Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Deboullie Area - North Maine Woods 2009

As I've stated, I am always intrigued by new places. I wanted find a remote area in Maine or New Hampshire to explore and hike. In early 2009, I started searching the internet for remote places in New England. I used search terms such as "most remote area in New England" and also tried searching for the most remote points of each state. Somehow, I came across information for Deboullie Ecoreserve in T15 R9 Wels in Maine. It can also be found as Deboullie Public Reserved Lands.

The Deboullie Area is more than a 6 hour drive north of Boston, and is just miles from the Canadian Border to the north. Deboullie Pond, Pushineer Pond, Gaililee Pond, Gardner Pond and other ponds in the area are some of the most remote ponds in New England. Red River Camps operates the only camp in the Deboullie area. Besides the camp, the nearest buildings, ranger station, and medical treatment are about 40 miles of logging roads away from Portage, ME.

In 2009, my brother and I set off to explore this area I read about. Once in Portage, ME, that is the last chance you have to make sure you have everything you need. You do have to check in at the entrance to the North Maine Woods. To help authorities take care of the land, there is a fee to enter the area. We arrived at the check point around 7pm, as the sun was beginning to descend onto the horizon. We began the long way down the logging roads, which seemed to never end. By the time we reached the ponds, it was nearing 9pm, and was already pitch black. We parked the Jeep and saw a few others had established their places near the first campsites in the area (that were next to the parking area). We knew where we wanted to end up, and that the trails in the area were pretty well marked. We hiked for a couple hours with our headlamps before finding a flat area to set up the tent. It was a intriguing experience to get out of the car after driving for so long, and then just hike off into darkness, not knowing what to expect.

Camp on first night
The next day, we made some coffee, packed up, and continued around the loop trail that would bring us to the other side of Deboullie Pond. On the way, the trail traverses an enormous rock slide, and some crevasses in rocks that have ice in it year round. Once all the way around, we set up camp at the Deboullie campsite around noon. We now had the entire day to explore the area. We hiked a short couple miles to and from Galilee Pond, which is a smaller pond that sits below a shear cliff of at least 1000ft or more.

Beautiful sunset over Gardner Pond
Having time, we poked around and explored the area. After we ate our supper, we took a walk a couple hundred yards down a different path, and we came to Gardner Pond. Imagine your camping at this insanely huge glacial pond, and then you walk down the path to find another pond similar in size, and there is not another human being in sight, just the noises of the water. The photos I have of this moment will never tell what it was like to stand right there in that moment.

The next morning, we packed up our camp site and continued along the trail to complete the full loop, which goes all the way around Deboullie Pond. The total mileage of this trip was approximately 5 miles. The trail on the southern side of Deboullie Pond goes up and down steep ridges multiple times. It is not an easy trail, in fact, it was a very strenuous hike, and we were relieved to be back at the car by early afternoon for the long ride home.
Me and Bill exploring Gardner Pond for the first time
This trip was one of the highlights of my hiking experiences. It is a truly remote place. We saw only few  different people the entire weekend. I certainly knew I would be coming back to this place.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rocky Branch Trail to Rocky Branch Shelter #2 on Mt. Isolation

This fall, on the weekend of October 15 & 16th, Bill and I planned a trip to Mt. Isolation in New Hampshire. Mt. Isolation is the most remote 4,000ft peak in the White Mountains. The most common route is the Rocky Branch Trail which leaves a trailhead parking area on Route 16. The plan was to hike up to the summit, then descend and camp in the woods or at the Rocky Branch Shelter #2.

This was one of Bill's first hikes in the Whites. The Rocky Branch Trail is 3.7 miles to the shelter, which sits at 2500 feet. The trail is very rocky, hence the name, and at the time of our hike, the trail was extremely wet and in most sections had flowing water. A couple of hours into the hike, we came across another hiker and his dog. This guy looked like he had been beat up by the mountain. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, but the first thing he said to us, was "You're the first people I've seen in two days." Bill and I looked at each other like holy crap. He told us what to expect at the river crossing, and mentioned that he had to get wet and carry his dog across the river. You can imagine the anxiousness as we approached the river at 3.7 miles.
One of my favorite photos
By the time we reached the river, it was already mid to late afternoon. In addition, it had been snowing off and on for the last hour or so, and the wind picked up. When we got to the river and looked downstream, it was an amazing sight. Steadily falling snow was the backdrop for this usually dry, but today, raging river at 2500 feet in the Mountains. The Rocky Branch refers to the river, which is a source for the Saco River. Although a magnificent sight, the task at hand was now to cross the river, as the shelter is on the other side, where it hooks up with Isolation Trail. The river is usually low, so crossing is not usually difficult. However, the crossing was one of the more challenging things I've faced, as there was literally no room for error. If one of us fell completely into the river, it would have become a serious situation because of the weather. We were astonished to see a small brookie in the river at 2500 feet.

