Columbus Day Weekend at Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps-Part 1

Thurs. 10/4/18

I’m a big fan of old Maine sporting camps. The state is full of them still, leftovers from the post logging period where former settlements that housed the little armies of men who worked in the woods were converted to establishments that catered to upper class men and women who wanted to hunt and fish under the wings of Maine Guides. I’ve stayed in places from the Maine/Quebec border all the way down to the Midcoast area, where I bought one of my own tiny camps 11 years ago, on Hobbs Pond, in the town of Hope, just a 10 minute drive from our house.

Hobbs Pond Camp

When Marcia and I had a young family, we started a tradition of spending Columbus Day weekends at Baxter State Park, initially camping in their three-sided lean-tos, until we spent a early October weekend in snow and ice. Fording Wassataquoik Stream when the shores were frozen is painful. Enter our discovery of the Baxter bunkhouses- true winter setups, complete with wood stoves and tighter quarters. Those were larger events that included friends with family, as we learned to reserve the whole bunkhouses for our October adventures.
Times changed and I got into winter camping, favoring traditional foot travel on lakes, rivers and streams. I still do that, hauling ample gear on a long narrow toboggan, even lashing a canvas tent with wood stove and stove pipe to warm the body when it is well below freezing outside. In Jackman, I sampled Chet’s traditional cabins before venturing out for longer forays on Attean Pond and the Moose River.

Lately we’re enjoyed Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, Namakhanta Lake Camps, and are now here at Debskoneag Lake Wilderness Camps, an ancient place, where at east one of the little camps was built in the 1800s.   We are here at Point Camp, set on a tiny peninsula that is surrounded by water on all three sides.

Point Camp

Marcia and I are sharing it with our friends Lynn and Ivan. We came in yesterday and they are joining us today.  You get here by heading directly north from our home in Midcoast Maine for a few hours, winding your way through faded little hometowns, and sparsely settled back country until you veer off pavement just past Brownville Junction to hit the gravel Jo-Mary Road, a relatively solid dirt highway of sorts that meanders some 25 miles through working forest until the road peters out approaching the Debnonskeag Lake Camps.

Jo-Mary Road

We unloaded our gear to a small dock where we were picked up in a motorized wooden freight canoe that transported us a half mile up the Lake to the camp itself.
Leslie is our host here, an Amazonian descendant if I ever saw one. She radiated capability, friendliness and girl power. She was strong enough to heft a fully loaded vintage steel Coleman cooler up to her shoulder as she moved quickly along the very uneven twisting path to deposit our cooler on the floor of the cabin.
I’m usually too busy to relax much of the day, but after we unpacked here I slid into alpha brain wave mode easily when I rocked in the hammock for a while after I started a campfire on the shore of the lake outside our camp.

Marcia enjoying last night’s fire

It rained lightly of and on on the whole time that a grilled hot dogs over the wood coals. I don’t eat hotdogs much but enjoy them and even thick slices of Spam when they are grilled to perfection over hardwood coals. On toasted buttered rolls, appointed with fresh mustard, relish, and a healthy dab of my homemade kimchi, our first supper was just right on this Fall weekend night.
Then some reading and writing in the main room of the cabin, around the big Vermont Castings vigilant wood stove that we didn’t need to light tonight. Although this cabin is tight enough, it is more than 100 years old, and has weathered through so much water and wind and flying debris that I consider living in it for a few days is a rare privilege.

I’m Walking down South- NOT on the FLA Trail !

I’m spending  a week in Disney World where I’m sharing a tent site at Fort Wilderness Campground.  I was in shirt sleeves and shorts yesterday and racked up 13 miles of walking on day 1 and 10 more on day 2.  I’m hanging with my best friend, Edward, who lets me stay at his campsite here any time for as long as I want and he won’t take any $$ from me.  Of course, I have have no rental car.

Edward checks out my new tipi

Edward has  been here from November and will stay until early March, as he has done for every single winter for the last 40 years.  When March comes, he’ll head back to his fruit and vegetable farm in Masschusetts  where a 100  hour per week schedule awaits him for the rest of the calendar year.

I ‘m  testing out a brand new tent,  made by SeekOutside. It is 6’10” high and 12′ in diameter, weighing in at 4 and a half pounds.  There’s just a single telescoping carbon fiber pole.  Here is a a picture of the unit from Seek Outside set up with interior heat with a titanium stove and stove pipe, probably somewhere during elk hunting season  in the Rockies.

