Backpacking Davis Pond to Hamlin Peak in Baxter State Park

Looking up from Davis PondThere was a time earlier today when I just wanted to quit hiking uphill and retreat the 7 miles downhill to Wassataquoik lean-to number two where where we’re scheduled to hole up for the night.  Just a half hour into today’s hike, I was cold, wet and had no desire to ascend the 2000 feet from Davis Pond all the way up to Katahdin’s Hamlin Peak (4756’) in thick clouds with the air temperatures in the high 30s and strong clearing winds blowing out of the West.

Up to Hamlin Peak from  Davis Pond
Up to Hamlin Peak from Davis Pond

There would be nothing to see but the inside of a freezing cloud.

My boots were still cold and totally soaked from walking.  Lingering 40° wet coated the foliage that protruded into the trail. When I brushed against the leaves,  cold water eventually saturated my shorts and ran down my legs into my boots and socks. My feet are wimpy when it comes to dealing with cold. My hands also suffer when the temps drop.
Just before I was going to split off from Guthook and Hans to retreat, cumulus clouds started forming, blue patches opened up in the sky, and was clear that the rain and dark clouds going to be history.

Hamlin is one of the three 4,000 foot Baxter State Park mountains that are on the New England 4,000 foot peaks list.

Guthook front, Hamlin Peak rear
Guthook front, Hamlin Peak rear

The other two are Katahdin, at five thousand two hundred and sixty eight feet and North Brother, at 4151 feet.  While on top, we encountered only one other peak bagger trudging toward Hamlin Peak.

Today turned out to be a very good time to be on top of this mountain. Despite my hands being too cold to function, I was able to get my body heat up by jogging the flat expanse to and from Hamlin Peak.

Me in front, Hans and Hamlin in back
Me in front, Hans and Hamlin in back

Patches of ice were fund on top of rocks that dominated this landscape.

Ice, meet Hans !
Ice, meet Hans !

The views today were expansive, with views stretching to Canada on one side, and nothing but trees and lakes stretching 40 to 50 miles in all directions.

At the end of this twelve mile backpacking day, I was most pleased to have made the choice to keep going when it became painful to do so.  The shelter of this lean-to along the Wassataquoik Stream nearby was a sort of homecoming.  Approaching this lean-to, I  begin to embrace the sense of completing a day well spent in the wilderness.

Wassataquoik LT#2
Wassataquoik LT#2

Kicking off a September Week of Hiking at Baxter State Park

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate make my 20th summit hike to  Maine’s highest point via the newly rerouted Abol Trail.

I returned last week to hike in my favorite backpacking destination, Baxter State Park, joining my Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails hiking pal Guthook as we explored some of the lesser trails in the park – ones that are usually bypassed in favor of ascending Katahdin,the crown jewel of the wildest state park east of the Mississippi.

Kaahdin
Kaahdin
It’s the third week in September and the humidity that has dogged coastal  Maine for the past two months has followed me up here to Baxter State Park.

Leaves  are turning colorful
Leaves are turning colorful
The technicolor fall foliage show is just getting to the beginning Kodachrome stage, delayed this season, likely due to a drought.

Tonight, we’re settling into Lean-To #3 at Neswadnehunk Camp Ground for a fresh roasted veggie/kielbasa dinner cooked to perfection on a cheap portable gas grill.

The view from Lean-to #3
The view from Lean-to #3
We’re here after a 10 mile afternoon walking the Park’s Kettle Pond, Cranberry Pond, and Rum Pond Trails.

Hiking Near the Southern Gate
Hiking Near the Southern Gate
These low lying trails are the among the first the hiker encounters after entering Baxter through the Togue Pond Gatehouse.  Even these relatively benign,  unfrequented forays were satisfying sojourns from my multi-tasking life.

img_8381 The softness of the ground, and the textures of the kaleidoscope of greens and greys of the leaves and the trees are  immensely satisfying.

