Canoeing and Hiking at Donnell Ponds Public Lands

I finally got around to exploring the mountains and waters Donnell Pond Public Lands for three days over this past Labor Day Weekend.   This is the first combo canoeing/hiking adventure that I’ve taken in several years.  My shoulders have just not been able to handle the paddling, but things worked out this time, due to the linted water travel involved.

Big canoe- compact car

This summer has been a bit of a bust in Maine due to the almost unrelenting humidity and heat, but now that September and cooler weather has rolled around, I am again interested in exploring the best of what Maine has to offer.

From the Natural Resources Council of Maine web site: “The Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land unit includes mountains, pristine lakes, and remote ponds all spread out over 14,000 acres in eastern Maine. There are sites for camping along the pond’s beaches, and great options for those who enjoy paddling. The land included in the unit has grown over the years to reach this expansive size with the help of different conservation groups and generous private landowners.”

For those of you who are not familiar with Maine’s Public Lands, they are an option to the State parks, and Acadia National Park.  Permits are not required if you use established fire rings, and there are no fees for camping, where you are allowed up to 14 days at one campsite. Leave No Trace practices are encouraged.

Here’s a overview of the DP area ( top of map), located some 12 miles east of Ellsworth:

A bit of history from the DP website:   “No notable Native American archaeological findings have been discovered here. During the nineteenth century, attempts were made to extract gold, silver, and molybdenum from Catherine Mountain with little success. The logging that has long been part of the history in the area continues to this day. Recreation and leisure play prominently in the history of the area. For nearly two hundred years before the advent of refrigeration, ice from Tunk Lake was harvested during the winter and stored in sawdust-filled icehouses for eventual sale and distribution. A lakeside fish hatchery on Tunk Lake supplied small “fry” fish for sport fishing until the 1970’s. Wealthy vacationers established an estate on the south end of Tunk Lake in the 1920s. This estate would later end up in the hands of famed Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and was a recognized historic landmark until it was destroyed by fire in the 1980s.   The land conserved at the Donnell Pond Public Lands was assembled in phases with the assistance of numerous conservation partners-The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Land for Maine’s Future Program (which helped to fund more than half the acreage acquired), the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and private landowners deeply committed to conservation.”

Our campsite on Redmond Beach allowed us to put in a full 9 mile day that took in Caribou and then Black mountains via the Caribou Loop Trail.

Approaching Caribou Mtn. summit
Granite land

Here’s a shot of our campsite.  I’m in the tipi, and my hiking pal Guthook is in The One.

Redmond Beach campsite
Another angle

The next day, we awoke early in order to beat the wind and explored much of the North shore of Donnell Pond, checking out the shoreline for possible campsites for future trips.

From our campsite on Donnell Pond

In my experience, the magic hour for wind picking up in favorable weather on lakes and ponds in Maine is 10 in the morning. It is uncanny.

My Bert Libby canoe

We eventually crossed over to the western side of the pond at the narrowest point where we followed the shoreline to the popular Schoodic Beach, which is more easily accessed by a 0.5 mile trail from the Tunk Lake Road/Route 183 parking area. As we were exploring the shoreline on our way down Schoodic beach we came upon two hikers with fully loaded packs trudging through the water heading for the Beach. We stopped and asked the two girls what was going on and one told us she was a student at Harvard University who came up here with her best friend. On the spur of the moment they drove up from Boston to Donnell Pond to camp on Schoodic Beach. When they experienced the overloaded level of camping and merriment there they had bushwhacked up the shore in order to have privacy and escape the noise. One of the girls had also been greatly distressed by the sight of a snake, so they took to aqua-blazing. They jumped at the chance to hitch a ride back to Schoodic Beach in our canoe. They asked us if there were any other places where they could camp for free Guthook steered them to Camden Hills State Park, where I agreed that they would find a better experience camping on the summit of Bald Rock Mountain in Lincolnville.

Tenzing at Bald Rock Mountain’s summit shelter
Schoodic Beach

We beached the canoe on Schoodic Beach and did a relatively quick hike to the top of Schoodic Mountain, a 1,069′ gem of a walk,  and 3 mile round trip that leads to  excellent views of Frenchman’s Bay and the mountains of Acadia National Park.

Schoodic summit view

Carey Kish’s AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast book was my best resource for hiking the Tunk Mountain and Hidden Ponds Trail that we were able to fit in the last day of our getaway.

