Grafton Loop East Side – Half a Loop is Better Than None

A few pics and a short video from a couple of nights spent on my old friend the GLT. I went with the intent of doing a threeย  night complete loop, but my other old friend, the weather surprise showed up with some tropical heat. By the morning of Day 3 it was too hot to be fun so I headed home.

First views headed up Puzzle Mountain
Working up onto the first slabs. There were a series punctuated by short tree covered sections.
Still working on the puzzle, but getting close to the top now.
Finally the summit! Then the real puzzle started…trying to find the trail down the other side heh.
The trail down the back side was fantastic! Soft dirt path through a pine and birch forest.

The afternoon continued to heat up and get steamier. I pushed on past the Town Corner site due to the water there looking pretty grim. Should have stayed there because it got dark before I could make it to the Lane site.

The water was much nicer there though!
Classic GLT ladders show up just when you need them.
Almost to the East Baldpate summit and the views start to really open up.
I was surprised to find a small spring running near the trail. Cold, but a lot of pine tannin.
On top looking across the col at the West Baldpate summit. You can make out the trail in spots.
We’ll end here on a high note ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

I was trying out a different camera on this trip, a GoPro which is much smaller and lighter than my usual Sony. Trying to decide if the quality is good enough to save the weight. Also trying out a new editor, Davinci Resolve, to put together my videos. There may be some learning curve on both accounts, but I hope this works for you ๐Ÿ™‚

(Don’t turn up the volume too loud or the waterfall will blow your ears out when it shows up.)

Notes From the Field or Existential Crisis Averted Day 4

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Trail journals are a personal thing by nature. Just as hikers hike in their own way, they journal in their own way too. Some folks spend a great deal of time during the day on trail and in camp, focused on filling pages with notes about their experience or something. Not sure as I haven’t ever been rude enough to ask what all the scribbling was about heh. Other folks carry a journal that they never remember to write anything in at all and the rest either fall in between or don’t even think about it in the first place.

I tend to fall into the group that carries a journal, but rarely remember it is there when I’m on an adventure. Partially that is due to my focus on what I’m doing at the time rather than thinking about documenting it. Partially it is because of the way my memory allows me to retrieve the experience later negating the need to write it down at the time. The rest of the explanation likely has to do with my love of cheese and sausage. Why spend time writing when I could be eatingโ€ฝ

My journals tend to come along for several trips before anything gets written down. By then the paper has soaked up humidity and dried out again numerous times. Combined with the friction of the pages rubbing against each other while riding hundreds of miles in my pack that gives the paper an odd feel; Sort of spongy and porous so neither ink nor pencil produce sharp lines. I find that fitting for the notes I tend to leave myself in my journals as they are often just a few hazy words giving a slight indication of what was on my mind. Just enough to remind me of what I was thinking when I made the note with no effort made to convey complete thoughts. These notes can be amusing when seen later at home with a head full of coffee and a roof over my head.

The note in the picture above is a great example of that. “Existential crisis averted Day 4” has few details, yet conveys enough of a message to fill pages of notes as I look back on that moment now. This is from a week long, solo trip I took to Baxter State Park in early June of this year. It was my first chance to get out on trail for over two months and over the first few days of the trip my brain was a mess. There seemed to be a lot of questions about who I was and what I was doing wandering around the forest by myself. Should I be home being a husband or daddy? Should I be working or saving the world? It seemed that I had only questions and answers with no clue which were important in either category. Who was I supposed to be?

So I wandered through the forest for a few days, going through the actions of making water, camps and meals with all of this turmoil in my head. Then on the fourth morning, as I relaxed in camp before loading up for the day, I realized that the noise had stopped. Questions and answers had stopped swirling and I could see what was important…the answer to who I was supposed to be.

I was just a guy, sitting in the woods, happy. There could be no more clear answer than that. While I remain husband and daddy wherever I roam and those callings come first, I am at heart a man who is happy in the wilderness. Alone or with others, being out there is time well spent and accepting that fact empowers a person with the conviction to go and do and be.

If you’re the sort who doesn’t carry a journal or remember to make any notes, maybe give it a shot sometimes. Just enough to jog your memory later and bring back a moment. If you’re the sort who fills pages of notes in one of those big books every day on trail, maybe ease up and experience the ride a bit more without letting the notes take all your focus.

