Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sometimes you gotta follow the Yellow Blaze to get back to the White Blaze

Here's a quick recap from my last post "Smiles Not Miles:" After crossing over Saddleback Mountain, we stopped early due to my nagging knee injury. I spent the night on Poplar Ridge and hiked out to the road with Beans the next day. We ended up in town of Stratton, Maine, where I iced my knee and made plans for the next day. 

Thursday September 25th

Weather: terrific
Trail: Not much trail today, hitchhiking back to vehicle from Stratton to Andover, Maine

Beans and MacGuyver headed out for a hitch back to the trail for a steep climb over the Bigelow Range. Views from Avery peak and North and South Horn are awesome as I recall from my Southbound Thru-hike in 2011. They should have a great day of vistas over Flagstaff Lake. 

I had already been there done that, and felt ok about taking the day off and resting the knee. But I still had somewhere to be. So as MacGuyver hitched east to the A.T., I hitched west towards Rangeley. I was going to try and make it back to vehicle in Andover, so I could stage it in the next town. Then the plan would be to spend the night on the shores of the Kennebec River and take the ferry southbound the next morning to meet up with my crew. So here's how I got to Andover with my magic thumb:

1st hitch---- short ride about 4 miles to somewhere outside of Stratton. Cows kept me company at this pasture stop.

2nd hitch---- Mickey picked me up and we rode together through the multicolor foliage talking about life's mysteries. This whimsical woman was living in Maine after many years in New York City. Her silver hair was crazy and her New Age music played on the car stereo, as she shared some brief tidbits of her life with me. I shared with her my travel story of the past week or so. Then Mickey. dropped me off at a gas station outside of Rangeley.

3rd hitch----George saw me getting out of Mickey's car and offered a ride. I rode with him to the job site where he was supervisor at a roof repair. I met his crew, shot some shit, and got back in the truck with him. He was headed further south to pick up materials for the job. So I got as far as the Maine Highway 17 overlook of Lake Mooselookmeguntic thanks to George.
..... it turns out I had crossed this road via A.T. just four days prior. this location ended up taking me quite a while to get another ride, but it was not at all a bad place to be stranded. It was here that I had breakfast, talked with many motorists, met some trail angels heading the opposite direction, and ultimately waited for about 4 hours for a ride. 

4th hitch----It was a 'leaf-peeping' couple from Concord, New Hampshire that were very familiar with the area. I offered to take their photograph in front of the lake, and then they offered me a ride. The couple knew just where to drop me off. They were headed to Mexico, Maine. But they crossed the Swift River a few miles early to drop me off for my final leg into Andover on Roxbury Notch Road.  

5th hitch---- Angelo, an Andover native picked me up in a Crown Vic. The large trunk fit my pack easily. He was playing the most beautiful opera music on the stereo. He knew David at Pine Ellis Hostel quite well. And when I told him about my car window getting busted out at Grafton Norch, he said he'd been wondering what the story was with the minivan with plastic bag taped over it parked in David's front yard. Angelo had hiked the entire trail back in the 60's when the trail was just beginning to see annual pilgrims in small numbers. For many years since his experience on the Appalachian Trail he's lived in Maine.

Map showing my 'yellow blaze' route back to my vehicle in Andover.

So from Pine Ellis I drive to Caratunk, ME stopping along the way to pick up tiki fuel for Beans' torch. As I approached the Kennebec River, I thought about those three consecutive summers, probably '93-'96 I had enjoyed camping and paddling along its waterway with my Dad, Uncle, and Rogebo. I was a pilgrim revisiting the place of my spiritual origin. The rafting outfitter, now a brewery; the pizza joint, still a pizza joint; and the campsite alongside the Kennebec River where I saw my first meteor shower. As a 12 year old boy from the light polluted suburbs of Baltimore, the fantastic streams of light originating in the dark night sky's Perseus stirred a primal sense of spirit in me. I can confidently say that this was the most vivid early memory of feeling apart of something larger than myself. I still have a small quilt I made in middle school art depicting this scene: The camp fire, the tents, people large and small laying out in the grass gazing up in amazement, the river, the trees.

