In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Welcome Home

It's been a nice few days after coming back home. It was fun to surprise everyone (and they definitely were). I've just been hanging out with friends and family so far; which has been very relaxing.

For now I'm staying in an "apartment" my mom has set up in her basement and while doing some reading yesterday evening I could hear some cooking going on upstairs. Since my stomach was starting to grumble I headed up to see what was going on.

Mmmmm, it's good to be back.

Friday, October 26, 2007

As Quickly as it Begins...

The rain never did let up and since the park closed at sunset I went and found myself a place to sleep for the night. Towards the end of my stay in Maine I was starting to consider returning to Iowa for the winter. I was still enjoying my trip but it was starting to feel like I was doing it more just do do it; instead of it being something I felt I needed to do. I thought perhaps it was because I'd been alone in the same place for about 1 1/2 weeks and that maybe when I started moving again I'd change my mind.

I couldn't shake the idea though and I don't know if it was just time or if it was a result of the rain but sitting in my house that evening I decided I would return to Iowa for the winter. It would give me a chance to actually make some money and I could schedule surgery for my knee, hopefully being well on my way to recovery by spring. I phoned my dad and let him know that although I wasn't positive that he could probably expect me to be home in about a month. I have no desire to go back to the shop full time but told him I'd be happy to help out with some diagnostic work if they got behind and that I could help fill in while he was out taking care of his parents.

I'd made sure to let him know I wasn't positive and that I could change my mind, but I knew deep down that wouldn't happen. Once I make up my mind about something that's just the way it is. Deciding to take this trip was that way. It took me about 3 days to think it over and decide that I wanted to do it. I gave myself a month to get all my stuff sold and my house ready to go. There were no agony in the decision and no second thoughts; that was just the way it was. Almost exactly one month later I was heading west with nearly everything I owned in my car. And now it seems to be the same with this decision.

I found a wireless connection and checked the weather report; it had changed from earlier in the day and showed cloudy and rainy for the next three days. I gave up on getting in a hike at Ricketts Glenn and decided instead to begin my trek SW.

When I woke up the next morning it was still dreary and rainy. I thought about it and decided I didn't need another month before I went home, just a couple weeks would be enough. I'd never visited the SE part of the country and really wanted to see the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, and that general area. There were also some people down there I wanted to meet. Two weeks would give me plenty of time.

I drove pretty much the whole day, getting out of Pennsylvania before cutting through parts of Maryland and Virginia until I was winding my way through the fog shrouded mountains in the rain on some blacktop road headed SW through West Virginia. It got dark early that evening and I needed a break from driving so I found another wireless connection. I was tired of the rain and looked at a weather map to try and find someplace to go where it would at least be dry. I found the weather forecast for the entire area was dreary until at least the beginning of the weekend.

I sat there contemplating my choices, figuring out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. For nearly this entire trip I've avoided interstates whenever possible, choosing small highways and black tops instead; but now I needed to cover ground. I abandoned the small, windy road I was on on and headed north to the first interstate headed west. I drove relentlessly and the landscape began to change. From mountains and trees just entering their peak fall colors to gently rolling hills and trees that were just past their peak colors. Only twenty four hours after taking to the interstate in colorful and mountainous West Virginia I found myself in a landscape that was flat, brown, and dreary with empty fields and empty trees. The only radio stations I could find were country, classic rock, and light rock. It reminded me why I only listened to NPR and my MP3 player for the last couple years.

I crossed the Mississippi river into east central Iowa in the dark. I stopped at the worlds largest truck stop to stretch my legs and make my final blog post from on the road. I drove on another 50 or so miles before pulling into a rest area to sleep. When I woke up this morning I stuck to the intererstates until they disappeared before getting back on small highways. Now I find myself in my friend Lyle's driveway, typing this and using his wireless internet connection in the early afternoon.

Nobody knows that I'm here or that I was even on my way back home. In a few minutes I'll go to the shop to see my dad and sister. This evening I'll head over to my mom's house when she gets done at work.

So, just as quickly as the trip started it's come to an end. I won't lie and say it feels great to be back, that it feels like I'm coming home, or anything sappy like that. It is what it is and the reason I'm here right now is because I want to be. I guess I shouldn't really say the trip is over, afterall this whole “trip” wasn't really about the “trip” (as in seeing the country). It was about much more personal things then that and while I can't say I've found just what I was looking for I have more answers then I did before and I'm not ready to stop looking.

Trust me, I'm just as surprised as you are at the sudden “ending”, but that's how things tend to go with me. Stay tuned in to the blog though, I'm sure there will be plenty of other adventures and who knows when I might up and take to the road again.

So I guess the trip continues, just from a different location.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

10 Pounds of Travel in a 5 Pound Can

I'm getting too far behind so it's time to cram a bunch of stuff together to almost get you caught up on my travels.

So now it was time to leave Maine behind. I headed back down the coast the way I'd come; stopping in Machias again where Andy Beal took me out for another great lunch. I got to Ellsworth, Maine that evening and planned to stay there for the night. I had plenty of time to kill and wasn't sure what to do when the idea hit me to go see a movie. I got really excited about the idea. I don't get to go to movies very often and I planned on really treating myself by eating lots of junk food.

When I walked into the theatre though I found out that they only had two movies showing that night and they'd both already started for the evening with no later show times. I was really bummed out until I had the brilliant idea of renting a DVD and watching it on my laptop in back of my van. The more I thought about it the better the idea sounded. I could watch whatever I wanted, talk all I wanted, go buy any candy I wanted from the grocery store, and drink.

I loaded up on junk food, grabbed a Curb your Enthusiasm DVD and pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot to spend the night in the midst of 5th wheelers and motor homes for the evening. I couldn't help buy laugh at myself for being so excited and the situation seeming a bit ridiculous. The setup worked great though and 2 hours later I went to bed thoroughly entertained and sick to my stomach from junk food. Definitely a successful evening.

I woke up the next morning and drove to Bangor where I met up with John Sweeney. John only had a little time since his daughter had a birthday sleep over the night before and he had to get back to take them home. We met at a truck stop and I jumped in his truck while he showed me some sights around Bangor (like Steven King's house!) and I accompanied him on some shopping errands. It was just your typical mundane stuff but I really had a good time. I enjoyed talking with John and I don't get to do things like that anymore. I think I had more fun shopping at Home Depot and the grocery store with John then I would have doing anything else in Bangor.

The best part was that I found the ultimate replacement for my stolen mug! While we were in Target I found an extremely nice OXO mug. They always seem to have nice stuff. This one is truly spill proof and well insulated. I tested out the spillproofness of it as soon as I could and it sealed up tighter then a drum. It also kept my hot chocolate nice and hot for a long time. Boy, I sure am glad someone stole my other one or I never would have known how nice a mug could be! Now I just need to find the perfect replacement chair. I figure I'm not going to settle for second best now. I've got to find a way to turn a negative into a positive.

After a successful morning of shopping it was time to start moving on again. I drove down the coast to a lobster joint John recommended. I figured since I was leaving the coast for the foreseeable future I better get my last fresh seafood meal while I could. I don't remember if I've ever actually eaten a lobster that I had to dig the meat out of before and I know I'd never had clams. It was a fun meal and the lobster definitely slowed down my normally rapid eating pace. I took my last look at the Maine coast and headed back inland on my way back to Montpelier, VT.

When I got to Montpelier I stayed with some relatives of mine I'd never met before, Meg and Ken Page. They lived a couple miles outside town and were fantastic hosts. I got my very own room and was treated to some excellent meals. I stayed for a couple days and was a total bum. The second day I actually managed to drag myself out of the house and into Montpelier to buy a new backpack (I swear I needed it) and a bunch of used books. Again, I was very impressed with the town. It really looks like it would be a nice place to live.

Meg, Ken, and I didn't do much, which was fine with me. I've been “doing stuff” for 5 months now so it's nice to just relax in a house for a while. One evening we had to laugh as Meg commented it was good I was easily entertained. We were all in the TV room with Ken sleeping in his chair, me reading a book, and Meg ironing while the Red Sox game was on TV with the sound low. Some company and conversation was plenty good enough for me.

After leaving Montpelier I went out a bit of a whir wind tour, heading over to Salem, MA to hang out with Marc Darisse and checking out downtown Salem as they prepare for their big Halloween celebration (this is the Salem from the Salem witch trials). I was there early on a Thursday morning and there were still tons of people site seeing. I can't imagine what it was like the next couple weekends. Halloween is HUGE in Salem. That evening I made it over to Chicopee, MA where I caught the tail end of one of John Robison's book readings/signings. The day I got to see his shop and chat a little before we both had to get going. He had important stuff to do and I had a lot of driving ahead of me.

