Tumbling Down from Debskoneag

If you ever find your self riding on the gravel Jo-Mary Road in northern Maine Hundred Mile Wilderness you can follow some tiny hand-lettered DLWC signs marking the varied intersections over the 24 mile drive from Route 11 just north of Brownville to the tiny dock where you unload your baggage and get shuttled by Leslie in a cedar and canvas motorboat over to one of the cabins in this 100+ year old settlement of log cabins on the shore of Fourth Debskoneag Lake.

Point Camp is Far Right

Marcia and I are here for the second year in a row, sharing Point Camp with our friends Ivan and Lynn for four nights. I’m a big fan of Maine’s historic sporting camps.
When Marcia and I were starting a young family, we started taking annual trips around Columbus Day weekend, we came to prefer enclosed heated cabins on this particular weekend after we were caught in a snowstorm where our only shelter was an open sided lean-to or a summer tents. We moved up the ladder of comfort in Baxter State Park when we began to use the heated bunkhouses that are so popular in the late fall and winter seasons.
Baxter’s bunkhouses are unusually insulated, and heated by wood stoves surrounded by wooden bunks on top of glossy grey wooden floors, and minimally appointed with a table, a few treasured chairs, and a coupe windows to provide some meager day time light.
Years later, I got back into annual winter backpacking excursions, usually on the first weekend in December, where summer destinations like the Bigelows and Tumbledown Mountain were made much more challenging due to the cold, ice and snow that had usually settled in by then.

Eventually Marcia and I began to send weekends Maine Sporting Camps, including The Birches in Rockwood, Chet’s in Jackman, Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps. You get to these places from our house in midcoast Maine by winding north through fading little settlements that lead to even the more sparsely settled backwoods until you leave the pavement to pay your fee to borrow time on logging roads.

Leslie was our host again this year, likely a true Amazon, who radiates capability in the outdoors. She hefted a cooler full of food onto her shoulder and then bound over the uneven, rock and root strewn path to deposit it at our front door.

Our Home Away from Home

The main room of this camp has a big Defiant wood stove with plenty of dry hardwood inside and out.

On our first day at camp, Ivan and I went for a 10.6 mile round trip hike over to Tumbledown Dick Falls (TDF, a stunning 70 foot waterfall that is located 0.6 miles off the Appalachian Trail.

We walked from the Camp all the way out to the where the AT crosses the gravel entrance road at the southern end of Nahmakanta Lake, where we met a couple of happy thru hikers who were aiming to be of top of Katahdin in just four more days. We hiked south on the AT for a mile where we hung a right to Tumbledown Dick Falls.

 

Turn Right

I’ve hiked the Hundred Mile Wilderness several times and before now, but until now have never had the energy or inclination to take in side trips when my going is usually focused on reaching and spending time near to or on Katahdin.
I used the Atlas Guide to navigate this section of the AT and was pleased to see that Guthook included the TDF side trail.

The Tumbledown Dick Falls trail was in great shape.

Someone had been though with a chain saw recently and cleared all existing blowdowns. The trail gradually ascends until the last twenty of a mile where it splits and you can choose the upper or lower falls.

We did both, enjoying our lunch as the board of the falls and the strong flow of the discharge from the initial pool was our soundtrack. Truthfully, the upper flatter stretches were more inviting to me  than the Falls.

Upper Falls Area

Several prime campsites were noticeable near to large pools of clear water, where visibility allowed us to see numerous small fish swimming about. This place would make a great overnight micro-adventure on some hot summer day.

On the return hike to camp, we detoured to take a long look up the length of Nahmakanta Lake.  It never fails to thrill and becon me back to The Hundred.