Our  reservations for the first three days are at Lean-do #3 at the Neswadnehunk Field Campground.   It’s a drive in site with a view toward the incomparable Doubletop, at 3,489′ a distinctive mountain, with a short ridge connecting the two prominent exposed granite points on top.  Approach trails reach it from either the north or south. I went up for the second time two years ago, so I’ll appreciate it from afar this time.

The ranger here told us we are the only campers tonight. It’s just Betsey and us, enjoying the Milky Way star show.  $12 purchased us enough dry split wood to see us through for an evening fire each night.

The weather looks to be mostly dry and warm, and we are very pleased to be here.

Lift Off !
Lift Off !
September is a superb time to find yourself enjoying the wilderness, especially anything away from the perennially packed approach trails to Katahdin where 90 per cent of people who come this Park congregate.

Baxter State Park: Day 3 of 6

Today we duplicated yesterday’s trek, but in reverse. We are heading back south today to Russell Pond CG Lean-to #1, adjacent to the canoe launch area.

Greg, the senior ranger at Russell Pond yesterday, encouraged us to modify our plan of hiking over to the northeast corner of the park where we had booked a night at the Middle Fowler South tent site.
Greg requested that we be at his cabin at 8 am, when he would be in radio communication with the Baxter Reservation Office. Greg was very helpful to us.

We felt strong walking back today.

Crossing Howe Brook
Crossing Howe Brook

We only encountered only 1 other person while hiking almost 10 miles today. He was a taciturn chap. We were overjoyed to see someone approaching, but his attire of torn pants, safety glasses, and a faded hunter orange vest was a bit off. He also failed to acknowledge our need to communicate.
When I asked an opening question, ” Hey, glad to see you. What’s up ? ”
He replied without stopping his gait,” I came from back there (points) , and I am heading over there ( points).”
Vamoose! A very quick encounter!

On the way back, I spotted a rare find, and took he opportunity to teach my clients about chaga.

The fruit of a little labor.
The fruit of a little labor.

Chaga is sold online in whole chunks at great expense.  I just looked it up on a popular alternative medical website for $55 per pound.     The chaga mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine.  In North America, Chaga is a parasite that is almost exclusively found on birches in the northeast.  Chaga will ultimately kill the host tree, but the tree can survive for decades if not mistreated. When collecting the chaga, it is important to leave some behind as this will  allow it to regrow. If the tree has multiple sites of chaga, leave at least one  completely intact, and avoid harvesting small specimens, and stick to pieces roughly larger than a grapefruit in size.

I usually harvest it with a sturdy fixed blade knife,

A diseased specimen tree. Adequate chaga is left on the tree.
A diseased specimen tree. Adequate chaga is left on the tree.

using a baton of deadwood to remove it from the host tree.  For the remaining trip, we enjoyed chaga tea around our campfire each night. Small chunks are boiled and then simmered.  The resulting tea is very dark, and tastes similar to black tea. The chunks can be reused several times before there is an apparent decline in the potency of the drink.

Another unusual event happened on the way back through the overflowed section of trail caused by the beavers.

Gaspedal and Rokrabbit mucking along
Gaspedal and Rokrabbit mucking along

I was first through and now have wet boots from skirting the orange blaze trail by walking over the top off the smaller beaver dam. Next came Gaspedal, who walked the flooded trail. He stopped to reach a couple of feet into the clear water to pull up a cell phone.

Improbable find !
Improbable find !

It was in a case that had a UMO ID card in a pocket on the back.
There had been a large group of Upward Bound students who slept in a tent site right next to us the first night we were here. They had come through the southbound trail from South Branch Pond Campground that same day, so chances are that the dead phone belonged to one of them. I turned it into the ranger, who was going to follow it up.
Hikers need to understand that there are more rules at Baxter than at other state parks.

Gaspedal was crushed when the ranger informed him about the rule that his solo tent was not allowed around our lean-to. If you want to tent, book a tent

Understand that there are ramifications of Governor Baxter’s intentions that Baxter Park is primarily here to promote conservation of natural resources, as opposed to recreation.

