Looking for Uncrowded Hiking Options: Consider Stream Exploration !

While many of us are frustrated that our favorite trailheads for hiking are overused right now,  fresh options are available.

There has been enough rain that has fallen that streams are swollen and flowing strongly.

Maine is a very wet state. It’s been said that walking here for a straight-line mile in any direction will lead to water of some type, be it a river, stream, pond, lake or at this time of year vernal pool. One of my favorite activities the time of year is to follow streams in my neighborhood to trace their source, as well as walk them until they reach the sea.

I invited my friend Craig to join me in one of these microadventures after a strong rain. We walked out of my driveway and only had to venture a few hundred feet down the road until a large culvert was underneath us, swollen with clear, cold rainwater that came down off the South face of Moody Mountain. We both had on boots and gloves as it was a bit cold. Up we went, beside and in a meandering stream that passed along ancient stone walls, bordered by a lichen and moss encrusted forest floor that was alive with color and textures.

Wild walking is often punctuated by a shocking amount of fallen trees. This was an area where the only other visitors are hunters who venture these parts during deer season. I really enjoy the problem-solving of how to advance uphill, as we weave our way from one side of the stream to the next, moving around fallen giants and avoid thickly grown shrubs that would tear our clothing if we pushed through them.

At one point the stream took a 90 degree right turn as it fell through a gap in an ancient stone wall after the stream ran the length of the wall for fifty or so feet on the uphill side.

It was uncanny that the crumbling wall held the water so tightly for that length.

As Craig and I went further up, the stream began to peter out as it exited a large bowl-shaped ravine that was covered with a thick mantle of decades-old decomposing deciduous leaves. We couldn’t see it, but we could hear it trickling underneath our boots. There was still higher ground above so we continued up. Eventually, we spotted small pools that punctuated the increasing elusive stream bed, as we reached the high point of the ridge. We walked across an old logging road and then there it was- an actual pool that I thought was the source of the stream.

I was wrong. Craig pointed up to a adjacent massive wild blueberry field that gradually continued uphill to a higher point above the forest. As we walked up to a ledge that was the viewpoint of the expanse of Penobscot Bay, Craig pointed to numerous small depressions filled with rainwater and said, “This blueberry field is the start of the stream!”

The source pool below us was likely filled by water seeping down from under the thin mantle of organic material that was itself atop the igneous granite bedrock, which served as an impermeable layer that funneled it to our tiny pond.

This kind of natural history analysis is a form of forest forensics, a term I picked up from the work of Tom Wessels, from his book, Reading the Forested Landscape.

Also, this stream exploration idea was not mine. It’s actually from a chapter in Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes.

Note: Be sure that you seek permission from landowners to pass through their properties if there is any question at all about possible trespass. And do wear tall rubber boots, as it is often easier to just walk right up a stream rather than stumble along through impassable thickets.

If you decide to explore the source or reach the mouth of a stream, post it up !

Happy microadventuring!

In my next post, I’ll explain how the hiker can use heat maps to seek out places where there is more dispersed social distancing.

State Parks Closing? How to journey around your home.

Hard times for sure. I’ve been out of work since March 16, with no pay until October at best. At least I can hike, but not everywhere.  My local Camden Hills State Park is still open to the public, but there are too many folks walking there for me to be comfortable now. Last Sunday the Stevens Corner lot there was full, with cars parked on both sides of the road like no one has ever seen before. A few days later the same scene appeared on the Barnestown Road parking area for the Georges Highland Path, where signs are posted prohibiting overflow parking on both sides of the road.

I listened to a public radio call-in show this week about accessing the outdoors in this COVID-19 world. I learned that as of Friday, March 27, the following Midcoast and Southern Maine coastal State Parks and beaches are closed due to overcrowding until April 8: Reid State Park, Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham, Fort Baldwin, Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, Scarborough Beach State Park, Ferry Beach State Park, and Mackworth Island. (Note that the closure could be extended depending on the spread of the potentially deadly virus.) Read Full Press Release

Where have all these folks come from? Part of the glut is due to gyms, health clubs, and yoga studios being closed. It’s understandable that when these supports in our community are not accessible, people who have been in the habit of regular indoor exercise think, “I’ll go out to public exercise areas”.

