Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DMOutdoors: Documenting the Adventures - 100th Post!

I never imagined having an outdoor blog where I would go on adventures on most weekends and share them with the hiking community and the world, basically. Never did I imagine I would write and publish 100 posts, mostly trip reports. This post is my 100th published post to DMOutdoors! For the occasion, I thought I would share a little more in detail about what I do to document my adventures besides writing them out and putting words next to pictures. As much as it is for my own personal keepsake, there's also something cool to me about coming back home and trying to write a trip report people will remember. My 4th post ever, titled Filming In the Outdoors, which was posted in November of 2010, was a brief post about me shooting videos in the outdoors, and early thoughts as I had just picked up this hobby. That was then, and this is now....

That Olympus Tough 8000 I was using had been lost in the mountains over a year ago (I still want to try to find it, and have attempted once already since the memory card should survive forever inside), but I had since purchased the next model up a couple of months after that (TG-810), and it still works like new, and is what I'm using now. It shoots 14MP photos and 720P HD video. In addition to that camera, I have a GoPro Hero2 (Outdoors Edition) which takes photos and HD Video in up to 1080p. For both cameras, I always carry two batteries.

The Olympus TG-810 is completely waterproof and shockproof, just like the previous model. It can sustain falls to granite rocks, scraping on ledges, and it shoots underwater videos without a worry of it getting ruined (as long as the door is shut properly, of course). It does still lose battery in cold weather, though. I most often carry this camera in my pocket and use it for point-and-shoot photos for the duration of any of my adventures. I will use the self-timer on this camera a lot, but have found myself taking more self-timed shots using the GoPro, especially at summits and in good lighting. Any photos in low light are done with the Olympus because it has a flash. I used the Olympus camera for my photos and videos in my Tuckerman Ravine climb....I wish I had the GoPro for that one...
Using Olympus TG-810 on Monopod - Whiteface ledges
From underwater in the Pemi River - (swimming after Bonds hike)
The GoPro camera is an amazing piece of equipment. Each adventure, I find myself coming home with 500+ photos, and along with the videos over 10+ GB of media to go through between my two cameras. This might explain why it takes almost a week to bring you the trip reports. The features I use the most on the GoPro are the video function, photo function, and timer photo function. I've yet to play around with some of the additional functions. The video angle can be changed to wide, medium, and narrow. My Winter Presidential Traverse video was shot using the medium angle (it was my first time using it), and most of my recent videos after were using the wide angle. The wide angle is best used for video recording (and photos) above tree-line and when expansive or dramatic views are present, and the medium angle is best  for in the trees and always under good light. One of the other cool things is the ability to mute the beeping with the button-presses. This is good if you're going to be around other hikers, and its also good to have it ON in the winter, or when you can't see the screen to see the function you're on. Its a learned practice - three beeps from Video to Self-timer and three beeps back to Video. I use a 32GB SDcard in my GoPro (and carry much more), so when I fill that up, you know its an epic adventure.
GoPro Chest Harness on Solo Presidential Traverse 
Glissading the South Slide of the Tripyramids GoPro head strap mount
Using the GoPro sticky mount on Gardner Pond, Northern Maine
Photo quality on the GoPro can be changed between 11MP, 8MP, and 5MP and wide or medium angles. When I'm above treeline or there are views, and I'm not shooting video, I'm likely using the GoPro to snap photos. For the regular photo function, you push the button and about one second later it snaps the picture. The timer function on the GoPro is its best feature, I believe. I can set the camera down and have it take photos every 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. When I'm on a ridge line, I might hold the camera and swing it left to right (as if I was video recording), but really it's snapping a photo every two seconds. I bet many of these pictures I could go back later and make some amazing panoramic photos (which I am AWFUL at doing in the field with my Olympus). This timer function is how I've gotten some of my favorite photos, including on Mt. Whitney'. At the same time, I end up with hundreds of random, unplanned shots like the one below - most of which I don't include in my online albums.
Timer function on - random awesome photo from summit of Mt. Whitney
Morning start 
Afternoon finish
Occasionally, I like to capture a video or action photo of my passing by on the trail, such as I did above Tuckerman Ravine, after I reached the top of it, or recently on Franconia Ridge, I did it twice. This adds a change to some of my videos to break up the point-of-view angle. Yes, this requires me to go back and get the camera sometimes. I've done this in the middle of summer and also below freezing during my solo winter Presidential Traverse. Check out the video below, I made specially for this post. This video has several clips of the raw footage from some of the times I recorded a clip for fun. Some of this video you might recognize, but will see parts that were cut out, and some you haven't seen before. Subtitles will tell you about the clip.

