Goodbye, Golf Clubs. Hello, Hiking Boots…..

William Widmer for The New York Times

 

Today, I ate my usual eggs and toast Sunday morning breakfast that precedes my regular “Bubba Church” mountain bike ride with my aging off-road posse. On early morning Sundays, I read the digital version of the NY Times and catch up on the news, fake or not. I didn’t find much of interest today, so instead I clicked on my Instagram feed where I download media to read later at my leisure. Instapaper is my own custom newspaper.

I don’t ever listen to podcasts when I eat breakfast, but today I am pleased that I did. I listened to Texas Parks and Wildlife Podcast’s Epidode 13: Hiking Across Texas.  It is short, only 12 minutes long, but it spoke deeply to me today.   It’s a refreshing interview with Dave Roberts, 72 years old. Dave is currently on a 3,000-mile “ramble” across Texas, weaving through at least 40 national parks.

I  remember reading about Dave a year and a half ago, and dug up the following article about Dave, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who has found his unique retirement groove- long distance walking, biking, and kayaking.  Dave’s on a $20-a-day budget for this Texas adventure, but more importantly appears to have exactly the right attitude to keep on doing what he enjoys best- being outdoors and having varied experiences.

As Dave puts it, ” If everything does according to plans, you are not having an adventure yet.”

Do listen via the podcast link above, and if you like what you hear, read the Jan. 2016 Times feature below, to learn more about Dave and other retirees who have stood up to leave the couch for later.

My own dream is to walk across the US, someday.

Mid Year Update from Uncle Tom’s Adventures – What’s Up?

With half of 2017 gone, there are six months of adventures still available for the rest of year. Here’s what’s on my plate right now:

Finish up writing my first book!
I have completed the writing and the editing process for In The Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail.

Train, General Lee, Dick Wizard, Breeze CDT 2013

My CDT Trailjournal  has logged 275,000 web visits to date. The book is completely revised version of my 2013 Trailjournal, adding new historical material and dialogue.  I’ve scheduled a design meeting with the publisher tomorrow to discuss selecting the color photos for the book. I plan for 30 pages of photos, and have been going through thousands of them in the past two months. We’ll  be discussing fonts, graphics, and map placements. Copies of the manuscript are already out for final checks as well as possible endorsements. If all goes as planned, the book should be out by Sept. 1. It will be carried on Amazon, and will go into a Kindle version as well. Stay tuned!

Complete my recovery from my May 22 accident while descending the Bigelow range.

The real deal

I’m 95% through rehab on a torn hamstring and severely bruised back. Riding my mountain bike is better for me than hiking now. I have to take care not to overextend the range of the hamstring.

Prepare for my Aug.6 presentation at THE 41st APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY CONFERENCE – AUGUST 4 – 11, 2017 AT COLBY COLLEGE | WATERVILLE, MAINE
I’ll be giving a Sunday morning presentation (W0613)- Why Walking Matters: Benefits of Walking/ Improvisational Skills in Long-Distance Hiking.

“Tom Jamrog, Triple Crown thru-hiker, author, and Maine Guide with Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures. From the ages of 57 to 63, “Uncle Tom” thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking, and discusses physical training and mental techniques that can bolster an aging hiker’s continued success on the trail.”

Hike a new trail in Newfoundland. -Private Trip- August 8-25
Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail is “One of National Geographic’s Ten Best Adventure Destinations in the World”

East Coast Trail- Newfoundland

From the East Coast trail Association’s web site:
The East Coast Trail unites 26 wilderness paths, along 108 miles of North America’s easternmost coastline. The paths of the East Coast Trail take you past towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. Experience abandoned settlements, lighthouses, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, the world’s southernmost caribou herd, historic sites, a 50-metre suspension bridge, two active archaeological dig sites, and many more attractions.

Guide a trip of The Whole Hundred ! (Abol Bridge->>Monson)
September 1-10— SOLD OUT

Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness is a huge, largely uninhabited region, beginning on the outskirts of Monson, ME. Many thru-hikers consider Maine the best part of the whole 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. The Hundred Mile Wilderness appears on many hiker’s Bucket List. This southbound trip will take place over 9 nights and 10 hiking days, allowing for ample time to settle into a comfortable schedule. We will take advantage of a mid-point resupply service, so that we will not need to carry food for the whole 10 days. This trip is suitable for a hiker who is able to carry 30 pounds on a 10 mile average per day. We’ll stay in lean-tos, and/or tents, space permitting.
Price Includes: -Ground transportation from Lincolnville ME, mid-point resupply cost (you provide the food, etc.) packing list, and on-trail skills instruction. Meal assistance is available by arrangement.
-Up to 2 hours of pre-trip preparation consultation (via phone) is provided to participants. Group size is limited to 4.

