Uncle Tom’s Adventures Looks at 2018

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures slides into the first week of a frozen, record cold 2018.

Cold at Camp

Within a week of record breaking cold, the thermometer never got above zero for a couple of days.

I am still nursing my right shoulder after a fall I had off my fat tire back in The Bog on Dec. 9. I think I can get back on the saddle in a couple of days, when the winter’s course appears to turn another rough weather corner.  Right now there is a two foot thick snow cover on the open fields .

Heading home, sinking.

It’s been so cold that the snow hasn’t really compressed or refrozen, even on the snowmobile trails that have had a bit of traffic on them. Some winter riders have reported great conditions, but others have floundered a bit in the softer stretches.   That should all change in a couple of days. The forecast is for it to warm up to 50 degrees in two days and the rain from 4 AM on Friday until 4PM on Saturday when the melted mess will freeze solid when temperature tanks again into single numbers. Sheesh!

I just spent my first 2018 night out at camp.

Hobbs Pond camp

The place was a mess and needed tending. Last week I trailered over a used gas cook stove and a couple hundred linear feet of used pressure treated boards that will help upgrade the setting here. I  parked the trailer in front of the camp and left it.   I just managed to beat the latest snowstorm, with my shoveling and hacking a path for Maritime Energy to install the propane tank and gas cook stove. The moving dolly was still inside as the strewn about contents of the tiny kitchen, which had to be moved into the rest of the camp in order to haul the old electric range out and the gas unit in.  So, with Marcia still in Florida basking in the sun of Vero Beach this week, I put the Tempwood stove to use and got the camp up to a comfortable temperature for the night.

Main room w/ Tempwood on right

I must admit that split dry oak chunks seal the heat deal. With such a tiny camp, a couple of hours of attention puts things back into order. It feels good to get away and live lean, even if it is just for part of a day.

This week, I will likely sell out the few copies I have left from the first printing of my new book, “In the Path of Young Bulls”.

Front and center

I am lining up the second printing.  My wife Marcia uncovered several typos in the first press run. I made those minor changes as well as a text alteration to improve the ending. I plan to run a couple of “incentives” to launch sales of the next press run in 2018.

In the meantime, I continue to learn about heart rate variability as a training aid, because rest appears as important as activity in maintaining fitness.

I am also continuing my research into genetic testing and its application to training and fitness. I have just sent off a saliva sample to 23andme.com . I already have received genetic results from FitnessGenes.com and am very interested in seeing similarities and possible difference in those sets of results.

I am checking out info on the micro biome : —>>”No Gut, No Glory: Scientists are calling the human micro-biome the forgotten organ.


And their discoveries about the trillions of bacteria living inside us may revolutionize how we think about diet, performance, and endurance. So in the name of citizen science, we subjected ourselves and seven elite athletes—including skier Cody Townsend—to microbial analysis, with eye-opening results.” —David Ferry, in Outside Magazine January/February 2018

I am also interested in drawing when I am outdoors. I received some sketchbooks, watercolors, and writing tools as Xmas presents.

I plan to head down to Florida in late January to camp out with my friend Edward for a week.

In February, I plan to spend several nights of winter camping at Blackwoods campground  in Acadia, testing out a new tent and custom titanium wood stove to heat it.  I hope I can get some pals to come along.  February will also feature me attending a Kimchi workshop with Hanji Chan and her mother, Sammai Choi, who will walk us through how to make authentic Korean Kimchi, the famous fermented cabbage dish served with all Korean meals.

The first weekend in March is set up for winter camping at Camden Hills State Park. I also plan to return to some winter activities in the Katahdin Woods and waters National Monument in March.  Here’s winter fat biking that happened there last March.

I have signed up for a mushroom identification class at Camden Hills High School with David L. Spahr in May. David is the author of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada: A Photographic Guidebook to Finding and Using Key Species.