A couple of situations come to mind.
I wanted to take a swim after our hike yesterday. There is no beach or swim area at Russell. The place I chose to go in the water was right off the end of the wooden dock at the canoe launch. Clearly, recreating took a back seat, when I slipped on one of the algae coated, football/-sized rocks that were piled under water at the end of the dock and fell onto my side into the dark wet. I came out with a bleeding foot.

I’ll present a second consideration.
I’ve camped at lean to #4  (“The Moose Inn”) numerous times since Will B. Wright was a ranger here at Russell in the late 1960’s. Notice how grown-in the trees and brush have become between the lean-to and the pond.

Viewing Russell Pond from the shelter of The Moose Inn ( Lean-to #4)
Viewing Russell Pond from the shelter of The Moose Inn ( Lean-to #4)

It is obvious that policies are in place in order to maintain the natural progression of shoreline vegetation instead of providing personal panoramas for the camper.  Gaspedal pointed out that they practice what they preach here – even the ranger here has trees obstructing his view of the pond.   While the practice of conservation is generally workable, and actually favored by most of us that enjoy coming here, one must at least question the practicality of rigorous adherence to it’s purpose.

And as Gaspedal also pointed out, a thoughtful ranger is now unable to have a sight line from his cabin to view every point on the lake due to visual blockage by trees and shrubs.

One’s risks are elevated at Baxter. That’s what we accept when we walk into the wilderness, and that is why I am here.

6 day, 5-night Baxter State Park/Katahdin adventure

Aug.22- 27, 2016
(Due to a recent cancellation I have one space available for this upcoming backpacking trip.)
Join our exploration of the central and northeast sections of Baxter State Park before  ascending the newly rerouted Abol Trail leading to Katahdin’s summit.

IMG_3399
Uncle Tom and Guthook ( 2014)

Itinerary: On Day 1, after leaving our van at Roaring Brook Campround, we’ll hike 7.5 miles north through a valley to spend the first night at a lean-to on the shore of Russell Pond (Campground).  Our second day finds us hiking 10 miles further north to an isolated lean-to on South Branch Pond that we’ll access via canoe. Day three will be a shorter hike where we’ll tent at Middle Fowler Pond, where there will be time to relax or explore one of Baxter’s least-visited regions.  Retracing our steps on day four,  we’ll return to our lean-to on Russell Pond. On day 5, we’ll walk back to our van and move to Abol Campground where we will spend the last night in a lean-to. On our final day, we’ll summit Katahdin (5,267 feet) weather permitting), via the historic Abol Trail which has been partially rerouted and has just reopened as of this July.

It is difficult to get a reservation to ascend Katahdin in the summer. This is a rare chance to explore some of the lesser known parts of Baxter as well as to summit Katahdin on the trail traversed by Thoreau in 1846. National Geographic includes Katahdin as one of the top ten summit hikes in the world.

The trip starts and ends in Lincolnville, ME. Transportation to and from Baxter State Park, as well as entrance and campground fees are included in the price. A list of recommended personal gear will be provided upon registration.

Group size: 4.

Price:  $500: Equipment rental is available.  Hikers provide their own food. Meals can be prepared and provided for additional charge.

Reservations:  Call 207-763-3406 or email thomasjamrog@me.com for questions or to secure reservation.

Additional information about your guide and Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures 

My Birthday Weekend- Hiking The Hills

Exiting the car in the iced-over parking lot on Friday afternoon I decided to leave my Stabilicer traction devices in the vehicle. 

My brother Roy was already walking on the multi-purpose trail and he shouted over, “No ice here” so in they went. I hate carrying extra weight and with all the pierogis, kielbasa, and my 8 person car-camping cook set bloating my pack I was well into 30 plus pounds on my back.  Stabilicers would have helped this weekend.

