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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Frye's Leap, Raymond, ME

Growing up on Sebago Lake, we used to take the boat out on weekends and visit my Great Aunt and Uncle's house on the other side of the cape we lived on. Doing this meant that we went through the narrow area that separates the Raymond Cape from Frye Island, and we'd always sit for awhile in the boat and watch people jump off of Frye's Leap.

Frye's Leap is named so because apparently waaaaay back, a hunter named Captain Frye was being chased by Indians and jumped off the top, landing in snow and surviving. It's a big jump. It's completely illegal to do this, and even though every weekend there are dozens of people on there, I've seen the coast guard arrest people for being there.

No, I didn't jump off of it. But I decided earlier this year when I was adventuring in the woods that I would at least stand on top of it and explore the area. I went not for glory, but for awesome pictures.
So, Wednesday, I set off on my bike to explore the area and see just how sweet of a view I could get from the highest point I've seen on the beautiful lake I grew up on.

I started out by biking down toward the end of the road, and riding into the middle of the woods. Frye's leap is on camp property, and there are no trespassing signs everywhere. I would definitely not recommend doing this, as it is often patrolled or at least checked by the camp- this is why I avoided roads and hoofed it through the woods. I could at least hide or try and play stupid if I got caught. I used my iphone as my GPS, and found my way there.

I always get spooked by random piles of huge rocks in the middle of the woods. How could these be anything but graves?

After some GPSing, I suddenly knew I was there.

this would be very bad to ride down

the walk from the woods to the ledge

I stood on top, and was pretty blown away by the view. I'd spent my whole childhood seeing people on this rock and only now decided I needed to see the view from the top. It was really, really nice.

Sebago Lake rules.

I was up there long enough to see the Frye Island ferry go back to mainland- you can see it in the distance (it's the big thing with the white lines down it).

I then hiked down this, which was way harder than it looked. I immediately saw how people really only get to the middle ridge, and only do it by going UP. I scraped the hell out of my knees by climbing down this:


But it was worth it.

In the right corner, you can see some faint red color- apparently, this isn't from some punk kids. From www.fryeisland.com

"During the steamboat era a man or boy was hired for the summer to live in a tent on the top. He was to appear before the boat passengers in Indian attire and, with blood curdling whoops, fire a gun in the air. The Images guard the island’s narrowest point and are pictographs painted by ancient Indians. Today there are only faint traces of the paintings found on the rock surfaces. They may be too faint for proper restoration. They once depicted Captain Frye making his leap, an Indian wigwam and the chief, a wounded bear, an Indian war dance, and a deer. Also pictured is an Indian girl who, according to an Indian legend, jumped to her death while being pursued by white men."

the view looking up (the rock on the bottom left looks like an ape!)

more views from the bottom

I then checked out the ledge where 90% of people jump off of. Some lunatics jump from the very top, and I think they are completely insane to do so. Not only is it insanely high, but the rock goes out pretty far, meaning you have to have a perfect jump to not die. The view from the main ledge was surprisingly less terrifying than I thought it would be. I could jump off this. But not alone. And not when my bike is hiding up in the woods and I have a camera and phone on me. I grew up having zero interest and a fair amount of fear in doing this, but can now honestly say that I'd do this if I was with some friends. But sorry blog followers, this was not the day to be that awesome. 

not too bad, but still much higher than it looks

I then had to climb up this, which involved more knee scraping and some very sketchy trap-my-body-between-2-rocks-and-inch-up-with-almost-zero-holds-while-a-cliff-is-on-the-other-side-of-the-rocks climbing. Needless to say, my arms were stiff the next day.

 Again, much bigger than it looks

Frye's Leap is a nice spot. 

I then tried to explore a weird area I'd always thought might have some cool woods when I saw it growing up. 

But sadly, much like most of the woods around me, it had turned into this:

Damn, I hate clear-cutting

When I left Frye's Leap, I realized that my back tire was oddly flat- not completely flat, but lacking a good half of the air it originally had. I tried to pump it up, but my pump wasn't working right. I finally got out an extra tube to try and replace it entirely, and couldn't get anything to work. I kept thinking of the problems I had had when I tried to switch tubes on my road ride to Fernal Shores, and finally came to the realization that my portable pump had died. It just refused to work on anything. I called my mom, joked that I had been arrested, and asked if she could come rescue me. I didn't want to waste my entire afternoon walking 2 and a half miles back to our house. She saved me. Thanks mom. 

