Maine’s Appalachian Trail Opens Up

The AT on Bigelow Ridge

On June 26,  Appalachian Trail (A.T.) volunteers were given the green light to resume Trail maintenance following guidelines offered by the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Appalachian Trail  Maintenance work was put on pause in late March this year as safety guidelines and procedures were developed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among volunteers, hikers, and Trailside communities.    COVID-19 continues to display varied impact throughout the country.  It is possible that some states and public lands might shut down if there are spikes in new cases, and volunteers will abide by all closure orders should they occur.

There are a few issues that volunteers were advised to be aware of as  we begin assessing and repairing any damage to the Trail:

  1. Many sections of the footpath have not been monitored or maintained for several months, including obstacles such as bushy/overgrown areas, downed trees across the footpath, or erosion damage from rainstorms.
  2. Overgrown sections are also high-risk areas for ticks, so be sure to follow tick bite prevention techniques and perform tick checks frequently.
  3. Overnight campers and visitors in parking areas should pay careful attention to potential hazard trees and dead branches overhead.
  4. All campers are advised to avoid using shelters and privies along the Trail. Over 200 shelters and privies are still closed by their respective land management agencies, and maintainers have been asked to postpone cleaning these structures until further notice to help keep them safe from potential COVID-19 infection.
  5.  If you encounter a downed tree or any other significant maintenance needs on the Trail, please send an email to info@appalachiantrail.org describing the exact location and the type of maintenance needed.

The day included 200 miles of round trip driving.  I left the house at 7:15 AM and was home by 5 PM.  My goal was to be off the mountain by 3 pm when rain was predicted to fall.

I packed rain gear.  I left my chainsaw at home, as my certification has expired.  I filled my biggest external frame pack with hand shears, a lopper, an axe, two hand saws, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. water,  compass, first aid kit,  bug repellant, and a hoe.

Non-motorized success!

My day pack now includes a Garmin Inreach+ GPS/ satellite communication device in case of an emergency.  I am out and about in the woods so much that I pay $12/a month for a service plan.

I was alone all day except for a couple of hikers coming down from spending the night at the Avery Col.

So, even though Dark Sky predicted the 3 pm rain, it started early-  as soon as I exited the car ! Despite wearing my rain jacket, I was soaked by the end of the day, due to rain and me sweating inside the jacket.

All in all, the trail held up well over the winter.

I registered one broken plank on a bridge, cleared four blown-down trees from the trail with my axe and saws, opened up five plugged water bars, and inspected any needs at the campsite.

A Trail crew dealt with this monster obstruction last year

We were advised to refrain from cleaning the outhouse or picking up any trash, due to Covid-19 policies.

I plan to come back within the next month and bring along my weed whacker to dispatch overgrown grasses and brush from first half-mile of the Safford Brook Trailhead.  I’ll probably make an overnight of it, camping at the Safford Notch Campsite after taking in a day hike up to the top of Bigelow.

Did you know that In May 2005, Backpacker Magazine named the Bigelow Range Traverse the tenth most difficult day hike in America in an article entitled America’s Hardest Dayhikes?  Backpacker cited the 17 miles of black flies with attitude and 10,000 feet of elevation gain as reasons for inclusion on the list.-  from Summitpost.org

 

 

 

Riding Vermont’s Kingdom Trails

I’ve just returned from my second camping adventure of 2020 Spring/Summer,  influenced by the ongoing presence of Covid-19.

Last weekend I rejoined my mountain- bike Bubbas in the Woods to return to  Kingdom Trails, located in the northeast corner of Vermont, just across the New Hampshire border. It took 4 hours to drive there, some 200 miles, via Route 2 from my midcoast Maine home.

“The Kingdom Trail network has become a destination for mountain bikers from around the world. Evolving for more than 25 years, the trail system navigates the beautiful landscape highlighting views and destinations with shredding descents and enjoyable climbs! The majority of the trails are single-track with interconnecting double-track that joins all sections from the XC terrain to all -mountain to downhill and lift-accessed trails. You will find a mix of handbuilt rake-and-ride as well as excavated flow and old cart and logging roads.” -Kingdom Trails map

A full-time crew of 10 actively maintains the network to keep it fresh and inviting.

KTAssociation riding is open, but with COVID-19 restrictions:
You are feeling healthy.
You are a resident of Vermont.
You are from a county across New England and New York that has less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents(KTA provides maps of these eligible counties online.). Every one of us dozen+ riders met those requirements.

So we were able to go to the next stage, which was :
Read and abide by KTA’s COVID19 Opening Policy.
Purchase an Annual or Monthly KTA Membership online and in advance.
Agree to KTA Ambassadors checking in riders at all designated parking & pinch point locations.