So I reached this spot with some daylight left and was extremely happy to see it had not changed much. The only difference was the presence of a few picnic tables and some steel campfire rings. I walked down to the river and looked across. Still the pristine river I remembered.

Next I drove a few miles down river to where the A.T. crosses. Parked the vehicle at the Post Office in Caratunk and walked down to the river to make camp in the pitch black. There were a few shooting stars, the sounds of the river, great horned owls asking "whooo's awake?" and the flicker of Beans' new torch fuel. I slept like a baby on a soft bed of pine needles. The next day would bring me across the river and traveling southbound once again to meet my friends at camp.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Smiles Not Miles

Follow this link below to the PayPal page. Read the blog post below this one to learn exactly what we will do with your contributions!

Donation Station -- CLICK HERE

Monday September 22nd
Weather: 60's gusty winds partly Cloudy
Trail: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to to Piazza Rock Lean-to

Breakfast of oatmeal with pumpkin seeds, almonds, powdered milk, and elderberry syrup was enjoyed from a rock overlooking Sabbath Pond. Once again, I'm admiring the industrious submarine birds known up in these parts as Loons. Behind me a fiery red foliage of a Maple tree ignites under a concentrated spot of sunlight through a window of clouds. Reflections of this off the water mix with ripples and lily pads to form an autumn mosaic of wonder.

I am sore today. The miles behind me are catching up. The tendons and ligaments in my feet are feeling over-stretched, my left hamstring and right quad muscles are sore. But today's plan does not hold a major challenge. It's 9 miles on relatively easy terrain to ME4. The plan is to get a ride at ME4 into the town of Rangeley for a P.O. stop, and another ride back to the trail.

The rainy weather from the night before made for a cozy shelter sleep. There is no rain this morning, only droplets of water being blown off the forest canopy above. It still makes for wet hiking as vegetation along sides of the path brushes water against your legs as you walk. I am probably due for a bath anyways. The fall color is really beginning to pop on this partly sunny day. As the sun burns through a thin veil of mist, the reds, oranges, and ambers are glowing in autumn glory. I come to a small lake with a canoe. I wait around for an hour to see if Beans or MacGuyver want to join me for a paddle. There's rain still dripping from the trees in the wind, so I put up a tarp and layer up for warmth.

After about an hour-long mid morning break, I decide to brave the wind out on Little Swift River Pond. The aluminum boat is probably about 11 foot in length; Not meant for one person to paddle very easily. I try it anyways. Once beyond the shore-side canopy, there is a tailwind that blows me out to the middle of the lake and beyond. I barely have to paddle except to keep the boat straight. This is an extremely vivid memory in my mind as the wind is blowing the bright colors of autumn into my brain. The trees and shrubs along the lakeshore seem to be more brightly colored than interior shrubs and understory trees. Perhaps the reflection of light off the water and ample sunlight to trigger color change has caused this phenomenon. The paddle back is strenuous, I stay close to the shore avoiding the countering gusts. This small pond has some charm, but the unrelenting wind is making it difficult to really take it all in. It's a mini adventure, and a chance to get off my feet and to exercise the upper body.
Eventually the gang shows up from behind me. Rizza, and Beans stop to view the lake. Then we take off and head the final two miles to Highway ME4. Rizza decides to check into a hostel outside of the town of Rangeley, that happens to be a quarter mile walk up the road. This way he can get a shuttle to town which apparently is included with a night's stay. Beans and I stick out our thumbs for half an hour until an older man and his wife in a pick up truck slowed down and pulled over. That was a breezy, chilling ride. It's always interesting moving at such a speed after traveling at 3 miles per hour all day for several days.
We were efficient with our time at the post office, grocery, and diner. Efficient enough to be back at the end of town to stick our thumbs out as the sun was setting. We got a lucky hitch back to the trailhead for a 2 mile night hike to Piazza Rock shelter.

