Holiday 2008

December 24, 2008

Stories from our year:

Char - I spent the warm season hiking the Appalachian Trail with single-minded determination - had some wonderful times, occasionally with company, often solo or with faithful dog Oscar. Maine is very rugged compared with the rest of the Trail! I hope to finish the last 100 miles next spring. Now I'm volunteering at the CT Trust for Historic Preservation on a project to document historic barn structures statewide, which is useful work, from the point of view of preservationists anyway. And trying to stay fit as I turned 60.

Bob - still presiding over NEPEC and standing up to the drug companies - he hiked briefly with me in Maine in August, and then we went to Alaska in September with long-time friends Mike and Phoebe. As the pictures illustrate we had some beautiful fall weather, though yes, it was chilly.

Abby continues gardening in SF (
She and Dennis visit wine country when they need a vacation.

Louisa works on the children's web programming at WGBH in Boston, does a lot of crafts (
She is off this holiday with Li Zhuang to visit his folks in China.

Mabel just moved to Austin, Texas to study tv, film, and video criticism - we're going to visit her over the holidays. Earlier she and John just "had" to take a visit back to Philadelphia for the World Series to share the excitement and joy.

Artifacts of West Rock Ridge

Artifact: something made or modified by humans, especially an object remaining from another time or culture.

December 1, 2008

Now that I'm home in New Haven for the winter, West Rock is one of my regular haunts - Oscar and I have several favorite hikes: the Regicides Trail to Judges Cave (Oscar is showing off the so-called cave), Lake Wintergreen loop over the ridge, High Rock, Mt. Sanford, and more.

During the 19th century, quarrying, wagon roads, and mill dams put their marks on the Rock.

Here the West River in flood runs past an old dam site.

Stone walls remain as evidence of long-gone agricultural uses; this one is in the Mt. Sanford section north of Roaring Brook Falls.

Ballfields at the south end and mountain-bike trails in the woods are current uses (official or stealth).

Recently, we noticed a series of "stone age" monuments erected in different areas along the trails near the ridge top.

Only a few weeks later, one set was gone (vandalism? a purposeful temporary work?). Here are some photos of this installation art.

Nostalgia for Summer

October 29, 2008

Today I received a surprise e-mail from a through-hiker who watched (and documented) Oscar and me back in August as we forded the deepest of those Maine rivers - Big Wilson Stream. Here we are, in transit, thanks to "Boat."

It's great to look back on those warm long days of mid-summer and to know that I've crossed every one of those fords. Any river-fording that I do in future will be purely optional.

Yay Phillies, 2008 Champs!

The Last of 281 Miles

October 10-11, 2008

After enjoying the luxury of the Norseman Inn in Bethel for several nights (and breakfasts of warm muffins by a cheery fire at the inn) I concluded my traverse of the rugged Maine mountains by spending one last night outdoors at 3000 feet on the Trail. The route was a loop starting with a pleasant steady 6-mile walk up Bemis Stream Trail (former route of the AT until 1958). Logging is ongoing outside the stream corrider, but around the stream you're hardly aware of it.

Here's a view of lumpy Bemis Mountain, my destination for the second day, from a stream crossing.

I reached the AT near the ridge top, and found a tiny primitive campsite along the Trail where I cooked my Annie's macaroni and spent the night.

Next day, I walked the AT along the ridge north for 8 miles, with the constant ups and downs that are so typical of Maine, plus a few miles of ridge top views.

Then a wicked plunge down hill, a final stream ford, and an uphill through maple woods back to the road, where I arrived just as the sun set over Lake Mooselookmeguntic.

All the most strenuous elements of the Maine mountains rolled into this final section!

That's all for the Appalachian Trail in Maine - now I'm home for the winter, having walked 2,030 miles of the Trail so far. I'll be planning to finish up the Tennessee-North Carolina section next spring - only 145 to go.

Backcountry Challenge

October 4-6, 2008

Saddleback and the Horn - aside from Katahdin it's the longest walk above treeline in Maine. And on my day it was blowing a major gale. I enjoyed the approach up the AT past several ponds; then I reached the treeline and felt the full force of the wind - every step required planning to keep from falling over. You can see by the frozen trees that winter has arrived up here. Well, I trudged along and got over the Horn, the rightmost peak in the distance there.

Luckily down the other side I found a brand-new campsite being built (by the MATC) at Redington Stream, just as I was running out of daylight and worried about how I'd get to the shelter that was still a couple of miles away. That was Trail Magic - I stayed two nights and had an easy day trip north to my "tag up" spot (where I had ended on my hike in from the north) near Orbeton Stream.

Here's the north side of the Horn on the way back over. This day was sunnier and less windy, but still freezing on top. It was a relief to get back across the exposed tops and return to the lakes at the lower elevations.

Here's Eddy Pond and
Piazza Rock, a famous landmark cantilevered piece of gigantic talus.