mom to the rescue

While I waited, I took a picture I've always wanted to take. After going down some hills and seeing some boring straight aways, you are suddenly met by the lake at an absolutely beautiful spot that always gets amazing sunsets. I've often left my house to go back to mass and gone in the wrong direction just to see this spot. I didn't get the shot I wanted (too early for sunset), but I got a pretty amazing one anyway. 

yes, this is real

I then decided that if I was going to be in Maine, I had better go swimming at least once this summer. As the rocks were incredibly slippery, I fell in after 2 steps, but the water was unbelievably refreshing. Cold and perfect. The waves were a bit much, but the strong winds felt great. Then I sat and read a little with this as my view:

Then I decided to step it up in the epic-life-moment scale, and played some guitar. Sitting on a dock with this as my view, alone and peaceful, with an amazing breeze hitting me in the face and a cold root beer next to me, I played some new stuff, some stuff I wrote in this house 10 years ago, and a finger picked chord that I discovered on the deck of the somerville apartment I lived in years ago, which couldn't have fit sitting and looking at a lake better. I could play those notes forever with a nice view in front of me.

As if some unseen epic-life-moment force was watching me, nature stepped it up and the gigantic great blue heron who I've seen for years (or an offspring) decided to make an appearance, flying from just next to where I had swam to far out in the lake and then to the cove we always thought it lived in. A perfect end to a solid session of adventuring and lake peace. I love lakes. 

currently listening to: Snoop Dogg- Death Row: The Lost Sessions (it's not good)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Trip to Maine: Reminiscence and poop posters

I headed to Maine late Monday after swimming for hours at Fernal with Josh. I'm mentioning this because I took an awesome picture of Irwin on the way home, which, sent through the Instagram filters, made the most emo dog picture in the world.

he loves sunny day real estate and thinking about life

I arrived late and ate pizza from one of my favorite places (Pat's Pizza in Windham, ME) at 11pm, watched some tube and slept in. I had a few things I wanted to do in Maine: see my parents obviously, golf, go fishing/canoeing, clean my room some more, and do a few more awesome things that have lots of pictures and will be in the next post so this one doesn't have 38923 pictures. 

After 4 days of hike-death recovery, I needed to get my legs back in working order, so decided to walk our driveway a few times to see if they were ready to stop being useless. Our driveway is a half mile long, so I did it twice and actually felt pretty good. I used to walk the driveway with my dog all the time, listening to music and having lots of good emo life moments, especially in the fall (duh). One winter day, we did the driveway 6 times. Every time we finished another mile, he would look up at me, nervous and excited, hoping we'd go for another one. That dog loved to walk, and the moments I would turn around fast and start walking out for another mile were some of my favorite moments with him. Seeing him turn around and run towards and past me in excitement, and then run back when his leash ran out, and then run back out in front again, etc always made me happy. I miss you Jesse. Walks aren't the same.

so happy I actually have a picture of him doing "the run back"

It's always nice to visit home, and being as in love with reminiscing and traditions as I am, a driveway walk is always nice. I used to FLY down this hill on my bike and am actually mad I didn't bring my Gopro to film it. 

the last hill down to my house, again in Instagram style because I only brought my phone and already deleted the original (p.s. I LOVE Instagram)

Mom and I tried to go to the driving range to get our golf muscles ready for the onslaught on Thursday, but it was closed, so we had some quality mother/son time on the putting greens, with me teaching her lots of quality stuff about putting, which neither of us could prove actually worked. We then went out to dinner at some local place and I ate some fantastic potato skins. 

Mom and I pretending we don't suck

Beautiful skies. Very sad we couldn't get a tee time for this day, it would have been grand.

Wednesday's adventuring will be highlighted in my next post. Thursday (today), we had had a tee time for 9 holes in the late afternoon for several days. But the golf gods decided to rain on our parade by... raining. So instead, I slept extremely late (the rain also ruined my plans for fishing/canoeing pbbbtt) and spent some time cleaning my room. This has been a project I've been working on for the last 2 years or so- every time I visit my parents, I clean/organize my room more. I throw away as much as I can. I'm trying to get to the point where everything I own is either contained in my room there, or with me, wherever I'm living. And, since it's the room I grew up in and shouldn't have a billion piles of clutter from 4th grade, I'd love for it to be fairly empty. Being a hoarder and not being able to say goodbye to anything from my childhood makes this very hard. But it's nice to clean from time to time, because I get to find things I forgot about- like this, which is pure gold, and one of the greatest things I've ever been a part of. 

When I lived in North Reading with Hilton, his friend Pat made some digital art of a giant poop, which he then printed and gave to us. I'm not entirely sure why, but he did. I'm also not sure who came up with the idea (I'd love to say it was me, but Pat would probably say it was him), but this somehow found its way into our bathroom, where anyone who visited us was told if they were going to use the bathroom, they had to sign the poop poster. 