Me and Bill ready for the hike out
We decided to get ready to set up camp at the shelter and hold off on the summit attempt. There was still a few miles to go, and we knew the trails were going to be bad, if not worse than what we had experienced so far. We set up in the shelter, and got ready to go up the hill to cook and hang the bear bag. After about 5pm, the wind picked up, and the mostly snow turned to wet sleet and rain. This was on and off until the very early morning hours. It was very cold sleeping as we were really chilled down by the wet weather. We tried lighting a fire for about 2 hours, but everything was completely soaked.

The next morning, we opted to sleep in a little bit, then get ready to head out. The 3.7 mile Rocky Branch Trail is not particularly easy when its a flowing stream, so unfortunately, extending the trip anymore was not a great idea, especially after such a cold and wet night.
Hiking in snow as we approached 2000ft
This trip was a teaser for sure, we really wanted to make the summit, but I will be back sometime next year. To check out selected photos from this trip, please click here to view the album. Also check out another quick video on my YouTube Channel by clicking at the bottom of my blog.

Hike Stats:
Trails: Rocky Branch Trail
Distance: 7.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,250 ft
Book Time: 7hrs (hiking time)

Ipswich River Kayaking

The Ipswich River is one place that I do not mind kayaking over and over. I like trying new things, but when you kayak on the Ipswich, you do not always get the same conditions or experience the same things. I have kayaked the Ipswich River multiple times in sections of varying length, and have experienced different conditions and wildlife each time. For this Ipswich River entry, I will share some of my select moments to date while on the Ipswich River.

In 2010, me, a colleague of mine, and his son, went on an after-work 3 hour paddle between Middleton and Topsfield. We had two encounters with wildlife that made that trip memorable. Leading the way around a tranquil corner, I noticed something weird it looked like a stump, or a huge beaver or animal sitting on a stump. As I drifted closer, it moved suddenly, and I then realized that it was an enormous owl. It flew up into the tree, and all three of us were able to get a glimpse of this beautiful and large owl.

After that encounter, we continued, and not too much further down the river, I came across a deer about 100 yards away. It tranced right and I was able to see it that it had gone into the river to cross and exit the other side into a swampy meadow type area. Lo and behold, my camera was rolling for both encounters. I am glad that I was just able to get the owl taking off in there. You can not see the owl, but you can see the leaves move as it took off.

Fall reflections on the Ipswich River
The Ipswich River provides a great opportunity to take in fall foliage. Here is one my favorite photos, which was taken in November of 2009. I have had two opportunities to paddle at night on the Ipswich River. In 2009, my brother and I explored from the South Middleton dam upstream to towards the Peabody line. As were were finished, we decided to hang tight and wait until it got dark. We were about 1/4 mile from the road, but could see it. It was pretty cool to see the birds and bats flying about, and beavers splashing in the distance. It also gave us a chance to test out some fabricated flashlights on our kayaks. During a second paddle in the same area that we prolonged into darkness, we fought mad swarms of millions of bugs that covered our kayaks. This was something I wish I had photos of, but we did not expect anything of this magnitude in terms of bug annoyance. We were certainly unprepared for that, but luckily, we were not far from our destination at that time. During a longer section paddle where we were planning to get picked up when we stopped, we were actually forced to make a decision to pull out because we could not see anymore, even with our headlights! During this trip, my brother and I had been paddling for most of the day, trying to make it as far as we could. It was about an hour after darkness had fallen, and we were getting closer to Ipswich; we made the decision to pull out. It became a damp and foggy evening, and we realized our flashlights were now rendered useless. We could not see anything beyond a few feet. We could hear water ahead, and knew that there were natural dams all over from downed trees. We had to pull out given the amount of noise ahead. We must have walked along the side of the river for a good 1/2 mile, pulling our kayaks, before we got to a road and picked up. It was a fairly intense end to our paddle, as we knew there was something rather significant ahead, and we likely avoided going over some rapids in pitch blackness.

My brother Bill captures a photo of wildlife 
While paddling the Ipswich River, you can not predict what you will see for wildlife, and you can not predict how many fallen trees and created rapids you will encounter. From the headwaters near Wilmington, under the Choate, and down the rapids to the ocean in Ipswich, and then out to sea, I've paddled it.

To view my selected photos from my Ipswich River Trips, click here. And...don't forget to bring your camera!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presidential Traverse Attempt - 8/7/10

Waterfall heading up Madison
On August 7, 2010, I attempted a Presidential Traverse of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. It may have been one of the best hiking days in late summer this year. The weather was pristine and perfect. After studying the maps in the preceding week, I had in mind a few different routes for possible camping locations and for escaping if necessary, so I felt prepared. My knees had not bothered me in while, and I was not expecting for them to flare up so badly on this trip. However, I do know that my pack was too heavy. If I REALLY wanted to make the whole range in 2 days, I would have needed a MUCH lighter pack. Nevertheless, it was still an amazing experience of difficult hiking above treeline, and another summit of Mt. Washington.

Summit - Mt. Madison
I began the hike from Appalachia all the way up the Valley Way Trail to Mt. Madison. Let me tell you, I did not expect the beginning to be so treacherous. Besides seeing some trail side streams and waterfalls on the way, the hike to Madison is straight up and all rocks. To me, the summit of Mt. Madison is more of a pile rocks than Washington, and feels intimidating in a way. The wind was ripping, and there really isn't a whole lot to grab onto, so I stayed for a minute, then headed back down to Madison Hut. Mt. Adams was the second mountain.