-Seek Outside 12′ tipi

From the website:  “The Four-Person Tipi is roomy and storm worthy. Extremely lightweight for the square footage, this tipi is a palace for solo use. It is capable of sleeping up to four with minimal gear, but is better suited to the luxurious solo trucker, or for two with late-season or winter gear.   Handmade in Grand Junction,  Colorado,  the tipi features:  Dual zipper doors with storm flaps, Single peak vent, stove jack with rain flap, 6 inch sod skirt with rain flap, ultra robust stake loops, interior hang hoops for tying clothes line for hanging gear, and external guy-out  loops to steepen walls, or pitch the shelter down in tight spots.”

I am awaiting shipment of a custom titanium stove and stove pipe from Don Kivelus, owner of Four Dog Stove out of St. Francis, MN.

I have  been using one of Don’s full size titanium stoves for 15 years of winter camping and it is still like new.  The big stove pairs with with a much larger, custom 9 x 12 foot Egyptian cotton wall tent that stands 7′ high.  It easily houses 4 winter campers and all gear.

This tent is targeted for personal use, and will hold only one more camper and all the accompanying gear in winter.  I plan to experiment with this tipi and stove later this February on a multi day winter camping trip in Acadia National Park. If everything works out,  I should be able to transport the tipi and stove on racks bolted to the rear of my Surly Pugsley fat tire bicycle and embrace winter riding and camping in style.

3/17 trip into Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Stay tuned for the updates on this project.

 

 

 

Mid Year Update from Uncle Tom’s Adventures – What’s Up?

With half of 2017 gone, there are six months of adventures still available for the rest of year. Here’s what’s on my plate right now:

Finish up writing my first book!
I have completed the writing and the editing process for In The Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail.

Train, General Lee, Dick Wizard, Breeze CDT 2013

My CDT Trailjournal  has logged 275,000 web visits to date. The book is completely revised version of my 2013 Trailjournal, adding new historical material and dialogue.  I’ve scheduled a design meeting with the publisher tomorrow to discuss selecting the color photos for the book. I plan for 30 pages of photos, and have been going through thousands of them in the past two months. We’ll  be discussing fonts, graphics, and map placements. Copies of the manuscript are already out for final checks as well as possible endorsements. If all goes as planned, the book should be out by Sept. 1. It will be carried on Amazon, and will go into a Kindle version as well. Stay tuned!

Complete my recovery from my May 22 accident while descending the Bigelow range.

The real deal

I’m 95% through rehab on a torn hamstring and severely bruised back. Riding my mountain bike is better for me than hiking now. I have to take care not to overextend the range of the hamstring.

Prepare for my Aug.6 presentation at THE 41st APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY CONFERENCE – AUGUST 4 – 11, 2017 AT COLBY COLLEGE | WATERVILLE, MAINE
I’ll be giving a Sunday morning presentation (W0613)- Why Walking Matters: Benefits of Walking/ Improvisational Skills in Long-Distance Hiking.

“Tom Jamrog, Triple Crown thru-hiker, author, and Maine Guide with Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures. From the ages of 57 to 63, “Uncle Tom” thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking, and discusses physical training and mental techniques that can bolster an aging hiker’s continued success on the trail.”

Hike a new trail in Newfoundland. -Private Trip- August 8-25
Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail is “One of National Geographic’s Ten Best Adventure Destinations in the World”

East Coast Trail- Newfoundland

From the East Coast trail Association’s web site:
The East Coast Trail unites 26 wilderness paths, along 108 miles of North America’s easternmost coastline. The paths of the East Coast Trail take you past towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. Experience abandoned settlements, lighthouses, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, the world’s southernmost caribou herd, historic sites, a 50-metre suspension bridge, two active archaeological dig sites, and many more attractions.

Guide a trip of The Whole Hundred ! (Abol Bridge->>Monson)
September 1-10— SOLD OUT

Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness is a huge, largely uninhabited region, beginning on the outskirts of Monson, ME. Many thru-hikers consider Maine the best part of the whole 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. The Hundred Mile Wilderness appears on many hiker’s Bucket List. This southbound trip will take place over 9 nights and 10 hiking days, allowing for ample time to settle into a comfortable schedule. We will take advantage of a mid-point resupply service, so that we will not need to carry food for the whole 10 days. This trip is suitable for a hiker who is able to carry 30 pounds on a 10 mile average per day. We’ll stay in lean-tos, and/or tents, space permitting.
Price Includes: -Ground transportation from Lincolnville ME, mid-point resupply cost (you provide the food, etc.) packing list, and on-trail skills instruction. Meal assistance is available by arrangement.
-Up to 2 hours of pre-trip preparation consultation (via phone) is provided to participants. Group size is limited to 4.

