Category: Our Adventures

Snails on Skis – Eastern Trail, Biddeford, ME

Earl bought a pair of cross-country skis recently and we’ve been anxious to get out and use them.

On Tuesday evening we did a 2-mile tour on the Eastern Trail, located behind the Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford. This is my favorite running trail in the warmer months.

It was a full moon on Tuesday night which made it especially lovely. We did have our headlamps, but only needed them when we were putting our skis on or popping the releases to remove them.

I was a bit uncomfortable skiing on Tuesday evening. I don’t know if it was because it was dark or if it was because the trail was ungroomed and a bit rough.

Today was different. It was snowing! The trail had 4-5″ of new fluffy snow on it. I loved it!

We skied out about 1.75 miles and then turned around. Earl was feeling a bit of rubbing on his heel. We stopped at one of the benches along the trail and he discovered he was getting a blister. Ouch!

We met only one other person on the trail, a woman, who was as happy as we were to be out playing in the snow.

For those of you who live in the colder regions of the country, please find a way to get outside during the colder, snowier months. I’m a relative newbie to enjoying the long winter months here in Maine, but I am so grateful that I finally did.

If you enjoy walking, invest in a pair of snowshoes or crampons so you can continue walking in the snow/cold. If you enjoy running, invest in crampons or skis and keep up your faster pace. There are a lot of outdoor winter activities. One of them is waiting for you to discover it!

Happy trails!

Great Bay Wildlife Refuge, Newington, NH

 

We had the pleasure of joining some of Earl’s co-workers for a hike at the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge in Newington, NH.

There are actually two trails at this location.

One is a shorter trail that to Peverly Pond. This trail is about a half-mile long and was mostly boardwalk. I couldn’t tell if the boardwalks served the purpose of protecting wetlands or if was to make the trail wheelchair friendly.

Whatever the reason, the boardwalk was lovely and blended into the woods as much as a boardwalk can.

The second trail is a 2-mile loop that starts at the Former Weapons Storage Facility (that was part of Pease Air Force Base). The trail follows a fenced area for a short distance, before breaking off into a field and then into the woods.

The hike was easy and because we were hiking with a group our pace was slower. We barely generated enough heat to stay warm. Once we reached the view point at the Great Bay, the man who coordinated this hike brought out a thermos of hot cocoa and paper cups.

The obligatory group photo was taken, snacks were eaten, and then we continued walking.

I have found there are many such woodsy havens located near me. We have started to explore some, but admit that we are elevation and distance snobs now. We like both. These shorter, flatter walks are not as satisfying, but I still enjoy them immensely. It’s wonderful knowing they are here for those days when we can’t drive to the mountains or have only a few hours for adventuring.

Ask family and friends about the hidden treasures in your area. If you are new to hiking, these are a great place to start. If you are a hiking pro, don’t overlook these gems. Remember to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Happy trails!

 

Maine Huts & Trails – Poplar Hut

Yes, we are gluttons for punishment. That’s why we were out of bed and on the road at 6:09 a.m. on a Saturday morning. A very cold (14 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday morning.

But we had places to go!

Our plan for the day was to cross-country ski or hike to Poplar Hut, one of the Maine Huts & Trails huts.

We got to the trail head a little after 8 a.m. We were not quite sure where the parking lot was. The trail map we had didn’t quite match what we were finding. We parked on the side of the road and got out to see if we could figure things out.

A few hundred feet up the road/trail, we met a man with two big, bouncy dogs. He was a local who apparently helped confused hikers quite often. We weren’t sure what he’d been smoking or drinking, but the man wasn’t very steady on his feet, nor was he very coherent in his speaking.

It was too cold to be hanging around outside just chit-chatting, but we eventually learned what we needed. Apparently the trail head parking lot we’d planned to start from was no longer accessible. That section of trail was no longer maintained. But there was parking at the town office building, a short walk up the road, and this man assured us that the trail was okay to hike.

We parked the car at the town office and began the process of adding layers and putting on our packs. We opted to leave our skis in the car and hike up to the hut. We started hiking at around 9 a.m. and got there at around 10:40 a.m.

As we approached the hut, we were greeted by Carolann Ouellette, the new executive director. This certainly doesn’t happen every day at every hut. We had stumbled upon the training session for the staff that would operate the huts for the winter season. Carolann was actually watching for a few people to arrive to conduct the training. We were not those people!

Still, we were welcomed to the hut and invited inside to get warm.

The large dining room/meeting area was filled with enthusiastic workers so we headed up the stairs to a loft area to eat our lunch.

A short time later, the expected guests arrived and also came upstairs. It was Bob Peixotto, the chairman of the board. We had met Bob over Halloween weekend 2015 at the Flagstaff Hut.

