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!
November is a tough month to ride a mountain bike in Maine.
I enjoy exiting my garage to ride single track, active as well as discontinued snowmobile trails, along the edges of fields, and up and over some ancient stone walls. What makes all of this tougher right now is deer hunting season, where Mainers deck themselves out in blaze orange, and hunt from dawn to dusk in the hopes of shooting a sizable deer, which can go a long way in filling up the freezer, mostly for venison stew. This year, rifle season runs from October 29 to November 24. Two more days are left. I stay out of the woods throughout November except for Sundays when there is no hunting allowed.
We had two half foot snowfalls here this past week, making for good hunting conditions, due to the ability to track deer activity through the snow cover. The first soft snows are not so good for biking in the woods. The ground is barely frozen, and some hunters get around in the woods on all terrain vehicles, heading in and out to their camps and tree stands on land they own or have permission to use and they rut up the back woods.
With all the rain we’ve had this past month, riding off-road is mostly weaving in and out of ruts, seeking out solid sections of ground, and dodging black pools of questionable depths of icy water that has not yet frozen solid enough to ride over.
This calendar year, Stevie, one of the members of our loosely-knit mountain biking group dubbed The Bubbas, has been in hot pursuit of a major offload goal for any off-road rider- amassing 2,500 non-pavement miles in 2018. Stevie lives on the edge of The Rockland/Thomaston Bog and can, on any given day, crank out a 12 mile out and back route to put toward his lofty mileage goal. It’s also nice country in there, when it is not churned up like it was today.
Ten Bubbas, including two women, met at Stevie’s this past Suday morning, to stitch together a route, with Stevie’s first tracks as a guide all the way out to our eventual turn around point at Split Rock. With ten riders’ fat-tire tracks running back and forth within a foot wide width of trail, we were build up a packed track for some future rides.
I ride with clipped pedals in spring, summer, and fall, and switch to flat pedals and regular winter boots for the winter. They are a full size larger than I need, which allows me to insert chemical heat packs when it is below freezing out. After about a half hour of riding today, my left pedal broke apart, so I was forced to complete the ride on the slippery metal axle. It worked out, and I was repeatedly thankful that the axle held, and that I didn’t have to hike a bike miles back to the car.
Even with being careful in getting through the wetter sections, I did get one boot under water, and had a cold foot for the rest of the morning. I had good energy today, which was consistent with the results of thoday’s heart rate variability reading right after I woke up this morning. My mountain biking mileage goals are more moderate that Steve’s, with just 1,000 for my year.
My Garmin eTrex30 GPS flubbed today so I copied Rigger’s Strava feed to record those miles. I’m up to 919 miles of biking with just 81 more miles left to complete before New Year’s. Those miles are much harder to snag in November !
One my most enjoyable, but frustrating, experiences is putting up a building. I have built a half dozen buildings and each was a unique challenge. Two of them were full houses, and four were small buildings, with most of those in the 12’ by 20’ range.
I started building in 1977 after I took evening classes down to Bath (ME) once a week for several months at the Shelter Institute. When the basics were done my wife Marcia and I enrolled in their design class, where we took the principles of heating, snow loads, foundation systems, site orientation, beam forces and moments, and drew up our own plans. With detailed floor and wall plans and materials lists we built our house 1,200 square foot home on a 5 acre plot of land on the 430 foot contour line on Moody Mountain facing south. We’re still married and in the same house!
The post and beam frame of our house was harvested off our land. I was young and foolish enough to cut several dozen large oak trees by myself, and now consider it a miracle that I didn’t slice and dice a leg or have a tree fall on me. A case of beer was all it took to pay my neighbor Alan Davis to fire up his old John Deere tractor and haul the logs up to the road where they were picked up by Basil Pearse and trucked to his custom mill in Searsmont.
A couple of weeks later a massive pile of extremely heavy green and wet oak beams were dumped back roadside for the price of $140. That’s for sawing and trucking. The biggest timbers were 6 x 8 inches by 20 feet long. The rest is history. We are still here, with our lives were permanently simplified by that unforgettable quote from Pat Hennin of Shelter Institute, “ People who build small houses can afford to relax.”
