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.
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.
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
I finally got around to exploring the mountains and waters Donnell Pond Public Lands for three days over this past Labor Day Weekend. This is the first combo canoeing/hiking adventure that I’ve taken in several years. My shoulders have just not been able to handle the paddling, but things worked out this time, due to the linted water travel involved.
This summer has been a bit of a bust in Maine due to the almost unrelenting humidity and heat, but now that September and cooler weather has rolled around, I am again interested in exploring the best of what Maine has to offer.
From the Natural Resources Council of Maine web site: “The Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land unit includes mountains, pristine lakes, and remote ponds all spread out over 14,000 acres in eastern Maine. There are sites for camping along the pond’s beaches, and great options for those who enjoy paddling. The land included in the unit has grown over the years to reach this expansive size with the help of different conservation groups and generous private landowners.”
For those of you who are not familiar with Maine’s Public Lands, they are an option to the State parks, and Acadia National Park. Permits are not required if you use established fire rings, and there are no fees for camping, where you are allowed up to 14 days at one campsite. Leave No Trace practices are encouraged.
Here’s a overview of the DP area ( top of map), located some 12 miles east of Ellsworth:
A bit of history from the DP website: “No notable Native American archaeological findings have been discovered here. During the nineteenth century, attempts were made to extract gold, silver, and molybdenum from Catherine Mountain with little success. The logging that has long been part of the history in the area continues to this day. Recreation and leisure play prominently in the history of the area. For nearly two hundred years before the advent of refrigeration, ice from Tunk Lake was harvested during the winter and stored in sawdust-filled icehouses for eventual sale and distribution. A lakeside fish hatchery on Tunk Lake supplied small “fry” fish for sport fishing until the 1970’s. Wealthy vacationers established an estate on the south end of Tunk Lake in the 1920s. This estate would later end up in the hands of famed Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and was a recognized historic landmark until it was destroyed by fire in the 1980s. The land conserved at the Donnell Pond Public Lands was assembled in phases with the assistance of numerous conservation partners-The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Land for Maine’s Future Program (which helped to fund more than half the acreage acquired), the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and private landowners deeply committed to conservation.”
Our campsite on Redmond Beach allowed us to put in a full 9 mile day that took in Caribou and then Black mountains via the Caribou Loop Trail.
Here’s a shot of our campsite. I’m in the tipi, and my hiking pal Guthook is in The One.
The next day, we awoke early in order to beat the wind and explored much of the North shore of Donnell Pond, checking out the shoreline for possible campsites for future trips.
In my experience, the magic hour for wind picking up in favorable weather on lakes and ponds in Maine is 10 in the morning. It is uncanny.
We eventually crossed over to the western side of the pond at the narrowest point where we followed the shoreline to the popular Schoodic Beach, which is more easily accessed by a 0.5 mile trail from the Tunk Lake Road/Route 183 parking area. As we were exploring the shoreline on our way down Schoodic beach we came upon two hikers with fully loaded packs trudging through the water heading for the Beach. We stopped and asked the two girls what was going on and one told us she was a student at Harvard University who came up here with her best friend. On the spur of the moment they drove up from Boston to Donnell Pond to camp on Schoodic Beach. When they experienced the overloaded level of camping and merriment there they had bushwhacked up the shore in order to have privacy and escape the noise. One of the girls had also been greatly distressed by the sight of a snake, so they took to aqua-blazing. They jumped at the chance to hitch a ride back to Schoodic Beach in our canoe. They asked us if there were any other places where they could camp for free Guthook steered them to Camden Hills State Park, where I agreed that they would find a better experience camping on the summit of Bald Rock Mountain in Lincolnville.
We beached the canoe on Schoodic Beach and did a relatively quick hike to the top of Schoodic Mountain, a 1,069′ gem of a walk, and 3 mile round trip that leads to excellent views of Frenchman’s Bay and the mountains of Acadia National Park.
Carey Kish’s AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast book was my best resource for hiking the Tunk Mountain and Hidden Ponds Trail that we were able to fit in the last day of our getaway.
Kish’s 4.9 mile, 3 hour, and 1,060′ elevation info was spot on, as was the description of the extensive open mountain ledges and far reaching views of the Downeast landscape, and full-on views of the Hidden Ponds. Sometimes we walked over a rooty path, lending a Tolkienesque quality to the experience:
It was a kick to see the occasional ATV churning up a cloud of dust on the Downeast Sunrise Trail far below, where I’ve biked and even camped on a few years ago.
