My Pandemic Practices

I’m reeling from the smashing of my old patterns and habits as we all try to adapt to this new socially distancing pandemic.

Morning Arrives !

Normally, this is the time of year when my professional school psychology services are at peak demand. That’s all done. All five of the schools where I work are closed until April 27, with hints mulling about that this school year may even be over. We’ll see. If that is the case, I’m out of a job until at least September. I’m a private contractor — I’m not on the payroll, so if I can’t work, I don’t make money. Also, other areas where I “work” are gone-book signings, workshops on backpacking, and guiding opportunities.

I’m still physically compromised, and restricted for any of my normal physical due to surgery on my wrist on 3/6. The stitches are out but I can’t yet increase the stress on my hand. I can’t prune my apple trees-I hope it won’t be too late when I’m finally able to do that. I also really riding my bikes, which I do year-round here in Maine.

At least I can hike. I’m buffered by the fact that I live in the country, and not a city dweller. Our rural house is on five acres and I also can go to our little camp in the neighboring town of Hope. It’s busy there in the summer, with nearly two dozen cottages, cottages, and even a couple of real houses there but right now, there is no one on either side of me or across the street, so I can isolate there as well as at the house.

I have permission from folks that live in the neighborhood to walk out my door and roam around on over a thousand acres. Years go by where I’ve never seen anyone but me hiking and biking out there. I feel safer outdoors than in.

Marcia and I have closed the door at the house to all visitors. I turn 70 in a couple of days. Marcia is not far behind me in age, plus her immune system is not 100%. We’re entrenching on the advice of the CDC which advises only essential trips (i..e hospital) for vulnerable populations.

I plan to practice is such the same routines that I’ve adopted for a while now. If you are looking to lay down some new routines and habits read Atomic Habits by James Clear.  It is the 11th most popular book on Amazon’s charts this week.  :

A) Continue to build and maintain a healthy immune system.
B) Reduce stressors. Stress impairs immunity. It doesn’t matter whether it is physical, or mental-emotional. Stress is a common and primary cause of poor immunity.
C) Meditation-I’ve practiced Transcendental Meditation daily for 50 years. I’m up to two 45 minute sessions-upon awakening and then before dinner. It’s the keystone habit of my life.
C) Targeting 7-9 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep. Educate yourself about sleep. I recommend reading the incredibly interesting book  Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

D) Daily exercise. I’ve been averaging  75-90 minutes a day of moderate hiking. It’s important not to overdo it. Too much, and/or too frequent exercise can impair the immune system too, due to stress. This leads to the next practice of…
E) Daily reading of heart rate variability, a scientifically validated measure of heart health and the need for recovery rather than over-stressing our physiology by using our bodies when we should be resting. I like DailyBeat from SweetWater Health.

F) Vitamin D supplementation. There’s conflicting evidence for the efficacy of vitamin pills but in my case, it’s all I have left. I’ve tried everything, including 12 hour-long, daily sun exposure of my bare arms and legs for 5 months at a time. The only thing that brought my vitamin D up to even the lower end of the normal range was experimenting with dosages including ingesting 50,000 units a week for months at a time. I’m now on a much lower daily dose.
G) Healthy eating, which means (for me) lower-carb, moderate protein, lots of veggies and modest levels of natural fats.
H) And now, I’m avoiding close contact with people, washing my hands every time I enter my house, and avoiding touching my eyes, nose and mouth after being exposed to others.

I) I’m learning how to set up Zoom meetings with my Monday Night Men’s Group. Seven of us have been meeting for 2.5 hours for over 30 years, which takes place over a meal that each of us prepares for the other men. We rotate the site at each other’s houses. We were able to get it rolling this past Monday, but are still trying to get in everyone on board. It’s hard to understand some of the expanded uses of technology, but the struggle to figure it out is OK with me.

We need each other right now, even though we can’t even sit around the table to do so.

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!

New study shows the right workout routine can help fight dementia – The Globe and Mail

screenshot.png

It’s snowing like crazy this Thanksgiving morning here in Maine as I put together this blog post.  During the night, an inch of rain preceded the whiteout so I’m sure there will be some ice hidden under the new cover of snow.