19th Annual Winter Camping Symposium-Oct 26 -29, 2017.  YMCA Camp Miller, 89382 E Frontage Rd, Sturgeon Lake, M.

Tenting with Bad Influence on Moosehead Lake

I will be presenting at this excellent immersion weekend in Minnesota. Topics to be determined.  I gave the Keynote address here in 2014.

23rd Snow Walkers Rendezvous -November 10-12, 2017 at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont.
Includes presentations, workshops, information about wilderness trips and amazing food! Participants may choose to stay in cabins, tents or commute to the event.
I hope to offer a new presentation: Winter Fat Tire Biking/Camping in new Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

 

 

 

 

Review of Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story (DVD)

I just received my copy of the new DVD put out by Grandma Gatewood’s family in collaboration with a grant from the Ohio Historical Society’s History Fund.  Nominated for an Emmy, the 50 minute video explores Emma Gatewood’s 1955 solo thru hike of the Appalahian trail, after she had raised 11 children and survived domestic abuse.  Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person – man or woman – to walk it twice and then went on to hike it a third time.

I first learned about Grandma Gatewood in the classic two volume series published by Rodale Press in 1975 entiiled Hiking the Appalachian Trail.  At one time, she was the most visible personality that hiked the Appalachian Trail.  Sure, Earl Schaffer completed the first thru hike of the AT in 1948, but his personality was more taciturn and he tended to shun publicity.  Emma’s first 1954 attempt at the AT was unsuccessful, but she ditched her a pack, repaired her broken glasses, and transform herself into an ultra light hiker that resulted in a northbound through hike in 1955.

Emma was schooled up to eighth grade, living in a log cabin with her 14 siblings.  She married at age 19 experiencing  almost daily physical abuse from her husband for 33 years.  She grew up and spent her adult life on farms.  A product of 60+ years of hard physical work, Emma Gatewood took to the trail after her youngest of 11 children was independent and she had divorced her husband.

Grandma Gatewood hiked in Red Ball Jets hightop sneakers. She carried her gear in a cotton dufflebag that she placed on her shoulder. She was a tiny woman, but as the song goes, “Oh what those five feet two could do.”

The movie contains historic photos, and interviews with past and present AT hikers, as well as commentary from Emma’s daughter and granddaughter.  I particularly enjoyed seing some of the actual gear that went on these hikes.

DVD cover

Here’s a trailer of the DVD.

Also ead my review of the 2015 book:  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk 

The DVD is available for $25 from Eden Valley Enterprises, 1250 East River St., Elryia, OHIO 44035/   www,edenvalleyenterprises.orgblheve@edenvalleyenterprises.org

The New Wisdom: 6 Long-Trail Legends Share Hard-Won Advice

Reblogging this 1/4/17 article from The Hiking Project!

Welcome to the low pay lives of some of the best hikers in the world!

Not A Chance,
Not A Chance, Billy Goat, Wyoming, 20 Pack, Freebird, Wired

I have hiked and sometimes camped with 5 of these 6 folks, on my 2010 PCT and 2013 CDT thru-hikes. They are all truly genuine individuals.  Freebird told me that his goal every year that he thru hikes is to be the first person on and the last person off the trail.

Here is a pic of me and Billy Goat on Sept. 8, 2014 at the Millinocket Hannaford’s in when Billygoat was resupplying while he was providing car support for a buddy who was hiking the International AT from Katahdin to Quebec.

Uncle Tom and Billygoat
Uncle Tom and Billygoat

Read the whole article here–>>>The New Wisdom: 6 Long-Trail Legends Share Hard-Won Advice

Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack

When the Adventurer of the Year from both Outside and National Geographic Adventure magazines speaks, I listen!

“Actually, there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to backpack.In this sense, backpacking is like driving a car, learning to play the violin, baking a cake, or installing a toilet. I suppose you could do it your own way, but you may get hurt, you will not improve as quickly as you should, you may be unsatisfied with the end product, and you may have to mop up sewage that leaked through the wax gasket. What is the right way to backpack?”