Tuesday September 23rd

Weather: cold, extremely windy, poor visibility on the Horn and Saddleback, clear views from Saddleback Junior.
Trail: Piazza Rock Lean-to to Poplar Ridge Lean-to 8.8 miles

 Breakfast over the fire!

We awoke to a pleasant morning day. I met some more thru-NOBO's TwoPack from Alberta, Chosen from Utah, and Hudson from Connecticut. Then, before beginning our big day over Saddleback, Two Pack and I did the short scramble without packs from the Lean-to up to Piazza Rock. No views from the top of this overhang, but the feature itself is very impressive!

Piazza Rock! Two Pack is doing the scramble to the top of this spectacular overhang boulder.

Beans and I headed out of camp around 9:30 that morning. We arrived at camp around 4:30. We only did 8.8 miles to Poplar Ridge Lean-to.
 "Onwards and upwards!"

The environment atop Saddleback was very surreal. At times, when the gusts of wind fell silent and the fog hung still in the air, I felt as if I was snorkeling through coral reefs. There are all sorts of interesting life forms that find home in this extremely harsh, mostly winter environment. In the photo below, white Reindeer Lichen can be seen surrounded by what I think may be dwarf blueberry ground cover. The Lichen remind me of cauliflower florets. All the coniferous growth is stunted by constant harsh winds and heavy snowfall.
  We thought we were going to have a 'good views' type of day over Saddleback. A view to Rangeley lake and beyond would have been quite a treat. But this was not the case!

 Here is a vista from Saddleback Jr. looking back at the Horn and Saddleback. The visibility has begun to clear up now that we've crossed over the foul-weather-prone main Saddleback.

My knee is beginning to give me some trouble. The steep, technical downhills are painful on my right miniscus. I talk to Beans along the last few miles down. We decide to stop early at the Poplar Ridge Lean-to. I am glad we stopped early. The volunteer trail maintainer for this section of trail has left hikers a very entertaining, 18 page Q&A for our reading pleasure. Dave Meeser has maintained the section of Appalachian Trail from the Horn to Obert Stream Campground since 1957! For dinner I sauteed garlic in coconut oil, simmered dehydrated broccoli, carrot, spinach, and added chicken flavor Ramen noodles, StoveTop stuffing and sun-dried tomatoes. It was declicious!

Wednesday September 24th

Weather: Spectacular sunny Autumn day!
Trail: 2.7 miles on the White Blaze; 10 miles on the Yellow Blaze (road)

My friend Steph has Smiles not Miles for a trail name. She is an easy going type of person who cares not about how many miles she hiked that day. I decided to adopt her trail mantra on the morning of September 24th.

I decided atop Poplar Ridge that the fun factor had decreased low enough to bail off the trail. My usable but painful knee injury that had been gradually getting worse over a few days was bad on steep technical down hills. And Saddleback had lots of those. Ibuprofen was just not helping. Poplar Ridge was not an easy place to bail. The trail at this location was miles from asphalt. Orbeton Stream was three steep miles downhill first thing in the morning. A jeep trail near the stream crossing took us (Beans left the trail with me) about a mile past an active logging site helping us to realize the important role the A.T. Conservancy plays in corridor land preservation. But Maine is big timber, and here we were walking on dirt roads used for snow machine travel in winter.

We walked eight miles of dusty logging roads passing trout and Atlantic salmon streams and homesteads and second summer homes. It wasn't the flat road walking that hurt my knee one bit. The roads made for good walking where one could achieve a nice rhythm. Finally we arrived at the almighty super speed black top highway. Stratton, ME here we come! We hitched into town with three rides. One ride was in a 1965 black Ford Mustang! Sweet ride.

We quickly found ourselves reconnecting with other thru-hikers that had been ahead of us on the trail. Four of us went into the White Wolf Lodge Inn for a hearty hiker meal. We all ordered and destroyed the Wolf Burger. Hudson insisted on being timed while eating his meal to the bare plate. I think his time was something like 3minutes 47 seconds to eat an entire plate of fries and a large beef patty stacked on top of a breakfast sausage patty stacked on top of 4 strips of bacon stacked on top of lettuce tomato and onion. I savored my Wolf Burger, and I was glad to be in the comforts of town and amongst good company.

