(older entries, separated by genre or date, are listed at the bottom of this page.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hike #4: Welch-Dickey- Rain and backpain

"I was weary of the trail, but still strangely in its thrall; found the endless slog tedious but irresistible; grew tired of the boundless woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts. I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this at once, every moment, on the trail or off." 
-Bill Bryson, from "A Walk In The Woods"

Amidst cloudy skies that threatened rain, I met my old work friend, Dan Prior, for some afternoon hiking. It was hard to believe it had been 6 weeks since I'd seen him, and this would be our first hike together, after lunch after lunch of talking about hiking and our shared absurd dream of someday conquering the Appalachian Trail. 
I put on headphones and we agreed that we would talk on breaks, and whether he liked it or not, we would take plenty of them. Hiking Welch and Dickey Mountains is to most people a beginner to intermediate hike, with only the top being tough. The first time I ever hiked here, I made it to the first flat, rock face section and thought that I had conquered Welch mountain, and the bump to my left was Dickey. I brought Hilton, Rich and Josh here a year later, and we tried to do both, eventually having to turn around, because, from leaving waaay too late and it being late fall, it was a frozen tundra of cold winds and snow at the top.

 frozen hands, but still trying to text

I would then, years later, hike again with 6 people and 2 dogs. This is when I found out that that "bump" was actually the summit of Welch mountain- that the flat rock section we thought was the summit was merely a nice place to take a break before facing some pretty serious (and with barely any grips) exposed rock inclines. Dickey was an entire other mountain next to it, and doing the full loop meant a lot more work, but a beautiful view looking down the side of an enormous exposed rock slab. The day we went, the sky was this clear:

Le Tobin and Damien. Seriously, no photoshopping. That's real sky.

So, with threatening clouds but a forecast of sun, heat, and no rain until later that evening, we set off.

I knew this was going to be tough- I am a lot older and much more out of shape than the last time I hiked here, but this hike was on my list of things to do this summer, and if I ever am going to conquer Chocorua (which beat me last year), I would have to get my legs working again. Immediately, Dan's energy and lack of panting uncontrollably annoyed me. 


But through breaks, a very sweet shuffle of music and lots of water, we made it through the "easy" part fairly quickly. 

The exact moment we took a breather and stared out at the beautiful landscape, it started to rain. AWESOME. At least the rest of the hike didn't have any exposed rock that would become extremely slippery under these conditions. Oh wait...
We shortened our break by quite a lot and set off to get to the summit before the rocks were a death trap. 
And then Dan meditated.

And I hated him. 

Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted and no rocking song or dream of a summit-reward Snickers bar was going to help me through this- I needed to use my stupid legs and stupid back to get me through these horrible rock evils to the endless views at the top. 

While I was dying, a group of 4 people came through, and they were quite special. Leading the charge was a 50 year old man, sweating hard but pushing on positively. He had a child with him who was probably 7 at best, and they were both working hard. We had some small talk about how this wasn't easy and how he had hiked it last week and it was just as bad this time, etc. Then came the other people with him. One was a teenager with long hair and a black t shirt, skate shoes, and wide legged jeans. He was slipping everywhere, but had endless energy (bastard). And then came what I can only hope was his dad- a disaster wearing his own version of skate shoes, a t-shirt that said he survived some party, and not only did he mistake Dan for his friend, but he said about 5 other things that made no sense at all, slipped several times on the same spot before finally listening to me that he should go a different direction, and he seemed completely drunk. "Hey! Let's get wasted and hike a mountain with kids!" The sad part was that he was doing WAAAY better than me. 
We pushed on.

Dan wastes more energy. Oh wait, that's right, he doesn't run out.

Dan scouts ahead

Through stop after stop, and drinking nearly all of my water, we made it to the top, and I was pooped. I made a ghetto little panorama video:

Then we descended the beautiful, interesting and awesome backside of Welch, which was somewhat terrifying because of just how slippery it was, and started Dickey by going right back into the woods. 

