There was a time earlier today when I just wanted to quit hiking uphill and retreat the 7 miles downhill to Wassataquoik lean-to number two where where we’re scheduled to hole up for the night. Just a half hour into today’s hike, I was cold, wet and had no desire to ascend the 2000 feet from Davis Pond all the way up to Katahdin’s Hamlin Peak (4756’) in thick clouds with the air temperatures in the high 30s and strong clearing winds blowing out of the West.
There would be nothing to see but the inside of a freezing cloud.
My boots were still cold and totally soaked from walking. Lingering 40° wet coated the foliage that protruded into the trail. When I brushed against the leaves, cold water eventually saturated my shorts and ran down my legs into my boots and socks. My feet are wimpy when it comes to dealing with cold. My hands also suffer when the temps drop.
Just before I was going to split off from Guthook and Hans to retreat, cumulus clouds started forming, blue patches opened up in the sky, and was clear that the rain and dark clouds going to be history.
Hamlin is one of the three 4,000 foot Baxter State Park mountains that are on the New England 4,000 foot peaks list.
The other two are Katahdin, at five thousand two hundred and sixty eight feet and North Brother, at 4151 feet. While on top, we encountered only one other peak bagger trudging toward Hamlin Peak.
Today turned out to be a very good time to be on top of this mountain. Despite my hands being too cold to function, I was able to get my body heat up by jogging the flat expanse to and from Hamlin Peak.
Patches of ice were fund on top of rocks that dominated this landscape.
The views today were expansive, with views stretching to Canada on one side, and nothing but trees and lakes stretching 40 to 50 miles in all directions.
At the end of this twelve mile backpacking day, I was most pleased to have made the choice to keep going when it became painful to do so. The shelter of this lean-to along the Wassataquoik Stream nearby was a sort of homecoming. Approaching this lean-to, I begin to embrace the sense of completing a day well spent in the wilderness.
I returned last week to hike in my favorite backpacking destination, Baxter State Park, joining my Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails hiking pal Guthook as we explored some of the lesser trails in the park – ones that are usually bypassed in favor of ascending Katahdin,the crown jewel of the wildest state park east of the Mississippi.
It’s the third week in September and the humidity that has dogged coastal Maine for the past two months has followed me up here to Baxter State Park.
The technicolor fall foliage show is just getting to the beginning Kodachrome stage, delayed this season, likely due to a drought.
Tonight, we’re settling into Lean-To #3 at Neswadnehunk Camp Ground for a fresh roasted veggie/kielbasa dinner cooked to perfection on a cheap portable gas grill.
We’re here after a 10 mile afternoon walking the Park’s Kettle Pond, Cranberry Pond, and Rum Pond Trails.
These low lying trails are the among the first the hiker encounters after entering Baxter through the Togue Pond Gatehouse. Even these relatively benign, unfrequented forays were satisfying sojourns from my multi-tasking life.
The softness of the ground, and the textures of the kaleidoscope of greens and greys of the leaves and the trees are immensely satisfying.
Our reservations for the first three days are at Lean-do #3 at the Neswadnehunk Field Campground. It’s a drive in site with a view toward the incomparable Doubletop, at 3,489′ a distinctive mountain, with a short ridge connecting the two prominent exposed granite points on top. Approach trails reach it from either the north or south. I went up for the second time two years ago, so I’ll appreciate it from afar this time.
The ranger here told us we are the only campers tonight. It’s just Betsey and us, enjoying the Milky Way star show. $12 purchased us enough dry split wood to see us through for an evening fire each night.
The weather looks to be mostly dry and warm, and we are very pleased to be here.
September is a superb time to find yourself enjoying the wilderness, especially anything away from the perennially packed approach trails to Katahdin where 90 per cent of people who come this Park congregate.
On Friday, I finished up my third complete hike of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family: my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend. It might have been 1989. I hiked it again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet. The perennially slippery trail is punctuated with beaucoup roots ,rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.
AT thru-hikers walking through this prelude to Katahdin are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas. We came out in 7 days instead, pushing the daily average to about 15 miles.
Here is a particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking LIght magazine.
The Hundred is made up of two distinctly different trips of approximately 50 miles each. The southern section is an advanced hike, with the other half, (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort when walked at 8-10 miles a day, with the exception of a relatively short but steep ascent of the prehistoric Nesuntabunt Mountain.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. Alternatively, catch a float plane shuttle from Katahdin Air, which drops you off on the shore of Crawford Pond where side trail puts you on the AT in 100 feet.