An adult day pass to ride is $35, with an annual pass only $75, which is what I normally buy, because I try to ride/camp there at least 2-3 times a season. I was overjoyed to learn that my list of retirement perks now includes a free Annual Kngdom membership passes for life: “If you are over 70 you can receive a free Annual Membership by emailing us a copy of your ID and mailing address!”

I drove with Andre co-piloting. We masked up for the long car ride, where we made only one brief stop to snag a fresh sandwich from the Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster, NH.

70 miles of trails were open, with dry and fast conditions for the whole weekend. The three-mile Flower Brook Trail is a brand new one, cutting out miles of travel either in a car or a bike on VT 114. Here’s a brief 2 minute clip featuring the new trail:

 

We rendezvoused with the rest of the gang at a new camping venue for us: Kingdom Farm and Vacation Rentals   We tented at the edge of the large mowed field. The amenities were very good. It is a biker friendly situation. I tented alone,  paying $60 for two nights, including (free clean showers), access to the main building’s common area, and use of the bike tools and a bike washing station. We liked the place so much that we scheduled a return for the last weekend in July. Here a slick gallery of pics from the venue.

The weekend went well for me. Although it was often humid and warm, the temps were not excessive and the nights were cool enough that tenting was comfortable.

I put in nearly 45 miles of riding over a 48 hour period, with half-day rides on Friday afternoon and Sunday morning with a full day of riding on Saturday.  Best of all, I snagged a double digit list of Personal Records (including 8 fastest times), according to Strava. I drove with my co-pilot Andre. We masked up for the long car ride, where we made only one brief stop to snag a fresh sandwich from the Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster, NH.

Here are the routes for three days’ of KIngdom rides, along with elevation profiles.:

 

Friday Afternoon
Saturday’s Ride
Sunday Morning Ride

Armed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two bike bottles full of electrolyte charged water, and my new magic cramp buster product (Pickle juice), I not only survived another exciting weekend of flow-riding, I even thrived!    My riding skills don’t always come to the front these days, but when they do, I’m doubly thrilled to ride the best in the East and actually master sections of trail that I used to fear.

Momentum helps and so does looking down the trail a bit.

photo by Derek Veilleux

 

 

Daily I Ching Reading – The Sun

Daily I Ching Reading
Hexagram #57-The Sun (doubled)

Hexagram 57

In consulting A Guide to the I Ching ( Carol Anthony) regarding today’s six tosses of three coins two surprises presented.

The essential learning from today’s practice was, “Only consistently firm, yet gentle inner thoughts penetrate to others with good effect. This influence occurs through maintaining a ceaseless correct inner attitude in which we are balanced, detached, and independent through all the changing events”.

Two identical trigrams are stacked today, each presenting as roots, penetrating through cracks in boulders that eventually break them apart. In a similar manner, the influence of consciousness penetrates our subconscious until one day, in a flash of insight we understand with amazing clarity.

Anthony writes, ”Receiving this hexagram indicates (1) that the truth we perceive has been penetrating to us over a long period of time, and (2) that our dependence on the truth must be consistently maintained if it is to penetrate to others with dynamic effect.

Today’s hexagram is concerned with self-correction and is often received together with hexagram 18-Work on What Has Been Spoiled. The specific self–correction most often needed is to cease striving to influence, which inhibits others from finding their own way as well as to prevent any deeper insight from intervening in the situation. As I flipped back the page in my journal to yesterday’s I Ching reading, I was very surprised to see that I had thrown my coins to receive hexagram 18!

Looking out my window to the expanse of fields, trees and stone walls extending to the Camden Hills on the horizon I see a pine tree on the ground that I cut down two days ago. We had a very powerful combination of wind that followed eighteen inches of heavy, clinging snow that toppled many thousands of trees throughout Maine this past week, and the pine suffered from numerous limbs broken of in the storm. I wanted to remove the tree for some years now. Transplanting it as a young tree was a mistake, as the thick masses of green needles began to obscure the winter sun from warming my south-facing windows.

Anthony’s interpretation of today’s hexagram relates here as well.
“We should also cease reacting to shock. We need to bands like the bamboo, without becoming bent or broken through rigid resistance to the situation. Through nonresistance, the wind passes and we returned the upright. We need to ask why we keep reacting after the shock has passed. Do we like clinging to negative possibilities? We need to remember that when we insist on what is correct during times of challenge, and wait for others to go through the learning experience, giving them the space they need to find themselves, the boulders of entrenched evil and hardness Will be broken by the penetrating power of truth.”

Perhaps everything will work out better than expected?

Truly a Giveaway Book!

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–>>My book is free to all via Kindle download from right now until 3/29. <<–

This 256-page book chronicles my 5-month long continuous hike over the Rockies on the Continental Divide Trail that I survived in 2013. Includes 50 full-color photos.

Folks are cooped up and libraries are closed. If you are hikertrash who is gravely disappointed that you can’t put together a thru-hike due to Covid-19, parts of this book will make you glad that you weren’t out there with me. Happy Birthday (its mine today!) to you.