So what do I use to mount my cameras? Well, since I started hiking, I've used a few different items to do just that. Mostly, I've used a Joby Gorillapod Original tripod. These are awesome for use with both the Olympus Tough and Go-Pro cameras (or any camera with a screw mount), and cost $20 each at many electronic and outdoor retailers. Although I am not certain its the cause, I've seemed to have bad luck in cold weather with the Original-sized Joby tripods both regular and the Magnetic model ($25). I've gone through about four Originals and one Magnetic since I started hiking, and they have all broken (mostly in winter) except  for my newest one. One of them is still somewhat usable if I wanted, but its shortened. The magnetic model is awesome because it sticks magnetically to most rocks, and was slightly more durable than the original. This is perfect for windy summits. Currently, I am no longer using an original sized tripod, and recently upgraded to the Joby Gorillapod Hybrid, which is heavier duty than the Original, and also comes with an attached level. It has a ball-head for flexible movement when already mounted, unlike the original size. With the tripod, I can place it on a rock or tree with ease to capture a view or me passing by. I can also still secure this larger tripod to my pack strap, where it is not perfectly comfortable, but its do-able as an alternative to the GoPro head strap or chest harness, if I so choose. I am waiting to see how long the Hybrid model tripod holds up this winter. If it cracks in the cold weather, I'll be looking into some sort of flexible and wearable tripod that won't bust under frigid conditions.
GoPro on Joby Gorillapod Hybrid - strapped to pack strap - Mt. Whitney
On some adventures, I've used an xShot 2.0 extending monopod. Although I use it much less than I did when I first picked it up, it packs the best. Its good for shooting video of the trail in front of you, but sometimes the scratching, extending, and clicking of handling the monopod comes up on the videos. The provided screw loosens easily on its own. For holding the camera out in front of me for video, the larger Joby Hybrid tripod is rubber and doesn't make any noise. For this reason, I only bring the extending monopod on certain adventures.
Recording the adventure on Moosilauke
xShot monopod with mounted GoPro on North Slide of Tripramid
Lastly, I recently picked up a lightweight monopod trekking pole. I used this during my climb of Mt. Whitney, and it actually worked great. I don't normally use trekking poles, but on certain hikes, I might pack one pole just in case, and this one is it, since its lighter than any one of my other trekking poles, and serves two purposes instead of one. You will see it in this video (only 1min) from Mt. Whitney.

There you have it! - a behind the scenes look at how I capture just about every adventure. 

As this is my 100th post, I would like thank all of my readers, and Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube followers! Your comments are always so kind and appreciated. I remember when I first started, I would look at the stats and be excited that I got 100 hits in a month. The last month that DMOutdoors had less than 1000 hits was October 2011, nearly a year ago. For the last 4 months in a row, there have been over 2,000 hits per month. It only makes me want to go climb more peaks and do more crazy adventures! Thanks!!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Knife Edge, Mt. Katahdin, & Hamlin Peak - 7/22/12

Here we were, July 22nd, the day after crashing down the Penobscot River all day on whitewater about to hike one of New England's best day hikes, Mt. Katahdin and the Knife Edge. Its always fun going to a new place, with no idea of what to expect. It was a hot, but beautiful day. Our friend Mike had secured a Day Use Parking Reservation for Roaring Brook. We got there at about 8AM, which was one hour later than when DUPRs are held until they are filled by first come-first serve. But, the ranger said that there was one space left, and we'd be able to go in. We almost were turned away, which I could not believe. Then we had to pay the entrance fee of $14. Jeesh, pretty difficult process for my liking, especially for New England. The one space remaining was barely wide enough for Mike's car, and since we had to park there, we came back to the car after the hike, he was left with a nice scratch on his door! It was an awkward start to the morning, but we carried on.

So we geared up and started up the Chimney Pond Trail. This trail was a slow gradual ascent with good-sized rocks, which didn't necessarily make it an easy 3 mile walk in to Chimney Pond. As you get closer, the woods open up, and there are a couple of spots you pass along the way with views up to the ridges.

Once we made it to the Chimney Pond area, we took a break for about 20 minutes. There are outhouses, and an open-air gazebo-like structure, and places to sit down. Curious red squirrels ran about. After some gained energy, we were ready to hit the Dudley Trail. I knew it was steep, but I was pleasantly surprised at the effort I was immediately exerting to ascend this trail. Wow, this is climbing a mountain, and this is the stuff we like.
Bill climbs the Dudley Trail 
Up we go on the Dudley Trail - What fun!
About halfway up the Dudley Trail the views began to open up, and immediately we realize this is one helluvanawesome climb, especially when we looked back at the view and out of the ravine. What an amazing backdrop for an ascent.
Sharp pointy rock on Dudley Trail 
Looking down to Chimney Pond with Hamlin Ridge top left  