I left there and drove straight through to Philadelphia, which took me through some more really slow traffic. I made it that evening though and met up with Guido and Hal and Jen Lewis in downtown Kennet Square. They bought me dinner and beer while we talked and listened to the live band playing. After an hour or so we all headed back to Hal's house where I stayed over the weekend. Hal and Jen were great hosts and I got the whole upstairs of their house all to my own. I got to see a lot of the local sites and even got to go to a birthday party which included a lot of food and ice cream cake. Sunday afternoon Hal took me into Philadelphia so I could get an official Philly Cheese Steak at Pat's.

A couple things about Philly:

1: It's amazing being somewhere that's so old and with so much history, real history. I mean, everywhere you look is the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross' house, Independence Hall, and tons of other stuff

2: It's fun to see that the “stereotypical” Philly people/accents/attitudes don't just exist in the movies. People really are like that!

From Hal's place I planned on driving SW into the Virginias and then probably into Kentucky and Tennessee before figuring out where I'd go after that. Before I went that way though I drove North of Philadelphia to see some other iATN members I'd been wanting to meet. They were just as nice in person as they seemed to be on-line. I had a great time with them and got a great recommendation to check out Ricketts Glenn state park. It was farther north then I'd planned on driving but it sounded incredible and since I didn't have any plans anyway I figured I might as well hang out there for a few days.

I made it to Ricketts Glen in the middle of the afternoon in the pouring rain; that wasn't quite in my plans. I thought about putting on my rain gear and going for a hike anyway but I just couldn't motivate myself for that. Instead I found a nice place to park and hoped to wait out the rain while I read for a couple hours.

Monday, October 22, 2007


If you missed part one of me being violated you can catch up here.

I had a nice day seeing some sites in Maine and as I headed back to my campsite that evening, foolish as it might have been, I honestly expected to see my chair and mug back in their rightful place next to the fire ring. I just couldn't believe that someone would have taken them maliciously and even though it had been less the twelve hours since I'd posted my note I somehow thought that would be enough time.

A great man once gave me some excellent advice, “no expectations, no disappointments”, and I guess I should have listened to him closer. As I pulled into the camp site my headlights swept over nothing but barren ground and firewood. I drove around the park to some of the other sites to make sure the chair hadn't been placed somewhere else. It was nowhere to be seen.

I'd been in such a good mood expecting to have my chair returned to me that day that when I found it wasn't back I was really bummed out. I thought about having a fire but just didn't feel like it. I crawled back into my house and tuned into NPR. I was eventually cheered up a little with the help of some amaretto and listening to Terry Gross interviewing Stephen Colbert, followed by This American Life. I was in pretty good spirits by then and after reading for an hour or so crawled into bed knowing what must be done if my chair didn't show up the next day.

It was Wednesday night and I knew I'd be leaving Friday morning. The day I'd got to the Reversing Falls I'd cut and chopped a lot of firewood, much more then I'd need. I figured I'd just leave everything I didn't use behind for the next camper to use. But the thought of the SOB that stole my chair burning my firewood was more then I could handle. If my chair wasn't returned by the following evening I'd be forced to burn up every scrap of firewood I had.

The next morning I awoke with a mission. A good portion of the wood I'd chopped had been from a fallen over birch tree that was much wetter then I'd thought. It didn't burn well and would take a lot of the fun out of my “fire of spite”. I knew that in order to fully burn all the birch I'd have to get a big, hot fire going before I started to add it a little bit at a time. This meant I'd actually have to go out and chop more wood in order to make sure I could keep it hot enough.

I started my day off by chopping the birch up into smaller, more easily burned pieces, which I then stacked up for easy access in the dark. I stacked the nice dry pine up as well and then walked back into the woods to find some more dry wood. I ended up finding some dead but not yet rotting pines and got a lot more dry wood. I split what needed to be split and threw it in the dry wood pile, greatly adding to what you see in the picture to the left.

With work for the day all done with it was time to kill time until it was dark out. Since it was to be my last day and I'd seen pretty much everything in the area I'd wanted to see I mostly just hung around the park. It was a cool, overcast day and I spent it relaxing, doing some hiking in the woods, and reading. A little before sunset there was still no sign of my chair or mug so I started preparing for the nights festivities.

I began by preparing a nice bed for my fire, which involved laying some small pieces of wood across a couple stones to allow air to circulate up from underneath as well as to give the fire more fuel as it begins to burn. On top of this I piled some small, dead, pine branches.

Now it was ready to get the actual fire going. I found a nice piece of birch bark and tore off some small, thin pieces that would ignite easily; in the midst of these I added some dry moss to help catch and hold the sparks. I'd normally just use a match but since I wanted to look more badass I used my Swedish Firesteel instead. I lit the kindling on the ground to make it a little easier.

Once the tinder was burning I picked up the piece of birch bark, placed it on top of the wood in the fire ring, and then added more small, dry pine limbs on top of it. There was a good breeze blowing through camp and it no time the fire was off and running on its own. I started adding larger and larger pieces of wood and in short order it was burning good and hot.

I kept feeding it lots of dry pine to get it really hot. I wanted to have a lot of hot coals for a bed before adding the birch to the top of the burning pine. With the wind whipping through camp every once in a while it didn't take long. After about 20 minutes I started adding the birch and it didn't stand a chance. The birch hissed and steamed as the water was boiled out of it and soon the first batch of birch was reduced to nothing but embers. I kept adding more pine and more birch to the fire. The wind continued to blow through camp creating an extremely hot and fast fire. After only an hour the birch was no more.

I normally keep my campfires small but it was pretty fun to have a big one. Now with the birch all burned off I could let it burn down for a while before I started adding the rest of the pine. I sat around the fire on an uncomfortable tree stump for a couple more hours while drinking hot chocolate from my crappy uninsulated cup before letting the flames die down for the night. I left just enough wood to start a fire for breakfast in the morning. I went to bed happy, knowing that the dude that ripped off my stuff wouldn't get any enjoyment from my wood.

I woke up the next morning to find it really windy, really cloudy, and pretty cold. I wasn't in the mood for a fire but I surely couldn't leave perfectly good firewood behind. I realized now that since my chair had been stolen I had a nice, blue nylon bag that had no purpose (it used to carry the chair). I pulled it out of the house and found it was just the right size to hold the small pieces of wood that were left. I filled it up, threw it in the back of the house and jumped in myself to start driving south west. As soon as I pulled out of my camp site it started raining and didn't quit for the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I've been violated

Since I sleep in my new house now when traveling I don't have a tent or anything to mark my territory, so to speak. To keep someone from squatting on my campsite while I was out exploring during the day I would just leave my folding camping chair sitting next to the fire pit. This seemed to work fine as a family pulled in the day after I arrived and even though I wasn't there they set up someplace else upon seeing the chair, knowing the spot was taken. Seeing how it's a very rural area and I have the utmost faith in the majority of humanity I never gave a second though to leaving it behind while I was gone for 6+ hours at a time. So you can imagine my bewilderment when I pulled into my campsite, all ready to relax in my chair in front of the fire while drinking a hot chocolate, and found my chair was missing!

I was totally shocked! I got out my flash light and walked around the campsite thinking maybe I'd moved it and forgot about it. I even checked the trash cans in the park in case some hoodlums thought it would be funny to toss it in one. There was no sign of it. While losing the chair was pretty upsetting the most devastating part was that I'd left my double walled vacuum insulated stainless steel travel mug sitting in the arm rest of the chair and it was missing too! Now not only did I not have a chair to sit in while I enjoyed my hot chocolate, I also didn't have a something to drink it out of! I was becoming quite distressed.

I calmed myself down though and tried to be practical about it. Most likely someone didn't steal it, they just thought it had been abandoned. After all, it had been sitting in nearly the same place for 2 days and if they were only there during day light hours they wouldn't have seen any sign of me. They figured someone had left it behind so they were cleaning up camp. That still didn't explain why my leather work gloves and pot for boiling water were still right where I'd left them though. I was too distraught for a fire that night so I climbed back in my house, did some reading, and went to sleep convinced it was all a misunderstanding that would be straightened out.

I woke up the next morning, started a fire, and made myself some pancakes for breakfast. Thankfully I had a nice stump that I'd been using to chop wood that was a satisfactory fill in for a chair, it was pretty lacking on back support though. I rummaged around in my house and found that I'd packed a plain old regular cup as well so I did have something to drink hot chocolate out of after all. Unfortunately it wasn't a double walled vacuum sealed stainless steel mug so the hot chocolate soon turned to warm, tepid, and finally cold chocolate in pretty short order; forcing me to drink it much faster then I would have liked. Somehow I needed to get my stuff back.

