Saturday, December 26, 2009

Swingin Tools, Kickin Feet

Just back from the first day of Ice Climbing season for 09/10. It was a full-on-winter-conditions-day out there. I climbed with my good friend Todd today. We headed to one of my favorite areas to climb, Mount Willard in Crawford Notch, NH. It was a blustery day, but not terribly cold. We climbed the lower section of Hitchcock Gully before traversing right to the base of a climb called Left Hand Monkey Wrench. I urged Todd to lead this pitch, saying "It's your turn to lead this one" (last year we did this one together and I lead this pitch), and so he did, in fine style I must add. I forgot my camera, but I managed to take this shot below with my Iphone.

Left Hand Monkey Wrench is such a great climb, and sure does beat the tricky mixed lower Hitchcock Gully pitch. Plus, we were out to ice climb, not frozen moss, and dicey rock with crampons on! After cleaning Todd's gear from the route and joining him at the belay, we coiled the ropes and moved to the upper tier of cliff band. The wind was HOWLING and snow was blowing around intensely. We looked at East Face Slabs right, one of the climbs on the upper tier. I really would have liked to have lead this one today, but looking up at the top section of ice and the trees up there getting blown all about, it was a good call to save for another day and not risk getting blown off the climb. So we opted for the more "sheltered" upper Hitchcock Gully. It was my turn on the sharp end and it felt like I had just climbed yesterday, not last spring! My head was in it and feeling the climbing love. I started up and quickly got blasted from up slope winds and blowing snow, I looked down at Todd, only 40 feet or so below and I could not see him, complete whiteout conditions. It was pretty intense! At the first ice screw, it went in quick and felt very secure, bang, quick draw clipped, rope clipped, climb on! Only about four feet above my pro, my head says, wait a second...lets put a little more safety in this system! Bang, shorty screw in quicker than you can say "shorty screw", quick draw clipped, rope clipped, head level...climb on! I ran it out to the next screw about 20 feet, just before a tricky ice bulge, I put in another screw. Some of my screws are old and not so sharp...this third one was a bit more difficult to get good purchase in the ice, but eventually gave in to my efforts and I was off ascending this beautiful blue ice on such amazing terrain. I think I placed one or two more and ran the rope out to the top, as the difficulty eases the higher up you get. I absolutely LOVE climbing on Mount Willard. The routes we climbed are not necessarily difficult, but great for breaking off the couch (not really) and getting back to placing gear and climbing with good technique. I took this next photo of Todd seconding my pitch up Hitchcock in furious winter conditions.

We were going to traverse to a climb called "The Cleft" and top out on the Mount Willard Hiking trail and hike back to the car, but decided to rappel off the cliff and head to town for some food at the Flatbread in North Conway. Once again, a great day in the mountains with a great friend.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Whoa~ Long time no Sparky Adventure...
Actually quite the opposite! Admittedly, I've been lazy on the writing front, but in reality, all too busy with life. Fall is over, Winter is here! I've managed a few long-ish October and November road rides, which were most excellent. I have also been trying to commute to work on my bike at least once a week, and I have also been Mountain Biking quite regularly.

So let's talk Winter!
I spent a couple of hours last weekend for some Winter Climbing Gear Organization. Crampons, ice axes, helmet, ropes, rock pro, ice screws, snow shoes, the list is long, and the equipment heavy! I am actually looking forward to this winter and while I was sorting through the above quiver of tools for the trade, my mind wandered - as it often does - to many past adventures in the mountains with good friends. 2010 will be a better Winter than the last two, there are a lot of climbs to revisit and hopefully a couple of new ones to add to the resume, we'll see how the conditions and my skills move along. One really cool thing is, I just bought some new skis for my approach to the more remote areas and the weekly Wednesday night ski with the mountain bike crew. I purchased some Karhu 10th Mountain skis, 165 cm (short and sweet), and I will be using my Silveretta bindings. These skis are full metal edge, wax less, with climbing scales. I will also have skins for the steeper climbs. Thanks to Roland and the Neptune Mountaineering crew in Boulder, CO for the excellent customer service. The skis I am replacing are some 10 year old Rossignol Haute Route Extreme telemark skis which were heavy and not very touring friendly. Though, I will be saving them for sure! I skied the Tuckerman Ravine head wall with these, so they are slightly famous.