Three and a half miles after you depart Crawford Pond you reach the pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter- a must swim. Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and Sand Beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks , consider a side trip of 1.1 miles and splurging for a night at the Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps. I haven done that yet , but plan to do so the next time I go through.
Make no mistake, spending a week backpacking The Hundred is tough. If you stuff your pack with lots of food, you can eat your way as you move along. My rationing of a 3,000 calorie a day plan resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took me to make this 100 mile trip.
On Friday, I finished up my third complete backpacking adventure on Maine”s Hundred Mile Widerness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family: my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend. It might have been 1989. It was tougher then, without smart phones and paid food drops. I hiked The Hundred again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet. The slippery trail is laced with roots and rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways. Even when there is no rain, the rocks perspire, leaving the Monson slate very slippery under humid conditions.
AT thru-hikers are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do the side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas.
Here is particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking Light magazine.
I now understand that The Hundred is actually made up of two distinctly different trips of 50 miles each. The southern section is what I would term an advanced hike, with the other half (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort, with the exception of a steep ascent of Nesuntabunt Mountain in that 50 mile section.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. The pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter is a must swim, and may even be time for skinny dipping. Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and take in the sand beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks, consider splurging for a night at the classic Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps. I haven’t done that yet, but plan to.
Make no mistake, spending most of a week backpacking The Hundred is tough. If you are wise with food choices you can carry lots, and eat your way along. My more careful plan of rationing myself out some 3,000 calories a day resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took to make this trip.
Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures is planning more hikes of The Hundred next season, halves and maybe even the Whole Hundred. If you are interested, get in touch with me and I’ll put you on the 2017 notification list. Spaces are limited.
Today we duplicated yesterday’s trek, but in reverse. We are heading back south today to Russell Pond CG Lean-to #1, adjacent to the canoe launch area.
Greg, the senior ranger at Russell Pond yesterday, encouraged us to modify our plan of hiking over to the northeast corner of the park where we had booked a night at the Middle Fowler South tent site.
Greg requested that we be at his cabin at 8 am, when he would be in radio communication with the Baxter Reservation Office. Greg was very helpful to us.
We felt strong walking back today.
We only encountered only 1 other person while hiking almost 10 miles today. He was a taciturn chap. We were overjoyed to see someone approaching, but his attire of torn pants, safety glasses, and a faded hunter orange vest was a bit off. He also failed to acknowledge our need to communicate.
When I asked an opening question, ” Hey, glad to see you. What’s up ? ”
He replied without stopping his gait,” I came from back there (points) , and I am heading over there ( points).”
Vamoose! A very quick encounter!
On the way back, I spotted a rare find, and took he opportunity to teach my clients about chaga.
Chaga is sold online in whole chunks at great expense. I just looked it up on a popular alternative medical website for $55 per pound. The chaga mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine. In North America, Chaga is a parasite that is almost exclusively found on birches in the northeast. Chaga will ultimately kill the host tree, but the tree can survive for decades if not mistreated. When collecting the chaga, it is important to leave some behind as this will allow it to regrow. If the tree has multiple sites of chaga, leave at least one completely intact, and avoid harvesting small specimens, and stick to pieces roughly larger than a grapefruit in size.
I usually harvest it with a sturdy fixed blade knife,
using a baton of deadwood to remove it from the host tree. For the remaining trip, we enjoyed chaga tea around our campfire each night. Small chunks are boiled and then simmered. The resulting tea is very dark, and tastes similar to black tea. The chunks can be reused several times before there is an apparent decline in the potency of the drink.
Another unusual event happened on the way back through the overflowed section of trail caused by the beavers.
I was first through and now have wet boots from skirting the orange blaze trail by walking over the top off the smaller beaver dam. Next came Gaspedal, who walked the flooded trail. He stopped to reach a couple of feet into the clear water to pull up a cell phone.
It was in a case that had a UMO ID card in a pocket on the back.
There had been a large group of Upward Bound students who slept in a tent site right next to us the first night we were here. They had come through the southbound trail from South Branch Pond Campground that same day, so chances are that the dead phone belonged to one of them. I turned it into the ranger, who was going to follow it up.
Hikers need to understand that there are more rules at Baxter than at other state parks.
Gaspedal was crushed when the ranger informed him about the rule that his solo tent was not allowed around our lean-to. If you want to tent, book a tent
Understand that there are ramifications of Governor Baxter’s intentions that Baxter Park is primarily here to promote conservation of natural resources, as opposed to recreation.
