Exploring the St. George River- Take 2

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.”

Photos:

A pleasant view for a picnic
Interpretive Display
Plenty of pleasant views

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.

Info from the Georges River Land Trust:   Download the printable trail map

 

My May Morning Microadventure

I just completed a microadventure exploring from my camp on Hobbs Pond in Hope.         

Here’s the elevation profile for the hike:

We’re fortunate to have found a traditional Maine camp just one town and a ten-mile drive from our house.

One cold winter a few years ago I rode my fat tire bike from the house over snowmobile trails that included traverses over ice on Moody and Hobbs ponds to get to camp. It was a shorter route that cut out significant elevation changes that are encountered on a drive, hike, or ride.

I have been thinking about biking from home to camp over a portion of abandoned roads. On the drive over to camp a couple of days ago I made a detour up Bull Hill Road in Hope to find that the gravel road ended at a roped gate.

I remember hike-a biking through this area on my Diamondback Apex in the late 1980s when I encountered a thick extended portion of overgrown and downed trees that made forward progress tedious and frustrating. The other end of Bull Hill Road connects with Route 235 near the top of spectacular blueberry fields that look out on Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills. I took a GPS waypoint at the gate for future reference.

Which was now! The black flies and mosquitoes are also feeding on skin and it will hit 91% humidity today so I hiked from camp early. It was cool enough that those pesky little biting annoyances were still quiet.

I followed a route that I charted with Strava’s iPhone app. The upgraded Routes feature made it easy for me to discern paved and gravel roads and switch to manual mode for the one section requiring bushwhacking. Strava predicted 4 miles from the camp to the waypoint at the roped gate.

The first half of this route is known to me as I’ve hiked it before. I walked out the camp door, turned left on Luce Lane, and reached Crabtree Road where I went uphill until the gravel road forked.

Hobbs Pond outlet

Signs of an old road were visible just to the left of the fork.

Entrance to the discontinued road to the left of pavement

This is rideable terrain on a full-suspension bike. Today the mud was mostly dried out, but water flowed down some of the rough double track.

Discontinued road

Eventually I connected to the Morey Hill Road at a point where the Alford Lake Road is reached by going left.

The years take their toll

Unfortunately, the route to the right was eroded, uneven, and plugged with mounds of silt with leaves mixed in, several downed trees, and a rusty, exposed culvert.

Signs say keep out:

As I approached the high point of Route 235 along Hatchet Mountain Road the views improved dramatically. I passed through expansive blueberry fields in full bloom and heard the hum of bees before I came upon a hundred temporary hives, which are trucked in each year to assist with pollination of the tiny, white bell-shaped flowers.

Many pallets of beehives in this field

I eventually reached pavement and briefly walked left downhill until I took a right at the other end of the Bull Hill Road which is signed as the gravel Smith Drive. I passed less than a dozen well-cared-for houses as I ascended this backside of Hatchet Mountain. When the gravel road ended at the last house, I followed a narrow grassy path that wound its way steadily toward the GPS point/gate.

A mowed path appears!

Eventually, the grassy track transitioned onto an old woods road that was cut straight between two old crumbling stone walls, holding to the 800’ contour line.

Nope, not walking through

Several hundred feet of the old road was still flooded, but I skirted around the edges and progressed forward.

Soon, I reached a solid packed gravel-and-stone road that serviced the extensive blueberry fields that were both above and below me.

Solid ground underfoot

I marched on to eventually reach the waypoint at the roped gate to establish the connection from camp to home and back!

Mission accomplished!

Next microadventure?

Riding my full-suspension Trek Full Stache from my house all the way to camp!

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/3530832010

State Parks Closing? How to journey around your home.

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.

Pick up this book: Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphries.

Microadventures

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.

This features Map Adventures’ Camden Hills Maine Hiking and Biking map
Here’s the same data but from a differently scaled topo map

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.

 

What’s Up for 2020, Uncle Tom?

I’m all over it with presentations in the next four months:

Presentation title :9,000 Miles of Attitude: Aging and Endurance

From the ages of 57-63 Tom thru-hiked the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails. He is a Maine Guide and is currently writing a new book about mental and physical conditioning and extending one’s ability to fully engage in outdoor recreation activities. For the past 25 years, Tom has been singing and playing accordion in King Pirogi, a four piece polka band. He plans to hike and bike exactly 2,020 miles in the coming calendar year. Tom grew up on a dairy farm. In 2014 Tom was the 230th recipient to be awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association after thru-hiking of three of the USA’s longest National Scenic Trails. His first book, “In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail” was published in 2017. After retiring as a psychologist and mental health counselor in 2002 Tom has been guiding individuals and groups on four season adventures in the Northeastern US. His current interest is inspiring others to engage in wilderness adventures at any age.

