Tag Archive 'backpacking'

Sep 10 2014

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Woods Retreat

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FrHillBkCampMonday morning I stuffed a few essentials into my rucksack and headed for the hills. I had plenty to do at home, but when the wild beckons the work can wait. I was overdue for a night alone in the woods.

I had my canine companion Matika with me, of course. Together we humped up the Long Trail two and a half miles from the trailhead parking lot to a small stream called French Hill Brook. From there we bushwhacked west, following the stream until I found a nice place to camp.

I didn’t set up camp right away. Instead I left my rucksack leaning against a tree and fished the brook for a while. In most places the overhanging vegetation made it difficult to cast, but I stumbled upon a few large holes where I could present my fly properly. There a couple wild trout rose to it, taking me by surprise. I didn’t expect to find 7 to 9-inch brookies this high up. I pulled them out of the water long enough to admire their beautiful markings then put them back.

I set up camp as late afternoon shadows overtook the forest. Matika lounged about, chewing on some of my firewood. Then I settled in for dinner and a little campfire meditation. The fire burned away all my concerns as I fed sticks into it. After the sun departed, a full moon rose into the cobalt sky. It’s light filtered through the trees. A cool September breeze kicked up. In the cusp between summer and fall… I reveled in it.

Up at daybreak, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before breaking camp. The hike out was easy: downhill all the way. Soon I was back home and getting ready for a half-day shift at the store. No matter. I got my fix of wildness so I’m all set for a while.

 

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Jul 18 2014

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Beginning Backpackers

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boysbkpkgThis week I took two of my grandsons, Hunter and Mason, backpacking for the very first time. I’ve been meaning to do it for years. They live in southern New Hampshire, nearly 200 miles away, so I dreaded all the driving. But sometimes, in order to make something truly worthwhile happen, the driving has to be done.

I took my dog Matika with me, of course. Wouldn’t dream of going in the woods without her.

I picked up the boys and took them to Pilsbury State Park where we hiked to a remote campsite. I parked the car in the main campground, just shy of the gate. Beyond the gate we had the woods all to ourselves.

We had a sweet campsite on North Pond, which has occupied only by ducks, geese, and other wildlife. The boys found wood frogs in an ephemeral pool and red efts along the trail. At dusk a barred owl called out. They thought that was pretty cool.

We were busy for three days. We did a lot of hiking and fishing. I taught them how to build a fire, purify drinking water, and sling a food bag in the trees to keep it away from bears. I taught them simple things, like how to stay relatively dry despite the rain. They knew nothing about how to be in the woods. Was I ever that much of a tenderfoot? I must have been, when I was their age.

Their favorite part of the outing, they told me later, was our short hike up to Balanced Rock. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe they liked negotiating such a twisty, narrow path. Maybe they liked the effort it took. Or maybe the reason is a lot harder to articulate. The wild worked its magic on us during the walk – that much is certain. That’s something I have come to expect. But it was new to them.

While driving back to Vermont by myself, I marveled at how quickly the outing went. Such a whirlwind of activity! By the time I caught my breath it was over. Some powerful memories were created in young minds, no doubt.

Next month, Judy and I will take all six of our grandkids camping. I can only imagine how intense that’s going to be.

 

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Feb 23 2014

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Deep Woods Talk

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Trail into WCLW copyOn Saturday, March 8th, I’ll be talking about the Northville/Placid Trail to my fellow Green Mountain Club members. I’m excited by the prospect. This will be my first time presenting to the GMC, and my first time using visuals.  Judy has helped me put together a slide show. If you live anywhere near the GMC Visitor Center in Waterbury Center, VT then come on down. $5 fee for members. $8 for non-members. The event starts at 7 pm.

If you miss that show, I’ll be at Stowe Library at 7 pm on Thursday, March 27th, doing something similar, reading from my NPT hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods, and talking about the importance of wildness. As many of you know all too well, talking comes naturally to me.

While I’d rather be on the trail winding through the Adirondacks, talking about it with like-minded others is the next best thing. Like many Vermonters, I sometimes forego the lush, green mountains close to home for the sprawling forests on the other side of Lake Champlain. It’s a good thing to share.

When it comes to Adirondack wildness, the Northville/Placid Trail is the way to go. There are lots of people in the High Peaks region, especially during the summer. But it isn’t difficult to experience wilderness solitude on the NPT. That’s why I don’t mind talking about it. The NPT is the less-traveled path.

 

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May 31 2013

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Adirondack Book Now in Print

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ADWcoverMy narrative about hiking the Northville/Placid Trail, The Allure of Deep Woods, is now in print. I couldn’t be happier. The folks at North Country Books did a fine job with it.

The NPT passes through some of the most beautiful country in upstate New York’s Adirondack Park, traversing one wild forest and four wilderness areas. I was wet and muddy during most of that two-week trip but didn’t care. Just thinking about it makes me want to plan another big outing. What’s wrong with me?

As most of you know, I can’t walk a mile without making an observation about the natural world, commenting on the importance of wildness, or breaking into some historical rant. This book is chock full of it. I didn’t hold back.

You can order a copy by calling North Country Books at (315) 735-4877, or going to my website: woodthrushbooks.com. Enjoy!

 

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May 14 2013

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Springtime Overnighter

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spring hikeA tidal wave of green sweeps through the Champlain Valley during a succession of warm, dry days, giving me a serious case of spring fever. There’s no sense fighting it. I load my backpack, usher my dog into the car and head for the hills. Next thing I know, I’m hiking up a logging road winding deep into the mountains.