The wind is howling, clouds of white are swirling, and the air temperature is exactly 32 degrees.  All of this adds up to me sitting beside the wood stove soaking up the heat before I fire up my heavily-studded-tire-equipped VW Golf and my wife Marcia and I creep out way down Route 1 to join two of her sisters and their families for a Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving morning of 2018 had no snow fall; however, the mercury in the thermometer that day bottomed out at a bone chilling 5℉.

My neighbor Andy and I ride our bikes year ’round and up to now, have embraced a Thanksgiving morning tradition of riding our bikes for an hour and a half or so, usually reaching Camden Hills State  Park.

IMG_8944
Andy, setting the route

Camden is a vacation destination in all seasons, and sits in a protected harbor off Penobscot Bay.  It’s at sea level. Our houses face the ocean sited at some 450′ in elevation.  All of this geographic data equals bike rides that undulate up and down on the numerous hills and little mountains that stretch from inland to the coast.  It is a workout that invariably pushes our heart rates back and forth into the zone that is normally characterized by the upper reaches of an interval workout of moderate to more intense intensity.

IMG_5924

This past Monday and Tuesday found me braving a drive of some 220 miles away to Pembroke, MA to visit with my 93 year old mother Isabel and bring her to a medical appointment. It’s a sad visit, only buffered by my appreciation that Isabel had experienced 90 good years of remarkably healthy life before she was diagnosed with late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

At my age, I worry if genes will overcome my efforts to remain cognitively intact as I age out.  My father, Chester died at age 72 of congestive heart failure, before any noticeable decline in his memory.  His own father died when Chester was a baby,  but my dad’s mother, Mary, died of old age and likely Alzheimer’s.  I was only little, but I do remember how strange it was for me to realize that in her later years, Mary was unable to recognize her own son.

The following Globe and Mail article came into my inbox a couple days a go.  Do check it out:

“In 2017, a team led by the lab’s director, Jennifer Heisz, published a five-year study of more than 1,600 adults older than 65 that concluded that genetics and exercise habits contribute roughly equally to the risk of eventually developing dementia. Only one of those two factors is under your control, so researchers around the world have been striving to pin down exactly what sort of workout routine will best nourish your neurons.”

Any and I might have missed our bike rides this morning, but we’ll probably both be back at it tomorrow, doing what we can to keep moving and remembering today all those that we treasure as we sit around the tables of bounty.

full article here –>via New study shows the right workout routine can help fight dementia – The Globe and Mail

For Exercise, Nothing Like the Great Outdoors

I’m sitting here on a dreary, gonna-be-hot-and-humid Saturday morning and deciding whether to hike or bike a bit this morning.

It is exactly half way into the 2017 calendar year. I’m just been through a month of recovery from a bad fall I took on May 22 coming down off the Bigelow ridge after clearing downed trees and cutting back brush  trail on the Appalachian Trail.  I had built up a bit of a cushion since Jan.1  just in case I experienced any setbacks (like a torn/strained hamstring and bashed up back).  Those of you who follow this blog know that I am a huge fan of setting goals, be it for fitness, or for scheduling upcoming trips that help me to spend time outside, and get me moving through the countryside.

I use the Strava (Premium version) App to track my progress for the year, with my overall efforts looking satisfactory. I’m on track for a year of 1,000 miles biking and another 1,000 miles of walking.  So far, I’ve broken 18 personal records while engaged in 156 activities that have taken me 241 hours to complete.

Mid year progress 2017

 

Breaking it down, I’ve done a bit better with biking than walking, with 516 miles logged:

My walking/hiking is just a shade behind, at 489 miles, just 11 miles short of my half way mark of 500 miles.

My walking miles are just a little bit behind.

So, I’ll I head out for a walk now instead of a ride.  If I put in a couple of hours, I should succeed in adding 6 miles or so.  I am fortunate that I can leave my house and walk in relative peace and quiet.  I’m done with the gym. I live where it is easy for me to walk or ride out my door. I plan to keep it that way.

