If you subscribe to this blog you’ll be familiar with my enthusiasm for Alastair Humphreys’ popular book, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes. Published in Great Britain in 204, years before COVID-19 caused border closures, social distancing, and self-isolation, Humphreys was way ahead of his time.
I’ll explore some of these suggestions right away: spending a night in a hammock, cooking outdoors in cast iron, fishing, Strava art, building a tiny hut or treehouse, and the weekday overnight bivvy challenge, but the one that I’m most excited about right now is Every Single Street.
The Every Single Street challenge is to run, walk, or bike, or bike single street in your city or town. Popularized by ultra-runner Ricky Gates in 2018, Gates ran every street in San Francisco, registering 1,300 miles in 40 days.
This is an excellent, doable challenge for those of us living in small towns.
For example, my town of Lincolnville in Maine maintains 76 miles of roads. This will undoubtedly lead to additional mileage, as there are numerous discontinued and unmaintained roads as well that can be hiked or even biked with the right choice of wheels.
I just purchased a custom topographic map of Lincolnville where I’ll draw in my rides. My riding buddy Andy Hazen is interested in joining me on this caper, even though he’s ridden every single one of them already. Andy told me that he’s already covered the challenge on a tractor with a mowing bar when he was contracted to trim brush from the sides of Lincolonville’s roads way back when.
If you need any inspiration on what can be gained from exploring all the corners of your own town, watch this 17-minute video of Ricky’s grand adventure!
I’m headed out at 3 pm today to begin my Every Single Street challenge of Lincolnville, Maine.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This ascent is challenging as well with a relatively flat run at the beginning, with the trail turning much ore rocky and vertical.
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.
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.
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:
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 !
November is a tough month to ride a mountain bike in Maine.
I enjoy exiting my garage to ride single track, active as well as discontinued snowmobile trails, along the edges of fields, and up and over some ancient stone walls. What makes all of this tougher right now is deer hunting season, where Mainers deck themselves out in blaze orange, and hunt from dawn to dusk in the hopes of shooting a sizable deer, which can go a long way in filling up the freezer, mostly for venison stew. This year, rifle season runs from October 29 to November 24. Two more days are left. I stay out of the woods throughout November except for Sundays when there is no hunting allowed.
We had two half foot snowfalls here this past week, making for good hunting conditions, due to the ability to track deer activity through the snow cover. The first soft snows are not so good for biking in the woods. The ground is barely frozen, and some hunters get around in the woods on all terrain vehicles, heading in and out to their camps and tree stands on land they own or have permission to use and they rut up the back woods.
With all the rain we’ve had this past month, riding off-road is mostly weaving in and out of ruts, seeking out solid sections of ground, and dodging black pools of questionable depths of icy water that has not yet frozen solid enough to ride over.
This calendar year, Stevie, one of the members of our loosely-knit mountain biking group dubbed The Bubbas, has been in hot pursuit of a major offload goal for any off-road rider- amassing 2,500 non-pavement miles in 2018. Stevie lives on the edge of The Rockland/Thomaston Bog and can, on any given day, crank out a 12 mile out and back route to put toward his lofty mileage goal. It’s also nice country in there, when it is not churned up like it was today.
Ten Bubbas, including two women, met at Stevie’s this past Suday morning, to stitch together a route, with Stevie’s first tracks as a guide all the way out to our eventual turn around point at Split Rock. With ten riders’ fat-tire tracks running back and forth within a foot wide width of trail, we were build up a packed track for some future rides.
I ride with clipped pedals in spring, summer, and fall, and switch to flat pedals and regular winter boots for the winter. They are a full size larger than I need, which allows me to insert chemical heat packs when it is below freezing out. After about a half hour of riding today, my left pedal broke apart, so I was forced to complete the ride on the slippery metal axle. It worked out, and I was repeatedly thankful that the axle held, and that I didn’t have to hike a bike miles back to the car.
Even with being careful in getting through the wetter sections, I did get one boot under water, and had a cold foot for the rest of the morning. I had good energy today, which was consistent with the results of thoday’s heart rate variability reading right after I woke up this morning. My mountain biking mileage goals are more moderate that Steve’s, with just 1,000 for my year.
My Garmin eTrex30 GPS flubbed today so I copied Rigger’s Strava feed to record those miles. I’m up to 919 miles of biking with just 81 more miles left to complete before New Year’s. Those miles are much harder to snag in November !
I boss myself and set my own work schedule so I celebrate my birthday with a solo hike or ride. With all the snow around and the temperatures below freezing at dawn, I chose to ride Camden Hills State Park this year. Refrozen snow is good. Thawing snow isn’t, for biking that is.
Whenever I go out on a hike or ride, I hope to notice something interesting. Today it was connecting shade and north slope conditions with good solid track to ride upon.
