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

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 !

 

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.

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.

The Speedy Sisters present “Twins Talk Trail” at Lincolnville Center Library

Auntie Mame and V8 on Appalachian Trail
Auntie Mame and V8 on Appalachian Trail

Everyone is invited to Marcia Jamrog and Jan Munroe’s presentation “Twins Talk Trail,” a program about comfort, pleasure and safety on short and long-distance hikes, on Wednesday, November 4 at 7 p.m. at the Lincolnville Community Library.

Twins Marcia and Jan have been hiking and backpacking for more than forty years and in 2008 covered 900 miles of the Appalachian Trail together. The two will share stories and photos from their adventures on that hike and others and offer tips on footwear, sleeping gear, food, and safety, particularly from a woman’s perspective.

Having each spent many hours hiking with friends and family members, they will talk about using Maine’s network of trails year-round and provide packing lists for various types of trips.

Marcia and Jan’s free presentation will complement the program Marcia’s husband, Tom Jamrog, did at the library in August, and will be a great opportunity for people to learn and share additional information about increasing active time outdoors in Maine .

For more information, call 763-4343 or e-mail questions@lincolnvillelibrary.org

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.