I’ve had a head start on dealing with no gym.  I was a faithful gym rat for at least 30 consecutive years until I came back from my 2013 Continental Divide thru-hike. While completing one of these half year-long total immersion in nature deals is thought of as a grand mindfulness vacation where past traumas are resolved, in reality many of us have found it difficult to embrace our old ways and for some foks even those we love. For me, one session back on the treadmill was all it took for me to walk away from the YMCA and never return. It didn’t feel right to load up a bag of gear, drive 10 miles, look for a parking space, and breathe the stuffy stale inside. I was perennially plagued by fears of athlete’s foot in the shower area.  Nature reeled me back.

Since September 2014 I’ve exercised outdoors, year round-on bikes or hikes. It’s been going well. I’ve also permanently dropped 15 pounds over my gym days.

After logging hundreds of hikes in Camden Hills State Park as well as many steps on the Georges Highland Path I offer a suggestion to those who are looking for ways to move your body outdoors.

Pick up this book: Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphries.

Microadventures

From the dustcover-“What’s a microadventure? It’s 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.”

I’ll lay out just one of the 38 microadventures that Humphries offers the reader:   “A Journey Around Your Home”.

The microadventure takes an hour or two hours to a few days and leaves the method of transport up to you. You basically make a circular route around your home, the length only limited by the amount of time you’d like to spend out there and away from it all.

It is a brilliant idea of imposing concentric circles around my house on a paper map. Here are a couple of examples, using my own home in Lincolnville.

This features Map Adventures’ Camden Hills Maine Hiking and Biking map
Here’s the same data but from a differently scaled topo map

You need to look at your map’s scale which is usually on the bottom on the map, near the compass declination image:

Then you decide if you want a tiny microadventure or a more robust one. Humphries has done all the calculations for you and has a little chart to assist the reader, but it’s quite a simple equation for your specific map: 2πr+ 2r = circumference (the symbol is pi).
For example, for a radius 1 mile from your house, you do this: (2 x 3.14)1 + 2(1) = 8.28 miles. You scribe a circle with a radius of 2.25 inches on your map and can see close to where you would walk. In reality, you are not walking in a pure circle, but zigzagging a bit on gravel and/or paved roads, snowmobile trails, woods roads, hiking paths, and can even throw in a little bushwhacking! It works out that for every mile added to your radius, your circumference is increased by 8 miles, so a   two mile radius would give you a 16.57 mile circumference , which translates to  long day hike or a moderate 1-2 hour bike ride.

Give it a go.  Let me know who decides to try this, please.   I suspect that even with an 8 mile route encircling your place,  you may go past places you’ve never seen before, or have never been to on foot.

I’m heading out on another Humphrey-inspired microadventure in 10 minutes and it involves water, lots of it.  Stay tuned and consider subscribing to this blog, which is now in its 12th year.

 

Surgery #10 !

I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist yesterday. I hoped to wait until May to have it done but the numbness, burning, and overall discomfort was severe enough that I scheduled it sooner. I’ve never regretted any of my previous surgeries, as every one of them improved my functioning.

I’m advised to back off normal use of my right hand for at least two weeks when the stitches come out.  I consult the I-Ching more lately.  Today’s hexagram put my approach to surgery and healing into crystal clear perspective.  Here’s a copy from today’s notes about what I learned from today’s reading: it has to do with reacting to situations where “obstructions have been cleared out”, which would be an auspicious match for carpal tunnel surgery!

At least there isn’t much snow left to shovel, driveway and walkway ice to chip, firewood to bring in, or even biking in the woods right now due to increasingly bright sunlight, moderating of below-freezing temperatures, and deep oozy mud as the upper crust of frozen water and crystallized snow melts out.