Earl recognized him right away, but I never would have picked him out of a lineup. We chatted for a few minutes, then he headed downstairs to talk with the incoming staff. We headed downstairs, too, to listen.

As chairman of the board, Bob had a lot of information to share with these eager staff members. His talk was informative and interesting. I enjoyed the perspective he shared on Maine Huts & Trails being a non-profit organization that also needs to be run like a business so that mission can be achieved. Learn more about their mission.

We left the hut at around noontime and were back to the car by 1:20 p.m. The temperature hadn’t risen much–it was still only 18 degrees.

We were cold, but we were also glad we’d gotten out of bed and gone on this short adventure.

It’s weird to realize we spend about as much time driving to and from these destinations as we do actually adventuring. Some people might not think it would be worth it, but we do. After all, we are still spending time together. Isn’t that what matters?

 

Mt. Meader, NH

Trip Report:
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Outside starting temp: 32 degrees F
Outside ending temp: 40 degrees F
Trails taken: Route 113 to Mt Meader Trail to Meader Ridge Trail (to the summit of Mt. Meader)
Total distance (Out and Back): approximately 7.2 miles
Total adventure time: 5 1/2 hours
Earl wanted to do an overnight backpacking trip this weekend, but I’ve been a bit stressed over some things that need to get done around home. In the spirit of compromise, we did a 7.2-mile out and back hike to Mount Meader in NH today. Tomorrow we will do some cleaning!

The 2-hour drive to New Hampshire was uneventful except for a patch of black ice that elicited a squeak from Earl. My heart jumped to my throat but I’m not sure if it was the sensation of the car sliding on the road, or Earl’s high-pitched shriek.

We parked in the snow-covered Baldface Circle parking lot and walked the 0.6 miles to the Mount Meader Trail trailhead. We experienced first hand the fact that bridges, do indeed, freeze over before the road! We both slipped on the ice at about the same time. It was pretty funny as we stumbled to recover our footing.

The Mount Meader Trail starts off as a dirt road type of path. There were tire marks and we weren’t quite sure if we were on the trail until we saw a bright yellow blaze on a tree. The country lane feel of the path lasted for about a mile, until we reached Brickett Falls.

Brickett Falls was lovely! We talked about going back in deep winter to see how it looks frozen over and then again in the spring when the snow melt and thaw would make it thunderous. There were many pools and ledges and falls.

Speaking of falls, Earl nearly fell into one! I wanted to take his picture in front of the falls and he slipped on the wet leaves. Down he went, very gracefully, I will say. I thought for sure he was going into the pool at the base of the falls, but a fallen tree limb stopped his slide. His boots got a little wet, but otherwise he was fine.

We had noticed on the map at the parking lot that this trail had a lot of switchbacks starting at about the 2-mile mark. Switchbacks typically indicate the terrain is steep. Switchbacks ease the incline angle by spreading it out over a greater distance. We were grateful!

Our hiking speed was slow due to the snow and wet leaves. We kept talking about being glad we had our crampons with us for the descent, but we never did stop to put them on as we were climbing the mountain! Silly us.

The snow on the trees was heavy and wet. We had to be careful walking beneath branches hanging over the trail because they would dump snice (snow + ice) on us. Too often, this snice went down my back! Brrrrr.

​At the first open ledge area, the view was partially amazing. The clouds blocked some of the mountains we knew we should be able to see, but there were a few gaps in the clouds that made the view spectacular!

Feeling a bit playful, I took off my pack, laid down in the snow and made a snow–er–trail angel! It was fun.

We continued up (meaning we crawled at times) the treacherous trail to the intersection of the Mount Meader Trail and the Meader Ridge Trail. We continued on the Meader Ridge Trail to the summit (or what we think was the summit) of Mount Meader.

The Meader Ridge Trail continues another couple of miles to Eagle Crag but we had planned to turn around at the summit and head back to the car. I stopped in a wooded area to put my Hillsound Trail crampons on. I wanted a place to sit (a fallen log was perfect!), but Earl didn’t want to have snice (snow + ice) falling on his head so he kept walking.

I sat for a moment and enjoyed the quiet. I enjoyed the sound of the snow falling from the trees.

When I stood and took my first steps, I felt confident with my footing. I quick-stepped my way up the trail expecting to catch up with Earl quickly. After all, he wasn’t wearing his magic trail shoes yet!

And then the silence was broken by a dog barking and a man yelling.

At first I thought Earl had surprised a hunter and his dog. But when I rounded a corner I saw that it was a pair of hikers, dressed in blaze orange, The large dog was on a leash, sitting quietly. Apparently the dog felt threatened by trekking poles and barked when he saw Earl’s.

