Sunday, August 26, 2018

Two Star Redux

When the BCU 2 star class was offered so late in the season, after what looked like a paddle scheduled for paddlers that needed 3 stars or better to participate, I scoffed.
Then I realized that for me, and probably at least a few other paddlers in RICKA, a day on the water getting some coaching from two excellent coaches, was a great opportunity.
I had been on the water more times this years than I had last year, but I knew I was rusty and could use a good tune up. I also remembered the first time I took the 2 star class and was a little too cocky to get anything out of it....
Greg and Paula had Tim II and Brenda assisting them. They were great as coaches in training. I spent the morning with Paula and Brenda. We worked on basic strokes.
I felt a little guilty having an Aries. It makes all of the turning strokes look easy. Most of the other paddlers in the group were in longer, straighter traditional sea touring kayaks. I still needed to control the kayak, so that was something.
In the afternoon we switched lead trainers. I was with Greg. He worked on fine tuning. We talked about things like using seating position to adjust trim. We also worked on using all four quadrants to maneuver the kayak for the proper conditions. We also worked on edging and reverse paddling.
It was an excellent tune up session. I would totally do it again next season just for the pointers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mt. Desert 2018

This was our second year at Mt. Desert Campground. It really is a great spot and our site across from the docks is perfect.
Our site does not have a direct water view, but it more than makes up for it in other amenities. It is large, has power, is relatively private, has parking with space for the trailer, and is just across the road from the docks. Oh, it also has two trees that are perfect for hanging a hammock.
This year was more laid back than last year. We stayed an extra two days and after last year, we felt less pressure to knock things off of the list. We still wanted to be active everyday and had a rough list, but things just didn't feel as rushed.
After the first morning, we gave up on coffee making. The campgrounds gathering spot has excellent coffee and pastries every morning. Bug and I loved the pastries and the coffee was way better than anything we were going to make at the camp site. So, every morning a pilgrimage was made for sugary carbs and coffee.
Unlike last year, I managed to get out kayaking every morning. It was the perfect way to start the day. The top of Somes Sound is protected and easy paddling. It also happens to be packed full of wild life. Everyday brought new surprises. One day it was seals; another day it was porpoises; another day it was eagles. Just an hour or two in the morning made the whole day brighter.
We also discovered the joy of the free island shuttles. It made getting into and out of the park much easier. We didn't have to struggle to find parking at the most crowded spots in the park. It also had the added bonus of forcing us to stop in Bar Harbor center for ice cream.
Our only "required" activity was the traditional hike up Gorham Mt. to collect blue berries. The hike also involves a visit to Thunder Hole. At the beginning of the hike there was not so much thunder, but when we returned the hole was in good form. The hike also includes me trying, unsuccessfully, to convince H to let Bug and I do the Beehive trail. Hopefully, I will wear her down before I get too old to manage the Beehive....
We also did another nice hike from Echo Lake to the summit of Beech Mountain. H had planned out a nice short hike from the Beech Mt. trailhead and then figured we could drive down to Echo Lake beach for a nice dip. Then I looked at the map.... I found a route from the Echo Lake parking lot to the summit that looked easy peasy and only added a mile or so to the hike. It was another reminder that I should not be allowed to plan hikes. My addition to the hike did save us the hassle of parking twice, but it made for a much more challenging hike. It doubled the elevation and length of the hike. I like to think it added some nice extra views and made the swimming that much sweeter...
For biking we rode the Eagle Lake loop. We choose it because it offered some nice views and was recommended by the guide books as being good for kids. The guide book was spot on. The trail has a gradual climb along the east side of the lake followed by a nice descent back to the parking lot. At six miles, it is just long enough to be a challenge, but not too long. Everyone enjoyed the ride. Bug got a little speed happy on the descent and she and I ended up leaving H in the dust for part of the ride. We need to work on the whole making sure the group stays together thing...
H and Bug took the Island Explorer back to Bar Harbor. I decided to return to the center via Witch Hole Pond. The beginning of the ride was nice and flat until I hit the road. The last part of the ride into down was on the roads. The first stretch of road was an epic down hill on a closed road. Then I road into town along the water front. It was a nice little addition to the ride.
The family kayaking trip was short. The day we were supposed to paddle, Bug and I had a hard time getting our acts together. To H's chagrin, we didn't get onto the water until well after lunch. We managed to get out of the campground's cove and maybe a mile down the coast before it was time to turn back. Bug is not a huge kayaker and a sit-on-top is not an ideal platform for cold water kayaking.  Despite the short distance, we had a nice time.
Even the only hiccup on the trip turned out to be a blessing in surprise. Unbeknownst to us, our cell plan, which has unlimited on-network data, caps roaming data. While T-Mobile has great coverage in a lot of places, Maine is not one of those places. I burned through my roaming data on the drive up between maps and streaming music. H burned through hers shortly after I did. So, we spent most of the week off the grid. We could squeeze in bits of internet at the Gathering Place's wi-fi when we were desperate. Being off the grid was a nice break from the constant barrage of bad news.
The whole vacation was refreshing and rejuvenating. So much so, that we booked the same site for next year.