The Sun emerges with a sparkle on freshly fallen snow, Mount Agamentics 1/11/09.

Baxter State Park recently relaxed the rules regarding winter access to Mount Katahdin, now allowing Solo Winter travel and no minimum party requirements. With regard to solo climbers, you are not allowed on technical terrain, where the use of a rope and protection would normally be needed. What I like hearing about these changes is, the ability to attempt a winter hike from the Abol campground and up the Abol slide to the summit, which I am currently considering, unless I can entice a friend to do a longer Chimney Pond ice climbing / hiking summit trip.

So Winter is here, not much we can do to change it now... I am going to embrace it and go outside and play in the snow!

Solo Climbing in Central Gully, Huntington Ravine Mount Washington 3/17/09

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dempsey Challenge Ride

I'd like to start by thanking everyone for helping me to raise funds or who sent words of encouragement for my participation in the Inaugural Dempsey Challenge. A ride, walk and run fundraiser put on by Patrick Dempsey, for the Dempsey Center for Hope and Healing at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, ME. I rode on the Team Ali's Rack Pack, in Honor and Memory of, Alison Dumont, a life long friend who sadly passed away two weeks before the event. Even though I hadn't seen her in several years, when I learned she was fighting Cancer, and that her close friend Kim was organizing a team for her, I jumped at the chance to get involved. Alison was a great person and she fought cancer very hard, especially in her last few weeks. She was a brave soldier and for many more, the fight continues on. The way I see it, I had the easy part, the ride! In today's tough economy, you all gave from your hearts and I appreciate it very much. One Hundred Percent of the funds raised were given to the center for patient care. While I rode, I had many people on my mind who I know have crossed the battle line. In 2001, I gathered with family by my Grandmother's side as she slipped into eternal life from her quick battle with Lung Cancer. I thought about that a lot on my ride, life changes you after watching a loved one, someone, or anyone die. I think I had a couple of moments along the way where I had to hold off some emotions thinking about Memere and Alison, but also probably from some of the pain I was putting on myself. This was part of my plan from the start, ride hard and try for a personal best time over one hundred miles. One never knows how they'll feel starting, continuing, and actually finishing a long ride like this. From the start I rode pretty fast and quickly caught up to Dempsey's VIP group who had started about three minutes before everyone else. He was pretty much surrounded and I wasn't interested in chatting, but it was pretty cool to see Professional Cyclists Ted King, George Hincapie and Dave Zabriskie riding in this event.

After riding with the VIP's for a few minutes, I latched on to a fast group and never looked back. I rode past the first rest stop eleven miles into the ride and planned to stop at the second at about twenty three miles. My life long friends, Jason and Jim Roy along with Steve Jalbert were volunteering mechanical support for the riders, I was glad to see they were super busy. I was pretty cold and wet since the roads had been soaked with rain water from the start. Thinking ahead, I strategically stashed some chain lube and dry cycling clothes in their truck the day before, so I took five and lubed my chain, but didn't change any clothes, knowing I had more rainy weather ahead. They were to be stationed at mile seventy five, so I knew having dry clothes near the end would give me some comfort and incentive to finish strong. Pretty much from this rest stop to the end of the ride, I was riding on my own. Plenty of time for thought and reflection when "throwing" yourself out there!

At mile Fifty, around the other side of Long Lake in Harrison, the sun came out and the roads were drying up. I took a long break and ate some much needed food at the rest stop. All the rest stops were well staffed with volunteers and plenty of goodies for the riders to eat, Bananas, Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, Oranges, plenty of Water and Gatorade as well. They could have had more "salty" treats (which I suggested in a post ride survey they sent out).

Arriving at mile seventy five, I was getting my ass kicked, or kicking my own ass, giving it my all and riding hard. In a typical century ride, I wouldn't have the opportunity to change from rain and sweat soaked clothes, but man, was it nice to get into some dry shorts and a dry jersey for the final twenty five miles. I loaded up on food to get me back to Lewiston and set off on a blistering pace for the final stretch. Some where around the back side of the Auburn Airport, I saw a sign that read "Twenty Miles to go"...What? Oh No! Twenty more miles I thought? I had calculated about twelve, so that hit my psyche pretty hard. Muscle through it I thought to myself....