The Camden Hill State Park is a 10 minute drive away.
I started up the mile long climb on fairly packed surface- many folks walk this section, some with their dogs, and it shows.
Eventually I reached the left tun for Bald Rock Mountain, a 1,000 prominence that overlooks the Atlantic.
It has been deep enough with snow that snowmobiles have gone to the top yesterday. None up there today. I am trying to make the full 5 miles on this Multipurpose Trail and then turn around and come back. I am racing sunshine, which has the capacity to soften the surface of the trail and cause my 5” tires to sink in and wallow.
In the next mile, the Multipurpose Road flattens out and is bordered by hemlocks and spruce trees that not only shade the surface from the sun, but hold the cold overnight. Grip is better here.
Soon I encounter the right tun for the Summer Bypass Trail, left untouched all winter. You can see that entrance right above the top of my front tire.
At the 2.5 mile mark I reach the Ski Shelter, empty this morning.
I will enter on my way back and drink water and eat a snack.
Still pushing to preserve firm snow.
From this point to the Route 1 side of the Park, there is much less foot traffic , with a clean snowmobile track from a rider who probably came through here last night or early this AM.
I stopped just at the water tower, turned around, and came back, deciding to take a left up the Cameron Mountain Trail, a decision which was aided by fresh snowmobile tracks and two sets of foot prints going that way.
Cameron Mountain is at the very edge of the State Park. The snowmobile track swoops around the summit and then twists and descends through private property when it eventually crosses Youngstown Road and heads for Lincolnville Center. The down hill is steep and fast, but my Ice Cream Truck embraces the wobble and delivers.
I decide to continue on the snowmobile trail rather than ride the pavement of Youngtown Road back to the car. I discover a huge hay field where I thought that I had lost the trail, but then I saw a tiny red trail sign far across the center of the field.
Winding my way down toward the village, I encountered an active logging operation that I was able to ride through with little difficulty.
After more than two hours of pedaling, I decided to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Drake’s corner store where I took this distorted selfie in the window.
My car was still three miles away. I do not like riding on Rt. 173, due to the narrow road and inattentive drivers, so I decided to gamble on the abandoned section of Thurlow Road being tracked in.
After dodging thinly iced-over water at the start, I encountered unbroken soft snow as far as I could see. I decided to walk the bike through. I was tiring, with my heart rate spiking to 155 beats per minute through the snow. Soon I encountered a little maple sugaring operation half way through service via a couple of ATV ruts that assisted me getting back to better track.
A sort while later I was back on pavement, where I took a left on Youngtown Rd. and had a leisurely couple of miles on pavement back to my car and home. Today was a great start to my next season of exploring my local trails.
I’m looking forward to presenting Friday night at the Snowalkers Rendezvous in Vermont in November. Great weekend experience!
“Walking Matters”- From the ages of 57 – 64, “Uncle Tom” thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking and discusses physical training and cognitive techniques that bolster a greying snow walker’s experience on the winter path. Tom directs outdoor activities through Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures and is author of In the Path of Young Bulls: An American Journey on the Continental Divide Trail.
The first 2017 group ride with The Bubba to the top of Mount Pleasant in the Warren/West Rockport area had it all- mud, ice, stream riding, and even more snow than expected. The approach from Route 90 departed from the old parking lot at East Coast Rover’s now defunct location, newly recycled as another car/truck repair facility. Thanks to Bubba management for gaining permission for us to park there after work hours.
I was very pleased with my ride today- the most successful technical excursion up and down Pleasant ever for me.
Very pleasant on top today.
Not only did I clear the challenge of ascending Baby Head Hill, I was finally able to loft the front end of my Surly Ice Cream Truck up a pesky little ledge on the section from the Three Way op to the power line after the screaming descent off the summit.
Here is a video of the crew maintaining a controlled skid on the steep, rock-strewn line off the summit itself.
Today, it might have even helped to have stable ice and refrozen snow smoothing out the trail a bit. The Bubbas take climbing in stride- in fact if you can’t tolerate climbing forest trails in this part of Maine, you’ll stay home. S
Most of the Bubbas carry folding saws in our packs. We clear trails as we go, especially this time of year.
Later, we transitioned to riding up the stream that put us on the backside of the mountain just below the blueberry field that set us up for the finish of the ride.
This last wet climb set up a relatively long decent that was a fitting ending to a spring day blissfully absent of the impending blackflies, mosquitoes, and heat.
A most Pleasant morning was spent at my personal Sunday Church of Two Wheels.
Despite being the only guest in the Mount Chase Lodge last night I was served a most excellent breakfast at 7:30, the time of my choice. Sky prepared pancakes, fruit slices, and bacon from a pig that had secured full employment here, on table scrap duty this past season. Fresh coffee, home made muffins and a fresh fruit bowl rounded out the meal.
