Fort Rucker retiree completes Appalachian Trail hike | Enterprise Ledger |

016BD7D2-AC64-485B-8D29-98CC0FB4407C.jpegFort Rucker retiree completes Appalachian Trail hike | Enterprise Ledger |
— Read on

Well worth a read. I agree that thinking about the Trail doesn’t go away after you are finished hiking.

Smackdown Along Safford Brook

I called it quits tonight after I walked a mere mile on the flats outside my door. It was a huge accomplishment.

For the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to walk that far. My absence from my usual 75 minute a day average of brisk walking or riding bikes was caused by a very nasty fall coming down the from Bigelow ridge after three days of volunteer work on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.  Guthook and I team up a couple times a year, spring and fall, volunteering for trail work on the Appalachain Trail.  He has a long section up and over Mt. Abe that connects to the AT near the Spaulding lean-to.

Guthook working up to Mt. Abram summit

The snow was still deep on that connecting section due to 3,00 feet of elevation, north side exposure, and thick conifers.

Guthook, struggling along. Yes, our feet were wet. Is it possible to get wetter ?
Me, post holing away !
Heading back to the car down the talus field atop Mt. Abe.

The last day, Sunday, brought us back to my section: the Safford Brook trail up to he AT, a short section on the itself AT, and lastly the side trail to and the Safford Notch campsite itself, where we cleared up fallen trees,a nd pruned away like madmen.

Safford Notch campsite detail

Three days of  work was finally done with only two miles to go to the car when I caught the toe of my boot on a rock or root that pitched me staggering down a descending grade until my increased speed of stumbling eventually pitched me smack down onto rocks that left me a quivering mass of hurt, with my left leg doubled up under me. Thank God that my hiking pal Guthook was right there to assist me in eventually unraveling myself from my ancient external frame pack that carried the pruners, loppers, axe and other tools of the trail corridor trade. Unfortunately, the impact of falling on those solid objects in my pack imbedded a series of grotesque blood filled tattoos, emanating from a hematoma that a doctor later told me held over a pint of blood. Guthook cut me two walking staffs that I used to brace myself as I shuffled, in pain, downhill two miles to my car, which was parked on the shore of Flagstaff Lake at the base of the Safford Brook Trail, which I maintain, along with a brief section of AT and the side trail to the Safford Notch Campsite, which is also my responsibility.
After I reached my car, I had Guthook drive it back to the Chalet, where had spent last night, as I sat as still as possible in the passenger seat. If I didn’t move at all, I was stable, but when I exited the passenger’s side and gingerly inched my way over to the driver’s seat, I was fighting passing out, but made it and promised Guthook that I’d pull over if I became faint while driving. I headed straight for the Belfast Hospital Emergency room, after downing 800 mg of ibuprofen that didn’t seem to do much for me.
Two hours later I was able to barely get myself in the door to the emergency room, where I was unable to sit until a nurse assisted me in laying down on a bed. It was a circus of the wounded and infirm in there on Sunday night, with only one doctor making the rounds. I wasn’t out of there until 4.5 hours later, after the Dr. determined I had no broken bones, however I also learned that I partially tore my left hamstring. Thankfully, there was no blood in my urine (One of the big hits was directly over my right kidney.). He gave me one muscle relaxer pil, and with a prescription for more tomorrow. I headed home, where I shuffled to bed under the very concerned eye of Auntie Mame, my faithful wife, and apparent nurse for this new round of lifestyle consequences. She measured what morphed into at least three square feet of techicolor- black and blue, yellow, green on my back, buttocks, and side.

It’s been exactly two weeks today of laying on ice packs, with no biking, and no hiking, other than brief trips to do things I must do outside the house.  I’m still hurting, likely due to bone bruising.  The blood has continued to draining back into me, with new vistas of bruises extending into my groin area and then down my leg into the back on my knee.

The real deal

I’ve been my time feeling distressed, depressed, and now impressed with a newfound resolution to ALWAYS have my trekking poles with me when I’m on trail.  I even bought myself a new pair, on the recommendation of Andrew Skurka- a set of Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles.