The final approach to Pamola Peak is very similar to that of Mt. Washington, in my opinion, with large boulders forming a "rockpile", which I thought were slightly more challenging than Washington. We made the summit, where several people sat taking a break. The summit is not very large. Pamola Peak is an unranked 4000 footer, and marks the beginning of the Knife Edge if you are ascending it to Mt. Katahdin. We took a few moments to refuel again before starting the traverse.
Pamola Peak 

Mike and Nicole descend the Chimney between Pamola & Chimney Peak 
This is the climb up to Chimney Peak once you get down from above
The climb between Pamola and Chimney Peak might be one of the toughest spots on the whole traverse. This required some focus, slow and careful movements, and keeping your body close to the rocks. A heavy pack here could be a recipe for serious injury. For someone short like me, this section wasn't a walk in the park, but it was exciting being completely exposed to a 10-30 foot fall, where injury would almost be certain. Still, there were families with young children doing this, but I'd say this route so far was very difficult. I would say from the start of Dudley and all of the way Katahdin that if you miss a step or are not paying attention to every single step, even a minor slip and fall could cause serious lacerations or broken bones or worse depending on the fall. The rocks are extremely sharp.

At the top of Chimney Peak, we could see thunderheads coming over from the West, which is where they generally come from on Katahdin. The ranger at Roaring Brook also informed us that there was a good chance of storms. Thankfully, one thunderhead after the other simply passed us by with no loud cracks or people scrambling. There is no question that the Knife Edge is a difficult trail. To me, it was not as crazy as it sounds or looks, but you must be focused. The trail varies a lot from sharp rocks that you have to jump over and use both of your hands to flat ledge that is very close to the edge. Most of the way you can look left and then right and just see down on both sides of you (see video below for this perspective). I love hiking ridge lines, so I was right up front leading the way and having a blast.
Bill traverses the Knife Edge
The Knife Edge hiking towards Baxter Peak 
The Knife Edge from Baxter Peak - Photo by Mike. W. 
Chimney Pond Knife Edge
Once your more than halfway across, the difficulty decreases slightly, and now it becomes more like climbing to the summit of Mt. Washington, but with more of a dramatic view. The stand-up AT sign and very large summit cairn of the tallest mountain in Maine were now not too much further. Although me and my brother were slightly ahead of our friends on the way across, we slowed and we all reached the summit together. For the occasion and success of an exciting weekend, a sweet shot of some Glenlivet Whiskey was enjoyed by all. We enjoyed the summit, as others were, for about 20-25 minutes taking photos and a break.

This was my 2nd ME 4000-footer, and Bill's first. Mike had attempted Katahdin three times previous but never reached the summit because of weather. This was a fulfilling hike for he and Nicole and good practice too. The next day, they left for out West to hike Mt. Adams at 12,281ft and visit with friends in Oregon.
Approaching Mt. Katahdin from the Knife Edge 
Mt. Katahdin, Baxter Peak - Highest peak in ME - 5268' 
Mt. Katahdin summit plaque 
My 50th New England 67 peak! - Mt. Katahdin 
Hamlin Peak and ridge from the Saddle
After Baxter Peak, it was questionable as to whether or not Hamlin Peak would get bagged on this day. Tiredness was taking over, and it was now into the later part of the afternoon, and thunderstorms would be more and more likely every minute. On the way down from Baxter Peak at the junction with the Saddle Trail, it was discussed and agreed upon that me and Bill would go for Hamlin Peak and meet up with Mike and Nicole on Chimney Pond Trail or back at the car. They decided to descend at the Saddle Trail. It was also a trail Mike has been twice or more before, so there were no concerns splitting up. We agreed upon an approximate time for me and my brother to get back, and that plan estimated that they would only have to wait about a half hour at the car at the most. Off we went.

The hike down from Baxter Peak and over the saddle was fun and was undoubtedly the easiest part of the hike. It was like being on the south-eastern slopes of Mt. Washington except with a different view, and more remote view. There was a little elevation gain going up the other side, but the trail winds towards the back side of Hamlin Peak, and after a signed junction, and a right turn, you're just steps away from the summit sign.
On the summit of Hamlin Peak - 4756' 
From Hamlin Peak, the chimney between Pamola and Chimney Peak 
The difficulty increased again a bit on the descent down the Hamlin Ridge Trail. The ridge remains exposed for a long distance before descending into the trees. The views in front of us were incredible and we could see right into the Northwest Basin on our left. From time to time as we looked back, the sun and clouds put on a show. There were shadows in front, and behind us the sun's rays protruded through the puffy white clouds, almost as if it was some sort of sign from above. We descended very quickly and actually passed Mike and Nicole at Basin Pond (on the Chimney Pond Trail), where they had stopped for a dip, so we were back at the car waiting for them.
Descending Hamlin Ridge Trail 

White Admiral Butterfly that allowed us to get close
This was a fantastic hike, and it lived up to everything I expected. It is truly a classic and one-of-a-kind, just like a Franconia Ridge Traverse or Bonds Traverse is. I highly recommend this loop for anyone working on the New England 4000 footers. Anyone going on this hike should have some experience crossing boulders using all four points of contact and be able to lift your leg to your chest and pull yourself up over a rock. Although the Dudley Trail is not the steepest ascent, its definitely a climb (not a hike) from the start.

