I’m thankful whenever I can paste up someone else’s outdoor trip report on any adventure that I have shared with that person. Last week was the first snowshoe hike of the season into Maine’s Camden Hills State Park.
Here’s an overview of the whole park, with some 25+miles of hiking available all year ’round.
I have written about overnight hikes in this location before. The Park is a gem, and used heavily by locals and summer visitors alike. My partner on this hike was Ryan, who was fine tuning some added features on revision to his trail app, Atlas Guides.
We thru-hiked the Appalachian (2007) and the Pacific Crest ( 2010) National Scenic Trails the same years and continue get together at least seasonally to either maintain our volunteer sections of the AT or backpack in Baxter State Park.
Click on the link below to see photos of unpacked expanse of while snow looks like. I’ve got one here that I’ll add of Ryan overlooking the wide angle view from the top of Maiden’s Cliff.
We trudged through the Park west to east, where we reached another vehicle that we spotted at the Stevens’ Corner parking lot.
Check out Ryan’s most excellent blog post below for this adventure, with additional photos, including iPhone screen shots of the Camden Hills Hiker app in action
I boss myself and set my own work schedule so I celebrate my birthday with a solo hike or ride. With all the snow around and the temperatures below freezing at dawn, I chose to ride Camden Hills State Park this year. Refrozen snow is good. Thawing snow isn’t, for biking that is.
Whenever I go out on a hike or ride, I hope to notice something interesting. Today it was connecting shade and north slope conditions with good solid track to ride upon.
The Camden Hill State Park is a 10 minute drive away.
I started up the mile long climb on fairly packed surface- many folks walk this section, some with their dogs, and it shows.
Eventually I reached the left tun for Bald Rock Mountain, a 1,000 prominence that overlooks the Atlantic.
It has been deep enough with snow that snowmobiles have gone to the top yesterday. None up there today. I am trying to make the full 5 miles on this Multipurpose Trail and then turn around and come back. I am racing sunshine, which has the capacity to soften the surface of the trail and cause my 5” tires to sink in and wallow.
In the next mile, the Multipurpose Road flattens out and is bordered by hemlocks and spruce trees that not only shade the surface from the sun, but hold the cold overnight. Grip is better here.
Soon I encounter the right tun for the Summer Bypass Trail, left untouched all winter. You can see that entrance right above the top of my front tire.
At the 2.5 mile mark I reach the Ski Shelter, empty this morning.
I will enter on my way back and drink water and eat a snack.
Still pushing to preserve firm snow.
From this point to the Route 1 side of the Park, there is much less foot traffic , with a clean snowmobile track from a rider who probably came through here last night or early this AM.
I stopped just at the water tower, turned around, and came back, deciding to take a left up the Cameron Mountain Trail, a decision which was aided by fresh snowmobile tracks and two sets of foot prints going that way.
Cameron Mountain is at the very edge of the State Park. The snowmobile track swoops around the summit and then twists and descends through private property when it eventually crosses Youngstown Road and heads for Lincolnville Center. The down hill is steep and fast, but my Ice Cream Truck embraces the wobble and delivers.
I decide to continue on the snowmobile trail rather than ride the pavement of Youngtown Road back to the car. I discover a huge hay field where I thought that I had lost the trail, but then I saw a tiny red trail sign far across the center of the field.
Winding my way down toward the village, I encountered an active logging operation that I was able to ride through with little difficulty.
After more than two hours of pedaling, I decided to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Drake’s corner store where I took this distorted selfie in the window.
My car was still three miles away. I do not like riding on Rt. 173, due to the narrow road and inattentive drivers, so I decided to gamble on the abandoned section of Thurlow Road being tracked in.
After dodging thinly iced-over water at the start, I encountered unbroken soft snow as far as I could see. I decided to walk the bike through. I was tiring, with my heart rate spiking to 155 beats per minute through the snow. Soon I encountered a little maple sugaring operation half way through service via a couple of ATV ruts that assisted me getting back to better track.
A sort while later I was back on pavement, where I took a left on Youngtown Rd. and had a leisurely couple of miles on pavement back to my car and home. Today was a great start to my next season of exploring my local trails.