Why is this blog-worthy? Well, frankly, because it's awesome. Making your life more awesome doesn't have to mean that you hike or write music or quit your job and go swimming every day. No, it can also just mean that you try to not take life seriously, and try your best to instill the idea of living with the best sense of humor possible on people who aren't necessarily of the same mindset as you. To illustrate this idea, my favorite post on here is on the right side. "Nice poster mike. -Dad"

That's right, even my father signed this atrocity. This poster was duck taped to the wall and made me have to repaint the bathroom when we moved out so we could get our security deposit back, but it was 10000% worth it. To sit on the throne and look up at a wall of comments and drawings from different friends from different walks of life (including friends from high school I hadn't seen in 5 years before they signed this and haven't seen since, hilton's ex girlfriends, and of course parents) was simply awesome. And the moment when a friend visited and told us they had to use the bathroom was always a fantastic moment:

"Yeaa!! Make sure you sign the poop poster!" 
---awesome moment---

I miss this, and am considering bringing it back. Everyone should have a poop poster.

currently listening to: Jamie's Elsewhere- They Said a Storm Was Coming

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

4,000 footer #1: Mount Tecumseh

For a good five years now, I've been talking about a life goal I randomly decided to try and achieve- hike all the 4,000 footers in NH. Often, when I'd mention this goal (or anything about hiking), I was met with a snarky "and how many have you hiked?" to which my answer was always "um... none." I hiked most of Lafayette in college, but we had to turn around because of fading sunlight. For years, this was my only experience on a 4,000 footer. People laughed at my goal. I'd always say "it's not like I said I was gonna do them by NEXT year or anything, I have my whole life..." but people still laughed. Well jerks, the journey has begun. I have bagged a 4,000 footer. A whopping 4,003 feet to be exact. PBBBBTTTT.

I freaked out last Thursday and instead of swimming with my friends or meeting my mom for an awesome dinner (or some combination of both), I decided that if I didn't hike a 4,000 footer THAT day, it would never happen. I had been in a funk for a solid week and a half after hurting my back and dealing with crappy rainy weather. It had to happen. I had always planned on starting with Tecumseh- it was the smallest and I knew exactly where it was. It just made sense.

I left later than planned (of course), stopped for water and a summit candy bar, and hit the trail at about 3:30. I was oddly excited and hopeful- the feelings that can only come from finally starting a goal I'd been thinking about for years. The trail was instantly interesting.

this is a trail?

It was moderate and meandering. A climb here, a weird twisty thin section there, a nice flat part here. Every time there was an incline, there was a rest. It was great. Within the first 30 minutes, 1 guy came down solo, and a few minutes later, a group of 3 came after him. Logic stated that these people would fill the 2 cars in the parking lot, leaving me completely alone on the mountain. My mom would say that this was scary- I thought it was awesome. It was just me, the wilderness, and the beast I would have to conquer.
After awhile, the trail went downhill- like, surprisingly downhill- like, so downhill that I began to think I had gone the wrong way. But it eventually made sense that this was going back over the same stream I had crossed at the beginning of the trail, going from Tecumseh back to Waterville, sort of. It was a pretty section.

the trail goes from center to left, then crosses the river, and goes up to the right

Shortly after this section, I was met with the following sign:

View? I like views!

This little section took me to the side of a trail on Waterville Valley- the "Boneyard" section, where they usually set up a mini park. It was beautiful in the summer. 

After a small rest here, the trail started climbing. A lot. 

Like, non-stop.


and this was as twisty as it got

I haven't done a ton of hiking, but I've never seen a trail do this. It was literally a normal trail, meandering all over the mountain, and then out of nowhere, it had the longest straightaway I've ever seen. The trail-builders got incredibly lazy: 

"Hey, want to do some cool stuff here? Some switchbacks? Maybe a flat section to rest on?"
"You know, make the trail more interesting for people?"
"No. Let's just go straight up. Like, forever. No turns, nothing interesting. Just a hill."
"Oh, ok. Sounds good!"
"We're morons!"

I used to hate false horizons- that repeating feeling of thinking you're at the top only to be punched in the face by more mountain. But I've grown to not only expect them, but to find comfort in them- a false horizon is a perfect goal when half dead. Getting to that rock, that tree, that whatever is always a good method to practice when you have nothing left. So without that, this was weird. It just kept going at the same grade. But since it wasn't that steep, I accepted it. 
I had been listening to full albums instead of shuffling music- I walked to the driving and musical electronica of the new Chemical Brothers album, the fun pop funk of Cee Lo, and the driving and catchy hook-fest of Conditions (if you like Saosin, you'll love them). About the time I decided to listen to the dark, murky, doomgrind horror puke of Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, the pretty sunlight I had been enjoying turned to, well, what I described that band as. I had seen no warning of rain. Even when the sky turned and the woods started to look like this,

most evil woods ever?