Looking perplexed with this intimidating pile of meat on my plate. Four days of oatmeal and ramen noodles just doesn't compare with a meal like the Wolf Burger. 

 Follow this link below to the PayPal page. Read the blog post below this one to learn exactly what we will do with your contributions!

Donation Station -- CLICK HERE

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Food Rescue Cornucopia

This fall season has been a cornucopia of rescued food!

Reagan hands in a Fusion / BFF Tax ID form and a vendor at the Jessup Wholesale Distributor gets a tax write off for their donations.

October 1st, 2014, 9am Jessup, MD
Reagan finds a cornucopia of fresh goods at produce distributor.

 We're loading up the truck with fresh veggies and fruits.

October 1st, 2014, 11am Baltimore Free Farm
Matt helps set up the tent at 3510 Ash Street.

October 1st, 2014, 12pm.... A happy customer!
 Red Cabbage, tomatoes, limes, lemons...

Lemons, ginger, peppers...

11am Sunday October 5th, 2014
Here's a photo showing the method to the madness of Food Not Bombs Baltimore chapter. Food Not Bombs prepares vegan meals to serve to the homeless downtown.

So I hope this inspires you to get involved with our Food Reclamation project here. This is a great time of year to jump in, as the harvest is providing a cornucopia, and there are many hungry people to feed. You can get involved in one of two ways: 1) come volunteer, we'd prefer if you would let us know ahead of time by calling 443-465-4261 or emailing collective@baltimorefreefarm.org 
2) DONATE DOLLARS by visiting this link:

We will be able to recoup the gas used for the food pickups, (gas is expensive!)
which will help to continue to allow food to be distributed to the community for free.  Thank you all for your continued support!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Trail Days... September 20th and September 21st

Saturday September 20th

Weather: cloudy and light spotty rain
Trail: Grafton Notch State Park to Beamis Mountain ........... 11 miles

Jay and I made camp that night at a random location in the pines along the side of the trail. Rain threatened. We were both dreading wet weather. I strung a tight line between two pines and hung my homemade tarp over it. After guying it out tight, I felt satisfied it would keep me dry even in a windy wet night. At one point I thought it was starting to rain, but that was the sound of pine needles falling on my tarp. It was both a relaxing sound and a relieving sound to know it was not rain. Luckily, the rain never came. There's nothing worse than breaking a wet camp in the morning.

Here's the simple rain shelter I made last year. It's homewrap, a light weight waterproof membrane used in postal envelopes, housing construction and bio-hazard suits. Loops were sewed along the perimeter of the tarp. I can 'guy-line' the tarp out taught like a drum so it holds in the wind.

MacGuyver had gone into town of Andover, ME to resupply, and he got back on trail to follow us up the same trail a few hours later. He ended up camping alone about 100 yards short of our (Beans and I's) camp near the water. Beamis is a dry mountain to cross this time of year. The water source was a tiny trickle of a late summer, high altitude stream. There was one leaf folded over a rock to allow you to hold your bottle beneath and fill up on clear mountain water. We watered up as soon as we made camp, so we ended up not seeing him that night.

Sunday September 21st

Weather: sunny
Trail: Beamis Mountain to Sabbath Day Pond Lean to ................ 11 miles

Today a warm, sunny breeze carries a sweet pine fragrance. A glorious morning! I am not as stiff or sore as I had predicted I would be. Stretching at my day's end last night must have helped. The next trail town is Rangely, where Beans and I are both expecting a mail drop at the post office.

After much of the green tunnel all morning, we are rewarded with our first view of Mooselookmeguntic Lake from Beamis Mountain. The autumn foliage is just beginning to pop! The amazing colorful panorama is absolutely gorgeous.