As I descended Adams, that is when I realized my knees were starting to really hurt. I still had a long way to go, and mountains to climb in between. The trails above treeline on the Gulfside Trail are not easy, especially with a pack that includes a tent and sleeping bag. This traverse hike should be done very light gear, ideally excluding a tent altogether. There is some climbing involved from rock to rock in some locations. With my knees hurting, I was laboring, and other hikers began to notice, and asked if I was ok. I was seeing signs for Mt. Washington that said 5-8 miles. One thing I knew....there was no escape until the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

I started at 6am, but by the time I made it to Mt. Washington, the last shuttle had gone down, and I just made it time to get a candy bar and a soda, as the kitchen was closed. I called my parents, told them I was hurting, (but not how much) and my plans for where I was camping. It was about 7pm as I began to descend the Crawford Path to the Lakes of the Cloud Hut. It is a really interesting feeling descending Mt. Washington while there is not a person in sight behind you or in front of you, until they become visible outside the hut. I used the Ammo trail both ways before, so I was confident going down to camp. It was about 8pm now, so I decided to sit next a small stream on a bit of a perch and cook my dinner before I went down into the trees. I watched the sun go down over the western mountains as I finished up. I turned on my headlamps and began to....slide down the Ammo Trail. I say slide, because I could hardly walk.

Lake of Clouds - Around 7:30pm
I really expected to find a suitable spot to pitch the tent much earlier on the way down, but I overshot that expectation. It was not until 12am that I found a flat area that would work. Once I got everything situated, it was a huge relief to relax, take a couple Advil, have some water and an energy bar. I slept well, and actually slept in later since I had to hike most of the trail down to find that spot. I hiked out the next morning with a solid limp, walking by all of the starers at the cog, who probably thought I had rough hike.

Even though I was hurting, I still take the trip for what it was. It was amazing. I had spent all day above tree line in the northern Presidentials and saw the sunset from Mt. Washington.

Hike Stats
Trails: Valley Way Trail, Osgood Trail, Airline Trail, Gulfside Trail, Crawford Path, Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Distance: 15 miles
Elevation Gain: 5950 ft
Book Time: 30:18 (camped overnight at stealth location on Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Royalston Falls - Tully Trail - Tully Mountain

About two hours from Boston, is an awesome place to hike. The 22-mile Tully Trail, which I have yet to do completely, throws a challenging mix of terrain in the sections I've hiked, yet rewards with multiple waterfalls and incredible rock formations. I have summited Tully Mountain twice, camped overnight at the Royalston Falls Shelter, and hiked the area a few other times.

A half mile into the woods from the trail head on Rte 32 is Royalston Falls Shelter. A late fall overnight with my brother Bill where temperatures were easily in the 20s overnight and the next morning, was my experience. As you see, we looked pretty chilled in the photo, and it was about to rain. Although there are not many reports, it is possible to come across one, so be sure to hang your food properly.Going south from the shelter along the river and gorge will take you to the beatiful Royalston Falls, which I have see flowing nicely, as pictured, but also dry this summer. The hike continues up and down some challenging terrain, crosses the brook over a wooden bridge, then turns into a flat enchanted like type forest, which is the farthest I have gone in the south direction of the Tully Trail.
Mt. Monadnock from Tully Mountain
Tully Mountain (1,163ft) is on the southern part of the Tully Trail system. Although a smaller mountain, it is not a walk in the park by any means. It is pretty challenging from both directions. It offers great fews to the east, and to the north where you can see Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire.

For more information about the Tully Trail and even more things to do, visit the Trustees of Reservations.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Filming In The Outdoors

Like many of the new shows we see on TV, there seems to be a growing trend to capture video in the outdoors. I have also increasingly enjoyed doing this as I partake in outdoor activities. So far, I have captured some video from most of the activities I have done, which include hiking, kayaking, camping, and fishing. The good thing is, not everything gets shown on camera. This would take away from the personal satisfaction that I get from being outside in nature.

The downside to attempting to capture film while hiking, kayaking, or other activity, is the weight and extra effort required. I find myself adding a few extra pounds including an extra container to carry the equipment and batteries. However, it is fun to be able to show others what I've done and what is out there to be explored.

For a while, I was using a cheap battery powered camera that Staples used to give away with a large purchase. It takes an SD card and triple A batteries, and was awesome, until it went under water! Now I use my Olympus Stylus Tough 8000, which is an incredible camera, that shoots 12MP, and great quality video. A gorillapod tripod does the trick whether it be strapped to my kayak or I'm holding it out in front of me. When the time comes, I will be upgrading to an HD camcorder, and maybe even a better camera.

So far, my favorite video is of me catching the arctic charr in Northern Maine. I had my camera on the tripod, which was on a flat rock that was a few feet into the water from the shore. It provided the best shot, but I never expected to catch the arctic charr. The raw video has many minutes of me and my brother and whole lot of....nothing.

Please check out my YouTube channel by clicking here or by clicking on the clips below. This page has all of my videos that I have filmed.