I was more than willing to take up Sky’s offer of leftover bacon and last night’s brisket. At two degrees outside, I was not concerned about food spoilage.
I’ve waited for this winter bike camping trip for a long time. My last bike packing trip was in 2012 on the Sunrise Trail when I joined my neighbor and biking pal Andy Hazen on a stretch from Ellsworth toward Cobscook Bay. You can check out that most interesting bikepacking trip here.
I have that same Surly Pugsley now. It was the perfect choice for these two pristine winter biking days.
It’s a fat tire bike, with 4 inch wide tires, inflated to 7 pounds of pressure, enabling the wide footprint to track easily over this packed groomed snow.
It is a 15 mile ride directly west over a roller coaster of a tarred road from Mt. Chase Lodge to the parking lot for the Monument.
Ask the staff at the Lodge about the signage that marks the left turn after the bridge over the Penobscot River just before the end of the pavement. A short drive down a plowed gravel road leads to a small parking lot where the winter trail begins.
I parked right next to Guthook’s VW, as we were the only visitors here for these two days.
The map on the KWWNM website is detailed enough to be all you’ll need. One caution-print your own copy in color. Mine was in gray scale. I would have been easier to navigate if my map was color coordinated with the red, orange, yellow, and blue triangles marking intersections and trails.
With my parking pass visible on the dashboard, I unloaded the bike from inside my Honda Element and took off, smiling from ear to ear at the superb condition of the surface beneath my wheels. Access to trails and these huts is free of charge, however, overnight use requires reservations.
There hasn’t been any fresh snow here for more than a week. KWWNM’s snowmobiles tow dedicated groomers that have packed the trail! There were two faint cross country ski grooves that I stayed out of, preferring to ride to the side of the fresh snowmobile track.
The surface was not at all icy, but composed of groomed snow that refroze into a decent grip of a track.
This screen shot of my Strava feed summarizes my mileage, speed, and moving time. It was a relatively quick 10 mile ride into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.
Here’s the elevation profile.
There were three parts to this ride.
The first was four miles over relatively flat terrain on the Messer Pond-Orrin Falls Road, an old logging path eventually passing through a summer gate leading to Haskell Hut on the shore of the expansive Haskell Deadwater.
Haskell Lodge is only a tenth of a mile off the trail and is worth a rest stop.
It is the smaller of the two cabins that are options for your over night in The Monument. The doors are unlocked, but day users are asked to refrain from using the propane cook burners, lights, and firewood.
These are community huts, where everyone is welcome up to the maximum number of sleeping platforms and reservations are required.
Next, I rode along the edge of the Deadwater where I made a brief stop at the spectacular view at Haskell Rock Pitch. I heard it well before I saw it. Impressive!
From there the trail enters thicker, older forest for almost a mile when you reach a fork. With the spring melt down, extra caution is advised with regards to deep meltdown holes on the bridges and sections of deep animal tracks on the trail.
This is dangerous:
The riding is fast and the setting is isolated.
The last segent starts with a right on the blue diamond trail for three more miles or so out past Little Messer Pond where the path ascends to a high point on 900 feet.
You will know a turn is coming when you pass over a flowing stream up high and then see the signage pointing left for the 0.3 mile descent into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.
It took me two hours to cover the 10 mile distance, which included stops for photos, and my snack break at Haskell Hut. Guthook skied in earlier, pulling a plastic sled that was loaded with 5 days worth of food and gear. It took him 5 hours. Fat bikes shine under these travel conditions.
Big Spring Brook Brook Hut is appointed with basic pots and pans, and is heated with a wood stove with drying racks above for hanging wet clothing.
Water in drawn from the stream in front, with an outhouse out back. There is a large sleeping loft as well and half dozen wooden sleeping platforms on the first floor. The capacity of his hut is listed as sixteen.
Guthook and I combined forces to come up with a superb one pot supper. I added Mt. Chase Lodge’s bacon and brisket to his tortellini, cheese, and tomato sauce.
This trip was brief but rewarding. I spent one night sharing the Lodge with Guthook, who was bushwhacking round the area on several long day hikes.
The snow was solid enough that you could walk anywhere, and with no leaves on the trees your line of sight is immeasurably better in the winter than in the summer when the green word covers all. It was a most satisfying and unique experience for us to warm ourselves by the glowing embers of the stove as we pondered the vast wilderness surrounding us.
I joked with Guthook that we finally made time to do nothing.
We were the only people spending our time within this 87,000 acre National Monument. God bless America!
And I thank you, Roxanne and Lucas, for allowing me to have this unique place to explore for the rest of my life !