I’m not sure what my commercial backpacking schedule will be for the 2018 season. The 2017 schedule was a bust for me. Marcia and I had to cancel our June Denali trip due to illness. I also had to cancel a full 100 Mile Wilderness Trip that was scheduled for early September , due to a sudden decline in the functioning of my 91 year old mother Isabel. She had exhausted the family in caring for her while I was off in Newfoundland on a two week thru hike in late August. No longer able to live in the home where she has spent the past 85 years, I stepped off the plane from Newfoundland in Boston to spend a week with her in her house. I then packed her up and moved her to Maine, but not for long.

Activity goals in 2018:
– via Strava: 1,000 miles on the bike, and another 1,000 miles of hiking.
– To read 35 books in 2018.
– Write outline and draft of new book.
-Post at least 2 blog entries/week in 2018

Let’s get going,  let’s get out there.

Baxter State Park: Day 2 of 6

We’ve walked 16.5 miles in the past two days over relatively flat terrain to reach Lean Two #12 a half- mile down the west side of Lower South Branch Pond by late afternoon.
Right off the bat today, we hit a bonus – ripe wild Maine blueberries.
There were some surprisingly thick bunches left on the low lying bushes along the trail.

Who could pass these by? We stopped to graze for a while and took mental pictures in order to identify the stretch on our way back.

Wild blueberries are concentrated packets of power: in taste, vibratory purple colors, and nutritional fortitude. Back home, I have 120 pounds stored in half my freezer.  I’m able to breakfast on this hike just like I do at home here

We had to deal with a major flooding of the trail this morning by beaver flowage a mile past Pogy Pond on the Pogy Notch Trail.

I bypassed taking my boots and socks off in favor of walking along the top of a smaller beaver dam upstream.

 While my boots got soaked, the water never went over the tops.
I also find damp feet refreshing when it is warm out, where I appreciate the ventilation of this pair of footwear. Once back walking on higher ground, my feet dried in a couple of hours.
Our lean-to tonight is an isolated walk-in site. It is far enough down shore of the main cluster of buildings at South Branch that we considered renting one of the canoes here to load firewood along with with our backpacks to get here.

In the end, that seemed cumbersome. I left my money back in the car, the ranger was way from her cabin some were else here, and what’s a little more walking at the end of double digit miles?

Once again, we took off our shoes and socks in order to ford a shallow stream that we needed to cross in order to reach our campsite for the night.

I really enjoyed watching the evening sunlight illuminate the side of North Traveler ridge on the other side of the pond. The colors on the bare ledges intensified as the day dropped away.

Meanwhile Gaspedal kindled a good evening campfire while Rockrabbit used one of his five knives to baton kindling and smaller diameter billets from big dry wood chunks that previous campers had left for us.

The boys then rigged up a line to dry out socks and wet clothing so that they could start tomorrow off with comfort.

Backpackers learn to cut down on pairs of socks, shirts, and any other clothing in order to save weight carried on our backs. One of the tricks that I use to dry damp clothing is to put it underneath my sleeping bag, on top of my sleeping mat, while I sleep. In the morning, the clothes are dry.

On this trip I wear one and carry a pairs of socks, I have two shirts- the shirt I am wearing and a dry top to sleep in, and a pair of long zip-off-the-legs pants as a back up for cold. I pretty much live in shorts in the short Maine summer.




My Keynote address at the Winter Camping Skills Symposium

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 thomasjamrog@me.com if you would like to have this type of presentation or  workshops at your organization’s event. 



Still Slots Open for your Local October Adventure !

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures Trip- Camden Hills State Park, Camden, Maine–Dates: October 23-25, 2015
We’ll hike into the Ski Shelter scenically set amidst birch, maple, and balsam forest on a Friday afternoon.

Ski Shelter
Ski Shelter

We will hike out on Sunday.  The shelter is located approximately 2.5 miles inside Camden Hills State Park. While the focus of this trip will be on backpacking cooking, the weekend will also serve as an opportunity for anyone without backpacking experience to “taste” what it’s like to walk on some beautiful trails and spend a couple of nights in a back country setting in a tidy spot in the woods.

