The internet is filled with posts blogs about the "top 10 list" of this and that. While I've indulged in a few posts such as those for boosting SEO and internet visibility, I've tried to refrain from that in the more recent years. I won't say I've never read that type of internet fodder from time to time but the writing always seems to be shallow and superficial and the pictures are the same. At the same time, I want to showcase what I thought were my best outdoor adventures and experiences in the vast wilderness that is the North Woods and Bold Coast of Maine and New England. So I suppose this is sort of my "best of" album. It might come off as another internet plea for attention, but I hope it reads more like a narrative.
|First summer in Maine (Naples, ME)|
I first came to Maine the day after I graduated from undergrad in Southern California. You could say that I went as far as you could from there without leaving the United States (Hawaii is closer to So Cal than Maine). I showed up off of a plane at the Portland Jetport with a backpack of stuff and a sleeping bag. Like many summer residents of Maine, I came for seasonal work- I worked at a camp and that was where my "Maine Thing" began. Over that summer, I got 6 days off from work and I filled them with hiking. At the time I didn't know I would be back for many years to come so I did all the typical things- Hike Mt Katahdin's Knife's Edge, Mt Washington, Mt Mansfield, Acadia National Park and the Camden Hills. It was a lovely summer: typically Maine and totally new to somebody raised on the West Coast. I finished that job and embarked on a trip on the Maine Island Trail all across Penobscot Bay. A particularly fond memory of that trip, other than the remote islands and wild seas, was studying for the GRE by flashlight at night. I didn't know I would end up in Grad School in Maine, but I started studying for it right there on the beaches of tiny islands with only primitive campsites. I briefly returned to California only to apply and be accepted to Nurse Practitioner School at USM in Portland. My next chapter of my Maine Thing started with a 6,000 Mile Road Trip from So Cal to Portland.
|The Maine Island Trail played a large part in my reasons for returning (Downeast Islands, ME)|
Going to graduate school to become a Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner was a challenging 3 years. One of the most important lessons that a clinician could ever learn is the importance of self-care. For me, that meant taking advantage of every opportunity I could to get outside and get back in touch with myself. Graduate School ends up being a precipitous balancing act between school, work and personal obligations. Nursing is notorious for destroying that balance. As strange as it sounds, one had to be very proactive in scheduling down time. For me it was in the form of travel and adventure. I sought out to explore and experience everything that the wilds of Maine and New England had to offer. Writing about it and photographing it was part of my personal care plan in staying sane though the rewarding but grueling process of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.
|Remembering my first autumn in New England (Jay State Forest, VT)|
By my count, I've hiked about 175 mountains while in New England. My penchant for climbing mountains can only be described as monomaniacal. Summits have ranged from the extensive alpine peaks of New England 4,000 footers to the mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. The ancient summits of the Appalachians and the geologically volcanic summits of the White Mountains have been eroded to relatively low elevations but they certainly challenged this Californian who's used to bagging thirteen and fourteen thousand foot summits. There were no gimmes.
Inevitably, I was drawn to climb the major peakbagging lists of the White Mountain 4000 Footers, New England 4,000 Footers and New England's 100 Highest. Additionally, the less traveled but still daring quest to climb New England's 50 Finest Mountains provided further opportunities for adventure. However pointless it was to set off on such a quest was irrelevant after traveling over 10,000 miles and hiking over 1,000 miles to climb all those mountains. Especially with respect to the Hundred Highest and 50 Finest, many of the mountains were obscure, wild and relatively unexplored. Mt Baker, in particular, had just 20 names on the summit canister placed over two decades ago.
|The nearly 100 mile view from the infrequently hikes Mt Kibby in western Maine comes to mind when I think of "the best view I had"|
|No grouping of Maine photography would be complete without the Traveler and South Branch ponds photo|
|Boundary Bald is exceedingly gorgeous and infrequently hiked|
|The view from White Cap Mountain, looking towards Katahdin|
Maine's Most Memorable: Frequently, Boundary Bald, past Jackman, makes my overall list for most memorable mountains. The total wilderness that surrounds it along with a view of the Appalachians and the Quebec lowlands was unique. Another close call for best overall mountain was the Traveler Loop. It isn't as obscure as Boundary Bald but the entire 10 mile loop involves circling an ancient volcano that actually feels much like the Cascades. Recently, I hiked the above Mt Kibby which had a near 100 mile view. Although low compared to the surrounding White Mountains, Speckled Mountain and Mt Caribou in Western Maine were as enjoyable as any 4,000 footer.
White Cap Mountain and Mt Abraham are good competitors for Maine's best view. White Cap stands at the crest of the 100-mile wilderness on the AT and is a magestic final summit before Northbound hikers finish on Katahdin. Even the Maine Mountain Guide says it is arguably the best view. Mt Abraham is far away from Katahdin but boasts an extensive alpine area which is comparable to the latter. It was curiously left out of the Appalachian Trail for the ugly but taller summit of Sugarloaf.
|Mars Hill is only 1,748ft tall but it is a major mountain in the rolling planes of Aroostook County|
|Winter hiking had its challenges but it was so much nicer to have the trails to myself.|
|Pemi Loop, NH|
|Fall on the Long Trail|
|The Northeast Kingdom|
|Lake Willoughby, VT|
|With an apparent temperature of 60 below zero, Fahrenheit, my traverse of the Kinsman Ridge easily takes the cake for coldest day I've ever experienced|
|A brief break in the clouds as I hiked Mt Isolation|
Summer sometimes had days of torrential rain and wild thunderstorms. Mt Isolation is already a difficult hike and that was compounded by a summer Nor'Easter for me. Again, there were no gimmies.
|Some bushwhacks were enjoyable such as Grass Mountain, VT. Others were... memorable|
|Saddleback Mountain (in Northern Maine, not the ski resort) was a mountain better viewed than viciously bushwhacked|
|The erie summit of East Mountain, Vermont holds discovery of an abandoned Cold War Era Military Base|
|Hiking on the international boundary|
Another strange hike was the Unnamed Peak on the International Boundary between Quebec and Maine. Part of it involves hiking on the actual boundary swath between two countries. It was weird.
Dorset Peak plays a small role in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous as being near the childhood home of Bill W. The summit itself wasn't much of a sight, but the area around it is steeped in Vermont and AA history which made the hike all the more enjoyable.
Jerimoth Hill, in Rhode Island, is one of the shortest state high points in the country but it was once the country's most difficult high point to reach. This was because of a very tenuous relationship between hikers and the original landowners which evidently became violent on some occasions. These days it is easy, free and visitors are welcome. However it is funny to think of such an otherwise forgettable high point being harder to reach than Denali.
|The Cutler Coast in far eastern Maine, was as memorable as any summit|
|I hope I can return to Block Island, Rhode Island|
|Quechee Gorge, Vermont's Grand Canyon|
Block Island, in Rhode Island, lived up to its well deserved reputation as being a better option for us outdoorsman than the nearby Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Unpretentious and accessible, it is not a wonder that the island makes the Nature Conservancy's short list of "Last Great Places".
|Moxie Falls, Maine|
|Quebec and New Brunswick aren't visited enough by Mainers, if you ask me|
I could write books about how much I enjoyed my outdoor adventures up here in New England. Perhaps some day I will. For now, blog posts will have to do. I didn't do everything in New England though which is why I know I'll continue to return for further exploration and adventure. After all, there's still plenty left to do!
Read. Plan. Get Out There!