As I ate my breakfast I contemplated my plan. I decided that since it was a small, probably pretty tight knit community I'd put a post on the community bulletin board; and I even knew where it was. I'd gone to the local convenience store/gas station/grocery store a couple days earlier because I needed someplace to refreeze the water jugs I kept in my cooler. They were kind enough to let me put them in their chest freezer over night. I'd noticed outside they had many postings of things lost, found, and wanted and everyone that came in or out seemed to stop and read them.

My plan was simple as well as genius. I'd put a simple note on the bulletin board that would get across the fact that I was a nice, easy going guy who wasn't accusing anyone of anything. If the offending party happened to see the note they couldn't possibly help but feel guilty and would surely return my beloved chair and mug. Anyone else who read the note would surely feel terrible that someone from their small, honest community could do such a thing. Word of the infraction would spread like wild fire through the town. Jimmy would tell Jeff and Tom at the barber shop. Tom would tell his wife Carolyn over dinner that night who would then tell Vickie, May, Dorothy, Barb, Samantha, Ruth, Violet, Gertrude, and Chuck (don't ask) at the Passion Party she held at her house that evening. By the middle of the next day 3/4 of the town would know about it. And to top it all off my impeccable, yet witty, descriptions of the items would ensure that no teenage hoodlum would be able to let any eyes fall on his newfound treasures lest he be found out as a crook and a denigrator of the town of Pembroke's reputation. Even a hoodlum would read the note and realize that this wasn't some stick in the mud old fogey he'd stolen from but a cool, hip, understanding dude.

With my master plan all laid out I walked into the convenience store/gas station/grocery store and bought a notepad. I went back out to my house, composed my letter, and posted it on the bulletin board in plain site. As I was walking away a fella passed me as he went into the store, I saw him pause to read the note just before he went inside. I smiled to myself as I climbed back in the house, the plan was already in motion. It was a beautiful and sunny fall day as I drove off to explore some more of the Maine coast.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

On a lighter note I'm happy to say this is my 100th blog post. Before I left on my trip and decided to keep a blog to keep everyone up to date on my travels I really didn't think I'd stick with posting this long or this often. I never would have guessed that I'd it enjoy it this much and I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. Thanks to everyone that's followed along on the way.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mainelining - Part III

In case you missed them catch up on parts I and II.

My plan for this fall was to just take it easy. I already know what you're thinking-isn't that what I did all summer too? Well, yes and no.

While I got in plenty of relaxation this summer I was also working, which meant I needed to be in certain places at certain times. I wanted this fall to be totally open: no work, no schedules, no nothing to keep me from just plain enjoying myself. Instead of to trying to cover as much ground as I could and seeing everything I could cram in I wanted to try staying in one place for a while and getting to know the area; something I usually have a hard time doing.

I felt I did a pretty good job on my way out east by covering ground a lot slower then I usually do. I made plenty of stops that I normally wouldn't have made. I was in a bit of a rush though since I wanted to get to the far east coast, and Maine in particular, before it got too late in the season. When I arrived at the reversing falls I knew I'd be spending a lot of time there. Just hanging out around camp and using it as a base for short day trips. I love the feeling of waking up in the morning and knowing that there's nothing that I have to do. Just laying in bed until I finally decide I feel like getting up. Starting a nice fire and boiling some water for hot chocolate as I just laze around camp and take in the early morning sitesl walk down to the water to watch the gulls and seals hard at work for their breakfasts.

Usually by mid/late morning I'm finally ready to take on the day. I felt pretty lazy the whole time I was staying at the reversing falls and it was great. Some days were pretty packed with day trips down to Lubec or up to Calais to do some hiking along the coasts. During one nice hike along the rugged Maine coast I was standing on a cliff looking out over the water and saw a pod of dolphins passing through as they repeatedly rose for breaths of air. At least I'm telling myself they were dolphins, for all I know they were some sort of porpoise. Seeing a dolphin is way cooler though so that's what I'm telling myself they were.

Other days I didn't really feel like doing anything. Some of these days were spent just hanging around camp but on most of them I did what I usually do back home when I'm in the same mood, I drive. I don't drive to any destination in particular, instead I just start driving two lane black tops or gravel roads to see where they go. It's my favorite way to see and get to know an area. It's how you find all the neat little things that aren't listed on maps.

During the week these 2 lane black tops are almost completely deserted so you can drive as slow as you'd like or even stop in the middle of the road to help out a caterpillar. I don't think there's anything more relaxing on a cool, sunny, fall day then driving down desolate roads through the wilderness.

This is what I found myself doing after I'd been at the reversing falls for a few days. I'd set out that morning to find a place to hike a little inland from the coast where the fall colors were in their full splendor (it's mainly pines right along the coast). I set out with the best of intentions of getting in some good exercise for the day but I soon found myself growing lazier by the minute as I cruised along some unnamed blacktop road; admiring the scenery and basking in the warmth of the bright sun streaming through the windows.

I came to a spot where 2 rutted tracks turned off towards a river (so the map said). I wasn't ready to relinquish my ambition just yet so I turned off knowing I'd find some sort of trail at the end of it. The road, and I use that term loosely, turned out to be about 4 inches narrower then my house and pretty rough in spots. I took it slow and wove my way around stumps and rocks as the trees and bushes scraped along the side of the house. After about a mile I reached a spot where a stream crossed the road. It was a deep rut that was full of rocks and there was no way I'd ever make it across. I put the house in reverse and backed up a couple hundred feet until I got someplace I could park.

I planned to just keep hiking down the “road” so I started getting some gear ready. Though as I sat there in the warm sun, which made for the perfect temperature inside the house, I began to lose my ambition. A Prairie Home Comapanion was just starting on NPR and I told myself I'd just listen to the first few minutes before I went out for a hike. 1 1/2 hours later I finally pried myself loose from the house and into the great outdoors. I went light on gear, just taking one camera and one small lens with a small water container clipped to my belt loop.

It was a perfect fall day except that it was a little breezy. The trees were exploding with color, the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was in the low 60's. I set off walking down the road and started soaking up the scenery. There was a nice mix of pines, birch, maples, and I don't know what else that make for excellent contrasts of colors and textures. The birch of course with their bright yellow fall leaves and bright white, peeling trunks. The maples were all blazing reds and the pines were of course nice, deep greens. Other trees and shrubs did a good job of filling in all the colors in between.

Although the leaves were still clinging to the trees pretty good some couldn't resist the strong wind that was blowing. With every gust a few would come flittering to the ground. One though I noticed somehow managed to go the opposite way. While all his comrades had a nearly straight, short fall to the ground this one somehow managed to catch the air currents just right and rose above the trees. I saw it about 20 feet over the top of the peaks, seeming to just hang in place. It began to fall back towards the ground until another gust of wind came through and instead of knocking it down picked it up and carried it even higher and farther into the forest. It was still gaining altitude before it was blocked from my site by the trees.

As I was looking up I heard the familiar honking of geese heading south. I looked and found the large flock, much higher up then I usually see them and very disjointed. The couldn't seem to agree what angle the “V” should be at and just who should be where. The first half dozen had it all figured out and the ones pulling up the rear seemed to be in position, but the ones in the middle just couldn't get it together. There were many geese in the middle of the “V” and the same ones kept flying from one side and then back to the other, not knowing which side to join. As they did this they slowed up everyone to the rear and let the head of the flock begin to pull away. This made the screw ups in the middle the new leaders and it didn't seem to be going well. They bickered and honked but couldn't seem to work it out. As they got farther away the whole flocked looked like a long piece of string blowing and undulating in the breeze before they were out of site. I hope they figured it out or it would be a long flight south.

I followed the “road” for a while before turning off on a trail I thought would lead to the river. The trail soon turned into nothing bigger then a game trail but it was still easy enough to follow. As I got closer to the river the forest turned into nearly 100% pine trees, which were all very small and grew incredibly close together. The area must have been clear cut before and these small pines were shooting up so they could help provide for the nations need for wood in another 2o years or so.

All the trees were the same size and grew incredibly close together. A couple times I got off the trail and it was very difficult to wind my way though the trees they were so dense. They blocked out all the light from reaching the ground so that there was no undergrowth at all except for a mushroom here or there and some moss growing in spots.

There were a few small openings in the woods which I assume were caused by a large old tree or stump that had been left behind and had since fallen down. As you walk through the woods you'd occasionally catch a glimpse of small, green patches a little ways off the trail. These really stood out in contrast to the black soil that was apparent everywhere else. I fought my way back into one of these to see just what it was.

