The Bubbas are feeding the mountain biking spirit right up to the doorstep of 2013. Eight of us pounded down one of our riding loops over in the Rockland Bog this morning, donning snowshoes after the Midcoast region was blanketed with what must have been a foot of snow. We’re doing this in part to prepare the Bog for more winter mountain bike riding, hopefully with New Year’s day ride. This work will need to set up for a day of two, when the sub freezing temperatures will harden up the track. It’s what we are know for in these parts, riding through ALL the seasons.
Here’s the map of the hike. We’re going counterclockwise from the “S”. We parked on the side of Bog Road, across from the white house on the left then went backwards 50 feet from the cars on our usual exit route. We saw no evidence of anyone else but the deer out before us, with Jason Buck breaking trail for the majority of the distance. We wound our way along old woods roads up to The Culvert, where we picked up the George’s Highland Path (GHP) and followed it uphill all the way back to the Big Pine tree, where Ian and Suzy, Walter, and John A. took Exit Ramp back to the cars. Nelson, Rick, Jason and I kept at it, on the GHP back down to loop back on Two Arrows and then doubling back to to Exit ramp and out.
The map and the descriptions of the trail should make it possible for any other bicyclists, snowshoeing enthusiasts, or even walkers to get out and follow our tracks, at least until the next big snow storm fluffs things up again.
Since the last appreciable snow feel here on Halloween, the ground has been bare, until yesterday, when we had 6 inches blow in from the northeast. I spent the morning inside, with a package of fluorescent highlighters, plotting possible route for an upcoming hike through New Mexico, but that’s another upcoming story.
Snowshoeing started today. I decided to spend a couple of hours walking around the route just outside my door. Reading the data on the GPS, I was stunned to see that all of the walking I did was within one square mile. I wanted to listen to my iPhone while I walked, so I tracked my progress with my Garmin eTrex30 and this time, was able to successfully upload the file from my computer right into my Strava app to register my progress.
Here’s the map:
I’m still totally pleased with my MSR Lightening Axis snowshoes. They are still perfect after two seasons. The bindings are ” lightening fast”, and never need adjusting on the trail.
Most folks own large pieces of property here, ranging from 130 to over 1,000 acres. In fact, just three families own all the land on both sides of High Street for 1.3 miles heading up to Moody Mountain road. I have permission to walk all of it. I cut the “Uncle Tom ” trail that runs up to the summit of Moody Mountain on one of these tracts.
Once I got up to the ridge, my navigating was aided by a deer path. I had just a Patagonia Wool 2 long sleeve shirt on top under a soft shell, but 500 feet of elevation in a mile of snowshoeing had me sweating profusely. From the top, I bushwhacked down beside Moody Mountain road on an ancient road that probably is a couple of hundred years old. I heard that there were several families that used to live on the north side of this mountain, way back. I’ve not yet found old foundations where they lived.
Normally, I use High Street to walk home, but today I wanted a longer workout with the snowshoes, so I walked down hill and turned left onto the closed gravel Martin Corner Road where I followed fresh ski and snowshoe tracks around Moody Pond. The tracks eventually stopped and doubled back, so I broke fresh trail all the way back home.
I was exhausted when I reached the house, and still am. Snowshoeing is tougher than hiking, especially in powder. You have to widen your normal gait to account for the width of the shoes, and despite the claws underneath, you are not immune to sliding as you traverse sloped terrain.
I’m hearing the distressing, high-pitched whine of a snowmobile outside as I write this. Looks like the Pugsley has a freshly packed trail that will freeze up nicely overnight. I’m riding snow this weekend.
Frigid in the tent, below zero. BI’s cheap thermometer is broken, so no measure, but the frost covering the outside of my sleeping bag and the thickness of the ice over out water hole in the river this morning spelled COLD. The wind was loud enough to hear, and thankfully we were sheltered from the full force of it’s chill.
Unfortunately, Birdie is still not doing well. She shivers, even when bundled up in the down over quilt that is covering her. She’s still demonstrating some type of unfathomable pain, with intermittent sharp yelps that now happen when you don’t even touch her, when she’s walking outside. She runs outside into the cold and wanders back and forth, hunched up. BI is worried enough about her that he decides to get her to a vet, which means walking out today, in the cold, and right into this wind. We’re baling.
Not that we could have done much else but hang right here, and maintain the camp for another day and night. After cutting more wood, we would stoke the stove, read, sleep, drink coffee and tea, and eat the piles of food from our feed bags.
