Friday, December 13, 2013
Rhon Bell, an outdoor enthusiast, spends his time exploring the Maine Woods and documenting his journeys.
Growing up in Aroostook County, he embraced the outdoor lifestyle at a young age. Living today near Portland, he spends weekends and week-long adventures hiking New England summits, canoeing the historic Maine waterways, and ice fishing for lake trout.
Follow the journey as Window to the Woods discovers new destinations, and check out his other blog, Backwoods Plaid.
The Northeast may have a mild winter in store if one weather prediction method used by Old Farmer's Almanac holds true. The woolly bear caterpillar (known for their transformation inside a cocoon to a full-grown moth) is composed of 13 segments; black on either end with a reddish-brown center. The hypothesis states that more black segments suggest a harsher winter. Studies show that when the average of black segments rises above 5 - this is the tipping point to a longer and colder winter.Whether or not this methodology holds true I cannot say for certain, but I know colder days are ahead. My winter jacket is already hanging by the front door, directly above my Bean boots. My shovel is standing desolate in the entry way. The first snowfall has already made its way to the mountains and far Northern Maine. My suggestion: Keep an armload of firewood by the stove to cut the chills of early mornings and always keep a good book on the coffee table for snowed-in afternoons. Below are photos from a local hike this weekend and evidence of a mild winter to come.(Follow me for NEW photos and tweets at @BackwoodsPlaid)
I've expressed obsessions for a few things on Backwoods Plaid. One is history while another is logging. Logging in it's more primitive form is fascinating - the woodsmen took off into unexplored forests for the winter months to work in the woods, fell trees and load them onto frozen lakes. Waiting for spring melt to arrive, they would begin the long, arduous, and sometimes fatal journey of a river driver. Journeying across the state, men followed the river breaking up jams and ensuring the future boards arrived to the mill. Logging, although much less hardcore nowadays, is still a rugged living to make, and for that, it is to be admired.
Driving through these woods, we stop several times along the river to explore. The waters still run crystal clear and the song of birds fills the afternoon air. One can simply picture the bustling of the boots so many years ago. There is something here that draws in man.Stacks of freshly cut timber await a logging truck to carry them to a mill. Tracts of open cutting are apparent every 1/4 mile. Offshoots of the main road extend left and right every so often forming a web of roads in an otherwise untouched piece of wilderness. A soft afternoon light makes its way through the height of the trees before illuminating the forest floor. Turning miles and kicking up some dirt. The sound of ice rocking back and forth in the cooler fills the Jeep. During stops, however, those ice cold beverages are refreshing. The road stretches forth. Each corner unveils a unique mountainous view. Today's camp reading. Historic sporting camps dot the otherwise dense forest road. I saw the mud hole approaching. The cooler's ice really splashed back and forth on this one. I discovered a vacant logging camp that housed loggers in the early years. Now vacant, I assume it was used from the 40's to the 70's. Stacks of timber and blue skies. Not a soul in sight for as far as the eye can see. Trail side Lupines spring up along the tent site. Our wilderness tent site and the beautiful backdrop of Rangeley,
Safe drinking water is key to all outdoor adventures. Bacteria, giardia, salmonella, viruses and other microorganisms can be a concern when collecting drinking water from natural sources. Treatment methods are usually water filtration or boiling. Over the past few years, a new method has emerged and a Maine-based company, SteriPen, is behind the innovative technology of portable UV filtration. Their products offer a simplistic way to ensure healthful hydration. 90 seconds of stirring with the ultraviolet light sterilizes a nalgene of collected water. This is an endorsement for the quick, efficient technology - not the company. The lightweight nature of the UV light saves ounces and it fits into a pocket. It's come in as a handy replacement on many hikes and canoe trips.
This handheld unit kills harmful, invisibible "critters" in the water that easily can cause sickness on any outdoor trip.
A mirrored lake greets us as we cook a hearty morning breakfast. A pile of dri-ki (drift wood) is stacked near the waterfront - a potential bonfire in waiting. Blue skies indicate a beautiful afternoon of paddling.Coffee breaks are always built into the schedule. Something needs to provide the fuel to propel me forward. Today, a muddy beach and a makeshift wind block of rocks will be the platform for my caffeine fix. After reviewing the atlas and planning out a few potential fishing holes, we trek back to the canoe, on a caffeine-high and continue along on our way. Relics from the river drives (when lumber would make it's way down water systems to mills) still remain throughout this land. The above contraptions are abundant along our trip. At best, it appears to be a weight, made of concrete and re-bar, that would serve as an anchor point for booms or boats. Wading into the ripples, downstream from a dam, we test our luck on salmon. Water levels are extremely low and if my polarized sunglasses serve me correctly - fish are lacking in this river outlet today. After 40 minutes of casting the decision is made to break down the rods and head to a remote lean-to. As the clouds settle into the evening sky, the crisp fall air begins to whip across the lake. Our location tonight is fairly exposed and our jackets are pulled quickly from our packs. I haul the canoe onto the rocky beach and we begin dinner. Our home for tonight. Lying flat on your back, across the hardwood shelter floor, actually feels like heaven after sitting in a canoe all day. However, I shouldn't complain. Dinner duties are the responsibility of my cousin this evening. I take full advantage of the opportunity to relax - taking in the smell of pine, and the beauty of another Maine evening.
Morning light sneaks beneath the tarp shortly after 6am. My eyes roll open and I, in sequence, roll out of my hammock. A quick glimpse of the morning sunrise is cause enough for me to run barefoot for my camera bag. The rays of a golden sun reach far above the peak of Maine's famous Mount Katahdin. Evening dew still coats the shoreline, the water is still and the air remains chilled. Thirty minutes from the sun peaking above the Eastern horizon is my favorite part of the day. The sky is filled with brilliant colors and the Earth is just waking up.
When I think of Maine, images like this morning populate my mind. Nature truly at it's best.
Leaning back against a campsite bench, I enjoy a Clif bar breakfast and watch as a plane shoots across the sky. From my remote vantage point, it appears as though the sun itself launched the plane overhead.