November 28, 2012

Wilds of Winter

The wilds of winter are quickly taking grasp of our little “ Vacation-land” here in Maine. Vicious trios of bitter winds, cloudy grey skies, and spitting snow showers have arrived. Vitamin-D deficiency begins now. Admittedly, my mind isn't centered on negativity of scraping frost-covered windshields and shoveling feet of fluffy snow from behind the car. I look forward to the comfort of layering wool sweaters and checkered flannel shirts. Like a blanket to a baby, there is something soothing about cozying up in winter layers and slippers that you just don’t find in a summer t-shirt. It’s a haven.

From the contentment of my easy chair, I gaze out the window this morning and watch the blowing snow in the front yard. The grasses of a July ever-so-distant have now faded and a layer of white stuff builds. Tall pines, along the field line, shift ever so slightly in the wind. The irregular swaying of branches and treetops is endless. After moments of watching, the forest falls into what seems like a choreographed dance.

Snow kicks up below the lower-most layers of limbs and swirls upward until disappearing from sight. This vision inhibits a true sense of cold, realized only, when in boots, I step outside to explore. Winter means laziness to some degree. Our two dogs enjoy lying on the over-sized bay in front of the large picture window in the living room and gazing outward. They stare, entranced on the motion winter brings with it. December brings beauty and snow adds character. I think the reason winter seems so attractive is because fall has a way of stealing the colors of summer that we so enjoy. Vibrant leaves of summer and early autumn have fallen to the ground leaving desolate brown branches. The landscape is encompassed in earth-tones. Our eyes, which have grown at this point in the year, so used to the featureless setting are fully awakened by the first snowfall. Winter saves us.

Today the temperatures hover for the first time in three days above thirty degrees, but a wind from the Northeast sends chills deep into the woods. Maine’s abundant spruce trees grasp to the richness of the first snow.  Each limb slowly layers in white powder; the dark green needles are apparently attempting to hide themselves. Hay fields of fall are now buried. A few occasional straws spring from the depths of winter, brave and unwilling to bend at the weight of the snow. I can appreciate such character. These are the fields I see from behind the frosted glass. For now, I take another sip from a mug of steaming coffee – thankful to be inside.

(Photo above was taken during the first big snow storm of 2011 in Northern Maine)

November 27, 2012

Carhartt Ketchikan Review

Frosted early morning windows and the bite of 15 degree sunup's indicate a true changing of seasons. This year we're a bit late bringing our kayaks home from camp, but better late than never. The task at hand provides a perfect opportunity to test out the Ketchikan Jacket that Carhartt recently sent out for review. Zipping up the full-length zipper and fastening the storm-flap buttons, I step outside prepared to take care of the morning chore. 

Temperatures are well below freezing and all of the world is covered in frosty white. There are three attributes to the Ketchikan that I love. First off, this piece of outerwear keeps me toasty and very comfortable, or else this review wouldn't be posted. The "two-part" sleeves have thick elasticated interior cuffs, hidden within the sleeves, which shield your arms from any form of blowing snow or wind that would be allowed by other jackets with velcro closures. I've never had this option with any other jacket or coat before and I love it. The hood is as heavy-weight as the jacket and fully protects, providing ample warmth for a full-range of outdoor activities. Lastly, the cut is fantastic. Instead of being "boxy" or a plain "square cut" there seems to be real contour at every angle for a roomy fit that still maintains your body heat - exactly what you need on a cold Maine morning. Next time remind me to bring my gloves along...

Click to check out the Carhartt Ketchikan Jacket - a Backwoods Plaid favorite.

November 21, 2012

Frozen Waterfall

Curled up in a blanket in the back of the Jeep, Casco lifts his head with anticipation, as he feels the gear shift into park. He looks forward to adventure as much as I do. We are running late after relying on bad GPS coordinates rather than utilizing the common sense of an atlas. However, a late hike trumps no hike. 

Cracking with each step, I pause momentarily on the iced-over trail and watch the spider-webbing cracks before my weight breaks through. Comparatively to last season, we've experienced much colder daily temperatures and reached greater overnight lows. This should make for an ideal start to January ice fishing. Until then, I'll have to settle for standing on trail-side ice. 

With elevation gain comes a bit of blowing snow. A mixture of fall and winter seem to greet hikers on each corner. One moment brings patches of mud. The next, frozen snow-covered ground. 

An hour in, I pause to top off the Nalgene with ice-cold stream water. The section I dip the mouth of the bottle into is fast-flowing over rocks and white in color. This area is a safer bet than slow and stagnant pools.

Cone-shaped ice caps hang from a dead branch in the stream.  Ice-caked rocks steadily sit in an ice bath. 

Reaching the waterfall on Mt. Jackson, I hold my hand up between the horizon line and the setting sun's position. We have one hour of daylight left. If you've never used this method, each finger represents 15 minutes of remaining light. Unfortunately, we'll have to settle for this being our turning point of the hike. 

I admire hundreds of icicles cleverly clinging to the rock face alongside the falls. Soon the flow will slow to a mere trickle and ice will consume the entirety of the falls.

