climb of five miles up the Narrow Gauge Bypass to Crommett’s Connector. One the way up, Ian demonstrated his technical expertise in getting over a massive obstacle and crafting an approach to a nasty stream crossing.
Then a whooperbasket of high-speed, flowing descent on Newton’s Revenge.
Our local weekend was a success. I experienced fresh riding terrain, enjoyed the company of my riding pals, and had a grand stay at Shawn’s camp.
Bubbas are talking about finding fresh terrain to explore in Maine on an upcoming weekend. Soon!
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.
If you ever find your self riding on the gravel Jo-Mary Road in northern Maine Hundred Mile Wilderness you can follow some tiny hand-lettered DLWC signs marking the varied intersections over the 24 mile drive from Route 11 just north of Brownville to the tiny dock where you unload your baggage and get shuttled by Leslie in a cedar and canvas motorboat over to one of the cabins in this 100+ year old settlement of log cabins on the shore of Fourth Debskoneag Lake.
Marcia and I are here for the second year in a row, sharing Point Camp with our friends Ivan and Lynn for four nights. I’m a big fan of Maine’s historic sporting camps.
When Marcia and I were starting a young family, we started taking annual trips around Columbus Day weekend, we came to prefer enclosed heated cabins on this particular weekend after we were caught in a snowstorm where our only shelter was an open sided lean-to or a summer tents. We moved up the ladder of comfort in Baxter State Park when we began to use the heated bunkhouses that are so popular in the late fall and winter seasons.
Baxter’s bunkhouses are unusually insulated, and heated by wood stoves surrounded by wooden bunks on top of glossy grey wooden floors, and minimally appointed with a table, a few treasured chairs, and a coupe windows to provide some meager day time light.
Years later, I got back into annual winter backpacking excursions, usually on the first weekend in December, where summer destinations like the Bigelows and Tumbledown Mountain were made much more challenging due to the cold, ice and snow that had usually settled in by then.
Eventually Marcia and I began to send weekends Maine Sporting Camps, including The Birches in Rockwood, Chet’s in Jackman, Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps. You get to these places from our house in midcoast Maine by winding north through fading little settlements that lead to even the more sparsely settled backwoods until you leave the pavement to pay your fee to borrow time on logging roads.
Leslie was our host again this year, likely a true Amazon, who radiates capability in the outdoors. She hefted a cooler full of food onto her shoulder and then bound over the uneven, rock and root strewn path to deposit it at our front door.
The main room of this camp has a big Defiant wood stove with plenty of dry hardwood inside and out.
On our first day at camp, Ivan and I went for a 10.6 mile round trip hike over to Tumbledown Dick Falls (TDF, a stunning 70 foot waterfall that is located 0.6 miles off the Appalachian Trail.
We walked from the Camp all the way out to the where the AT crosses the gravel entrance road at the southern end of Nahmakanta Lake, where we met a couple of happy thru hikers who were aiming to be of top of Katahdin in just four more days. We hiked south on the AT for a mile where we hung a right to Tumbledown Dick Falls.
I’ve hiked the Hundred Mile Wilderness several times and before now, but until now have never had the energy or inclination to take in side trips when my going is usually focused on reaching and spending time near to or on Katahdin.
I used the Atlas Guide to navigate this section of the AT and was pleased to see that Guthook included the TDF side trail.
The Tumbledown Dick Falls trail was in great shape.
Someone had been though with a chain saw recently and cleared all existing blowdowns. The trail gradually ascends until the last twenty of a mile where it splits and you can choose the upper or lower falls.
We did both, enjoying our lunch as the board of the falls and the strong flow of the discharge from the initial pool was our soundtrack. Truthfully, the upper flatter stretches were more inviting to me than the Falls.
Several prime campsites were noticeable near to large pools of clear water, where visibility allowed us to see numerous small fish swimming about. This place would make a great overnight micro-adventure on some hot summer day.
On the return hike to camp, we detoured to take a long look up the length of Nahmakanta Lake. It never fails to thrill and becon me back to The Hundred.
