Category Archives: Maine outdoors

Returning to my roots – the great outdoors

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Hiking a low mountain in Maine to California redwoods

 

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir, 1901

Growing up in rural Northern Maine, I was outdoors more than in. It was the thing to do. Camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, sailing and more in the summer.

During the winters I was still outdoors – snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing – but spent a bit more time indoors. After all, it was winter in the deep, dark North Woods of Maine and being inside was about survival. I’m not completely crazy.

Behind my childhood home on the hill overlooking Portage Lake and the small town of Portage was a now-feral hay field and beyond that was a mountain. Not much more than a hill, really, especially by the standards of the Sierra Nevada or Rocky Mountains. It was no Mount Shasta or Mount Whiney. Just a plain, low mountain, ancient and worn, and covered with soft and hardwoods. More ancient than the Sierra or even the Rockies, I seem to recall. Just worn down over time. But in my youth it was a place for adventure and play and escape, with no limits to childhood imagination.

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From that field and mountain, I imagined exploring African jungles and Australian outback. I survived and thrived on countless imaginary deserted islands and roamed the American West ridding it of outlaws. From that spot in Northern Maine, my imagination allowed me to explore the world, rescue heroines and the underdog, and rid the world of the Nazi scourge. In my imagination, at least.

But there are times to imagine and there are times to simply do. I climbed all over that mountain in my backyard and countless others over the years. After a period of aimlessness at University of Southern Maine, I went to Chico State on National Student Exchange. I went for a semester … years ago. And I simply stayed.

Chico was nicely located for outdoor activity – close to hiking, camping and water sports, big on the bicycle culture. The only thing Chico is missing is the ocean. Sea and surf and salt air would have been wonderful there. It was also close to the Sierra Nevada.

But during the first holiday weekend I was in Chico, a group of NSE students and I took a road trip in the opposite direction as the Sierra. Instead we went to Crescent City along the North Coast, stopping to hike among the towering redwoods and along stony beaches. Later I worked as a wildlife firefighter for three summers, putting me deep into the outdoors, sometimes hiking and working in protected wilderness few people get to see ever.

Landing in Vacaville after working at a series of small newspapers, Lagoon Valley Regional Park and Rockville Regional Park were good places to stretch my hiking legs. Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley was another favorite place to lace up my boots and simply walk among the trees.

Being outside and hiking have been my life.

Until a couple of years ago, that is. I combination of a knee injury and series of girlfriends who did not share my love for the outdoors limited my exploration. Even limited my adult imagination, I suppose. I did not go to the forest and mountains for far too long. I should have visited the doctor sooner to work to mend the knee and left those disinterested girlfriends behind to go to the forest and mountains. I did neither.

But time passes and knees mend. Thought of disinterested girlfriends fade quickly. I’m back to hiking. And I’m loving it again, just like I always did.

The latest hike last weekend took me to Calaveras Big Trees State Park for the South Grove Trail. And, yes, there are very big trees in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park – giant sequoias, ponderosa pines, sugar pines, incense cedars and white fir, with Pacific dogwoods, leopard lily, Hartweg’s iris, crimson columbine and more. The foliage was passed peak when I hiked the South Grove Trail and the Bradley Grove Trail, about 10 miles of hiking. But I will go back to hike a few other trails.

I plan to hike for decades to come. On the Bradley trail, I ran into two couples and they all must have been in their 80s and there they were hiking. A lifetime of activity means a life worth living.

I’m glad I’m back to hiking. It has been a part of my life since I was a small child climbing that low mountain. It’s part of me. It always was. It always will be.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

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30 years ago, many doubted Maine Island Trail would work. Today, it’s ‘a treasure’ Bangor Daily News

It was a novel idea — a water trail along the Maine coast, with campsites scattered on the state’s many uninhabited islands. In the fall of 1987, Camden native Dave Getchell, Sr., presented this vision, “a waterway foMITA_logo_NoWebsite-300x151r small boats,” in a single-page editorial in the magazine Small Boat Journal, and readers throughout Maine wrote to Getchell, stating their interest in the idea and offering to become involved.