I started humping up the big hill.  Auntie Mame was walking beside me, decked out in her rain poncho.  My brother Roy was up ahead, as he was for most of the weekend’s hikes.

Mame and Roy embracing the real world of backpacking
Mame and Roy embracing the real world of backpacking

Less than a half-mile up the hill, we encountered the two lead hikers in our party, Kristi and David Kirkham, who love their granddaughter’s baby carriage so much that they use it any chance that they can !

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
No child was smothered on this hike

It was alternately sleeting and raining, so the following 9 miles were a slush walk.

Walking in cold rain at under 40 degrees is a setup for hypothermia. Once again, I was slightly under dressed:  two thin merino undershirts- one short  and one long sleeved, and a ratty, old Patagonia Specter rain shell holding it all together. In these conditions, I have to have something covering my hands. Today, the fix was waterproof mitten shells with felted wool mittens liners.

Who cares? We are staying in a cabin heated by a wood stove. Wet clothes will be dried out. Miles were traveled.  Old friends are also with me.

After we dropped off  our packs at the shelter, I accompanied Auntie Mame out to the alternate parking lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A Prudently Prepared Auntie Mame (Note poles, poncho, Stabilicers on her feet, and a hat!)

We were bringing in the last member of our overnight party. Both of us decided to accompany Ann Breyfogle on her walk in to join us.

Those two ladies had no problem walking up yet another big hill and making a couple of more miles as the foggy evening light started to fade.
Mame and Ann heading to shelter

For me, this weekend was also about hiking, and my plan for Saturday was to roll the walking odometer over into double digits for the day. I am fortunate enough to still have people who not only want to do this with me, but have the ability to make it happen.

Ann, Pat Hurley, and my brother Roy joined me.  Here is a photo taken at the today’s high point atop Mt. Megunticook.

Roy , Ann, and Pat
Roy , Ann, and Pat

Unfortunately there are no views from the summit so we descended on the often icy Ridge Trail.

Pat, making good use of his trekking poles on the ice
Pat, making good use of his trekking poles on the ice

We quickly reached the highly popular Ocean Lookout.

Pat pointing to his house in Rockland
Pat pointing to his house in Rockland

From here we descended to the junction of the Jack Williams Trail, which we followed for two miles where we came back onto the Ridge Trail.  I showed the group a short cut that eliminated a dangerously icy incline at the start of Zeke’s, which we took back to the Multipurpose Trail and the end of our day’s hike.  Here’s the morning’s Strava data:

screenshot 17The 5.5 mile hike took us two hours, which was super good time for the often icy path.   After an afternoon of reading, sleeping, and gabbing, Roy, Pat and I decided to take a night hike up to the top of Bald Rock Mountain.  Here are Pat and Roy, just before the sun left u in darkness.

What's up in that tree?
What’s up in that tree?

Kristi told us the moon rise over the Atlantic would not happen until 10:30 PM. She was absolutely correct. Although the starlight was astounding, we did need headlamps on the way down off Bald Rock and back to our shelter, where we added another 5 miles to our tally for the day.

Despite the crappy weather getting in on Friday, the weekend was a huge success.  If any of you know Ann, ask her about Uncle Tom’s uncanny ability to psychically locate lost car keys, including her’s.  I’d also like to thank John Bangeman for his Saturday visit, and a huge shout out to Martha Conway-Cole for guiding Pat and the rest of us through a most excellent, best ever, Saturday morning breakfast.

Special thanks also to Milllie’s PierogisTrouble Coffee, Leki Trekking poles, and this specialty paeo food that we consumed on on Saturday morning:

It's Bacon!
It’s Bacon!

My 2016 birthday present to myself was a weekend hanging with my brother, wife, and great outdoor adventure pals in ascending 3179 vertical feet in 21 miles.

Microadventure accomplished!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Jamrogs left, Kirkhams right. Plus Hurley and the carriage.