Bottom line:    Strava goal setting helps, choosing activities that your enjoy to do for exercise helps even more, and staying in contact with other folks that like to bike and/or  hike is an additional lifestyle choice that promotes fitness in an natural and enjoyable manner.

From – The New York Times

A Microadventure in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument- Part 1

Prequel:    “Bear and Sparkles say come on up! The fat biking is great :-)”

I missed this sign for the  Mt. Chase Lodge when I passed through here a few minutes ago.

  I’m headed 14 miles further down a roller coaster of a frost-heaved road to explore the northern end of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days.   Bear and Sparkles are the trail names for two of my hiker pals.

Bear and Sparkles

I walked with both of them for the last cold wet days as the thee of us completed our thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail  in 2010. The couple are the two full time winter staff at Mt. Chase Lodge.    Bear and I are also Maine-based Triple Crown Hikers, who also shared the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails in 2007 and 2013.

Sparkles is a Registered Maine Guide.

My Honda Element is the only vehicle that is not a 4WD pickup truck in the parking lot outside the tiny convenience store here beside Shin Pond . I plunked down two packs of chemical hand warmers and a bottle of Gatorade on the counter.

“Ya think yer gonna get yer hands frozen, dear?” asked the perky woman behind the counter. She reminded me of my mom, who turns 91 this summer.
“I’m buying these so my hands don’t get cold. Didn’t it drop to zero here last night?” I replied.
Welcome to Shin Pond, a tiny rural settlement in bona fide rural Maine that has registered several of the coldest winter readings on record.  Three locals were gathered around a table behind me.

I asked the clerk for directions to the Lodge, when one of the fellows chimed right in, ” Go up across the bridge, head up the hill and take your second right”.

I  made it up here after I received a spur of the moment invitation from my hiker pal Guthook to visit him on his own 5 day adventure in the winter Maine woods.

Despite my last minute decision to drive north, I had my reservation completed and parking pass in hand within 30 minutes of logging onto the KWWNM website, and never left the house to do so.  The whole exchange was assisted by an actual person, who was e-mailing me back and forth.  I made a reservation for Big Spring Brook Hut, which is a recently built log cabin, that is unstaffed and set up with propane fuel for cooking and lights, pots and pans, coffee percolator, water jug, airtight wood stove, and stove wood.
Although the Monument promotes travel only via skis, snowshoes, bicycles, and on foot the major winter trails are groomed at least weekly by snowmobiles.
The cost to enter the Monument and stay in the tent sites, shelters, and huts right now is zero, but that will change after the Monument goes through it’s period of public input as it crafts the rules and procedures that will ensure that this most unique gift is used to it’s  potential.
On August 24, 2016, President Obama signed an executive order designating 87,000 acres to the east of Baxter States Park as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The previous day Roxanne Quimby, of Bert’s Bees fame,  transferred that land to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The Monument came complete with a  $20,000,000 cash gift as well as  a pledge to raise an additional $20,000,000 in matching public funds.    Despite the lingering opposition to the Monument’s very existence, I believe that there is more than enough open space in this vastness of forest to provide for the needs of those of us who seek opportunities to backpack and immerse our spirits in the healing forces of trees and leaves.   There are more than three and a half million acres of timber growing in The North Maine Woods. The Monument’s footprint is exactly 0.024% of that vastness. Fact check this yourself by standing on Katahdin’s summit to  view a undulating sea of green that stretches out to the horizon along every single one of those 360 degrees of sight line.  Haven’t we all just worked this out?

The Monument is staffed by Recreation Managers who work out of Lunksoos Camps, a most historic establishment in it’s own right.  When the 12 year old Donn Fendler stumbled out of the Maine wilderness in 1939,  he came out on near Lunksoos.   His shriveled and pin cushioned body was administered to and the nation’s newspapers and radio stations came to Maine to report the events recalled in Donn’s classic book Lost In The Maine Woods.

Tomorrow I head into the Monument, but tonight I’m staying here at Mt. Chase Lodge, on upper Shin Pond,  all by my lonesome.     I love looking at the historic photos of the trophy deer and bear that were harvested in this area.