The Hut Hike of Doom

When Bug was old enough to start doing longer hikes, we came up with a plan to hike to all of the AMC huts with H's Dad. He worked at the huts when he was in college and has spent 60 years hiking the whites.

The plan was to start easy and then work our way up in a smooth progression as Bug got older. It was a great plan except that we didn’t account for how aging works. Bug is speeding up way faster than we planned for and H’s Dad, while he can still kick my butt on the trail, is slowing down faster than we planned.
For this years hike we decided to skip a level and do Greenleaf Hut. H's dad said it was difficult but not too bad. When I looked at the trail description and saw that included a stretch called the three miseries, I should have doubted his recollection....
It had rained a lot in the days leading up to the hike, so that didn’t help trail conditions and eliminated  one of our routes up (I doubt that route would have been much easier).
The trail started out nice it was steep, but not too bad. It quickly transitioned into sections of fairly steep climbs with brief interludes less steep sections. We all, except Bug, realized that we may have bitten off more than we could chew. We trooped on though. I figured we were in the misery section and then things would level out; front loading the pain is always better than the opposite.
Then we got above tree line and H's Dad said we were entering the miseries.... They are steep rocky sections that involve climbing up chutes of smooth rock.
I'm not sure which was harder: the physical work of climbing or the mental energy required in managing an eight year old, an anxious wife, two older climbers, and my own sanity....
Everybody did a great job. Bug's only problem was her fear of dogs that caused her to panic when a dog showed up on the trail. Fortunately she is a strong enough climber that she could get herself out of the way without putting herself into too much danger. H's Dad and wife climbed like old pros. They were slow and steady. H did her best to just focus on getting up the mountain. I did the same.
The ridge line is beautiful. The day was clear and one could see for miles. It was also steep on the sides, so it required caution. By the time we hit the ridge we, except for Bug, were close to spent.
The hut itself is nice. It is a small clearing in a notch just below the peak of Lafayette. There is not much there except for the hut, but that is enough.
H was a little bummed that we were not going to hike to the peak because we were pooped. I told her I was game; we had already done the worst part. She stood her ground and we did not do the summit. The voice of reason may not be fun, but it is usually correct.
Amazingly, Bug found a playmate at the hut. There was a boy about her age that was as into gymnastics as she was. They spent the remainder of the afternoon doing tricks on any flat patch of grass they could find.
H spent a lot of time researching easier routes back to the parking lot. Her Dad spent some time napping. I spent the time just hanging out watching the child, reading, and chatting.
The huts are always great places to hangout.
Over dinner there was some half-joking talk about how this might be the last hut hike for the group. The exertion and climbing was a little much for H's Dad.
H's extensive research made it clear that the easiest way down, given the trail conditions, was the same way we had come up.
The next morning, with some trepidation, we headed back down. The trail seemed easier on the way down. Then came the rocky patches....
The patches were just as steep and slippery, but going down felt much more treacherous. Going with gravity adds to the sense that one can fall and crash into the rocks or other people or over the edge and into the abyss.
We all took it slowly and made it down to the forested patches of the trail that were more manageable.
By the time we got back to the cars were tired, but not exhausted. There was talk of which hut to try next summer....