We tried going down river yesterday, but the over flow stopped us. I would explore the edges of the open leads around Attean Falls nearby, plus walk out to poke around on the lower reaches of Attean Pond.
There are ample opportunities to explore animals tracks on this snow. Yesterday, Birdie led us to an otter den that was clearly active, marked by characteristic snow troughs and cylinder shaped scat.
A great resource for learning about ice, snow, animal signs, and how to forecast and deal with winter weather is Exploring Nature in Winter: A Guide to Activities, Adventures, and Projects for the Winter Naturalist by Alan Cvancara.
So the tedious procedure of breaking camp was launched. Packing up on a cold morning in winter is one of my top least favorite activities, but it comes with the territory. My hands have the circulation of turtle feet, especially my left index finger, which was partially severed some 35 years ago when I slipped on ice while I was chopping wood. I use packets of chemical heat warmers out here. This morning I had brief periods of exposing my fingers while we released all the strings, bungees, and ropes that held the tent upright, and then we packed away the various bundles onto the two toboggans. I’d work fast for maybe three minutes, then my hands would become unbearably cold and I’d have to slip them into my chemically heated expedition mittens for three minutes and then repeat the cycle until done.
Eventually we hit the trail, and after struggling up the only bump in the route, around the Falls themselves, we came upon a newly created crater in the ice where it appeared a snowmobile had plunged.
There were numerous tracks all over the bend in the river that were not there when we came in a few days ago.
We were careful to keep our toboggans from plunging into the hole. We both worked each toboggan around the pit, where we took turns standing on ice pieces in the hole itself as we braced against the loads as each sled passed along the foot wide shelf.
We made quick work of reaching the mouth of the river. Looking out over the expanse of ice and swirling surface snow ahead of us, we both exchanged a glance where we recognized that we’d be heading into the vortex of cold.
The next couple of hours of travel were among the most difficult I can recall. The cold was unbelievable. To avoid frostbite, ever inch of your face had to be covered.
I remember being in this same situation walking across Moosehead Lake, where stopping was not a reasonable act. It was zero out, and the wind was strong, steady and powerful enough that it pushed our loaded toboggans over more than once. Mine was heavy enough that it took me considerable effort to haul it upright. BI and I slogged north over the frozen expanse, and survived by chunking down the work by aiming for the lee side of several small islands that were along the path ahead.
It was dramatic how calm, settled, and more tolerable the space was when we sat on the lee side of the islands. I treasured the hot, rich, black coffee that was in my thermos. I devoured roasted nuts, peanut butter crackers, and cookies as we brought our pulses down to reasonable levels. The cold soon had us up and moving; our rests never lasted reached 10 minutes.
Eventually the path veered toward the east, toward the parking lot. With the wind now from the rear, our lagging energy relished the good fortune. It was still cold and difficult for my hands. I stuffed all my gear haphazardly into my empty Voyager, and was done. I high-fived BI. We made it. Our homes would now be cradles of comfort and warmth. The wonder of the shower world, oh those hot showers.
What brand and model of snowshoes broke? How bad could the break be that it couldn’t be fixed with the all-essential backup ziptie ( it was just one shoe) to be able to move through the snow? Where can we find out the answer? Clarkie, Guthook? Help!
“I think I’m done with the Whites for now,” Embrey said from his home in Buxton on Saturday, the day after guides with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department had to rescue him near the summit of Mount Lafayette, bringing him a replacement showshoe and helping him find his way back to the trail.
Craig Nelson and I just spent a chilly two and a half hours crunching out a five miler in the Camden Hills. Here is a link to the map of this hike.
I consider the Frohock Mountain trail the loneliest in the Park, because it just doesn’t connect to anything- it’s out and back, and the summit (at least in the warm weather ) doesn’t have a view, it is leafed in.
During this time of year, the leaf drop allows one to look out to the east to see glimpses of the Bay, and to glance west brings views of the ridges of Lincolnville/Searsmont in the distance. We had our boil up, as usual.
I feel it is excellent practice to ignite wood, or even alcohol stove fires in the windy sub freezing temperatures.
Even though it was below 20 degrees and breezy out, my clothing selection was adequate. I had on for skin base a ultra-thin Ibex wool short sleeve t-shirt, covered by a wool blend long sleeve Trek bicycling shirt. I like the bike shirt in the cold because it affords a double layer of fabric over the kidney area. My outer layer was my Patagonia Houdini shell. The Ibex wool gloves I had on were inadequate. My hands were painfully cold. I have yet to figure out an acceptable hand cover for when I am using my hiking poles. Wrist straps complicate things. I think it should be shelled mittens with inner liners.