From their brochure:

“Mt Chase Lodge was established in 1960 as a recreational sporting lodge catering to sportsmen, hikers, family vacationers, snowmobilers and other outdoor oriented folks who appreciate the adventure and tranquility of the north Maine woods.   Situated on the shore of Upper Shin Pond, in a quiet wooded setting, our comfortable lodge and private cabins offer excellent accommodations. Full bathrooms, automatic heat and electricity, and cooking equipment for those who prefer, are offered year round.”

The Lodge itself rents 8 rooms, and four cabins.  My  three course dinner was top notch and prepared by Bear himself.    Breakfast came with the price of the room, which was a most reasonable $79 plus tax.

I plan to wait a while for it to get warmer before I bicycle into  the Monument tomorrow morning.   It is supposed to drop to around zero degrees tonight.  Time to turn out the light!

IMG_9388

 

MONUMENT RESERVATION INFORMATION:

Mark and Susan Adams
Elliotsville Plantation INC.
Recreation Managers
881 Shin Pond Road
PO Box 662 Patten Me. 04765
Susan,  207-852-1291
Mark,  207-670-8418
Lunksoos@gmail.com
katahdinwoods.org
Facebook: Katahdin Woods & Waters
Maps and info to KWWNM  at www.nps.gov/kaww

Step up ! Mileage Challenge for 2017 !

It’s now 2017. After reviewing all the end of the year” bests” lists and the sun ever so slowly extending itself into the far northeast corner of the USA , I’m ready and hopeful about what’s to come.

For one, I’m still able to embrace health and happiness. My body weight has remained around 200 pounds since I lost 27 pounds on my 2013 CDT thru hike. On prior hikes, I’ve gained it all back , but this time, I’ve been able to remain 15 pounds lighter.

Setting goals is my personal  life raft. Without them, I would be a diminished individual. My spanking new goal for 2017 is to hike, walk, backpack, or bike a cumulative 2017 miles.  It will be a figure that is easy to remember!  With that number in place, I am generally out the door every day to put in at least an hour to an hour and a half on moderate to more activity.
I dumped my decades old gym membership in 2013 after I came back from the CDT.  I went back to working out indoors but it didn’t feel right to drive a vehicle a half hour to change clothes and spend an hour inside a sweat factory where I did more talking than walking.

With this plan, I sometimes play catch-up.  I had a work week last week that cut into my recreational daylight hours. Saturday morning brought me to a three hour hike in nearby Camden Hills State Park.  We have not had much snow here.  The ground is practically bare, however,  there are ample stretches of compressed, hard, grey ice covering some of the hiking trails and single track that I travel on.  Half of Saturdays hike was done on Stabilicers.
Fitbit helps.

Strava  helps more.

2017 so far. Its a start!
2017 so far. Its a start!

If you are considering getting in ready shape for the upcoming hiking season then I’d suggest you also make your own grand plan with a mileage goal thrown in to keep you honest.  I’d like to thank Carey Kish for getting me started on upping my Maine-based mileage.  His 2015 Maineac Outdoors column inspired me.  I’d recommend that you review my own blog post that conveys my start.

I  boosted the whole shabang up a notch for 2016, aiming for 1,000 miles of walking as well as also a separate 1,000 mile biking. I was in for a nasty surprise this past Thanksgiving when I realized that I still had over 250 miles to cover on the bike before Dec. 31.  Early snowfalls and some brutal single digit temps led me to sufferer through a few  slushy bone chilling rides, but I made it.

Road rode yesterday
Road rode yesterday

I plan to amassing at least 100 bike miles a month from now until my birthday on March 27.

What about you?   Ready for a mileage goal of 1,000 miles to invite you outside more?      Who is in for a belated New year’s revolution or two?

You might not have to ride ice to get there.

Rollins Trails/ Ragged/Snow Bowl
Rollins Trails/ Ragged/Snow Bowl
Riding ON Hosmer Pond !
Riding ON Hosmer Pond !

End of Year Mileage Push !