Rigger in The Bog

I recorded one of the lowest of my daily Heart Rate Variability readings from the past four years this morning.  Anesthesia plus physical trauma calls for parasympathetic recovery mode in all of us.

I’m treating my wrist with 20 minute cyces of an ice pack on and off this morning, and occasionally elevating my wrist while laying on the couch while catching up with my reading.

On the agenda for this coming recovery week will be organizing and preparing tax records, and preparing for the two 30 minute workshops I’m giving at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, Maine on Sat. March 16.

My first topic will be “ The Lure of Long-Distance Adventures” where I’ll present some biographical info on noteworthy endurance backpackers connected to Maine and introduce some of my favorite longer hikes in New England and the Maritimes.

Me and Billy Goat in the Milinocket Hannaford’s a couple years ago

I’ll also be exploding the current contents of my 17 pound backpack (without food or water) for all to see in “What’s In a Thru-Hiker’s Pack and Why”. It could just as easily be subtitled Or Why No Spare Underwear!

In the meantime, I can fire up Strava and add in several hikes after Daylight Savings time is adjusted once again tomorrow, as the clocks Spring Ahead an hour!

Canoeing & Wilderness Symposium on Northern Travels & Perspectives

I’ve wrapped up my speaking engagement at the 35th annual Canoeing & Wilderness Symposium on Northern Travels & Northern Perspectives here in Toronto this weekend.

My presentation was entitled 9,000 Miles of Attitude: Aging and Endurance.

Last summer I worked for approximately 100 hours initially drafting my upcoming book about the topic.

This was definitely the largest audience I’ve spoken to; however, I was barely anxious. I’m crediting my friend Dave Kirkham for his coaching tips. Dave suggested that I record my spoken script and review it-for both content and quality of the spoken word. It made all the difference. I was limited to just 30 minutes and had to make the most of it. I tend to pack far too much info into my PowerPoints and this time pruning was the way to go.

If I had any regrets on the set up of the symposium, I would have preferred that questions and answer sessions be incorporated into the schedule, even if fewer individuals presented. Just to be fair, I made an offer to the audience at the conclusion of my talk. Since we still had a couple of breaks before the conclusion of the event, I invited any interested participants to connect with me during the breaks to extend individual conversations, and well as to sign copies of my first book, “In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail,” which just had its third print run.

It worked! I really enjoyed the feedback from audience members and was honestly surprised at which of my talking points resonated with the participants.

I’m a huge fan of exploring the wonders of Canada, particularly Prince Edward Island, Labrador, Newfoundland, and the displaced native communities that are impacted by the James Bay hydro projects in Quebec, and now Labrador. I have ridden my motorcycles though all of the Canadian provinces, except Nunavut.
I’ve appreciated the friendships I’ve made with numerous Canadians, and pleased to have met a number of the authors and expedition leaders that presented at this event. It is a very reasonable symposium to attend in terms of price and I encourage all of my American adventure pals to consider heading up to Toronto next February to experience a fun time learning about the amazing adventures that can be experienced when we say, “Yes” to opportunities that come our way.

Here’s a PDF of the full speaker schedule with biographies.  Do check it out!

Most exciting was “A New Home for the Canadian Canoe Museum and the George Luste Memorial” presented by Jeremy Ward and Carolyn Hyslop. The Canadian Canoe Museum is now well underway with preparation for a new world-class facility located in Peterborough along the Trent-Severn Waterway. The speakers offered a peek into plans for a brand-new $60,000,000 home for this Canadian treasure. It was a mind-blowing virtual tour and when the museum is completed few years from now, I’ll heading up to experience it.

I thank all of the volunteers and staff that made this event possible, especially Aleks Gusev for inviting me to Canada!

