Tag Archives: fall

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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25 things to do this fall — festivals, foliage and fun | Bangor Daily News

As you bid goodbye to summer — so long flip flops, air conditioner and iced beverages on the patio — you say hello to an even more fleetingly beautiful part of the year. The crispness in the air arrived last week, and the leaves have just barely begun to change color.

Summer may look pretty fantastic after four months of winter, but autumn feels just lovely after four months of summer. Enjoy it while you can by trying any of the 25 things to do this fall that we’ve assembled for you.

Click for more on the story by Emily Burnham in the Bangor Daily News.

Coffeehouse observation No. 216

It must be October. I woman walked in a little while ago and she was wearing a very bright orange – nearly DayGlo – top. And her hair was dyed to match. And then a short time later another woman with very bright orange hair came into the coffeehouse. See, October.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Fall hikes immerse you in nature’s wonders | Bangor Daily News

Fall hikes immerse you in nature’s wonders | Bangor Daily News.

Fall in New England: Nature’s colorful mosaic

Fall in the North Woods of Maine turns the landscape into a colorful mosaic. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Fall in the North Woods of Maine turns the landscape into a colorful mosaic. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Thousands flock to New England this time of year to catch the changing colors at its peak. In the North Woods of Maine, the peak has already come.

Fortunately for me, a high school classmate, Kelly McInnis, shares her photography with her Facebook friends and then I often share them on “Letters From Away.”

I love the yellow leaves against the brilliant blue sky in the first photo. It’s wonderful.

This is Haystack Mountain in the fall. Photo by Kelly McInnis

This is Haystack Mountain in the fall. Photo by Kelly McInnis

The other three photos are a reminder of my youth. Haystack Mountain – not much of a climb, really – is located along the road from Ashland to Presque Isle. I lived in Portage, but went to middle and high school in Ashland. Presque Isle was the largest city in the area and the location of grocery stores, movie theaters, and other services, so we drove by Haystack Mountain a couple of times a month. And we usually climbed to the top every other year or so.

A high school teacher, Lynwood McHatten, told his students of a time when he was a teen and boys would go to the top of Haystack to set old tires on fire to give the impression that the long-dormant volcano was coming alive. It was good for a laugh.

Here's another view of Haystack Mountain along the road between Ashland and Presque Isle. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here's another view of Haystack Mountain along the road between Ashland and Presque Isle. Photo by Kelly McInnis

This is the view heading toward Ashland from Haystack Mountain. Haystack is a great place from which to view the fall colors. Photo by Kelly McInnis

This is the view heading toward Ashland from Haystack Mountain. Haystack is a great place from which to view the fall colors. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Fall Foliage Festival draws community outside in Madawaska | Bangor Daily News

Fall Foliage Festival draws community outside in Madawaska | Bangor Daily News.

25 fun fall things to do in Maine | Bangor Daily News

Your alarm goes off in the morning. After coffee, a shower, reading the newspaper and getting dressed, you’re out the door — and that’s when it hits you.

There’s a slight chill in the air. A yellow leaf flutters gently to the ground. Your clothing isn’t warm enough. Autumn has arrived.

In between unpacking your sweaters and bringing in the patio furniture, the change of season means a renewed vigor for experiencing all that Maine has to offer. From leaf-peeping driving trips around the state to Halloween events, from apple picking to concert-going, the fall is the time when Mainers really get to bask in the glory.

The gold, red, orange and yellow that light up treetops lasts only about a month — so what are you waiting for? Get out and have fun, before you make that appointment to put on your snow tires.

Click for the rest of the story by Emily Burnham in the Bangor Daily News.