I rolled across the bridge into Lewiston feeling great and honestly ready to be off the bike. The event was pretty much done and there were just a few folks lingering around. I still had to ride my bike a couple of miles back to my car.

Thanks to my friend Kim Laverdiere for organizing Team Ali's Rack Pack, Thanks to the Roy Boy's for letting me stash some dry clothes and chain lube in their vehicle, Thanks to all the volunteers and event organizers, Thanks to all my sponsors for your donations and words of encouragement, Thanks to my Mom for letting me crash at her house the night before, Thanks to all the Cancer Soldiers for fighting so bravely and continuing that fight! Thanks to Patrick Dempsey for giving my hometown some limelight and starting this great event. I am looking forward to next year's ride for sure.

My ride stats were-
Total Mileage- 102 miles
Total Elevation Gain- 5743 Feet
Total Elevation Loss- 5368 Feet
Ride Time- 6 hours and 35 Minutes

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Allagash Wanderers

What would the last weekend of summer be like without a trip to the Great North Woods of Maine?
I prompted a long time friend about a month ago to head up this past weekend. We marked it on the calender and started the planning. We shared a common goal and each had our own motivations for heading up. Mike wanted to reminisce on the days he and his Dad traveled to the Allagash Wilderness for some camping and fishing fun. I wanted to scout more of the area for future kayak camping missions.

Mike celebrating the "end of the pavement" with a few photographs.

Golden Road looking West from the Greenville Road junction.

I've never been west on the Golden road beyond the winter access to Chesuncook Lake, so this was all new terrain for me. Our first stop shortly after we turned on the Golden Road was at the North Maine Woods Caribou Checkpoint. We paid our camping fee's, $56.00 for two people which included a day use fee in addition to the camping per night. Our destination was the North Round Pond campsite. This would put us very close to Allagash Lake for our planned hike on Saturday morning. The road was in pretty good shape and we did not see one logging truck, only a couple of Pick-ups which looked like loggers with the typical stuff the carry in the bed. We stopped at our first POI, The North East Carry road, which will lead you down to NE Carry. There is a store there! Also, you can access Lobster Lake from here, which is also the start for many West Branch of the Penobscot River trips. The bridge at Hannibal's Crossing was our next stop. I said to Mike, with a name like that I have to stop! It was a lot like Chamberlain Bridge, long with side rails and in very good shape. The scenery was just incredible and I envisioned what it would be like to travel on the river. The water looked nice and flat, flowing ever so gently through the wilderness.

The West Branch looking West toward Lobster Stream at Hannibal's Crossing.

West Branch looking East.

Minutes after Hannibal's we took a right onto the Ragmuff Road. This long North Woods road takes you into the heart of the Allagash. I've wondered what it was like and I was not disappointed! At the start, she's fairly straight and wide, then it narrows and becomes more of a one lane, two track road. We rushed a FAT Black Bear around one of the corners, I was in shock! I've never seen a Bear in the wild and immediately I felt nature's power and saw the bear's beauty as he turned up an embankment and gave a look back before lunging further into the forest. The contrast from his black fur to the tan around his snout was incredibly beautiful. I would say he was probably a year or two old, and certainly putting on some weight for the approaching winter. We rolled by that spot slowly and I asked Mike if he wanted to go follow him for a better look? No, was a quick reply and I agreed it was probably better to let him be. Soon after this we missed a turn, but realized it once we arrived at the Loon Lake Dam. Indirectly, we would have arrived at the same spot, but we turned back since we had intended to take the Ragmuff road to Caucomgomoc Dam, where the Round Pond road starts, just a short 5 mile round trip detour.

Back on track, we arrive at the Caucomgomoc Lake Dam. You actually drive over this one!
Mike took this picture of me taking a picture of Caucomgomoc Lake.
*Photo by Mike Auger*

Lake and Clouds, the cove near the Caucomgomoc Dam.