We chatted with these hikers for a few minutes, then they headed off. Earl put his crampons on and we headed down the trail.

Not surprisingly the ledges that we struggled to climb up, were fairly easy to manage going down. There were only a couple of spots where I butt slid my way down.

The switchbacks that were a bit scary on the ascent were easy peasy on the descent. Not once did I feel like I would slide off the trail and down the mountain. I know, I could have felt that security on the way up if I’d had half a brain!

In my defense, the extra traction of crampons comes with a price. Although they don’t weigh a lot (about a pound for the pair), that extra 8 ounces on each foot feels heavy. Wet snow and leaves cling to the crampons, making them ineffective, so the crampons frequently need to be stomped clean. The 1/2″ spikes also make walking on non-snow covered surfaces uncomfortable because your foot is not contacting solid ground.

It was wonderful when the trail leveled out and we were able to remove our crampons. Although we slipped a few times on the trail, it was much easier than keeping the crampons in place.

We reached Route 113 just after 1 p.m. and walked the short distance back to the car. We changed into dry socks and shoes and headed back to Maine.

On the drive home Earl said, “We should get home at around 3:30 p.m. I wonder what I’ll do. You probably have that all figured out, don’t you?”

Of course I did! This is what compromise in a relationship is all about!

Shelburne Trail in the Wild River Wilderness

Trip Report:
Saturday & Sunday, November 19 & 20, 2016
Outside starting temp: 26 degrees F
Outside ending temp: 40 degrees F
Trails taken: Highwater Trail, Shelburne Trail, the D&E Bushwhacked non-trail
Total distance (Out and Back): approximately 14 miles
Total adventure time: 27 hours
This weekend we returned to the Wild River Wilderness off of Rte 113 in New Hampshire. Our primary purpose was to try out our new Alps Mountaineering Tasmania 2 4-season tent. Our secondary purpose was to summit Shelburne-Moriah, one of the 52-with-a-View peaks.

We parked in the lot at the junction of the Wild River Road and Rte 113. We had a 5.3 mile hike along the Highwater Trail to reach the Shelburne Trail. That was pretty easy hiking on a cold (26 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday morning. We stopped to watch the sun rise over the mountains to the east.

Shortly after we started up the Shelburne Trail we lost the trail. It happens. Because this trail was in a wilderness area, one that we were not sure was regularly maintained, we didn’t know if we had actually lost the trail or if the trail was just overgrown.

Earl has a GPS app on his phone called, Gaia GPS. We checked the app and saw where the trail was. We bushwhacked our way over to it. We still didn’t see anything that looked like a trail, but we kept hiking, checking in with the app every few minutes to see if we were still on track.

For those of you who have never used a GPS app when hiking, you have to understand that GPS apps are not exact. They get you to the right neighborhood, but it may be to the wrong house. Helpful, but not exact.

As I wrote above, we were not sure if the trail, as we are used to seeing trails, actually existed. Neither of us had done any trail report research on the Shelburne Trail so we just didn’t know. We continued bushwhacking our way following the trail as shown on the Gaia GPS app. ​

Let me tell you, bushwhacking is hard work. The heavy leaf cover on the ground hid rocks, roots, and muddy pits. It’s hard on your legs. It’s hard on your feet. I was getting tired. We had shed all the layers that we could and we were still sweating. Each time we checked the Gaia GPS app I asked the question, “What’s our elevation?”

Shelburne Moriah Mountain is 3,735 feet high. We were at approximately 1,800 feet elevation. We kept walking around blow-downs, trees, and thick scrub making our way up the invisible trail. Finally, the safety monitor in me said, “We should set a turn around time.”

Earl said, “What do you mean? Ready to give up already?”

“No,” I said, but yes, it what I meant. Instead I made my argument. “If we want to be home by 4 p.m. tomorrow to watch the Patriots play, we need to be back to the car by 2 p.m.

“We started hiking at 7 a.m. this morning. It is now 11:30 a.m. We will have to bushwhack our way back down to a good place to spend the night. Tomorrow we will need to find the Wild River and the Highwater Trail. We will have at least 5 miles to hike on the Highwater Trail to reach the car. It is doubtful we will be hiking by 7 a.m. tomorrow, because the sun will just be coming up. So if we don’t turn around by 2 p.m., it’s not likely we will be home in time for the Pats to play. That’s all I’m thinking.”

Earl continued moving up the trail. A few minutes later he pointed to a grassy, flat area below us. “That could be a good place to camp. Want to check it out?”

“Not really,” I said. “It isn’t likely that we’ll be able to find it again.”

We continued slowly making our way up the trail that was denoted by dotted lines on Earl’s phone.