Fall Foliage Maine-style

October 3, 2008

The weather's been gray, but the foliage is colorful.

Here is Sabbathday Pond, where Louisa and Li Zhuang hiked with me in August. Now I've been in there from the opposite direction.

This is the view of the S Branch of the Carrabassett River as I'm climbing a rocky slope on the back side of Sugarloaf Mountain.

More & More Water - Rivers and Bogs

October 2, 2008

The last few days have featured lots of water, mostly underfoot but also from the skies. Here are a few samples of what the Maine Woods are dishing out:

Crossing the S Branch of Carrabassett River on a single plank laid across the rushing torrent. I was lucky - after the rain from Kyle, the plank was under water and people couldn't cross for days.

Fording the Orbeton Stream (not nearly as scary as the above) - cool relief for sore toes!

Slipping and sliding through swamps and bogs - note the spruce grouse in the trail - where there were bog bridges, many of them were submerged. After a half hour my feet were soaked and the rest of the day was wading.

A stream cutting across the slate bedrock - this one was an easy rock-hop

Here's one that I could admire from the bank - a flume in Sluice Brook, plunging down into Orbeton Stream.

Rock and Water

September 21-27, 2008

I'm back at it again - this time I truly hope to complete my missing link across the mountains and lakes of Maine. Fall is one of my favorite times, so after experiencing Fall Color in Alaska, I'm having it now in Maine and with luck I'll see it again at home in another week.

I camped for 4 chilly nights on the shore of Flagstaff Lake (there's my camp above) while doing some good bike-hikes among the Carry Ponds (here's West Carry Pond) to the north and up the Bigelow Range from the "back" side where it's quite wild and remote.

Then I came around to the south side of the Bigelow Preserve (view to the top from Stratton Brook) and hiked over the West Peak (scene of the alpine ridge) to Horns Pond (those are the Horns behind the pond) and then down a really steep cliff to a great beaver pond (while sleeping nights in comfort at a Stratton motel).

I took refuge during the tropical storm with Susan and Michael at their Sebago Lake cottage rental - what excellent hospitality!

Alaskan Scenery

September 12, 2008

The ultimate postcard view - Denali from the reflecting pond at Camp Denali (up the hill from the Lodge where we stayed) - it really looked like this!

We were so lucky to be in the Park to see fall color, but it was chilly - here Phoebe and I are bundled up for lunchtime on a breezy mountain pass.

Now, for the must-see video - Mike doing the Tundra Roll:

If you haven't had enough, see more pictures at

Friends in Alaska

September 12, 2008

Mike and Bob on the Alaska RR train from Anchorage to the Denali Park entrance.

Bog walk in fall foliage at our Deneki Lakes lodging before we went into the park.

We stayed at North Face Lodge, which brought us into the Park by bus and offered group hikes each day. Here's a group climbing Camp Ridge.

And the afternoon view of Wonder Lake and Denali from the ridge:

Northern Detour - Alaska!

September 12, 2008

Denali in alpenglow - the final views of the mountain as we left the park at sunrise. Bob and I spent a week in Denali National Park with our friends Phoebe and Mike, fulfilling a wish we'd all had for many years.

On our last day, the season's first snow fell at higher elevations while we hiked in rain down below.

Here we hiked across a foothill of Eielson Mountain on our way back to our bus after visiting the Muldrow Glacier. We were about to cross the gravel bar and river (by wading), but were already damp, so past caring about wet feet.

Below: the view from our lunch spot on the glacier.

For the complete show, visit this:

More Water

August 29, 2008

Ponds, rivers, streams, waterfalls ...

Oscar drinks from Baker Stream

The canoe ferry bringing hikers across the Kennebec River (Oscar and I skipped the boat ride but visited the put-ins on both banks).

Reality check watching the timber industry at work - access to the AT is over logging roads (recreational users at our own risk) where the trucks are huge and the tree-cutting equipment is huger. Logs are stacked by the roadside in 2-story heaps waiting to be moved. A constant stream of loaded trucks leaves the woods on major and minor roadways. Make the connection between this and the stuff we use and throw away down in the cities and suburbs!

But back to the scenery:

The view north from Moxie Bald Mountain - one of my favorite spots, blueberry heaven and views across the 100-mile Wilderness.

Pierce Pond Stream plummets 500 feet down through slate bedrock to the Kennebec River.

I'm heading home for a few days before the next big travel adventure ... to be continued ...

So Much Water

August 28, 2008

Maine is a watery state and I'm not even talking about the ocean! The whole interior is a boggy sponge overflowing with water that pours out in torrential streams. Here are a few of my bog favorites:

Pitcher plants in the Fourth Mountain Bog of the Barren-Chairback Range

Oscar staying on the bog bridges!

Sundew growing in an old beaver pond near Little Wilson Stream