Now 30 years later, the Maine Island Trail weaves through islands and along the rocky coast for 375 miles and features 218 sites, some for day use and some for camping.

“We are very proud to say the mission has not changed by one word since the beginning,” said Doug Welch, executive director of the Maine Island Trail Association for the past 10 years.

In recognition of the trail’s 30-year milestone, longtime members of MITA, including Getchell and Welch, gathered on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the MITA office in Portland. At the event, members reminisced about the trail’s humble beginnings and celebrated of the realization of a unique vision.

In a phone interview just prior to the party, Getchell, now 88 years old and living in Appleton, explained how the Maine Island Trail got started.

“Being an outdoors person and very fond of the water, and having done quite a lot of coastal cruising myself, it occurred to me that it would be great to have something like a water trail,” Getchell said.

At the time, the concept of creating a trail for paddlers, sailboats and small motorized boats, complete with boat launches and individual campsites, was new and controversial. In fact, the Maine Island Trail may very well be the first official “water trail” in America.

Read the rest of the story.

Maine at the cutting edge of compost technology | Bangor Daily News

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what happens to waste once it’s been thrown out or flushed away.

But Mark King and the other members of the Maine Compost Team are not like most people. King, an environmental specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, has spent many years learning and teaching the finer points of composting food scraps, dead animals, human waste and other types of waste products. And he is very proud of the Maine Compost School, an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed program that is the longest-running such school in the country. Students from all over have come here for the last 20 years to learn cutting-edge compost technology.

“In 2014 there was an outbreak of avian influenza in the midwest that was getting worse and worse and worse. They didn’t have any experts to help with composting [the dead birds], and three of us from Maine were asked to help,” he said. “I think we’re leading the way. We have a huge abundance of composting expertise in the state of Maine.”

More than 1,000 students have graduated from the Maine Compost School, which is taught twice a year at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, the University of Maine’s apple, small fruit and vegetable research facility. The farm has a state-of-the-art composting facility where students receive classroom instruction, laboratory experience and hands-on project exercises at the school that has received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and a special national award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among other recognitions. Students spend a week digging into the art and science of composting, King said a few days after the fall class had finished, learning everything from how to correctly manage a small backyard bin to a large community compost facility.

“We teach the skill. We talk about the systems. We talk about how to build a pile and how to manage a pile,” King said. “It’s a program that fills up every class. It’s citizens, municipal officials, regulators. We accept anyone. Our philosophy is we’ll train anybody that wants to learn about compost.”

Read the rest of this story.

Maine congressional delegation unites in opposing potential tripling of Acadia entry fee | Portland Press Herald

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have come out in opposition to a proposal by the Department of the Interior that would raise the entrance fee at 17 popular national parks, including Acadia.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, sent a joint letter Thursday asking the Department of the Interior to reconsider the idea because of its potential economic impact.

They wrote that “365 days a year, Acadia National Park – one of the crown jewels of the National Park System – serves as a tremendous resource for the people of Maine and the visitors who come here.

“From May through October, it sustains a vibrant economy in the region, bringing millions of visitors across the country and the world to the coast of Maine.”

The fee increase proposal, announced this week, is meant to help address a maintenance backlogin the park system. As drafted, it would nearly triple the cost of vehicle passes at Acadia, from $25 to $70. In addition to per-vehicle costs, entrance fees for individuals would rise from $12 to $30, while the fee for motorcyclists would jump from $20 to $50 during the peak season.

Read the rest of this story.

82-year-old man becomes oldest person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail | The Washington Post via the Bangor Daily News

There was a moment back in August when Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders considered giving up.

