Miniature Wilderness in the Camden Hills (via Atlas Guides Blog)

I’m thankful whenever I can paste up someone else’s outdoor trip report on any adventure that I have shared with that person. Last week was the first snowshoe hike of the season into Maine’s Camden Hills State Park.

Here’s an overview of the whole park, with some 25+miles of hiking available all year ’round.


I have written about overnight hikes in this location before.  The Park is a gem, and used heavily by locals and summer visitors alike.  My partner on this hike was Ryan, who was fine tuning some added features on revision to his trail app, Atlas Guides.

We thru-hiked the Appalachian (2007) and the Pacific Crest ( 2010) National Scenic Trails the same years and continue get together at least seasonally to either maintain our volunteer sections of the AT or backpack in Baxter State Park.

Click on the link below to see photos of unpacked expanse of while snow looks like.  I’ve got one here that I’ll add of Ryan overlooking the wide angle view from the top of Maiden’s Cliff.


We trudged through the Park west to east, where we reached another vehicle that we spotted at the Stevens’ Corner parking lot.

Check out Ryan’s most excellent  blog post below for this adventure, with additional photos, including iPhone screen shots of the Camden Hills Hiker app in action

->>Miniature Wilderness in the Camden Hills – Atlas Guides Blog

Permission to Engage with the Landscape? Granted

Microadventures give me major satisfaction. These compressed experiences ignite interest in the wild spaces that surround our lives.
Each morning, we wake, wash, dress, eat, and then work or play in mostly predictable patterns.  I spend my time mostly living reruns.   On good days like today, the jailbreak in my heart launches me over that high perimeter wall.

I’m outside 80 minutes a day, riding my mountain bikes, or hiking almost every day, no matter the weather.  My trusty Strava app tells me that I’ve only missed 8 days in 2016.  I’m a big fan of walking or riding right out the door, rather than driving somewhere to engage with the outdoors.

There still is plenty on challenging terrain, around High Street. Here’s the field that was for sale in the mid-1970’s.

IMG_5891  Back then, I almost bought it, but ended up with an even better neighboring piece that also was a big, south facing field with a stand of red oak that I harvested to craft this timber frame house .

One of the big pluses of living here is the very large tracts of connected land (one of over 1,000 acres) that are undisturbed and unpopulated.  If I walk a mile toward the neighboring town of Hope, the electric and phone cables end and so do the houses.  You enter a wild zone as you trek along a leaf-canopied rural road with no overhead wires to be seen.

I’ve walked past this signpost tree hundreds of times.

Nope? Maybe ?
Nope? Maybe ?

Today, I finally remembered that I had received permission to walk the fields and woods that surround the isolated Moody Pond.

Looking toward Mt. Megunticook
Looking toward Mt. Megunticook

I stood there stunned for a minute or so before I turned off the road and went in.

What took me so long?  I have walked here for almost 40 years but have never left the road right here before.   Loons live here in the summer, when I hear their demented, haunting cries as they wing their way between Moody and Levensellar ponds.

I was immensely satisfied  entering this new world.


What else do we miss as we wander around in a state of forget ?

My Fake Camping Day

This was the week when my backpacking pal Bad Influence and I were to set up a hot tent base camp for three nights in Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park and enjoy day trips out of that heated tent, either fat tire biking, snowshoeing or skiing. A weird weather shift from 14 degrees below zero to 51 degrees over a 24 hour period last weekend set up a stretch of rain, high winds and warm days that forced us to cancel our trip.

So, I found myself  in the rather unusual position of having time at home cleared of any particular schedule.

I decided to head out.

There wasn’t much I could do on Tuesday, the first day we were supposed to hike in.  The rain was driving into the south side of the house in sheets, at the same time that the outdoor thermometer read 50, and the foot of snow cover was rapidly turning into heavy slush.

