Archive for September, 2010

A Few Days in the Maine Wilderness

September 11, 2010

Baxter State Park, Maine Hiking Trip

 I was going to skip this year’s annual trip to Baxter State Park due to too many scheduling issues but somehow or another I found a way to fit it in. Sadly, Eric who organized the trip this year had to bale out at the last minute so only three of us headed up this year. Maine is a very large state – one could fly from Boston to San Francisco in less time than it takes to drive to Baxter – the effort getting there and hiking to the remote corners of the park are well worth it. 

Night One Campfire

This year found me with good friends Marty and Larry heading out into the backcountry. We were there for four days to help each other thru the difficult spots and to merciless torture each other with bad jokes and awful humor – I cannot wait to do it again. I find these trips to be physically and mentally exhausting – but I also find them to be very cathartic – while you are in the middle of a death march you argue with yourself about “why do I do this?” but when it is all over it is a great memory and experience that I would not trade for anything. 

This year’s route would take me to the last remote outpost of the park that I had not yet visited – Davis Pond. To give you an idea of remote to get to Davis Pond you have to drive about ten miles into the park until the dirt road ends (and this is about twenty miles from the closest town, Millinocket. After parking your car you need to hike about 11 miles over two days to get to the pond that is nestled against steep mountain walls. This location is not visible from any road in the state. 

Wassatoiquik Stream

Day One took us from our cars to the Wassatoiquik Stream Lean To – a little under six miles of fairly flat hiking. There are nice views of the Great Basin of Baxter Peak from Whidden Pond and some interesting boulders along the route. As would be a common theme this week there was also rain. Not too bad – we got to the lean to around 3 PM I filtered water, Marty gathered fire wood and Larry fished – this was the first time I ever saw Larry get shut out in back country fly fishing! Dinner and the campfire took us up to around 7 PM – when night falls in the back country sleep is not far behind. You may not sleep well, but you certainly get rest – we got about 11 hours of rest per night! During the night a mouse or squirrel got a little bit into my food bag – no great loss – but the bear bag up in the tree did not stop them! It rained for many hours thru the night which caused a bit of concern as our morning started with a stream crossing and there would be a total of four of them on Day Two – the first one near the Lean To was uneventful and only about knee deep. 

Turner Deadwater

We would soon pass New City – the remnants of an old logging camp and swing by Russell Pond Campground where we talked to a couple of other hikers. There was a bit of thunder off in the distance but it soon ended and we were clear of that worry. Just outside of the Russell Pond Campground we would pick up the Northwest Basin Trail which would be our route for the next day and a half. Early on you cross the Turner Deadwater which was a more challenging water crossing than the first one and head out for an easy mile or so of hiking – then it gets interesting.

The trail starts to climb and climb and climb – up large boulders and slabs that are actually streams…nothing like going up steeply angled wet rock. We soon had and easy crossing of Annis Brook and soon after reached the scary stream crossing. We discussed how we would attack this one for quite awhile – we eventually decided to give it a try – took the boots off and some of us donned crocs, and one neoprene slippers and we gave it a go. Very slow, very deliberate and never more than ankle deep – but some of the rocks were hard to reach and the water speed was impressive and the depth of some of the areas looked pretty damn deep.

Stream Crossing

We all made it, got the boots on and then it soon started to rain heavily for the next two hours as we plodded on towards Lake Cowles and then finally Davis Pond. 

Davis Pond and Harvey Ridge

The pond is as beautify and as remote as advertised – this is further away than the middle of nowhere. An incredible spot that is not visited by many people – you have to be willing to make the effort to get there – it is not easy. We had another lackluster meal in camp and a long night of rest before arising to tackle the steep 1.2 miles to the Tableland. For anyone who hikes often enough a steep 1.2 miles is not that big of a deal – but when you are backpacking with gear for four nights the weight on your back, and what it does to your balance and energy is incredible. Very slow going. It took us over two hours of hiking up steep trail that was often a running stream to make it to the top. When we cleared the ridge we were rewarded with improving views and flat and downhill walking for two miles minus a quick side trip to Hamlin Peak – the second highest peak in Baxter State Park. 