 

Freezing Boosts the Nutrition of Wild Blueberries | Wild Blueberries

Every year I freeze 13 ten pound boxes of Maine wild organic blueberries. Half my freezer is full of them. I will continue to do so, primarily for the taste, but secondary gains regarding memory loss, and anti inflammatory buffering research shows that frozen Wild Blueberries offer more health-helping antioxidants called anthocyanins than fresh blueberries. Learn more.
— Read on www.wildblueberries.com/blog/freezing-enhances-wild-blueberry-nutrition/

60 Years of Bicycling/Reading

When men live long enough, we’re drawn to acquire things and experiences that eluded us when we were younger forms of ourselves: cars, motorcycles, and in extreme cases younger women, a cluster of behaviors that might be filed under the “midlife crisis” drawer.

I’m an example of this.

In the 1990s I purchased not one but two brand new BMW motorcycles. I had a decent job, paid off the loans, and enjoyed years of long distance motorcycle travel. In 1996 I squeezed all my gear on a spanking new white R1100GS and proceeded to spend six glorious (mostly) weeks spanning some 13,500 miles of adventure/camping, traveling from Maine to Alaska where my motorcycling mentor Alan and I explored every possible road, gravel or paved that we could find in that spectacular state. In 2007 my motorcycle infatuation phase faded after I completed my first thru-hike, of the Appalachian Trail. Simply put, I no longer experienced any satisfaction in putting in weeks of exploration while sitting atop an engine, even one as powerful and well suited for adventure as those BMWs. Eventually, my fleet of motorcycles dwindled from an all time high of 5 down to just one-a nearly antique Kawasaki KLR 650 that still has less than 13,000 miles on it, with most of those miles coming from tours of Labrador, where in 1993 Alan and I were the first motorcyclists to ride the “ Labrador Highway” from Churchill Falls to Goose Bay.
As far cars, I’ve never spent much on them, other than buying a new Dodge Caravan when they first came out in the 1980s. After the head gasket failed on the engine after the car passed out of warrantee, I’ve moved to used, practical vehicles, mostly high mileage diesel VW’s. I now run a 2005 VW Golf turbodiesel(224,000 miles). I mostly drive a 2006 Honda Element that I bought with 180,000 miles on the odometer that is now up to 227,000 and doing just fine.

Luckily, I had the fortune of marrying the right woman. Marcia and I had our 47th anniversary his past May. She still has my heart, and is also my best friend. I’m not about to trade her in for a newer model.

A couple of days ago, I hopped on my 1986 Diamondback Apex bicycle and rode the 20 miles back and forth to the Camden Library where I picked up a book that I requested through inter-library loan.

1986 bike fine for 2019. Library transport.

After I read the book I added it to my list of books read in 2019. So far, I’ve read 33 books toward my goal of 40 for the calendar year. And then it hit me that this behavior of mine- riding my bike to the library, and recording my reads has been one that I’ve engaged in for more than 60 years !
The house that I grew up in was a mile from the Somerset Village Library. My mom let me ride my bike there and back from the time I was 7 years old. Early one June morning in 1958 I spotted the Summer Reading program announced on the wall near the main desk. It was a pasteboard that had names of kids aligned on the left side and then little boxes for dates under a line of digits that went from 1 to 20 books running across the top of the page. I was thrilled to be invited by the librarian to join the program, and slowly the blocks next to my name began to fill, mostly with Hardy Boys mysteries and books about dinosaurs. As a young boy it was immensely satisfying to me to plug into his program, one that has become a a lifelong habit.

My reading lists are now virtual, thanks to Goodreads,  where books I want to read, books that I am reading, and books that I have already read are listed.

After 60 years, I’m still pumped to ride my bike to the library, check out books, and enter data about books I read or plan to read.

Don’t need no new motorcycles, cars, or women- no, no, no !

My review of Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery

A couple of days ago,  I listened to  Terry Gross interview Kristi Ashwanden (you can  listen to “The Strange Science Behind the Big Business of Exercise Recovery”) .

Ms, Ashwanden has the goods.  She has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award as well as a state and national collegiate cycling champion as well as an elite cross-country skier with team Rossignol.