But Wednesday looked better, and even though it barely dropped to the freezing mark overnight, the snow was too loose to pedal on with my Ice Cream Truck. I decided to spend the morning  connecting up the ends of two of my  hikes.

I should have put the map, compass, and traction devices into my day pack. I fared OK, with my GPS and iPhone, but could have done better.

After walking east on High Street from the house, I veered left and headed north.  Someone had been into the Tarantino ‘s land after the ground thawed and chewed it up pretty bad.

Landowner might be pissed
Landowner might be pissed

After mucking my way up that lane, I sloshed along the edge of this long hay field.

Big hay field looking toward sunrise
Big hay field looking toward sunrise

At the far corner of the field, the trail goes over this old stone wall onto one of the oldest roads in town. Now abandoned, this road heads directly into Searsmont on its way to Augusta. It dates back to the early 1700’s.

Trucks churn mud. Period.
Trucks wore down the wall

Here is a picture of lives gone by. In the forefront are old bricks that were likely were once a part of the chimney of the house where just a crumbling stone foundation remain behind.

Old bricks front from foundation in back

Less than two hundred feet later, the old road breaks open into this panoramic wild blueberry field.  I once had the good fortune of seeing this glorious  stretch of landscape from Ben’s helicopter.

Looking back, trail on left
Looking back, trail on left

Soon, I descended onto the Muzzy Ridge Road, and then veered off to  the French Road North, where studded soles on the bottom of my boots would have helped on this section of icy road.

Traction needed here
Traction needed here

The hobbit world might be be right through these openings in these old corrals.

Ancient walled corrals
Ancient walled corrals

This very old cemetery is at the end of a series of small walled areas.

Buzzell Cemetary
Buzzell Cemetery

An the last passable point on French Road North this rehab project is headed for wet times due to the open door.

Rough winter ahead yet
Rough winter ahead yet

From here, I have to figure out the connector to the other end of French Road.

Slogging along
Slogging along

Here’s a strong-running melt stream that I jumped across.  It reminded me of hiking in the high Sierras.

Ready to jump
Ready to jump

Eventually I came upon signage.

Finally, signs
Finally, signs

Things were headed in the right direction as I moved uphill to the ridge.

Cut over beech growth
Cut over beech growth

Eventually I made it out again to Moody Mountain Road, somewhere other than French Road North.

Downhill from here
Downhill from here

Strava records from this hike follow, walking counterclockwise from my house on High Street.  (Note:  I went out again for along hike the next day, where I did even better in completing the linkage between French Roads North and South)

Moody Mountain ramble
Moody Mountain ramble

screenshot 9

Snowstorm+Strava=Microadventure !

I got another nudge from my son Lincoln this week. The Jamrog guys ( plus Stephanie, my one and only daughter-in-law) all use the Strava app.  If you don’t know about it, you should.  I don’t care about the competitive aspects of the app, but am really pumped up about the Goals that you are able to access from the premium membership at just $59  a year.

I have set two activity goals for myself this year. Well… three.
In 2015, I was able to use Strava Premium to ramp up the number of times that I went out the door and hike, walk, or ride my bike.  My goal was to put 365 hours of exercise in for the calendar year.  I ended up bettering that by logging 406 hours.

This year, I plan to:
1)    Ride mountain bikes 1,000 miles
2)    Hike 1,000 miles.
3)    Log 456 hours doing this two activities

Lincoln and I were talking two days ago on the phone and he told me that he is trying to shoot for 8 hours a week, so that he can reach 365 hours of activity out  in Montana.  His reasoning is that by going for 1 more hour each week or a regular basis, you build up a bank of hours to draw on for those days when you just can’t get out.

So, I checked my Strava progress for January.

January data
January data

Last week, I had starting to fall behind in reaching my goals, so in the last week, I have almost caught up.

Here’s an encouraging post from today. We have a full blow blizzard outside right now, but who cares? I was able to log an hour and forty-five minutes and over 6 miles this morning.