I’ve had four days of varied amount of outdoor experiences. I’ve taken time off from my usual routine of mixing work and the same old recreational routes to open myself up to what can best be described as microadventures, a term I credit to Alistair Humphries, author of one of my favorite books.
Both my sons Lincoln and Arlo are visiting for 5 days with their respective partners, Stephanie and Alanna. I’m blessed with family members who are adventurous individuals, that are vigorous enough that they can engage in little excursions that pop up as possibilities.
On Thursday, Lincoln and I joined up with a half dozen or so of my mountain biking group, The Bubbas, for a rock and root punctuated couple of hours of pounding the meandering trails built on Ragged Mountain’s Snow Bowl recreation area.
On Thursday, Alanna, Stephanie, Lincoln, and I went 4.7 miles up Ragged Mountain, from the opposite side of the biking that Lincoln and I did the night before.
This ascent is challenging as well with a relatively flat run at the beginning, with the trail turning much ore rocky and vertical.
Stephanie and Alanna hiked strongly in the lead and went even a bit further than this map indicates, and actually made it to the Ragged’s summit tower. Lincoln and I explored this view when we hung out for a short while waiting for Steph and Alanna to come down from the actual summit.
Swimming and hanging at camp was a welcome break from the heat and humidity.
On Saturday, Lincoln and I went fishing. In 2008, my friend Mike Gundel and I shared a canoe on our early season 8 day thru-paddle of Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Check out that story and view photos here. The theme of that adventure was, “The Russians are coming!”
Mike is a Maine Guide who specializes in fishing. He was available on short notice and provided the canoes, rods, and tackle we needed to catch largemouth bass. What are the chances that Mike chose to take us fishing on one of the bodies of water that are depicted in the Ragged ledge panorama depicted above ?
We met Mike at the put in at 7 AM, where the next four hours flew by as Mike guided us around the lake to where we actually caught fish! I caught three fish, including a largemouth that was eyeballed in the 3.5 pound range.
My 4 day run of fun included an outdoor wedding on the ocean shore in Tenants Harbor that took up Saturday after noon and late into the night. Marcia and I made the wedding but had to pass on the revelry at the reception.
The next morning, folks were sleeping in. I decided to make the usual Bubba Church Sunday morning mountain bike ride, again up Ragged Mountain with a different route than Thursday night’s ride. It was the most humidity I’ve ever remembered on a ride, some 96%. I left the parking lot and went up 15 minutes before the rest of the group started and decided to keep going at one of the designated intersections, due to unrelenting assault by mosquitoes. I tried to relay my plan via text to one of the guys but my fingers, phone screen, and every piece of cloth that I had on my body, and even in the pockets of my day pack were saturated and I couldn’t make the screen respond to input.
I left them this message of sorts. Uncle Tom is my rail name- has been since 2007:
Just before I took off I heard bikes clattering and surging through the rocky, rooted trail and we all descended the ext downhill on the slops: the G5 Connector, where I ended up flatting my rear tire. After I put a tube in the tire, I put my air pump to the task but that had to wait until I was able to reattach the pump’s air hose, which never happened before!
It’s been quite a different four days for me- this stretch this of mid-August microadventures- one that I’ll repeatedly appreciate as I fall under the spell of euphoric recall !
Even though its been 6 years since I completed the Continental Divide Trail my 9 year span of experiences gleaned from backpacking three of America’s long distance National Scenic Trails continues to affect my day-to-day life.
I’ve finally caught up with clicking off 2019’s hiking and biking mileages to the point where I’m slightly ahead of pace to achieve my 2019 mileage goal – 2019 total miles for the calendar year, half hiking and the other half biking. May was a slim mileage month, where the flu whacked me down for a couple of weeks. The majority of my miles are off-road, either on trails, or gravel and/or discontinued public roads. My steps and pedal strokes generally come from places here in coastal Maine that I get to by walking right out my door.