 

March 21 Maine Sport Outfitters : Rockport, Maine
Backpacking & Hiking Symposium 10-4      details will be posted when available

 

March 27 L.L. Bean,  Freeport, ME 7-9 PM
Book Talk “In the Path Of  Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail”

Tom Jamrog, Maine Guide and Past President of the Maine Association of School Psychology, has over a half-century of experience exploring the outdoors.  In 2014 Tom was awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association for his thru-hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails.
At the age of 63, Tom rose up out of retirement to assemble a team of 4 proven long distance backpackers who took on the daily  challenge of walking over 2,500 miles over a  5 month span on the Continental Divide Trail.  The book details the daily ups and down of life on the trail and also serves as a resource for section and long-distance hikers in planning their long distance adventures.

 

 

Trail Days: Damascus , VA Friday May 15- Sunday May 17

Attitudes, Actions and Apps: Lessons Learned from 9,000+ Backpacking Miles
Uncle Tom ( AT GA>ME, 2007) was awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award in 2014. He published his first book “In the Path Of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail” in 2017. Tom will discuss his experiences and research from his upcoming book on endurance and essential training ( physical and mental) for long distance backpacking success. Topics will include gait analysis, pain management, recovery myths and facts, over- and under-hydration, and meditation.

Old Mill Conference Room, 215 Imboden St.
on Friday May 15 from 12:45-2:15 pm

You can also stop and chat with Tom at the Atlas (Guthook) Guides vendor booth, where he’s working for the weekend.

My Summer Break

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.

We came, we mounted bikes, we survived!

 

Post Ride Recaps

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.

Up Ragged from Hope Street

This ascent is challenging as well with a relatively flat run at the beginning, with the trail turning much ore rocky and vertical.

Going up!

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.

Northwest view form Ragged ledges

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.

 

Bang!

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:

Trail talk

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 !

Firetowers East and West

About once a month I have experiences that can be described as surprising coherent.
This summer I have been devoting 2 hours each early weekday morning writing my second book. I learned a lot from publishing In the Path of Young Bulls already, which is closing in on a third printing. One of my lessons was that it takes frequent, regular, and focused work to crank a book about. I learned that at this stage of writing I am targeting amassing words on the page, ideas, angles, within an evolutionary process that is surprisingly interesting. Editing will come later, probably by a wood stove this winter if I can put in the time .
A couple of days ago,I picked up Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whelan, and Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades.

I’ve read it twice already and decided that I needed to re-read it for this new book. Luckily, I was able to head over to my local library and find the book in the stacks. The book is excellent, and harkens back to a time in my life when I was a teen and was just beginning to start backpacking in the New Hampshire’s Whites, which were a few hours drive from my house.
Today, I thought I was headed up to Mt. Waumbeck in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, one of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot peaks. Instead I joined my old hiking pal Tenzing for a strong day of hiking up and down North Kearsarge, near North Conway, NH. Although it was not a 4,000 footer, Tenzing chose it as a practice run for some longer and more demanding hikes he and I will take through the end of September that will allow us both to finish up our individual 4,000’ lists.
Tenzing even printed out calendars for us to lock in our next three hiking adventures,

Much to my surprise, I discovered a very well preserved fire tower on the top of the 3,268 foot granite cone.

Originally built in 1909, the existing fire tower lookout was re-built by the the US Forest Service in 1951 and continued in operation until 1968, when the increased use of airplanes for fire detection replaced the need for lookouts.
What’s uncanny is that I’m sitting in bed here tonight at the White Mountain Hostel, and writing a blog post about today’s hike with a book by my side with a cover shot of a fire tower that is the same vintage as the one I entered at noontime today and enjoyed a brief respite from the rain squall and cold wind on top of Kearsarge North.

What are the chances?

Miniature Wilderness in the Camden Hills (via Atlas Guides Blog)

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.

screenshot

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.

IMG_9398

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

->>Miniature Wilderness in the Camden Hills – Atlas Guides Blog

Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 2

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!

 

 

 

Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 1

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.

A very slow, but steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

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.

Heading home, sinking..

At this point, I refer the reader to this article from Self magazine: The 2 Things That Will Help Motivate You to Be More Active

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