I left my trekking poles them in the car, since I would be walking with either pruning shears or my chainsaw in hand. My free hand was also in the habit of throwing the slash back into the bush and off trail. I’m convinced that if I would have been using my Leki poles, I would have not fallen. The very act of descending with poles in hand forces me to be a bit more present in choosing pole and foot placement. Isn’t it true that accidents happen in the late afternoon when fatigue is at it’s peak?

A follow-up visit to my own doctor last week put my fretting to rest. He told me that I could start activity again, with pain as my limit guide. I walked a mile, then did two more with Mame in the last two days.

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

I’m getting better. My spirits are lifted a bit after yesterday, where I rode my riding mower, then walked behind the edging mower, and even felt decent enough to work the string trimmer in attacking the overgrown grass in the yard. Fitbit gave me 14,000 steps and some 7 miles of ambulation for my efforts.  I’m getting back.

It could have been worse.

Backpacking Brands That Stand Tall in My Book

With a month and a half a backpacking scheduled for this coming season I’ve been going through broken and worn gear and replacing it. I am one of those people who are rough on gear. Every piece of gear and clothing that  I started out with in 2007 when I hiked the AT as been replaced, worn out, or broken with the exception of Tiki-mon,  my Triple Crown water bottle buddy, and I’m checking him out for a possible leak tonight..

Here’s the latest item I replaced, a pair of Point6 light hikers. I purchased two pairs of Point6 light hikers that have been totally satisfactory. Point6 sock have a lifetime guarantee, as do DarnTough socks.  When a pair sprouted a hole, I washed and sent them back. Point6 replaced them in 2 days, no questions asked.

Point6 is a company that shines in customer service

In the past month I have replaced or had gear repaired from MSR (Lightning Ascent snowshoe binding), Princeton Byte ( sending me a replacement cover for my headlamp (plastic broke on battery door), Patagonia (new zipper on my down sweater), and LLBean (replaced a pair of biking gloves).  I have two sets of  Leki trekking poles, and advise hikers to purchase the aluminum models since they carry a lifetime breakage warranty (Leki carbon fiber poles are only covered for a year).

I understand that companies don’t typically provide this level of customer service.  Here’s my policy: I don’t deal with any gear or clothing company that gives me crap about their product quality.  When I hear it starting on the other end of the phone , I thank them right away and that’s the end of it between them and me.  I’m one of those decisive older guys who does not like to waste time with unnecessary burdens of any kind, be it on my back on in my head.  It is for this reason I stopped dealing with Eastern Mountain Sports, Mountain Hardware, and Arc’teryx.

When you spend weeks to months at a time every single day outdoors using these products they have to work, and when they don’t, the company better assist this hiker in replacing that often essential item as soon as possible.  Some of the companies that come to the front here are noted above.  Tarptent and ULA have sent me loaners overnight in exchange for me sending them back my gear to be fixed ASAP.  I like it when that happens. I rebuy from them in kind and it goes on from there.

It’s interesting that I have so little interest in checking out newer tents, sleeping bags, pads, and stoves, even though I am out frequently and even find myself guiding others along the path.  I hear the same thing from other experienced long-distance hikers- that gear that works well tends to start settling in in a comfortable manner, better or worse.

One thing has changed though in my gear deal.  I’m not shopping around much .  I stick with these companies because they respect me as a customer.  And I respect them for producing quality service, AND quality products.

My recommendation to this year’s batch of thru -hiker hopefuls is to be sure to have those 800 numbers written down somewhere when your gear fails you.  If you pay the bucks up front and purchase from a vendor that has a replacement guarantee, you should be all set. In any case,  be polite, and maybe you too will be a repeat offender when it comes to putting out the bucks for new stuff.

I also need to call Leki about a broken pole. They once gave me a bandanna with their customer service number on it, which is answered by a friendly human !


Finishing up Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

fullsizerender-5    On Friday, I finished up my third complete backpacking adventure on Maine”s Hundred Mile Widerness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family:  my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend.  It might have been 1989.  It was tougher then, without smart phones and paid food drops.  I hiked The Hundred  again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet.  The slippery trail is laced with roots and rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.  Even when there is no rain, the rocks perspire, leaving the Monson slate very slippery under humid conditions.