Northwest Basin Trail

After a couple of sweet hours above tree line with great views we began the hairy descent down the Saddle Trail – keep in mind this is the easiest route down! There is a small rock slide that is descended as well as a lot of big boulders – once again complicated by carrying a large overnight pack. I got a little edgy a couple of times when the pack was kind of pushing me off of the mountain. This is where companions are a huge help – a little coaching and another set of eyes and I was soon thru the worst of it as we made our way down to Chimney Pond for the night. We quickly realized the bear line that is provided here was no longer thwarting the critters so we opted to keep our food close by – very tame and unafraid red squirrels would raid anything they could – I saw one eating an apple it ripped out of a sealed Ziploc bag that was in a food bag hung at lest twelve feet off the ground! We were beat and were trying to figure out what we would do the next day – energy levels and weather would be the deciding factors in the morning. 

Northwest Basin Trail - Talus Field

Morning came soon enough – and as I would have guessed, Marty, being in better shape had more energy and ambition than Larry or I did. We started out with the ideas of visiting the Pamola Caves but Larry and I soon had it with the compact car sized boulder scrambles and instead hung out by idyllic Chimney Pond and hiked around the campground. Marty went about 800 vertical feet up the Dudley Trail and was back in about an hour and a half and we decided that we would head home early. We hiked down a slightly different way and visited Blueberry Knoll on the way out – wild spot with views into the North Basin – very cool with fog and mist and some visibility. Soon we were on our way past the Basin Ponds and back to the car – a shower at a campground in Millinocket and the 5-6 hour drive home. Another great trip, with great friends has left me with aching muscles, over 400 incredible photographs and map books galore that I will read over and over planning out our next adventure. 

Descending the Saddle Trail

Pamola, The Chimney and the Knife's Edge

More images and a video: 

Baxter State Park Day One

Baxter State Park Day Two

Baxter State Park Day Three

Baxter State Park Day Four.

Davis Pond video


Atheism Is Not A Choice (via Symptom of the Universe)

September 6, 2010

Another brief hiatus for your humble author…reposting one of my more popular pieces – by popular I mean a post that generated a lot of discussion – see you/read you all soon. – Mike

Follow me on Twitter: NOTE: By choice, I mean that after weighing the evidence and reading and learning – a critically thinking person has to be an atheist, or at the very least agnostic. To remain otherwise would be faith or superstition based and while that may be valid for many it is not a decision that will be arrived at via critical thinking. One of the biggest rules “they” tell us to live by is not to discuss pol … Read More

via Symptom of the Universe

Kenny Chambers – Under the Tracks

September 3, 2010

CD Review

Recording artist Kenny Chambers recently released his latest CD Under the Tracks which is his first release in fifteen years.

The CD is available at CD Baby

Kenny Chambers - Under the Tracks

Kenny Chambers - Under the Tracks

This collection of songs is dedicated to his two bandmates from the original Moving Targets lineup Pat Leonard and Pat Brady who both passed away far too soon within the past two years. Kenny has a storied history in the post-punk scene of the 1980s and beyond with his bands Moving Targets and American Pulverizer (has there ever been a better name for a hard rock band?) and stints with Bullet Lavolta and Dredd Foole and the Din. Those as old as me and from our shared hometown of Ipswich will remember the earlier version of Moving Targets known as Iron Cross too! Ah – the vague memories of underage keg parties…

Kenny Chambers live at the Rat - Boston, MA 1987

Kenny Chambers live at the Rat - Boston, MA 1987

Kenny has long been a man who listened to all music – genre is not important to him – style and having something to say is. Under the Tracks shows us Kenny’s diversified influences from his hard rock and punk rock roots to his knowledge of folk, pop and country music too. Earlier in his career Chambers had aptly covered songs by artists as diverse as Simon and Garfunkel and Led Zeppelin.

