Day 2: AT section from Caratunk to Monson

12 miles

Day 2: AT section hike Caratunk to Monson.

Start: camping “au sauvage” at stream before Moxie Pond) to campsite (Guthoook Guides  @ mile 2065.5)

I awoke with the dawn when the Dark Sky App reported the temp at 75 with humidity at 85%. I was pleasantly surprised to be free of condensation inside my new Tarptent Double Rainbow (Lithium). Most of the time, camping right next to a water source tends to bring copious condensation on single-walled tents. Perhaps 1100 feet of elevation at the campsite sent the wetter air down the slope for once.
I ate my usual breakfast right out of a baggie: homemade granola and Nido brand dehydrated whole milk powder. I filled my 32 oz used Gatorade bottle, whose wide mouth accommodates my trusty Steripen, with 4 packets of Starbucks Instant coffee, drank half, and started hiking around 6:30 am- shirtless. The day was already humid and hot enough that I was sweating in 15 minutes.

I hadn’t realized just how close I had camped to the Moxie Pond Road. Where I exited the forest I saw evidence of the old high cable winter cables over Baker Stream. There used to  be two cables stretched out over the end of Joe’s Hole. The hiker stood on the lower cable and held themself upright by holding on to the upper cable. I remember using a big carabiner to clip my pack to the upper cable and pushed it ahead of me. I am afraid of heights and it was terrifying. I am relieved its gone, and replaced by the reroute further downstream.
Unfortunately, the same sort of disturbing dead animal weirdness was back again with a rotting carcass of a fox sitting at the AT signpost just before the stream crossing. I was angry and moved past the sorry mess quickly.

Another long, hot humid day of hiking unfolded. I was hoping for a swim in Bald Mountain Pond at mile 7 but that didn’t happen. The side trail to get to the Pond led to a tiny strip of sandy beach with were several beached powerboats clustered together and a furious wind coming onto the shore so I moved on in the hope of a better choice to get in the water.

The day featured above treelike views along the ridges on Moxie Bald. Later, I was able to rinse off at Bald Mountain Pond, but had to be careful due to walking over slippery rocks to reach even knee-high depths. The muck was deep enough to discourage deep water swimming.

I know that there are hikers who report experiencing lasting insights while hiking. I’m mostly preoccupied with looking ahead, considering foot placement, and guessing how long it will take to finish certain segments of the footpath. That being said, it continues to astound me when I experience a childhood memory that appears novel and obscure. Today, I remembered standing next to a group of fourth-grade boys watching Mikey Mitchell chin a lug a whole icy cold bottle of Coca Cola on the playground of the Cathedral School in Fall River, MA. I remembered all the names of the starting football players on the 1967 team at Monsignor Coyle High School in Taunton, MA.    Heavy meanings?  I don’t think so! I believe it is brain synapses burping up adjacent connective fibers.

I appreciated my iPhone’s Atlas Guide in steering me to my tent site tonight and so did the two other hikers who came in after me today. Once I identified the potential campsite on the app’s map, I drew a couple quarts of water from a stream identified with an icon a couple of tenths of a mile before the campsite itself. We were able to spread out a good distance from each other at the grassy site, with one of the hikers hammocking up in the woods adjacent and the other a good thirty feet away.

I enjoyed chatting with the guys. We were all in our shelters before the dark even settled in. I fell asleep on top of my sleeping bag and slept better than I had the night before.

AT section hike: Caratunk to Monson: Part 1

I was grumbly sweltering in the house, on another oppressive 80+ degree/90% humidity summer day. My wife Marcia encouraged me to head north to take a few days off to hike the Appalachian Trail, where the weather was predicted to be drier and cooler in Maine’s western mountains.