 There was much speculation as to how this lake got it's name. One local told the story like this: "there was a hunter who spotted a large Bull Moose, he said 'Moose! Look!' then pulled the trigger of his gun, but the gun failed to fire and made a 'tic' instead." The truth is that the indigenous Abnaki gave the lake this name to mean "moose feeding place." 

 Beans on the way down Beamis Mountain.

My trail name is T-Mello. I have met many northbounders and some flip-flopers just in the few days I've been on the trail. So far I've met Thespian, Hardheaded, Guitarzan, Fuego Borego, Atlas, Wolf Kisses, Papa Shrimp, Shrimpette, Chosen, Rehab, Jukebox, Forager. Other entertaining trail names I've heard of are Smokey the Beard, Muffin Man, Twinkle Toes, Sparkle Feet, Blazing Sandals, Hippy Longstockings, and Laser Pussy. 

Near the day's end, when MacGuyver, Beans and I reached Sabbath Day Pond, we came to a beach where I spotted my first Loon on the lake. There were two of them. They could stay under the water for minutes at a time, devouring the underwater grasses. Then they'd resurface 100 yards away from where they'd last been seen. They continued wailing their sad song into the night. 

The shelter at Sabbath Day Pond is a 'Lean-to.' It's a simple three-sided shelter with a roof. And yes, we actually stayed there on a Sunday sabbath. We made camp there since it was most likely going to rain that night. Many hikers complain about shelter grafiti, and how it is disrespectful to other hikers and trail volunteers who built them. But MacGuyver's plan was to beautify the shelters with something less permanent. He drew vines and lizards creeping and crawling up the shetler posts with sidewalk chalk. I drew a picture of hawkweed, my new favorite plant, being bathed in rain and sunshine.

This video clip begins gazing at the orange hawkweed blooms blowing in the wind, then a sweeping panorama of Beamis Mountain then Lake Mooselookmeguntic.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The People's Trail

The Appalachian Trail experience can be a social experience for those who want it. Not quite on par with the European trail systems' cultural experience, this trail is for people who desire a total immersion in wild nature. The trail people, especially thru-hikers, want to exert themselves physically on insanely technical and rugged terrain. But most people say their favorite part of the experience is the friends they make along the way and the commaraderie. This year, over 1,100 people attempting a thru-hike passed thru the trail's halfway point in Harper's Ferry, WV. 

Here are some the characters I have met so far...

Beans: first Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt; so far so good. A 'thru-hike' means hiking the entire trail start to finish (Georgia to Maine typically). The average time people take to do this is 5-6 months.

Grey Ghost: began his thru-hike in March and halfway thru realized he had two broken bones in his foot. He got off trail for the 11week recovery and then began hiking southbound from the northern terminus on Mt Katahdin in Maine southbound. He decided to reverse directions to avoid severe winter weather up north.

McGuyver: got his trail name as he is pretty handy making useful things out of nothing. He made these really cool chainsaw carvings at the white mountains lodge and hostel  in Gorham, NH.

Hudson: attempting his first thru-hike. But he's no stranger to the trail. Hudson operates a hiker hostel in Falls Village, CT. He's showing off his rad AT tattoo in photo below.

Jo Cool and B-Man from Pittsburg are out hiking a section NOBO.

Poppy: Waiting outside the Andover, Maine post office to mail unnecessary gear home. Shedding some extra pack weight will help his efforts over Maine's mountains.

Rizza: from Winston-Salem,NC. In this picture he is stoked to be in Monson, ME at the doorstep of the infamous hundred mile wilderness. This will be his final 6 days on a months-long journey north from Springer Mountain, Georgia. We got to hike with this energetic and positive hiker personality.

Hillbilly Dave: not a thru-hiker but instead the legendary ferryman taking hikers safely across the trail's most formidable ford, the Kenebec River. Dave Fletcher has been running the ferry for the last eight years May-October six days a week!
Hillbilly Dave coming to pick up NOBO (northbound) thru-hiker Indy. Indy is another Marylander (from Cecil County).

