Saturday, June 14, 2008

Permanent Vacation...Oh, I wish!

Well, I have thought about it....a permanent vacation would be nice. But, at least for the last 10 days including the weekends I have been off from work. I started Friday June 6th with a Red Sox game with my sister. It was her first Sox game and we had some incredible seats in the State Street Pavillion down on the 3rd base line. The game was not that exciting though, they got spanked by Seattle and lost 8-0. Below is a picture of Coco the night after the big mound charge. You just knew it was bound to happen. I say, Go Coco! The Sox play the Rays again in July....We'll be watching for sure. I think Johnny Gomes or Carl Crawford will be wearing some baseballs in their next series of games? The new rivalry with Boston...The Devil Rays.

On Sunday June 8th, Steph and I hiked into Huntington Ravine on Mt. Washington. It was Stephanie's first time into Huntington's. We had a great time, though bittersweet, it was nice to be in the ravine. We had it to ourselves, no one else made the journey up there. It was a warm and humid day but, we were able to cleanse and refresh in the cold running water of the Cutler River. We actually had to take our boots off to get through the first river crossing on the Huntington Ravine trail. It was bone numbing cold!!!

Still some ice and snow left in the first weekend of June.
Huntington Ravine, Mount Washington

The view south and east from Huntington Ravine.

Both Monday and Tuesday were pretty chill....Though the temps were soaring in the 90's with high humidity. I was watching some nasty weather predicted for Tuesday and it was as predicted. So, I postponed a trip to Northern Maine a day and shook things up a bit from my original plans. I had considered going into the Allagash Wilderness Waterway for a day of paddling but, Steph and I have a 5 day trip planned next month, so I thought I would save it for then...Plus, it's much more fun than paddling alone. So instead, I decided to head up to Acadia National Park on my way to hike Mount Katahdin (climbing Katahdin was in the original line up). I was not disappointed! The drive to Acadia was pretty quick, 3 cd's on the I-pod and driving our VW Rabbit made the trip smooth and fast! The Acadia and Bar Harbor area I think is one of my favorites. I stopped in at the Park Visitor Center and asked one of the Rangers a couple of questions, she quickly tried to size me up asking..."Have you ever driven the road"? This was in response to me telling her I was going to ride the park loop road and climb Cadillac Mountain on my bicycle. I think she thought I was a bit crazy? My questions to her did not seem all that unusual, I am sure that some other cyclist has asked how much it cost to get through the gate on a bicycle....The answer $5 bucks for a seven day pass!

The Otter Cliffs

There was some paving activity on the road which was not very nice but, I was through it quick enough and continued on my way. Riding on the park loop is incredible, as it was especially on this day. There was hardly a car on the road! I stopped to take a bunch of pictures, here is one of my favorites, where the Mountains meet the Sea...

I stopped at the Jordan Pond House to top off the water bottles and then continued riding towards the climb. Arriving at the base of Cadillac, I was focused and ready. It is really not that bad, averaging about 7% grade and climbing to 1500ft in 3.5 miles or so...But the scenery is just spectacular! I figured I would take all my photos on the ride down because I did not want to stop on the way up, all the time wanting to suffer and take the pain, which was minimal. I came off the saddle a few times in the steeper sections but, mostly stayed seated grinding through. Arriving at the summit was nice, the ocean views incredible! There were a lot of people and I did not want to deal with them hiking to the true summit. So I hung around in the parking lot taking in the views. I had a summit friend land near me...I think he thought I had a bucket of french fries for him to eat?

My Summit Friend

My ride down the mountain was pretty quick. I looked at the time on my bike computer and knowing I still had to drive 2.5 hours to Baxter State Park from Acadia I stopped only a couple of times to snap a few pictures of the amazing scenery.

Looking South and East to the Atlantic Ocean.

Cadillac Descent, Max speed 42 M.P.H.

I was back at the car pretty quick, I changed up and ate a few snacks for the next leg of the journey to Baxter. I love driving through Northern Maine, once your past Orono, it is all pretty mellow. It is almost like traveling through a long tree tunnel. The Maine DOT has been doing some thinning of the forested median strip dividing the north and south sections of the highway...I don't like it personally but, oh well...

It took me just about 3 hours to get to the Touge Pond Gate of Baxter State Park. The black Flies were very plentiful and according to the Ranger on duty, this is the worst section in the park. I think it is a black fly conspiracy to weed through the Massholes and weak minded!
Those who pass through the fly feast with little discouragement are granted the magic of Baxter. After all Governor Baxter said it perfectly...

"Man is born to die, His Works are Short-Lived.
Buildings Crumble, Monuments Decay, Wealth Vanishes.
But Katahdin in all its glory Forever Shall Remain the Mountain of the People of Maine"

Having read these words before many times, never did they mean so much to me as they did this time around. Mount Katahdin to me, is one of the most amazing mountains I have ever climbed. A year ago to the day of arriving here at Baxter, I was hunkered down in a tent, perched on a steep, snowy ridge on Mt. Rainier. It was snowing and cold on Rainier. My friend Pete and I were tent bound for about 36 hours. From the time we left the car at the Paradise trail head, to minutes before we left for our summit attempt it was foggy, blowing snow and cold. I could not help but remember that adventure last year. I know Pete was with me in spirit as I arrived for a climb on Katahdin. Looking back, we sure did eat some good food, we laughed a lot and made the very best of being stuck in a tent for that amount of time...After all we were on Mount Rainier! Fast forward a year and the healing continues with the loss of our dear friend Pete. One of the reasons I ventured to Katahdin was to continue my "therapy" and see the good in all the bad that life has to offer.