A deep pool below the falls would make for an reinvigorating summer's swim. Full disclosure: Ms. Backwoods Plaid refused to take the dip today.

Nature is an amazing, always changing, and awe-inspiring attraction  that keeps me coming back.

Today's Gear:

November 19, 2012

Christmas Gift Guide


November 13, 2012

Last Fall Hike

Afternoon temperatures dip low as we ascend the first peak. The treetops, high above, sway back and forth with the early onset of winter winds. Strong steady gusts requires me to flip down the sides of my wool Stormy Kromer cap over my ears for protection. Higher elevations of other local mountains are already covered in snow. Our first break is at a small mountainside stream. Casco stops for a drink of the rushing waters, pausing only as late fall leaves interrupt his stream-side-lapping. We press forward, anxious for the summit's view.

Trees that once clung to their last leaf now stand bare. Fall colors have passed and forests have grown rather bland with browns and tans. Our Filson plaids are truly the best part of fall. When cool air blows in from the Northeast and I'm able to finally wear layers, I've found comfort. Today actually marks the first day wearing my Filson Whipcord Wool Pants. In 35 degrees, without wind chill, it's the perfect day for testing.

Within a few hours of battling steep elevation gains, we reach our destined peak. The views are of the beautiful New Hampshire countryside. The mountaintop is home to half an old stone-built shelter. The stay is short as the winds howl up and over the point. We slowly descend with Casco leading the way. Our last hike before snow falls over the low-country is enjoyed. The air is cleaner, the water clearer, and the peacefulness is soaked in here. Time to dig out the snow shoes... 

November 8, 2012

Colors of Fall

Part II: Bush Camping

In conclusion of my last post, "Maine Moose", we now take to the skies once more and spend an evening in the great woods. The afternoon was spent moose-spotting and exploring mountain valleys, lakes, and ponds. With the sun beginning to slowly set, realization hits that it's time to find suitable camping grounds. Here are a select group of photos from the remainder of our trip that hopefully capture the sights and sounds.

Vibrant colors reflect up on the undersides of the wings while a schoolboy smile is glued to my face. Which lake to choose as an overnight camping spot is the chatter over the aviation headsets. I adjust the microphone closer to my mouth and point downward to Lower Richardson Lake.

Keith directs the plane overhead of an island home in what is some of the most remote land in the country.

Rapid River is known as one of the best fly-fishing waters East of the Mississippi. We Took To The Woods, a New York Time's bestseller, was wrote at the small cabin you spot at the bend. After three reads, it's interesting to finally see the landscape of which the book was based.

Closing in on Lower Richardson - which will serve as tonight's home.

A soft landing brings us down into a sandy cove. We pull the floats onto shore and begin setting up camp.

Filson plaid & Waders - it's fashion-forward.

It's soon apparent others are on the lake today as well. Late afternoon temperatures begin to bring a cool breeze as a father and son paddle by. I grab my jacket and continue gathering evening firewood.  

The color scheme of the plane and the fall leaves are of one palette. 

Two essentials: My favorite Woolrich shirt-jac and a Filson duffel that's been on multiple adventures.

Cessna cockpit.

Belligerently ignoring the safety sticker, I open the window as we taxi off into the air. I'm admittedly disappointed to be returning to civilization so quickly. This one night camping trip is one of my shortest adventures, but arguably one of the greatest.

I pull into the last scenic outlook on the drive home. A strange feeling comes with knowing an hour ago I was buzzing over these same trees. I've learned there is no view like a birds-eye view.  Here's to planning the next airplane adventure...

November 5, 2012

Maine Moose

The idea of flight itself or becoming a pilot are exciting. A new hardcore sense of freedom is established. Your choice of rugged destinations lay in wait. Earth is seen from an entirely new angle. Adventures can each be fully customized; you choose the travel times to suit your mission. Taking to the air is an addicting experience – and it was only my first time (as I wrote about in my Filson Guest Blog Post this week). Below are additional Day One photos and highlights you may find interesting. We end our adventure by camping on a remote lake. Look for this in a coming post. For now, let me know what you think.

Tight corners while I soak in the colored canopy far below.

The controls as we taxi across our first lake.

Stepping out with our waders for fresh air. Air never smelled so good.

Keith does a few fly-overs so I can snag photos for his website.

Maine's remote lakes are picturesque, warm, and inviting from the air.

Bright closeup & Brilliant colors.

The Cessna that Keith restored completely by hand looks good with the fall backdrop.

With a majority of flight hours in Alaska and Maine, he's got stories to tell.

Hugging the treeline.

Lake landings.

We hit C-Pond at it's utmost peak season for leaves changing.

Highlight of the day. Spotting this bull moose from the sky, we coast in and land at a safe distance. I've seen hundreds of moose in my day, but never while standing on floats of a plane. This monster feasted on vegetation for twenty minutes as though he had no company.

"Spotting a moose of this size is all in a day's work.", Keith says.

Never have I seen such a picturesque landscape through a windshield.