Hangin around town. The post office in
Caratunk, ME September 27, 2014

(r to l) ChewyTesla, and Rizza in a frenzy around the hiker box in Caratunk. They are all becoming increasingly excited as they approach their final 150 mile crescendo atop Mt Katahdin.

Nan: a 'trail angel' in Caratunk, Maine. She leaves baked treats for the hikers in a box at the post office.

Marie: Caratunk, Maine post master. She has helped hikers and other mail patrons for 25years and retires on the 30th.

Photo taken back in Caratunk after my last leg of hiking to Monson on September 29th 2014

Miss Janet: a legendary trail angel providing vehicle support and many others fabulous forms of trail magic. Hailing originally from Alabama, she is getting to know the strategic road crossings quite well from Dahlonega to Millinocket. She rode me back to my vehicle in Caratunk when I arrived in Monson, ME. Thanks Miss J!

September 29th 2014

This gal/guy is not a person but it appears that (s)he spends a lot of time around people, so I am including him/ her in this post. Meet Theo!

Sandy: at White Wolf Inn and Cafe takes good care of hungry hikers. Here she presents the Wolf Burger!

Dawn: owner and operator at Shaw's. A hiker hospitality since the '70s. Shaw's serves the heartiest hiker breakfast in Monson!

A gathering at Shaw's. 
September 29th 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Food Rescue Day at Baltimore Free Farm

Another Food Rescue Day at Baltimore Free Farm


Some of the goods we got today.  We also had lots of volunteers to help sort the produce, yay!

 I'd like to tell you more about why we're passionate about Food Rescue:

 A recent study from the USDA found that:
"In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion using retail prices. For the first time, ERS estimated the calories associated with food loss: 141 trillion in 2010, or 1,249 calories per capita per day."

That's just crazy.  Why is it that people in this country go hungry when there is so much food going to waste?

By intercepting the food from going into the landfill, we are helping the environment!
Reducing the methane from landfills: when food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane - a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a major source of human-related methane in the United States, accounting for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions. 

By wasting less food, we're wasting less resources: There are many resources needed to grow food, including water, fertilizers, pesticides, and energy. By wasting food, you are also wasting the resources that went into growing it.

By donating HERE:

You will help to sustain this project:

We will be able to recoup the gas used for the food pickups, (gas is expensive!)
which will help to continue to allow food to be distributed to the community for free.  Thank you all for your continued support!

Enjoying the bounty!  Today we put out about 20lbs of Free Farm grown surplus produce!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hiking into Autumn

Beans and T-Mello arguing about which direction to hike. I am a southbounder at heart, but I gave into Beans' northbound tendencies since he has come all the way from Georgia on foot beginning March 21st. Photo by McGuyver.

Autumn is the best time for camp fires!

Trail registers are often full of amusing stories, comics, poems, and nature observations. These public journals are also important means of communication for those hiking long distances on the trail. For example: "McGuyver, I'm headed to Frye Notch Shelter tonight. Hope you can make it." ---- Beans 9/20/2014
I've been seeing entries from another Maryland thru-hiker named Waldo. I've yet to meet him though....

I've been collecting seed from this plant called Hawkweed. I bet it's in the aster group. It seems to like a rocky substrate in sunny locations, usually near road crossings. 

Baltimore Free Farm is hosting the educational aspect of the second annual Mushroom City Arts festival from October 2nd thru October 4th. Check out their website for schedule of events.

Maine trail is notorious for it's rugged and often technical climbs and descents. The Maine A.T. Club even installs metal assists in rocky places where hikers shouldering packs would have trouble getting through.

But the rewarding scenery makes the climb worth all the effort!
Lake Mooselookmeguntic. Say that 5 times fast!

Autumn colors are showing.

Today is the first day of Autumn and we are most fortunate to be crossing Saddleback Mountain. Here is the view!

Not what we had hoped for but still beautiful in it's own way. It's gusty wet cloud weather but thankfully not too cold.