The foliage in Northern Maine is just starting to turn and we saw some red and orange colors that were electric! I captured a few here along the shore of Ciss Stream which drains Round Pond into Caucomgomoc Lake.

Ciss Stream with a little foliage popping out here and there.

We arrived at our campsite to find no one there! WoooWhoo!! Let the party begin! I cracked a couple of Mike's Hard Lemonade's and shared with Mike (no relation to the MHL guys). After driving for about nine and a half hours, I was ready to just chill around camp. We took a stroll down to the water and then each began setting up our tents. It was quite breezy and cool, showing a bit of fall and winter due to arrive in the coming months. Soon it was time for some dinner, pizza on the grill! I'm trying to perfect this meal and not sure the grill is as good as a hot oven, but it worked out well and we enjoyed mushrooms, onions and chunks of fresh garlic on the pizzas, YUM! At one point after we ate, I headed to get some water from the pond for dishes. I noticed when I flashed my light that there was something glowing in the water, I thought it was a canoeist just off shore of the campsite, but after telling Mike and hearing some splashing, we realized it was a BIG Moose feeding on the vegetation in the water. He must have been huge since the glowing eyes were about two feet apart. We tuned in the Red Sox game on the crank radio and partied a bit more before retiring for the night. I slept great all night and was woken up by Mike around 6:30 AM, him saying there was a Mother and two young ones in the pond just out front of the tents.

Moose wake up call!

After a while the little guys got out of the water and waited for Mom to finish feeding. The whole time they were keeping a close eye on us at the campsite and when she cautiously started heading out of the water and greeted them on shore, they hurried to her side and let off some grunts and groans showing their affection. It was an amazing display of animals communicating to each other. Then they slowly started to head up toward the road and we got a couple of nice pictures of them there.

They would return two more times during our stay at Round Pond.

What can you say about coffee while camping...I can think of many words, but to sum it up, delicious! After breakfast and watching the moose we took a quick walk down the road to Poland Pond, just a short distance from camp. Mike had been in there with his Dad many times over the years and he seemed happy to have walked in there for the memory's. He told many tales of The Allagash Traveler and the travelers who traveled in it. Fun to hear about and imagine what it was like back in the day. We hiked back and walked into the "Inlet Campsite". This was nice, but it would have been difficult for the VW to get in since it was quite muddy and rutted deep in one spot. I was liking the campsite we were at, but good notes for future trips in. Arriving back at the car we jumped in and started up the road to Allagash Lake. I thought it was close, but learned we had to drive in about two miles. On the GPS it was about two and a half and we had to park about a quarter mile form the gate since the VW again was too low to make it right to the parking spot. A bummer for sure considering future trips in, unless I get that Toyota Tacoma or Subaru Forester I'm dreaming of lately. We parked the car and started the hike. Shortly after hitting the trail we stumbled upon this girl.

She wasn't interested in negotiating our passage, I took this quick photo and she took a couple of steps toward us. My hands went up like I was under arrest (to make myself appear bigger than I am), so did Mike's. He said "should we yell?" "Yeah" I said, so we yelled "Hey get out of here, Go Home!" She stared us down and Mike reached for his camera, as he did, she looked right and calculated her options, then she trotted off down the trail and into the woods. We continued down the path with curiosity as to where she was, we never did see her again, but figured she was close, watching us walk right by.

The hike into Allagash Lake is very nice, with no real difficulties to note. Pulling a fully loaded boat on a kayak cart might be a different story, but before long, we were at the Ranger Cabin, which was not occupied. Something tells me the Ranger was due to be back before winter as there were still screens on the porch and it looked like it was not winter ready. I immediately went to the water and baptized myself by splashing water on my face and head. It felt great, and my imagination went wild wondering what it will be like to paddle this amazing waterway. We paused for some pictures before heading up the Tower Trail to the summit of Allagash Mountain.

Self portrait at the Ranger Cabin.