Christie was interviewed about her new book, Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery.

She discussed several of the main topics,  which included the overhydration wave, the rise of  electrolytes (think salt), a wide range of techniques to deal with inflammation, massage, icing vs hot packs, compression garments, infrared saunas, and most importantly sleep.

I was so impressed with the practical way she approached interview that I bought the book after I learned that no library in the state of Maine has it, yet.

Lately I’ve been reading more, resulting in being online less, two of of my goals for 2019. I read this book in two days and it fits with my own approach to recovery for the past five years (a hint of confirmation bias, perhaps?) .

This book is a solid response to the question, “Do any of these things really help with recovery?”

You can find out yourself, so I don’t want to put out any spoilers in this review but…after reading it,  I’m planning to rack up even more sleep, monitor my daily recovery with morning heart rate variability readings, continue to put in a hour or more of meditation a day, take my non-infrared saunas, reduce ibuprofen usage, make my own electrolyte drink, but most importantly listen to my body.

My traditional sauna is cranking 200 degrees right now. I’m in headed in to assist in recovery for my overstretched hamstring.

But I’m not about to overhydrate !

Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 2

I reached two fitness goals by the last day of 2018: riding my bikes 1,000 cumulative miles and also walking (via hiking or backpacking) 1,000 miles.

I have zero interest in indoor walking/running or biking, either in a gym or at home. After decades of continuous health club memberships, I walked away from my local YMCA in late September of 2013, due to my shifting preferences and awareness of what my heart ( literally) was telling me.  I needed to be outdoors more.  That fall I had returned from third thru-hike, amassing 2,500+ miles on the Continental Divide Trail. I was fully planning a return to my gym rat status, but all it took was for a single return session for me to change my long devotion to the gym.

For 2019, I plan to amass 2019 cumulative miles via foot, either hiking or biking.

Another goal on my list is to read 40 books this year. I “shelve” books to read and books that I’ve read and monitors my reading, with the help of the Goodreads app. It tracks my progress toward reaching my total book goal. I especially like the scan function which allows me to immediately scan ( via the app) a book’s barcode which links to the exact same info that appears in Amazon (also owns the Goodreads app). If I plan to read the book, I save it to my Want To Read list. So far I have read 3 books in Jan. I pretty pleased that one of them was the 557 page The Outsider, by Stephen King. I have it 4 stars, by the way, even though none of it included scene from Maine.

I’m here in Florida this week for 6 nights of camping with my older and closest friend Edward and his wife Jane. He’s here at Fort Wilderness Campground for a few months break from running his fruit and vegetable farm in MA.

I am becoming more familiar with my Seek Outside tipi. Is warm here but it sometimes rains hard, like it did last night, from around 2 in the morning until 9 am.  The 12 foot diameter span gives me a palace of a place here, with 6’10” of headroom in the center.

We are able to find leftover firewood that we have used every night to enjoy a warming fire.

I plan to get a lot of walking in while I am down here for a week. Yesterday , I logged 7 miles.

I finally decided to add yet another goal for 2019. It came to my attention through Alistair Humphreys, whose Microadventures book and website promote cultivating a mind that leads one to enjoy adventures that are likely right outside the back door, rather than thinking of and treating them as distant journeys, every one.

For 2019, I plan to sleep outside at least one night in every calendar month.  January ?  Check!

 

 

 

Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 1

Welcome to 2019!
Here’s an update on my plans and goals for the year.


I’ve reluctantly suspended commercial guided backpacking trips in 2019. I learned my lesson in 2017 when I had to cancel and refund cash money for two fully booked 5 and 10 day backpacking trips. At that time, issues with serious medical conditions involving two of my family members demanded that I stay home and address the care of my loved ones. While those issues continue to be managed in the best manner possible, there now exists a real possibility that I will not be able to be in the wilderness if and when the health of my family takes a nosedive.
Nevertheless, I have made alternate plans to get out and schedule few things that allow me to be outdoors, sleeping on the ground, hanging out around campfires, and enjoying what I can in the forest.