Little Wilson Falls
Little Wilson Falls

AT thru-hikers are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do the side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas.
Here is particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking Light magazine.
I now understand that The Hundred is actually made up of two distinctly different trips of 50 miles each.  The southern section is what I would term an advanced hike, with the other half (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort, with the exception of a steep ascent of Nesuntabunt Mountain in that 50 mile section.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights.  The pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter is a must swim, and may even be time for skinny dipping.  Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and take in the sand beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks, consider splurging for a night at the classic Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps.  I haven’t done that yet, but plan to.

Flooded trail- Beavers at work!
Flooded trail- Beavers at work!

Make no mistake, spending most of a week backpacking The Hundred is tough.  If you are wise with food choices you can carry lots, and eat your way along. My more careful plan of rationing myself out some 3,000 calories a day resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took to make this trip.

Mission accomplished
Mission accomplished

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures is planning more hikes of The Hundred next season, halves and maybe even the Whole Hundred.  If you are interested, get in touch with me and I’ll put you on the 2017 notification list.  Spaces are  limited.

Baxter State Park: Day 1 of 6

There is something mammalian about avoiding going outdoor when it is raining sheets.  I voiced this point to Gaspedal and Rokrabbit, while I was driving them through the rainstorm above Bangor on I-95 this morning.
We’re on schedule for day one of a week in Baxter State Park.  I would hike in this hard rain all day, if necessary, but my innermost core recoils from the image of my self at the end of a day of rain, especially when I am also run down from long miles of hiking through the woods.
So I conjure up a whacky Plan B for today that would not require any hiking in this rain.  We would get a motel room in Millinocket  and wait it out. Tomorrow morning we would drive to the north Matagammon Gate and begin to dance around our reserved space camping itinerary.
However, life would be much simpler if we just stuck with our original  plan, which we did when we walked out of the Appalachian Trail Cafe and saw that the rain had stopped and the skies were starting to clear.

We only encountered four other hikers today walking into Russell Pond from Roaring brook.

FullSizeRender 4 copy 2

The young woman of  couple #1 said that the ford of Wassataquoik Stream was waist high. I could have told her that. Her long pants we’re still drenched as she spoke to us.  We also met a couple of Maine women who we also headed to Russell Pond for the night.

Puncheons !
Puncheons !

I’ve hiked the Russell Pond Trail at least a half dozen times over the years. A few things stood out today.
#1- Wassataquoik Stream rises quickly after a strong rain of an inch and a half.  The water was up to my waist during the ford. I have always experienced lower water levels coming through here. On the positive side, it was painless to do the fords with bare feet, even including the short walk along the trail that was on land that connected the two.
#2-  This is moose country.  Walking through the alder patches in an area known as New City, Gaspedal, who was walking point, turned silently gave us a hand signal.  One second later, a bull  moose with full rack of antlers crashed off into the brush. This was the first moose that either of my two traveling partners had ever seen in the wild.

I’m a Licensed Maine Guide who is guiding these two folks from Boston through their first visit to Baxter.

Boulders abound
Boulders abound

Last year I guided these two repeat customer plus one more though the north 50 miles of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. Our walking itinerary here is less demanding than out on the Appalachian Trail, but our trek up to 5,267 foot high Katahdin on our last day should test the tendons.
If I make it, it will be my twentieth summit of Maine’s best shot at reaching the heavens.

Hiking in The Hundred – The Last Day

Today was not supposed to be this last day of a 50 mile backpacking trip.

Improvisation ruled from day one, when my intended 3 mile afternoon and soak on the deep pool in front of my favorite shelter, the Cooper Brook Falls lean-to morphed into an 8 mile  jaunt that ended camping au sauvage beside a shoreline 0.2 miles down a branch off  the Appalachian Trail.

The crew from Boston that I am guiding through here is a tattoo-friendly family.  At least two of them were hoping to make the last day of the Boston Tattoo Convention  on Sunday, so today it was up early and out hiking from the

Rokrabbit and Gaspedal depart the shelter
Rokrabbit and Gaspedal depart the shelter

Rainbow Stream lean-to at 7 AM.