When I got to it I found it was only about 10 feet across and incredibly moist and green with moss. As I walked through one of the openings I stepped on some of the moss and was amazed at how soft it was and how far my foot sunk. I found a small, sharp stick and poked it down through the moss. Looking at the moss I could tell it was covering something. I could see the undulations and variations in texture where whatever it was covering changed height. I poked the stick down into the moss and found it went down about 1o inches before hitting anything solid. I was amazed that it could be that thick! I pulled the moss back on one edge and found it was feeding off of a large old tree trunk that had been sitting there for who knows how many decades. There was no sign of the stump/trunk left, the moss had it completely covered in a dense blanket.

Apparently there used to be very large areas like that in the Olympic National Forest in Washington, even as late as the 1950's. Unfortunately once that area (Hall of Mosses) was discovered and opened up to tourism the moss, for the most part, all died below about 6 feet off the ground. I'd love to be able to see what these forests where like before people came in and clear cut them into oblivion. It must have been an awe inspiring site.

The rest of my hike went very well and I did manage to make it to the river. I was hoping it would open up near the shore but unfortunately the trees were just as dense there and after following a nearly non-existant trail down the bank a little ways I turned back to head back to the house. I left the windows up on the house when I left and it was nice and toasty warm inside when I got back. I contemplated taking a nap but instead headed back down the 2 rutted lanes back to the road. I continued a little farther inland and got to see some more of the Maine countryside. It's much like northern Minnesota if northern Minnesota had hills.

They actually call them mountains out here in Maine and I'm sure they're right if you look up the actual definition of a mountain. But when I think of mountains I think of the Rockies or the Cascades; and these ain't them. Still though, they made for some pretty scenery. From the top of one of these mountains you could seemingly see forever through the crisp fall air and all you see are blazing trees, beautiful blue lakes, and more tree covered solitary mountains on the horizon.

It had been a perfect day and exactly what I was hoping it would be like as I visited the Maine coast. It was just after dark when I pulled back into the Reversing Falls park. I drove down to the waters edge to watch the rushing water in the last fading light. I was in a great mood but as soon as I pulled into my camping area that mood was immediately erased.

To be continued-

Don't you hate it when someone leaves you hanging?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mainelining - Part II

If you missed part 1 you can check it out here

So if you haven't already done a Google search on it you're probably wondering just what exactly the reversing falls are. Well, just sit right back and I'll tell you.

For starters I think “reversing falls” is a bit of a misnomer. While it really is an impressive site it's more like a series of standing waves rather then actual “falls”. It's caused by the constantly changing current as the tide goes in and out. You see, the east coast (at least up there) isn't really like the west coast where it's pretty much just a straight line. The down east Maine coast is very crooked and jagged with lots of bays and inlets. Couple that with the very rocky terrain and you get lots of little islands, cliffs, points, and narrows in these inlets.

Now when you throw the tides into the mix you've got a heck of a lot of water being forced through some pretty narrow passage ways. You see, the tides up here are pretty massive. When I was in the PNW a pretty good tide change had a difference of about 8 feet between high and low tide, many places were less then that. But around the Pembroke and Eastport area the difference between high and low tide is about 20 feet. That means if you were standing on the edge of a cliff at high tide and the water was lapping at your toes then at low tide the water would be 20 feet below you. So you can imagine how much water must be flowing during the tide changes.

What actually causes the reversing falls is a narrow channel between two points of rocky land that the water is forced to flow through, making for some hellacious current. At high tide, just below the surface are a few submerged islands and bars. When the water really starts to whip through the channel these underwater islands really disrupt the current and cause some big rapids and standing waves (reversing falls). As the tide gets lower these islands eventually poke their heads above water where they get to soak up the sun for a few hours before being submerged again. The whole process makes it look like a totally different place at high and low tides.

The moving water is nearly constant 24 hours a day too; it's like camping next to a rushing river, the roar is constantly in the background. As the tide comes in or out it gradually builds up speed until it's a rushing torrent with rapids, eddies, small whirlpools and huge boils of water thrust up from underwater rocks and cliffs. Then as the inlet begins to fill up/empty the water begins to gradually slow down until all of a sudden you notice it's quiet for the first time in hours and the water is still. It gets very peaceful and you can hear the lobster boats in the distance. You can hear the sea gulls chatting away on the newly uncovered islands and you can hear the seals flopping around and forcefully expelling air through their nostrils. You just sit on the jagged rocks and it's like looking out onto a peaceful lake. You see a bald eagle soaring above the trees and you hear the little squirrels and chipmunks scurrying around in the woods behind you.

This lasts for about 10 minutes before you start to notice the water swirling the other way. It gradually starts to pick up speed and before you know it there's a raging river in front of you again. The cormorants and seals don't seem to be bothered by it at all. You see the seals floating along through the ugliest looking currents just as calm as can be. They stick their heads under water like they're looking for fish and then dive out of site, only to reappear a few seconds later 500 feet away. As you watch them you wish that you could be as comfortable in the water as they are and then you wonder if they think the same thing as they watch you walk about on the land. It's mesmerizing to sit on the rocks and watch the water sweep by as you watch the waterscape change right before your eyes. You know that the rock you're sitting on, 10 feet above the water line, will be submerged in just a couple of hours.

That's about all their is to see at the Reversing Falls park. It's a really nice place to check out though. It's not a park like you'd normally think of. There are a few camping sites but they're just spots people have built a fire ring next to a flat place to park or pitch a tent. There are no interpretive signs, paved roads, or any little things to entertain the kiddies. You just pull into the small gravel parking lot and walk around.

There is however a nice trail that winds through the woods and follows the shoreline. It's not really long but it leads you out to a couple small, rocky points for a different view of the area and also leads you past a couple of wrecked boats along the shoreline. I can remember walking this trail a couple years ago when I was out here. It amazed me at the time, it was the first time I'd ever really walked through a pine forest. I couldn't believe how moist everything seemed to be and how soft the ground was with pine needles. The pine trees were really dense and they all had this moss growing on them.

While I still think it's a nice little trail it doesn't seem so impressive or new anymore. Hiking in the rain forest at Olympic National Park takes some of the edge off many hikes in the woods now. Still, it's a nice trail and I walked it more then a few times on my stay. Most people don't take the time to walk the trail so when a few people are crowded around the parking area all it takes is a short 10 minute walk and you're all by yourself on a little rock out cropping.

There must have been a homestead on the place once upon a time. In one corner of the park stands a small, roped off cemetery with a few headstones in it. They're all very old and a couple have been vandalized. All that's left of one appears to be the base while another looks like it's been shot at a time or two and broken off and then propped back up. A couple of them have a few fake flowers around them that are who knows how old. I wonder if they were actually placed there by family or if someone just thought it would look nicer. They're old and ratty looking enough now that they make it look a little creepy.

Another clue that there was a homestead is all the apple trees in the area. All of them are now neglected and look pretty poorly. They were fully of apples while I was there and many had already fallen on the ground. I thought of trying some but most didn't look too appealing. Some of the trees are in nice lines out in the open but others seem to have been swallowed up by the forest and are somehow managing to still survive. It's odd to be walking through the dense woods and suddenly see a few apples hanging from a limb. The trees in the woods are poor, spindly looking things. The small pines have grown in so thick it's very difficult even to walk around; I can't imaging the small apples trees get much sun, they don't stand a chance.

Just a little ways into the woods you also find what looks to be the remains of a short, stone wall. I looked around for any signs of old foundations from a house or barn but didn't see anything. I thought I had for a while but the more I looked I think it just may have been a large outcropping of rocks; though it did look like it would make a great corner to a foundation. While walking back into the woods a little bit I did run across an old fire ring that didn't look like it had been used in years. I'm sure it wasn't left over the from homestead but it was a sign that where I was wasn't quite so overgrown at one time.

It was just a small circle of rocks, all of which were now nearly covered by the earth with just the top half of them sticking out. The whole thing was covered with many layers of pine needles and there were a couple small pines growing up from the center of the ring. There was one small piece of wood left from the last fire the ring had seen. It was black on the top from being burned but it didn't have that burned look to it anymore. It had been weathered enough that it just looked like someone had painted part of it black, it was the same texture as the rest of the wood. I picked it up and found there was hardly anything left of it. It was nearly rotted away and weighed next to nothing. It was a lot more charred underneath. Lots of bugs and mold had made their homes under it and were none too happy with me for picking up their house. I set it back down in the same place I'd picked it up. I looked around the campsite for some sign of it's previous use but found nothing other then a cigarette butt. I don't know if it's from someone that had a fire there or just someone that dropped one while walking through. I did do a little research and found it takes a long time for a cigarette butt to break down. The general consensus seems to be from 2-25 years depending on conditions.