My best friend in Maine is Lock, who worked with me all during that summer. We crafted under the direction of Jay Leach, a real carpenter who was experienced with traditional post and beam construction. Jay knew when we had to find chains and a come-a-long to draw the frame together as tight as possible before we sunk short lengths of rebar into the 1/2 inch holes we bored into the tops of the oak posts. Jay shared everything we needed to know for the job to turn out great.
The next summer I worked with Lock, who built his own post and beam house way up on Appleton Ridge.
I’m sitting here this morning appreciating my hammer and nail relationship with Lock. We’re back at working together ! Lock came over to my camp from Augusta to help me tighten up the new hut I am finishing up on Hobbs Pond. As the rain and the wind pound down this dark cold morning (It is 36 degrees out) I’m thankful for Lock’s friendship and help yesterday.
We started the day with a promising sunrise, followed by fresh omlettes stuffed with tasty hen-of-the-woods mushrooms that Ivan had gathered the at hometo bring here. Also nown as maitake, it is is a mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks.
A couple of events dominated today’s activities. First, we were able given permission to view the interior of Indian Camp between 9 and 10 am when the cabin was vacant between guests where the following photos of the interior were taken:
The following information is from “The People, The Logging, The Camps : A Local History” by Bill Geller (May 2015): One of the small cabins that is available to rent here is known as Indian Camp, perched right on the shore. Dating from the 1890’s, someone at the time intricately decorated the camp’s interior walls and ceilings with birch bark shapes. The birch bark artist is unknown but it’s something that history has lost even in that relatively short amount of time and no one really knows who did. Two two tales persist. One claims that the person living in there acquired an artistic native American wife. Others believe that an artist brought his wife to stay at the camps for health reasons and that he decorated the inside when he was not painting. Another aspect of the tale is that the owner’s grandson discovered birches on the hillside Southwest of the outlet with old cut out bark-shapes matching those in camp. Some also believe that President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the old Indian Camp somewhere between 1905 in 1909, visiting his Indian mistress. Take your pick of one or maybe all the stories are true!
Ivan and I were also able to take a long hike today (10.5 miles).
Carey Kish’s new Maine Mountain Guide lists the major hiking trails the accessed from DLC, with routes depicted on Map 2 – Maine Woods, contained in the back flap of the book. (Yesterday’s 2 mile loop up and along the cliffs near the camp is not in the book, but should be, as there are fine view of both Katahdin and the Southwest landscape from the ledges on top.)
We completed the Eastern half of the Debsconeag Lake Trail, hiking counter-clockwise and visiting Fifth Debonskeag Lake, Stink Pond, Seventh DL, Sixth DL, and then returned to our camp at Fourth DL. It took us 6 hours to walk the 10.5 miles, including a couple of side trails and an added 0.8 miles due to a wrong turn getting to Fourth Deb. Lake. While the trails here are brightly blazed and those markings are frequent, they are all blue-blazed and there are sometimes unsigned intersections where people like me make mistakes.
Here are some photos taken on that loop hike. While the colors of the foliage have intensified there are still a number of deciduous tress that have not yet shown their true colors.
When Ivan and I get together in the Maine woods, we soon revert to mushroom hunting mode, especially in the Fall a few days after a hard rain. We had a very good day yesterday, harvesting two small edible and choice toothed hedgehogs, and a mess of freshly popped oyster mushrooms.
They will be cooked in butter and seasoned for sampling for dinner tonight.
Some background from the Bureau of Parks and Lands Nahmakanta Public Lands Guide and Maps : Debsconeag Lake Camp are within the Namahkhanta Public Lands, encompassing 46,271 acres of forest and low mountains, punctuated by numerous streams and brooks descending from higher elevations that flowing to the numerous lakes and ponds in the area. The area is at the far end of the 100 Mile Wilderness sectino of the Appalachian Trail. 24 of these bodies of water are characterized as “great ponds” which are 10 or more acres in size. Within the Namahkanta Public Lands is the state’s largest ecological reserve, an 11,800 acre expanse that includes the Debonskeag Backcountry.