After a short climb out of the dark hollow by Rainbow Stream we hoped to make some miles before the predicted rain hit.

Up and out
Up and out

We encountered several sections where the tread was pounded down into a perpetual wet mud layer.

Logs help, but not when they are wet !
Logs help, but not when they are wet !

We have seven miles  of walking  along the shoreline of Rainbow Lake to complete today.

Topday's MIssion: Rainbow Stream Lean-to to Abol Bridge parking lot
Topday’s MIssion: Rainbow Stream Lean-to to Abol Bridge parking lot

While hiking near the Rainbow Stream campsite we encountered a southbound hiker.  I stopped to talk a bit with “Farmer”, after I recognized his Templeton, Massachusetts accent.  It turns out that Farmer and I had both thru-hiked the AT together in 2007.

Uncle Tom and Farmer
Uncle Tom and Farmer

We also realized that we had talked together on that hike as well.  Farmer told me that he started another thru-hike attempt in 2009, with his son.  Unfortunately, Farmer’s son died soon after being diagnosed with brain cancer.  Farmer said that he had several other setbacks since then, including a quadruple heart bypass last year, but that he was back trying to finish his thru hike in sections.  He said that when he hikes, he now thinks of his son.  Farmer is 75 years old.

The rain began to come and go as we were finishing up around Rainbow Lake, so we added makeshift rain covers for two of the packs.

Keeping the gear dry
Keeping the gear dry

Eventually we made it up and to the top of the Rainbow Ledges, but this time, there was no Katahdin view.  Instead, I introduced the crew to the wonders of wild Maine blueberries, which were in abundance just off the trail itself.

Worth it !
Worth it !

Everyone was increasingly tired, so we decided to stop at the last shelter at Hurd Brook, and hydrate, cook hot food, and rest.  This was supposed to be our destination today, after 12 miles of hiking.

The Hurd Brook lean-to going north has a tough, slippery access path over off-canter, slippery boulders that needs to be traversed.  I heard from a hiker that I had guided up Katahdin several weeks ago that she had fallen into the water here, where she also broke her Leki pole.  I had real doubts that we would be able to do any more miles today, but, to my surprise, the gang perked up again on recharge, and told me they wanted to add the 4 extra  miles so that they could gain some time getting back to Boston.

We were all totally soaked from the rain, and needed to keep moving in order to avoid getting chilled.  After building anticipation around every final corner, we eventually reached the end of The Hundred at the Golden Road, where we still had to slog a quarter of  mile to my van.

Not over yet
Not over yet

The feeling of accomplishment and awe at what this family was able to accomplish in these 50 miles of walking overwhelmed for all of us,  and tears of pride and joy fell freely with the rainwater that ran down our chests.

Gaspedal's done !
Gaspedal’s done !

As the four of us we sloshed past the Abol Bridge store, a half-dozen thru-hikers were huddled up under the overhang at the entrance to the store.  I glanced over and waved at them, with a smile on my face.  They were almost done, with just 15 miles of hiking left until the reached the end of the AT on Katahdin’s summit. I shouted encouragement to them.

And our last gift of Trail Magic  was the best of all, when we received a standing ovation of clapping from the hikers as we walked on to our car.  If there was ever any doubt, we all knew that this crew of hikers are now part of the Appalachian Trail family.

The magic of a wilderness walk unfolded itself, yet again.  So much happens in a day out here. The wilderness in Maine will be there when we need it again.

Bugdawg, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit
Bugdawg, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit
Yup !
Yup !

Hiking Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness – Day 3

Nesuntabunt !

Nesuntabunt rocks !

I mentally conjure the image of a bundt cake when I encounter the steepest climb in the northern half of The Wilderness- well maybe the steep sloping sides.  Just west of Nahmakanta Lake, at a mere 1,550 feet in elevation, Nesuntabunt challenges the hiker in that area, mostly due to jolting us out of our complacency in walking over the relatively flat AT in that region.