I will be giving a more in-depth course in cooking with home made multifuel ( wood, alcohol, solid fuel tablts) stoves on Saturday night. I will provide the tools, materials, and fuel to allow each person to to make, cook on, and then go home with their own multifuel backpacking cook stove, complete with custom titanium air mixing base plate.

Home made multi-fuel backpacking stove

Camden Hills has 25 miles of excellent trails, including the summit of Mount Megunticook (1,385’). Megunticook is a nearly three mile long mountain ridge extending out to Ocean Lookout which overlooks the expanse of Penobscot Bay. During the day, participants will be on their own to explore the park, or we can group up, if folks choose that option instead.

I am most familiar with the Park’s trails and can provide participants with insight about my personal favorite hikes.
I encourage folks who have iPhones to acquire the $3.99 Camden Hills Hiker app, which is also available in an Android application. We’ll become familiar with the App’s features, and use it to stay “found”.
This trip is permitted for up to 5 participants.  The wood-stove heated shelter has 6 bunk beds, but no mattresses, so participants will need to bring their own sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and personal gear. We will purify water from a stream, and there is a clean outhouse adjacent to the wood-heated shelter.  I can help provide items, like packs  and sleeping pads and bags, if necessary.

Price drop! $100.  Includes lodging/usage fees for 2 nights, and food for Saturday night’s dinner that we will prepare on multi-fuel backpacking stoves. I will send you a packing list.

Contact Information:
207-230-4156 cell, texts.  Your  reservation can be secured with a 50% deposit via mail (to Tom Jamrog, 290 High St., Lincolnville, ME 04849).

ABOUT ME:   I am a Registered Maine Guide.  As a Maine Guide, I adhere to a code of ethics, provide quality service, promote safety, and have trained to be prepared to handle any potential problems.   My professional credentials include Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Nationally Certified School Psychologist. My background and training has prepared me for assisting clients to engage in a successful wilderness experience by bolstering mental preparedness as well as advising clients about gear selection and on-trail techniques.

IMG_2896 I am a Triple Crown Backpacker who has thru-hiked  the three major long distance US National Scenic Trails:  Appalachian (2007), Pacific Crest (2010), and Continental Divide Trails (2013).

Summer’s End: Fall Comes On Stage

Maine woodland
Maine woodland

It’s finally happened.  The heat and humidity that have been making me lazy are gone. It was 45 degrees here in Maine this morning, and the sticky wet thickness in the air went vamoose.

I want to move again. Before breakfast, and not yet 6 AM, I am out the door and trekking down through the acreage of newly mowed fields around my house to re-establish an overgrown trail.

I placed myself on a fitness program this year to average an hour a day, walking fast or riding hard, almost exclusively in the woods here on the Maine coast.

The forest in part of town is riddled with ancient roads and snowmobile trails.

Cleared trail
Cleared trail

In cases when these places are used when there is snow, foot powered passage during the summer and fall seasons is relatively possible.

Abandoned road
Abandoned road

For the past two weeks, I have been clearing trees and brush from a mountain biking loop that is now up 10 miles long. Just to be clear, that’s 10 miles from rolling our my garage and back in.

Wild blueberry field
Wild blueberry field

It is over superb woodland, granite ledges, through wild blueberry fields, beside ancient spreading oaks and maples, with the chance to hop off the bike at then end and take a dip in one of couple of crystal clear ponds.

Levensellar Pond
Levensellar Pond

It won’t last. The light is already dying.

First time in Levensellar this summer, maybe my last?

Hiking in The Hundred – The Last Day

Today was not supposed to be this last day of a 50 mile backpacking trip.

Improvisation ruled from day one, when my intended 3 mile afternoon and soak on the deep pool in front of my favorite shelter, the Cooper Brook Falls lean-to morphed into an 8 mile  jaunt that ended camping au sauvage beside a shoreline 0.2 miles down a branch off  the Appalachian Trail.