I’m a big fan of old Maine sporting camps. The state is full of them still, leftovers from the post logging period where former settlements that housed the little armies of men who worked in the woods were converted to establishments that catered to upper class men and women who wanted to hunt and fish under the wings of Maine Guides. I’ve stayed in places from the Maine/Quebec border all the way down to the Midcoast area, where I bought one of my own tiny camps 11 years ago, on Hobbs Pond, in the town of Hope, just a 10 minute drive from our house.
When Marcia and I had a young family, we started a tradition of spending Columbus Day weekends at Baxter State Park, initially camping in their three-sided lean-tos, until we spent a early October weekend in snow and ice. Fording Wassataquoik Stream when the shores were frozen is painful. Enter our discovery of the Baxter bunkhouses- true winter setups, complete with wood stoves and tighter quarters. Those were larger events that included friends with family, as we learned to reserve the whole bunkhouses for our October adventures.
Times changed and I got into winter camping, favoring traditional foot travel on lakes, rivers and streams. I still do that, hauling ample gear on a long narrow toboggan, even lashing a canvas tent with wood stove and stove pipe to warm the body when it is well below freezing outside. In Jackman, I sampled Chet’s traditional cabins before venturing out for longer forays on Attean Pond and the Moose River.
Lately we’re enjoyed Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, Namakhanta Lake Camps, and are now here at Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps, an ancient place, where at east one of the little camps was built in the 1800s. We are here at Point Camp, set on a tiny peninsula that is surrounded by water on all three sides.
Marcia and I are sharing it with our friends Lynn and Ivan. We came in yesterday and they are joining us today. You get here by heading directly north from our home in Midcoast Maine for a few hours, winding your way through faded little hometowns, and sparsely settled back country until you veer off pavement just past Brownville Junction to hit the gravel Jo-Mary Road, a relatively solid dirt highway of sorts that meanders some 25 miles through working forest until the road peters out approaching the Debnonskeag Lake Camps.
We unloaded our gear to a small dock where we were picked up in a motorized wooden freight canoe that transported us a half mile up the Lake to the camp itself.
Leslie is our host here, an Amazonian descendant if I ever saw one. She radiated capability, friendliness and girl power. She was strong enough to heft a fully loaded vintage steel Coleman cooler up to her shoulder as she moved quickly along the very uneven twisting path to deposit our cooler on the floor of the cabin.
I’m usually too busy to relax much of the day, but after we unpacked here I slid into alpha brain wave mode easily when I rocked in the hammock for a while after I started a campfire on the shore of the lake outside our camp.
It rained lightly of and on on the whole time that a grilled hot dogs over the wood coals. I don’t eat hotdogs much but enjoy them and even thick slices of Spam when they are grilled to perfection over hardwood coals. On toasted buttered rolls, appointed with fresh mustard, relish, and a healthy dab of my homemade kimchi, our first supper was just right on this Fall weekend night.
Then some reading and writing in the main room of the cabin, around the big Vermont Castings vigilant wood stove that we didn’t need to light tonight. Although this cabin is tight enough, it is more than 100 years old, and has weathered through so much water and wind and flying debris that I consider living in it for a few days is a rare privilege.
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.
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.
Here’s a shot of our campsite. I’m in the tipi, and my hiking pal Guthook is in The One.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
“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 !
I’ve worked up a new presentation entitled “The Allure of the Long Distance Hike” to share with the whole group after dinner on Saturday night, at Mt. Chase Lodge. I enjoyed my stay at the Lodge last March the night the night before I packed up my fat tire bike, load it with overnight gear and explored the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days.
The Maine section of the IAT/SIA is 130 miles long. Heading north from the Katahdin Lake East (KLE) Access trailhead of Baxter State Park, the route passes through boreal forests and follows trails, old logging roads, an abandoned railroad bed, and rural public roads to the potato fields of Aroostook County. Beyond Fort Fairfield, the trail enters New Brunswick.
After I read the following yesterday I planned to hang at a campsite tonight and sleep in my Honda Element. With the rear seats folded to the sides, I have 6’6″ to lay my sleeping mat and bag down and either look out the window above my head or if the night is right, have that window open to the stars.
But 44 degrees, mud, clumps of ice and snow on the ground and hard rain convinced me to trade up to a warm cozy room for $36 .
So, I’ll watch The Untouchables on the DVD player, while eating a piece of coconut creme pie from Dysart’s . Shaping up to be a good weekend.
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.