I pulled out the Map and Guide to the AT in Maine and decided that this section would be good for me to rehike. I’ve done this 36 mile section twice before.  I planned to spend three and maybe four days to enjoy myself. The route skirts Pleasant, Moxie, and Bald Mountain Ponds, as well as Lake Hebron. The path is relatively benign, except for climbs of Pleasant Pond (2477’) and Moxie Bald (2629’) Mountains in the first half of the section Five miles of downhill after Pleasant Pond Mountain and fifteen miles of downhill off Moxie Bald toward Monson sweetened the deal.

Day 1 start and finish

I called Shaw’s Hostel in Monson to schedule a shuttle to Caratunk where the Appalachian Trail picks up again after it crosses the broad Kennebec River. After paying the $70 shuttle fee, one of the staff trucked me over to the Caratunk AT parking lot just uphill from route 201. I started hiking at approximately 11:30, but not before I encountered some weirdness.

First, came a frustrating conversation with a fellow with Massachusetts plates on a completely loaded Subaru wagon that stuffed with camping gear. He was from Boston, had a European accent, and when I asked him why he found himself to be in the lot he indicated that he stopped to make some “adjustments” to his car. The conversation turned to hiking where he told me that he was headed to Baxter. When I asked him about his reservations he told me emphatically that they were not necessary, as he planned to day hike. I started to school him up on Baxter’s unique reservation system and he cut me off, then launched into a diatribe about how Baxter hates hikers and that Baxter won’t even take peoples’ garbage and trash. He went on to blame the policy for  “Trash all over the place up around Baxter making the towns look like garbage dumps.” I wished him luck and as I walked toward the entrance to the trail I gagged from the stench of a big dead bloating porcupine that had been placed on the signpost marking the trailhead. Not an auspicious start. When I  finished the trip I called an area game warden to report the problem.

Not the greeting I expected

Within 5 minutes of sweating in the heat and oppressive humidity, I removed my shirt, hiking shirtless for most of my trek, changing into my dry t-shirt each night before slipping into my tent. Prior to hitting the sack I‘m in the habit of rinsing off so that I don’t grime up my down bag. It cooled off enough each night that I draped the summer weight bag over my body after falling asleep unclothed on my pad.

No one was in any of the four shelters that I passed on the AT. It was understandable, as Appalachian Trail Conference discourages hikers from congregating in the shelters due to the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Sign = altered trail life

I became very angry about some graphically obscene graffiti in a couple of the shelter walls. I lost the one pencil I brought with me but none of the registers in the shelters had writing implements with them.

High point of the afternoon

I was forced to hike until 7 pm due to no water in the 6 mile stretch from the Pleasant Pond Shelter to a weak stream just before Moxie Pond Road where I scored a flat spot to set up my new Double Rainbow Li Tarptent ( review forthcoming).

Double Rainbow Li

A hawk had let up on his attacks:

I needed water to complete my dinner and breakfast as well and found enough to rinse the grime and sweat off, which was probably my most pressing want.

The problem was I couldn’t eat the freeze-dried ( Good-to-Go) Bibimbap, a spicy Korean mixed rice with sesame carrots and spinach. I was so tired I had no energy for hunger, and in my diminished state the “ immensely flavorful spicy sauce” tasted like spiced ground cardboard and was too hot for even me on one of hottest days of the summer. I ate about a third of it and packed the rest away to try again tomorrow. I usually can ingest Fritos, and had a fresh bag with me but only ate a little.

I did not experience the AT that I remember today where I only encountered one southbound hiker, who didn’t even look up when I greeted him as moved off the trail to let him pass by. The AT in Maine in mid-August is usually populated with northbound thru-hikers eager to finish up and chat a bit about their long hike.

It was a big afternoon of walking nevertheless with twelve miles down even with a zero morning of miles. I had hope for thunderstorms, showers, or even a downpour to come in while I slept, but no.

What’s Up for 2020, Uncle Tom?