I somehow didn't believe it would rain. And oh, did it rain. Sparse sprinkling turned into full on pouring, and I was left running into the woods to find trees to try and protect me. I accepted that I would be wet, but wanted to try and keep my bag (which contained my iphone and now camera and ipod) dry. It sucked. I had a horrible feeling of just being trapped. I couldn't do anything about it. I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't do anything. I had to just stand there like an idiot and get soaked. And I would have to then climb down slippery rocks. Awesome. 
In hindsight, it wasn't that bad though, and it at least ended quickly. 

the sun peaking out over a particularly green section of the trail

A little later, the trail split. I chose the up way, as I refuse to accept going downhill at any time on the way up a mountain. 

The trail became quite awesome.

And quite beautiful.

And then, there I was- standing atop my first 4,000 footer.

on bigger hikes, I won't be able to blame that much wetness on rain

The view, although occluded and only available on one side, was, in my opinion, still pretty spectacular. 

Pretty neat to feel like you're on the same level as clouds

Sitting on top of my first step towards an awesome accomplishment, I felt great. I had hiked smarter than I ever have, and it had paid off. 

1. I ate smart on the way there: A deangelo turkey club pocket (something I always feel good after eating) and a vitamin water.

2. I had remembered what Dan said when we hiked Welch-Dickey, that hiking the path of least resistance is always the best: I was someone who would scoff at someone walking around a rock when it was just 1 big step to get over the walk. This hike, I realized he was smart- that it takes way more energy and muscle power to go over the rock than around it, and I would need that energy.

3. I purposefully hiked slowly: I have a pretty fast walking pace, and would always translate that to hiking. I have always been a "hike fast, rest when you don't have anything left" guy. I was very aware of my speed the whole way up, and anytime I felt like I wasn't calmly going for an afternoon stroll, I slowed down. I got much less tired. 

4. I planned breaks by music, not when I was exhausted: I hiked for 2 songs, rested for 1. Song length changes drastically on my ipod, but for the most part, this generally meant 8 minutes of hiking, 4 of resting. For someone in my shape who was on one of the biggest mountains I've done, this was perfect. It also helped me focus more on music and less on pain, and more breaks made me appreciate my surroundings more.

5. I planned water breaks and food breaks: Every break meant water, at least 4 gulps worth. Every 3 or 4 breaks meant another third of the power bar I had packed. This meant that I was getting what I needed on a schedule, rather than me gulping uncontrollably when I was dead and not drinking at all when I wasn't tired. I also packed 4 liters of water and drank all of it. 

This seems like a lot of stuff, but I can honestly say that I am in terrible shape and I've never felt better at the top of a mountain. This being probably the second highest elevation change I've conquered, clearly I was doing something right, and this will be how I hike from here on out. I called my Mom from the top to tell her that I wouldn't be joining her for dinner (as it was 6pm) and right in the middle of me telling her I was completely alone on top of a mountain, I heard someone coming up behind me.

I had forgotten that you can also hike up here from Tripoli road. This is a longer hike, but from what I've read and these people told me, it is an easier, less aggressive trail. I chatted with Barry and Soon Fa (I think that's what she said, and I have no idea how to spell it) for way longer than I had planned. They were real nice and they loved hiking and nature in general. Barry was jobless and was psyched about my decision to live a life more awesome. He was using his time to do pretty much the same thing. We chatted about hikes they loved, he showed me what mountains I was looking at, we talked about Apple and HP (who he used to work for), I ate my summit-reward 100 Grand candy bar, and I was on my way. I decided I needed a picture, even if Soon Fa was mid-chew in it.

summit friends

I then decided to go back via the Sosman Trail- a trail that took me over to the top of the Waterville Valley ski mountain and down ski trails, basically. Barry said it wasn't the easiest thing to walk, but it may be worth it for the views. This turned out to be an awesome and absolutely horrible decision. 

The trail from the top of Tecumseh to Waterville was honestly one of the prettiest trails I've ever seen, either hiking or mountain biking. It was very thick and green (and especially so since it had just rained) and, with the exception of a brief climb, completely flat. None of my pictures translated the beauty though, as a lot of my high was from being alone in such thick woods. The brief climb gave me another great view.

