Month: April 2015

Our First Overnight Experience

We decided to needed to do a practice our outdoor camping skills away from the comforts of home. We needed to go somewhere where we couldn’t crawl into a real bed at 5 a.m. because we were still tired. We needed to see if we remembered to pack all we needed to be able to eat a hot meal away from the safety net of the kitchen microwave.

With our packs loaded up, we began our first multi-day backpacking experience!

The biggest concern I had was that it was snowing when we left home! But the local weatherman assured us that it wouldn’t last. I crossed my fingers.

(My apologies for the somewhat blurry photos. I didn’t know there was a clear piece of plastic over the lens on my phone until after I got home and saw the pics.)

Androscoggin RiverThe Mighty Androscoggin River. A few weeks earlier we had walked out on the frozen river.


11057339_869932623076911_9095212950225309027_nWoot! No snow! It turned into a beautiful day to be out in the woods.




3173110_origWe almost saw a deer. Later in the day we DID see a deer!

Earl said, “Do you think this is a beaver dam?”

1167118_origWe turned around and saw this.

Yup. That was probably a beaver dam!

Funny things happen in the woods!

4535355_origWhen possible, you want to be close to a water source, but not too close. We camped a little ways upstream from this brook. It was a great water source. Although it looked clear and refreshing, we still used our trusty water filter!

We’d hiked for about six miles when the trail crossed the stream above. We decided it was a good place to stop to set up camp. We found a spot that looked fairly level and fumbled with setting up the tarp and tent. We blew up our air mattresses, pulled out our sleeping quilt so the down could fluff up, and settled down to make dinner.

3641999_origA watched pot will boil. Eventually. Yummy mac ‘n cheese for dinner.
After dinner we realized we hadn’t thought about end-of-day entertainment. We didn’t have books to read or cards to play. What did we do? We went for a walk!At the top of a hill we stopped to check out a cairn. It seemed out of place in these woods. When we turned to continue walking, Earl spotted a deer at the bottom of the hill. We were able to enjoy watching for a few minutes before it took off running.

We returned to camp just before the sun went down. We were tired so we crawled into the tent and settled on our comfortable air mattresses. Except…

The ground that we thought was flat enough really was not. Our mattresses kept sliding to the bottom of the tent. Lesson learned. Pay more attention to the slant of the ground before you pitch your tent.

The next morning we packed up and headed for home.

8706758_origGoodbye campsite. Thanks for being our home for the night!

Stealth camping or Leave No Trace camping means that once you leave the campsite, no one would know that you ad been there. Here’s what our site looked like when we left in the morning. How’d we do?


Cousins and Castles

Winnekenni Castle, Haverhill, MA -- photo by Margaret Thompson
Winnekenni Castle, Haverhill, MA — photo by Margaret Thompson

When I share photos from my hikes on Facebook, several cousins frequently make comments like, “We have to hike together sometime!” or “Looks like fun. Let’s hike together one day!”

These comments could easily be construed as the equivalent to “Let’s do lunch.” But since these cousins were my childhood adventuring buddies, I took them at their words and issued an invitation. They accepted!

One challenge we faced for this adventure, though, was the distance that separates us. They live in Massachusetts, just over a hundred miles from me. It made sense to meet somewhere in the middle.

I used Google maps to locate the approximate half-way mark. I picked Haverhill, Massachusetts because it was about half-way between us and it was in the video of people trying to pronounce Massachusetts town names. It’s a very funny video. 🙂

Next, I did what people do these days–I Googled “Hiking trails Haverhill MA”.

The first result brought me to the Winnekenni Castle Trail Map page. I thought, “How cool! A castle! In Massachusetts! Who knew?”

Another link brought me to the City of Haverhill’s Winnekenni Park page.

I shared the web links with my cousins. They were on board for this adventure. We had a date and time to go adventuring!

We met, we hiked, we talked, we laughed. We reminisced about our childhood adventures.

We remembered walking or riding bikes to each other’s homes. We always met in the middle, just like we did on Sunday. Back then that distance was just four miles, but it still took us about an hour to meet up. Things can be the same, even when they are different.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with my cousins. It was wonderful to share them with Earl, and to have them get to know him a bit better. It was also an opportunity for Earl to gain a bit of insight into who I am, because of who I was as a child.

There are not enough words to express my thoughts and feelings about our Sunday adventure. Suffice it to say that my heart is full of joy.

And because I am who I am… I offer this challenge:

Take time this week or next to plan an adventure. Ask a friend or family member to join you. Set a date. Search for a local hiking trail. Show up. Enjoy!





Hypothermia – When You Are Deathly Cold

Recent conversations with family members and friends have been around the topic of hypothermia. This is a condition when the body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees,

Most people think hypothermia can only happen in the colder winter months or the transitional months. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, more people suffer from hypothermia in the summer. Weird, huh?

The Outdoor Self Reliance website provides information on how to recognize signs of hypothermia.