Then something happened that has never happened to me on a hike- I got separated. I lost Dan. He took a phone call right when I had a burst of energy, and I pushed right past him. Suddenly, the trail went somewhat downhill, and even though I was confused, the trail was awesome and I kept following it. Oops. Eventually, it disappeared altogether, and I was very weirded out that Dan was nowhere to be seen behind me. I went back to precisely where I passed him, and it was about 10 feet from where the trail I was supposed to have taken took a 90 degree turn, up a technical rock climb section- clearly marked, but only when viewing from the wrong direction. I climbed up to the first section of exposed rock and found it to be nothing but a wet, dark ghost town. "DAN?!" Nothing. "DAAAAAAN!" Nothing. 

yes, even when I thought Dan was dead, I still worried about documenting it for the blog.

This went on for a few minutes before I remembered we both had our cell phones and if he had had signal, I must too. I almost didn't bring mine because he had his, but remembered that I wanted to TWEET from the top (which I didn't even do). I finally called him and he answered "Where the hell are you?!" to which I replied the same. He thought I had somehow become Superman and climbed much farther ahead of him, and he actually ran forward to find me, before finally realizing how silly that was- that I had more likely fallen off the mountain instead, and ran back. We were alone no longer, I took a picture of distant Welch with better lighting, forgot to eat my Snickers, and began the descent.

I was just there!

It was grim. 

The descent was only sketchy at the beginning, and I scratched my legs a bunch trying to find traction in the woods (even with my fancy new hiking shoes, it was a slide-fest out there). We had a brief section of woods, and then we got to go down the usually gorgeous but now terrifying side slope. The last time I was here, it looked like this:

Find the people!

Because of how slippery it was, we had to stick to the far right side, and instead just saw dark greens and grays. And I caught Dan in a "DOIIEEEE" pose.

The wind kicked in harder, and I harnessed the power of metal to salute the mountains we had just conquered. And with this last gesture to the mountain gods, we headed into the woods to get back to our warm cars. 

We were just there!

I then drove around Waterville Valley and the surrounding mountain's trailheads for an hour, drove 2 hours back home, showered, and drove to Newington to watch a midnight showing of Transformers 3 (which was stupid, but had the most visually mind-blowing action scenes ever). I got home at 3:30 in the morning and stayed up until about 5. Needless to say, I slept in quite late today and am quite stiff.

Bill Bryson summed up my feelings on hiking pretty perfectly. He had those feelings after leaving the Appalachian Trail and spending months out in the woods, hiking up and down mountain after mountain, but I am starting to feel that way about every time I go hiking. I feel like I'm going to die every time I go, and feel like I did die the next day. I can't breathe half of the time. My legs are nothing but lactic acid and burning the entire way up. My toes are on fire the entire way down. I sweat profusely and probably scare away any threatening animals with my deafening panting and wheezing. I drank nearly 3 liters of water and still had a headache by the time I got home. I hate hiking. 

But I love it. The feeling of accomplishment I feel when I get to the top is like nothing else. Not only that, but the views are spectacular and almost always worth any pain. The way down is relaxing, either talking endlessly with a friend or zoning out in my own musical world. I drive home exhausted but accomplished. I proved something. I climbed a mountain. And no matter how full of hate I am on the way up, and even though I know I am going to feel that way on the next hike, and the hike after that, and every hike for the foreseeable future, I usually am already figuring out what mountain to hike next on the way home.

I have not hiked nearly enough in my life. I have dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail or something enormous like that. I have dreams of hiking every 4,000 footer in NH and I've done none. I feel like I'm dead on small mountains. But I will push on. I will continue to hike. The need to conquer mountains will always be there. I am finally growing into my look. 

I am...

a mountain man. 

The L.L. Bean brothers

Hike time: 3.5 hours
Mileage: 4.4 miles
Total elevation: 2,734 feet
Elevation gained: 1,900 feet
Songs listened to: 49
Percent of conversation about work: 42%
Falls: 0
Near-falls: 3

currently listening to: The Chemical Brothers- Further, Final Days Society- Ours Is Not A Caravan Of Despair

Top 10 of 1991


I posted my top 10 albums (with reviews) for 1991. It's a weeeeeird list.

I'm still blown away that I'm actually trying to commit to doing this for 21 years.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Isinglass River, Rochester, NH

I was told by Mark at Tri-City Bicycles to check out the trails at Isinglass River as an option for a quick local mountain bike ride. While my bike was in the shop last week, I decided to check them out on foot to see what the deal was. So, I ventured into Isengard.

er... sorry. IsinGLASS. Rich and Josh have spoken of a trail in Rochester with a waterfall on it, but I have never seen it, and I forgot it even existed. Apparently this was the location, and I gotta say, I was pretty shocked. I don't usually think of Rochester as a place that would have this:

and this:

just a few miles from the hustle and bustle. The trail was great- fairly flat with a few small hills, almost no roots, and almost no people (which means fast, fun, and flowy for a bike ride which I need to do). 