Source: Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack

First Time Inside Maine’s National Monument

This past Columbus Day weekend, I finally set foot on the spanking new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.   It was easy.

To the Monument!
To the Monument!

I followed a marked, signed 1.8 mile trail from Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps on the (Map Adventures) Katahdin/Baxter State Park map.   I was spending the four day weekend at Windy Pitch cabin at the most excellent Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps (KLWC), which is presently into year 7 of their 20 year lease from Baxter State Park.

Windy Pitch cabin
Windy Pitch cabin

The collection of log cabins goes way back to 1885.

The Monument encompasses 87,500-acres of mountains, rivers, and forests abutting the eastern edge of Baxter State Park, land donated by Roxanne Quimby, whose company, Bert’s Bees, sold to Clorox for $925,000,000 in 2007. Through President Obama’s executive action, the unit was added to the National Park Service in September as a national monument, bypassing the need for Congress to authorize it a national park.

Despite media portrayal of this Monument as an unfair land grab by the Feds, it’s 87,000 acres represents less than 1 percent of the total forested lands of Maine.  According to the North Maine Woods website, there are 3.5 million acres that are considered North Maine Woods. That’s a whopping 0.236% of those privately held lands.
The move to make the land public was a long, protracted battle that is still being waged by a local faction that strongly resists any government encroachment on their traditional uses of the land, be it hunting, snowmobiling, or riding ATVs . There are still prominent National Park-NO! signs greeting the approaching tourist who exits I-95 in Medway to reach the Monument. Unless the citizens of Millinocket decide to upgrade unimproved gravel roads leading out of town into the area, this won’t be much of an issue for them, because both the South and Northern entrances to KLWWMN completely avoid traffic into Millinocket or even East Millinocket.

I stopped into the new storefront office of KWWNM on Maine Street, Millinocket, just a few doors down from one of my favorite eating establishments, The Appalachian Trail Cafe.  The ranger there informed me that entrance, lean-tos, campsites, and even some cabins are free right now on a first-come, first-serve basis but campfire permits are still required from the Maine Forest Service (207-435-7963).

Downeast Magazine has an excellent review on the Monument that is full of  tips, pictures, and places to go.

In my case, I was pleased to finally walk it, although it was a brief visit.  Make no mistake about it, these is not 87,000 acres of pristine forest. This lower portion of the Monument is made up of recently cut-over land and it still shows.  Critics point this out, but my review of Governor Baxter’ initial purchases of what is now Baxter State Park was largely made up of land that had been burned or denuded. Here’s an example of Baxter land pre Baxter State Park.

Logging in present Baxter lands previous to State Park
Logging in present Baxter lands previous to State Park

Pretty bleak, I’d say.  Regrowth will also happen here, but it may take 50 years or more. I have walked thousands of miles of trails in the past 10 years, and cut over and/ or burned forests show up, but then they tend to grow back to be enjoyed by future generations.  Same here.

fullsizerender-10
Ivan  heading out of Katahdin Lake

Today, my hiking partner Ivan and I decided to walk up as far as the first new lean-to and then meander our way back to KLWC. There were exactly 9 cars sitting in the parking lot leading from the gravel Loop Road.  Others were in there, on overnights, or day trips. The lean-to was a mile from where the Baxter side trail came into the Monument. The path was still a logging road, and damn straight as well.

Southern End of the IAT into Monument
Southern End of the IAT into Monument

The lean-to was built in 2012, of standard log construction with a new outhouse nearby. There was water flowing close for drinking ( purify!).

Katahdin Brook lean-to
Katahdin Brook lean-to

We sat and ate lunch and then headed back.

We decided to try and walk back one of the old logging roads that went in just below Rocky Pond, east of the outlet of Katahdin Lake.  The road looked relatively new, and was probably upgraded ten years ago for timber. A half mile in, it dead ended. I fired up my GPS and saw that if we went directly south through the woods, it would take a quarter of a mile to intersect he mid-point of the same trail we took from KL camps to get to the Monument.

Bushwhacking it is!
Bushwhacking it is!

Ivan was totally up for it and led the way, bushwhacking through fairly thin saplings and dodging several unruly blow downs.