Kenny credits many influences in his music – which all at the same time are easy to hear and hard to pinpoint. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones for their ability to craft songs; Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen’s brilliant songwriting and storytelling; the raw punk and ability of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of the Clash;  the authentic country sounds of Merle Haggard; the post-punk efforts of Bob Mould (ex-Husker Du) and Paul Westerberg (ex-Replacements); Steve Earle and Neil Young to name a few.

Kenny Chambers - acoustic

Kenny Chambers - acoustic

Picking favorite tracks on this collection of songs from Kenny’s songbook is difficult – they are all good. I like the sound of the opening track Crawl, Medicine has a nice pace and feel, and Secret and Waiting for You are very tasteful and will be well received.

Kenny recorded all of this by himself – all instruments and voices. My type of one man band! Short term plans include touring Europe either with a band or with willing European bands (which there are no shortage of) backing him up with a smattering of solo acoustic shows thrown it too. Kenny is hoping to put this tour together for spring 2011. Me and many in the Boston area are hoping we get a glimpse as well.

Kenny Chamber’s Under the Tracks is a top-notch effort by a talented songwriter and musician – the two missed friends that this CD are dedicated too would be very proud of the effort.

Buy it here:

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Coexist – Really?

September 2, 2010

Symptom of the Universe has been enjoying an extended summer vacation – here is a quick piece that I have been brooding about for a few weeks – feel free to comment and discuss. 

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The world is a vampire, sent to drain
Secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames

 Billy Corgan/Smashing Pumpkins 

Any drive through a modern, well-bred community will see a confluence of Volvos and Priuses adorned with bumper stickers pleading with all of us to coexist. The main argument of this movement, or better still – sentiment – is that all religious groups should get along with each other and play nice. Just be tolerant of one and another and accept each other for who they are and everything will be alright – one gigantic bohemian love fest for the world community. Is this where we are heading? Not likely. Is this realistic? Not at all. 



Religious groups and groups in general are not in the inclusion business. By definition, a group excludes just as it includes. Sure, some more liberated groups are “open to all,” but many groups are designed to discriminate and exclude. A great many groups, both religious and secular, have no interest in coexisting with one another. For example – 

Do fundamentalist Christians want to coexist with Pro Choicers?

Do Zionists want to coexist with Palestinians?

Does Focus on the Family want to accept gays and lesbians? Do Mormons or fundamentalists?

Do Orthodox Jews accept the un-Orthodox?

Does the Taliban want to coexist with moderate Muslims (or anyone?)

Do the religious want to coexist with atheists (and vice versa?)

Did Nazis want to coexist with Jews?

Bosnians with Serbs?

Japanese with Chinese?

New worlders with indigenous groups?

North and South Korea?

Confederate and Union? 

A resounding no is the answer to all of these. 

We need to be educated about groups we are included in as well as groups we are excluded from. If I could answer to my readers and the world how to make all of these disparate groups love, tolerate and coexist I would be in Sweden accepting my Nobel Prize. We do need to be tolerant – it looks more and more like the only ones who are tolerant are the socially liberal folks. So many others are willing to start wars, discriminate, exclude and marginalize a great many people from the world’s communities. 



Extremely large portions of our world are uneducated and will remain that way. Critical thinking is not part of the picture for a great many people and there is no denying mankind’s historical tribal roots and passions. People like to be part of a group – safety in numbers – he/she is one of us – some people just don’t belong. The fears are that these tendencies can prove to be discriminatory and hateful at best and fatal at worst. 

So as a liberally minded person I do not want to squash anyone’s beliefs – but I also do not want other’s beliefs and discriminations thrust upon me. I do have strong feelings against religion and higher powers but I also do not engage on the topic by assaulting others’ beliefs unless I am engaged to do so – I suppose at times my writing can provoke.

Where do we go from here? Is there hope? 

Coexist is not an answer but rather a utopian ideal that is unattainable. There may be no solution at all except for us to strive for knowledge of others who are not like us.