For the most part the reversing falls is a really nice place to hang out. Few people come back to check it out and most don't stay very long. The whole area, while not exactly remote, is pretty rural. The towns are very small with nothing but a convenience store if you're lucky. Most of the towns don't have anything resembling a downtown; the houses seem to be spread out a little more. I always thought the coast line would have lots of big, fancy houses along it but I found that's not the case, at least not up here. The shoreline is mostly just forest and most of the houses you do see along the coast are very modest, definitely a pleasant surprise.

Yes, a good place indeed to spend a week or so just relaxing.

To be continued-again

If you'd like to see some pictures showing the difference between high and low tides you can check out this Flickr set

Monday, October 15, 2007


It's been a while since I've had any updates on my actual travels and today it's time to start playing catch up.

I continued heading east after leaving the Adirondack mountains on my way to Maine. I made a short pit stop in Montpelier, Vermont for an afternoon to bum an internet connection and get caught up on some computer work. As with most New England towns I've passed through I was pretty impressed how it had an honest to goodness small town feel to it; even more amazing considering it's the state capital. Then again it does only have about 8000 people living in it so I guess it's kinda hard not to have a small town feel.

Another fun fact about Montpelier is that it's the only state capitol that doesn't have a McDonald's. I can't believe there are any state capitols (or any other town with over 5000 people in it) that don't have a McDonald's. It really makes me want to move there.

I didn't spend much time checking out the city, just walked around downtown a little and then up to a hill top park over looking the city. I bought a few Steinbeck paper backs at a small bookstore I hadn't read to keep me busy over the next week. The place doesn't even look real, it looks like a movie set or something.

I left Montpelier that afternoon and pointed my house towards Maine again; not really knowing exactly where I was going to go when I got there. I knew I wanted to head up to the Pembroke area to hang out for a while but I didn't know what I'd do on the way. I'd be driving close to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor but didn't know if I really wanted to stop or not. When I took a short trip to Maine a couple years ago I spent some time in that area and while it was nice it was really touristy, which isn't my taste at all. In the end though I decided that since it was a few weeks after the end of the summer vacation season and it was the middle of the week I'd give it another shot. I stopped in Ellsworth on the way to do a little shopping at some outdoor stores before heading out to Mount Desert Island, which houses Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't find any gear I needed to buy. I had fun looking though.

It was still pretty early in the morning when I got there but I was amazed how many people were at the parks visitor center. I almost turned around and left when I saw the parking lot but went in to grab a map anyway. Acadia National Park takes up much of Mt. Desert Island and it has a lot of hiking trails; but unfortunately most of the trails are pretty short and there are lots of roads on the island, which means it's a big tourist attraction and there's not really any where you can go to get away from it all.

I looked at the map and at the trails trying to decide where I'd go to do some hiking. I finally decided I'd hike up The Precipice and then come back down a different trail heading south to stretch it out and see some different areas.

The Precipice trail climbs about 1000 feet straight up Champlain Mountain and is very well known. There are all kinds of signs and warnings telling you how it's the most difficult trail in the park and how dangerous it can be. To make sure you're physically fit before attempting it, don't climb it alone, and to take plenty of water with you. Signs like that make me want to climb something.

I'd climbed The Precipice a couple years ago when I was out here and I found it wasn't anywhere near as scary as they make it sound. Yeah, it's a pretty strenuous climb since it's very vertical but I never felt like I was in a dangerous position. You're on an exposed rock face but they have plenty of iron ladders and bars to use as hand holds on the way up. If anything I think they have too many of those things and that they tend to get in the way at times and make it more dangerous.

I don't know why I decided to climb it again this time, probably because it's one of the most interesting trails in the park and there aren't tons of people on it. Also, it had been a very foggy morning and it was just starting to break up. I thought the view from the top overlooking the ocean with some fog still around might be pretty nice. Plus I tend to like doing the same thing multiple times. I usually enjoy it more the second or third time I do something.

I pulled into the trail head parking lot and found it was already full of vehicles. Plenty of people were milling about and tour buses were pulling up with people climbing out. Thankfully I realized that they weren't here to climb the trail but that the tourist companies must be making it a stop on their tours now. Telling the passengers how tough the trail was and piquing they're interest so they'd want to stop.

As I got my gear ready for the hike people were buzzing all over. Taking pictures of the face of the mountain, watching the climbers edge their way around through binoculars and constantly making jokes and comments to each other about climbing it. Most seemed to be petrified of the trail, I don't know if that's really how they felt or if it was just more fun to feel that way.

I set out up the trail and just like when I climbed it a couple years ago I found just as many people in their 50's and 60's on the trail as people my age. They might have been a little slower but they weren't having any problems and were thoroughly enjoying themselves. In fact, a couple years ago I passed a fella in his 80's that was climbing the trail; he was doing it with his son (who was in his 60's). I passed him about 1/2 way up and although it took him a while I saw him make it to the top just before I started back down. While most of the people that visit parks like this don't get more then 50 feet from their car it's always nice to see people actually get out and make use of the trails. A couple miles from the roads the parks take on a totally different feel then when you're in the parking lot.

I enjoyed my climb up to the top and it was a good work out. I paused for a while about half way up and admired the view. The fog was still rolling in but the sun seemed to be trying to break free now and again and it was nice having the outside world come and go with the wind. By the time I got to the top though the fog had rolled in and it appeared to be there for good. A couple of guys my age from Germany were standing on top and said they were waiting for the fog to blow off so they could get a view of the ocean. One joked and said they'd been waiting for 2 days. It never did break and we headed off in the same direction down the south side of the mountain into the fog.

It was a nice and relaxing hike down. A couple times the fog moved out just enough to give a nice view of parts of the surrounding area but then it socked itself right back in again. I took my time getting down and actually cut my hike short and took a short cut back to the road and walked back to the parking lot. I'd planned on hiking a few more miles but I was feeling kind of lazy and tired. I knew by the time I hiked another couple miles I really wouldn't want to hike all the way back to the car so I figured I better do it now.

Although it was a nice hike I knew I was done exerting myself for the day and that I was ready to leave Acadia National Park. Even though I'd barely gotten into the park I had no desire to continue the rest of the way along the loop road with the scores of other tourists slowly making their way around the island. I hopped back in my car and headed to the next ranger station to get some recommendations on good, local seafood before leaving the park. On my way there I had to weave through a couple spots in the road where a dozen cars were pulled over on the road with tons of people milling about looking at whatever caught someone's eye.

It's amazing how people will drive past something and not even notice it unless someone else pulls over first. More then once on my journey I've been in national parks and stopped to look or take a picture of something. There was no one else there when I stopped but once I was standing out there with my camera almost every car that passed would stop so someone could hop out and take a picture before jumping back in the car again. Usually by the time I would leave there were 4 or 5 cars pulled over.

I managed not to run anyone over and got a couple good recommendations for seafood in Bar Harbor, just a short drive from Acadia. Although it's one of the big “must see” spots of the area I never went to Bar Harbor when I was in the area before. It's a quaint little coastal town that I believe lives almost entirely off of tourism. As I pulled into town I was amazed at how many cars lined the streets and at how many people were walking around on the side walks; this on a Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon well after peak tourist season!

Thankfully I found the recommended restaurant to be nearly deserted as I took my table. I didn't know what I wanted to eat other then a cup of clam chowder. I took the waiters recommendation to pair it up with a Haddock Sandwich and fries. I also ordered a 1/2 carafe of wine and pulled out my laptop to do some work while I waited for my meal.

I normally don't spend a whole lot of extra time in restaurants; I order, I eat, and then I leave. But I'm starting to stay longer now. It's nice to just sit read the paper or to do some work on my laptop while I take my times eating my meal and drinking my wine. It's much more enjoyable that way; plus I get to listen in on more conversations that go on around me as different people come in and leave.

After about 15 minutes my food showed up and the waiters recommendation turned out to be a good one. The haddock was very good and the fries were some of the best I've had. I took my time eating and when I got done figured that since I was splurging by going out to eat I might as well go all the way. I asked about dessert and found that they had a home made Maine blueberry pie. I asked him to bring it out in about 10 minutes warmed up and with ice cream. I wrapped up what little work I had as I finished my wine and prepared myself for a wonderful dessert.

