Welcoming Shelter at Fourth Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps

It’s raining lightly today, our last at Point Camp.

Our Home Away from Home

I’ll probably edit photos, write a blog post, read, take a nap, meditate, and unfurl my umbrella after lunch and take a walk over to Fifth Debskoneag Lake to check out the area for mushrooms.

Yesterday Ivan spotted large chunk of chaga on a decaying white birch tree some distance off the trail. We broke off a good sized chunk, and were able to leave the majority of the growth on the tree. I cleaned it up a bit after reaching camp and boiled up a panful of the deep dark liquid, which to me is a pretty close in taste to strong coffee. I just finished reading Birch, by Anna Lexington, a most enjoyable worldwide history of the tree, amply illustrated by photos and maps.

There is also a cabin for rent here called Indian Camp, which I describe with text and photos here.

My favorite day hike here that I have enjoyed the most so far is a three mile loop hike along the ledges north of here as one stands on the porch of our camp.

Once I had hauled myself up the steep loose gravel and made my way around the cliffs themselves, I was granted the following view of Katahdin:

Here is a sketch that I made last year of the ridge’s profile.

While up top, I attached an 18 degree wide angle fisheye lens to my iPhone where I got these shots:

There is much left to do today, with highlighted activities that reflect “drawing back the bow” today, including resting, writing, and expressing gratefulness at the foresight and fortitude of those that have come before us that have left us this legacy.

I Rode to Labrador 25 Years Ago

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In 1994, twenty-give years ago, I published my first feature article.  It was about a two week motorcycle ride from Maine to the newest leg of the Labrador Highway- Churchill Falls to Goose Bay.  My touring mentor and buddy, Alan MacKinnon and I had just read Great Heart, by Rugge and Davidson and were inspired by the book to explore the region.

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To link to a .pdf of the article, complete with original photographs, clink the link below, where you will be able to  download the .pdf in separate browser:

Lonely Road to Labrador

Book Review: When You Find My Body

When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian TrailWhen You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail by D. Dauphinee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the local AT thru hikers, AKA Blueberry, mentioned that she read this book in one day. It took me two days complete, the same as my wife who read it immediately after I did. The book is well phrased, and the author has the credentials to do a thorough job of bring the story forward.

I recommended to anyone, experienced hikers and outdoors folks as well as those who hold that that a long hike on Appalachian Trail is a piece of cake. In any given year approximately 30 people get lost while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sadly, 66 year old Geraldine Largay was one of them in 2013, when she had the misfortune of wandering 2 miles off the AT in Maine after she became disoriented when stepping into the woods off the AT to urinate.

I read all 39 comments about the book here in Goodreads. I am left wondering whether some of the reviewers read the same book that I did ! For example there were comments that Ms. Largay did nothing wrong, that she waited patiently in place for 26 days for a rescue that never came despite the coordinated efforts of hundreds of searchers doing close coordinated searches of the area on multiple occasions

As a former thru hiker of the AT who has since obtained his Maine Guide’s license I have received training on lost person behavior and I have also experienced the anxiety being left behind and/or temporarily disoriented myself. Ms. Largay lacked two specific skills that might have saved her life: land navigation and fire building. Her body was eventually found after keeping herself alive for 26 days while in possession of a compass and a map of the area. Ms. Largay had a lighter with her but the postmortem site analysis revealed that she was not able to maintain a fire large or long enough to call attention to her location.

Since Ms. Largay’s death I have added a satellite-based communication device ( Garmin InReach+) to my day hike pack, as an emergency back up. I pay 12 dollars a month for the subscription as I am out in all seasons. I’m not getting any younger and things do go wrong in unexpected ways in the wood and waters of Maine.

I also orient myself with a compass and map and complete a “handrail check” before I enter the woods or a large body of water. A handrail is a feature or landmark that leads towards your destination and one that you can follow or keep within sight. It can be man made or natural. For example, if Ms. Largay had done this, she would have known that Maine Route 27 was directly east of the section of the AT where she became lost. She might not have been able to see the Northeast handrail of Sugarloaf Mountain through the dense foliage, but that big old sun came up directly from the east on each of those 26 days that she was waiting for help. Route 27 was 11 miles directly from her location, and while she might not have been able to get there in one of even two days, she might have recognized the AT as she would have to cross it on her way to the highway.

Smart phone’s GPS/ mapping systems are great tools that I use myself, but Ms. Largay’s sad story only drives home the fact that rudimentary map/compass and navigation skills are necessary when all else, including our sense of direction fails us.