Hike Stats
Trails: Chimney Pond Trail, Dudley Trail, Knife Edge, Saddle Trail, Northwest Basin Trail, Hamlin Ridge Trail
Distance: 13.1 mi.
Elevation Gain: 4,443 feet
Book Time: 10hrs 10min

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Whitewater Rafting With Penobscot Adventures

On Saturday, July 21st, I went whitewater rafting for the first time with Penobscot Adventures (PA). My friend Mike has arranged this trip for the 3rd year in a row, and I was excited that we were invited to go. I had no idea what to expect, but as the date grew near, I have to admit there was some anxiety. I can swim fine, but when it comes to underwater and being tossed all around or diving into water, its not my favorite thing - I much better prefer steep cliffs and tall mountains. 

We arrived at the campsite down the street from the PA Base Camp pretty late after the 5 1/2 hour drive to Millinocket. Most of the 16 people in our group were already there drinking beers around the fire acting funny, so we quickly joined for a couple before heading off to sleep in our tent. After hockey on Wednesday, Mike was kind enough to take our tent so he could set it up in advance. Thanks Mike!

The next day, it was a 7:30am meet-up time at PA Base Camp, which is located in a campground next to a general store. There were 2 other groups getting ready to head out in addition to our 2 boats of 9 people. I had brought my own Pro Tec Ace Water helmet, fitted with my GoPro mount. Everyone was fitted for helmets, life jackets, and we got a paddle too. 
Getting ready at Penobscot Adventures Base Camp
Next, we hopped in their big blue bus, and were off on the 30 minute or so ride to the put in point for the Ultimate (and other trips), which is McKay Station. At the beginning of the ride, we passed over a 1-lane bridge over the Penobscot River with a great view of Katahdin. As we were on the way, I was still confused on what to bring onto the boat. Some had large drybags, as I did with a change of clothes, and sandals for lunch and stuff. The guides will tell you to bring almost nothing, but you can still bring a few items, if you need to. During the first runs, I had brought my extra GoPro battery, a couple of mount pieces, and a couple of energy bars. During the second run, I didn't bring anything.

If you have some good water shoes that you can walk on land with, you really don't need to bring anything with you on the boat. The bus picks you up and takes you to the lunch spot, therefore you can access anything you bring on the bus at lunch, such as a towel or more comfortable shoes for land walking. You can bring your own waterproof camera or GoPro, but if you lose it, don't expect any sympathy or efforts to retrieve it, but its all good to bring it. Best bet it is to have it fully charged with a 16+ GB card. No need to bring your phone all day, because there really isn't service. Therefore, a good thing to go by is to just bring a towel, watershoes, maybe your phone, some snacks, and maybe a camera to base camp (and for the day). A good size bag to bring on the boat is maybe a small 1-liter Ultrasil dry sack that can clip around a rope on the boat. You can bring a separate bag for your items that stay on the bus.
Mt. Katahdin and Penobscot River 
Getting the boats ready at McKay Station 
The discharge at McKay Station 
Looing back at the Cribworks - Class V Rapid 
Keegan was our guide for the day, and Big Joe was the guide for our other boat of 9 people. My brother was on Big Joe's boat. Both of them were very professional, knowledgeable, informative, personable, and most importantly, lots of fun. One thing to keep in mind is that their job is to steer the boat and instruct how to approach the rapids. During the day there are several commands you learn, and two of them are "All Ahead" and "Stop". When paddling stops, that it when the guide can steer the boat the best. To get out of an eddy or get the boat moving in a certain direction, sometimes it will only take 9 people to do one paddle to get the boat moving. Its amazing how much coordination is required to get the boat to go where it needs to go.
Keegan - Our guide with Penobscot Adventures
These are the photos taken by Penobscot Adventures. These photos are available for purchase at the end of the trip on a DVD.

Trip Name: The Ultimate
River Name: Penobscot River (Upper)
Rapids Run: Ripogenus Gorge, which includes The Exterminator (Class V) , Staircase (Class IV), and The Heaters (Class III) - Trouble Maker (Class III), The Cribworks (Class V), Little Amberjack (Class III), and Big Amberjack (Class IV)
Number of times ejected: 0
Paddles broken: 1

I look forward to coming back sometime, and would definitely recommend Penobscot Adventures for your next or first time rafting trip!