Thanks to all the readers who have bought and continue to buy the print version which just reached my third printing.

Feel free to pass this offer on.  It expires on 3/29.

Here’s a sample from the introduction

Trail Days 2020 cancelled due to COVID-19 -via Tri-Cities News

Trail Days 2020 has been 19cancelled due to COVID-| via Tri-Cities News & Weather
— Read on www.google.com/amp/s/www.wjhl.com/local-coronavirus-coverage/trail-days-2020-cancelled-due-to-covid-19/amp/

© 2020 Virginia Tourism

It’s an event that I had scheduled, but now that’s gone too.

I addition to being out of work, and unpaid for at least 6 weeks I just lost my hopes of taking a week off in May to head down to Damascus, Virginia and work in the Atlas Guides booth, sell some books, and give a presentation to the public at Trail Days 2020.  I planned to go down several days early to hike 100 miles os so on the AT into the event.  I had a room reserved and it was going to be great.  In he past 30,000 or more hikers are in attendance.  While I agree with the decision to cancel, I’m sad, and further weighed down by the enormity of this world-wide phase transition that we all experiencing.

In the meantime, I plan to get in as much hiking here in Maine as I am able each day, taking  breaks for our isolated home-bound lives and seeing this through.

Walking Might Be the Best Exercise There Is

My buddy Frank on a micro adventure with me in Camden Hills State Park.

Engaging in at least 150 minutes per week of brisk walking was linked to a 20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.”– Outside online

Gyms are closed here and so are yoga studios. The coronavirus is forcing all of us to alter our habits.

I was a faithful client at my local gym for over 40 years until September of 2013. I had just returned from five months of continuous backpacking over the Rocky Mountains where I completed a through hike of the Continental Divide Trail.

I walked back into the PenBay YMCA where I had still had membership. I hopped onto the treadmill, pushed the incline button to full and proceeded to walk a 4 mile an hour pace for 45 minutes. I worked up a decent sweat, talked to a few of the regulars as usual, showered and never came back. I missed moving outdoors. It didn’t feel right to get in my car, drive 15 minutes to a crowded parking lot, and endure the humid stuffy atmosphere. That was my last day at the gym.

Be careful what you wish for. Spending extended time in the wilderness has many befefits but also some drawbacks.

My time in the natural world spoiled me.

If I forgoed the gym, was my option? How about heading out my door to explore the numerous local snowmobile paths and bike trails that I had traveled on since building my house here in 1978?

There are also 30 miles of miles of excellent and often challenging terrain at Camden Hills State PaRk , a gem that’s partly located in Lincolnville, where I live. I can bike or walk there from here.

Since then, I’ve maintained a weight loss of 15 pounds over my normal body weight as I’ve successfully been able to keep up a year round hiking and biking routine.

Consider walking right now.

Why not bag that doorstep mile today?

Surgery #10 !

I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist yesterday. I hoped to wait until May to have it done but the numbness, burning, and overall discomfort was severe enough that I scheduled it sooner. I’ve never regretted any of my previous surgeries, as every one of them improved my functioning.

I’m advised to back off normal use of my right hand for at least two weeks when the stitches come out.  I consult the I-Ching more lately.  Today’s hexagram put my approach to surgery and healing into crystal clear perspective.  Here’s a copy from today’s notes about what I learned from today’s reading: it has to do with reacting to situations where “obstructions have been cleared out”, which would be an auspicious match for carpal tunnel surgery!

At least there isn’t much snow left to shovel, driveway and walkway ice to chip, firewood to bring in, or even biking in the woods right now due to increasingly bright sunlight, moderating of below-freezing temperatures, and deep oozy mud as the upper crust of frozen water and crystallized snow melts out.

Rigger in The Bog

I recorded one of the lowest of my daily Heart Rate Variability readings from the past four years this morning.  Anesthesia plus physical trauma calls for parasympathetic recovery mode in all of us.

I’m treating my wrist with 20 minute cyces of an ice pack on and off this morning, and occasionally elevating my wrist while laying on the couch while catching up with my reading.

On the agenda for this coming recovery week will be organizing and preparing tax records, and preparing for the two 30 minute workshops I’m giving at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, Maine on Sat. March 16.

My first topic will be “ The Lure of Long-Distance Adventures” where I’ll present some biographical info on noteworthy endurance backpackers connected to Maine and introduce some of my favorite longer hikes in New England and the Maritimes.

Me and Billy Goat in the Milinocket Hannaford’s a couple years ago

I’ll also be exploding the current contents of my 17 pound backpack (without food or water) for all to see in “What’s In a Thru-Hiker’s Pack and Why”. It could just as easily be subtitled Or Why No Spare Underwear!

In the meantime, I can fire up Strava and add in several hikes after Daylight Savings time is adjusted once again tomorrow, as the clocks Spring Ahead an hour!