Today's snowstorm hike
Today’s snowstorm hike

I’m only able to catch up by walking at night and stretching a bit. For example, I walked in today’s snowstorm.  I’ll do whatever it takes to try and ramp up my activity.  It’s a long and sometimes bleak winter up here in Maine and exercise really makes the difference in my outlook.

I also had a microadventure today.

Instead of sticking to High Street, I detoured up and over the ridge off Moody Mountain and then went along Muddy Ridge Road and back around Levensellar Pond to get back home.

A mysterious set of tracks heading off beside what we call the Tarantino farm lured me into the woods.

Who?  Where ?
Who? Where ?

I decided to check out where this truck went.

The tracks went all the way up through a long narrow hayfield, where then ended just before a break in a stone wall over which I am able to ride my bikes. I had gone in so far off road at this point that I decided to keep going uphill on the unbroken snow to reach Muzzy Ridge Road.

Here are some photos of my personal bike path.

Camouflaged trail
Camouflaged trail

I am not showing you the bypasses to obstructions that I have cut for myself in these pics.

Trail is close to the left of the oak’s trunk

Before the snow came this month, I took Mike Hartley for a ride . This is what the top looks like in full fall color:


Here is what it looks like now.

IMG_0006 (1)

Coming over the high point, I started walking north where I saw another fresh set of 4WD tracks coming south from Muzzy Ridge Road that stopped before the serious tangle of trees on this old road.  I decided that the same truck had worked its way up both sides in an unsuccessful effort to make a continuous trip from High Street to Muzzy Ridge Road.

This is just the sort of back woods adventuring that I really enjoy doing in my rural neighborhood.  It is also why I’m done with the gym.

Searching For Old Roads

This month I’ve had the fortune to join three fellow Lincolnville, Maine residents on two exploratory hikes where we walked where old footsteps, carriage wheels tracks, and hoof prints achieved a degree of frequency that was sufficient to establishing primitive roads that ascended these coastal hills.

Rosey and Kerry above Route 52 looking west
Rosey and Kerry above Route 52 looking west

There are close to 30 miles of official trails in Camden Hills State Park.

Map of Camden Hills
Map of Camden Hills

What we are looking for does not appear on this map.

Now is the time of year to explore the remains of routes that date back to when white settlers began to settle this area previous to 1800.  It’s approaching mid-December right now, when deciduous leaves have been stripped off the trees and the ground cover has died back to reveal the visible foundation of the landscape.    What’s left are bare ledges and rock outcroppings that posed considerable navigational challenges to the earliest settlers to this midcoast Maine area.  Here is an example of an ancient roadbed passing through the side of a rocky area:

The bright area above the slot is out path
The bright area above the slot is our path

The particular road that we tried to establish was one that came up from Youngtown Road  above Lincolnville Center over the Camden Hills and then down into the settlement of Camden itself.  Before 1804, there was no Route 52- the sheer cliffs on the west side of the Camden hills dropped right into Megunticook Lake.  That all changed in 1806, after four years of hard labor of some forty men resulted in Daniel Barrett’s toll road. The flatness of that narrow winding road was much quicker and easier than the mountain road above Maiden’s Cliff that twisted its way near 1,000 feet of elevation.

Our walk today started at the “old Barrett homestead”, or as it is better known, the Maiden’s Cliff parking lot. We walked up the Maiden’s Ciff route for a short time, then veered right before the trail crossed a wide rocky stream.  From there, we were able to follow a steadily ascending old road.

Matt and Kerry heading up
Matt and Kerry heading up

I expressed my doubts about whether a horse could draw a loaded wagon up the steep slope, or consider what is would take to hold back such a situation on a descent.  We later agreed that this might have been on of the paths where timber from above was skidded down the mountain in winter or spring.

Here’s a massive pine tree that must have been 200 years old that had somehow escaped cutting.