A couple of situations come to mind.
I wanted to take a swim after our hike yesterday. There is no beach or swim area at Russell. The place I chose to go in the water was right off the end of the wooden dock at the canoe launch. Clearly, recreating took a back seat, when I slipped on one of the algae coated, football/-sized rocks that were piled under water at the end of the dock and fell onto my side into the dark wet. I came out with a bleeding foot.
I’ll present a second consideration.
I’ve camped at lean to #4 (“The Moose Inn”) numerous times since Will B. Wright was a ranger here at Russell in the late 1960’s. Notice how grown-in the trees and brush have become between the lean-to and the pond.
It is obvious that policies are in place in order to maintain the natural progression of shoreline vegetation instead of providing personal panoramas for the camper. Gaspedal pointed out that they practice what they preach here – even the ranger here has trees obstructing his view of the pond. While the practice of conservation is generally workable, and actually favored by most of us that enjoy coming here, one must at least question the practicality of rigorous adherence to it’s purpose.
And as Gaspedal also pointed out, a thoughtful ranger is now unable to have a sight line from his cabin to view every point on the lake due to visual blockage by trees and shrubs.
One’s risks are elevated at Baxter. That’s what we accept when we walk into the wilderness, and that is why I am here.
There is something mammalian about avoiding going outdoor when it is raining sheets. I voiced this point to Gaspedal and Rokrabbit, while I was driving them through the rainstorm above Bangor on I-95 this morning.
We’re on schedule for day one of a week in Baxter State Park. I would hike in this hard rain all day, if necessary, but my innermost core recoils from the image of my self at the end of a day of rain, especially when I am also run down from long miles of hiking through the woods.
So I conjure up a whacky Plan B for today that would not require any hiking in this rain. We would get a motel room in Millinocket and wait it out. Tomorrow morning we would drive to the north Matagammon Gate and begin to dance around our reserved space camping itinerary.
However, life would be much simpler if we just stuck with our original plan, which we did when we walked out of the Appalachian Trail Cafe and saw that the rain had stopped and the skies were starting to clear.
We only encountered four other hikers today walking into Russell Pond from Roaring brook.
The young woman of couple #1 said that the ford of Wassataquoik Stream was waist high. I could have told her that. Her long pants we’re still drenched as she spoke to us. We also met a couple of Maine women who we also headed to Russell Pond for the night.
I’ve hiked the Russell Pond Trail at least a half dozen times over the years. A few things stood out today.
#1- Wassataquoik Stream rises quickly after a strong rain of an inch and a half. The water was up to my waist during the ford. I have always experienced lower water levels coming through here. On the positive side, it was painless to do the fords with bare feet, even including the short walk along the trail that was on land that connected the two.
#2- This is moose country. Walking through the alder patches in an area known as New City, Gaspedal, who was walking point, turned silently gave us a hand signal. One second later, a bull moose with full rack of antlers crashed off into the brush. This was the first moose that either of my two traveling partners had ever seen in the wild.
I’m a Licensed Maine Guide who is guiding these two folks from Boston through their first visit to Baxter.
Last year I guided these two repeat customer plus one more though the north 50 miles of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. Our walking itinerary here is less demanding than out on the Appalachian Trail, but our trek up to 5,267 foot high Katahdin on our last day should test the tendons.
If I make it, it will be my twentieth summit of Maine’s best shot at reaching the heavens.
Aug.22- 27, 2016
(Due to a recent cancellation I have one space available for this upcoming backpacking trip.)
Join our exploration of the central and northeast sections of Baxter State Park before ascending the newly rerouted Abol Trail leading to Katahdin’s summit.
Itinerary: On Day 1, after leaving our van at Roaring Brook Campround, we’ll hike 7.5 miles north through a valley to spend the first night at a lean-to on the shore of Russell Pond (Campground). Our second day finds us hiking 10 miles further north to an isolated lean-to on South Branch Pond that we’ll access via canoe. Day three will be a shorter hike where we’ll tent at Middle Fowler Pond, where there will be time to relax or explore one of Baxter’s least-visited regions. Retracing our steps on day four, we’ll return to our lean-to on Russell Pond. On day 5, we’ll walk back to our van and move to Abol Campground where we will spend the last night in a lean-to. On our final day, we’ll summit Katahdin (5,267 feet) weather permitting), via the historic Abol Trail which has been partially rerouted and has just reopened as of this July.