I was able to get a reservation for a Lean-to at Abol Campground. Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond were still closed due to all the snow they had this winter and the only two hiking trails on the mountain that were open were Abol and the Hunt trails. The weather for Th
ursday was supposed to be the pick of the week and I planned to climb the Abol Trail, then depending on the conditions once atop the summit, I would contemplate going partially across or completely across the Knife's Edge and back then back down the Abol trail. I arrived at the campground and checked in with the Ranger and made my way to Lean-to #6, one of the nicest ones in my humble's close to the water, quiet and well spaced from #5 and #7. The campground overall was very quiet, only one other lean-to and a tent site were occupied...So I was able to have some P & Q. I was pretty hungry from my 30 mile bike ride so I made a quick dinner. The last couple of years I have taken to the Enertia freeze dried foods, especially the Switch Back Spaghetti. Simply add boiling water to the pouch, add the food mixture and set aside for 7 minutes, add the included sauce and salt & pepper, parmesan cheese and a couple of blocks of cheddar (not included) some bread and your ready to chow. YUM, I ate my meal in the car so I could listen to the Red Sox game..It was perfect timing as I was able to hear Varitek's HR into the cars on Landsdowne St. Plus, I was able to eat and not be eaten by back flies! I partied a bit after dinner eating chocolate and drinking a Mike's hard lemonade before retiring for the night.

I awoke pretty early and with out the aid my alarm clock at 6 am Thursday. The sun was out and it was due to be a beautiful day. I quickly made some coffee and while it was steeping, I gathered my gear and food for the days hike. Coffee always taste so good out camping, I had Starbucks Italian Roast in the titanium french press....Yum! I got my gear packed and in the car and then moved it to the day use parking lot since I was only camping for one night. The Ranger was all thumbs up, only commenting that it could be a bit breezy up there. So up the trail I went! It is such a pleasant hike, the Abol trail climbs gently from the Campground to the base of the slide in 1.3 miles, which I covered in about an hours time. I stopped at the base and celebrated a little with some snacks and water.

Looking up the Abol Slide.

I forgot just how steep this trail is! Climbing up, I was quickly reminded of that! The picture above does not reveal that minutes before it was looking pretty ominous up there with some dark clouds. I had taken a break thinking...I hope it clears up by the time I get up there....Then as I was looking downhill at the scenery, I turned around, looked up and the clouds were gone...just like that, and it was only blue skies ahead! One nice thing was, it was breezy like the Ranger said, so the black flies were not a problem at all...In fact, I had long pants, a hat and light jacket on. It was about 50 degrees climbing up the slide and was noticeably colder the higher up I got.

The view from the top of the slide over the Table Land and looking towards the Summit and Knife's Edge.

As I got to the Table Land, as it's called....The view towards the summit was a great reward for the effort climbing the slide trail. The table land is a relatively flat area surrounding parts of the mountain. It is roughly four miles long from the summit of Hamlin Peak to the tops of the Abol and Hunt trails and it falls dramatically into the Glacial Basins of the North and South. The Table Land is amazing to look over...abundant with rocks covered in alpine lichen, meadows of alpine grasses and alpine flowers as well as some small spruce shrubs. It is a very special part of this mountain.

A sample of Katahdin's Wildflowers

Once on the summit, I was granted amazing views of the Knife Edge and the Hamlin and Howe peaks as well as South Turner mountain and of course Chimney Pond. The Wind was blowing pretty good and it was a bit chilly for a "warm" June day, about 42 degrees. There was still some snow on the Chimney Route and a few small patches of snow in the South Basin. I decided to forgo my hike across the Knife Edge and just hang out for a while before heading back down the Abol trail. I had planned to drive home that night and considering the wind speed and the time of day, that was a good decision to make.

Summit Photo.

Hiking down was pretty quick and uneventful...Though at times I was looking up at some of the HUGE boulders that sit precariously at the top of the slide...I hoped nothing would fall on this day.
Once at the car it was time to drive home...This has to be the worst part, leaving always sucks and I always dream of the next trip to this part of the State of Maine. The drive took about 5 hours to get home and it was nice to see Steph and the Kit kats after a couple of days away. The rest of my time as I sit and type this post has been pretty quiet. I go back to work tomorrow and honestly I really don't want to....I guess maybe I'll start wasting some money on Mega-bucks tickets? Maybe we'll win big and Steph and I can live our dreams of traveling in reality....But if not, then we'll make the best of the time were here and keep doing good things and just enjoy our lives together.

I end this post with a memorial to our cat Gus who died from a long fought battle with Feline HCM (heart disease) 5 years ago this weekend. It's amazing what our animals can teach us and I feel fortunate to have had Gussie Lou for the time we did....