Another resource for exploring the area is ‘s excellent review, complete with video footage:  1-minute hike: Caribou Mountain near Franklin

Kish’s 4.9 mile, 3 hour, and 1,060′ elevation info was spot on, as was the description of the extensive open mountain ledges and far reaching views of the Downeast landscape, and full-on views of the Hidden Ponds.   Sometimes we walked over a rooty path, lending a Tolkienesque quality to the experience:

Where’s Guthook? Hint-blue blaze

It was a kick to see the occasional ATV churning up a cloud of dust on the Downeast Sunrise Trail far below, where I’ve biked and even camped on a few years ago.
The Downeast Sunrise Trail is an 85-mile scenic rail trail running along the coast connecting multiple scenic conservation areas, and providing year round recreation opportunities. It is open to snowmobiles, ATVs, horse-back riders, skiers, hikers, bikers, walkers, and joggers. It passes through several sections of the Donnell Pond Public Lands between Franklin and Cherryfield. Here’s the link to my bike-packing experience on the Sunrise Trail.

Exploring Donnell Ponds Public Lands is a must if you haven’t checked it out.  The foliage should be coloring up soon , which will only add to the experience.

I’ve planned several hiking trips for the next few weeks.  Next up- 5 days of  challenging backpacking in Baxter State Park, including a long hiking day which includes The Traveler Loop.

Stay tuned!

 

Summer is Officially Here: Get Moving

“Aires ( March 21-April 19). To get where you want to go, you’ll have to make your way through the crowd.  Start moving and people will get out of your way. Movement is what makes things change.”- Daily Horoscope-Holly Mathis, 6/25/2018

Nature is ahead of me on this one.  Somehow,  in a surprisingly short amount of time, the vista outside of my big kitchen window is a mass of slowly expanding movement of green: my lawn, the hay fields all around me, and the three hundred and sixty degree panorama of forest that surrounds our house.

My ever-expanding vegetable garden is fully planted and growing steadily.  I’m already harvesting lettuce, green onions, beet greens, parsley , and celery.  Unfortunately the deer are also moving in to eat my plants, and I plan to install my electric fencing tomorrow after this rain lets up.

Bugs are moving.  I’ve pulled out one tick and plucked off a dozen already.  Did you know that tics are blind, and detect animal hosts through body odors, breath, heat, movement and vibrations?

I’ve got a few mosquito bites decorating my neck.  I’m not much bothered by mosquitoes after experiencing the massive numbers of them in Labrador on several of my motorcycle and canoeing trips there over the years.  Its all relative.

On thing that has assisted me in maintaining a level of activity that has kept my weight down, and in shape for backpacking is setting movement goals.  I have two: biking 1,000  and walking 1,000 miles a calendar year.

I monitor my movement progress through the use of the Strava app, where one of the functions allows users to view distance totals by sport on their Profile page.  As of today, I am 26 miles ahead of my biking pace

but 52 miles down on walking.

I plan to get moving on this by doing several two-hour hikes this week to climb back to hiking pace.

Lifestyle changes matter.  People who live in cities often walk more daily miles than us country residents, where services are too far away to access without driving a vehicle.

Looking for ways to move that are functional helps.  For example, I amassed 17,369 steps (8.4 miles via Fitbit) last Friday where I spent the better half of the day tilling, planting, weeding,  fertilizing, mulching, and watering the veggie garden.

When it stops raining today, I plan to fire up my little tractor and attach a cart and move down to the woods where I have stacks of unsplit rounds that I’ll haul up to the wood shed to split and move under cover for heating the house this winter.  I still cut my own firewood which leads to all sorts of strength, twisting, and core work.

This afternoon I plan to walk thee miles to my friend Dave’s house in Lincolnville Center where I’ll cop a ride to my weekly Men’s Group get together.

But I’ll be competing for a place on the path with the ticks, who will be waiting for me as I walk through the unmown hayfield and the brush that is filling up the abandoned Proctor Road as I move my way down to the pavement of the Heal Road that will lead me to open space walking to the Center.   I plan to wear long pants, sprayed with Permethrin and hope for the best.

The solstice passed on June 21.  Winter is coming.  Get moving !