It didn’t take very long for us to reach the KL trail back to the camps.  In fact, we came out within 50 feet of the northernmost section of that trail, a very fortuitous happening. I have done a bit of bushwhacking, where results are generally more elusive.

I plan to get further into the Monument, for canoeing and backpacking. I might even pack my fly rod.  I hope to get away for a couple nights during deer hunting season here in November, as the largest western parcel bordering Baxter is free from hunting. Four additional parcels east of the East Branch are established for traditional hunting ( minus bait and dogs on bear).

I have enjoyed walking most of the trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park, which is just 90 minutes drive along the Maine Coast from my house.  I think it is time for me to explore my share of the Maine woods.

It’s a Wrap: Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness

On Friday, I finished up my third complete hike of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness 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.  I hiked it 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.  img_8334  The perennially slippery trail is punctuated with beaucoup roots ,rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.

img_8356
AT thru-hikers walking through this prelude to Katahdin are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do 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. We came out in 7 days instead, pushing the daily average to about 15 miles.
Here is a particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking LIght magazine.
The Hundred is made up of two distinctly different trips of approximately 50 miles each.  The southern section is an advanced hike, with the other half, (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort when walked at  8-10 miles a day, with the exception of a relatively short but steep ascent of the prehistoric Nesuntabunt Mountain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Heading out

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. Alternatively, catch a float plane shuttle from Katahdin Air,  which drops you off on the shore of Crawford Pond where  side trail puts you on the AT in 100 feet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ready for lift-off

Three and a half miles after you depart Crawford Pond you reach the pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter- a must swim.  Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and Sand Beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.

If you have the bucks , consider a side trip of 1.1 miles and splurging for a night at the Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps.    I haven done that yet , but plan to do so the next time I go through.

Make no mistake, spending  a week backpacking The Hundred is tough.  If you stuff your pack with lots of food, you can eat your way as you move along. My rationing of  a 3,000 calorie a day plan resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took me to make this 100 mile trip.

 

 

A Walk in the Woods: My Movie Review

I attended the opening night screening here on Sept. 11 in mid-coast Maine, where a good-sized audience of seasoned moviegoers were in the vast majority.
Big names are associated with this production: Bryson, Redford, and Nolte. The movie was based on the 1998 best selling book of the same name, written by Bill Bryson. I consider the book to be a gem. It is funny, and chock full of factoids about the AT itself, although those departures from the interchanges between the main characters are the book’s only weak point.

When I thru-hiked the AT in 2007, just about everyone I met who found out that I was hiking asked me, “Did you read a Walk in the Woods?” It was that popular then, and with this movie now, too.

Robert Redford bought the film rights, and stars as Bryson in the movie. In the book, both Bryson and Katz are in their mid forties. Redford just turned 79, and Nolte is 74 this year. That’s a bit of an issue, but not a major one, for me. I’m old, too !

There were rumors in 2007 that the movie was being put together, however with Paul Newman cast as Katz, the overweight, alcoholic, womanizer portrayed in the book. But Newman died in 2008. A reunion of Redford and Newman, who were devastatingly correct together in both “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting,” might have transcended this weak production.

In 2007, a reputable source told me that that he had a trail encounter with Bryson, who revealed that he made up Katz, who was interjected into Bryson’s trail journal in order to bolster the appeal of the book to a broader audience. Daily journals of long distance trail thru-hikes don’t end up as best sellers.

I suspect the same literary license is what made Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” possible as a best-seller, another book where the author initially plans to thru-hike over 2,200 miles but ends up skipping many long sections and ends up hiking 800 miles instead. That best-selling book was propelled by a huge public relations machine that I wrote about in my 2012 book review.  . In Strayed’s case I believe that she dug out her 1995 Trail journal from her Pacific Crest Trail adventure once she became a famous writer and decided to bolster that dated account with additional “ footage” from her past.  Brilliant.  And then came Oprah.

This movie details a middle-aged man’s quest to rerun to a simpler life, where multitasking is nonexistent. But Bryson’s worried wife insists that he find someone to walk with him, so that he would be safe. He finds a partner, but he’s probably less safe with his choice. Hiking in 2015, Bryson would have gotten away with purchasing a Spot GPS tracker that he would have clipped to his pack , where an e-mail message would reach his wife nightly, complete with a map of his present location.