The road narrows to a trail shortly after crossing a brook. I leave the trail, following the brook upstream until I reach the edge of spring. There I find painted trilliums just opening up. There I set up my tarp on a high piece of ground, just in case the clouds gathering overhead deliver the rain that has been forecasted.

The stream rushes along incessantly. A few black flies swirl around my head without biting. I collect enough dry wood to keep a small fire going after dinner. Matika chews a stick, then another. The intoxicating smell of pollen, warm earth and forest rot fills the air. A slight breeze spits a few raindrops my way. I don’t care.

I feed sticks into the campfire for hours on end. A hermit thrush sings in the distance. Darkness descends. Then an eerie calm overtakes the forest.

A light rain falls shortly after Matika and I slip beneath the tarp for the night. It doesn’t last. I toss and turn a while before falling into a deep sleep. I awaken to a Virginia waterthrush singing loudly at daybreak. Matika licks me until I rise.

I stumble down to the brook to splash cold water into my face. The sun clears the ridge, peeking through the trees as I lounge before a breakfast campfire. When all the sticks in my woodpile are gone, I break camp.

An hour hike out takes two hours. I admire a patch of bleeding hearts along the way and stop by the brook crossing to daydream. Matika sniffs around. A forest calm lingers within long after I return to the car. The green overtaking the valley seems richer than it was the day before. I revel in it.

 

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May 08 2013

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Hiking the NPT

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Into the WoodsAs most of you know by now, my book about hiking the Northville/Placid Trail will be released at the end of this month. In the meantime, check out the guest blog about the NPT that I have written for SectonHiker.com. It was posted earlier today.

Along with an overview of my two-week trek, there are a few photos of the Adirondacks in that guest blog. They give you some idea what the trail is like.

New York’s Adirondack Park is best known for its High Peaks, but the region has so much more to offer. The NPT is a grand tour of the sprawling forests and pristine waters that have attracted outdoor enthusiasts to the Adirondacks for well over a hundred and fifty years. I was fortunate enough to hike NPT in 2006, and have enjoyed many excursions into those deep woods over the years. It is truly magnificent country.

 

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Mar 06 2013

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Long Trail Book

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FUMF coverThe Long Trail book, Forest under my Fingernails, is back in print! Three years after buying up the last copies of the Heron Dance edition, I have reprinted this hiking narrative under my own small press, Wood Thrush Books. It is now available at Amazon.com as either a paperback or a kindle download. Rod’s illustrations are gone but the words are all there for any hiking enthusiast or nature lover to enjoy.

In the mid-90s, I had the distinct pleasure of backpacking Vermont’s Long Trail end-to-end. The rather elaborate cache system that I devised kept me on the trail for the entire month. The experience was transforming. I managed somehow to capture it in my journals, then later in this narrative.

I couldn’t be happier about having FUMF back in print. Its re-release is timely. My Adirondack hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods, will soon be released. Those who enjoy that book will have something similar to read. Besides, the hiking season is right around the corner. What better way to prepare for it than to read something that elicits the sights, sounds and smells of the forest?

Those of you who have been following me through the years know that I have all sorts of books in print now: backcountry and travel narratives, poetry, philosophy, and assorted essays. I’ve edited several anthologies as well as the works of Emerson and Thoreau. But FUMF remains a favorite among readers. I’m sure that newcomers to my work will get a kick out of it.

 

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Jan 07 2013

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Coming Soon

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At long last, a hiking narrative to rival my Long Trail book has gone into production. The folks at North Country Books have assured me that my Adirondack tale, The Allure of Deep Woods, will be released this spring. I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect.

Back in 2006, I hiked the Northville/Placid Trail, which meanders for one hundred and thirty miles through five wild forests and sprawling wilderness areas, from the southwestern quarter of the Adirondack Mountains to Lake Placid. It was a good trip despite all the rain, giving me a taste of deep woods in early autumn.

In addition to being a detailed account of my encounters along the trail, this book outlines the history of the Adirondacks. It also recounts the early days of the wilderness preservation movement, since the origins of that movement can be traced to this part of the country. And there is plenty of talk about the importance of wildness, as well.  Yeah, this book covers a lot of ground.  I look forward to sharing it with all of you very soon.

 

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Aug 27 2012

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Time Out

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A few days ago, Judy and I went for an overnighter in the woods. Our work schedules aligned, making it possible. It was a bonus outing for me, and a much needed getaway for Judy. She hadn’t been overnight in the woods in years.

We have a favorite camping spot along a mountain brook about an hour from home. It’s less than a mile from the dirt road where we leave our car. Half that distance is a bushwhack, though, so the spot is very private. We’ve never seen another person there.

We didn’t do much during our stay.  Judy read a book. I did a little fishing. We stared into a campfire, talked, and went for a dip in a nearby pool. Our dog Matika was with us, of course. She chased the chipmunks out of our camp then lounged about. All three of us slept well during the cool, dry August night.

Few bugs, great weather, and the constant rush of a small stream. Completely immersed in a green, leafy world. Can’t imagine how things could have been better. These hybrid outings – part camping, part backpacking – suit our purposes well. We’ve learned how to make the most of them, anyhow.

We lingered the second day. Neither Judy nor I wanted to leave. Next year we’ll make it two nights in the woods, but for now we are satisfied. It was a perfect time out.

 

 

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Aug 01 2012

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Hiking Website

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During the month of August, yours truly will be one of a couple dozen bloggers contributing to an interesting hiking website called Sectionhiker.com. Each day a different outdoor writer will be featured at that site. It’s designed for experienced and beginner hikers alike. Check it out.

I wrote a piece about hiking along a Maine section of the Appalachian Trail called the 100 Mile Wilderness. It focuses on the importance of connecting with the wild, of course. What else would I write about?

 

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