It is difficult to get a reservation to ascend Katahdin in the summer. This is a rare chance to explore some of the lesser known parts of Baxter as well as to summit Katahdin on the trail traversed by Thoreau in 1846. National Geographic includes Katahdin as one of the top ten summit hikes in the world.
The trip starts and ends in Lincolnville, ME. Transportation to and from Baxter State Park, as well as entrance and campground fees are included in the price. A list of recommended personal gear will be provided upon registration.
Group size: 4.
Price: $500: Equipment rental is available. Hikers provide their own food. Meals can be prepared and provided for additional charge.
Reservations: Call 207-763-3406 or email email@example.com for questions or to secure reservation.
How much persuasion do we need to expand our lives?
Yet another research summary from the Health section of the NY Times came into my in-box this week with yet another angle of evidence for getting up off the couch and pushing out a run or fast walk.
I’ve been on a biking/ running/ walking routine ever since I was a teenager. Now that I am finally collecting Social Security, I have the time and motivation to get this exercise thing dialed in just right.
I am spending 2016 with a goal of 70 minutes a day moderate to intense activity. I’m backpacking, hiking, walking, and biking to get there.
How’s it going so far?
It’s not easy, but, 60 days into 2016, I am there. Here’s some hard earned hours, thanks to Strava’s support:
I got some support and direction from what I read this past year in Younger Next Year,
a book I read at the end of 2015. The book’s premise is this: exercise six days a week, don’t eat crap, and connect and commit to others.
What I find missing in most people’s fitness plan is that they lack one, or they set themselves up for abandoning their plans by not making the exercise activities fun enough to look forward to.
Since I gave up my decades-long practice of hitting the gym several days a week in September of 2013, I’ve kept 15 pounds off my frame, and have improved my cholesterol numbers.
This book helped- Microadventures. It turned around my thinking about the meaning of an adventure. We crave adventures in our lives, but think of them as divorced from our everyday routines. Humphrey shatters that misconception in this book, which encourages viewing your local terrain as a rich source of potential mini-adventures.
I had a microadventure last night, when I veered off my usual routine 5 mile loop, and revisiting an old woods road that I have not been on in the last thirty years, despite the turn to that hidden world coming up less than a mile’s walk from my house.
I also got to practice improvisation on yesterday’s hike, where complete darkness settled in just as I reached the corner of a gigantic wild blueberry field. If I were to carry out my intended route, I’d need to enter the woods and bushwhack up to the ridge above, where I’d connect with a known route. Sure I had a GPS and a flashlight, but given the air temp of eighteen degrees and a steady north wind coming at me, my inner warning system got activated.
It’s taken me 6 decades to get there, but I now I can hear the speechless voice inside, telling me, “Not a good idea! Go back, now.” So I reversed direction and retraced my route back home, guided by Orion above me.
Today, I plan to enjoy our snowless winter landscape on another route, right out my back door door.
One-night stove building workshop in Camden, Maine, 6-8:30 pm.
Here is a picture of what the stove will look like: Further details about the stove itself are in this updated blog post from 2012. This post feature a video clip of the stove in action, and illustrates the steps involved in constructing this tidy little unit.
The evening will include an introductory talk about some of the science and history of these stoves. You will learn how to get the most efficiency out of the unit. This double-walled, gassification chamber stove burns denatured alcohol, solid fuel tablets, and biomass- wood, dried dung, or charcoal. Because of the hands-on nature of the class it will be limited to 8 people. Sign up!
In October of 2014, I flew out to Minnesota where I delivered the Saturday night Keynote address at the Annual Winter Camping Symposium. I just discovered that Four Dog Stove has released a video of my 90 minute presentation. I have had several folks tell me that they would very much like to have heard my presentation.
Well, here it is.
I thank my good friend and supporter, Don Kivelus, of Four Dog Stove, for spurring me into action when the scheduled speaker, Mors Kochanski, took sick at his home in British Columbia and was unable to fly to the US to speak to the group. I used Four Dog’s Bushcooker LT multi-fuel titanium backpacking stove on my 2010 PCT and and 2013 CDT thru hikes.
Many folks don’t know that, in addition to his sales of stoves, Don is one of the top mail order suppliers to the bushcraft community world-wide.
Four Dog has also invested in professional Youtube support to bring an array of instructional videos to the pubic. Don’s YouTube page is a storehouse of almost one hundred interesting and informative information to keep you safe and warm in the outdoors.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to have this type of presentation or workshops at your organization’s event.