I’m all over it with presentations in the next four months:

Presentation title :9,000 Miles of Attitude: Aging and Endurance

From the ages of 57-63 Tom thru-hiked the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails. He is a Maine Guide and is currently writing a new book about mental and physical conditioning and extending one’s ability to fully engage in outdoor recreation activities. For the past 25 years, Tom has been singing and playing accordion in King Pirogi, a four piece polka band. He plans to hike and bike exactly 2,020 miles in the coming calendar year. Tom grew up on a dairy farm. In 2014 Tom was the 230th recipient to be awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association after thru-hiking of three of the USA’s longest National Scenic Trails. His first book, “In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail” was published in 2017. After retiring as a psychologist and mental health counselor in 2002 Tom has been guiding individuals and groups on four season adventures in the Northeastern US. His current interest is inspiring others to engage in wilderness adventures at any age.

 

March 21 Maine Sport Outfitters : Rockport, Maine
Backpacking & Hiking Symposium 10-4      details will be posted when available

 

March 27 L.L. Bean,  Freeport, ME 7-9 PM
Book Talk “In the Path Of  Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail”

Tom Jamrog, Maine Guide and Past President of the Maine Association of School Psychology, has over a half-century of experience exploring the outdoors.  In 2014 Tom was awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award from the American Long Distance Hiking Association for his thru-hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails.
At the age of 63, Tom rose up out of retirement to assemble a team of 4 proven long distance backpackers who took on the daily  challenge of walking over 2,500 miles over a  5 month span on the Continental Divide Trail.  The book details the daily ups and down of life on the trail and also serves as a resource for section and long-distance hikers in planning their long distance adventures.

 

 

Trail Days: Damascus , VA Friday May 15- Sunday May 17

Attitudes, Actions and Apps: Lessons Learned from 9,000+ Backpacking Miles
Uncle Tom ( AT GA>ME, 2007) was awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking award in 2014. He published his first book “In the Path Of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail” in 2017. Tom will discuss his experiences and research from his upcoming book on endurance and essential training ( physical and mental) for long distance backpacking success. Topics will include gait analysis, pain management, recovery myths and facts, over- and under-hydration, and meditation.

Old Mill Conference Room, 215 Imboden St.
on Friday May 15 from 12:45-2:15 pm

You can also stop and chat with Tom at the Atlas (Guthook) Guides vendor booth, where he’s working for the weekend.

Tumbling Down from Debskoneag

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

Point Camp is Far Right

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

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

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

Our Home Away from Home

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

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

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

 

Turn Right

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

The Tumbledown Dick Falls trail was in great shape.

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

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

Upper Falls Area

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

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

 

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

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

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

Tenzing headed up

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

Tenzing Atop Mt. Tom

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

Number two 4,000 footer- Mt. Field

UT on Field

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

And Willey is #3 today

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

The views from an outcropping were rewarding today:

Tenzing viewing Mt. Washington and Webster cliffs

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

Heading Down

 

Me descending long sketchy ladder section -Photo by John Clark

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

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

My Summer Break

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

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

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

We came, we mounted bikes, we survived!

 

Post Ride Recaps

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

Up Ragged from Hope Street

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

Going up!

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

Northwest view form Ragged ledges

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

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

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

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

 

Bang!

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

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

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

Trail talk

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

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

Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 1

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.

A very slow, but steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

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.

Heading home, sinking..

At this point, I refer the reader to this article from Self magazine: The 2 Things That Will Help Motivate You to Be More Active

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

Blue Hill Library presents THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )

TOM JAMROG – – THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )

FEBRUARY 1 @ 6:30 PM-  8:00 PM

Tom Jamrog will present on Thursday, February 1 at 6:30 PM on his 5 months of experiences on the CDT, one of the toughest long distance hikes in the world.

The 2,500 mile National Scenic Trail is now 70% completed.  It starts at the Mexico border and travels along the spine of the Rockies as it winds through New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Montana into Canada.  The presentation  will draw on images and stories from his newly released book:  In the Path of Young Bulls:  An Odyssey Along America’s Continental Divide Trail.

Blue Hill Books will assist with book sales at the event.