 

Three More New Hampshire 4,000 Footers Checked Off the List

I’m riding a wave of opportunities to get out and hike again. In the past couple of weeks I’ve made two overnight trips to the White Mountains to target the remaining four of New Hampshire’s forty-eight 4,000 footers. I’m combining forces with my very good friend and hiking enthusiast Tenzing, who lives in NH. Tenzing needs a few more summits than I do (7) but neither of us mind a few extra mountain hikes, so he’s doing a few repeats and so am I.
We haven’t hiked together for five years. A couple of weeks ago we had a very successful trial hike of 3,268’ Kearsarge North.
This week, I drove up to Silver Lake, NH to stay with my brother-in-law Cam, who put me up for a night so that I couldn’t have to drive up and back from a long day of hiking three more 4,000 footers: Mounts Tom( 4051’), Field (4350’) and Willey (4285’) in Crawford Notch.

map
We picked the best day of the summer so far to hike. I awoke to 47 degrees, and rendezvoused with Tenzing at Intervale. The cold temps quelled any lingering mosquitoes or black flies. The views from on high were much better than average, although there was some cloud cover up high. We spotted cars at two ends of our route and were hiking by 8 am.

Tenzing headed up

By 9:30 AM we had completed out first 2.5 miles, trudging upward at a very good rate of 2.1 mph. The summit of Mt. Tom was reached by 10:15 AM.

Tenzing Atop Mt. Tom

Tensing informed me that he had previously submitted Mounts Tom and Field on Sept. 18, 1994.

Number two 4,000 footer- Mt. Field

UT on Field

After short breaks for water and snacks, we meandered up and down the ridge to reach the summit of Mt. Willey at 12:30 PM.

And Willey is #3 today

From there is was a long, and often treacherous descent to a segment of the Appalachian Trail, down to the parking lot off the highway.

The views from an outcropping were rewarding today:

Tenzing viewing Mt. Washington and Webster cliffs

Tenzing posted this additional information on his Facebook page: “A piece of advice anyone wishing to climb Mt Willey:  try to avoid climbing and descending from/to the South. The trail is extremely steep, highly eroded, and the footing is frequently scree or loose gravel and very slippery!”

Heading Down

 

Me descending long sketchy ladder section -Photo by John Clark

Tenzing and I have another hiking trip planed to check off two more 4,000 voters on 9/10-9/11. Then a 3 day, 2 night hike overnight in October to complete Tenzing’s last 5 and my last 1.

September and October are my favorite months to hiked spend time in the New England woods. I’m fortunate to be able to hike tough stuff and to have friends like Tenzing that I can share my experiences with.

My Summer Break

I’ve had four days of varied amount of outdoor experiences. I’ve taken time off from my usual routine of mixing work and the same old recreational routes to open myself up to what can best be described as microadventures, a term I credit to Alistair Humphries, author of one of my favorite books.

Both my sons Lincoln and Arlo are visiting for 5 days with their respective partners, Stephanie and Alanna.  I’m blessed with family members who are adventurous individuals, that are vigorous enough that they can engage in little excursions that pop up as possibilities.

On Thursday, Lincoln and I joined up with a half dozen or so of my mountain biking group, The Bubbas, for a rock and root punctuated couple of hours of pounding the meandering trails built on Ragged Mountain’s Snow Bowl recreation area.

We came, we mounted bikes, we survived!

 

Post Ride Recaps

On Thursday, Alanna, Stephanie, Lincoln, and I went 4.7 miles up Ragged Mountain, from the opposite side of the biking that Lincoln and I did the night before.

Up Ragged from Hope Street

This ascent is challenging as well with a relatively flat run at the beginning, with the trail turning much ore rocky and vertical.

Going up!

Stephanie and Alanna hiked strongly in the lead and went even a bit further than this map indicates, and actually made it to the Ragged’s summit tower.   Lincoln and I explored  this view when we hung out for a short while waiting for Steph and Alanna to come down from the actual summit.

Northwest view form Ragged ledges

Swimming and hanging at camp was a welcome break from the heat and humidity.

On Saturday, Lincoln and I went fishing.  In 2008, my friend Mike Gundel and I shared a canoe on our early season 8 day thru-paddle of  Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Check out that story and view photos here.  The theme of that adventure was, “The Russians are coming!”

