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

Building On A Friendship

Lock at the hut

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.

Walking for Mushrooms at Debsconeag Lake Wilderness Camps

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:

Indian Camp detail

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).

We hiked red, counterclockwise

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.

 

 

Columbus Day Weekend at Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps-Part 1

Thurs. 10/4/18

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.

Hobbs Pond Camp

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.

Point Camp

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.

Jo-Mary Road

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.

Marcia enjoying last night’s fire

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.

Happy Birthday to Me

I boss myself and set my own work schedule so I celebrate my birthday with a solo hike or ride. With all the snow around and the temperatures below freezing at dawn, I chose to ride Camden Hills State Park this year. Refrozen snow is good. Thawing snow isn’t, for biking that is.

Whenever I go out on a hike or ride, I hope to notice something interesting. Today it was connecting shade and north slope conditions with good solid track to ride upon.

The Camden Hill State Park is a 10 minute drive away.

Heading Up

I started up the mile long climb on fairly packed surface- many folks walk this section, some with their dogs, and it shows.

Eventually I reached the left tun for Bald Rock Mountain, a 1,000 prominence that overlooks the Atlantic.

It has been deep enough with snow that snowmobiles have gone to the top yesterday. None up there today. I am trying to make the full 5 miles on this Multipurpose Trail and then turn around and come back. I am racing sunshine, which has the capacity to soften the surface of the trail and cause my 5” tires to sink in and wallow.

In the next mile, the Multipurpose Road flattens out and is bordered by hemlocks and spruce trees that not only shade the surface from the sun, but hold the cold overnight. Grip is better here.

Soon I encounter the right tun for the Summer Bypass Trail, left untouched all winter. You can see that entrance right above the top of my front tire.

At the 2.5 mile mark I reach the Ski Shelter, empty this morning.

I will enter on my way back and drink water and eat a snack.

Still pushing to preserve firm snow.

From this point to the Route 1 side of the Park, there is much less foot traffic , with a clean snowmobile track from a rider who probably came through here last night or early this AM.

I stopped just at the water tower, turned around, and came back, deciding to take a left up the Cameron Mountain Trail, a decision which was aided by fresh snowmobile tracks and two sets of foot prints going that way.

Cameron Mountain is at the very edge of the State Park. The snowmobile track swoops around the summit and then twists and descends through private property when it eventually crosses Youngstown Road and heads for Lincolnville Center. The down hill is steep and fast, but my Ice Cream Truck embraces the wobble and delivers.

I decide to continue on the snowmobile trail rather than ride the pavement of Youngtown Road back to the car. I discover a huge hay field where I thought that I had lost the trail, but then I saw a tiny red trail sign far across the center of the field.

Winding my way down toward the village, I encountered an active logging operation that I was able to ride through with little difficulty.

After more than two hours of pedaling, I decided to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Drake’s corner store where I took this distorted selfie in the window.

My car was still three miles away. I do not like riding on Rt. 173, due to the narrow road and inattentive drivers, so I decided to gamble on the abandoned section of Thurlow Road being tracked in.

After dodging thinly iced-over water at the start, I encountered unbroken soft snow as far as I could see. I decided to walk the bike through. I was tiring, with my heart rate spiking to 155 beats per minute through the snow. Soon I encountered a little maple sugaring operation half way through service via a couple of ATV ruts that assisted me getting back to better track.

A sort while later I was back on pavement, where I took a left on Youngtown Rd. and had a leisurely couple of miles on pavement back to my car and home. Today was a great start to my next season of exploring my local trails.