19th Annual Winter Camping Symposium-Oct 26 -29, 2017.  YMCA Camp Miller, 89382 E Frontage Rd, Sturgeon Lake, M.

Tenting with Bad Influence on Moosehead Lake

I will be presenting at this excellent immersion weekend in Minnesota. Topics to be determined.  I gave the Keynote address here in 2014.

23rd Snow Walkers Rendezvous -November 10-12, 2017 at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont.
Includes presentations, workshops, information about wilderness trips and amazing food! Participants may choose to stay in cabins, tents or commute to the event.
I hope to offer a new presentation: Winter Fat Tire Biking/Camping in new Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

 

 

 

 

Avoid Hedonic Adaptation

Reblogging today’s post from Tim Smith at Jack Mountain Bushcraft School.  Tim cuts right to the core with this post, plus I’ve picked up a book recommendation that I am going to follow up, as well.  Tim’s been a great source to help me to stay off the treadmill.

Source—>: Avoid Hedonic Adaptation

A goal I’ve set for myself this year is to be mindful and grateful for what I’ve done and what I’ve got. My plan for doing so is to avoid hedonic adaptation…..

 

Tending+The+Cook+Fire.jpgimgmax=608
Photo from Jack Mountain Bushcraft blog

YouTube: Four Dog Stove Talks with Uncle Tom at Winter Camping Symposium 2014

Four Dog Stove | Talk with Tom Jamrog | Winter Camping Symposium 2014 – YouTube.

In October I went to Minnesota as the Keynote Speaker for the Winter Camping Symposium.  My presentation was entitled Adapting Winter Skills to Survive Snow Conditions on the PCT and CDT.  I also assisted with sales and answering gear-related and technical questions at Four Dog Stove‘s vendor booth during the weekend. I appreciate the sponsorship given to me by Don Kivelus during my two most recent thru-hikes: The Pacific Crest Trail (2010), and in 2013, the Continental Divide Trail.

In this brief video, Don and I discuss our mutual upbringing in farm families, the lack of spontaneous outdoor play in many communities, and my impressions about a most enjoyable weekend and meeting new friends while learning skills and techniques for enjoying the outdoors in all seasons.

“How To”- Winter Camping in Heated Tents

My crew- out on Attean Pond around Jackman, ME-  Hauling a heated tent set up.
My crew- out on Attean Pond around Jackman, ME- Hauling a heated tent set up.
Just in time for holiday gifting. Consider an immediate purchase of the grandaddy/grandmummy reference of old-school traditional warm comfort in the winter camping.

This book has been out of print ( again ) for several years now, but is back and available untilo it sells out again. I recently re-read the book (I have a couple of my own treasured inscribed copies) and discovered additional material that I’ve somehow overlooked or breezed over on past readings.

You won’t find this Fourth edition on Amazon, but it’s now available from one of the authors:
Snow Walker’s Companion : Winter Camping Skills for the North, written by Garrett & Alexandra Conover
Paperback – 288 pages, 32 full-color pages, from Stone Ridge Press.

Snow Walker's Companion
Snow Walker’s Companion

From the North Woods Ways Web site:
“Snow Walker’s Companion is a guide to comfortable winter camping using tried and true traditional equipment and native skills. The Conovers show us how to sleep warm, travel safe and enjoy the white season. Guides in Maine and Labrador for over 30 years, Garrett and Alexandra have learned not only how to survive in the North in winter, but to thrive. They share their little known secrets in an easy–to–read conversational manner.

-Learn how to stay warm in extreme temperatures
-Tips on reading lake and river-ice conditions
-Practical advice on setting up tents & stoves
-Choosing the right footwear and clothing
-How to pick the best snowshoes for you
-Common sense psychology for the trail

BONUS! A 32–page color insert on Garrett & Alexandra’s epic 350 mile snowshoe trip across Ungava, Quebec. Excerpts from their journals are highlighted with photos from the expedition.

Prices: US: $25 + $10 (s&h), Canada: $25 + $14 (s&h), Europe: $25 + $20 (s&h)

If you would like it inscribed to someone, send the name(s) along. You can pay via PayPal. Remember to include your shipping address. Checks may be made out to:

North Woods Ways
2293 Elliottsville Road
Willimantic, ME 04443
USA ”

In the meantime, if you can’t wait for your own copy and want to learn more about the specific techniques that are detailed by the Conovers, check out this recent blog post from Paul Kirtley, entitled How to Live in A Heated Tent . Paul runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions. Paul’s photos and text hits a lot of the highlights of just how heated tent winter camping works in the UK, which is strikingly familiar to how it works here in the USA and Canada.

If you decide to get your own copy of the Snow Walker’s Companion, tell Garrett that Uncle Tom sent you.