Back in 1998, enters Bryson’s sidekick Katz, who is the saving grace of the movie. He’s a believable character, a highly imperfect being who stumbles and mumbles his way into your heart, where is drooping moist blue eyes ring true.

Emma Thompson plays Bryson’s wife, and she does a very adequate job at carrying out that role.

The real disappointment in the movie was Redford, who comes across as stiff, bewildered, and distant throughout.

Being from Maine, I was looking forward to the segment where Bryson and Katz hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, which in the book, proved too daunting for them to complete. The movie never makes it to Maine.

Being an experienced AT hiker, I was on the lookout for authentic details on and about the Trail. Certainly, the footage of the AT in the movie was mostly all true Trail (with no New England portions), and those scenes were sumptuous. But, apparently numerous details weren’t important enough for the producer to get right. Here are a few missteps:

1) Trekking poles do no good when they are lashed to the sides of one’s pack, especially when the hiker is negotiating rocky stream crossings.
2) Big Agnes sleeping bags were not around in 1998.
3) If a hiker wears one pair of off-white pants for 800 miles those pants are not clean or devoid of rips.
4) Hikers are often balls of grime.  These two are too clean.
5) Real hikers always like to show off their bandaged, bloody, blistered feet. There was none of that here.
6) The walking scenes would have been more believable if the packs had actual weight in them. Packs that big are very heavy and difficult to even lift off the ground. Huge packs don’t get picked up with one hand and then lightly flipped onto one’s shoulder.
7) There are no grizzlies east of the Rockies.

The ending of the movie was weak as well. It just trickled out. I wasn’t even sure that was it, but then the lights came on and people started walking out. And then the credits began rolling out ,and some amazing scenery of the AT began to unfold. Do stay after the movie itself is over and get a feel for the majesty of the AT.

NOTE: Not one to be known as a whiner, I offer the reader a couple of alternative video experiences of the Appalachian Trail. I have two recommendations for those readers who would like a more authentic rendering how a real AT thru-hike works.

If you want to weep:
5 Million Steps is the 1st video by filmmaker Lynne Whelden. It is an older film,  1987, but the AT is still the AT.  The movie profiles 14 hikers on the Appalachian Trail, whose  personal stories will strike a chord with all those who dream about long distance hiking or who have done it and want to relive the adventure.

If you want to laugh:
The three DVD AT series by filmmaker Scott “Squatch” Herriott as he, “ attempts to hike the entire 2,100+ mile-long Appalachian Trail in one hiking season while simultaneously searching for the interesting, inspiring, sometimes whacked-out and always dirt-laden folk who make up the long-distance hiking community.”
Squatch’s initial plan was altered significantly once he experienced just how rough the AT was on his body.  Squatch’s AT completion took him three years, yielding three DVD’s: Flip Flop Flippin’, Flip Flop Flippin’ 2, and Flip Flop Flipped.

[Disclaimer: I was a financial supporter for Squatch’s Flipped series via Kickstarter, but receive no remuneration, or consideration from that donation. ]

Hiking The Hundred Mile Wilderness – Day 2

Heading out
Heading out

On our second day, walking 11 miles,  all three of this Boston clan received their trail names.  It was a specific request that they all made of me coming into this adventure.  I could not guarantee that it would happen, but said that it was possible.  I’m not that impressed with all the Rainbows, Blue Skys, Striders, and Mountain Men that populate the trail year ofter year.  The AT tradition is to have another hiker give you a name based on some incident or personality characteristic that offers to others a glimpse of  your own uniqueness.

Dino was the easiest for me to scope out.  He worked for a major natural gas company in Massachusetts.  Dino was also a “go at it “ type of guy, so the name of Gaspedal bubbled right up into my consciousness, and he felt that might work.  I had warned Dino that hikers can end up with names that are pretty weird, like what happened to Assface and Balls.  He took to Gaspedal right away.

Gaspedal with Mud Pond in the background
Gaspedal with Mud Pond in the background

Rok Rabbit’s identity was part of a magical event.  As Jake as I were carefully picking our steps across a stream that was the Mud Pond outlet, avoiding a slip on the slick stones, he shouted out, “  Look, check out the rabbit coming along with us!”
I turned to my right and witnessed something I had never seen in my life- a brown snowshoe hare slowly hopping its way across the 15 foot wide stream, picking shallow spots, hopping up on a couple of rocks, splashing along, and making it happen. Jake then pulled out a green rabbit’s foot from his pocket, and showed it to me, and told me that the rabbit was a special animal to him. Bingo- trail name #1.