The crew from Boston that I am guiding through here is a tattoo-friendly family.  At least two of them were hoping to make the last day of the Boston Tattoo Convention  on Sunday, so today it was up early and out hiking from the

Rokrabbit and Gaspedal depart the shelter
Rokrabbit and Gaspedal depart the shelter

Rainbow Stream lean-to at 7 AM.

After a short climb out of the dark hollow by Rainbow Stream we hoped to make some miles before the predicted rain hit.

Up and out
Up and out

We encountered several sections where the tread was pounded down into a perpetual wet mud layer.

Logs help, but not when they are wet !
Logs help, but not when they are wet !

We have seven miles  of walking  along the shoreline of Rainbow Lake to complete today.

Topday's MIssion: Rainbow Stream Lean-to to Abol Bridge parking lot
Topday’s MIssion: Rainbow Stream Lean-to to Abol Bridge parking lot

While hiking near the Rainbow Stream campsite we encountered a southbound hiker.  I stopped to talk a bit with “Farmer”, after I recognized his Templeton, Massachusetts accent.  It turns out that Farmer and I had both thru-hiked the AT together in 2007.

Uncle Tom and Farmer
Uncle Tom and Farmer

We also realized that we had talked together on that hike as well.  Farmer told me that he started another thru-hike attempt in 2009, with his son.  Unfortunately, Farmer’s son died soon after being diagnosed with brain cancer.  Farmer said that he had several other setbacks since then, including a quadruple heart bypass last year, but that he was back trying to finish his thru hike in sections.  He said that when he hikes, he now thinks of his son.  Farmer is 75 years old.

The rain began to come and go as we were finishing up around Rainbow Lake, so we added makeshift rain covers for two of the packs.

Keeping the gear dry
Keeping the gear dry

Eventually we made it up and to the top of the Rainbow Ledges, but this time, there was no Katahdin view.  Instead, I introduced the crew to the wonders of wild Maine blueberries, which were in abundance just off the trail itself.

Worth it !
Worth it !

Everyone was increasingly tired, so we decided to stop at the last shelter at Hurd Brook, and hydrate, cook hot food, and rest.  This was supposed to be our destination today, after 12 miles of hiking.

The Hurd Brook lean-to going north has a tough, slippery access path over off-canter, slippery boulders that needs to be traversed.  I heard from a hiker that I had guided up Katahdin several weeks ago that she had fallen into the water here, where she also broke her Leki pole.  I had real doubts that we would be able to do any more miles today, but, to my surprise, the gang perked up again on recharge, and told me they wanted to add the 4 extra  miles so that they could gain some time getting back to Boston.

We were all totally soaked from the rain, and needed to keep moving in order to avoid getting chilled.  After building anticipation around every final corner, we eventually reached the end of The Hundred at the Golden Road, where we still had to slog a quarter of  mile to my van.

Not over yet
Not over yet

The feeling of accomplishment and awe at what this family was able to accomplish in these 50 miles of walking overwhelmed for all of us,  and tears of pride and joy fell freely with the rainwater that ran down our chests.

Gaspedal's done !
Gaspedal’s done !

As the four of us we sloshed past the Abol Bridge store, a half-dozen thru-hikers were huddled up under the overhang at the entrance to the store.  I glanced over and waved at them, with a smile on my face.  They were almost done, with just 15 miles of hiking left until the reached the end of the AT on Katahdin’s summit. I shouted encouragement to them.

And our last gift of Trail Magic  was the best of all, when we received a standing ovation of clapping from the hikers as we walked on to our car.  If there was ever any doubt, we all knew that this crew of hikers are now part of the Appalachian Trail family.

The magic of a wilderness walk unfolded itself, yet again.  So much happens in a day out here. The wilderness in Maine will be there when we need it again.

Bugdawg, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit
Bugdawg, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit
Yup !
Yup !