Today, we all met the uphill challenge, and all completed it in a strong manner, especially Bugdawg.  Collecting ourselves at the base of the climb, we drank up, and nibbled snacks.  Then I saw Bugdawg fiddling with his iPhone.  I heard music coming from the tiny external speaker.

“Uncle Tom told us that music helps on the uphills,” he told us.

I then gave Bugdawg my earphones, so that his listening would not affect anyone else’s wilderness experience.  We quickly spread out as the uphill route enfolded.  I consider Nesuntabunt one of my favorite uphill hikes.

Going up
Going up

We all agreed that terms like primal, and Jurassic Park-like fit this situation perfectly.  It’s a narrow shady groove in the forest here, surrounded by ancient mossy boulders covered with polypody ferns and mosses- and today humidity, as well.

Zen garden
Zen garden

Despite the grueling nature of the steep unrelenting walk, we were pumped about the whole situation, and barely contained our encouragement and excitement about new vistas as the trail twisted and turned its way to the top.

I moved from the back up past Gaspedal and Rok Rabbit in order to join Bugdawg, who was first on top.

Bugdawg on top
Bugdawg on top

He had a deep look of satisfaction on his face, as I told him, ” You will forever have a connection to the song you were listening to as you hit the top.  It will link you to the deep feeling of power in your chest that you are feeling right now.”   We both teared up right then and there and I knew that at that moment Bugdawg had crossed over to experience the power and deep satisfaction that sometimes may come to us as we move through the ancient forest.

We came down the other side and continued North, stopping for a snack and break on the shore of Crescent Pond. I felt that we should be looking for a campsite soon after that, and we eventually  stopped to cook our dinners by the bridge that crossed Pollywog Stream.

It was here that we experienced a true low point in energy and outright exhaustion due to the 98% humidity and heat of the day.  But somehow, after laying down, eating, and talking out our feelings, Rokrabbit and Bugdawg wanted to try and keep going.

Moving up Rainbow Stream
Moving up Rainbow Stream

We walked along the stunning cascades and pools of Rainbow Stream  where we eventually made it to the campsites behind Rainbow Stream lean-to.

These neophyte hikers from the streets around Boston had just surprised by completing a 14 mile day.

There were several thru-hikers staying in the lean-to and camping around us.  They listened to me as I stood on my soapbox for a while and spoke to them about understanding the rules of Baxter State Park, why those rules are there, and to be respectful to the rangers there.

We need to do all we can as hikers right now to maintain Katahdin as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Hiking Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness- First Day

Our five day adventure began by squeezing into Katahdin Air Service’s little float plane for a 50 mile flight, with pontoons touching down at Crawford Pond in the middle of the fabled One Hundred Mile Wilderness segment of the Appalachian Trail.

Great North Woods
Great North Woods

Jim, our pilot, flew low enough that we were able to see good detail right to the edges of the ponds and streams below as he pointed out the path of the Appalachian Trail that we’d walk some 50 miles back to my car around Abol Bridge on the Golden Road.

Uncle Tom, Jake, Deano, and Nick
Uncle Tom, Jake, Dino, and Nick

We thanked Jim for his skill in placing us here on this beach, and I told him that I’d be sure to fly with him again next season.

Ready for lift-off
Ready for lift-off

After departing the inviting sand beach at the southern end of the pond our band of four entered a dark slot in the dense forest and started walking  north.

We enter the forest
We enter the forest

My clients came to Maine from Boston to sample the simpler life in the Great North Woods.   I’m up here guiding a father and his two sons through their first backpacking experience.  I secured my Registered Maine Guide credentials in November, and have had some luck in scoring up some customers.  Dino, Nick, and Jake have purchased, borrowed, and rented gear that they have cobbled together for as they experience trail life for the next five days.

This family has actually listened to some of the suggestions that I made to them. Consequently, we had no issues with blisters today, and I was encouraged by strong hiking from all three.

We met our first three thru-hikers at Cooper Brook Falls lean-to three miles into our hike.  We swam in a deep pool with two young women that had started the AT in Georgia.