Mike is a Maine Guide who specializes in fishing.  He was available on short notice and provided the canoes, rods, and tackle we needed to catch largemouth bass.  What are the chances that Mike chose to take us fishing on one of the bodies of water that are depicted in the Ragged ledge panorama depicted above ?

We met Mike at the put in at 7 AM, where the next four hours flew by as Mike guided us around the lake to where we actually caught fish!   I caught three fish, including a largemouth that was eyeballed in the 3.5 pound range.

 

Bang!

My 4 day run of fun included an outdoor wedding on the ocean shore in Tenants Harbor that took up Saturday after noon and late into the night.  Marcia and I made the wedding but had to pass on the revelry at the reception.

The next morning, folks were sleeping in. I decided to make the usual Bubba Church Sunday morning mountain bike ride,  again up Ragged Mountain with a different route than Thursday night’s ride. It was the most humidity I’ve ever remembered on a ride, some 96%.  I left the parking lot and went up 15 minutes before the rest of the group started and decided to keep going at one of the designated intersections, due to unrelenting assault by mosquitoes.  I tried to relay my plan via  text to one of the guys but my fingers, phone screen, and every piece of cloth that I had on my body, and even in the pockets of my day pack were saturated and I couldn’t make the screen respond to input.

I left them this message of sorts.   Uncle Tom is my rail name-  has been since 2007:

Trail talk

Just before I took off I heard bikes clattering and surging through the rocky, rooted trail and we all descended the ext downhill on the slops:  the G5 Connector, where I ended up flatting my rear tire.  After I put a tube in the tire, I put my air pump to the task but that  had to wait until I was able to reattach the pump’s air hose, which never happened before!

It’s been quite a different four days for me- this stretch this of mid-August microadventures- one that I’ll repeatedly appreciate as I fall under the spell of euphoric recall !

How the Guthook App Revolutionized Thru-Hiking | Outside Online

Congrats to my adventure pal Guthook and the crew at Atlas Guides for making a difference!

Guthook Guides took an entire set of tools needed for thru-hiking and consolidated them into a single virtual location. Such an app might have been inevitable, but for ultralight-obsessed thru-hikers, it was a revolution.
— Read on www.outsideonline.com/2396304/guthook-guides-app-mapping-thru-hiking

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Columbus Day Weekend at Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps-Part 1

Thurs. 10/4/18

I’m a big fan of old Maine sporting camps. The state is full of them still, leftovers from the post logging period where former settlements that housed the little armies of men who worked in the woods were converted to establishments that catered to upper class men and women who wanted to hunt and fish under the wings of Maine Guides. I’ve stayed in places from the Maine/Quebec border all the way down to the Midcoast area, where I bought one of my own tiny camps 11 years ago, on Hobbs Pond, in the town of Hope, just a 10 minute drive from our house.

Hobbs Pond Camp

When Marcia and I had a young family, we started a tradition of spending Columbus Day weekends at Baxter State Park, initially camping in their three-sided lean-tos, until we spent a early October weekend in snow and ice. Fording Wassataquoik Stream when the shores were frozen is painful. Enter our discovery of the Baxter bunkhouses- true winter setups, complete with wood stoves and tighter quarters. Those were larger events that included friends with family, as we learned to reserve the whole bunkhouses for our October adventures.
Times changed and I got into winter camping, favoring traditional foot travel on lakes, rivers and streams. I still do that, hauling ample gear on a long narrow toboggan, even lashing a canvas tent with wood stove and stove pipe to warm the body when it is well below freezing outside. In Jackman, I sampled Chet’s traditional cabins before venturing out for longer forays on Attean Pond and the Moose River.

Lately we’re enjoyed Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, Namakhanta Lake Camps, and are now here at Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps, an ancient place, where at east one of the little camps was built in the 1800s.   We are here at Point Camp, set on a tiny peninsula that is surrounded by water on all three sides.