Hiking Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness- First Day

Our five day adventure began by squeezing into Katahdin Air Service’s little float plane for a 50 mile flight, with pontoons touching down at Crawford Pond in the middle of the fabled One Hundred Mile Wilderness segment of the Appalachian Trail.

Great North Woods
Great North Woods

Jim, our pilot, flew low enough that we were able to see good detail right to the edges of the ponds and streams below as he pointed out the path of the Appalachian Trail that we’d walk some 50 miles back to my car around Abol Bridge on the Golden Road.

Uncle Tom, Jake, Deano, and Nick
Uncle Tom, Jake, Dino, and Nick

We thanked Jim for his skill in placing us here on this beach, and I told him that I’d be sure to fly with him again next season.

Ready for lift-off
Ready for lift-off

After departing the inviting sand beach at the southern end of the pond our band of four entered a dark slot in the dense forest and started walking  north.

We enter the forest
We enter the forest

My clients came to Maine from Boston to sample the simpler life in the Great North Woods.   I’m up here guiding a father and his two sons through their first backpacking experience.  I secured my Registered Maine Guide credentials in November, and have had some luck in scoring up some customers.  Dino, Nick, and Jake have purchased, borrowed, and rented gear that they have cobbled together for as they experience trail life for the next five days.

This family has actually listened to some of the suggestions that I made to them. Consequently, we had no issues with blisters today, and I was encouraged by strong hiking from all three.

We met our first three thru-hikers at Cooper Brook Falls lean-to three miles into our hike.  We swam in a deep pool with two young women that had started the AT in Georgia.

Cool, clear, golden pool
Cool, clear, golden pool

They made it north as far as Harper’s Ferry, VA where they skipped all the way up to Maine to turn around and head south, hiking to Virginia where they hoped to complete their 2,200 mile hike.   Also cooling his body was a young man from Norway who had just left the towering Katahdin on his own southbound journey, hoping to reach the southern terminus of the AT at Springer Mountain in Georgia.

On my fifth time through here, I still love this Cooper Brook Falls shelter.  There is a broad rushing water fall to the right and a deep wide pool of water in front of the shelter.   We jumped right into the slowly flowing water and rinsed off the copious sweat that drenched our shirts in just three miles.

I had originally planned to spend the night here at this shelter, but Dino and his boys pressed me to go a bit farther on the first afternoon so that they would not be faced with walking 12 miles on their second day.  I gave in, which  ended up being the right thing to do.

Tonight, we ended up camping “au sauvage” at Cooper Pond, 0.2 miles down a blue blazed (side) trail off the AT, turning my original 3 mile plan to an 8.2 mile accomplishment.

In the end, we pushed an extra 5 miles, and walked late enough so that we were using our headlamps before we had the campsite settled, our dinners done, and the tents up.

When you reach Cooper Plond, the path ends at an old dam. I crossed the shaky , wet rocks at the top of the falls and explored past it, where the path went no further. I noticed a fresh dump area with open clam shells visible beneath the water near shore,  where I suspected that an otter had been engaged in some kitchen prep of his own.
The terrain around our campsite is fully punctuated with rocks and hummocks but we were eventually able to find two flat spaces that held the one three-man ( them) and single 1 person (me) tents.

Tarptent and Coleman tent find flat places
Tarptent and Coleman tent find flat places

The humidity and heat were unrelenting.   We later learned that it reached 90 degrees today, with close to 100% humidity, in Maine !    It was so hot that I laid out on top of my sleeping mat. The humidity and heat were the worst that I’ve ever remembered hiking in my home state.  Thankfully, we were headed past numerous ponds, lakes, and streams, which we’d put to good use tomorrow.

At least I slept.  Dino told me he was tossing and turning all night.   I listened  to the sound of the pond water rushing over the dam nearby and the strange  cry of a single loon wailing out on Cooper Pond.

Here’s the map of our first 8 miles in The Hundred:

Pink arrows- start to finish, Day 1
Pink arrows- start to finish, Day 1