I've thought about climbing Allagash mountain for years and the only way to make it happen is to make that effort. Looking at Allagash mountain from Chamberlain Lake on my many visits, it commands the North West view. The trail starts gently for about 100 yards and then goes straight up to the summit, literally! There are no switch backs and it goes uphill steeply! It is a short hike about three quarters of a mile to the summit. There is a Fire Tower on top and I just had to climb it. I will admit, under normal conditions I would have been OK, but it was pretty windy and I haven't climbed much of anything since winter Ice climbing. I got a little gripped all the way up the ladder, and hesitated to push the triangle door open to gain access to the tower. I stepped down with fear and then climbed in. Only long enough to get a quick look around (five seconds or less) and then started to climb down. The wind was very gusty and it freaked me out...Mike took a few pictures of the climb.


*Just pushing the tiny door open.

Well, I am happy to report the Fire Tower never fell while we there, so I wish I had a little more nerve to stay up there for a bit longer. I'll blame the wind for sure! We stayed on the summit for a long time, trying to pick out lakes and mountains in the distance and just admiring the view of Allagash Lake, which is spectacular by the way!

Allagash Lake from Allagash Mountain.

While on the summit we were greeted by two Turkey Vultures who were soaring and catching the thermals, taking advantage of the winds. Mike got some great pictures of them, this one is my favorite.

We eventually made our way down the mountain and had lunch at the Ranger Cain close to the lake. I have to mention this. The Ranger did some repairs to his HUGE canoe it looks like it needed some new fiberglass over the keels. One thing that bothered me was he made a MESS of applying the epoxy to cover the glass fibers and I mean a MESS! So Mr. Ranger, what happens when your canoe hits a rock next summer on the lake and one of these pieces of epoxy lies permanently in the water? This is supposed to be a protected waterway. I hope your end of season tasks include cleaning up after your self and covering the epoxy some how...This is clearly seen in Mike's picture of me making our lunch. Lunch was fantastic, we had mozerella, basil and tomato sandwiches on Naan bread doused with Olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

*Gourmet Lunch on the shore of Allagash Lake, with a touch of epoxy!

After lunch we headed out, taking a brief walk down the Carry Trail to the Carry Trail campsite. This one is nice with a couple of camping cells, one on the shore and one just inland. Then we hiked back to the car and headed back to camp. When we arrived we had guests from N.H. Wes, a firefighter from Newfields, NH and his Chica from Portsmouth, we never did get her name, so I call her Chica! We also met Bono, their/her puppy beagle. He was fun and crazy! We took a ride to Johnson Pond, which is another five miles up the Johnson Pond road. Along the way we saw a huge pile of Bear scat (shit) and around a corner we saw him, Buddy Bear! Mike was able to g
et a picture of this guy.

* Buddy Bear!

After checking out the access to and shoreline of Johnson Pond, we headed back to camp for some drinks and other party treats. Our neighbors had gone for a ride in the car and we relaxed a bit, knowing they would return on our terms. It's funny how some people are, they waltzed right in and set up right next to us. I would have camped up closer to the road if I came in and saw someone all set up, wanting to give myself and my camping neighbors some peace and quiet. Some people just want to be close I guess...? We had a great meal with separate dishes of Vegetarian Chili and Chicken Curry. Then I made a couple more drinks and caught a good buzz. We retired fairly
early and I feel asleep in my tent listening to my IPod.

Sunday we woke up to the Moose family again and then quickly ate breakfast and packed up the tents and hit the road. Our goal was a big old loop on the North Woods Roads. It was awesome putting the pieces of the puzzle together and recon'ing the area for future trips. I close this BLOG with some pictures from the road trip and a GPS track of our road trip from Round Pond to the end of the Telos Road, at th
e Golden Road junction. Thanks for reading!

Allagash Stream just upstream from Chamberlain Lake.

Amazing North Maine Woods Roads.

New Access to the waterway, day use only, no starting or ending of trips from this location!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb 2009

I did my first Race up Mount Washington yesterday. It was absolutely amazing. Almost a somewhat spiritual journey to 6288ft. My time was 1:30:42. I am very happy and now hooked on doing this event for the next few years...staring the annual tradition 8/21/2010. Thanks to my lovely wife Steph for driving the car and screaming at me when I rode by her...and all the incredible photographs and support.

Steph waiting for the Bike-Cyclers, enjoying a beautiful morning on Mount Washington.

The obligatory summit shot!