And they weren't lying about the waterfall. 
This is a quiet, beautiful spot that I just had no idea about. I walked all the way from the far entrance to the waterfall and back, which may only be 3-4 miles but it felt much farther. It was just a very nice, quiet afternoon walk with some beautiful scenery, following the river pretty much the entire way. 

This is looking down a perch towards the waterfall

After taking in this view, I made a friend

and promptly ate him. 

I then found, yet again, another Geocache thing. That makes 3 now, without even trying. This one was only a few days after the other one. Sadly, this one wasn't too hard to find, as I am always interested in large piles of trash and weird containers in the middle of the woods, since some stupid kids left it this way:
The last thing they wrote was something along the lines of "the stuff in this box is stupid, you should put some weed in here." ughk... I feel sorry for the world. 

So, I signed it, put it back together, re-hid it, and was on my way. Nice afternoon walk to a great spot I had no idea even existed.
seriously, worst handwriting ever. and the alligator I took does, in fact, rule.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Trip to Maine, part 2: Woods Adventuring

One of the things on my list of things to do this summer was to go adventuring and walk for miles out into the woods past my house in Maine. I was looking for beautiful scenery and hopefully cool stuff like skulls and weird old trash and stuff (there are property lines created by small rock walls all throughout the woods around my house, and I have found 2 very obvious dumps full of insanely old bottles and rusted kitchenware- even possible parts of foundations). I had 1 specific place to get to, probably 2 miles away- a beautiful, incredibly green and lush swamp in the middle of nowhere woods- just trees and nothing, and then just green, green, green. I found it years ago when I used to ride my sweet L.L. Bean bike randomly down roads and into the middle of the woods. Upon following a grown over road and freaking out that there was somehow a road in the middle of nowhere, there was a swamp, and I wanted to get a picture while it was still there.

So I took off, and was instantly destroyed by bugs. Within 10 minutes of being in the thick of the woods, I realized I was out of bug spray. I was wearing pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a doo rag completely covering my face and ears, but the bugs were still all over my face and trying to penetrate my shirt. And my ipod died. I took this as a small blessing though, since without music, I'd be able to hear a Squatch coming after me, but still. It sucked.

The first cool thing I realized was that in all my years growing up wandering through the woods, I never noticed that game trails weren't just something Elk made and Bear Grylls talked about on TV. Now that I mountain bike and perpetually see the woods in a state of where trails should be, I noticed that animals were already doing the work for me- this is the exact line I would have chosen if I was making a trail out here. It's neat to think that animals literally have roads that they follow time and time again out in the woods. It was not surprising to find an upside down crate at the top of this hill, as this would be a fantastic spot to hunt. 

Then I found a monster.
A tree hand? The Flood? An alien that will jump on my face and lay eggs in my throat until an alien pops out of my chest and kills everyone? Oh... no. A fallen tree.

Once I got to the road I found the old trail on, which used to be a roped-off road with a compost in it for the camp across the street, I realized that much of these woods had been destroyed. Sad.

Goddamn clear-cutting.

I worried, but at least for now, the road was still there. 
I wonder if the reason these roads are still so obvious is because animals are using them too...

The swamp. Honestly, even though this picture is insanely green, you can't even imagine just how green it is. At dusk, its pretty amazing too, as you get this weird kind of glow. I really find this place to be pretty awesome- its beautiful and calming, but the thickness of it is menacing. I always wonder if just beyond the thick, where I can't see any further, there is something watching me. 

And then, I found exactly what was watching me. 
This is either the home of a terrifying beast, or a terrifying beast itself. 

So scary. I don't want to ruin the terror, but in the interest of full disclosure, this was the result of a tree falling over, and the darkness is half dark, half murky gross water- it is not an unending abyss of evil like I thought. Or maybe it is...

This is probably my favorite picture I've taken this summer.
To the left of this swamp, where the road (which goes all around the swamp) goes, is a huge pile of rocks that seem completely out of place. Just as out of place is this gigantic tree that is growing on top of the biggest rock. So, I am not lying down trying to be arty- I am literally standing on top of a pile of rocks, my head just under the biggest rock, looking up at this beast of a tree. You don't have to go too far to get some amazing views. 