The Downeast Sunrise Trail is an 85-mile scenic rail trail running along the coast connecting multiple scenic conservation areas, and providing year round recreation opportunities. It is open to snowmobiles, ATVs, horse-back riders, skiers, hikers, bikers, walkers, and joggers. It passes through several sections of the Donnell Pond Public Lands between Franklin and Cherryfield. Here’s the link to my bike-packing experience on the Sunrise Trail.
Exploring Donnell Ponds Public Lands is a must if you haven’t checked it out. The foliage should be coloring up soon , which will only add to the experience.
I’ve planned several hiking trips for the next few weeks. Next up- 5 days of challenging backpacking in Baxter State Park, including a long hiking day which includes The Traveler Loop.
I called it quits tonight after I walked a mere mile on the flats outside my door. It was a huge accomplishment.
For the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to walk that far. My absence from my usual 75 minute a day average of brisk walking or riding bikes was caused by a very nasty fall coming down the from Bigelow ridge after three days of volunteer work on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Guthook and I team up a couple times a year, spring and fall, volunteering for trail work on the Appalachain Trail. He has a long section up and over Mt. Abe that connects to the AT near the Spaulding lean-to.
The snow was still deep on that connecting section due to 3,00 feet of elevation, north side exposure, and thick conifers.
The last day, Sunday, brought us back to my section: the Safford Brook trail up to he AT, a short section on the itself AT, and lastly the side trail to and the Safford Notch campsite itself, where we cleared up fallen trees,a nd pruned away like madmen.
Three days of work was finally done with only two miles to go to the car when I caught the toe of my boot on a rock or root that pitched me staggering down a descending grade until my increased speed of stumbling eventually pitched me smack down onto rocks that left me a quivering mass of hurt, with my left leg doubled up under me. Thank God that my hiking pal Guthook was right there to assist me in eventually unraveling myself from my ancient external frame pack that carried the pruners, loppers, axe and other tools of the trail corridor trade. Unfortunately, the impact of falling on those solid objects in my pack imbedded a series of grotesque blood filled tattoos, emanating from a hematoma that a doctor later told me held over a pint of blood. Guthook cut me two walking staffs that I used to brace myself as I shuffled, in pain, downhill two miles to my car, which was parked on the shore of Flagstaff Lake at the base of the Safford Brook Trail, which I maintain, along with a brief section of AT and the side trail to the Safford Notch Campsite, which is also my responsibility.
After I reached my car, I had Guthook drive it back to the Chalet, where had spent last night, as I sat as still as possible in the passenger seat. If I didn’t move at all, I was stable, but when I exited the passenger’s side and gingerly inched my way over to the driver’s seat, I was fighting passing out, but made it and promised Guthook that I’d pull over if I became faint while driving. I headed straight for the Belfast Hospital Emergency room, after downing 800 mg of ibuprofen that didn’t seem to do much for me.
Two hours later I was able to barely get myself in the door to the emergency room, where I was unable to sit until a nurse assisted me in laying down on a bed. It was a circus of the wounded and infirm in there on Sunday night, with only one doctor making the rounds. I wasn’t out of there until 4.5 hours later, after the Dr. determined I had no broken bones, however I also learned that I partially tore my left hamstring. Thankfully, there was no blood in my urine (One of the big hits was directly over my right kidney.). He gave me one muscle relaxer pil, and with a prescription for more tomorrow. I headed home, where I shuffled to bed under the very concerned eye of Auntie Mame, my faithful wife, and apparent nurse for this new round of lifestyle consequences. She measured what morphed into at least three square feet of techicolor- black and blue, yellow, green on my back, buttocks, and side.
It’s been exactly two weeks today of laying on ice packs, with no biking, and no hiking, other than brief trips to do things I must do outside the house. I’m still hurting, likely due to bone bruising. The blood has continued to draining back into me, with new vistas of bruises extending into my groin area and then down my leg into the back on my knee.
I’ve been my time feeling distressed, depressed, and now impressed with a newfound resolution to ALWAYS have my trekking poles with me when I’m on trail. I even bought myself a new pair, on the recommendation of Andrew Skurka- a set of Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles.
I left my trekking poles them in the car, since I would be walking with either pruning shears or my chainsaw in hand. My free hand was also in the habit of throwing the slash back into the bush and off trail. I’m convinced that if I would have been using my Leki poles, I would have not fallen. The very act of descending with poles in hand forces me to be a bit more present in choosing pole and foot placement. Isn’t it true that accidents happen in the late afternoon when fatigue is at it’s peak?