It’s now 2017. After reviewing all the end of the year” bests” lists and the sun ever so slowly extending itself into the far northeast corner of the USA , I’m ready and hopeful about what’s to come.
For one, I’m still able to embrace health and happiness. My body weight has remained around 200 pounds since I lost 27 pounds on my 2013 CDT thru hike. On prior hikes, I’ve gained it all back , but this time, I’ve been able to remain 15 pounds lighter.
Setting goals is my personal life raft. Without them, I would be a diminished individual. My spanking new goal for 2017 is to hike, walk, backpack, or bike a cumulative 2017 miles. It will be a figure that is easy to remember! With that number in place, I am generally out the door every day to put in at least an hour to an hour and a half on moderate to more activity.
I dumped my decades old gym membership in 2013 after I came back from the CDT. I went back to working out indoors but it didn’t feel right to drive a vehicle a half hour to change clothes and spend an hour inside a sweat factory where I did more talking than walking.
With this plan, I sometimes play catch-up. I had a work week last week that cut into my recreational daylight hours. Saturday morning brought me to a three hour hike in nearby Camden Hills State Park. We have not had much snow here. The ground is practically bare, however, there are ample stretches of compressed, hard, grey ice covering some of the hiking trails and single track that I travel on. Half of Saturdays hike was done on Stabilicers. Fitbit helps.
If you are considering getting in ready shape for the upcoming hiking season then I’d suggest you also make your own grand plan with a mileage goal thrown in to keep you honest. I’d like to thank Carey Kish for getting me started on upping my Maine-based mileage. His 2015 Maineac Outdoors column inspired me. I’d recommend that you review my own blog post that conveys my start.
I boosted the whole shabang up a notch for 2016, aiming for 1,000 miles of walking as well as also a separate 1,000 mile biking. I was in for a nasty surprise this past Thanksgiving when I realized that I still had over 250 miles to cover on the bike before Dec. 31. Early snowfalls and some brutal single digit temps led me to sufferer through a few slushy bone chilling rides, but I made it.
I plan to amassing at least 100 bike miles a month from now until my birthday on March 27.
What about you? Ready for a mileage goal of 1,000 miles to invite you outside more? Who is in for a belated New year’s revolution or two?
The real deal is never the same as the ideal.
Take fat-tire bikes for example.
Advertised as the children of snowy Alaska’s Iditabkes, these newly minted cash cows of the shape-shifter bike industry have a magical draw when they are viewed in real life, as opposed to in magazine ads or Instagram photographs. The bikes themselves are borderine cartoonish.
With blocky, simple frame lines, it’s the wheels, no – the tires themselves, ballooning out to five inches in width that elicit broad smiles, and then chuckles on first sight. Then you eventually ride one, and that chuckle becomes a laugh and you are hooked.
Except you don’t float like “a magic carpet on wheels” over just any old snowscape. Snows of up to a couple, three inches are not even worth discussing. The bike goes. However, once the snow gets to be about 5” deep the magic of riding these chunkers fades and we enter the world of sweat, work, and subsequent exhaustion.
At least it is possible to move with a fattie under you, but once you enter deeper snow this happens: you pedal and then experience the disappointment of being propelled forward for a meager distance. The promised magic morphs into a grunt.
Which is not generally a problem for me. I have the 100% package of the Polish suffering gene, which propels me well into longer periods of low level leg work.
A friend of mine just bought a Surly Pugsley. He was surprisingly frustrated that it took hard work to pedal the thing in 5” of snow.
The winter track beneath a bike is best experienced when someone or something has packed puffy snow down.
The packing hierarchy goes like this, from best downward: snowmobile, 4WD truck tread, ATV tread, snowshoe tracks, ski tracks, footprints, and the occasional winter game trail.
So, we pack our own trails to ride on the snow. Last Saturday, I spent the morning helping my next door neighbor Matt cut out an overgrown discontinued snow mobile trail.
Matt had a full compliment of gear, that we hauled into the woods for the morning: chain saw, limb trimmer, axe, files, rope, even a stump vise.
Years ago, the winter landscape around this part of town was punctuated with the sounds of snowmobiles, day and night. Not so much anymore. Times have changed- the snows are often slim, and when there is snow on the ground, many of the locals pack up their sleds into enclosed trailers and head up north to Jackman or Rangeley to ride the snowmobile superhighways that make Quebec an easy haul.