Next, I walked the forever distance back to my driveway, and ventured in the opposite direction, where I wanted to chronicle a few other spots. First, is, once again, in the middle of a thickly wooded area, a weird field. 

There is a cross section of about 3 property lines worth of rock walls (one of which I fell off the last time I ventured here years ago and landed right on my back), and insanely thick woods- just a blanket of tiny, sharp tree branches, completely hiding what looks like a meadow. 

And sure enough, that's exactly what is behind everything. There are always animal trails through here. I've wandered over here a few times over the course of my life, but have never noticed this before:


Definitive proof that there was once a house here, or at least a well, chimney, or tunnel to hell. I was blown away that I'd never seen it before. 

Then I ventured further into private property to chronicle something else really sketchy that I found years ago:
Yup. Completely hidden in the middle of the woods. No path to it, no sign, no dividing line, nothing. This is clearly the graveyard of all the people who used to live in these houses that aren't there anymore. I was shocked the first time I found this. So many gravestones were cracked in half or had fallen over. I didn't have my EMF detector and wasn't able to capture any EVPs, but I'm sure this area is alive with paranormal activity. It looked like about 10 gravestones scattered throughout the area. Creepy.

I then wandered up the road past a gated multimillion dollar house, and ventured further into the woods to capture a picture of one of the best views I've known, growing up on this beautiful lake.
This is the path walking up to it. What could be behind that fence?

ahhh... Sebago Lake. What you may not realize is that this is 60-70 feet up a huge sand slide and you feel like you are towering over the lake from here. It's truly remarkable. The lake is yours. Once, at a Caspian show while they played a new song, I got a weird image of a running and jumping as far out into the air as possible off this cliff, just into the beauty of direct sunlight over the lake (of course) in slow motion. I don't know, maybe you'd have to have my mind to get it. But it's a nice view.

I fought my way back through the woods, delirious, dehydrated, and crazy, literally punching my way through brush and stumbling over everything. I had a splitting headache, was on fire, and was being destroyed by bugs. Allow me to offer up a few small tips when adventuring: Eat something before you go. Bring more than 1 dinky water bottle, and if your water bottle stinks like mold and soap before you fill it, your water will taste like mold and soap. Bring bug spray. And lastly, don't be out of shape, gone for hours in 80 degree heat in too many clothes, walking several miles through thick woods and thick bugs, and expect to not want to die afterwards. But still... 

A solid day of adventuring.

currently listening to: The Chemical Brothers- Hanna soundtrack, City And Colour- Little Hell

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trip To Maine, part 1

A week without a post!? Jeez. Was I out living it up so hard that I didn't have time to post? Or did I sit in my room and stare at the internet cuz it was raining and like 55 degrees out for 3 days straight? Well, a little bit of both. I went home to see my parents for the first time in 6 months and to do my usual birthday-and-father's-day-in-the-same-weekend visit. Saturday, I had a lovely day of golf with the rents.

Sunburn muggin while mom tears it up

Well, I sort of had a lovely day. It was sunny and beautiful, but HOT. And I SUCK. I have always sucked, but usually I start out playing ok, and as the summer goes on, I get worse. I got 1 par after a delicious hot dog, which meant all 4 perfect shots were answered with "all I needed was a hot dog." but other than that, it was the kind of disastrous day I haven't had in a looong time- the kind of day where I kind of stop keeping score: "I don't even know, just give me a 9." 

For example:
Flag in the center top of the screen- ball directly behind a rock. Awesome.

But, even though I was more stiff the next day than any human being should ever be after playing golf (put it this way- these are muscles I never use in that way, with me swinging as hard as humanly possible (the mark of a good swing) like 250 times (my awful score plus practice swings plus like 3 buckets of balls at the driving range to "warm up")- anyone would be stiff), and I sweat like hell and got sunburned even after 4 carefully timed applications of sunblock, it was still a nice day. A solid day to HIT THE LINKS with the people who done raised me good. 

This is behind a tee box- quite picturesque, so I took a picture

Mom tearing it up on another picturesque hole, when a storm was threatening

Then I had my standard birthday pizza and cake, got some sweet presents, and slept in HARD the next day. I then did one of the things I wanted to make sure to do this summer- read on the dock. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but sitting down on the dock with this as the view behind your book...