My choices in literature are also increasingly colored by these outdoor experiences. I’m currently reading A World Apart by Gustaw Herling, a Polish author who spent two years in a northern Russian labor camp in 1940 after he was arrested for joining a underground Polish army.
I came to Maine back in the 1970’s when my wife Marcia and I were hired to run Alford Lake Camp’s nature exploration program. Once I experienced the deep forests and lakes in Maine, with a shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean, there was no hope of ever returning to my previous life in Massachusetts.
At Alford Lake Camp this afternoon I attended a celebratory service to honor the life of Andy McMullan, held in the Church of the Pines by the shore of Alford Lake.
Andy’s wife Jean ran the camp practically her whole life. Another circle in my life drew to a close today, and although more of life’s losses will invariably come, this day was a gem to be shared with my camping community.
My 45 year connection with Alford Lake Camp endures. I own a camp on the shore of Hobbs Pond, located a mere 1.5 miles from Alford Lake Camp, as the crow flies.
I’m thankful whenever I can paste up someone else’s outdoor trip report on any adventure that I have shared with that person. Last week was the first snowshoe hike of the season into Maine’s Camden Hills State Park.
Here’s an overview of the whole park, with some 25+miles of hiking available all year ’round.
I have written about overnight hikes in this location before. The Park is a gem, and used heavily by locals and summer visitors alike. My partner on this hike was Ryan, who was fine tuning some added features on revision to his trail app, Atlas Guides.
We thru-hiked the Appalachian (2007) and the Pacific Crest ( 2010) National Scenic Trails the same years and continue get together at least seasonally to either maintain our volunteer sections of the AT or backpack in Baxter State Park.
Click on the link below to see photos of unpacked expanse of while snow looks like. I’ve got one here that I’ll add of Ryan overlooking the wide angle view from the top of Maiden’s Cliff.
We trudged through the Park west to east, where we reached another vehicle that we spotted at the Stevens’ Corner parking lot.
Check out Ryan’s most excellent blog post below for this adventure, with additional photos, including iPhone screen shots of the Camden Hills Hiker app in action
I reached two fitness goals by the last day of 2018: riding my bikes 1,000 cumulative miles and also walking (via hiking or backpacking) 1,000 miles.
I have zero interest in indoor walking/running or biking, either in a gym or at home. After decades of continuous health club memberships, I walked away from my local YMCA in late September of 2013, due to my shifting preferences and awareness of what my heart ( literally) was telling me. I needed to be outdoors more. That fall I had returned from third thru-hike, amassing 2,500+ miles on the Continental Divide Trail. I was fully planning a return to my gym rat status, but all it took was for a single return session for me to change my long devotion to the gym.
For 2019, I plan to amass 2019 cumulative miles via foot, either hiking or biking.
Another goal on my list is to read 40 books this year. I “shelve” books to read and books that I’ve read and monitors my reading, with the help of the Goodreads app. It tracks my progress toward reaching my total book goal. I especially like the scan function which allows me to immediately scan ( via the app) a book’s barcode which links to the exact same info that appears in Amazon (also owns the Goodreads app). If I plan to read the book, I save it to my Want To Read list. So far I have read 3 books in Jan. I pretty pleased that one of them was the 557 page The Outsider, by Stephen King. I have it 4 stars, by the way, even though none of it included scene from Maine.
I’m here in Florida this week for 6 nights of camping with my older and closest friend Edward and his wife Jane. He’s here at Fort Wilderness Campground for a few months break from running his fruit and vegetable farm in MA.
I am becoming more familiar with my Seek Outside tipi. Is warm here but it sometimes rains hard, like it did last night, from around 2 in the morning until 9 am. The 12 foot diameter span gives me a palace of a place here, with 6’10” of headroom in the center.
We are able to find leftover firewood that we have used every night to enjoy a warming fire.
I plan to get a lot of walking in while I am down here for a week. Yesterday , I logged 7 miles.
I finally decided to add yet another goal for 2019. It came to my attention through Alistair Humphreys, whose Microadventures book and website promote cultivating a mind that leads one to enjoy adventures that are likely right outside the back door, rather than thinking of and treating them as distant journeys, every one.
