Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Hiking Mountains with Small Children

April 21, 2012

A Review of Up by Patricia Ellis Herr 

UPAs someone who has done a lot of what the author has written about, I easily fell in love with this wonderful book about  Patricia Ellis Herr’s White Mountain adventures with her young daughter Alex – and to some extent with her even younger 2nd child, Sage.

Society and individuals love to put limits on people – especially people that have been traditionally marginalized – women and children immediately come to mind. Trish was having none of this and refused to let societal thinking impact her young daughter’s lives.

My own children also love to hike – which may be the greatest gift I can possible give them – my appreciation of the outdoors. All children are different though. I think for my kids to hike like the Alex it would only be because I pushed them to hard. It is so obviously clear that the author needed almost no prodding at all to get Alex into this great hobby/sport – Alex loves to hike and be outdoors. Like many children there is a button that can be easily pushed when the child is told “you cannot do that.” Nothing motivates children (or me) more that being told I cannot do something. Alex did not hear “you cannot do that” at home – or from herself – but there was a good deal of it on the trail from people who probably meant well but harbored ridiculous notions of what a child or a woman are capable of (in case you did not know – the answer is “anything!”)

The chapter titles give you a hint to the lessons that are learned and taught from mother (and father) to the children. “Know What You’re Getting Into”, “I Think I Can”, “Ignore the Naysayers”, “Roll with the Punches”, “Enjoy the Journey While it Lasts” and the very tough and difficult lessons of “Mistakes Can Have Serious Consequences.” Alex and Sage are home schooled and you can see that the outdoors make up a large part of their education.

Author and daughters

Author Patricia Ellis Herr with daughters Alex and Sage

The author’s style is a pleasure to read and makes for a very hard to put down book. The well-paced narrative moves towards its climax with a sense of excitement and wonder – you really pull for Alex to reach her goal and it is great to read about her special day and the many who took part in it.

I recommend this book to almost anyone – people who like the outdoors, a great book to share with your children – but even more so I would like to see people read this book that are afraid of their own shadows and whose children never get to experience any sense of real adventure outside of a gaming or television screen. People who hate the outdoors may read this book and realized they are missing the greatest things in life. Up recounts great experiences and triumphs and like all good books makes me wish it were longer – and makes me want to get back outside where I feel the most alive.

Up is available at your local book retailer or online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon 

Author’s website

Photo credits:

Book cover courtesy of Patricia Ellis Herr

Author and daughters photo courtesy of Clay Dingman


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

Random Thoughts during a Rainy Saturday Afternoon in the White Mountains

July 10, 2010


Before we had a camp in New Hampshire I would drive up at 3 AM and I would hike come hell or high water – those who hike with me can attest it was usually high water. Now that I am up here a lot I have become more selective about all weather hiking – today, while eating breakfast Larry and I put our two brains together (which almost equals one brain) and decided to call off the days adventure – this is what you are stuck with – my over active imagination and thoughts…

 Bethlehem, NH is a sight on Friday/Saturday/Shabbat in the summer. This quiet little mountain town has long been the summer holiday destination of thousands of orthodox Jews. In amongst the earthy crunchy farmer’s market set and the northern New England chic antique shops you will find dozens of black and white clad men, women and children walking throughout the town.

 WARNING – ATHEIST AT THE KEYBOARD ALERT. Although I never want to be a part of orthodoxy and think that fundamentalist approaches to religion (and religion) are the root of much of the world’s evil – no matter which religion it springs forth from – Bethlehem is a nice reminder and vision of what America is supposed to be – I think Jefferson, Paine, Madison, Franklin et al would be proud.

 CAREFUL – THE ATHEIST IS STILL TYPING. If you cannot get enough fantasy, fairy tale, fiction and make believe at the Disney resorts – and the Santa’s North Pole theme is not enough while visiting Santa’s Village be sure to go to the back of the park and check out the life sized nativity scene. The camel’s and wise men are huge. In a strange layout – a gigantic cross is across the lawn from the infant – creepy foreshadowing I suppose. My personal issues aside – Santa’s Village (Satan’s Village?) in Jefferson, NH is a great park for little kids of any or no faiths. I have an affinity for places that let you bring your own food in.

 I have not liked the world as much since Jack Lemmon died – a true talent.

 Sarah Palin’s twenty minutes of fame have been up for about eighteen months now. You can go back to Twin Peaks and get your Canadian health care anytime now.

 Sharron Angle is attempting the impossible – she is making Harry Reid look like an outstanding candidate. You go girl. With colonial powers Holland and Spain in the World Cup final it is apparently all the rage to “go all 16th century.” Angle has done a better job sabotaging her own campaign by talking than the Left media could have ever done. Thanks Sharron!

 Glenn Beck is irrelevant – we should stop bitching about him like he matters.

 Ditto for Mel Gibson – has he been in an even mediocre movie since Gallipoli? Give him credit though – his racism and anti-Semitism are first rate.

 I don’t mind guns as much as mind the NRA lobby.

 Each time Larry King grabs a new barely legal bride do they actually have to have sex with him? Do they just have to do the photos and then wait a few months for the alimony checks? Isn’t this a type of prostitution? “Earth to Mr. King – what is wrong with cougars?” The generosity of women never ceases to amaze me. (Axle Foley gave me that line.) 

 Very sad and very funny all at the same time – people watching at the Littleton, NH Walmart. The “recovery” has not found its way up here yet.

 No matter what the sign says on the end display sugar cookies are not and cannot be patriotic. 

While on the empire of Sam Walton theme…Walmart’s store brand of cheaply manufactured by child/slave labor, Faded Glory line is an insanely ironic brand name. Seeing the American flag on such cheap cut-rate crap, and at a store where the middle and lower classes are practically forced to shop at is truly symbolic of the United States fade from glory on the world scene – except when a regime needs to be toppled of course. When that happens it’s “north, south, east or west we have the cluster bombs that are the best.” 

Last but not least (my friend Larry got this idea started) – is there anything more offensive than LeBron James and his handlers taking/getting an hour of airtime on ESPN so all of the world can find out (who cares?) which franchise gets the honor of paying this guy $30 million/year? It makes little difference to me that the proceeds go to charity. I guess the economy is looking up in Miami.

 Thanks for listening…it stopped raining and I am going out!