A follow-up visit to my own doctor last week put my fretting to rest. He told me that I could start activity again, with pain as my limit guide. I walked a mile, then did two more with Mame in the last two days.
I’m getting better. My spirits are lifted a bit after yesterday, where I rode my riding mower, then walked behind the edging mower, and even felt decent enough to work the string trimmer in attacking the overgrown grass in the yard. Fitbit gave me 14,000 steps and some 7 miles of ambulation for my efforts. I’m getting back.
With a month and a half a backpacking scheduled for this coming season I’ve been going through broken and worn gear and replacing it. I am one of those people who are rough on gear. Every piece of gear and clothing that I started out with in 2007 when I hiked the AT as been replaced, worn out, or broken with the exception of Tiki-mon, my Triple Crown water bottle buddy, and I’m checking him out for a possible leak tonight..
Here’s the latest item I replaced, a pair of Point6 light hikers. I purchased two pairs of Point6 light hikers that have been totally satisfactory. Point6 sock have a lifetime guarantee, as do DarnTough socks. When a pair sprouted a hole, I washed and sent them back. Point6 replaced them in 2 days, no questions asked.
In the past month I have replaced or had gear repaired from MSR (Lightning Ascent snowshoe binding), Princeton Byte ( sending me a replacement cover for my headlamp (plastic broke on battery door), Patagonia (new zipper on my down sweater), and LLBean (replaced a pair of biking gloves). I have two sets of Leki trekking poles, and advise hikers to purchase the aluminum models since they carry a lifetime breakage warranty (Leki carbon fiber poles are only covered for a year).
I understand that companies don’t typically provide this level of customer service. Here’s my policy: I don’t deal with any gear or clothing company that gives me crap about their product quality. When I hear it starting on the other end of the phone , I thank them right away and that’s the end of it between them and me. I’m one of those decisive older guys who does not like to waste time with unnecessary burdens of any kind, be it on my back on in my head. It is for this reason I stopped dealing with Eastern Mountain Sports, Mountain Hardware, and Arc’teryx.
When you spend weeks to months at a time every single day outdoors using these products they have to work, and when they don’t, the company better assist this hiker in replacing that often essential item as soon as possible. Some of the companies that come to the front here are noted above. Tarptent and ULA have sent me loaners overnight in exchange for me sending them back my gear to be fixed ASAP. I like it when that happens. I rebuy from them in kind and it goes on from there.
It’s interesting that I have so little interest in checking out newer tents, sleeping bags, pads, and stoves, even though I am out frequently and even find myself guiding others along the path. I hear the same thing from other experienced long-distance hikers- that gear that works well tends to start settling in in a comfortable manner, better or worse.
One thing has changed though in my gear deal. I’m not shopping around much . I stick with these companies because they respect me as a customer. And I respect them for producing quality service, AND quality products.
My recommendation to this year’s batch of thru -hiker hopefuls is to be sure to have those 800 numbers written down somewhere when your gear fails you. If you pay the bucks up front and purchase from a vendor that has a replacement guarantee, you should be all set. In any case, be polite, and maybe you too will be a repeat offender when it comes to putting out the bucks for new stuff.
I also need to call Leki about a broken pole. They once gave me a bandanna with their customer service number on it, which is answered by a friendly human !
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?
Reblogging this 1/4/17 article from The Hiking Project!
Welcome to the low pay lives of some of the best hikers in the world!
I have hiked and sometimes camped with 5 of these 6 folks, on my 2010 PCT and 2013 CDT thru-hikes. They are all truly genuine individuals. Freebird told me that his goal every year that he thru hikes is to be the first person on and the last person off the trail.
Here is a pic of me and Billy Goat on Sept. 8, 2014 at the Millinocket Hannaford’s in when Billygoat was resupplying while he was providing car support for a buddy who was hiking the International AT from Katahdin to Quebec.
Sept. 23, 2016- Here’s a first: a snowflake icon appearing on the LCD window of my Steripen Ultra. The rapid onset of a wet cold front that spit out a feeble 0.2 inch of rain hit Russell Pond campground last night and chilled my water purification device. No matter, the UV light bulb was able to fire up for a 90 second burst of bacterial DNA killing action to render another liter of life-supporting drinking water . Plenty more water came at me today.
Hans (AKA the Cajun Cruiser), Guthook, and I experienced a unique morning here at Russell Pond as we waited out the tail end of the rain, which was to end sometime before noon. We enjoyed the company of Rainer (trail name), one of the seasonally employed rangers here at Baxter. Rainer invited us over to his cabin right around the time that he was getting a radio update of today’s weather. After the skies clear, the temps are predicted to drop into the 30’s tonight at Russell Pond.