For 2019, I plan to sleep outside at least one night in every calendar month. January ? Check!
Welcome to 2019!
Here’s an update on my plans and goals for the year.
I’ve reluctantly suspended commercial guided backpacking trips in 2019. I learned my lesson in 2017 when I had to cancel and refund cash money for two fully booked 5 and 10 day backpacking trips. At that time, issues with serious medical conditions involving two of my family members demanded that I stay home and address the care of my loved ones. While those issues continue to be managed in the best manner possible, there now exists a real possibility that I will not be able to be in the wilderness if and when the health of my family takes a nosedive.
Nevertheless, I have made alternate plans to get out and schedule few things that allow me to be outdoors, sleeping on the ground, hanging out around campfires, and enjoying what I can in the forest.
I consider myself blessed.
Everyday life offers me engagement in the outdoors on a daily basis, in all seasons.
I live in a sort of “park” in midcoast Maine, where several of my neighbors hold large 100+ and even 1,000+ acre undeveloped properties. Long stretches along High Street, where I live at 430 feet of elevation on the southern side of Moody Mountain, not only don’t have any buildings, there aren’t even any utility poles or wires. What’s there instead is a canopy of towering oaks and other hardwoods that tower over the narrow roadway. This past couple months I’ve observed several mature bald eagles who have remained for the winter perched on a rooftops and trees, and even watched them glide over the bare open fields are they scan for their meager, but apparently adequate sources of sustenance.
I’ve stopped caring that the deer are still feeding on my shrubs, and fruit trees. That’s all that’s left for them and the flocks of 30 plus wild turkey after they ate the remains of my vegetable garden down to the ground after harvest.
I am blessed that many of my neighbors continue to allow me to hike and mountain bike right out my door, through the fields, abandoned roads, and trails that I’ve traveled over the past forty years that I’ve lived in this hand-made house. May all this continue as long as it goes.
The article builds on data compiled between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018, from all 36 million people who use Strava that was aggregated and de-identified to respect athlete privacy.
Two factors lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.
My increasing engagement in walking and biking outdoors has been greatly enhance by both these practices.
I plan to continue writing about my 2019 plans in subsequent posts.
For 2019, please consider joining the 919 other people who are subscribed to future pots from this blog.
Disclaimer: I paid for my Strava Summit ( formerly Premium) yearly membership
Yesterday was one of my big days for 2018- the day when I finally amassed 2000+ miles, balancing out half the miles on foot with the other half on one of my bikes. Total hours spent hiking and biking was 506, averaging one hour and 22 minutes a day. I target about 75 minutes of moderate to robust action a day. If there are days where I am too tired to get out or I don’t feel up to it, I have to make up the time on another day, usually on the weekends.
Here are the Strava screenshots summarizing my achievements:
a) I was injury free this year. No crashes on my bike, where 95% of my bike miles are off road! It is to the point now that if I get thrown off the bike, onto one of my bad shoulders, I’m a month off the bike.
b) I was in good health all year, avoiding even a cold.
c) I use a 2 minute daily heart rate variability measurement upon awakening every morning. These days I’m using the Elite HRV App on my iPhone. I’ve also switched from putting a cold heart rate chest strap to a CorSense heart rate variability sensor.
d) Get social. According to Strava’s analysis of factors that contribute to increased time spent engaging in physical activity, there are just two factors that lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone. Read more about that here.
I’m strongly motivated by riding or hiking in a group.
Two to three times a week I ride with the Bubbas in the Woods, 33 members strong and riding year round on Midcoast Maine trails for the past 30+ years.
It’s pounding rain right now, with 2-3 ” predicted to wash away the foot of snow that has recently fallen here in the past week. Maybe it will dry out enough so that I can fit in a ride in the woods Sunday morning. I’m cruising into the last few days of 2018, feeling pretty smug but the way things turned out for me in 2018.
Consider getting friendly with a hiker or a hiker and give the 1,000 miles a year thing a go of it in 2018!