I was impressed with Nick’s keen eye for small life forms.  He spotted a nymph casing floating in the water on the edge of Antler Camp point, was excellent at spotting tiny little toads, often stopped while walking to poke around in the greenery to examine tiny beings, and appeared particularly attuned to the details along the trail.  I learned that Nick was an entomology buff, and had a good collection of insects in his own room at home. I suggested Bugdawg and he went for it.  Yes !

Gaspedal, Rok Rabbit, and Bugdawg staying upright
Gaspedal, Rok Rabbit, and Bugdawg staying upright

We were all experiencing sticky clothing in the unrelenting heat and humidity.  Gaspedal was concerned about possible chafing in his shorts, so I asked him, “ You wearing underwear?”
He answered, “Of course”.  So I suggested that he go without them and see how that worked out.  Later in the afternoon, he said, “ I just tried going commando, and I like it. Mucho better.”

It was so hot that we took three swim breaks today:  Antler Camps, Sand Beach, and when we stopped for the night at the Nahmakanta Stream campsite.

Sand Beach
Sand Beach
Antler Camp point
Antler Camp point

Gaspedal cut his foot on some rocks at Antler Camp , so I was able to try out the New Skin that my friend Joe recommended.  It worked!  I painted a bit over the cut, which dried in 2 minutes.  Then I placed a small piece of duct tape over it and everything held up after we checked the wound at the end of the hike. The layer of New-Skin was still on there after the tape was peeled off and the cut had already healed up.

We stopped to drink and fill out water bottles at the Potaywdjo spring near that same-named shelter.

Hiker at Potaywadjo spring
Hiker at Potaywadjo spring

This spring is the largest on the whole Appalachian Trail, where ice cold crystal clear water comes up to the surface through white sand.

One of the issues in the hiking community right now is overuse, due to the increasing number of hikers that are taking to the Appalachian Trail.  Nowhere is that more evident in the outhouse that was set up here at the far edge of the Nahmakanta Stream campsite.  Let’s be clear- there’s no way I would want to be the volunteer who is responsible for maintaining this segment of the AT.  I’ve been in hundreds of privies in my day, and the one here was not only strewn with unused and a “bit used” toilet paper, it reeked to a place that was definitely not high heaven. It was nauseating.   I was the only one that ended up using it, and that was because I forced myself to breathe through my mouth, and I was very efficient at getting in and out of there.

Today, we had one uphill segment to lumber up- Potaywadjo Ridge, a mile long climb of some 400 feet in elevation gain.

Coming up Potawaydjo Ridge
Coming up to Potaywadjo Ridge

I was impressed at the strong,  steady walking of the crew, who all made it up without a whine and just one brief stand-up rest stop.

The walking today was punctuated by numerous sections where the trail is traversed on puncheons,  split-log  timbers with one face smoothed, used for avoiding walking in deep mud.

Deep wet forest
Deep wet forest

They are slippery when wet.

We met two couples who were parked on the Jo-Mary Road just before Nahmakanta Lake.  I asked them if they were willing to take our trash and they said yes.  The policy on the AT  is to Leave No Trace.  Sometimes it’s hard convincing hikers that this also means you don’t leave working items at the shelters that you don’t want to carry any more, but that you believe other hikers want. For example, rolls of duct tape, jars of food, battery operated lanterns with used batteries, metal water bottles, saws, or full bottles of white gas.  Pack it in, pack it out.  It makes the work of volunteers easier.  They are the ones that have to carry all the great stuff out that no one wants to carry anymore.

We also established a new pattern of cooking and tenting today.  Last night, at the wild camping site, we did both in sequence, and ended up being pressed into using our headlamps before we had all of our tasks completed.  I was also nervous about the possibility of a spark from our cooking igniting the deep dry bed of pine needles that were all around and under us. So, this afternoon, we cooked at a place that was next to water, and had safer undergrowth, which minimized fire danger.  Then we washed the cook pots and utensils and packed up and moved on, hiking for a couple of miles before we settled into this official campsite for the night.  There was one other section hiker who also was tenting at the site, Chopsticks.