Just that one faded, scribbled line in a rumpled notebook was enough to take me to that moment and bring it back in full detail. I can see the camp at Long Pond in the morning light, hear the red-wing blackbird and woodpeckers, and know what it feels like to be where I’m supposed to be. Soon…

 

Family Baxter Trip – Late June 2018

Just a few pics from the first family outing of the Summer. We had to change our plans due to the broken backpack and there were a few bugs, but we had a blast.DSC03638aThe Daddy Pack was light by Daddy Pack standards, but a bit bulky. Think it was around 55 lbs wet, carrying food for just two nights at a time since we’d be stopping back at the car mid trip. What I did have was three hammocks, three tarps and a three man tent. DSC03640aWell there were a few other things in there too ๐Ÿ™‚ Since the tiny frying pan worked out so well on my solo trip I decided to bring a larger pan for family cooking. We fried up the hash browns with peppers and onions, then rolled it all into tortillas with fire roasted salsa. DSC03642aHere is a good view of our hammock village at the Long Pond Pines site. It rained hard for about 10 hours starting just before dark and continuing till a bit past dawn. In the night I shone my headlamp out and could see a big puddle where the tent is usually set up. DSC03646aDSC03650aDSC03654aDSC03662aDSC03666aDSC03674aThe second morning started off great with another fantastic breakfast. Then after the pack incident we changed our back country adventure into a car camping escapade. There was ice cream at Matagamon Camps, swimming at South Branch and more bugs. Not a lot of pics though. I was too busy having fun with the girls and the camera never seemed to be handy. DSC03689aDid get a few nice sunset pictures though. Would have been more but I was busy swatting bugs heh. June in Baxter is not for the timid, but we did have a great trip all the same. Once the bugs die down the crowds get thick and people are worse than bugs because you aren’t allowed to swat them ๐Ÿ˜‰DSC03693aIt was neat to hang out in some of the same spots again so soon, but with family instead of solo. Either way is nice and has good points and bad. I appreciate getting out there whatever form it takes. Certainly less road walking when you take the car and more opportunities for ice cream!

Field Repair

Field Repair

That terrible moment when a piece of vital equipment fails is something you can’t really practice for. Still, it can happen at any time so you’d better be prepared to deal with it.ย  Your assets may include all the stuff in your pack, but your wits are the biggest thing you’ve got going for you. Depending on just how vital the equipment is or the circumstances which caused the failure there may be some adrenaline or emotional stress to deal with first. Cuss, cry or meditate as you think best, but taking a few minutes to get your head together can be a good idea before using it to figure out what to do next. First do no harm applies here. You don’t want to make the problem worse.

That fractured aluminum tube in the picture is the base of the frame from my backpack. After tearing down camp on the morning of day 3 of a family Baxter trip we were ready to get an early start heading to our next site. Throwing my pack on was the final thing to be done and when I tossed it up onto my back there was an odd snapping sound and I could feel the pack lose its shape, slumping off my shoulders. Can’t recall if there was any cussing, but there definitely was some adrenaline.ย  We were only about 3 miles from the nearest trailhead, but the Daddy Pack is key to moving the majority of the weight and a large part of the volume as far as the entire family gear load.

Thinking fast I implemented that all important step; mellow out. Rather than rush into some ill guided, frantic effort, I told the girls to take off their packs because I didn’t know how long we’d be. Then I sat down by the fire ring and did some pondering. Once I started I was surprised at how fast I went from freaking out to finding solutions. Needing a strut to stabilize the bottom of the pack I considered dismantling one of my hiking poles and using the bottom section. One look told me that it was too large to work very well so I was glad I didn’t rush into tearing apart the pole. Then I had another idea…

With the guyline attached this tarp stake made a darn fine splint. Using first aid skills I set the bone, err I mean I set the frame so it was lined up properly and then laid the stake across the two pieces. By wrapping the guyline around and around while looping it through the loops from the pack I was able to get a pretty solid connection despite the break being at such a difficult spot.Rather than hope the line would hold for the hike out I opted to keep going. Belt and suspenders can be a good idea sometimes ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t want to risk the jagged frame cutting through the guyline if the fracture opened up on trail. I’ve carried this nice cloth tape for blister treatment and other first aid for years without using it once. Now I was glad I had it along because it made for a strong addition to my repair.

I was happy to feel the pack remain intact as I tossed it onto my back to test it out. Before I fully hooked it up I asked Frau Stranger to scope things out from behind and see if I was going to stab myself with the stake if I stood up.ย  She said things looked good back there and I figured she was talking about the pack so gave it a go. That repair may not look like much, but it held up just fine to get back to the car. The pictures were actually taken after we got home a few days later so it held up very well I’d say. We changed our plan to campย  closer to the car for the last few nights rather than risk heading into the back country, but I think it may have held up on trail for quite a while if necessary.