 

 

 

Study vs. Action ? Improve Your Backpacking Success

People get better by putting time and effort into understanding and practicing the components that are necessary to complete a task,  job, or even a sport, like backpacking.  I recently read an article by Tim Herrera in his NYTimes Smarter Living column that challenged my thinking about improving my long distance backpacking skills.     Here’s the article:  Just Working Harder Won’t Get You Ahead. Working Smarter Will.    In sum, Herrera postultates about variables that affect skill levels in advanced  performers. Herrera claims that the strongest predictor of skill wasn’t time spent practicing; rather, it was time spent in serious study.  Unfortunately, Herrera draws on just one example- the “sport” of chess, as his example.

screenshot 14

In my experience hugely more productive to engage in the activities and practice the basic principles that bolster one’s chances of success than spend that equal time in serious study of backpacking books, websites, and videos.

Backpacking and hiking are activities that should be as natural as waking up or going to sleep- after all, once we learn to walk as babies, life is just putting one foot in front of the other, right?   Well, yes and no.

Walking is easy until you turn your ankle and sprain it, or worse.  It’s easy unless you find yourself off-trail in a unfamiliar area, or if you need to cross a raging stream that has the power to sweep your feet out from under you.

Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

Walking is no problem, until you are walking on ice slanted on an impossibly steep slope, or a bear rips into your backpack at night and absconds with your food.

Experience trumps familiarity, which brings up another pitfall of trying to master a set of physical and mental skills by reading, listening to,  or observing others engaged in the practice.   You fall into the pit when you follow up unreliable advice that comes your way  due to the ability of media to make a pitch look polished and professional when in fact it may even be uninformed ofreven false.  For example, I attended a workshop in April 2010 in Southern California as I was starting my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail  dubbed ” the foot talk” where a former PCT-thru hiker told us anxious group of wanna-bees that blisters were inevitable.  At the time, I had just switched to a pair of military issue desert boots that were supplied by New Balance that were loaded with mesh panels to dump moisture.  I was fortunate to complete that hike blister free, as I have with any other long distance hike since then.  Sure there were a few more things that I had learned bout taking care of my feet that I applied on my hikes, but the point is that experts don’t know what is best for you, and maybe not even themselves.

Edward tells me that , ” It’s still not right”

I bought a new tent this year- a 12′ diameter tipi , with one 6’10” pole, that required  serious study and practice to set up.  I brought my new tent to Florida this past January where I was camping with my best friend Edward.   I had watched two videos about setting the unit up as well as read the instruction sheet that accompanied the tent.  I also read all the customer comments on the website about setting it up.  I laughed when I read the comment about the poor guy who took 2 hours to set his tipi up the first time  in an actual snowstorm.   Would you believe that it also took Edward and me two hours to set up the tent, and that was in warm weather on perfectly flat ground ?  The written instructions were confusing, and we ended up devising a much simpler method for doing the job right, getting the setup down to 10 minutes after two hours of actual engagement in the act of putting the thing up taught and secure.

In Zen Body-Being, Peter Ralston writes about developing physical skills, power, and even grace.   In 1978 Ralston  became the first non-Asian ever to win the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament held in the Republic of China.

Ralston writes about the wisdom of experience:  ” Studying techniques and training ritualized movement may be useful, but these are ‘details’ within a larger picture.  We need to  be able to discern the sometimes-subtle difference between just thinking about something and truly experiencing something.  One of the simplest ways to bridge this gap is to involve ourselves with hand-on experimentation and investigation.”

So,  make 2018 the year you experience the outdoors and engage in hiking and backpacking more than you spend those same hours on screen while sitting on the couch.  Set a goal to get out for many hours, where you might be blessed enough to be able to walk though rain, snow, wind, cold, and dark and have the realization that walking might just be putting one foot in front of the other, but it isn’t easy, and it doesn’t have to be done on blistered feet.

Goodbye, Golf Clubs. Hello, Hiking Boots…..

William Widmer for The New York Times

 

Today, I ate my usual eggs and toast Sunday morning breakfast that precedes my regular “Bubba Church” mountain bike ride with my aging off-road posse. On early morning Sundays, I read the digital version of the NY Times and catch up on the news, fake or not. I didn’t find much of interest today, so instead I clicked on my Instagram feed where I download media to read later at my leisure. Instapaper is my own custom newspaper.

