Category Archives: Outdoors

Hiking a section of the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail

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Had a great time hiking a section of the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail west of Pardee Reservoir outside of Valley Springs. Beautiful day for it – clear blue skies with hardly a cloud in the sky. I took off from the Rich Gulch Trail Access Point. From there a hiker can try out a couple of different sections of the trail. (A bit of caution for anyone driving the three miles down to the access point, the one-lane county road is in horrible shape with some of it claimed by the stream below the road. Drive with caution and reduce speeds or you might end up in the stream.) Former co-worker Alex Breitler suggested these trails and for that I thank him.

It was a little crisp at first and I hiked in shade most of the day, but I saw no one – no one – the entire time. Saw a couple of boot and dog prints, a couple of cow plops, but that was it, except for a few small birds. Very scenic and very remote for not being all that remote. Some sections of the trail were strenuous, that’s for sure, but overall enjoyable. Several steep sections – probably too few for this guy – featured stone stairs. I appreciated them.

This was the first time on an East Bay MUD trail and am sure I will return often. Ran into one of the EBMUD rangers on the way out – Ranger Greg. Nice guy with knowledge and willingness to chat. The trip was well worth the $10 annual permit fee.

This was the second hike with my Vasque Mantra 2.0 GTX shoes. I love ’em. They did great and my feet never tired. Already planning to hike the heck out of them and get another pair. Or maybe I’ll just get another pair. Also, first time with a new pack – Camelbak Francone LR 24 with 3-liter water bladder. As I normally do for a first-time hike on a new trail, I overpacked and my shoulders began to feel it by the end of the day. I think with a few adjustments to the suspension system, it will work out very nicely. All in all, very pleased.

Learn more about the trail at the EBMUD recreation site for its Sierra Foothills Trails.

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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

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.

A lobster cruise: The luckiest catch in Maine | CNN Travel

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Portland, Maine (CNN) — Captain Tom Martin turns the handle that draws up the lobster trap sitting on the ocean floor 45 feet below the surface to see what he can see.

It’s a guessing game every time: Will it be big enough — but not too big — to keep? Will it be a pregnant female, which he can’t keep?

“It’s easy to get hooked on it,” Martin says. “I’ve been doing this for 33 years, and I still enjoy going out to pick up the traps and seeing what’s inside. It’s like playing a slot machine — you never know what’s going come up in the trap.”

Martin, the owner of Lucky Catch Cruises of out of Portland, Maine, will only catch a few lobsters on this fall day at traps he and his crew have lowered into Casco Bay after passing by the 1890s-era Spring Point Ledge Light and Fort Gorges, a Civil War-era fort. His traps are within view of Portland Head Light, a working lighthouse first lit in 1791.

When many people think of Maine, those iconic lobsters he’s pulling up in traps immediately come to mind.

There are endless ways to enjoy Maine’s favorite crustacean on a visit to the Pine Tree State, whether it’s the Lobster Shack at Two Lights, lobster done fancy at Eventide Oyster Co. or any of the dozens of lobster shacks along the coastline.

But it all comes back to the lobstermen and women who catch lobsters year-round, harvesting a record 130 million pounds of lobster worth $533 million in 2016, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Read the rest of this story and for video and more photos.

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.

Hiking in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

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I went for a hike last weekend at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge near Vernalis west of Modesto. It’s part of the San Luis NWR Complex, which includes the San Luis NWR, Merced NWR, San Joaquin River NWR, and Grasslands Wildlife Management Area. The “trail” is bit banal – very wide, very flat and appears to also serve as the utility road for refuge maintenance.

The trail is only 4 miles long and not much of a challenge or particularly interesting. Consumnes River Preserve north of Lodi is more interesting. Then again, the track at San Joaquin River NWR is a nature trail built with the average person in mind. Families with children might like it and the terrain won’t stress people who aren’t at peak fitness.

I did see some nature on the nature trail – egrets, herons, wood ducks of some kind (could have been the Aleutian Cackling geese, actually), small birds of various types, potato patch butterflies, dragonflies and other small creatures. I’ll probably return in the spring when things are a bit greener; the fall has made everything brown and dull green.

From the San Joaquin River website:

Established in 1987, the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is 7,000 acres in size and located in California’s Stanislaus County. The Refuge is situated where three major rivers (Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin) join in the San Joaquin Valley, creating a mix of habitats that provide ideal conditions for high wildlife and plant diversity. The Refuge was initially established primarily to protect and manage habitat for the Aleutian cackling goose – a federally listed endangered species at that time. Today, the Refuge is managed with a focus on migratory birds and endangered species. The Refuge is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System which consists of over 500 refuges and forms the largest network of public lands in the world managed principally for fish and wildlife.

#hike #gooutside #getoutdoors #getupandmove #hiking #outdoors#fitnesswalking #fitnessing #SanJoaquinRiverNWR

Here are a few more photos from the hike:

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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.

