Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wild Weekends

While it may appear that Chris and I have disappeared off of the face of the earth - we have really just been making ourselves more familiar with it. We spent the first many weekends of our summer in the woods, exploring, volunteering, becoming one with the mountains, and being eaten alive by bugs. In a quick overview our weekends from the start of May through the middle of July included the following:

May 3: We took our adventures in a new direction and climbed outside with friends of ours. It was a pretty crazy experience that started with climbing to the top of the Big Cliffs in Camden and then repelling down to the base of our climb after our friend Paul set up the top rope system. Repelling is pretty cool, once you get over the fact that you are relying on a rope to hold you while you drop over the side of a cliff.

Chris was quite successful on this trip and made it to the top of our climb as you can see in the photo to the left. I was his trusty belayer safe on the ground. I made a couple of attempts, but man is it hard to see where to put your hands on real rock as opposed to the walls in the climbing gym!

Needless to say, we were hooked and soon bought our own climbing gear. We are now proud owners of harnesses, shoes, chalk bags, and a bouldering pad. To the best of my knowledge, the next two weekends were rainy and we spent our Saturdays plugging away at different problems on the wall at the YMCA.

May 24 - 25: We finally had nice weather and a long weekend so we headed to Grafton Notch State Park with the intentions of taking the weekend to complete the Grafton Notch Loop Trail. We had attempted this in the fall with our friends Emily and Austin and made it the first 20 miles in 2 days. This trip came with more success, as we completed the 42 mile loop in just 2 days. It was a challenging trip - but well worth it.

This photo was taken from East Bald Pate looking at West Pate. Our trail is the rocky stuff in the middle of all the trees! This was about 3 miles from our stopping point on day 1. In the distance you can see Old Speck Mountain which was our first climb on day 2, and is the 3rd highest point in Maine. This section of the trail is also a portion of the Appalachian Trail. It is rumored that New Hampshire and Maine have the most difficult terrain - I must agree that it is a pretty challenging place to be - but when it is clear you can see for miles!

A portion of the trail still had a fair amount of snow and ice, but not enough to keep us away!

The following weekend was another wet one spent on the climbing wall.

June 7: While I don't have any photos to document the trip, we spent the weekend in Baxter State Park receiving an orientation to doing trail work in the park. Due to a poor weather forecast our National Trails Day event didn't take place until Sunday. We spent Saturday afternoon battling the worst bugs I have ever experienced before in my life. The black flies and mosquitoes were out in full force. We hiked for a little while and then spent time reading in our tent before meeting up with some other volunteers for a very buggy dinner.

Sunday was an amazing hike and we learned about the 5 year plan for defining the trail corridor in the park. For your reference (when I talk about trail work later on) our goal was to clear a path that was 4 feet wide and 8 feet high throughout the length of our trail. Due to varying abilities, we hiked for a lot more time than we worked, but it was nice exposure to what Baxter has in store for visitors.

The weekend was brought to completion with a picnic in the park. The park provided us with an early dinner that even included veggie burgers! To top it off, one of the other volunteers that was out for the weekend made blueberry pie! Yum!

June 14: Another photo-less weekend. Chris would say that this is because I kept forgetting the camera, but it's really because we were doing trail work. Even if I had remembered the camera, I probably wouldn't have taken photos! Anyway, we were introduced to "our" trail, Wadleigh Brook, first thing Saturday morning. It wasn't much of a trail it was so overgrown, but we cleared about .75 miles. We were also eaten alive, but managed to survive.

Now, Friday night was an adventure on its own! The park does not let campers in past 8PM, so we slept in the back of Chris's car, on top of a partially deflated blow-up raft. While this was slightly more comfortable than sleeping without any added padding, the raft worked much better as a raft Saturday evening when we took it out on South Branch pond after our day of work.

June 22: We realized that we hadn't been to Acadia since the weekend after my birthday, so we decided to venture out onto Mount Desert Island again.