Then Earl stopped.

“Look,” he said.

I looked. There in front of him was a trail. An obvious trail!

Woot!

“What does the app show for our elevation?”

“Two thousand feet,” he said.

“We still have 1,700 feet of elevation in about a mile and a half,” I said.

Time wise, it would be close. We could probably make it to the summit by 2 p.m. But knowing we were on the established, it-did-exist, trail, our descent shouldn’t be quite as time or energy consuming.

We continued up the trail with renewed vigor and hope for reaching the summit.

A short distance later Earl stopped. “I’m tired. Let’s just head back down.”

I offered no argument!

Now the question became, where did we lose the trail? Would we know it when we saw it? We had a theory. Time and distance would tell us if we were right.

We started down the trail keeping our eyes peeled for good places the spend the night. The two primary considerations were a water source and flat ground.

Earl pointed to our right. There was a flat, grassy area. We laughed. It was the spot we’d seen earlier, the one I did not want to hike down to to check it out. The trail was just on the other side of it!

Now you might think we started kicking ourselves, or that Earl said, “See? If we had checked this out, we would have found the trail sooner!” but that was not the case. You see, the area was wet. We would have looked at it from the side we’d approached from and never would have continued across it to find the trail.

The spot where we deviated from the trail was, indeed, the place we thought it might be. We had hiked around several trees that covered the trail. We found what appeared to be the trail on the other side of them. We still stopped to look around to be sure. We thought the trail might have veered off to the right and up a hill. We checked the Gaia GPS app. It indicated we were on the trail.

See what I mean about GPSs apps being close but not exact?

We now think that we were within 10 – 15 yards of the trail most of the time we were bushwhacking. ​

We found a wonderful spot to camp near a babbling brook at around 1:30 p.m. We set up the new tent, then remembered to look for “widow makers,” dead trees or branches that might fall on unsuspecting campers. We saw one. We picked up the tent (that was so sweet) and moved it a few feet farther away from the widow maker.

We finished setting up our home for the night, filtered water, made dinner and relaxed for the couple of hours before dark. By 4:30 p.m. we were bundled up for the night.

Let me talk about the tent for a paragraph or two. It was great. Set up was easy. The portability of moving it when we discovered the widow maker was enough to make me giddy with joy. Of course we were fortunate that there were not trees or high scrub brush that would make lifting and moving it unwise.

The Alps Mountaineering Tasmania 2 tent has two vestibules. I loved having a place to store our packs overnight out of the weather. I always tucked mine under the small tarp of our other tent, and Earl typically left his outside. The other vestibule protected us from the weather as we crawled in and out of it. I put a piece of Tyvek at the opening so we tracked fewer leaves and dirt into the tent. We left our shoes outside, but they were still protected from the weather.

The interior of the tent was plenty roomy for us and our clothes. Mesh pockets run the full length of the sidewalls of the tent so we had a place to put lightweight stuff (glasses, cell phones). ​

One thing to know about late fall/winter camping is that the nights are extremely long! It was dark at 4:30 p.m. and would not get light until 6:30 a.m. At 9:30 p.m. I woke up and had to go pee. I scooted to the foot of the tent, unzipped the door, and put my camp shoes on. Then I unzipped the vestibule door and went outside.

The stars in that black sky were so bright! I peed then went to wake Earl. This was definitely worth sharing. We stood outside in the cold for just a few minutes before crawling back in the tent. We laughed at the idea that we still had another eight hours of dark before morning.

Sometime in the night those stars disappeared behind storm clouds. I woke at around 2 a.m. to hear light rain falling on the tent. I dozed and woke many times. I heard critters scuffling around outside and the rain fell harder.

It was just getting light when we crawled out of our sleeping bags and began the day. It was still raining, but our thermometers read 40 degrees. We were surprised at how warm it felt. We had expected to wake up to snow.

Breakfast in the rain consisted of a Poptart, oatmeal, and hot cocoa. A good hiker breakfast!
Breakfast in the rain consisted of a Poptart, oatmeal, and hot cocoa. A good hiker breakfast!

​While the water was heating for breakfast, we broke down camp. At 7:33 a.m. we started the 6-mile hike back to the car.

For the first time, our entire hiking day was spent in the rain. The trail was a bit treacherous in spots where wet leaves met steep descents. We arrived back to the car, soggy and safe, at 10 a.m.

Rather than stopping for breakfast or lunch, as we typically would do after a hike, we opted to drive straight home. We unloaded the car, set the tent up in the living room to dry, and unpacked our wet gear. By 1 p.m. we were in our places to watch the Baltimore Ravens play the Dallas Cowboys.

A weekend full of hiking and football. Life is good!

 

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