A Perfect Weekend Away in Southern Maine | Vogue

Ellen Leduc

When most people think of Maine, the first things that come to mind are the foods with which the state is practically synonymous: lobster and blueberries. Then the mind might wander a bit to visions of quaint coastal towns, rolling Atlantic waves, and dense forests with their heady scent of pine mixed with fresh sea air. And while Maine is certainly these things, it has so much more to offer, especially in Portland and its surrounding towns. Portland was once thought to simply be a small, weather-worn costal city playing second fiddle to big shots like Boston, but this has thankfully changed. This gem of a city is now a major destination for those looking for incredible food, small-batch breweries with cult followings, and amazing independent shops that will tempt you to blow your weekend budget in a ten-minute period. And if Portland isn’t enough, the rest of southern Maine presents ample attractions like cute costal towns and hikes offering vistas that make breaking a sweat very worthwhile.

Read the rest of the story.

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.

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.

I’m a scientist and a Mainer. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration | The Washington Post via Bangor Daily News

By Joel Clement

I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to work for the Interior Department, where, among other things, I’ve helped endangered communities in Alaska prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. But on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.

I am not an accountant — but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up. A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers. Some of my colleagues are being relocated across the country, at taxpayer expense, to serve in equally ill-fitting jobs.

Read more of this powerful commentary by Joel Clement.

An ominous warning about a regional icon | The Boston Globe

This is unfortunate. Something must be done to protect and restore the loon.maine-loon-wildlife-tour-neoc

 

They come with FAA-issued tail numbers

Photo of moose cow, calf wins Aroostook County Tourism contest | Bangor Daily News

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Paul Pierce of Mars Hill has been chosen as the overall winner of the Aroostook County Tourism summer photo contest for his picture of a moose cow and calf.

Other category winners include Tracey Ackerson of Woodland for the scenic views category, Johnnie Cancelarich of Presque Isle for outdoor recreation, Fred Grant of Houlton for cities and towns and Lori Prosser of Houlton for festivals and events.

All winning entries are available to view on the website at www.visitaroostook.com and the Aroostook County Tourism Facebook page.

Click to read more on the story in the Bangor Daily News on the photo contest.

Moose welcome to visit anytime | Bangor Daily News

Wouldn’t you know. A moose walks into my front yard and I can’t find my camera.

The little case is empty. Where did I put it?

I gaze at the huge animal munching on the leaves of the apple trees outside my kitchen window. I guess I will just have to enjoy watching it.

No. I will use my big single-lens reflex camera that has been idle so long the battery is probably dead. I fish the camera out of its bag and turn it on.

“No card.”

I dig a memory card out of the bag, plug it in and move to the dining room window for a better view. The moose slides her mouth along one branch after the other, munching on the leaves that don’t fall to the ground.

Click to read more of this commentary by Kathryn Olmstead, former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, published in The Bangor Daily News.

Half a foot of snow expected in Maine this weekend | Bangor Daily News

PORTLAND, Maine — A weekend storm could bring plenty of chills to the state this Halloween weekend, as the National Weather Service said Friday that more than six inches of snow is expected in many parts of Maine.

A winter storm watch has been posted throughout the state, according to Mal Walker of the National Weather Service in Caribou.

The advisory calls for 4-8 inches of snow in Penobscot, Hancock and Washington counties and includes Greater Bangor, Ellsworth, Mount Desert Island, Machias and Eastport. The advisory notes heavy, wet snow and 15-25 mph winds with gusts up to 35 mph will create hazardous traveling conditions.

Click to read more of this story in the Bangor Daily News.

 

Women find niche in woodsman’s competition | Bangor Daily News

FRYEBURG, Maine — Laurette Russell decided after showing horses for 20 years, she needed something else to fuel her competitive fire. So she started entering woodsman’s competitions.

“Throwing an axe at a bull’s-eye and chopping a piece of wood is very satisfying,” said Russell of New Gloucester. “There’s no cookie-cutter type of person to do it. It’s not like when you’re an ice skater, you’re a tiny little ballerina. Anyone of any size, of any age, can do this sport.”

Russell was one of 39 women in a field of 193 people at this year’s Woodsman’s Field Day held at Fryeburg Fair. The daylong event attracted more than 6,000 spectators.

Click to read the rest of the story and see photos by Robert F. Bukaty  in the Bangor Daily News.

LePage to help dedicate Aroostook County trail to fallen Marine | Bangor Daily News

[I missed this story earlier in the week. Every kid I grew up with and I used to climb this trail every year or so. It won’t bring the young man back to his family, but they now have a place to honor his life and his duty to this country. – KM]

AUGUSTA, Maine — On Friday, Gov. Paul LePage will help dedicate a summit trail on Haystack Mountain in Castle Hill in honor of a Presque Isle native who was killed in Iraq five years ago.

The Dustin J. Libby Trail will be dedicated at 8:30 a.m. in memory of Marine Cpl. Libby of Castle Hill, who was 22 when he was killed in action on Dec. 6, 2006, while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned as a squad leader to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Libby was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of his death. He had served in the country previously in 2004. Between his two Iraq tours, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

The trail was renamed through legislation sponsored by state Rep. Alexander Willette, R-Mapleton, and passed by the Legislature last March.

Click for the rest of the story in the Bangor Daily News.