I got done at the restaurant and thought about spending some time seeing Bar Harbor but thought better of that idea and instead took the most direct route out of town and off of Mount Desert Island. I'd had enough of touristy and populated areas; it was time to head farther up the coast where it was a bit more on the isolated side.

I always think Maine is a really big state and I'm always surprised how little time it takes to get from one place to another. I suppose it just looks big on the map since it's next to all those really tiny states. I took my time driving up highway 1 which follows the Maine coast for the most part. That night I found a library parking lot with a wi-fi connection to sleep in before waking up in the morning and continuing my journey north. I stopped in Machias to see Andy Beal, an iATN member who offered to take me out for lunch.

I met Andy at his one man shop where we hung out for a while as he finished up the mornings work. It was nice to have some company again and I enjoyed talking with him. A little before noon he closed up shop and took me out to an excellent local pizza joint. We took our time eating and had a nice chat before he headed back to work and I headed back to the highway. From Machias it was only about 30 miles to my main Maine destination, The Reversing Falls park in Pembroke.

I was told about it last time I was in Maine and I'd come and spent a day there at that time. I really liked the place and this time I planned on spending a lot more time in the area and getting to know it a little. It was the middle of the afternoon when I got to Pembroke and I found the park again without a problem. I was afraid that perhaps the park had changed in the last couple years but I was happy to see it was just how I remembered it.

I found myself a nice spot to park the house at a little campsite, walked around for a quick look to reacquaint myself with the area, and went about gathering and chopping some wood to burn for the next week or so. I was really looking forward to my time there.

I hoped that the area would be as nice as I remembered. It's always a little dicey coming back to someplace you've only been once but have fond memories of. There's always the worry that it's not really that special after all, that the reason you enjoyed it so much the first time was because finding it was an accident or because of the way circumstances worked out at the time. By returning for a second visit you not only risk disappointment this time but you also risk ruining the nice memories you already have of the place.

More to come...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


When I started my houses engine this morning to begin my day I caught the very tail end of Garrison Keillor's “The Writers Almanac”, just in time to hear the daily poem.

It was entitled “They'll” by Cheryl Denise.

If you have Real Audio installed you can listen to Garrison read it, which makes it even better

Copied without permission below-


take your soul
and put it in a suit,
fit you in boxes
under labels,
make you look like the Joneses.

They'll tell you go a little blonder,
suggest sky-blue
tinted contact lenses,
conceal that birthmark
under your chin.

They'll urge you to have babies
get fulfilled.
They'll say marriage is easy,
flowers from Thornhills
are all you need
to keep it together.

They'll push you to go ahead,
borrow a few more grand,
build a dream house.
Your boys need Nikes,
your girls cheerleading,
and all you need is your job
9 to 5 in the same place.

They'll order you never to cry
in Southern States,
and never, ever dance
in the rain.

They'll repeat all the things
your preschool teacher said
in that squeaky too tight voice.

And when you slowly
let them go,
crack your suit,
ooze your soul
in the sun,
when you run through
the woods with your dog,
read poems to swaying cornfields,
pray in tall red oaks,
they'll whisper
and pretend you're crazy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wooly Bully

I'm either a very observant or very easily distracted driver, I haven't decided which one yet. While I've never been in an accident, well, except for that one when “a deer ran out in front of me” and I turned my dads car over in a ditch full of water to avoid it. Honest, it just came out of nowhere just as I was approaching that really sharp corner on a gravel road!

What's that? Why were there skid marks approaching the corner when I should have already been slowed down by the time I got to the corner where the deer suddenly appeared?

Come on, that was over 13 years ago, who can remember all the details? That's not what the whole point of this post was about anyway. Let's get back to where we were before we got distracted on this side story.

Like I was saying, I'm either very observant or very easily distracted while driving. When I should probably be paying closer attention to other cars, semi trucks, and deer(!) I seem to notice any little creepy crawly thing on the road directly in front of me. Lots of turtles, frogs, salamanders, mice, and, particularly at this time of year, caterpillars.

And not just any caterpillars, but the cute little fuzzy black and brown Wooly Bear caterpillars which will later turn into a very common and pretty unimpressive Isabella Tiger Moth. Still though, I've always liked these little fellas and used to find them all the time when I was a kid.

This time of year they're pretty much done eating and are searching out a safe place to hibernate for the winter before waking up in the spring, spinning a little cocoon, and emerging a few weeks later fully transformed from a lowly land lubber to a winged tiger of the skies. Pretty amazing stuff when you think about it.

Anyway, I'm getting distracted again. The whole point of this post was to bring this annual “migration” to your attention. You see, it often involves them crossing our busy highways and not so busy 2 lane black top roads. Every fall, all day long while driving, I see them slowly crawling their way across the gauntlet of our road systems. I can't help but notice them and am constantly weaving this way and that to avoid squishing the little bears. I'd surely be pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving if the po-po ever saw me doing this.

I pulled over the other day on a nearly deserted road when I saw this one so I could take a couple pictures and escort him the rest of the way across what must seem to them a vast expanse of burning hot blacktop. He seemed a bit confused when he reached the end of my finger, wondering just where the rest of the world went.

So please keep your eyes open while driving this fall season and save a few lives. There's a lot of little critters running around on our road ways and it takes a keen eye to spot them before it's too late.

A different sort of Monday morning

I'm not trying to rub anything in here, but it's Monday morning and I know that most of you started your Monday off quite differently then I started mine. Most of you probably woke up when the alarm went off and then hit snooze a time or two before finally dragging yourself out of bed. If you didn't hit the snooze button three times you made yourself a quick breakfast and then headed out to work, all the while wishing it was still the weekend. A routine I'm very familiar with.

Let me tell you how my Monday morning started.

Since it gets dark at 6:30 I went to bed pretty early the night before. I woke up at a quarter to seven fully rested. It had been a chilly night with temps dropping into the low 40's. My face was chilly but the rest of me was pretty warm under tucked away in my sleeping bag on top of my cot. I laid in bed about an hour just thinking about things and watching the sky brighten out the window. I was happy it was Monday. That would mean it was the work week and I'd have pretty much the whole Maine coast to myself. It was late in the season so most peoples vacations were over. No matter where I went in the next 4 days I could count on likely being alone.

Since there was no place I had to be and nothing I had to do I rustled myself out of bed when I was good and ready too. I slipped on my hiking boots to get some extra warmth in my feet instead of my tennis shoes and then put on my jacket and hat to keep myself warm. I stepped out of my house and looked around. I was on top of a small hill overlooking the ocean. The reversing falls near Pembroke, Maine were to my left. The tide was rushing in causing a furious current, it sounded (and looked) like a fast flowing river. I took a short walk down to a overlook of the reversing falls and watched the water churn around the sometimes exposed/sometimes covered island in the middle of the channel.

That's what makes the reversing falls you see (actually a better term might be standing wave). As the water rushes through a narrow channel during the tide changes it's disrupted by an island that sticks out during low tide and is submerged during hight tide. When this island is slightly submerged it causes some pretty intense rapids and standing waves.

The tide was coming in when I got down to the water and only the tip of the island was still showing. Even though I've been here a few days and seen it plenty of times I was still amazed at how fast the water was churning through; some of the fastest and nastiest current I've every seen. I stood there a while just admiring the scenery. I could see a few lobster boats out and about dropping their lobster pots to try and earn a days wages. Apparently the lobster take has been down a bit in the last few years, causing hard times for some. Add to that a new law just put in effect to protect the endangered Wright Whale. The law says that all lobster fisherman must use sinking lines (the ones that connect the underwater pots) to keep the whales from becoming entangled when they dive. This has most lobster fisherman quite upset as it entails a large up front cost of switching to different ropes and an even more expensive yearly cost to pay for all the lost traps due to the sinking lines getting caught on the rocky sea floor of the Maine coast.

I watched the boats putz around and drop their traps hoping that one would try to go through the channel by the reversing falls, but none did. I guess they don't want to end up like the two ship wrecks just a short walk down the coast. I was a bit chilly so I walked back to the house and started up a small fire in the fire pit. I sat in my chair and warmed myself by a fire for a little while before adding some water to my boiling pot and placing it over the fire. In a few minutes the water was at a rolling boil and I was ready to start my day with some hot chocolate. This past winter Sarah had shown me how good hot chocolate could be with a little Bailey's. She was right, it did indeed make it even better so I started carrying a bottle with me on my travels. The other day while at the grocery store I saw a bottle of Amaretto and thought that might make a nice addition to the brew as well, which it indeed did. So in my little double walled vacuum insulated stainless steel mug I mixed my powered hot chocolate mix, Bailey's Irish cream and Amaretto for a delectable brew to start my day off right.