It’s really dark and cold again where I live in Midcoast Maine. Ice and snow coat the fields, forests, and roads.  Grrrrr.
My response is to get outdoors as much as possible.  That will mean hiking, fat tire biking, cutting up/hauling trees into firewood from my woodlot, shoveling snow back and forth across the driveway, digging out lost, buried stuff, etc.
My Oct. 16, 2016 (bike dismount) shoulder injury has finally settled down and healed up as much as it can.  When I last had surgery on it in 2006, a complete shoulder replacement was the only “cure”, predicted to be done in some 5-8 years. I’ve netted 10 years of restricted use since then, with yearly X-rays showing the inevitable progression of bone disease. Major shoulder surgery is inevitable, though.
I truly missed riding in the October and November forests this season, due to my shoulder injury and then deer hunting season.  I don’t go out during the deer hunt, and it’s not just me who stays out of the woods in November. I live in a two acre hay field, surrounded by forest and swamps, where deer are plentiful. High power bullets travel a log distance.

For the past couple of years I have set personal fitness goals.  The first goal I set was due to Carey Kish’s “Maineiac Outdoors” blog post . Check it out: The 1,000 Mile Challenge.
I reached the 1,000 miles of without too much trouble.  I also put 740 miles on my bicycles that year.

Next, my neighbor Matt encouraged me to read Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond.  The core premise of that book is, “Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.”   Yeah but… I made one critical modifications.  I don’t push  on days when I am tired.  How do I know I am tired?  I now use a technology known as heart rate variability, but that is a longer story for anther time.

SweetbeatHRV
SweetbeatHRV

In the meantime, if you want to check out HRV- go here and here.

A conversation with my oldest son, Lincoln encouraged me to think about ramping up my walking and biking to  a 1 hour-a day-average,  yielding 365 hours of moderate exercise in a calendar year.  I decided to try for 1,000 miles on foot and 1,000 miles on the mountain bikes in 2016.  I should have done more biking when the weather was better.

How am I doing?  Check my treasured  data for 2016. I’ve been much more active in hiking and biking since I gave up my gym membership. I walk out the door of the house and walk or bike rather than drive 20 miles to walk or sit on a stationary bike at the YMCA.

screenshotscreenshot-3As of today, I have logged 2,095 miles: 912 on bikes and 1,177.6 miles on foot.  I am past the finish line for hiking goals this year, but I still have to log 88 more biking miles with 14 days left to log that.
It started snowing early this December.  Rain doesn’t help either. Picture 4 inches of snow piled up before 5 hours of rain saturates the snow to make it stupidly heavy to push around.  Thank God for my plow guy, Sam, who shows up year after year and does the job, unannounced.

It’s just starting to creep up from subzero conditions yesterday, accompanied by a killer wind chill during the day. If I can’t ride due to ice and snow at least I can walk.  Here is a pic taken yesterday afternoon from atop Mt. Battie overlooking Penobscot Bay at -4 degrees.

Xmas by the Sea
Xmas by the Sea

Yes, I had mukluks on my feet and chemical hand warmers inside my mittens.

A few more miles……to go before 2017 ticks over and shows up for a while.  It’s snowing lightly right now at 7:41 am and there is talk about squeezing some ride in through the Rockland Bog before the snow pack warm up and gets saturated with tomorrow’s cold rains.   Stay tuned for the finish…   

On the Couch After the Sugarloaf Fat Tire Festival

IMG_5716“If I was a cell phone, I’d be at eighteen percent right now,’ mumbled John as he lay sprawled on the condominium’s couch as thirteen Bubbas settled into a much needed retreat after I logged 15 miles on the snow covered trail here at the Sugarloaf Fat Tire Festival.

It was a horror show driving here.  A greasy snow storm that ended up dropping ten inches of wet thick snow on midcoast Maine added two extra hours to what was normally a two hour ride. Numerous cars and trucks were sliding off the road.

Jacknived trailer truck
Jacknived trailer truck
We witnessed a very scary episode of a car going through a red light and doing a 360 in an intersection coming into Augusta on route 17.

But today easily made up for our afternoon of fight or flight tension yesterday.  The day started at 11 degrees, with a relatively benign wind that hovered in single digits all day. The warm point of the day was at 28 degrees. Although this may sound cold, it is primo. Winter biking is best on frozen surfaces that are not slick. Today’s conditions made for fast riding on a surface that was easier to roll on than in the summer, with far fewer rocks or roots to get in the way.