Big pine
Big pine

It is so much easier tracing old paths with a small group, that can fan out in questionable areas and discuss route options in real time in a real place.

“You can feel it underfoot.”

“There’s a hand built berm laid up just to the left there.”

“ As good as the road is underneath us, It’s as rough as a cob all around us.”

In 1754, militia men forged a rough trail from Thomaston overland to Stockton Springs through what some Lincolnville historians term The Gut. We passed over that saddle later today, where we located old boundary markers and some very distinctive triangular hunks of weathered granite that were important lines of sight or outright ownership.

Unique marker stones
Unique marker stones

Today’s adventure with this group reminded me so much of a trek in southern New Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail back in May of 2013. Back then, my backpacking buddies Train, Wizard, General Lee and I were having a difficult time picking our way up the long-abandoned Butterfield Mail Coach route as it wound its nearly invisible track through a bone dry arroyo in the foothills of the Cooke Range. That stage route across the west started in 1857, and operated until 186. This was the era where the real wild West was settled. We were dodging Spanish Dagger plants then, and now I am pushing my way through thickets of bare young maple trees.

I loved walking today on a historic footpath that holds deep mysteries that have all but vanished in just over 200 years.

In the end, we took the first old road all the way up until we connected along the Jack Williams Trail, and took that to over Zeke’s Trail for a brief time when we veered off and continued the high line on another old road that eventually dipped down to known connections coming up from the Youngtown Road.

On the way back, Kerry discovered a pretty crude bush shelter, where someone had been squatting for a while, well off the marked trail.  They left a mess.

Cheap lodging
Cheap lodging

If this mild December holds out any longer, I just might be up there again, spending the night on Bald Rock Mountain in the Camden Hills on Sunday  so I can wake up on the solstice and watch the sun come up over the ocean and place its rays upon North America.

The life-affirming light will start to come back, once again, revealing yet another meaning of Christmas.

Star atop Mt. Battie tower
Star atop Mt. Battie tower

Midcoast Maine Day Hike: The Great Disappointment (1844 revisited)

The hikers gather
The hikers gather

Just before day break on Oct. 22, I drove up the Maiden Cliff Road to join Rosey Gerry and three other men at 6:30 AM to follow the footsteps and wagon wheel ruts of a group of heavenly-focused Lincolnville residents in recreating a most unique, but disquieting event that occurred on this exact date in 1844.

For the past 30 years, Lincolnville historian Gerry has recreated this Oct.22 hike.

The walk commemorates the exact path taken by a band of religious zealots, followers of an upstate New York farmer and Baptist layman named William Miller (1782-1849). Miller was certain from his studies of the Bible that Jesus Christ was going to return on that day.

photo 11
Ciphering the old road

The hike took place on the western edge of Camden Hills State Park.  Rosey led us up an ancient wagon trail that can still be traced on the back side of Mt. Megunticook up to the Millerite Ledges.

Millerite Ledges
Millerite Ledges

A crowd gathered here to meet Jesus Christ, who was prophesied to arrive on Oct.22, 1844 in order to lift up to the glorious afterlife all who heeded the good reverend’s call.    Camden area believers had reached the same spot on the Ledges from traveling directly north from town.  Another large contingent of believers congregated on the open ledges atop Mount Pleasant, some 5 miles southwest.

On this date in 1844 over 100,000 Christians gathered on hillsides, in meeting places, and in meadows. But Jesus was nowhere to be found, at least on the earthly sphere, with the event that became knows as The Great Disappointment.

From Grace Communion International (GCI)’s website:
“ Actually, the October 1844 debacle was the second great disappointment for followers of Miller’s chronology and prophecy blueprint. He had previously announced that the coming of Jesus Christ would occur in about the year 1843. The year came and went without Christ’s return. Miller’s prophetic claim had failed and disappointed many people.
Then someone pointed out that he had neglected to take into account the transition from BC to AD, so that his calculations were one year off. Miller then moved the expected return of Jesus forward by one year, this time to Oct. 22, 1844. But The Great Disappointment happened once again to the thousands of followers who had given away their possessions and waited in expectant belief — for nothing.”