As I sat in my chair and enjoyed my drink while I pondered what I'd do that day. It didn't take long to figure it out; I decided I'd do whatever I felt like. Most likely that would involve a leisurely morning before heading up the coast a little to Eastport where I'd walk around the port a little bit before finding a library to sit down and catch up on some work. The nice thing about being on perpetual vacation is that you don't feel the need to do something every waking hour of the day. There's a freedom that comes from the knowledge you can pretty much waste an entire day by not doing anything meaningful. In fact, not doing anything meaningful seems to make the day all the more meaningful. It seems to help you relax and enjoy what you're doing more then if you were rushing around trying to see everything you could see.

By now my drink was gone and I was thinking I should probably get up and make myself some breakfast. Similar to what Sarah put my dog Rudy on I've prescribed myself a starvation diet. OK, not really a starvation diet, but I've started eating only twice a day on most days. Since I no longer have the physical exertion that comes from working all day I've found myself putting on a bit more weight (and losing some muscle). No matter how hard I try I have a very hard time cutting back on my portions of food when I comes to meal time. Instead I try to put off my breakfast until mid-morning, skip lunch (maybe a snack if I'm doing something that requires energy) and then eat dinner in the late afternoon. This way I can still eat my normal portion of food but not eat as much total through out the day. It also gives me a good excuse to over eat and get desert if I happen to stop at a restaurant.

I was too comfortable in my chair next to the small fire though and figured I could put off breakfast a little bit longer. Instead I poured a little straight Amaretto in my stainless steel double walled vacuum insulated mug and went back to pontificating todays actions. The Amaretto was good all by itself so I added a little more and thought how nice this was. How much I was enjoying my trip so far. That I couldn't believe how slow time was going by (and this was a good thing). It seemed like I'd left Iowa after my short visit a month ago but when I thought about it I realized it had only been two weeks. An awful lot of fun and relaxation has been crammed into that two weeks.

I started to think about how my Monday mornings used to start. Waking with a sort of dread when the alarm went off. Hitting the snooze button a time or two before dragging myself out of bed to face the work week that I really wasn't looking forward to. If I hadn't hit the snooze button a third time I'd have time to eat a couple bowls of cereal or some oatmeal and a bagel before heading out the door to start my work week. I'd be dreading my day (week) as I made the short drive to work. Thinking how I'd give anything to suddenly realize it was really only Sunday and that I had whole 'nother day to do whatever I wanted. Only five days I'd tell myself, only five days and it will be the weekend again. Then I can do whatever I want for two days, whatever makes me happy.

And now here I was. Sitting next to a fire on the Maine coast only 100 yards from the ocean, listening to the water churn in its endless cycle of in and out and in and out and in and out. This hour, this day, this week, this month, this year I could do whatever I wanted. I felt lucky to be born where I was born and to be born to the parents I was born to. I congratulated myself on working as hard as I could to pay off my mortgage early as well as all my other loans so that when something came up that I really wanted to do I could just do it (like this trip/adventure/lifestyle) . Those are what made this whole trip possible, which in turn is what's made me happier then I've been in a few years now.

I was starting to feel hungry but decided to put off eating just a few minutes longer so I could jot some thoughts down into a program on my computer. After all, what was a few more minutes when I had the rest of my life ahead of me.

Now that this is done I can make myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich for brunch that will tide me over through the rest of the morning and afternoon. Maybe this evening instead of cooking for myself over a fire I'll try to find a nice, small, local restaurant and go out for some seafood. You know, just to help the struggling local fishermen. As I look out the window of my house now I see the clouds that blanketed the sky have broken up and the sun is shining. The weatherman promised a nice, sunny day in the low 60's today and it looks like me might be right after all. A perfect day for doing whatever I want.

And that's how I start off my Monday mornings.

Congratulations to those of you who wake up and go to work on Monday mornings looking forward to the week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Adirondack Mountains - Part II

If you missed Part I you can catch up here

The night before I'd attempted to hang by backpack from a tree to keep it away from any prowling bears but it was nearing dark by the time I got around to the task. After some frustration that ended it nearly getting clobbered by a large falling branch that was much more rotted then it looked like when it was 20 feet in the air I just left my pack next to the tree a couple hundred yards from camp and figured if something wanted what was inside they could have at it. When I awoke the next morning the first thing I did was retrieve the pack since it had my breakfast in it. I was relived to find it right where I'd left it, unmolested. At first it appeared not damage had been done to it until I got it back to camp and started retrieving things out of it. Then a found a small little hole a mouse had chewed through one of the compartments so he could get at the zip lock baggy full of trail mix on the other side, which also had a small hole torn in it.

There was no way I was going to let some little mouse get the best of me. I'd mixed that trail mix myself since it's way cheaper then buying it pre-mixed and I wasn't about to throw my profits away. Besides, I doubt he actually got inside the bag and any mouse turds could easily be dismissed as small bits of raisins. I dumped the trail mix into a fresh baggy and repacked it before cooking myself some mushrooms and eggs for breakfast. After I finished eating I cut some more wood to leave behind and headed towards the lean to at Pillsbury lake where I'd spend the next day. I really hoped I'd find it vacant when I arrived.

It was looking like a pretty nice day. Much cooler then it had been just a couple days prior and a little overcast and windy, but great weather for hiking. On my way back to Pillsbury I passed 2 ladies hiking the other way. These were to be the last people I'd see until I got back to the trail head the following day. Which of course means when I arrived at Pillsbury Lake I did in fact find the lean-to vacant. It wasn't outfitted quite as well as the other camp but it was just as sturdy of a structure and was on an even more beautiful lake with a better view.

As I started unpacking my gear I noticed a small squirrel watching me from a nearby stump as he munched on a nut. I pulled my hatchet out of the pack and shook it at him, telling him sternly that if he left my stuff alone we'd get along just fine and wouldn't have any problems. He just innocently kept on watching.

There were quite a few dead, long logs around the camp site so I set to cutting some of them up so I'd have firewood for that evening. After chopping a while I started to feel pretty tired and had a headache. I'd had a slight head ache through most of the morning and I thought maybe I was getting a bit dehydrated. I started drinking more water but the only difference it made was that I had to pee every 15 minutes.

I decided I'd lay down and take a nap for a while. Once I stopped moving I started to feel a bit chilly. The lean-to faced north so it didn't get any sun on the front of it and the woods blocked most of that anyway. The wind was coming from the NW down the lake and the lean-to was on a small hill which seemed to do a pretty good job of catching some of that wind, despite a few rows of trees between me and the lake.

I laid down in the lean to with my legs hanging over the edge and my feet touching the ground. I covered my legs with my jacket the keep warm and tried to go to sleep. I wasn't sleeping but was resting peacefully when it felt like the wind lifted my jacket a little and ruffled it. I knew it wasn't that windy though so I opened my eyes and lifted my head to see what was going on. When I did I found that little squirrel had crawled up my leg and was heading towards my pack! I yelled at him and clapped my hands to scare him away. The game was on and I laid back down smiling at the anticipation of competition.

About 10 minutes later I heard his scurrying footsteps on the roof on the lean-to and soon his head poked around the side right by my pack, just like a super hero (or super villain) he was walking along the walls now to avoid detection. It didn't work though and I had to chase him off again. I didn't like having to move to scare him away though so this time I sat up and found some small chunks for wood and sticks that I could throw at time. In another 10 minutes I had my chance when he came sneaking around the side again. I chucked a small stick at him and he ducked around the corner just before it would have hit him. We did this a couple more times and each time it got a little less fun and a little more annoying. After all, I was going to be here the whole rest of the day and I didn't want to put up with this the whole time.

It was nice to get a little rest but I never did get any actual napping in and I still had a headache. I got up and explored the area a little bit. There were a few places to get down to the lake for some nice views, it was a very attractive place. I was still pretty cold so I put on a couple more layers and my new wind block hat. I looked longingly at the opposite shoreline which was bathed in sunlight and would also be blocked from the wind. I just couldn't seem to get warm on my side of the lake.

With my headache I didn't really feel like doing anything and it wasn't much fun just sitting in the shade and wind so I popped a couple aspirin from my first aid kit and walked down the shoreline a little ways away. I hadn't seen my little “friend” the squirrel in a while so I was hoping he'd given up. Just in case, before I left, I made sure everything was tucked away in my backpack and I placed my already mouse infested bag of trail mix inside my cooking pan, put the lid on, and then precariously placed my pot for boiling water on top of that so any disturbance would cause it to tip over; hopefully either dissuading the villain or scaring him away.