Cycling in the shadows of the Mountain.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Three Examples

Three examples of ways to give to your fellow human. Fortunately for Stephanie and I, we have been taught yet again from the book of lessons in life. We just returned from an incredibly beautiful weekend in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. While our adventure differed from that of the thousands of people who also made the worthy journey to this special spot here in Maine, surely a few of the thousands of people took something back with them to further enhance their lives.

Our first encounter, all of them coming to us on the very last day, was high up on the precipice hiking trail. The term "hiking" is all relative. This trail climbs steeply up the eastern flanks of Champlain Mountain. Nesting Peregrine Falcons keep the t
rail closed for most of the year, and my recollection was that it had been closed entirely over the last few years, but now after the chicks fledge, hikers are allowed to return for the climbing fun. We had initially considered the Ladder trail on Mount Door, but after riding through the park loop road with our bikes on Saturday and seeing that it was open, the deal was sealed in my mind.

ortly after starting the route, you come to the "Eliminator" where the first set of Iron Rungs that climb a 8 foot high ledge send people back to admire the view from below. Steph cruised it and I knew then we would not be eliminated. Admittedly, she is afraid of heights, for which the guide book suggests this trail is probably not a good hiking option. Like a lot of other steep climbs throughout the mountains, the guidebook can be a bit misleading or overrating of the difficulty, and for good reason.

Steph giving the thumbs up on The Eliminator.

The climb steepens and soon we are climbing up vertical rock, on Iron Rungs in the form of a ladder, even climbing a metal ladder attached to the rock by rungs, on what would be moderately difficult rock climbing if there were no fixed rungs. At one point, on the vertical ladder, I had gone up for a picture and come back down to allow Steph to go ahead of me where she felt more comfortable. I thought when I was up there that this would be a big test for her, but she flew right up. I got back on the ladder following her up and got just a bit "wigged out", but quickly turned that around and climbed through. We topped out on a sloping ledge where the route went right on very secure rungs. Steph saw some folks and asked if they were coming down, "No, but you can come on up" the gentleman replied. Steph climbed through and I poked my head up over the sloping ledge and saw the guys wife nearly laying down, sweating profusely. The look of FEAR was in her eyes, I know this because I had only seconds ago felt this, and I've seen it before in my climbing friends eyes over the years. I said to her right away "Are you alright" She didn't look good to me and was sitting on this precarious ledge looking like she could have slid right off. She shook off my questions of wellness and suggested she was just "getting her nerve". Quickly, with a bit of coaching from her husband and myself, she moved through to much safer ground. A fall here could have been tragic. She said it would be better for us to go first and then follow so she could watch our route and steps. After we passed there were still some really steep sections and she was on my heels nearly the rest of the way, I would climb on a series of rungs and as my foot left one, her hand would grab it, climbing up quickly below me. We topped out and they both said how helpful it was climbing near us and thanks for getting her off that ledge. We were in the right place at the right time for these nice folks from Chicago.

Steph on one of the steeps sections of Iron Rungs.

After "risking life and limb" on the Precipice, riding our bikes around the Park and up Cadillac Mountain a couple of times the day before, we were ready to sit in our beach chairs at that special spot we had seen on our bike ride. Rest and relaxation! Basking in the sun overlooking the big blue sea, we snacked on cheese and crackers, blueberries and chocolate, just perfect!