Later, at home, after rising from the couch, I experienced a terribly painful episode where both my thighs cramped up , a seriously uncomfortable bout of pain that had he shrieking like a baby. I would very much like to understand what I have to do to prevent this type of reaction after a day of harder than average leg exertion. Any good ideas?
Viles got it right, though, by including the rest of the things that I had in or clipped onto my winter pack: a whistle, emergency shelter ( space blanket), chemical hand and foot warmers, insulating bottle covers, face mask or scarf, a cell phone( but don’t depend on reception in the puckerbrush), down jacket with hood, plus a thermos of hot cider, cocoa, or coffee. Viles didn’t list coffee for that thermos, I recall from a previous article that he believes it is a diuretic. Updated research disproves the “coffee is bad for you in the outdoors” school of thought. If you are a regular coffee drinker, there is no additional fluid loss, plus it is a legal performance enhancement.
Here’s Viles’ recommendations that I formatted into a tabular format that can be downloaded and use as a check off list: Winter Day Hiking List
Trekking poles or ski poles
Water bottles (2)
Insulating bottle holders
EMERGENCY SHELTER ( SPACE BLANKET)
CHEMICAL HAND AND FOOT WARMERS
Thermos of hot cider, cocoa, coffee Clothing
NEOPRENE FACE MASK/SCARF
Lightweight long underwear top
Midweight long underwear top
Waterproof/breathable shell jacket
Insulating gloves or mittens
Lightweight long r pants
Wool socks (wear one and bring an extra pair)
Here’s me on yesterday’s snowshoe hike with my own personal additional gear ( headphones–> iPod–> rocking tunes!)
We made it out before the rains came to wash the big snow away. It always comes down to this, on these weekend trips- packing up, retracing steps, and coming home.
In the end, Roy’s back held up. Dave and Kristi had fun. Clarkie played out the persona of Tenzing with aplomb. We did miss Pat’s happy affect on the second night. We helped each other on the way out, with Dave’s sled sucking up the additional weight of Roy’s backpack, with the twin Percheron team of Tenzing and Uncle Tom in double harness, relieving Dave of most of the hauling. We did have some issues with the plastic sled tipping over, but there were no home made pies to worry about on the way out.
What’s good about a backpacking trip is that it is so easy to put away gear when you reach home. In my case, I keep the backpacking stuff in a few plastic bins upstairs in an unused bedroom, so it’s often just dry the bag and pad up on a second floor landing where the heat from the wood stove work its magic, and then toss the dirty clothes in the washer and that’s it.
Kristi beamed triumphant as she mastered the ice in the parking lot. We’ll be back, and you should consider renting the ski shelter for your own enjoyment in Camden Hills state park.
I’m so blasted tired that it’s only 7:30 and I’m in my sleeping bag fighting the inevitable act of falling asleep. It’s all part of day one on this third annual “Trek Across Lincolnville To The Sea” hiking challenge. I haven’t had as intense day of backpacking in the snow for at least 15 years! Not only was the snow wicked deep, I also walked several additional miles in order to assist my hiking comrades.
Our first test was struggling with the depths of the actual snow. My brother Roy, Tenzing Clarkie, and I set off from my house across snowy fields to the snowmobile trail running part way down the abandoned end of the Proctor Road.
Without backpacks, we initially found firm footing on the snow-packed trail. Unfortunately, the trail veered off from our direction, and we were without snowshoes. After wallowing up to our crotches for a few hundred feet, trailblazer Clarkie swam, rolled and eventually even crawled his way through the ridiculously deep powder until we reached actual pavement.
For the next mile we wound our way along a snowmobile trail through the woods, across Norton’s Pond, and up to Drake’s Corner Store, where we found an inspiring display if brown, yellow, red, and chocolate varieties of Whoopie Pies.
They also have a killer $3.89 chicken salad submarine sandwich which I polished off at the picnic table and washed down with a cup of hot coffee.