Now that the sun was getting a little closer to the west I was able to find a nice sunny spot on the shoreline a little farther down from my camp site. I just stood there for about 5 minutes and soaked up the sun, it felt great. I was still pretty sleepy so I looked around and found a nice tree with a flat spot of ground next to it right in the sunshine. I managed to settle my butt into a comfortable position and leaned back against the tree. It felt really good to be sitting there in the sun. The only problem was that as soon as I started nodding off my head would fall forward and wake me up again. After being jerked awake by my falling head a half dozen times I gave up and found a semi-flat patch of dirt in the sun to lay down on. It might not have made for the most comfortable bed but the warm sunshine more then made up for it and I was asleep in no time. I slept soundly, and warmly, for about 45 minutes before waking up again.

I was really enjoying the sunshine and since the lean-to was still in the shade I retrieved the book I was currently reading and went back to lean against the tree in the sunshine and get some reading done. While I was back at the lean-to I noted that nothing had been disturbed in the hour or so that I was gone.

I was reading comfortably in the sun and thoroughly enjoying my book when I heard a metallic crash from the direction of the lean-to. It took me a couple seconds to realize that my trap had been sprung. I grabbed a handful of shrapnel (I'd now taken the shot gun approach instead of rifle approach) and ran as well as my knee would let me over to the lean-to. Just as I reached it the little bastard of a squirrel came squirting out of a crack in the wall and I fired away at him, spattering the wall next to him but missing any direct hits. He scrambled out of sight up a tree where I shook my fist at him and made menacing threats. I reset my trap and retired back to my tree for some more reading. Happily the aspirin, sunshine, and relaxation seemed to be doing a good job as my headache was finally gone.

I was engrossed my book when my train of thought was again broken by a sound that resembled claws on the bark of a tree. I looked around hoping to see a raccoon or something of the sort scurrying down a tree but I didn't see anything. As I was trying to figure out just what had caused the noise I started to wonder it maybe it wasn't my trap being sprung again. Even though that's not what it sounded like I figured it couldn't hurt to go back and check on my stuff. I sauntered back to the lean-to and as I rounded the corner I saw that damned squirrel high tail it out of there and my baggy of trail mix was torn into!

That little bastard! I don't know how he did it but somehow he managed to move the lid on the pot without tipping over the water pot. He moved it just enough that he could reach down inside and grab my bag of trail mix. He had a nice sized hole torn in it and had no doubt been stuffing himself with peanuts before I showed up. When I'd first gotten to camp I had only been joking when I threatened him with me hatchet but now I found my self envisioning how gratifying it would be to sneak up on him next time he got into my stuff and lop his ugly little head off. Maybe I'd even fry him up for dinner that night, in effect getting my lost peanuts back. There would sure be some satisfaction in that.

I walked to the tree he'd scampered up but was unable to see him up there anywhere. I still shook my fist up at the tree and uttered unimaginable threats at the little monster. It was clear I couldn't keep him out of my stuff so I picked up my pot of trail mix and back pack and carried them to the sunshine with me where I knew they'd be safe. I was grumbling to myself as I re-situated myself in the sunshine to do some more reading. I kept a supply of ammunition ready at my side should I see the little vermin within striking distance.

It was nearing dark by the time I finished reading so I picked my stuff back up and headed back to the lean-to to start cooking supper. I was still imaging frying that little turd over a spit as I got my fire going for the evening. As I started sauteing my vegetables for the evenings meal I saw him scampering across the ground and stop by the trunk of a tree. I picked up a rock and chucked it at him but he moved just it time as it harmlessly bounced into the bushes. I watched him climb a nearby tree and innocently watch me cook. I wished for laser eyes so I could fry his ass with just a look.

Before the light was totally gone for the evening I walked a couple hundred yards behind the lean to and found a nice place to hang my pack from the bears. Thankfully everything went a little smoother then the night before and I got it suspended in the air just fine. The only thing I worried about was my little rat with a furry tail friend finding his way into it. He seemed to retire with the sun though so I figured it was probably safe.

Dinner (chicken, rice, onions, and mushroom) cooked up to perfection and I kicked back and enjoyed my meal, finishing it off with a couple cups of hot chocolate before retiring for the night. I was amazed how many mice lived around the lean-to. They must make a pretty good life for themselves cleaning up after the campers who pass through. I could hear them everywhere and any time I walked around with the flashlight on I'd see scurrying shadows running back into the shadows.

I walked down to the waterfront to get a good look at the stars before the nearly full moon came up and washed most of them out. The lake was dead calm and the stars were as bright as could be. The surface of the water could have been mistaken for the night sky it was so flat and black. There was a perfect mirror reflection of the big dipper on the water and it looked just as bright as the real thing.

I finally retired for the evening and after getting used to the scuffling sounds of the mice under and around the lean-to I fell asleep for the night. I slept soundly through the night until I was woke up just before dawn by the nails on a chalkboard chattering from that hairy demon of the trees. Apparently he was up for the day and that meant I was up for the day too. I wanted to lay in my sleeping bag longer but figured I better go get my pack before the little pecker found it and dug into it again. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and stumbled up the hill to retrieve my bag, which was thankfully hanging just how I'd left it with no signs of squirrel invasion.

I got back to camp and got another fire cooking to warm myself up and make some hot chocolate. It was a gorgeous morning with the lake shrouded in fog and mist, lit up by the rising sun. I dug through my bag for the last of the food that I'd brought along and made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which would provide me the energy to get back to the car at the trail head that afternoon. The fire and hot chocolate were warming me up nicely and it seemed a shame to eat a cold sandwich so I got my pan out and had myself a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. It was delicious and when it was done I spent some time walking around the lake shore and admiring the view.

Satin with buck teeth and a furry tail was back up to his old tricks again but I made sure I kept my treats well hidden and didn't leave them alone for too long at a time so he didn't stand a chance. As I stood admiring the lake view the loons began calling as they became active for the day.

By mid morning I was ready to head back to the car so I hurled my last few expletives at the little twirp and hit the trail again. I was amazed that even though it turned out to be a nearly perfect fall weekend I had hardly seen a soul out on the trails. I thought for sure a few other people would come to the lean-to I was using hoping to use it themselves but unless they came while I was sleeping there wasn't anyone. As a matter of fact I didn't see another soul until I hiked all the way back to the trail head.

I packed all my gear back in its designated spot and sat in my house mixing up another batch of trail mix and enjoying the sun when I heard some voices walking up the road. They were talking amongst themselves and as they came into site of the parking lot I heard one of them say, “Ooohhh, a mini-van!” in a sarcastic tone. What the hell!? Didn't he know that was my house he was talking about? Even though I had the drivers door open they couldn't see I was sitting there yet. I hollered back to them, “yeah a mini-van, you got a problem with that?” I said it in a joking tone though and ended with a laugh to they'd know I wasn't really upset by it.

They all laughed and looked a little sheepish at finding out the owner was sitting right there and had heard them. As they approached the trail head I asked if they were just getting in or just leaving. All I got was a short, “just leaving”. Trying to make a little conversation I asked how far they were heading, the leader of the pack just pointed at the sign for Pillsbury Mountain and said “to the top and back”. Apparently they weren't a real talkative group. If I'd have disparaged someone's house and been caught in the act and the owner wanted to be friendly I think I'd be inclined to give more then a simple, gruff, answer.

But apparently they didn't think the same way which allowed me to think disparaging thoughts about them as they set off on their hike. I watched them take pictures of the Pillsbury Mountain trailhead sign by itself and then watched them pose for pictures next to the sign. I couldn't help but wonder where they got off making fun of my house (the mini-van) as they posed for pictures before their monstrous 1.5 mile hike in which they'd gain a whole 1,000 feet, all the way up to 3600 feet at the peak!! These were the guys making fun of my house!?

In a way I was glad they brushed off my questions because now I could channel my nasty squirrel thoughts onto them. At least it gave me something to think about other then what I was going to eat next. I left the trail head parking lot still thinking sarcastic thoughts about them. As I drove down the dirt road I was curious what sort of bad ass outdoorsmobile the tremendous trio drove. I wouldn't have to wait too long to find out since there was another parking area just down the road.

As I rounded the corner I saw three vehicles parked in the lot, all of them Yippy vehicles (you know, a Yippy, cross between a hippy and a yuppy). I don't know which one belonged to the tremendous trio but everyone knows these are what today's generation of soccer mom's are driving; or maybe they couldn't decide who should drive so they all drove separately.

Either way I felt vindicated as I drove back to the main road and continued my journey to Maine. I had the whole rest of the glorious day ahead of me to think of witty, disparaging remarks towards the squirrel and the trio.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.