View all my reviews

Are You Ready To Be Challenged?

I’m at camp here the day after a very celebratory Fourth of July fireworks display last night on the shore of Hobbs Pond, Hope, Maine.

We’re at camp!

Holidays are for recreating, backing off, and celebrating an major cultural event. To me, the Fourth of July represents a celebration of freedom.

Our national day for embracing freedom is now past for 2019. I am the grandchild of immigrants from Poland, and that my presence here has only been possible due to the decades of hard work that have been put in by my grandparents, parents, and now my own family to achieve what we have.

I own a home and a tiny a camp in Maine, a couple of cars, four bikes, and an old motorcycle. Everything is finally paid for. it’s taken me 69 years to do it.

As much as I want an easy and expansive life, a little voice inside my chest whispers to me, “Don’t make it too easy.”. I’m not sure how the little commentator got in there, whether it is my Polish suffering gene, or my Catholic roots, but it is there and it is something I don’t need to return to therapy to obliterate. Today’s Daily Stoic message is just what I need to hear right now.

From today’s DailyStoic.com:

It’s very easy to get comfortable. To build up your life exactly how you want it to be. Minimize inconveniences and hand off the stuff you don’t like to do. To find what you enjoy, where you enjoy it, and never leave. 

A velvet rut, is what it’s called. It’s nice, but the comfort tricks you into thinking that you’re not stuck. 

The Stoics knew that this was a kind of death. That as soon as we stop growing, we start dying. Or at least, we become more vulnerable to the swings of Fate and Fortune. Seneca talked over and over again about the importance of adversity, of not only embracing the struggle life throws at us but actively seeking out that difficulty, so you can be stronger and better and more prepared. A person who has never been challenged, he said, who always gets their way, is a tragic figure. They have no idea what they are capable of. They are not even close to fulfilling their potential. 

So that leaves you with something to think about today: Are you challenging yourself? Do the choices you make push you or do they help you atrophy? Are you in a velvet rut?

Be honest. And then challenge yourself to do better.

New Book!

I’ve set aside time this summer to plunk away at my new book. While I’d prefer to head over to my hut to hunker down and go at it, I have too much that has been neglected in my life to go that route. I’m intending to average 10 hours a week, writing two hours early in the morning before the day’s responsibilities unfurl. Any work that skips a day will be made up on the weekend. I can be a disciplined workhorse when I need to be ! I may be floating some stuff over this blog from time to time. 16.5 pages down so far.

How the Guthook App Revolutionized Thru-Hiking | Outside Online

Congrats to my adventure pal Guthook and the crew at Atlas Guides for making a difference!

Guthook Guides took an entire set of tools needed for thru-hiking and consolidated them into a single virtual location. Such an app might have been inevitable, but for ultralight-obsessed thru-hikers, it was a revolution.
— Read on www.outsideonline.com/2396304/guthook-guides-app-mapping-thru-hiking

My review of The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life

I picked up this book after seeing a brief review in an adventure magazine. It’s the third book written by Tim Mathis, who is behind the boldlywent.com website and promotional company.

“Partly a celebration of an underappreciated subculture of hiker trash, ski bums, and vagabonds, and partly a “how to” guide for adventure on the cheap, The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life is the first solid attempt to define an outdoor movement that has taken root in backpacker hostels, long trails, and climbing crags around the world.” ~ Tim Mathis, The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life

I would qualify for status in any dirtbag club. If you want to understand about dirtbags, I’d suggest Googling the term and then clicking the images tab, and you’ll see a comprehensive dirtbag photo gallery.  You’ll see images like these:

For those of you who are more linguistically oriented, here’s the Urban Dictionary’s definition: dirtbag – “A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communally and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle.”

I’m not sure that many folks who are standing at some crossroad where they are pondering a career direction would make the serious lifestyle alterations necessary to adhere to the tenets of dirtbag life, but if you have an interest in wandering, this book is a good start.

I’m reminded of a popular book of the 1980’s entitled Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin. I have always wanted to re-read it and it looks like that book will be my follow up to this one.

I’d offer that any book’s references that back up a book’s premises reflect the best examples of successful applications to real life that are available to bolster their position. Within the pages are numerous examples of dirtbags that actually have money, as they have somehow captured a niche in society that allows them to live cheap and enjoy their hours on earth. Yvon Chouinard comes to mind. He’s a billionaire that prefers driving old cars. The Patagonia clothes that he wears are years old, and he hardly buys anything new. He continues to lead a very simple life, and describes himself as a non-consumer of anything. To this day, he claims that he prefers sleeping on somebody’s floor than in a motel room, which is clearly dirtbag behavior.