Two great presentations from the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous (Nov. 2014)

Two superb presentations took place in November at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT.

If you would like an overview of the whole Nov. program, I recommend tuning into Alex Gusev’s six minute YouTube video. Alex is handy with the camera, and weaves several presentations into a compact package.

Now, on to the two highlights of the weekend:

The first was Scott Ellis’ multimedia presentation entitled “Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping”.  I appreciated Scott’s low-key approach to having adventures outdoors.  Scott’s got tons of experience, and puts together informative videos about taking minimal gear and having fun in all conditions.  For his presentation he loaded up some clips from his videos.  Here is the full length version of him taking a piece of plastic sheeting, building a makeshift teepee, and putting some heat and comfort in his shelter by setting up a wood stove stove in there.

The second top-shelf presentation was by Paul Sveum , ” 21 day Snowshoe Trip in the Boundary Waters”.  His talk  highlights a twenty one day winter trip that takes place in march of 2014 in Minnesota, from the end of the Gunflint Trail (Saganaga Lake) 75 miles into downtown Ely. It was a particularly cold trip, with night time temps getting to 55 below zero.  Paul is an instructor at the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School way up north in Marsadis, Maine. The video captures an adventure of a lifetime, with a cast of characters that you rarely get to watch in action.  

It’s these types of programs that keep me coming back to Vermont every November to catch the latest installments from the Masters of Winter Wilderness Travel. It’s all set to repeat in Nov. 13-15, 2015. The event cuts off reservations at 100 folks, and if you have never been there- consider going. Stay tuned to this bog, where I’ll post the registration link sometime next fall.

Snow Walker’s Rendezvous – welcome to winter 2014

Last weekend, I attended the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Vermont .

Home made tent and stove
Learn by Doing

I experienced the weekend through a new lens-through the eye of a newly Registered Maine Guide.  Other Maine Guides were in attendance, including Master Maine Guide Tim Smith, and another new friend I made at the weekend, Portland-based Lou Falank.

I really enjoyed hanging out with Tim on Saturday night.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith has been finding his way into the conter of the bushcraft/backwoods survival skills spotlight for some time now. He developed and continues to run his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School,  the highly respected Maine-based ” University of Outdoor Skills” .  Tim’s long-term immersion programs are the longest and most comprehensive bushcraft, survival and guide training courses in North America.

What’s bushcraft?  The JMB website explains: ‘Bushcraft is the active component of our interaction with the natural world. Both art and science, bushcraft is doing, making, crafting, traveling, building and living in the natural world. It is an inclusive term for doing things outdoors and is composed of activities such as, but not limited to, primitive skills, modern survival, classic camping, expeditionary skills, prepping, hiking, paddling, crafting and outdoor living, as well as more specialized disciplines such as hunting, fishing and trapping. Bushcraft has no political agenda or worldview, isn’t about preparing for the end of the world, and isn’t an “ism”. It is made up of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who share a love for being active outdoors.’
Now Tim’s going to be on our living-room or palm-based screens in upcoming episodes of Dude, You’re Screwed on the Discovery Channel.  Tim’s episode should be entertaining us before 2015 rolls around, sometime in early December.  Stay tuned for more details.

The normally bushcraft-distant New York Times gave considerable column length to the show in their Dec. 20, 2013 review :  “Dude, You’re Screwed” centers on five men, most with advanced military training, who take turns running gauntlets designed for them by the others. Episodes open with essentially a staged rendition — the mark is kidnapped, hooded and bound at the wrists, then spirited off to who knows where. Unhooded, he’s left to fend for himself with just a handful of tools provided by the team. (As for suspension of disbelief, wouldn’t the participants know their destination when they’ve presumably gone through passport control?)
While the contestant in the game — all the men refer to it as “the game,” though there’s no prize — makes his way through various struggles, the other four men observe him remotely, and sometimes say grim things like “Moisture kills out here.”
But more often, their mood is light. Its like the home run contest before the All-Star Game, an essentially meaningless display of skills where titans watch one another show off. But the casual mood also serves to take the edge off the very real struggle of the man in the wild.
I want to see this show, but I don’t subscribe to the Discovery Channel.  If tell you when it’s on, can someone help me see it?  

I also had a great time talking with Lou Falnak.

Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe
Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe

Lou runs his Mountain Bear Programs and Guide Service.
Lou has provided programs as a director, instructor, and co-facilitator at camps & schools across Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. He’s a Registered Maine Guide. His L.O.S.T.(Learning Outdoor Survival Techniques) Program specializes in bringing youth from a wide variety of backgrounds into the outdoors to learn skills and experience community. He’s making a difference in the lives of children in the Portland area, bringing after-school bush-crafting skills to the next generation.