Rainer communicated his knowledge of the local trails, and put out leftover coffee and breakfast before we struck out to head over to the lean-to at Davis Pond. I especially enjoyed viewing xeroxed copies of antique black and white photographs that depicted Baxter scenes from the period predating Governor Percival Baxter’s purchase of the property.
Rainer and I share a most unique situation. We are both Triple Crown hikers (completed hikes of the AT, PCT, and the CDT) that graduated from Monsignor Coyle High School, a tiny Catholic school in Taunton, MA, exactly 40 years apart. What are the chances?
We eventually packed out at 1:15 PM, reaching the trail head to Davis Pond in only 1.2 miles. Our total mileage to Davis Pond was only 5.5 miles, via the Northwest Basin trail. Russell Pond sits at 1331’ and Davis is up at 2,946’, so there is a bit of up on this walk.
Although it is no longer raining, the brush, trees, and shrubs that our bodies moved through were covered with cold water. By the end of the afternoon, my feet were uncomfortably cold and wet. Even with the drought, there were some wet sections of muddy trail in the first couple of miles of hiking.
Normally there is a wet ford of the Wassataquoik Stream on this hike, but with a drought in force, it was possible to walk on top of the big rocks and make it over with dry feet. Here’s Hans making his leap.
Part of the path from Wassataquoik Stream is a stream bed of a tributary leading down from Lake Cowles into the upper reach of Wassataquoik Stream, which has its headwaters in the morass known as The Klondike. Note the blue trail marker behind Hans.
The view here from the shore of Lake Cowles, approaching Davis Pond takes in at this glacial cirque that extends up a thousand feet.
A closer shot from the shore of Davis reminds me of being at Chimney Pond looking up the wall toward Baxter and Pamola Peaks, but with no crowds.
As long as I kept moving I was fine, but when I stopped, the effect of the cold was very apparent. I am reminded of the last 5 days in September of 2010 as I finished thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the northern Cascades. The temps never got above the mid forties, and my whole world was drizzly, wet, and punishingly cold.
I ate a ton tonight. Guthook gave me an extra two person package of mashed potatoes to eat after I had already consumed potato chips, dehydrated chili, 1/2 a large Chunky candy, and two cups of hot tea. My feet continued to be uncomfortably cold even sitting on my pad inside my bag in the lean-to. My sleeping bag is rated at 20 degrees, but that was some 8,000 miles ago when it was new. I am extending its range tonight by wearing dry wool sleep clothes. I’m also testing out a custom bivy sack that I had made by Peter Marques at Tentsmiths over in Conway, New Hampshire.
I’ve only been to Davis Pond once before, way back in 1970. I do not have any photos of Davis from that trip, but do remember sitting on the ledge in front and having an unimpeded view of the whole cirque in front. I definitely was surprised by the size of the trees and the thick foliage I’m encountering this time. Does anyone have a photo of the lean-to at Davis Pond from that time?
It’s 7:19 pm now, and pitch black out. Baxter is Maine’s real wilderness deal, with Davis Pond listed by some bloggers as the most remote lean-to in the Park. It also has the best outhouse.
Here’s my Strava elevation profile of what we are going to experience on tomorrow’s hike from Davis Pond to to Hamlin Peak and back.
On Friday, I finished up my third complete hike of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family: my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend. It might have been 1989. I hiked it again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet. The perennially slippery trail is punctuated with beaucoup roots ,rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.
AT thru-hikers walking through this prelude to Katahdin are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas. We came out in 7 days instead, pushing the daily average to about 15 miles.
Here is a particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking LIght magazine.
The Hundred is made up of two distinctly different trips of approximately 50 miles each. The southern section is an advanced hike, with the other half, (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort when walked at 8-10 miles a day, with the exception of a relatively short but steep ascent of the prehistoric Nesuntabunt Mountain.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. Alternatively, catch a float plane shuttle from Katahdin Air, which drops you off on the shore of Crawford Pond where side trail puts you on the AT in 100 feet.
Three and a half miles after you depart Crawford Pond you reach the pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter- a must swim. Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and Sand Beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks , consider a side trip of 1.1 miles and splurging for a night at the Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps. I haven done that yet , but plan to do so the next time I go through.
Make no mistake, spending a week backpacking The Hundred is tough. If you stuff your pack with lots of food, you can eat your way as you move along. My rationing of a 3,000 calorie a day plan resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took me to make this 100 mile trip.