I am positively giddy about riding 15 miles today.

Strava is a GPS-connected app that I use to track my outdoor activities, be it biking, walking, hiking, or backpacking. The flyby feature is really interesting. Here’s the Strava flyby of today’s group riude.  It is a virtual video game that depicts us Bubbas riding our bikes. Check it out and chuckle.

Here are some representative photos of our adventures today:

Vendor Alley
Vendor Alley
We started by checking out he even’s hub.  One of our local shops, Sidecountry Sports had a strong booth representing their services.

Then we meandered down from our condo to access an initial ride on broad, groomed, packed, and very fun trails.  IMG_5713 2

 

Here’s a very short video clip of part of the trail:

Later, we got onto the Narrow Gauge railroad bed until we had to ramp big-time uphill to the Stratton Brook Hut.

It was a climb of approximately two and a-half miles. I have enjoyed staying at these huts. Their food was not overpriced, for what they have to do to get the raw materials there into in the winter. Service was great. Overnight price are reasonable.

At a few points, I had this view of Sugarloaf:

FullSizeRender 5.jpg

Lots of wood and stone, flanks the communal rooms of the Stratton Brook Hut.

IMG_5725

Ian , Buck ,and Andre sipping complimentary free coffee.  They are sitting in front of a crackling fire.

IMG_5724

If you do make a visit to this hut on a bike, be sure to opt for taking Oak Knoll trail down. After all the effort to make the climb you need to enjoy descending two and a half swoopy singletrack down. 

There was nothing left when I rolled back uphill to the condo.  The first thing that I did when I finished showering was to hit the couch with John.

Later, came the day’s stories.  They go on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strava, Snow, and Stoicism or Moving Along the Fitness Trail

It had been a struggle for me to meet my 2016 fitness goals here in the winter in Maine this month. I have been reaching deep to log in an hour a day of hard walking or bicycling- outdoors, of course.  Here’s the January 19 report.

Days = Hours = Good
Days = Hours = Good

When I finally made it back home last night, it was close to 8 pm, with an outside temperature of 11 degrees, and steady strong wind blowing around 20 miles an hour. I even had to bust through a snow drift on the Barnestown Road near the Pearse farm in Hope on the way home from The Bog, where I earned myself a meager 4 miles toward my quest to ride my bicycles 1,000 miles in Maine in 2016.

screenshot 3
I really wanted to stay home tonight and avoid the discomfort of the cold and the exertion that my body would need in order to move through this loose, dry snow pack on my new Surly Ice Cream truck.  But….the social nature of belonging to The Bubbas, a local, like-minded tribe of mountain bike nuts was one of the deciding factors that put me out there tonight.
Was it easy to get out to ride tonight ?
No.

However, there is definitely a strength in numbers.   I rode tonight with six other guys. We shifted around our positions in line as we moved though the loose, often sketchy snow pack.  If I got too fagged out, I pulled over and let someone else move ahead and pack down the tread a bit more.
I also gained some inspiration from a book that I have been enjoying this week:  A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. FullSizeRender 5 The book came my way from a book review by Tim Smith, Master Maine Guide and chief of Jack Mountain Bushcraft School here in Maine.

I had just reading the chapter entitled The Dichotomy of Control, where my takeaway lesson was encapsulated in the following sentence, “ A better strategy for getting what you want, he says, is to make it your goal to want only those things that are easy to obtain- and ideally to want only those things that you can be certain of obtaining.”

Another thing that helped was for me to visualize the successes that I have already achieved when I moved ahead at this familiar junction of  Do I Really Want To Do This Right Now?
I reminded myself that I would probably not be miserably cold even though it was frigid out.  This particular ride starts with a couple hundred foot climb almost to the 1 mile mark on Mountain Road.  That is usually enough to get warmed up inside of my winter riding outfit, which is not as heavy or bulky as you might think.  I also reminded myself that I have been out doing this many times already. I have rode in the dark on the snow and ice in the winter guided by a headlamp and a handlebar mounted light for a few decades.
I was even packing a third source of emergency lighting tonight- a brand new Black Diamond Spot headlamp of 130 lumens.  I didn’t need it, but if I had, it would have allowed me to see my way through the ride.
Tonight, I was not able to make the usual Bog ride mileage, but I wasn’t the only one.  It’s much more difficult to ride out there this week.  If the days had been warmer and the night below freezing it might have been a superhighway of snow.  But it wasn’t.