With a goal of hiking all of the trails on park property we made some crazy, zig-zaggy loops and covered a lot of ground. We also made it up the Bubbles, which boasts a glacial erratic which you can see behind our heads here. We had beautiful weather and it was nice to be in the park again!

June 28: We found ourselves up in Baxter State Park for the third time in a month. This time our goal was to climb to the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. We had heard many stories and decided that we should experience the Mighty Mt. Katahdin for ourselves.

One would hope for nice weather when climbing nearly a mile into the sky - but we enjoyed our day of drizzle and fog and made it to the top with few interruptions from other hikers. Our ascent was up the Abol Trail which consists of a rock slide from an earthquake years ago. The idea is you climb a mile in roughly three miles on the trail. We met the challenge and made it to the top where you could see a whole 5 feet in front of you! I bet it's beautiful when you can see all that Mother Nature has placed in this amazing place - seeing the sign was good for us though and the slightly freezing rain turned us around to head down pretty quickly.

Our descent was on the Hunt Trail which is the last five miles of the Appalachian Trail. In the fog it isn't the nicest of places to be. When you are walking along a ridge I don't know if it is better to be able to see, or to not be able to see the drops on either side of you. In either case, the fog lifted for a moment and gave us a view of what was to come. The rocky ridge that is exposed in the middle of the trees is our trail.

All in all, we made it down safely and in roughly 8 hours or so. It was a great experience and I can't wait to do it again (hopefully when the sun is shining!)

July 4: We spent the holidays in Acadia National Park. With three days of trail time we managed to complete all of the trails on the quiet side, with the exception of one that was closed for Peregrine Falcons who choose to nest in the park. Even with it being a holiday weekend, by staying on the West Side of the MDI, we were able to avoid most of the crowds. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the weekend was finding delicious blueberries along the trails for a nice snack break!

Other adventures that were encountered over the weekend included exploring tide pools, finding places to boulder, running down short trails and scaring tourists, looking goofy while walking through beaches in our hiking boots, climbing crazy ladders up the sides of mountains (for some of the most amazing views in the park), and of course trying to explain to people why they kept seeing us backtrack on trails. No one really understands the desire to hike every single mile of trail in the park, but it's pretty fun to see all of the different sights.

We spent the evening of the 4th on Cadillac Mountain where we watched the fireworks in Bar Harbor from above. This in itself was an interesting adventure. Between watching people huddle under garbage bags because they hadn't brought appropriate clothing for being on top of a mountain at night and listening to people who were disappointed because the fire works weren't right on top of the mountain, there was much to be desired. It was a unique experience, but not one to be repeated. Especially since we were stuck in traffic for a couple of hours trying to leave the park.

July 12: We enjoyed another weekend of trail work and getting eaten by bugs. We made some more progress and should be able to finish our section of trail on our next volunteer weekend. It is pretty crazy to see the difference in sections that we have worked on as opposed to those that we have not. The biggest difference is that you can tell there is a trail going through the woods. The first time we hiked it there wasn't much to work with.

After a hard day of work, we enjoyed a trip out on the pond in a canoe where we surveyed the mountains that we would be climbing the following day. We also enjoyed our favorite car camping meal of the summer: veggie dogs, baked beans, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and Doritos.

The morning brought with it a goal of hiking the Traveler Loop. This is an 11 mile loop that includes three summits on exposed ridges. Since we are a little stubborn, the wind advisory didn't keep us on level ground! As you can see by the photo of Chris, we did get the gusts th
at were predicted, but we safely made it the length of the loop (and in record time!).

Our second summit for the day was Traveler Mountain which is actually a volcano, so that was a pleasant surprise.

On our way to the third summit on North Traveler, we really experienced wind on top of a mountain when we had to crouch behind rocks for some relief. It was an amazing experience to feel the power of nature. However, just like Katahdin, this will be a nice loop to try again one day when the weather is a little more cooperative!

And there you have it - the reasons you may not have heard from us all summer long! If you're thinking that we have been out of touch for longer than the dates posted, don't worry, more adventures are soon to be described - such as those when we went on vacation to Iowa!