...is pretty awesome. Other than the mosquitoes finding me, it was beautiful to sit down there and just relax. No work, no stress- just a book, this view, and maximum relaxation and peace. I love this lake. And I finished a book, something I haven't done in years. Look at me accomplishing things!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dongus Bologna

Did you know that I make really bad music? Well, I do, and it's done under the massively awesome name of Dongus Bologna. I had a myspace page for awhile (where you can listen to a sampler track I made featuring clips from every song I've made- www.myspace.com/dongusbologna of course) but no full tracks and myspace blows and I never checked it. SO, I finally simplified everything and made a bandcamp page where you can listen to 6 songs. 

Dongus started out as me just making horrible noises using garageband instruments and my own retardation, but I soon realized I could do more, and took the attitude of Ween, early Beck and a little Flight of the Conchords, and am trying to attack genres- do the best I can in re-creating (and making fun of) different genres of music. Half the songs I've recorded are all me and my computer, the other half were done in 1 weekend with my friends Brad Hilton and Jon Talluto. Hopefully, I can do something like that again, but I WILL make more, no matter what.

There's descriptions of the songs if you click on them individually (and lyrics!), but basically, "The Carolina Panthers" is me at 3am out of my mind, "Don't Mess With the Zohan" is Talluto being out of his mind, "Drink 'till We're Dead" is a hardcore/punk song about drinking with lots of OIs, "Nantucket Pottery" is a really messed up mix of death metal, funk, and push-button kids guitars, "Sandwich 2000" is a garageband chill techno jam set to me eating a sandwich, and "Raining Outside (live from Singapore, 1984)" is a love ballad mixture of Poison and Nickelback. There are 7 more, and 3 or so in progress. The album will be done on December 3rd of this year with MANY more songs. More songs may be up soon, but I may just leave them until the ALBUM RELEASE, we'll see. Anyway, to check out this awful stuff, go here:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hike #3: Blue Job (Redemption)

Last Friday night, I sat in my room, bored and not really wanting to do anything. I was in crappy Mike mode. Then, reading some of "A Walk in the Woods," a book about hiking the Appalachian Trail, I had a moment of "dude, what are you doing?! GO OUTSIDE!" and decided immediately that I needed to get outside, and quick, since I only had a few hours left of daylight. What better place to go then to tiny and local Blue Job, I said, and raced there. I went up the opposite route that Josh and I went, which, to someone in shape, is nothing, but to me was much harder. I got to the top amidst a wall of bugs, sprayed bug spray in my mouth by accident (never think it's a good idea to spray bug spray on your head when you're out of breath), and hiked down the other side. I followed what looked like a really awesome bike trail off the main trail, and instantly turned into explorer Mike. And it paid off.

I was being kind of sketchy because I smelled death. I smelled death and I was trying to find the source, searching through the woods like a bloodhound to find some sort of carcass or at least some sweet bones. Yea, I'm weird. The scent seemed to be strongest in a small clearing. And then I saw this:



My first thought was "is there a dead body part in there?" My second was "is this someone's weed stash?" Turns out, I had found a geocache box. These are apparently all over the place, hidden on mountains and state parks, and "geocaching" (I'm stealing this directly from the website) "is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online. " Apparently, I just find them. I found one last year in a tree at Wagon Hill in Durham, just completely randomly. 

Inside, there were toys and a notepad where you are supposed to write how you found it, what you took, what you left, etc. In both cases, most of the signatures were from families and little kids. In Wagon Hill, Rich drew Fatsquad characters. I was getting attacked, so I had no time for that. Here is a sheet about it, what was inside, and what I wrote. 

click for a larger version of course. Gotta promote!

It was neat finding this. There were weird fleas everywhere and I was covered in bugs and bug spray/spit-from-bug-spray-in-my-mouth, but for some reason, other than the exercise, the feeling of being outside and doing something, and seeing a beautiful sunset and having a nice drive, this made this trip worthwhile. Lesson learned- go outside! (but check yourself for ticks after/during)

I'd say this view was worth a half hour of hiking.

The parking lot when I got back- is there something other people do on Friday nights?

I'm a tad jealous of whoever lives in this house.