There is a downside to most dirtbags’ lifestyle (which gets harder as you get older), which is a perennial mandatory cheapness, often due to the lack of any reasonable retirement plan. If you don’t punch a time clock for decades, there’s no pension, and in some cases, those years of working intermittently for cash results in a very meager social security check.

The bottom line is that living a simpler existence away from the consumer-driven life can lead to a heightened respect for the natural world. Many of us older dirtbags have more than than a thousand dollars in our bank accounts. In my case I built my own small house over 40 years ago from wood that I cut down fr0m my wood lot that allowed me to have a post and beam oak frame house in which I still live. I retired from full time work 17 years ago, which has enabled me to experience at least 18 months of a 100% dirtbag lifestyle in earning my Triple Crown of hiking in 2014.  I have patched together several “jobs” that allow me to continue to gather an adequate pile of those elusive pieces of rectangular paper with pictures of dead presidents.

I’m always fantasizing about hitting a long trail again, because I’ve understood that collecting experiences is more important to me than amassing creature comforts and material objects.

For those of you who are intrigued by the Google gallery of dirtbags, I’d suggest checking out the video Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (96 minutes).

Hailed as one of the most prolific and influential climbers of all time, Fred Beckey has become a cult hero in the outdoor world Dirtbag explores in cinematic rapture the unmatched drive, superhuman achievements and enigmatic genius of this man who set the bar for what is possible in an uncompromised existence. Co-stars are Yvon Chouinard and Conrad Anker. I don’t know how long it will be available, but do check it out for rental at the present dirtbag deal of $0.99 .

Influenza and Me

I’m hoping that I am not sick any more. I have been 100% healthy for the last 4 years, which has been a long run of symptom free life-even no cold symptoms, but illness finally caught up with me. It has been two weeks since I came down with a bad cold that turned out to be the flu. I do get a yearly flu vaccination.  I have a newfound appreciation for folks with chronic fatigue, or any affliction that renders the body to limp along and experience distress.

I first noticed that something was wrong 14 days ago after taking my daily heart rate variability (HRV) reading:

Initial flu reading

It was dramatically different from the usual numbers that come up, in fact, I thought that the chest strap had malfunctioned and took the three minute HRV reading a second time, and it was no mistake.

At one point in the last two weeks, everything ached; my eyes hurt badly enough that I couldn’t even read. I was blowing my nose constantly, spewing various shades of mucus discharge and phlegm. I had zero energy. I could barely make it up the stairs to the bedroom. I slept a full 8 hours each night, but also up to 5 hours each and every day. To ever hike again or especially pedal my bikes seemed a demented fantasy.

Right now I’m sitting in the emergency room on a warm Sunday noontime, waiting for the results of blood work and a chest x-ray — for my wife, not me. I passed on this flu to her so she’s behind me a bit on the time frame. The staff here at the hospital informed us that many folks with this flu end up here at the ER after they develop secondary bronchitis and/or pneumonia.

I monitored my recovery by taking HRV readings and watched the numbers slowly improve until I was back at my peak a couple of days ago:

Back in Action

I went for a slow walk yesterday, cranking out four miles. It went OK. This morning I rode my bike on the road for a couple hours at an easy 130 bpm pace to see how I would feel afterward. I was ok.

My advice is that this springtime flu is still making the rounds here in Maine. I was informed that Tamiflu is effective in knocking out this strain. If you can start Tamiflu within 48 hours of initial flu symptoms and a positive flu test, it is more likely to work, but in some cases may only shorten your flu by one day. My flu started with itchy eyes, a runny nose, and lots of sneezing. I also learned that the symptoms of a flu start a day before one is affected and the contagion period is 5-7 days.

I’m humble and patient, as I experience being an actual patient again.

Get up to date weekly status on the occurrence and severity of influenza in Maine here.

Embracing Risk

Hank Lunn and I are co-leading a 90 minute workshop at Maine Coast Men’s weekend gathering of men. We were inspired to share our enthusiasm ( and fears) about if after reading the national bestseller Stealing Fire.

Consider attending! The price is right, and the risk of the weekend experience has proved to be transformative for many of us men.

For more info, including registration form and details go to mainecoast men.com .