Point Camp

Marcia and I are sharing it with our friends Lynn and Ivan. We came in yesterday and they are joining us today.  You get here by heading directly north from our home in Midcoast Maine for a few hours, winding your way through faded little hometowns, and sparsely settled back country until you veer off pavement just past Brownville Junction to hit the gravel Jo-Mary Road, a relatively solid dirt highway of sorts that meanders some 25 miles through working forest until the road peters out approaching the Debnonskeag Lake Camps.

Jo-Mary Road

We unloaded our gear to a small dock where we were picked up in a motorized wooden freight canoe that transported us a half mile up the Lake to the camp itself.
Leslie is our host here, an Amazonian descendant if I ever saw one. She radiated capability, friendliness and girl power. She was strong enough to heft a fully loaded vintage steel Coleman cooler up to her shoulder as she moved quickly along the very uneven twisting path to deposit our cooler on the floor of the cabin.
I’m usually too busy to relax much of the day, but after we unpacked here I slid into alpha brain wave mode easily when I rocked in the hammock for a while after I started a campfire on the shore of the lake outside our camp.

Marcia enjoying last night’s fire

It rained lightly of and on on the whole time that a grilled hot dogs over the wood coals. I don’t eat hotdogs much but enjoy them and even thick slices of Spam when they are grilled to perfection over hardwood coals. On toasted buttered rolls, appointed with fresh mustard, relish, and a healthy dab of my homemade kimchi, our first supper was just right on this Fall weekend night.
Then some reading and writing in the main room of the cabin, around the big Vermont Castings vigilant wood stove that we didn’t need to light tonight. Although this cabin is tight enough, it is more than 100 years old, and has weathered through so much water and wind and flying debris that I consider living in it for a few days is a rare privilege.

Fort Rucker retiree completes Appalachian Trail hike | Enterprise Ledger | dothaneagle.com

016BD7D2-AC64-485B-8D29-98CC0FB4407C.jpegFort Rucker retiree completes Appalachian Trail hike | Enterprise Ledger | dothaneagle.com
— Read on www.dothaneagle.com/enterprise_ledger/fort-rucker-retiree-completes-appalachian-trail-hike/article_46596ad6-9cd4-11e8-8c6f-03561364d72e.amp.html

Well worth a read. I agree that thinking about the Trail doesn’t go away after you are finished hiking.

When Walking Speed Matters

On 07/11/2018 I blogged:  I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast.   Myt post concluded that,  “In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking at any intensity and pace, but if you are able and willing to pick up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, it will result in increased bang for the walking buck.”

Here are two more recent references related to why you might consider increasing your walking speed:

The first was from the (July 25, 2018) NY Times:

Exercise Makes the Aging Heart More Youthful

This particular health article notes specific benefits to the left ventricle and  coronary arteries found in Master’s athletes and individuals who have been regular and frequent exercisers for decades.

“For lifelong heart health, start exercising early in life and keep exercising often. But even if you have neglected to exercise and are now middle-aged, it is not too late.”

Similar benefits were replicated in a two year study that arrears to be solidly supported. Randomized groups were subjected to varying levels of frequency and intensity of exercise. They found that a sedentary group showed the usual effects of time, with heart muscles, particularly their left ventricles or chambers, shrunken and less powerful than in younger people.  The same changes were evident in casual exercisers. However, men and women who had exercised at least four times a week for years, or in those who were masters’ athletes had left ventricles that looked and functioned much like those of people decades younger.

I just finished reading Daniel G. Amen’s ” Memory Rescue: Supercharge Your Brain, Reverse Memory Loss, and Remember what matters Most

Amen is a bestselling neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and founder of the Amen Clinics.  He’s particularly interested in preserving and even increasing blood flow, which turns out to be advantageous for folks experiencing memory decline as well as  for individuals who re concerned about aging and fitness.