Like I said at the start, you can’t really practice for repairs because you never know what might break or how. What you can do is start thinking about what you carry that can be used for other purposes in an emergency. A repair kit that includes a needle and thread and some duct tape or other strong, waterproof tape can come in handy. Zip ties and spare pack buckles are also common additions. I don’t actually carry a dedicated repair kit, but my first aid kit includes scissors, needle, thread and tape. Like most things on trail, repairs are just another puzzle to be solved. That is why the best thing to have in your repair kit is your wits. Should you hear an ominous snap or tear on your next trip, and I really hope you don’t, remember to get your wits out first ๐Ÿ™‚

7 Day Late Spring Solo Baxter Trip – June 2018

7 Day Late Spring Solo Baxter Trip – June 2018

78 pics and some random babbling from what turned out to be a pretty random toddle around parts of the northern end of Baxter State Park.DSC03236aI parked the scoot at Matagamon Wilderness Camps as usual. They keep the animals from chewing off my tires or nesting in my helmet, plus it gives me an excuse to have an ice cream cone at the end of the trip.

Weather was looking a bit gloomy but I didn’t get rained on during the ride or my walk to camp. Light shower hit just as I was pulling my tarp out and I was sheltered for the small random showers that passed during the afternoon and evening.DSC03240aThere was a pretty solid breeze blowing into the Long Pond Pines site as is often the case. It really helps knock the bugs back some. Being early June the black flies were thick, but recent warm rains had the mosquitoes well represented too. With the wind blowing it was possible to eat dinner without a net. Calmer nights on this trip found me eating carefully inside my hammock or tent to escape the onslaught.DSC03243aMy friend the beaver stopped by while making his rounds. There is a large mound on the far shore they call home, but they think of the entire pond as belonging to them. I was given a few tail slaps to let me know I was on notice before he moved on.

I actually fell asleep for a bit listening to light rain on the tarp. Thankfully I woke up and had dinner before night fell. It was breezy all night, but I slept pretty well. Woke up confused as heck in the morning as it seemed someone was shining a bright light under my tarp…it was dawn ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve had this happen before and it makes me go from fearful I’m under attack to laughing like a mad man in just a few seconds.DSC03245aIt was actually a very peaceful morning and I was in no hurry. My big plans for a 100 mile loop were crushed by heavy snow at Chimney Pond preventing the area from being open yet. Instead I had a week of relaxing days with short miles and pretty camps. Such suffering!DSC03247aThere was one of these to be dealt with though. Thankfully it didn’t growl or spit flames so I just said hi and took a few pics.DSC03256aThis one also seemed friendly enough. Considering they love to eat mosquitoes I definitely think of these guys as friends!!DSC03258aI had a few miles to my next camp, mostly through denser forests. These are some of the pines that give the camp site its name. The walk up this hill is always something I do slowly and take time to appreciate the trees and the views from higher up onto the esker. DSC03262aOnce I reached my new camp at the Middle Fowler South site I soon noticed my neighbors from across the pond out fishing in a canoe. Given the strong winds that blew relentlessly I’m guessing the fishing was not good.DSC03264aI’d never camped at this spot before though I had walked through it on a few other trips. It was more sheltered from the current winds so the bugs were thicker. Definitely a night for eating under a net or food would go flying with all the bug swatting heh.