Lou and I hit it off. We’ll get together in the near future, after Thanksgiving, to do something together in the outdoors.

I  was recruited to kick off the weekend at Friday night’s whole group meeting ( the event cuts off at 100 registrants) with a half hour reading from my blog. This was old school, no iPhoto or Powerpoint, just one guy trying to entertain the faithful by reading a half-hour story of an actual deep winter adventure in the Maine woods.

I  read about my one-week walk across the frozen Moosehead and Seboomook Lakes.    Here’s the link to the talk- this time there are photos and three video clips –The Great Slush Walk of 2009.

Mark Shaw exits our hotel room
Mark Shaw exits our hotel room

I plan to include at least one more entry about the weekend.

There was so much to be excited about !

Uncle Tom Keynotes at Minnesota’s Winter Camping Symposium

“We are excited to announce a new addition to our Winter Camping Symposium: KEY NOTE SPEAKER – Tom Jamrog.
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Saturday’s Key Note Address will cover: Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting to Snow Travel in the High Sierras and Rocky Mountains.

Tom Jamrog has been backpacking, riding mountain bikes, and living in the outdoors for close to 50 years. Tom maintains his popular blog: Living Large While Walking The Big Trail, and Tom’s Trailjournals have amassed close to one million web visits.

From 2007 to 2013, Tom backpacked over 8,000 miles in the United States. On October 24, 2014 The American Long Distance Hiking Association-West awarded Tom the Triple Crown of Hiking, for having completed continuous through hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails, joining a relatively small club of 200+ individuals.

Tom has completed winter trips in Canada and conducts yearly trips in Maine, where he has lived with his wife, Marcia, for the past 40 years.”

I am really looking forward to my visit to the Duluth area next week, where I hope to connect with some old and make some new friends.  I’ll  be working at the Four Dog Stove booth at the event, so please stop by and say hello.

Full schedule, speaker and workshop details here ! 

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014

Tent City at Snow Walkers' (2013)
Tent City at Snow Walkers’ (2013)

I am presenting a talk in Vermont at this event, upcoming in November..

My talk/ photo display will be : Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting for Snow Travel in the Sierras and the Rockies

It’ a great weekend of all things winter foot- travel related.  It sells out at 100 registrants every year so far, so get in touch with Lynn if you are interested in going.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014
November 7-9
Hulbert Outdoor Center
Fairlee, Vermont
Friday, November 7 – 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday, November 8– 8:45 am- 9:00pm
Sunday, November 9 – morning – workshops & informal hike/ bike

Join us for our 20th informal gathering of friends (and friends of friends) who love to travel traditionally in the winter wilderness. We’ll have slides, and films and lots of information to exchange. Bring your favorite items from the North to display: maps, books, photo albums, sleds, tools, etc. All are welcome to display tents and share traditional camp set-ups.

Partial list of folks sharing their experiences:
Katherine Donahue NH Steaming North: 1st Cruise of US Revenue Cutter Bear,Alaska & Siberia,1886
Ruth Heindel VT Stories from the Poles: Science and Adventure in Greenland and Antarctica
Paul Sveum NH 21 Day Snowshoe Trip on the Boundary Waters
Mirelle Bouliano QU Skiing Northern Quebec
Craig MacDonald ON Richmond Gulf Traverse 1979
Bruce Lindwall NH Back Country Skiing the Sierra Crest Trail
Tom Jamrog ME Winter Walk the West: Preparing & Adapting on the Pacific Crest & Continental Divide
Scott Ellis VT Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping

WORKSHOPS:
Alex Medlicott NH First Aid for the Winter Trail – Cold Injuries; prevention,recognition;treatment
Ann Ingerson VT Sewing Your Own Winter Gear
Tim Smith NH Axe Handling
Ross Morgan VT Knots for the Trail
Paul Sveum NH Food Planning for the Trail
David & Anna Bosum QU (Tentative) Cree Culture
Film – “On the Wings of Mighty Horses” – Sakha Republic
Geoffrey Burke NH Build your Own Toboggan
Loranne Carey Block NH Felted & Knitted Sock Fiber Arts for Camping
Tour of the Tents & Stoves Traditional Equipment Display
Used Equipment – Sale/Swap Bring your fiddle, guitar or musical instrument for evening fun…
AND MUCH MORE…………………………..

Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.
Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.
Meals & lodging package for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)
Commuter & tent rates available (see registration form) Thanks for mailing or faxing your registration after Oct 1. Sorry we cannot accept phone registrations.

Registration Questions: Lynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org