Up the Thurlow Road we went. A short climb to Dave and Kristi’s house found us reunited with our backpacks and snowshoes. The real walking was about to begin. But first, grief strikes- in the form of a verbally distressed Roy, now doubled over and clutching his back. We had just walked up to start an untrammeled section of abandoned road and started strapping snowshoes and grunting up backpacks. Despite our best efforts at medicating, resting, and relieving him of his backpack Roy was done for, or so it seemed. We called Dave up to request a personal ambulance transport. The hope was that resting up with Dave and Kristi for a couple of hours would fix Roy’s back.
Undaunted by the apparent physical risk of just putting on, and not even walking with, a backpack Tenzing Clarkie and I trudged due south heading straight into the welcoming arms of this winter’s edition of Camden Hills State Park.
After another half-mile we had steadily ascended 350 vertical feet, reaching the other side of Cameron Mountain and the start of the unbroken one mile final uphill section of the Cameron Mountain Trail. Despite the sub freezing temperatures, we were overheating. It was tough walking even with snow shoes, as we were pitched to, fro, and partially backwards with each lumbering step.
A phone call from the top to Roy astounded us that he was back in the action, and that he, Dave, and Kristi were about to depart the parking area at Steven’s Corner. Dave had volunteered to add Roy’s pack to the gear that he was hauling in a large black plastic sled.
Encouraged by the impending rendezvous with our companions Tenzing and I plummeted down the half-mile steep Zeke’s Trail, eventually reaching the Ski Lodge Trail (SLT). Tenzing, in true mountaineering spirit, dropped his backpack and headed north on the SLT. Mission: rescue and relieve. He instructed me to proceed a half-mile south and drop my pack at our destination at the Ski Lodge then come back and ferry his pack likewise.
And then head back out again, hiking over a mile, when I finally reached Tenzing and Roy, who were making steady progress. The unselfish Tenzing was now in full rope harness, pulling uphill a top-heavy and voluminous pallet of gear supporting three people. I shared the tow rope with him, encouraged by the much improved and ambulatory version of what had appeared to be the wincing, immobile Roy.
Dave and Kristi were holding steady behind.
Eventually we all reached the Ski Shelter, which was still warm, thanks to someone who had earlier in the day kindled and stoked a fire in the massive airtight wood stove. Continuing to set an example that would have impressed even Hillary, Tenzing slid and skidded his way down a dangerous slope to fetch water for the group.
The details on this relatively new shelter can be reviewed on my previous post.
Later Pat arrived to join us for the evening. He was instrumental in locating the barbecue grill which was indistinguishable below the sea of snow outside the door. Pat is famous for all things coffee.
We needed that grill. Roy was packing steaks. Tezing was Sherpa for a half- dozen baked potatoes ( with all the fixings), me the appetizers and salad, and Dave the apple pie that he had made especially for this well- earned feast, which leads me to this horizontal position and soon asleep.
What to do outdoors today? We’re talkin’ snowshoeing.
The Bubbas put aside their traditional activity of relentless bicycling through all four Maine seasons to strap on the shoes and head up and over Spruce Mountain for a 2.5 hour 4.2 mile charm of a walk this end of January day. Twenty two degrees at the start, probably the same at the end. The snow was lightly falling as we stopped at the top of Spruce for our traditional boil up break where Craig and I fired up our multi-fuel stoves and cranked out warming drinks for our two companions, Rigger and the Doctor.
This was my third trip on my new MSR Lightning Axis snowshoes and I am enjoying them more each time I walk in them. This time we had a relatively steep ascent up toward the top of Spruce mountain. I flipped up the heel lifters ( Ergo Televators) on the snowshoes, which instantly relieved calf stress and actually made it noticeably easier to go up. They are effective enough at altering the stepping that I had to release them as soon as the uphill stopped. The tracking on these shoes is straight arrow and now that I have the bindings all set, it’s 30 seconds to put them on.
You can argue about whether trekking poles are useful or not, but the only one who did a couple of downhill face plants was the poleless Dr.
The route we took from the top of Spruce to Nelson’s was over what appeared to be two feet of fluffy powder.
We all agreed that it was a super fun time, and I was really pleased with my energy out there today.
Looks like we might get our weekly storm on Wednesday again this week, so we’re plotting a night hike Thursday night- gonna need the snowshoes again.
Classic Ryback. Boy wonder carries 65 pound backpack on the fledgling Continental Divide Trail. Wears blue jeans, heavy boots, external frame pack, freezes beneath a tarp, carries 16 days of food, tolerates serious depression, never mentions anything about town stops, all done in a crisp, fresh writing style way beyond his years. Thanks to my sister-in-law V8 for loaning me this long out-of-print book.