In the middle of the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine, far from help, he was bleeding internally and having heart palpitations – not surprising considering that he was 50 or 60 years older than most of the people he had met on the Appalachian Trail.

Sanders called his wife in Bartlett, Tennessee, and she urged him to keep going. With a go-ahead from his doctors, he did, and on Thursday, Sanders, 82, officially became the oldest person to hike the entire 2,190-mile trail in a year.

He walked much of it alone, but for the last mile, ending at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Sanders was joined by friends, family and hikers – including a pair of dogs – he had met along the trail.

At the end of it, he danced a jig.

“I feel euphoric!” he said. “I keep thinking, is someone going to come out of the woodwork and say, ‘Uh-uh, I hiked it last year . . . and I was 83′ – but no one has stepped up and said that.”

“Someone said to me, ‘You can’t do it, the only way an old person’s going to be able to hike the Appalachian Trail is if they’ve hiked it before.’ That challenged me.”

Read the rest of this story.

Acadia National Park considering purchase of iconic MDI lighthouse | Bangor Daily News

Ownership of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on Mount Desert Island could be changing hands if officials at Acadia National Park choose to accept the picturesque landmark from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Christie Anastasia, public affairs specialist at Acadia, said many visitors to the lighthouse already assume it’s part of the park since it is surrounded by federal land and frequently pictured in advertisements featuring the park.

Read the rest of the story.

Maine Archaeologists Find Evidence of Historic English Fort | Assocated Press

BRISTOL, Maine (AP) — Archaeologists in Maine say they have uncovered possible evidence of the first fort at the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site.

The Portland Press Herald reports archaeologists concluded a two-week dig at the site on Friday. Archaeologists were searching for evidence of England’s Fort Charles. The fort was built in 1677 and later destroyed by French and Native American forces.

The group says they found potential “post holes,” flint and musket balls in the area.

Read the rest of the story.

Read the longer version in the Portland Press Herald.

 

 

Higgins Beach, Maine: Surfer’s Paradise In New England | offMetro.com

[NOTE: I’ve lived in California longer than I’ve lived in Maine, but the Pine Tree State runs like pine sap in my veins. And in all that time living in California, I’ve never learned to surf. Scared of the sharks, I suppose, or being driven into the ocean floor by a wave. But there’s surfing in Maine, too.]

Higgins Beach is just a few miles from Portland, but the surfer vibe is straight out of a Beach Boys song. Welcome to a laid-back coastal community loaded with yesteryear charm. Kids ride their bikes around town, surfers catch waves until night falls and the tides are a constant source of conversation. It’s an easy-breezy, ocean-studded getaway and an idyllic spot for a last summer hurrah or an autumn weekend by the Atlantic. This pocket-sized town is perfect for carefree, car-free travels.

Read the rest of the story and view a video.

Mainers believed there was a sea monster in Casco Bay 200 years ago | CBS 13 (WGME, Portland, Maine)

PORTLAND, Maine – As Portland celebrates tall ships weekend, there are some who believe tall ships aren’t the only things at home in Casco Bay.

For centuries, people have claimed to see sea monsters in Maine’s waters, with an unusual spike in such sightings, 200 years ago this summer.

Sea monster stories and sightings go back centuries, including a famous one involving Maine naval hero Commodore Edward Preble, giving chase to one in 1779.

In the long history of Maine sea monster sightings one summer stands out, 1817.

Read the rest of this story by CBS 13 (WGME, Portland, Maine) via the Bangor Daily News

Two tall ships will moor in Portland this weekend | Portland Press Hearld

B y Dennis Hoey
Staff Wrtier

Two of the world’s most majestic three-masted tall ships will be in Portland Harbor this weekend on what just happens to be the anniversary of the founding of the United States Coast Guard.

Known as “America’s Tall Ship,” the Coast Guard’s 295-foot barque USS Eagle is scheduled to dock at Portland’s Ocean Terminal around 10 a.m. Friday. The Eagle will be joined Saturday morning by another tall ship – the 200-foot sail-training ship SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, which was moored off Fort Allen Park Thursday night. Both ships will be open for free, public tours throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday.