Cool, clear, golden pool
Cool, clear, golden pool

They made it north as far as Harper’s Ferry, VA where they skipped all the way up to Maine to turn around and head south, hiking to Virginia where they hoped to complete their 2,200 mile hike.   Also cooling his body was a young man from Norway who had just left the towering Katahdin on his own southbound journey, hoping to reach the southern terminus of the AT at Springer Mountain in Georgia.

On my fifth time through here, I still love this Cooper Brook Falls shelter.  There is a broad rushing water fall to the right and a deep wide pool of water in front of the shelter.   We jumped right into the slowly flowing water and rinsed off the copious sweat that drenched our shirts in just three miles.

I had originally planned to spend the night here at this shelter, but Dino and his boys pressed me to go a bit farther on the first afternoon so that they would not be faced with walking 12 miles on their second day.  I gave in, which  ended up being the right thing to do.

Tonight, we ended up camping “au sauvage” at Cooper Pond, 0.2 miles down a blue blazed (side) trail off the AT, turning my original 3 mile plan to an 8.2 mile accomplishment.

In the end, we pushed an extra 5 miles, and walked late enough so that we were using our headlamps before we had the campsite settled, our dinners done, and the tents up.

When you reach Cooper Plond, the path ends at an old dam. I crossed the shaky , wet rocks at the top of the falls and explored past it, where the path went no further. I noticed a fresh dump area with open clam shells visible beneath the water near shore,  where I suspected that an otter had been engaged in some kitchen prep of his own.
The terrain around our campsite is fully punctuated with rocks and hummocks but we were eventually able to find two flat spaces that held the one three-man ( them) and single 1 person (me) tents.

Tarptent and Coleman tent find flat places
Tarptent and Coleman tent find flat places

The humidity and heat were unrelenting.   We later learned that it reached 90 degrees today, with close to 100% humidity, in Maine !    It was so hot that I laid out on top of my sleeping mat. The humidity and heat were the worst that I’ve ever remembered hiking in my home state.  Thankfully, we were headed past numerous ponds, lakes, and streams, which we’d put to good use tomorrow.

At least I slept.  Dino told me he was tossing and turning all night.   I listened  to the sound of the pond water rushing over the dam nearby and the strange  cry of a single loon wailing out on Cooper Pond.

Here’s the map of our first 8 miles in The Hundred:

Pink arrows- start to finish, Day 1
Pink arrows- start to finish, Day 1

Scott Jurek vs. Baxter State Park: Next Move?  

Here’s Scott Jurek’s blog post about his Baxter State Park experience. 

Scott writes that he was issued three summonses while hiking in the Park. On this blog post, Scott accepted responsibility for any rules that he may have broken, however, he is  yet to be fined.  My take is that Jurek may not even be guilty at all, may be guilty a little bit, or may be guilty a lot .  It depends on how he addresses the summons to court.

A Baxter summons does not automatically result in a fine, at least it didn’t in another well- publicized incident that occurred on Katahdin in 2007.

I wrote about the episode on my 2007 website. Here are selections from that entry:

In October of 2007, my friend Rufus Hellendale told me the following story. Rufus was highly skilled at paragliding, and had traveled in and out of Maine climbing mountains and hills with his 35 pound paraglider in his backpack . He launched off many of the highest cliffs and overlooks in the State, but neither Rufus, nor anyone else, had ever launched off Katahdin .

That changed on June 16, 2007.

On that day, Rufus and Christopher Kroot headed up the Appalachian Trail at 2:00 AM. Each hauled their 35’ wingspan dacron paraglider up the Hunt (AT) trail to the Tableland, just above the 2,000 foot granite face that points to the south, near Thoreau Spring, overlooking Millinocket. They were up there by 6 AM.  They managed to pull themselves and those heavy loads up the iron rungs as they negotiated the boulder fields that led to the Gateway. They waited until 9 AM, when the the granite face was sufficiently heated from the sun to generate a thermal effect to create the requisite 5- 10 MPH speed that was required in order to fly.