So, we cut away a path for our bikes, and then walk them a bit , and then ride them some more until they are in a state where forward motion is not only possible, but productive.
The moral of this story is find some folks who do regularly ride winter trails where you live and make an effort to contribute to packing a better path for those that will follow.
Right now in Midcoast Maine, that’s the Rockland Bog.
The network of trails at the bottom of the Rollins Road in Camden is now fast, but a bit icy at the start.
Word has it that Camden Hills State Park is getting good and that Tanglewood 4H Camp is ridable but I plan to personally checked those out his week.
And then there’s this project I am working on with my nest door neighbor, Matt. Hopefully, we’ll turn that into something good.
You can’t purchase your miles of foot powered travel. Sure, you can buy experiences that frame human powered travel, but to move from point A to point B simply takes work, and time.
For 2015, my oldest son Lincoln encouraged me to set a daily goal of 1 hour of either bicycling, jogging, or backpacking. Being a data hound, I track my progress. If data is not of the slightest of interest to you, you’d better close this window and move on.
Until January 1, 2015 I logged my exercise time with the Fitbit app on my iPhone 5s. People may not realize that Fitbit lets you track workouts without necessarily buying a $150 Fitbit wrist tracker. The free Fitbit app utilizes my iPhone 5s’s M7 motion coprocessor, a part specifically designed to measure motion-related data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. My “cheater” Fitbit works fine. I aim for 10,000 daily steps, the equivalent of 5 miles of foot travel. In fact, Fitbit just “awarded” me the Monarch Migration badge, for completing 2,500 miles since I logged in on Jan. 1, 2014.
But things clicked even better for me when I ponied up $59 (a year) for the Strava Premium membership. I wanted to access the Strava Goals, unavailable on the free version. With a bump up to Premium, you get to set time or distance goals and track your progress by the week or the month, as my 2015 data below illustrates. This particular feature made all the difference to me in 2015.
I decided to aggregate both bicycling and foot travel (hiking/walking/jogging) toward that 1 hour goal. By checking via the various choices of Strava Premium’s graphics, I could see how I was doing each week. If I was experiencing a slim week, I’d plan to go outside on the weekend and would, for example, log a 3 hour hike in the State Park here in town and end up finishing the week with at least 7 hours of fairly brisk motion.
I surpassed my daily goal of 1 hour (365 hours) for 2015 ! Here’s the data:
I’m not going to rant about the 85 personal records that I accomplished in the 273 activities that I engaged in during 2015, however, that is another ingenious aspect of Strava. Or the fact that many of the folks that I hike and ride with are also using Strava, where we can view and encourage each other’s efforts, and even send each other GPX tracks of interesting routes that we’ve discovered.
It just keeps going and going….If you need even higher degree of data analysis ( like the” 3D rotating elevation profiler”) of your Strava data then check out Veloviewer!
This month I’ve had the fortune to join three fellow Lincolnville, Maine residents on two exploratory hikes where we walked where old footsteps, carriage wheels tracks, and hoof prints achieved a degree of frequency that was sufficient to establishing primitive roads that ascended these coastal hills.
What we are looking for does not appear on this map.
Now is the time of year to explore the remains of routes that date back to when white settlers began to settle this area previous to 1800. It’s approaching mid-December right now, when deciduous leaves have been stripped off the trees and the ground cover has died back to reveal the visible foundation of the landscape. What’s left are bare ledges and rock outcroppings that posed considerable navigational challenges to the earliest settlers to this midcoast Maine area. Here is an example of an ancient roadbed passing through the side of a rocky area:
The particular road that we tried to establish was one that came up from Youngtown Road above Lincolnville Center over the Camden Hills and then down into the settlement of Camden itself. Before 1804, there was no Route 52- the sheer cliffs on the west side of the Camden hills dropped right into Megunticook Lake. That all changed in 1806, after four years of hard labor of some forty men resulted in Daniel Barrett’s toll road. The flatness of that narrow winding road was much quicker and easier than the mountain road above Maiden’s Cliff that twisted its way near 1,000 feet of elevation.