The event is sponsored by Tall Ships Portland – a nonprofit that promotes sailing experiences for high school-age teens – in conjunction with the Coast Guard, which coincidentally will be celebrating its 227th anniversary on National Coast Guard Day. The Coast Guard was founded by an act of Congress on Aug. 4, 1790.

“We are thrilled to bring these two storied vessels together for Tall Ships Weekend,” Alex Agnew, President of Tall Ships Portland, said in a statement. “We hope that the people of Portland and everyone in the area enjoy all that we have planned.”

Cruise Portland Harbor and learn its history on water taxi tours | Maine Today

By Ray Routhier

Dave Cote sat between a couple from Connecticut and talked nonstop for an hour about the history of Portland Harbor.

Cote, a 38-year-old major in the Marine reserves, detailed the histories of seven lighthouses, several forts and a shipwreck, and provided insights on local bakeries and beaches. He was particularly animated in explaining South Portland’s history as a shipbuilding center during World War II.

“I know Rosie the Riveter is iconic, but here in South Portland when they built the Liberty Ships (WWII cargo vessels), they found that welding was better,” said Cote. “So here in South Portland, Maine, we celebrate Wendy the Welder.”

Most days this summer, Cote can be found giving animated history talks during the one-hour historic harbor tours being offered by Portland Harbor Water Taxi. Besides historic harbor tours for $15 offered most days, the water taxi service also offers a regular sunset lighthouse cruise for $20 and a Friday night-star gazing cruise for $30. The latter is narrated by Ed Gleason from the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium.

The service was started last year by Maine Maritime Academy graduate Ben Graffius, who spent several years captaining an old drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico before returning to Maine.

Read the rest of this story.

Study tracks great white sharks off Maine coast | Portland Press Herald

BY 
STAFF WRITER

Marine biologists are embarking on the first study dedicated to learning about the habits of great white sharks off the coast of southern Maine, where the scientists say the fishes’ population is likely to increase.

University of New England professor James Sulikowski will collaborate with Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to see how often the sharks come near the coast.

This week, Sulikowski will set up receivers on buoys around Wood Island, just off Biddeford. The receivers will detect great whites within a 600-foot radius that have been tagged with transmitters.

Great white sharks are the world’s largest predatory fish. Known for their powerful jaws and serrated teeth, they can grow to more than 20 feet and 4,000 pounds.

They have been protected from harvesting in U.S. waters since 1991. Skomal said the shark population has been rebounding since.

Read the rest of the story by Deirdre Fleming.

 

A strong carbon cap is good for Maine’s environment and economy | Bangor Daily News

 Ten years ago last month, Maine joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This historic, market-based initiative among nine states puts a limit on climate-changing carbon pollution from power plants. It has been a remarkable success by any measure. Now, the states are nearing the end of a periodic review of the program. Maine leaders at that table must work to strengthen the program to ensure it continues benefiting Maine’s environment, economy and energy consumers.

As two home energy improvement business owners, we care about the greenhouse gas initiative because the proceeds from it support energy efficiency initiatives through the Efficiency Maine Trust. It sets an annual cap on carbon dioxide emissions from large power plants in the North East. Power generators can buy and sell emission allowances at an annual auction under the program, and that revenue goes back to the states. Since the initiative’s inception, Maine has received $86 million from carbon auctions. A significant portion of that goes to programs helping Mainers invest in cost-effective weatherization and heating efficiency improvements for their homes.

That’s where companies like ours come in. We provide clear information to homeowners about opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and put those solutions to work in Maine homes every day.

Read more of this commentary by Matt Damon and Bo Jesperson.