Tecumseh from a lookout point

And then out of nowhere, the trail ended at a cell tower. 

still only had 3 bars

From here, I took a grass road (which people clearly drive up to get to the tower) and got to experience an amazing view- the view from the absolute top of Waterville- as skiers know it, High Country- completely alone in summer. It was amazing.

Nearly 10 years ago (jesus, it's been THAT long?!) I worked at Waterville for a season. It was, honestly, the best job I've ever had. I made no money and I had to work some tough hours and deal with school vacation weeks, but it was the most fun I've ever had at a job. Any job where your bosses are all ski bums and it's acceptable to leave in the middle of the day to go skiing (for free) can't be too bad of a job. Standing on top of this mountain and seeing it this way was grand and beautiful. And standing there alone, feeling like the master of the entire mountain, was a pretty awesome and unique feeling. I had never realized just how much of a valley Waterville Valley actually is- there are mountains EVERYWHERE.

I explored Schwendi Hutte (where I was sent to serve hot chocolate once), and stood on the deck for awhile and took in the views. It continued to be spectacular. 

I then walked down to what is normally considered the top of the mountain (most people don't bother with High Country), and just from this short walk, I knew I was in for a suck-fest.

This landscape, while beautiful in view and interesting in the idea of walking down a ski slope, SUCKED to walk down. These are trails that are designed for people to go life-threatening speeds down, not walk. I hurt bad, instantly. There was nothing to rest on, nothing to grip. It was just constant feet bent at horrible angles and all 4387434 pounds of my stupid body resting on my once-believed-to-be-strong quads. 

After awhile, I was not only walking on surface with no grips whatsoever, but also walking through brush that was between 1 and 2 feet high, without knowing at all what the ground was doing beneath it all. I was swearing up a storm, slipping on everything, twisting ankles, praying I wouldn't fall in some unseen hole and die. I knew this would eventually end or meet the lookout point I had been at hours before. This seemed to happen at about the same time, but I had decided long before that I would not be spending another stupid second on this stupid trail, so, off into the dark woods I went. 

I, of course, had no headlamp (good work mike), but I had a granola bar, 3/4s of a liter of water left, music, and stupidity on my side, so I went for it. There was some light left in the sky, and my night vision worked pretty well. Towards the end, it got horrible though, with my legs already feeling destroyed from the walk down the ski slopes. The tendons around my left knee made me wince in pain, my back and neck hurt, my quads were on fire, and my legs were slowly turning to noodles. Around the time I felt like I had nothing left and was tripping over rocks, it officially became too dark to walk in the dark anymore, so out came the iphone. Any owner of an iphone 4 knows that it's absurdly bright, but this light made the trail more terrifying. Somehow, I eventually stumbled my way out, like a drunken crazed lunatic who had been dropped on the top of the mountain and told to find his way out. It was 9pm. The walk down had taken long, but I had clearly spent WAAAY too long at the top. 
I poured myself into my car, downed some Advil and went to Plymouth in search of calzone glory, dead but proud that I had finally started my journey. 1 down, 47 to go. 

Update 4 days later: Today is the first day that I feel like my legs are working correctly. I think I pulled every muscle in my legs. I think I pulled both quads 2 or 3 times. The day after, my legs kept bowing and bending at weird angles because the muscles just weren't working right. What a weird feeling. But through rest, swimming, and calzone, I am nearly healed and ready to get out there again.

The short version:

Tecumseh takes a lot of heat for being the shortest of the 4,000 footers and not having much of a view. What it doesn't credit for is a lot: the trail, with the exception of the boring straight vertical part, is one of the more interesting and pretty trails I've been on. The top has incredibly thick woods and although the summit isn't exposed, the view is actually pretty phenomenal. And every hike I've done ends in a big exposed rock face. It was neat to not have that for once. Since this goes through such thick woods and isn't incredibly popular, I really felt like I was in the middle of the woods the whole time. Views are rare. It's just you and the woods. And frankly, I'll take that over just walking up a rock any day.

-Park at parking lot 1 at the bottom of Waterville Valley ski resort, off Tripoli road (exit 28 on 93 north). -Walk directly across the street from the sign- you'll see the trail. 
-2.5 miles up
-2,200-ish feet of elevation gain
-4,003 feet above sea level.
-I HIGHLY recommend taking the Sosman Trail to the top of Waterville Valley. The trail and views are 1000% worth it. But TURN AROUND and go back the way you came. The Sosman trail either doesn't exist or is just impossible to follow, and the views will add maybe a mile to your trip.

currently listening to: The Head and the Heart- Self titled, New Found Glory- Not Without a Fight