Our walk today started at the “old Barrett homestead”, or as it is better known, the Maiden’s Cliff parking lot. We walked up the Maiden’s Ciff route for a short time, then veered right before the trail crossed a wide rocky stream. From there, we were able to follow a steadily ascending old road.
I expressed my doubts about whether a horse could draw a loaded wagon up the steep slope, or consider what is would take to hold back such a situation on a descent. We later agreed that this might have been on of the paths where timber from above was skidded down the mountain in winter or spring.
Here’s a massive pine tree that must have been 200 years old that had somehow escaped cutting.
It is so much easier tracing old paths with a small group, that can fan out in questionable areas and discuss route options in real time in a real place.
“You can feel it underfoot.”
“There’s a hand built berm laid up just to the left there.”
“ As good as the road is underneath us, It’s as rough as a cob all around us.”
In 1754, militia men forged a rough trail from Thomaston overland to Stockton Springs through what some Lincolnville historians term The Gut. We passed over that saddle later today, where we located old boundary markers and some very distinctive triangular hunks of weathered granite that were important lines of sight or outright ownership.
Today’s adventure with this group reminded me so much of a trek in southern New Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail back in May of 2013. Back then, my backpacking buddies Train, Wizard, General Lee and I were having a difficult time picking our way up the long-abandoned Butterfield Mail Coach route as it wound its nearly invisible track through a bone dry arroyo in the foothills of the Cooke Range. That stage route across the west started in 1857, and operated until 186. This was the era where the real wild West was settled. We were dodging Spanish Dagger plants then, and now I am pushing my way through thickets of bare young maple trees.
I loved walking today on a historic footpath that holds deep mysteries that have all but vanished in just over 200 years.
In the end, we took the first old road all the way up until we connected along the Jack Williams Trail, and took that to over Zeke’s Trail for a brief time when we veered off and continued the high line on another old road that eventually dipped down to known connections coming up from the Youngtown Road.
On the way back, Kerry discovered a pretty crude bush shelter, where someone had been squatting for a while, well off the marked trail. They left a mess.
If this mild December holds out any longer, I just might be up there again, spending the night on Bald Rock Mountain in the Camden Hills on Sunday so I can wake up on the solstice and watch the sun come up over the ocean and place its rays upon North America.
The life-affirming light will start to come back, once again, revealing yet another meaning of Christmas.
Anyone up for a #microadventure to check out the Harvest Moon/ “Supermoon”/ and total lunar eclipse tomorrow night (Sunday, Sept. 27)?
As Alistair Humphreys states in Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, “A microadventure is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and 100% guaranteed to refresh your life. A microadventure takes the spirit of a big adventure and squeezes it into a day or even a few hours.”
The Harvest Moon in 2015 comes on the night of September 27. It’s also a supermoon, and the closest the moon will come to earth this year. What’s more, this Harvest Moon will stage a total lunar eclipse on Sunday night.
According to my stargazing brother-in-law Gene, ”The total eclipse will start at 10:11 p.m. EDT Sunday evening and will last one hour and 12 minutes.”
This particular astronomical situation hasn’t happened in 33 years, and won’t for another 18 years.
I plan to watch it all unfold come up over Penobscot Bay from the top of Bald Rock Mountain in Camden Hills State Park. I’ll head up after supper, starting from the Steven’s Corner lot at 6:30 pm. Should be able to reach the top by dark.
If you also plan to head up, definitely bring a headlamp.
I also plan to sleep up there and make it down early enough to get to work on Monday, so I’ll be packing a sleeping bag, ground mat, and a bivvy bag. There’s a campfire ring in front of the lean-to as well. That might happen, too. It is only a 2 mile walk from the parking lot to the top, so if someone wanted to, they could go up and down on Sunday night. I don’t rush any more.
There are flat spots on top that can serves as tent sites, and floor of the worn-down lean-to just below the top can serve as a sheltered space as well.
The weather could not be better for the viewing on Sunday night: clear skies and low in the 50’s .
I’m blessed by having friends who walk outside in the winter. The picture below illustrates just how varied the modes of outdoor travel become this time of year: bikes, skis, snowshoes, toboggans, boots, and traction devices. Three successive days of walking on local trails just culminated with exiting the Camden Hills State Park. It’s the warmest morning in over a month, finally above freezing, and instead of the anticipated 6-10 inches of new snow from this weekends storm, it’s raining now.