DSC03265aThere were more showers during the night, but nothing of any consequence. I had the tarp low on one side to block the wind, but propped up in porch mode on the lee. That gave me this nice view without having to get out of bed.DSC03268aDSC03272aOne last look over Middle Fowler before heading back to Long Pond. Barrel Ridge is a possible target for a day hike on a family trip we have planned once school gets out. I’ve been most of the way up there but never all the way to the top.DSC03278aNot sure if this is the same guy I saw the first day, but he looks familiar. Still not growling ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03279aI brought along this 3P tent I am testing for two reasons: 1) It makes a great place to hide from the bugs 2) It is really light so can be carried as a second shelter without much effort. A great place to eat dinner when other things are trying to dine on you!DSC03283aThis woodpecker seemed to come and go regularly.ย  He never stopped on any one tree for long so it was a challenge to get him in pics.DSC03287aDSC03292aI made myself try a few casts even though I was pretty sure it was too windy. It was heh. DSC03293aThe loons didn’t seem to mind too much. They do their fishing under water so it doesn’t bother them. They put on a great show sometime in the middle of the night. I woke to the sound of big splashes right near my hammock. It was fish jumping out of the water to feed on bugs. Then the loons went off for about ten minutes straight. Hard to be mad at the fish after that.DSC03299aMorning was again an unrushed affair and I could get used to that sort of thing. Two cups of coffee and my first chance to try out the tiny frying pan. No eggs I’m sorry to say, but hash browns with red peppers came out pretty well. Going to need a larger pan for family trips though. Takes too long to make three single portions, but this worked well for a solo treat.DSC03301aThe beaver mound across the pond. Where I grew up beaver never seemed to build on shore but I see this frequently in ME and NH. Maybe different predators, not sure of the why.DSC03308aDSC03309aSome ducks came flying out of this wet area as I headed around Troutbrook Mountain towards the campground on the other side.DSC03312aDSC03314aThese were gone a few days later when I came back this way and there didn’t seem to be feathers all over so I’m hoping they fledged and headed up into the trees safely.DSC03315aI had this walk in lean to site right on the brook all to myself for my fourth night out. The bugs were terrible here as the area is more sheltered. The LT was also full of rodent poop which didn’t excite me much. Noticing a huge dead tree looming right over the site convinced me to take a chance on offending any wandering rangers and setting up my hammock.DSC03317aI found an amazing spot above the brook.I was setting up there when I realized I’d destroy a patch of wild flowers just barely hanging on to the hill if I camped in that spot so moved to a less pretty one. Figured I’d sleep better that way, but….DSC03321aThis spot really was sheltered. I guess that is why they put the big campground there. Something about the mountains or the lake, I dunno, but it was the only spot that didn’t have strong winds the entire week. Maybe breaking out my kite to give it a try was what killed the wind there, heh.DSC03327aIt was plenty warm, but the bugs drove me to light a smokey fire. It was really dry for the time of year so I kept it very small.DSC03330aDSC03339aI’m wearing all of those clothes to keep the bugs off, not because I am cold. So long as I was just hanging out I’d wear both of my insulating layers in camp with the hoods up. Nice not to have to wear the head net all the time.DSC03345aThen it was time for the six miles or so of Freezeout Trail that would lead me to my next camp. Lots of backed up dead water areas even with the dry Spring, though some that are usually wet were totally empty.DSC03350aThis big flat rock formation has trees that try to grow there. Once they get a little bigger the inability to put down deep roots dooms them to fall over.DSC03351aMakes a great spot for other stuff to grow though. Several types of mosses were doing their part to break the tree down.DSC03354aDSC03356aDSC03361aThe giant saw dust pile is hard to wrap the brain around. Many years ago there was a sawmill here that processed logs into lumber before floating the finished product off to market. The mill is long gone, but the saw dust fades more slowly. DSC03362aIt isย  hard to describe how strange this spot feels. The saw dust is spongy under foot and a person walks gently by instinct, making certain each step is supported before trusting it fully. Check out the video below to get another perspective on this spot.