Here to There and Back: The AT | Maine Public

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After an exhaustive search, we have selected two hikers who are taking on the Appalachian Trail this spring and summer to test our Maine Public App out in the fringes of civilization. Danny Moody of Winthrop and Dan Giguere of Manchester (ME) along with Danny’s dog Daisy are our first adventurers in our Here to There and Back project.

Read more about this project.

Appalachian Trail Hikers After 500 Miles: ‘We Feel Great,’ May 31, 2017

1,000 Miles In: Appalachian Trail Hikers Are Lighter, ‘Loving It,’ July 13, 2017

“New” Potatoes – A Taste of the County | Aroostook County Tourism blog

There are many food seasons for foodies to enjoy in the county!  Fiddleheads, local strawberries, fresh peas, beet greens…YUM!

But the very best of all, and you are welcome to come to Aroostook and join us – new potatoes!

All along Route 1 and other roads as you drive throughout the county, you will see simple farm stands with the (usually) hand painted sign saying “new potatoes”.  These kiosks are typically on the honor system.  You simply put your money into the container and grab a bag.

Read the rest of this blog entry.

Maine’s decades-old billboard, signs laws under attack | Portland Press Herald

AUGUSTA — Maine’s pioneering law banning highway billboards, enacted in 1977, is under siege at the State House.

Lawmakers there are lining up behind nine bills that would grant variances to state sign regulations for individual businesses and attractions.

 

“Everybody wants a sign,” said Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, in testimony in favor of a bill that would help a snowmobile club in his town keep a sign.

But managers of Maine roads and a major environmental group say granting piecemeal changes would weaken sign laws.

The Maine Department of Transportation wants all such bills tabled, and the Legislature’s Transportation Committee already has honored that request in three instances.

Read the rest of the story.

Window to the Woods with Rhon Bell: Fall hiking and wine tasting in coastal Camden | Maine Today

What do a quintessential Maine hike with near-peak-foliage views, a quiet yet bustling coastal town and an amazing wine-tasting experience all have in common? They are all a quick drive up Rt. 1 in Camden. This streets of this picturesque coastal town are simply a stone’s throw away from all that Maine has to offer, and today that’s an amazing hike. Today’s plan is a packed one. My advice: Get an early start on the day and try to hit everything.

Nice photos from Camden in this blog.

Lakes, Islands, Mountains, Moosehead | Maine magazine

The ancient mountains and cliffs above Moosehead are tempting us. How do we get closer? For starters, we’ll need a motorboat and a floatplane.

Nearly 70 years old, the old bird just doesn’t want to start when it’s this hot outside.Pilot John Willard explains the situation while we sit behind him in the narrow cockpit of his 1947 Piper floatplane.

The engine isn’t turning after two, three, and four tries. Hot is a relative term—it’s mid-70s at most on this early summer evening—but this is northern Maine. Earlier, on the drive up Route 15, we’d stopped for a cone of maple-nut ice cream at a take-out, and I heard another customer complaining of the day’s “oppressive” temperatures. Willard admits he’s no fan of steamy weather himself. (Much of the year, this is snowmobile territory, and sleds fly across the frozen-solid lake.)

Read more of this nice travel piece on Moosehead Lake by Sandy Lang with photography by Peter Frank Edwards in the September 2914 issue of Maine magazine.

Watch Your Step: A Hike on the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park | Trailmix, the L.L. Bean blog

L.L. Bean and Acadia National Park are truly Maine fixtures. And I’m becoming a fan of the L.L. Bean blog.

Our Employee Outing Club takes dozens of trips every year – everything from skiing and snowshoeing in the winter to hiking, paddling and camping in the summer. A recent trip took a group of L.L.Bean employees up the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park, where a steep and rocky hike led them to picturesque views of Down East Maine. The Precipice Trail is the most challenging hike in the park and only recommended for experienced hikers who aren’t afraid of heights! These L.L.Bean employees were ready for the challenge.

Read more of this entry in the L.L. Bean blog and see some great photos of Acadia National Park.