I don’t ever listen to podcasts when I eat breakfast, but today I am pleased that I did. I listened to Texas Parks and Wildlife Podcast’s Epidode 13: Hiking Across Texas.  It is short, only 12 minutes long, but it spoke deeply to me today.   It’s a refreshing interview with Dave Roberts, 72 years old. Dave is currently on a 3,000-mile “ramble” across Texas, weaving through at least 40 national parks.

I  remember reading about Dave a year and a half ago, and dug up the following article about Dave, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who has found his unique retirement groove- long distance walking, biking, and kayaking.  Dave’s on a $20-a-day budget for this Texas adventure, but more importantly appears to have exactly the right attitude to keep on doing what he enjoys best- being outdoors and having varied experiences.

As Dave puts it, ” If everything does according to plans, you are not having an adventure yet.”

Do listen via the podcast link above, and if you like what you hear, read the Jan. 2016 Times feature below, to learn more about Dave and other retirees who have stood up to leave the couch for later.

My own dream is to walk across the US, someday.

For Exercise, Nothing Like the Great Outdoors

I’m sitting here on a dreary, gonna-be-hot-and-humid Saturday morning and deciding whether to hike or bike a bit this morning.

It is exactly half way into the 2017 calendar year. I’m just been through a month of recovery from a bad fall I took on May 22 coming down off the Bigelow ridge after clearing downed trees and cutting back brush  trail on the Appalachian Trail.  I had built up a bit of a cushion since Jan.1  just in case I experienced any setbacks (like a torn/strained hamstring and bashed up back).  Those of you who follow this blog know that I am a huge fan of setting goals, be it for fitness, or for scheduling upcoming trips that help me to spend time outside, and get me moving through the countryside.

I use the Strava (Premium version) App to track my progress for the year, with my overall efforts looking satisfactory. I’m on track for a year of 1,000 miles biking and another 1,000 miles of walking.  So far, I’ve broken 18 personal records while engaged in 156 activities that have taken me 241 hours to complete.

Mid year progress 2017

 

Breaking it down, I’ve done a bit better with biking than walking, with 516 miles logged:

My walking/hiking is just a shade behind, at 489 miles, just 11 miles short of my half way mark of 500 miles.

My walking miles are just a little bit behind.

So, I’ll I head out for a walk now instead of a ride.  If I put in a couple of hours, I should succeed in adding 6 miles or so.  I am fortunate that I can leave my house and walk in relative peace and quiet.  I’m done with the gym. I live where it is easy for me to walk or ride out my door. I plan to keep it that way.

Bottom line:    Strava goal setting helps, choosing activities that your enjoy to do for exercise helps even more, and staying in contact with other folks that like to bike and/or  hike is an additional lifestyle choice that promotes fitness in an natural and enjoyable manner.

From – The New York Times

How Much Should You Exercise? | NutritionFacts.org

utcold
Baxter State Park

Many of us struggle with deciding how much time we should put into exercising. The truth is a bit difficult to put into practice, due to our busy lifestyles.  You may be dismayed to learn that it takes serious time for your efforts to translate to better health and improved longevity.  In my case, the 75 minute a day target significantly turned health bio-markers around for me, via moderate walking, backpacking ,or biking .

Check out the FACTS below.  Note that you can watch the video or read the transcript of the video.- T. Jamrog

Physical fitness authorities seem to have fallen into the same trap as the nutrition authorities—recommending what they think may be achievable, rather than simply informing us what the science says, and letting us make up our own mind.

Source–>>: How Much Should You Exercise? | NutritionFacts.org

Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack

When the Adventurer of the Year from both Outside and National Geographic Adventure magazines speaks, I listen!

“Actually, there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to backpack.In this sense, backpacking is like driving a car, learning to play the violin, baking a cake, or installing a toilet. I suppose you could do it your own way, but you may get hurt, you will not improve as quickly as you should, you may be unsatisfied with the end product, and you may have to mop up sewage that leaked through the wax gasket. What is the right way to backpack?”

Source: Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack

Stalled Out on Fitness Progress

I’m injured. It’s early November and I’m now at my lowest point in working toward my fitness goals for this year.
October 16 is a bad day for me. Last year, I was off my bike for a month after I had a crash going over a rocky stream bed in the Rockland Bog, an event that occurred on Oct. 16, where I opened up a large gash on my knee as well as bruised the top of my shin bone. A bruised bone is a painful experience. I take so much longer to heal now than when I was a younger man.  It seems to take a month for me to heal.