Who cares ? I sure don’t, because after a mere two miles of slopping over the snow pack, I’ll be heading home to dry myself out by the glowing coals of the wood fire.
In 2015, I’m orienting my outdoor life to align with several goals I set for myself: hiking 1,000 miles in Maine, and walking or biking 365 hours. An hour a day average.
I’m also working on snowshoeing all 30 miles of trail here in the Camden Hills. I’m now down to just five miles more.
Surprise! Did you know that Tanglewood 4-H Camp is located on Camden Hills State Park land ? I didn’t. So I need to strap on the snowshoes and walk or ski 8 miles of trail over there, where the stunning 1.1 Ducktrap River Trail is the featured attraction.
I want to focus on winter biking more than snowshoeing. It’s March 15th today, and when this almost-spring sunlight beams loud and clear the snow melts quickly. We lost six inches of snow cover on one of the few bright, sunny days that unfolded last week.
I need to make like a sugar maple and hope for below freezing nights and warm sunny days in order to keep my personal force flowing.
I dream of riding over frozen snow and skittering down the Cameron Mountain descent just one more time.
The yearly ritual of turning back of clocks today came with the a clear turn toward Spring, which officially arrives this year at 6:45 pm March 20. The light is different now. It’s clearer, warmer as the longer days arrive, and still below freezing every single night.
It’s a banner year for cold, school storm days, and especially for snow accumulation. There is thee to four feet of snow on local trails, and even higher depths at elevation.
While struggling up the steepest sections of Ridge Trail in Camden Hills State Park on Saturday, my extended Leki trekking poles went all the way up to the hand grips before the connected with solid ground.
I was able to do it all this week: snowshoe hikes, bike rides on the snow and ice, and even a run on a clear tar road where I didn’t have to fear a slip or fall on the ice, which had finally melted.
Several places are really prime right now. For skiers and snowshoe fans, you can’t beat the conditions in Camden Hills State park. Regular snowmobile grooming on the Multipurpose/ Ski Lodge trail has put a packed surface of deep snow down for foot ( and bike) traffic.
The sheer number of people out and about has also packed down several of the side trails.
On Saturday, Bruce and I were able to walk without snowshoes all the way up the Carriage and then Tableland Trails to the intersection of Jack Williams where we donned snowshoes to break the untraveled 1.7 miles of that route. A slight inconvenience that is not a problem in the summer is the nearly constant pushing aside of small branches from my face. it’s because there is so much snow on the trails that you are actually elevated three to four feet above into a canopy that’s normally overhead.
Here’s a Google map rendition of a sixteen mile winter mountain biking route that I took yesterday, with this graphic provided by John Anders, a local bike trail building force.
To orient, the blue line intersecting Route 173 is at the Stevens Corner parking lot. Frohock Mountain is just to the left, Bald Rock Mountain is to the right, with the largest mass of Megunticook touching Penobscot Bay below. The blue line is all trail. Most of the traveling that we did in the foreground is impossible in any season but winter, unless you have a canoe, or an amphibious vehicle, as it is Swamp Thing country.
Maiden’s Cliff is packed down, especially the left turn route up to the Millerite Ledges.
The road walk up to the top of 800′ Mount Battie from the Route 1 parking lot is plowed and the pavement is almost 100% clear right now.
Cameron Mountain is really easy to get to, and serviced by many snowmobiles each day, packing that trail solid.
Drive on up to Tanglewood 4- H camp and ski the Road in from the parking lot/kiosk. it’s groomed and packed solid. The Ducktrap River trail, starting at the suspension bridge, looks great for skiing.
If you decide to head out into the woods this week in Lincolnville, do remember that’s it’s still pretty wild out there. Bring a day pack that can keep you going ( food and water), keep you warm ( dry extra clothes), keep you on track ( map, compass, and GPS), and keep you alive if you run out of daylight (warm clothing, fire starting devices, bivy sack).
If you exhaust the possibilities in and around the Camden Hills, you can also head up to Acadia, which now has it’s own Guthook’s Hiking Guide app for the iPhone/iPad available within his New England Hiker app.