R & R = H

At one point we heard someone scream followed by a thud. Without a fraction of a seconds thought, both Steph and I rushed to the man's side. Noticing he was wincing in pain, I went right to his head, holding it in traction, both Steph and I were telling him to lay still, and not move. We did a quick check on all his extremities, asked him who he was and where he was a few times. His wife was right there and was just assuring him that calling for medics was a good idea. We all agreed, so Steph called 911. I won't go into detail about this guy, but it seems as if he had a lot of medical issues, and after traveling from Ohio, he was just trying to enjoy the rocky coastline and slipped and fell. I think enjoying the rocky coastline was a great "adventure" for him, it's a shame this fall interrupted his day. He lost his balance and landed on his head, neck, and left hip. He was able to move his legs and arms, had no numbness or confusion. He seemed pretty stable, but the neck, head and spine is just not to be fooled with. Both Steph and I remained pretty calm and within minutes we had Park Rangers on scene assessing his condition and the situation. Minutes after they arrived, more assistance from Bar Harbor Paramedics, under cover National Park Police, National Park Life Guards and the National Park Search and Rescue were all there. Nine guys in total. I was relieved of holding his head and we both watched in amazement of the professionalism of these crews. They put a neck brace on him, back boarded him, and put him in a litter for carry up off the rocks. We helped with the carry and several step downs and hand to hand passes. One guy called the moves while we followed and shuffled him up and over on counts of one, two, three. They put him in the Ambulance, rushing him to Mount Desert Island Hospital. His wife was very thankful of our assistance and we gave her our contact information so she could let us know how he was. We both felt emotionally drained after that and just wanted to be home. I felt a bit sick to my stomach with nerves. So, we bid Acadia farewell, driving away while discussing what had happened. Steph received an email from his wife Gina last night, and as it turns out, he is sore, with a few bruises and scrapes, but no broken bones or long lasting effects. Great News!

On our way home, Stephanie had the brilliant idea of giving our National Park Pass away to folks who looked like they were headed to Acadia. We stopped for gas in Ellsworth and Steph spotted a couple from Massachusetts. Sure enough they were headed there the very next day. So they had a park pass good until August 13th. They were thrilled and very thankful from "One Sox Fan to the next!" the woman said, as she admired my Red Sox hat. Proving once again, that being good to other people is a great reward and adds time to the life bank as much as all the adventuring I have ever done.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Katahdin, in all it's glory,"

"Katahdin, in all it's glory, Forever shall remain, The Mountain Of The People of Maine."
~Percival P. Baxter

A few words I love to read from the former Governor of Maine. We as Mainers, are very privileged to have this as our own. What a generous offering. I am r
ecently back from an all too quick trip into Baxter State Park, with a successful mission on a classic Katahdin day. As always, I am further humbled by the powerful force of nature that surrounds Baxter.

The stars were aligned last week when my friend Erik and I were chatting on the phone and he told me he been laid off from his job, again. Fortunately, in this case, as he was able to join me on the trip. I hope you get back to work soon though Erik. I had made a reservation pretty easily over the phone the week before last, the plan was to camp out at Roaring Brook the night before and hike Katahdin from that side. Our route had yet been determined until we were discussing it during the journey north on Interstate 95. Erik had never climbed either the Cathedral trail or Helon Taylor. So considering the spectacular climbing up Cathedral, we decided our route would be to link that trail with the Knife Edge and then down Helon Taylor back to Roaring Brook Campground. Looking at the numbers in terms of mileage, it looks fairly easy, it's only 9.7 miles. You start on the Chimney Pond trail for 3.3 miles before you turn onto the Cathedral Trail at the Ranger Cabin. The weather was great, actually relatively cool like this whole summer has been, and considering the amount of rain, few black flies or mosquitoes. Speaking of rain, Erik and I were taking a break at the North Basin Trail junction and a Ranger was headed down to Roaring Brook from Chimney Pond, anyway, he said they had 20 inches of Rain in the Month of June at the Pond...That is just crazy.

A thin cloud obscures the Knife Edge from view, Erik and I enjoying the day.

Looking up at the first Cathedral.

Erik bouldering up one of the many fine moves one can find on the "hike" up.

We made good time on the Chimney Pond trail, knocking the 3.3 out in under two hours. Pausing very briefly at the cabin, we start the Cathedral trail. This is a fun one, lots of boulder hopping and hand over hand climbing including some fun little rock scrambles off the main hiking trail. We were behind a large group of scouts from Nova Scotia. They actually motored right along, we only passed them very high up on the trail just below the summit. The 1.7 miles from Chimney Pond to the Summit took us three hours, we took our time, enjoyed the view, and had fun scrambling on the trail. It did spit a little mist for a few minutes at one point below the summit, the wind picked up also, so we put on light wind shells. Erik said a little prayer to a mountain spirit, (he shared this with me later) to ask that the weather clear as we were to make our traverse of this Grand Peak. Be it fate, or wish granted, it was quite beautiful all day long, improving as we wandered.