“The faster we walk as we age, the longer we live and the sharper we think.  An 80 year old person who walks 1 mile per hour has only a 10% chance of living until 90. But if that same 80 year old moves faster, say at 3.5 miles an hour, her or she has an 84% chance of reaching 90. (1)   As walking speed goes down, so do executive function and decision-making skills. If you haven’t walked at a faster pace for a long time, start slowly and work your way up safely.”

  1. Stephanie Studenski et al, “Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults”, ” Journal of the American Medical Association 305, no.1, (Jan. 2011): 50-58

It should be noted that Amen’s  exercise recommendations for increasing blood flow include burst training ( intervals) , strength training, coordination activities, and mindful exercise.

 

 

How Heart Rate Variability Training Fits Into my Fitness Plan

For the past four years I’ve been in the daily practice of measuring my heart rate variability (HRV). It takes me four minutes at best, after sitting up in bed, at the end of the first of my twice daily thirty 30 minute mediation sessions.

(I have maintained a continuous 48 year practice of Transcendental Meditation, which I consider it to be the core technique of my health practices. Yes, I have accumulated over 10,000 hours of meditation practice. Malcom Gladwell put forth the statement that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field.)

I learned about HRV from a demonstration that I observed in a psychology workshop with Larry Starr, Ed D. Dr. Starr has included neurofeedback in his psychology practice, where he utilizes HRV to reduce client symptoms of ADHD and anxiety.

“Simply put, HRV is a measure of the time gap  between individual heart beats while your body is at rest. The heart, in fact, speeds up when you inhale, and slows down when you exhale. This difference is known as HRV. A healthy, well-rested body will produce a larger gap, and higher variability”. – Dr. Phil Maffetone

HRV technology had been around for over 50 years but has only been recently available for home use. Long used in hospitals in treating heart patients, HRV has only recently been applied to endurance training.

I have been totally satisfied with the Sweetbeat HRV App for the iPhone, which pairs via Bluetooth with my Yahoo Ticker chest strap.

Here is a screenshot of two years of data, indicating a positive trend:

From the App Store: “SweetBeat HRV, the newest iOS application by SweetWater Health, provides real-time monitoring using state-of-the-art sensor technology and data correlation algorithms. Patent-pending correlation algorithms provide insight from other health and fitness devices. SweetBeat HRV also integrates and correlates data with popular fitness platforms like MapMyFitness, Fitbit and Withings. The next big thing in body-hacking is to understand the information presented in the data users track every day. SweetBeat HRV correlates metrics like HRV, stress, heart rate, weight, steps, calories, and so much more. SweetBeat HRV utilizes the popular food sensitivity testing and HRV-for-training features in the original SweetBeat app.”

I use the App for two purposes:
1) Primary is in determining whether my body is in a stressed state from over-training. In general, my daily 75-90 minute hike or bike ride results in a higher (better) HRV reading, but if my reading dips, the program prompts me to take an easy training day or even a day off in order to bring my body back into balance.
2) HRV readings also correlate with the occurrence of a cold. I’m generally a healthy guy, succumbing to normal bodily aches,  pains, and even tendonitis only when I have tripped on a hike or crashed on my mountain bike. In fact, over the past three years I have not had the flu (I do get the flu vaccine.) and I have only had a single brief cold that lasted for 5 days. My HRV reading dropped significantly one day a couple of years ago, where I was prompted to take it easy and rest up. The next day I experienced a sore throat and two days later my head swelled up with the full-blown symptoms of a bad cold.  My initial low HRV reading had been in response to my body beginning to muster antibodies to address the cold, a situation of which I was totally unaware.

HRV literature also reports being able to detect food sensitivities through the use of HRV readings, although I have not attempted to employ this aspect of the technlogy.  I’m sort of an I -can-eat-anything-person.

For further reading on HRV, I’ll refer you to this blog post by Phil Maffetone:

Heart Rate Variability: What It Is and How It Helps With Training
By Dr. Phil Maffetone  (April 29, 2015)