Would you believe that this past Oct. 16, the exact same day, but one year later, I had another unexpected bike dismount, and in the Rockand Bog- again? This time I rolled onto my decrepid right shoulder when the soft ground crumbled underneath my mountian bike tires as I was skirting the edge of a deep mud pit. Thankfully I landed on a grassy patch of soft earth, but the damage was done.

According to the best shoulder surgeon in Maine, I own a right shoulder that is as worn out as one on an 85 year old man. It is riddled with arthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis, with bone to bone contact coming and going.  Among my seven surgeries, I have had two shoulder surgeries, one on each with the last in 2007, where the same Dr. Endrezzi told me that my right shouder would need to be replaced in 5-8 years, so I am overdue.  I see him yearly now, where he takes a fresh x-ray of the joint and compares it to past xrays, where we note the progression of disease. It’s only a matter of time. I just hope it is not that time right now. I am not ready for surgery, particularly the long rehab required for a complete shoulder replacement.
I have tried riding my road bike just once since Oct. 16 and even the act of trying to relax my arm by resting my palm on the soft right grip and occasionally shifting and lightly braking resulted in a spike in the pain, so no more bike right now.
Thankfully, I can walk, so hiking has been my sole fitness choice for almost a month now.

On Jan.1, 2016 I set a yearly goal of hiking 1,000 miles and biking another 1,000 miles. I was making excellent progress at reaching both, until now. I have my 1,000 mile of hiking in the bag already, but I still need 250 miles of biking to happen in the next month and a half.

Here’s my Strava data, reflecting my totals to date:

Strava hourl/day/month 2016
Strava hour/day/month 2016

I feel cushioned by logging 93 hours of combined hiking and biking in Septmber this year, a strong number that reflect  three weeks of extended backpacking.
Another new goal for 2016 is me averaging 75 minutes of moderate to more walking or biking a day.  My research points to that number is the optimum level for me to gain positive mental and physical benefits.  Less than that produces lesser results, and any more appears to not only reduce benefits, but brings about a cascade of fatigue that increases inflammation and requies me to do nothing for a day or two in order to recover.

I learned about heart rate variability from a fellow psychologist this year, and since April, I  have developed the habit of taking a three minute reading while wearing a heart rate chest strap and firing up the Daily Beat HRV app after I wake up each morning.  Based on the reading, I adjust my activity level for the day.  Personal subjective assessment of my mental and bodily fatigue is often out of line with what my heart rate variability numbers indicate.  95% of the time,I feel good and the numbers tell me to push it for the day, but I recently came down with a cold, and before the stuffed head and sneezes started, my HRV readings dropped significantly.  The time variations between my heartbeats leveled out, a signal that suggests compromised metabolic activity that needs to be respected by backing off and resting a day or more.

The outdoor temps are predicted to be up to almost 60 degrees today.  My HRV reading to day was back to favorable.

hrv
SweetbeatHRV

I plan to log some slow miles on easy terrain today, as I hope to be finally back on track to wrapping up a very good year of hiking and biking.

And yes, I have already voted today – that was done a couple of weeks ago by absentee ballot.

First Time Inside Maine’s National Monument

This past Columbus Day weekend, I finally set foot on the spanking new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.   It was easy.

To the Monument!
To the Monument!

I followed a marked, signed 1.8 mile trail from Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps on the (Map Adventures) Katahdin/Baxter State Park map.   I was spending the four day weekend at Windy Pitch cabin at the most excellent Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps (KLWC), which is presently into year 7 of their 20 year lease from Baxter State Park.

Windy Pitch cabin
Windy Pitch cabin

The collection of log cabins goes way back to 1885.

The Monument encompasses 87,500-acres of mountains, rivers, and forests abutting the eastern edge of Baxter State Park, land donated by Roxanne Quimby, whose company, Bert’s Bees, sold to Clorox for $925,000,000 in 2007. Through President Obama’s executive action, the unit was added to the National Park Service in September as a national monument, bypassing the need for Congress to authorize it a national park.