Avoid Hedonic Adaptation

Reblogging today’s post from Tim Smith at Jack Mountain Bushcraft School.  Tim cuts right to the core with this post, plus I’ve picked up a book recommendation that I am going to follow up, as well.  Tim’s been a great source to help me to stay off the treadmill.

Source—>: Avoid Hedonic Adaptation

A goal I’ve set for myself this year is to be mindful and grateful for what I’ve done and what I’ve got. My plan for doing so is to avoid hedonic adaptation…..

 

Tending+The+Cook+Fire.jpgimgmax=608
Photo from Jack Mountain Bushcraft blog

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

Maine Microadventures

At the start of 2015, the British explorer and micro-adventurer Alastair Humphreys called for people to live more adventurously, and challenged us to spend one night out in the wild each month during the year.

It’s all in Humphreys’ new book, Microadventuresphoto 4 The idea of a microadventure intrigues me.

The book came out as an e-book in 2014, then in print in 2015, and while clearly British-based, has inspired me to get out into the woods and fields more often.
In April, I slept out a couple of nights with Tenzing in Mike’s back yard in Austin, where I was awakened by the local neighborhood rooster each morning.

I plan to get out this week, before the black flies and mosquitoes really limit my enjoyment of hanging in the outdoors.  Of course there is always my trusty mesh bug shirt, made for me by Berta Estes, out of Winslow, Maine. Unfortunatley she’s been out out of business for at least 10 years now.

Who wants to try and sleep outdoors for at least one night a month this calendar year ? We can start a #Mainemicroadventure movement?

I’ve just received permission from a local landowner to not only walk the 1,200 acres that her family owns, but also to be able to sleep on the top of the highest mountain in the area.

#GoingToHappen

Local Adventures Way Down South

I’m known as Opie here in Austin. Opie is known for slinging a fishing pole over his shoulder, hopping on his bike, waving bye-bye to Aunt Bea, and heading off into the Mayberry’s countryside for local adventures.

Ever since I read Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, I’ve been embracing the concept of enjoying outdoor adventures on my own turf, wherever that might be. B1hi_AiCcAEFeWE Alstair Humphries’ idea of going local is catching momentum. There is a detailed explanation of microadventures here.

For the past five nights, my side kick Tenzing and I have been camping out in our host Mike’s back yard. photo

I been hiking in and around Austin the at five days.

The first morning I was here, I fired up the Garmin eTrex 30 and did a long loop walk of a couple hours. That first morning, I saw a turtle, nesting parrots, house plants by the sidewalks that were Hulked out to giantness, as well as some some most unique signage.

Pole dancing academy
Pole dancing academy

The next morning, Tenzing joined me. Sniffles, AKA Chameleon Boy, signed on with us then next morning. By the time yesterday rolled around, all of the folks in the house massed up with me and made the 7 mile round trip to El Chilito for breakfast.

Pounding pavement to burritos
Pounding pavement to burritos

The stunning Hamilton Pool was the object of our awe the next morning.

Mike and Dusty going in
Mike and Dusty going in

 

Sniffles coming up
Sniffles coming up

Later that day, we headed northwest of Austin out to Hill Country, where we had a most pleasant afternoon hiking at Enchanted Rock State Park. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Big times
Big times

The next day, we had another local adventure here: Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center.

Grandfather trees abound here
Grandfather trees abound here
Tenzing, uplifting
Tenzing, uplifting

Yesterday, I reunited with my fellow Triple Crowner, Richard Wizard and his fiancee, Emmie. We took in a fun loop around Lady Bird Lake where we paused for picture of the two of us, standing deep in the heart of Texas.

Uncle Tom and Richard Wizard, hanging and hiking yet again
Uncle Tom and Richard Wizard, hanging and hiking yet again

Strava tells me that I’ve logged 50 miles of walking in the past five days. I’ll take smileage wherever I can get it, even in a city of close to 2 million, deep in the heart of Texas.

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 www.WCSH6.com, 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.