The staff at Mt. Chase Lodge are knowledgeable about current trail conditions and travel within The Monument. They are ready to serve as a launch point for your own adventure. Information and Reservations: (207) 528-2183
Prequel: “Bear and Sparkles say come on up! The fat biking is great :-)”
I missed this sign for the Mt. Chase Lodge when I passed through here a few minutes ago.
I’m headed 14 miles further down a roller coaster of a frost-heaved road to explore the northern end of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days. Bear and Sparkles are the trail names for two of my hiker pals.
I walked with both of them for the last cold wet days as the thee of us completed our thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010. The couple are the two full time winter staff at Mt. Chase Lodge. Bear and I are also Maine-based Triple Crown Hikers, who also shared the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails in 2007 and 2013.
Sparkles is a Registered Maine Guide.
My Honda Element is the only vehicle that is not a 4WD pickup truck in the parking lot outside the tiny convenience store here beside Shin Pond . I plunked down two packs of chemical hand warmers and a bottle of Gatorade on the counter.
“Ya think yer gonna get yer hands frozen, dear?” asked the perky woman behind the counter. She reminded me of my mom, who turns 91 this summer.
“I’m buying these so my hands don’t get cold. Didn’t it drop to zero here last night?” I replied.
Welcome to Shin Pond, a tiny rural settlement in bona fide rural Maine that has registered several of the coldest winter readings on record. Three locals were gathered around a table behind me.
I asked the clerk for directions to the Lodge, when one of the fellows chimed right in, ” Go up across the bridge, head up the hill and take your second right”.
I made it up here after I received a spur of the moment invitation from my hiker pal Guthook to visit him on his own 5 day adventure in the winter Maine woods.
Despite my last minute decision to drive north, I had my reservation completed and parking pass in hand within 30 minutes of logging onto the KWWNM website, and never left the house to do so. The whole exchange was assisted by an actual person, who was e-mailing me back and forth. I made a reservation for Big Spring Brook Hut, which is a recently built log cabin, that is unstaffed and set up with propane fuel for cooking and lights, pots and pans, coffee percolator, water jug, airtight wood stove, and stove wood.
Although the Monument promotes travel only via skis, snowshoes, bicycles, and on foot the major winter trails are groomed at least weekly by snowmobiles.
The cost to enter the Monument and stay in the tent sites, shelters, and huts right now is zero, but that will change after the Monument goes through it’s period of public input as it crafts the rules and procedures that will ensure that this most unique gift is used to it’s potential.
On August 24, 2016, President Obama signed an executive order designating 87,000 acres to the east of Baxter States Park as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The previous day Roxanne Quimby, of Bert’s Bees fame, transferred that land to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Monument came complete with a $20,000,000 cash gift as well as a pledge to raise an additional $20,000,000 in matching public funds. Despite the lingering opposition to the Monument’s very existence, I believe that there is more than enough open space in this vastness of forest to provide for the needs of those of us who seek opportunities to backpack and immerse our spirits in the healing forces of trees and leaves. There are more than three and a half million acres of timber growing in The North Maine Woods. The Monument’s footprint is exactly 0.024% of that vastness. Fact check this yourself by standing on Katahdin’s summit to view a undulating sea of green that stretches out to the horizon along every single one of those 360 degrees of sight line. Haven’t we all just worked this out?
The Monument is staffed by Recreation Managers who work out of Lunksoos Camps, a most historic establishment in it’s own right. When the 12 year old Donn Fendler stumbled out of the Maine wilderness in 1939, he came out on near Lunksoos. His shriveled and pin cushioned body was administered to and the nation’s newspapers and radio stations came to Maine to report the events recalled in Donn’s classic book Lost In The Maine Woods.
Tomorrow I head into the Monument, but tonight I’m staying here at Mt. Chase Lodge, on upper Shin Pond, all by my lonesome. I love looking at the historic photos of the trophy deer and bear that were harvested in this area.
From their brochure:
“Mt Chase Lodge was established in 1960 as a recreational sporting lodge catering to sportsmen, hikers, family vacationers, snowmobilers and other outdoor oriented folks who appreciate the adventure and tranquility of the north Maine woods. Situated on the shore of Upper Shin Pond, in a quiet wooded setting, our comfortable lodge and private cabins offer excellent accommodations. Full bathrooms, automatic heat and electricity, and cooking equipment for those who prefer, are offered year round.”
The Lodge itself rents 8 rooms, and four cabins. My three course dinner was top notch and prepared by Bear himself. Breakfast came with the price of the room, which was a most reasonable $79 plus tax.
I plan to wait a while for it to get warmer before I bicycle into the Monument tomorrow morning. It is supposed to drop to around zero degrees tonight. Time to turn out the light!