Despite media portrayal of this Monument as an unfair land grab by the Feds, it’s 87,000 acres represents less than 1 percent of the total forested lands of Maine.  According to the North Maine Woods website, there are 3.5 million acres that are considered North Maine Woods. That’s a whopping 0.236% of those privately held lands.
The move to make the land public was a long, protracted battle that is still being waged by a local faction that strongly resists any government encroachment on their traditional uses of the land, be it hunting, snowmobiling, or riding ATVs . There are still prominent National Park-NO! signs greeting the approaching tourist who exits I-95 in Medway to reach the Monument. Unless the citizens of Millinocket decide to upgrade unimproved gravel roads leading out of town into the area, this won’t be much of an issue for them, because both the South and Northern entrances to KLWWMN completely avoid traffic into Millinocket or even East Millinocket.

I stopped into the new storefront office of KWWNM on Maine Street, Millinocket, just a few doors down from one of my favorite eating establishments, The Appalachian Trail Cafe.  The ranger there informed me that entrance, lean-tos, campsites, and even some cabins are free right now on a first-come, first-serve basis but campfire permits are still required from the Maine Forest Service (207-435-7963).

Downeast Magazine has an excellent review on the Monument that is full of  tips, pictures, and places to go.

In my case, I was pleased to finally walk it, although it was a brief visit.  Make no mistake about it, these is not 87,000 acres of pristine forest. This lower portion of the Monument is made up of recently cut-over land and it still shows.  Critics point this out, but my review of Governor Baxter’ initial purchases of what is now Baxter State Park was largely made up of land that had been burned or denuded. Here’s an example of Baxter land pre Baxter State Park.

Logging in present Baxter lands previous to State Park
Logging in present Baxter lands previous to State Park

Pretty bleak, I’d say.  Regrowth will also happen here, but it may take 50 years or more. I have walked thousands of miles of trails in the past 10 years, and cut over and/ or burned forests show up, but then they tend to grow back to be enjoyed by future generations.  Same here.

fullsizerender-10
Ivan  heading out of Katahdin Lake

Today, my hiking partner Ivan and I decided to walk up as far as the first new lean-to and then meander our way back to KLWC. There were exactly 9 cars sitting in the parking lot leading from the gravel Loop Road.  Others were in there, on overnights, or day trips. The lean-to was a mile from where the Baxter side trail came into the Monument. The path was still a logging road, and damn straight as well.

Southern End of the IAT into Monument
Southern End of the IAT into Monument

The lean-to was built in 2012, of standard log construction with a new outhouse nearby. There was water flowing close for drinking ( purify!).

Katahdin Brook lean-to
Katahdin Brook lean-to

We sat and ate lunch and then headed back.

We decided to try and walk back one of the old logging roads that went in just below Rocky Pond, east of the outlet of Katahdin Lake.  The road looked relatively new, and was probably upgraded ten years ago for timber. A half mile in, it dead ended. I fired up my GPS and saw that if we went directly south through the woods, it would take a quarter of a mile to intersect he mid-point of the same trail we took from KL camps to get to the Monument.

Bushwhacking it is!
Bushwhacking it is!

Ivan was totally up for it and led the way, bushwhacking through fairly thin saplings and dodging several unruly blow downs.

It didn’t take very long for us to reach the KL trail back to the camps.  In fact, we came out within 50 feet of the northernmost section of that trail, a very fortuitous happening. I have done a bit of bushwhacking, where results are generally more elusive.

I plan to get further into the Monument, for canoeing and backpacking. I might even pack my fly rod.  I hope to get away for a couple nights during deer hunting season here in November, as the largest western parcel bordering Baxter is free from hunting. Four additional parcels east of the East Branch are established for traditional hunting ( minus bait and dogs on bear).

I have enjoyed walking most of the trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park, which is just 90 minutes drive along the Maine Coast from my house.  I think it is time for me to explore my share of the Maine woods.

Baxter State Park: Day 3 of 6

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.

Crossing Howe Brook
Crossing Howe Brook

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.

The fruit of a little labor.
The fruit of a little labor.

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,

A diseased specimen tree. Adequate chaga is left on the tree.
A diseased specimen tree. Adequate chaga is left on the tree.

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.

Gaspedal and Rokrabbit mucking along
Gaspedal and Rokrabbit mucking along

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.

Improbable find !
Improbable find !

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.

Viewing Russell Pond from the shelter of The Moose Inn ( Lean-to #4)
Viewing Russell Pond from the shelter of The Moose Inn ( Lean-to #4)

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.