There is considerable web info about The Great Disappointment, including  this three minute re-enactment video on YouTube.

We spnt spent most of the morning exploring old foundations, ancient granite bridges, and the glacial scouring of the ledges above Maiden Cliff.

Galcial striations visible on granite trough
Galcial striations visible on granite trough

On the way down, Rosey cut a thin forked branch from what I call a swamp maple tree and demonstrated his dowsing skills, locating what he said was a water source that was below ground on the upper reaches of a former commercial wild blueberry field that is a recent edition to Camden Hills State Park.

The three other members of our hike were unsuccessful in their efforts to make the stick bend to the ground.


Then it was my turn.  I held the stick tightly in my hands and twisted the tip upwards, as instructed by Rosey.  As I approached the same spot where Rosey “discovered” water, I began to feel an unmistakable pull of the tip of the twig downward to the ground.  Then the tip was pulled almost 180 degrees downward with enough force that the green bark cracked and separated from the white inner layer.  It was unmistakable, and unexplained, but so are a lot of events that occur in the natural world.
“ Tom, you got it!”  said Rosey.
I can all dowser to my vitae, although I have not tried to do it since last week.

I experienced another satisfying discovery on the way down, when I located a white birch tree that had several growths of a fungus known as chaga on it.

Chaga on birch tree
Chaga on birch tree

I recorded the spot via a GPS waypoint button for a future hike to harvest a few chaga chunks.  The chaga mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine; medical evidence is emerging.

This was one of the most unique day hikes that I have experienced.  I plan to redo it again on Oct. 22, 2016, where I’ll show up at the end of the Maiden Cliff Road at 6:30 AM and see what other adventures Rosey will have in store for us.

Sleeping Wild Close to Home

I’m continuing efforts to sleep outside in locations within walking distance from my house.  We’re fortunate in Maine right now to be experiencing a cold front, just at the same time that the pesky, painful black flies would be a major player in any outdoor activity.  The cold stopped them last night, plus the wind.

I spent the night on top of Moody Mountain  with two of my backpacking pals, General Lee and General Tso.  Tso came up from Bath and Lee has been living in Costa Rica since we hiked the Continental Divide Trail together in 2013. The three of us spent months together thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2007.  The last time we were together was in 2011.

We decided to head up to sleep on top of Moody Mountain, cowboy style, on the spur of the moment. Tso had not planed to spend the night, but around 9:30, after it got dark, I asked Marcia to shuttle us up Moody Mountain Road, where she dropped us off at the start of an old abandoned woods road that led us up to the broad rocky, lichen and moss covered ledges that make up the top.

All we took with us were sleeping bags, pads, and backpacks to carry them in. I spent my second night in my new bivvy bag.  Simplicity itself.  We lounged  around on our pads jabbering away under the stunning expanse of stars until the wind and the cold were persistent enough that we retreated to the warmth of our down sleeping bags.

Lee and Tso atop Moody
Lee and Tso atop Moody

We awoke just before the sun rose at 5 AM, an orange glow in the eastern sky.  Tso had a long way to drive to attend a Memorial Day weekend event with his family, and Lee and I wanted to get in a bike ride before we headed off to Marcia’s own family celebration in Newcastle.

It took all of a minute to stuff the sleeping kits into our backpacks when we headed back along the ridge, then followed a rough and often obscure trail that dumped us out back on High Street where we made it back to the house.

Two Generals:  Lee and Tso
Two Generals: Lee and Tso

We were back at the house by 6:10 AM. Definitely worth a repeat, but it won’t be so easy when the mosquitoes rule the night. Maybe the tent for next time up there ?

[Please respect the landowner’s rights if you camp out like this.  I have permission from my neighbor to do what I do on her property.]