Nahmakanta Stream Campsite
Nahmakanta Stream Campsite

Prepping For My 50 Mile Hike of the Appalachian Trail

I am taking out three clients on a Half The Hundred Mile Wilderness backpacking trip next week through my Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures business.

Sign at start of the Hundred Mile Wilderness
Sign at start of the Hundred Mile Wilderness

Now is a great time to be doing any business that involves communication. As a starting point, I sent my clients a copy of the excellent book Lighten Up: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking. It’s been easy to stay in touch with clients about how they best prepare, train, and consider gear recommendations.  We trade photos and gear talk via texts and e-mail. I will fill in their kits with the additional gear.

For example, I am supplying three different types of air pads that I will encourage them to switch out and try, including two Big Agnes Air Cores, and a Thermarest Neo Air.

I am also providing stoves and cook sets. I have a brand new Bushcooker LT2 multi-fuel unit that two of them will share. This will allow the group to try out cooking with alcohol, solid fuel tablets ( hexamine), and biofuel( wood). There will also be a MSR Pocket Rocket/ isobutane canister stove for comparison.

I had a disappointing experience in my purchase of a two person pot set at LLBean last week. Bean’s is going downhill.  Their book selection is 1/10 of what it used to be, and is leaning toward coffee-table tomes.

A month ago, I was exploring buying an Osprey hydration pack when I asked the salesman about the lower zipped opening.  He informed me that it held a waterproof pack cover, which seemed like a great idea, however when I got it home, it harbored a tool roll, and not a pack cover !

Last week, I told the salesperson that I was a backpacker who was looking for a larger cooking setup to take wilderness backpacking.  He steered me to the GSI Outdoors® Pinnacle Dualist Cook System.  277013_0_42 However, it was out of stock, so he helped me get it sent to my house (with my Maine Guide’s discount) and with free shipping.  So far, real good.  After I opened the box and checked out  the product, I was surprised to see how much plastic and rubber there was in the unit, including the pot and the pot lid.  Thankfully, I  actually read the directions.  I was shocked to learn that the pot and lid , “.. is intended for stove top use only. Not for use with open campfires. Never expose handle to direct flame.”  I like to cook with wood and will also place my cook pots on established campfires or coals,  where flames sometimes creep up the sides of the stove.  There was no way that I was going to keep this backcountry cookpot impostor !   It’s going back.

It was obvious that neither product was actually used by the salespersons, which could be a  dangerous practice for any business, let alone LLBean.

In truth, I might have done better just to strip the label off a 28 ounce can of tomato puree, punch a couple of holes through the top edge, and fashion a bail handle out of a short length of wire, and saved myself a trip down to Freeport to The Flagship Store.

One new product that I will be packing is a foot care item recommended to me by Joe Niemczura, a rural nursing guru who is also a very decent backpacker. Joe was enthusiastic about New-Skin Liquid Bandage, in either paint-on and spray form. According to Joe, it leaves a Krazy Glue-like residue that protects the skin from breakdown. Joe uses it in advance, along with duct tape.

Today, I’m dehydrating the first of my two supper choices. I have a lot of fresh corn right now so Campo Corn Chowder will be one choices. photo 12 My favorite is Smoky Mountain Chili.photo 6 I picked up a 4-tray electric dehydrator a few years ago at a yard sale for $4. The recipes are from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ by Tim and Christine Conners.

I am also fine tuning my own fitness for the trip. Last night I pushed out a hard two-hour mountain bike session with The Bubbas in The Woods up and around Ragged Mountain where I was able to ramp up my heart rate and maintain it between 145- 175 beats per minute for over an hour.

This morning I put 20 pounds in my backpack and did close to a 5 mile hike at a pretty good clip, targeting a two run repeat of the steepest hill I can walk to from my house (Moody Mountain).

I like to view my biking and walking results on Strava.  Today’s elevation profile is highly reinforcing !  photo   On the hike next week, I plan to hold the group to a 10 mile a day average, spending 4 nights and 5 days to complete the 50 miles.

Here’s my own packing list for this trip. I have whittled things down to  a 15 pound base weight, meaning what I have on my back, without food or water.   Do check out Lighten Up: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking.   That’s how I got lighter.  It’s got a lot of cartoons to get the point across.  It’s less than $7 in Kindle format and retains those great cartoons!