Erik topping out on the Cathedral Trail

My main mission on this climb was actually to unearth that sliver of my friend Pete's compass, which was broken during his plunge down Odell Gully on January 18th 2008. I had left it buried under some rocks inside of cairn number four from the summit as you descend the Hunt Trail. Sitting pointed at True North for 13 months, I would often think about the location of this little piece of plastic, and the significance of the location I stashed it in, as well as the symbolism of my intent, has given me some sense of calm at times in the last year. Maybe, the moral of all this is....We are broken when friends or family pass on....time does heal wounds, physically or mentally...then, slowly, we are one again...more able to focus on happy times and great memories.

A piece of Peter Roux sits in cairn number four on Mount Katahdin. It was placed there June 12th 2008 and removed July 15th 2009.

Broken and Battered, we all are 'finding our way back home.'

Erik has had possession of Pete's compass, I told him when I gave it to him where to find the missing piece. It was right where I had left it! I am amazed it sat in the very same position I left it in, not influenced by weather or someone else finding it. I actually thought it was gone, you see when Erik and I arrived on the summit, the lines for the Coca Cola machine and Pay phone were long so, I looked at him and said- "Number Four" as I headed down toward the cairn....He followed with curiosity. I actually walked right by it to number five. I hesitantly started to disassemble the top half of that rock cairn and nothing looked familiar....Mentally starting to panic, Erik said, "Is that a cairn right by that guy with the red jacket?" As he was pointing back in the direction of the summit. Indeed it was, and we were at Cairn number five! We gently assembled number five to it's original state and sprinted to number four. I was a little less careful this time and started rummaging through, pulling rocks off the top of the Cairn, and Erik said "There it IS!" We smiled and took a few pictures. The created anxiety of leaving this piece of "memorabilia" there on the Mountain, including the anticipation of when I would return to retrieve it was very necessary for my own continued healing....Furthering the moral of the story I suppose. We are one on Earth, fortunate to have family and friends with us. When they die, it really sucks, but we know we will be one again someday, where ever it is our spirit goes when we die. Though wounded from the trauma, the compass is one again and can help guide Erik in some way...

The obligatory summit sign picture.

We decided to hang out at Cairn Number Four and eat a bit of lunch. We had some killer chunks of Garlic and Herb Cheddar Cheese with some chunks of Pepperoni. I also pushed down a couple of Powerbar Gel packs that I generally use when Cycling. We also had a few pieces of Chocolate for a little mountain dessert. Good times with a great old friend. After lunch, we added to the massive crowd on the summit and snapped a couple of photos of the sign. It sure is battered and in need of replacement.

Katahdin's South Peak

I hadn't been on the Knife Edge since 2001 when Steph and I did the same route Erik and I were on. It is an amazing trail across a killer spine of rock only a yard wide in some sections, with steep cliffs on either side, a slip and fall here could be deadly. A game I like to play to pass time on a long hike is "rock hopping". Erik and I wondered, in one of our senseless conversations...I wonder how many rocks our feet touched today. We estimated a million at least..with out much thought, but seriously there has to hundreds of millions of rocks, pebbles and fragments of stone amongst the Katahdin Massif. Quite a compelling thought I think! One other game I try to play the times I have been across the Edge is exactly that, walking across in the trickiest section trying maintain that "Edge."

Looking at the second half of the Kinfe Edge from South Peak.
The amazing Chimney Peak and Pamola peak at the far end of the trail

Looking down from the South Peak with Katahdin Lake in the background.

The South Summit Raven
I was just a bit ahead of Erik coming down the South Peak, so I decided to stop and sip some water. As Erik was hiking down, a huge Raven flew into our vision and just hovered about 10 feet above him, then flew a few circles around us. I managed a few really good shots of him.

Another pass.

After he flew low and close to us, he landed on a rock to just enjoy the view.

Erik crossing one of the narrower sections of the Knife Edge.

We really took our time on this part of the hike, what would be the reason to rush anyway? We stopped a few times and just sat and admired the view. Katahdin just amazes me...a couple more photos below to end this blog. Thanks for reading.
Erik still on "edge".

The view of the Brothers, L-R South and North, from under the cloud deck.