In their book “Hypothermia Frostbite and other Cold Injuries” authors Gordon G. Giesbrecht, Ph.d, and Doctor, James A. Wilkerson, write “A mnemonic useful for remembering the early stages of hypothermia is “umbles.” The mildly hypothermic individual:

    • fumbles
    • stumbles
    • tumbles
    • mumbles
    • grumbles

The first three items (fumbles, stumbles, tumbles) reflect impairment of motor function, first fine movements and then gross movements. The last two (mumbles and grumbles) indicates intellectual impairment.”

Hypothermia is a real danger to people out in the woods. Become familiar with the signs so that you can recognize them in yourself and others.

Always carry rain gear and synthetic layers to add to or replace what you are wearing when the weather changes unexpectedly. Always carry an emergency blanket. Emergency blankets weigh just ounces, but can save your life, by redirecting body heat back towards the body.

To sum it up… Always pack so you are prepared.

Our Summer Home

Six Moon Designs tarp and net tent for ultralight backpacking.
Six Moon Designs tarp and net tent for ultralight backpacking.


We invested in a Six Moon Designs ultralight tarp and net tent to take with us on our adventures this summer. We had quite a time putting it up. It didn’t help that I was a bit snarky after working 12 days straight. Sorry, Earl! 🙂

We realized that unless we improve our set up time (which I am confident we will), we will have to stop hiking by noontime to have time to get it in place before nightfall. HA HA Okay, I’m kidding, but it did take us a while. Thank goodness for Google searches on how to tie knots!

We slept in it last night. The nighttime temp was in the 40s. We had two different types of sleeping pads which provide some insulation value and comfort. I have a Big Agnes Q-Core SL pad. Earl has a Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite. My pad proved more comfortable than his, but since I kept sliding off mine, we both had a pretty tough night’s sleep.

We were, however, warm beneath our Enlightened Equipment quilt.

We stuck it out until around 6 a.m., then we came inside, crawled in bed, and slept for four hours. I guess we needed.

We now have a few things to research to improve our sleeping comfort. And if we can’t improve it, at least we are better prepared for what we will experience on the trail. I’m confident with the many resources available, we’ll gain comfort (without too much weight increase) with each overnight endeavor.

So remember… practice runs are always a good idea.

*Note: Items mentioned in this blog post were purchased by us for our use. We receive no payment for providing the links above.

Rain and Snow… and Off We Go!

Despite the forecast of rain and possibly snow today, Earl and I planned our weekend hike as usual. We needed to stay fairly local so we decided to hike a perennial favorite, Streaked Mountain in South Paris, Maine.

Streaked Mountain trail
The trail up Streaked Mountain, Buckfield, ME

It’s a tough little mountain to climb. It’s only about 3/4 mile from the trailhead to the summit and all of that is up. The first part of the trail is in the woods. There was still quite a bit of snow so we were glad we wore our crampons. There were, however, many places where snowshoes would have been a better choice. It can be rather exhausting post-holing your way up a mountain.

Once you break out of the woods, the trail is on the steep granite face of the mountain. Emphasis on steep.

It was a bit treacherous today, as it has been many other times when we’ve climbed it. It was raining when we arrived but had changed to wind-driven snow by the time we cleared the wooded part of the trail.

The granite slopes are steep. When dry, they are intimidating. When wet or icy, they are downright treacherous. Earlier this winter we climbed up the trail and opted to follow one of the snowmobile trails down it. That meant walking an additional two to three miles back to our car, but that was nothing compared to the “scaries” that trail had us feeling at the thought of making our way down it.
Breaking out of the woods and starting the climb up the steep granite face of the mountain.

Streaked Mountain, Buckfield, ME
Streaked Mountain, Buckfield, ME

Today we climbed up and down the trail.

Post-holing our way up was tough. Post-holing our way down was tricky. One second I was walking along fine. The next, my leg was buried to my crotch. I had to crawl out of that hole and then get back up on my feet. My legs were a bit shaky until my confidence returned; or perhaps my confidence returned once my legs stopped shaking!

If it hadn’t been so important to me that we climb down the mountain today, we probably would have walked down the snowmobile trail again. But I bought new boots and I wanted to give them a good “up & down” test to see if they were keepers. They certainly passed today’s test.


This caught my eye because it looks like a butterfly

A trail marker breaking through the snow and ice! I thought it was cool that it’s shaped like a butterfly!

View from the Streaked Mountain trail
View from the Streaked Mountain trail

Evergreen boughs trapped in the snow.

Evergreen boughs breaking through the snow and ice.

After Streaked Mountain, we headed to the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park. Although these trails are fairly flat which made for easier walking, the soft snow is akin to walking on beach sand. It tires the legs more quickly than trails with solid footing. We walked for a couple miles before calling it a day.

What continues to amaze me is that we actually got out there.

We could have stayed in bed, or made excuses or downplayed the need to hike “lesser” trails because we didn’t have the time to do a 4000-footer.

Instead we embrace the hiker philosophy which means you hike. Short distance or long distance, we hike. Mountains or level trails, we hike. Rain or sunshine, we hike.

Earl looking tired after Streaked Mountain hike

Earl looking very serious. Maybe he’s just tired.