I consider myself blessed.
Everyday life offers me engagement in the outdoors on a daily basis, in all seasons.

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

I live in a sort of “park” in midcoast Maine, where several of my neighbors hold large 100+ and even 1,000+ acre undeveloped properties. Long stretches along High Street, where I live at 430 feet of elevation on the southern side of Moody Mountain, not only don’t have any buildings, there aren’t even any utility poles or wires. What’s there instead is a canopy of towering oaks and other hardwoods that tower over the narrow roadway. This past couple months I’ve observed several mature bald eagles who have remained for the winter perched on a rooftops and trees, and even watched them glide over the bare open fields are they scan for their meager, but apparently adequate sources of sustenance.

I’ve stopped caring that the deer are still feeding on my shrubs, and fruit trees. That’s all that’s left for them and the flocks of 30 plus wild turkey after they ate the remains of my vegetable garden down to the ground after harvest.
I am blessed that many of my neighbors continue to allow me to hike and mountain bike right out my door, through the fields, abandoned roads, and trails that I’ve traveled over the past forty years that I’ve lived in this hand-made house. May all this continue as long as it goes.

Heading home, sinking..

At this point, I refer the reader to this article from Self magazine: The 2 Things That Will Help Motivate You to Be More Active

The article builds on data compiled between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018, from all 36 million people who use Strava that was aggregated and de-identified to respect athlete privacy.
Two factors lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.
My increasing engagement in walking and biking outdoors has been greatly enhance by both these practices.

I plan to continue writing about my 2019 plans in subsequent posts.

For 2019,  please consider joining the 919 other people who are subscribed to future pots from this blog.

Disclaimer: I paid for my Strava Summit ( formerly Premium) yearly membership

My 2018 Mileage Goals: MET ! YEAH !

Yesterday was one of my big days for 2018- the day when I finally  amassed 2000+ miles, balancing out half the miles on foot with the other half on one of my bikes.  Total hours spent hiking and biking was 506,  averaging one hour and 22 minutes a day.  I target about 75 minutes  of moderate to robust action a day.   If there are days where I am too tired to get out or I don’t feel up to it, I have to make up the time on another day, usually on the weekends.

Here are the Strava screenshots summarizing my achievements:

1,013 miles on foot
1,002 miles on a bicycle

Here’s a 2016 blog post about how I came to walk 1,000 miles in Maine a couple of years ago.

Some things that helped me meet my goals:

a)  I was injury free this year.  No crashes on my bike, where 95% of my bike miles are off road!  It is to the point now that if I get thrown off the bike, onto one of my bad shoulders, I’m a month off the bike.

b)  I was in good health all year, avoiding even a cold.

c)  I use a 2 minute daily heart rate variability measurement upon awakening every morning.  These days I’m using the Elite HRV App on my iPhone.  I’ve also switched from putting a cold heart rate chest strap to a CorSense heart rate variability sensor.

Here’s a blog post bout how I use the daily reading to gauge my recovery status, which guides how hard I plan to work out on any particular day.

d)  Get social.  According to Strava’s analysis of factors that contribute to increased time spent engaging in physical activity, there are just two factors that lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.  Read more about that here.

I’m strongly motivated by riding or hiking in a group.

Sunday morning with The Bubbas in the Woods.  A fine congregation !

Two to three times a week I ride with the Bubbas in the Woods, 33 members strong and riding year round on Midcoast Maine trails for the past 30+ years.

It’s pounding rain right now, with 2-3 ” predicted to wash away the foot of snow that has recently fallen here in the past week.  Maybe it will dry out enough so that I can fit in a ride in the woods Sunday morning.   I’m cruising into the last few days of 2018, feeling pretty smug but the way things turned out for me in 2018.

Consider getting friendly with a hiker or a hiker and give the 1,000 miles a year thing a go of it in 2018!