Krute went first, running down and then launching off the steep lip until he was airborne, and Rufus followed quickly. Both spent 40 minutes in the air, sailing over toward The Owl. They eventually steered toward a favorable landing spot across the perimeter road near Katahdin Stream Campground where they safely landed at the edge of a bog, on a solid piece of ground, where they emerged with dry feet.

Despite assurances from some Park personnel that their activity would not be illegal, both received a court summons some two weeks after their flight charging them with “ illegal parasailing “ in Baxter State Park, a charge that carried a fine of $200 for each. Rufus didn’t fight it, and sent in his money, but Chris challenged the rule, noting that what they were doing was paragliding, not parasailing. Parasailing is a different activity that is generally done over the water, where the glider is lifted into the air with the assistance of a powerboat. A parasail is different from a glider, which is an apparatus that requires the operator to be strapped into a rigid device.

On Jan. 23, 2008 Millinocket District Court Judge Kevin Stitham ruled that Christopher Kroot did not break Baxter State Park rules when he and Rufus  climbed Mount Katahdin in the early morning hours and used paragliders to launch from the Tablelands.

in 2007, the park rules stated: “No person shall fly, cause to be flown, or permit any model craft, hot air balloon or hang gliding device of any kind in the Park.” Kroot’s attorney, Richard Johnson of Lincoln, argued successfully that Kroot complied with the park rules because his aircraft was a paraglider, not a hang-gliding device. Here’s the compete writeup from the Bangor Daily News

Amazingly, the launch was recorded by a group of Canadians that were passing by the site, on their own summit hike to Baxter Peak.   

After the ruling, Baxter State Park went back to edit the rule book in order to add specific terms that make any sort of human gliding on or above the Park illegal.

PPS:  Rufus Hellendale, paid his $200, but then died accidentally on June 6, 2008, less than a year after he flew above Baxter State Park.  Rufus was just 53 years old. He had a freak fall from a ladder while he was alone, while pruning a fruit tree in the woods near his cabin. Rufus was a friend of mine. Rufus moved like a dancer, and had a slow but most unique and expressive movement of his arms and hands when he talked. I always enjoyed his unusual zest for the outdoors. We once talked about taking a road trip together out West to explore those wild open spaces.

Here’s a 2001 Bangor News article about my friend Rufus, who spent 40 minutes of the last year of his wonderful life flying above Baxter State Park like the wild ravens that are also drawn to the highest point in Maine.

PPPS:  Yesterday, I guided a client up and even more importantly, back down Katahdin. It was my eighteenth time up there.


You can be sure I followed all the rules.  A number of people who intended making it to the top decided to turn back today.  BSP has no interest in making things any easier for anyone.  It was a much longer day than I expected, as we rolled into Katahdin Stream Campground at 10:30 pm, guided by a couple tiny headlamps. I’ve never done a 15.5 hour day up there, but that’s what it took this time.  I was both surprised and pleased to see not a single light anywhere around site #17 when we reached our tents.   The campground was pitch dark and everyone else was in their tents or lean-tos.   We spoke softly as I primed and lit my Coleman white gas lantern and boiled up a little water to make supper on my Bushcooker LT1.   The silence, majesty, and hard-ass attitude to keep it wild here at Baxter is more and more to my liking as I get older.  I plan to act in a manner to keep things that way.  There was a 77 year old man that was still coming down behind me. He came in some time after midnight, on his own.  Nature doesn’t have motion-detecting lights to illuminate our path to keep us from getting hurt or lost.

It’s the real deal up here in Maine at BSP.

Missed Part 1 ? Check out my Triple Crown of Hiking TV interview

Somewhere in Southern California
Somewhere in Southern California

WCSH’s  Maine-based TV news magazine “207” interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago.

If you were not able to watch the broadcast last night, the link to Part 1 of the interview is now up on WCSH’s web site.  <<-

The second half of the interview is Tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7 PM.  Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channels 6 in Portland and  2 in Bangor.

I’m talking adventure, about walking for months on end at a time, and what’s next after being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

My interview will also be posted in the 207 section of, where it will remain online for approximately 6 months.

I’d like to thank all the hundreds of hikers, neighbors, family members, and even those complete strangers who assisted me during my year and a half of backpacking.