I think the Stoics might have something to say about that.

Midcoast Maine Fat Biking: Ride Local, Ride Often !

Hosmer Pond Jan. 2015
Ian and Buck on Hosmer Pond-  Jan. 2015

The real deal is never the same as the ideal.
Take fat-tire bikes for example.

Advertised as the children of snowy Alaska’s Iditabkes, these newly minted cash cows of the shape-shifter bike industry have a magical draw when they are viewed in real life, as opposed to in magazine ads or Instagram photographs. Fatbiking in Alaska The bikes themselves are borderine cartoonish.

Hoar frost holds up the Pugsley
Hoar frost holds up the Pugsley

With blocky, simple frame lines, it’s the wheels, no – the tires themselves, ballooning out to five inches in width that elicit broad smiles, and then chuckles on first sight.  Then you eventually ride one, and that chuckle becomes a laugh and you are hooked.

Except you don’t float like “a magic carpet on wheels” over just any old snowscape.  Snows of up to a couple, three inches are not even worth discussing.  The bike goes. However, once the snow gets to be about 5” deep the magic of riding these chunkers fades and we enter the world of sweat, work, and subsequent exhaustion.

Pace line over Coleman Pond
Buck, Andre, and Erik riding over frozen Coleman Pond in 2015

At least it is possible to move with a fattie under you, but once you enter deeper snow this happens: you pedal and then experience the disappointment of being propelled forward for a meager distance. The promised magic morphs into a grunt.

Which is not generally a problem for me. I have the 100% package of the Polish suffering gene, which propels me well into longer periods of low level leg work.

A  friend of mine just bought a Surly Pugsley. He was surprisingly frustrated that it took hard work to pedal the thing in 5” of snow.

The winter track beneath a bike is best experienced when someone or something has packed puffy snow down.

Love that tractor!
Love that tractor tread!

The packing hierarchy goes like this, from best downward:  snowmobile, 4WD truck tread, ATV tread, snowshoe tracks, ski tracks, footprints, and the occasional winter game trail.

So, we pack our own trails to ride on the snow. Last Saturday, I spent the morning helping my next door neighbor Matt cut out an overgrown discontinued snow mobile trail.

Matt had a full compliment of gear, that we hauled into the woods for the morning:  chain saw, limb trimmer, axe, files, rope, even a stump vise.

Matt and the gear heading into the woods
Matt and the gear heading into the woods

Years ago, the winter landscape around this part of town was punctuated with the sounds of snowmobiles, day and night.  Not so much anymore.  Times have changed- the snows are often slim, and when there is snow on the ground, many of the locals pack up their sleds into enclosed trailers and head up north to Jackman or Rangeley to ride the snowmobile superhighways that make Quebec an easy haul.

So, we cut away a path for our bikes, and then walk them a bit , and then ride them some more until they are in a state where forward motion is not only possible, but productive.

The moral of this story is find some folks who do regularly ride winter trails where you live and make an effort  to contribute to packing a better path for those that will follow.

 Bubba ride from Jan. 2014
Bubba ride from Jan. 2014

Right now in Midcoast Maine, that’s the Rockland Bog.

Rockland Bog Trails from Bog. Rd.
Rockland Bog Trails from Bog. Rd.- Photo from John Anders

The network of trails at the bottom of the Rollins Road in Camden is now fast, but a bit icy at the start.

Snow Bowl lot to Rollins Rd. trails
Snow Bowl lot to Rollins Rd. trails – John Anders photo

Word has it that Camden Hills State Park is getting good and that Tanglewood 4H Camp is ridable but I plan to personally checked those out his week.

And then there’s this project I am working on with my nest door neighbor, Matt. Hopefully, we’ll turn that into something good.

Ride Local, Ride Often!