DSC03363aThe turn off for the trail that leads to Frost Pond. That is actually the trail on the left, but you’d never guess that without the signs. Unfortunately those are the only signs at this intersection and it has been this way for years. There are no indicators for the other two directions so you’re on your own as far as navigation.DSC03364aThis is what the intersection looks like if you are headed in the other direction along the Freezeout Trail. Unless you happen to look over and notice the back of those signs poking out from behind that tree you’d never notice. The footpath provides no indication of the intersection at all. I know from experience that this can be a problem because we totally missed this turn on a previous trip.DSC03374aAhhh time to relax. I had a long afternoon to try some fishing on Webster Brook but again the winds were strong and the fish timid. I caught one good sized trout but opted to let him live. These “ducks” kept quacking at me so I was disappointed to come home and have Frau Stranger tell me that they are not ducks. She labeled them as Common Mergansers, but they seemed pretty special to me ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03382aDSC03388aDSC03392aDSC03397aDSC03405aDSC03413aDSC03414aIt was a very relaxing afternoon and evening. Along with many birds in the trees and on the water a beaver came swimming up stream near sunset.DSC03415aSince I had firewood collected in case I caught fish I decided to put it to good use. Baking some muffins is both relaxing and rewarding. The only hard part is trying not to lift the lid. DSC03416aToo early for fresh blueberries yet, but the ones in the mix smelled good enough I was worried I might start pulling in bears. Such a nice treat to have baked goods on day 5 of a trip.DSC03423aDay 6 started out cold. It was tempting to sleep in, but instead I jumped out and got a fire going. I almost never light fires, but I burned up my entire stash of fuel that morning. There was a bucket in the outhouse so I doused it well before I left you can be sure.DSC03427aFirst though it was time for another test of the tiny pan. Today it was pancakes with maple syrup.DSC03434aThe silicon muffin mold made a pretty good pancake plate. Just a squeeze of syrup and two quick bites. I had half a dozen or more that morning along with several cups of coffee. Living the dream!DSC03441aDSC03447aThen I moved a whopping half a mile to the NW Cove tent site. I’d walked through this spot many times on my way out to camps farther out. Just for the fun of it I booked a night here to see how it slept. On closer inspection it wasn’t much of a site.DSC03448aDSC03449aThis must be a very old outhouse as I haven’t seen this design in any other parts of the park. The roof was entirely covered in moss.DSC03451aLooks like the instructions weren’t specific enough for the last user. I’m guessing the paper was supposed to go inside the box, maybe?DSC03455aLooking back at where Webster Brook flows out into the lake. My previous camp was just around that far point to the left.DSC03458aDSC03459aDSC03462aDSC03463aDSC03469aI’d seen this eagle fly close overhead while I was in the trees the day before. When I saw him coming I raced to get my camera out and fired up but this was the only shot I was able to get off before he got out of view.DSC03483aDSC03495aDefinitely nice to have some place to get away from the bugs. I rigged the roof in case the weather changed but spent the entire night in bug house mode enjoying the views. DSC03523aDSC03527aThen I decided to start playing around with my camera. A few long exposures before bed, a few more in the middle of the night and then a couple more at dawn.DSC03528aDSC03529aDSC03556aDSC03564aDSC03571aDSC03573aDSC03589aDSC03597aDSC03607aThen it was time to fly. I burned through the first six miles in under two hours. Then another two hours had me back at the scoot eating ice cream. There was time for a few more pics along the way though.DSC03615aDSC03621aBefore I wrap this up I have to give a shout out to Mother Nature for all of the wildlife I saw on this trip. Yes there were lots of bugs, but so many other amazing sights. On day one I startled a snoozing moose on the Five Ponds Trail between Billfish and Long Ponds.ย  We were too close to think about a camera and I focused on keeping trees between us while it figured out what I was. That night’s camp had beaver, loons, gulls, woodpeckers, red winged blackbirds as did most of my camps throughout the week. Day 5 included a bear sighting on the Freezeout Trail and the bald eagle that flew over very low plus the Mergansers and some pretty but very fast tweety birds that I could only get blurry pictures of.

Oh and last but not least, there was one more animal out there. On the fourth night there was something stomping around breaking sticks that woke me up. I made noises to scare it off and that seemed to freak it out. There was rapid running and stomping which made me make more noise in defense. Then whatever it was ran right at and under me in my hammock with big stomping feet! I haven’t been scared like that in maybe ever and was thinking it might be time to start worrying. Then I finally managed to get a light on the great beast….a bunny! I laughed and fell instantly asleep so if it wasn’t just the bunny I saw I don’t want to know.

I had such fun on this trip that as soon as I got home I talked to the girls about our planned trip to NH when school gets out. It has been replaced with four nights at Baxter hehe. It is just such a beautiful place that lets you reserve privacy rather than hope for the best. I just need to find a bigger frying pan ๐Ÿ™‚

Backyard Testing Family Style

DSC03203aAfter waiting for weeks we finally found a weekend night warm enough to do some backyard camping. I’d done some work to get a new site set up, but didn’t want to drag the girls out there if it was going to be freezing. With the fire going to roast some weenies and warm beds waiting for us we were happy folks.DSC03204aIt wasn’t all fun and games though. We were doing some serious testing. The girls were going to see if they wanted to start using hammocks on some trips. I put up my big hammock for my wife to test out and my little one for my daughter to try. With the outside walls staked down and the middle tied together to make a double porch they were all set.

I slept in my Hubba for the first time in over a year and on the ground for the first time in almost as long. Setting up the tent was nostalgic as I’ve been on a lot of adventures with that little green coffin. Laying on a mat felt bad at first but I slept like a baby. I was glad to find I could still do that as I have reservations for LTs on an upcoming Baxter trip. Those boards are harder than ground, but I’ll probably survive.

Ordered a new hammock for my wife, so I guess the test was a success. The little one is on board too so this means we can start heading out to the places where big family tents fear to tread. I just realized how funny that sounds if you know the places we’ve been over the last few years ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned for field testing reports once school lets out next month!