Camden, 2015

Cris and Forest and I spent some time going back and forth about where we wanted to camp in Maine. The mid April after a harsh winter date made us back off from the Cutler Coast way up north, and instead go for a spot a little bit in from the ocean, above Camden, the Camden Hills State Park. The campground just off of the highway wasn't open for the season yet (we were told it was snowed in, but it didn't seem that way), so we planned to stay in a hotel the first night then hike into our campsite the next morning.

Thursday April 16, 2015

I worked from home on Thursday so that we could get a bit of an early start on the drive up. I'd managed to completely procrastinate on packing until then as well, but at least I'd arranged all my food (I made and dehydrated some turkey chili and some bean and almond dip). My big failure was not getting around to trying to straighten a bent tent pole. Wedging it into the boards on my porch only resulted in it bouncing back, so I went with just my bivy sack + a tarp. We were planning to take over a lean to in any case, but Forest had his tent with him in case I needed to bail into it. I was ready and had eaten by 5pm when they were supposed to pick me up, but a meeting ran late and then traffic happened and I think we ended up leaving from my place at around 5:45. I had a bit of a chat about camping with my downstairs neighbour when he came home to see me waiting on the sidewalk with my pack, snowshoes strapped to the outside (microspikes inside, as well as a down sleeping bag and over bag and jacket - I ended up being too light on day time clothes, relying on my usual camping shirt with an undershirt or not under it).

In any case, they arrived eventually and traffic wasn't actually all that bad heading up I95 to I295 to Route 1. We stopped once for caffeine and a bathroom break but otherwise drove straight up to Camden. We were going to be arriving close to the check-in time of 10pm at the Camden Riverhouse Hotel, so I gave them a call before my phone lost signal and got the late check in instructions. Another party was also driving up from Boston, for a little bit I thought we were behind her, but the truck turned off a different way. There was another hotel just up Tannery Lane that confused us for a bit, but another half block away Forest spotted ours. The promised envelope with key and papers was on the desk and we were soon settled into our room at just past 10pm.

The guys were starting to pull out maps and plan routes for tomorrow when I asked if they wanted to do it in a bar instead. There was universal consensus, so off down the street we went, to the Smokestack Grill on Mechanic St., with a view of a waterfall through the large windows. The bar proper was mostly full but the rest of the establishment was pretty empty. Cris offered to get the first round and I just asked for a gin and tonic. He came back with three pint glasses: two beers and my drink. Oops. Plus it was only $6 and not mostly ice. The grill part had stopped serving dessert, so I'll blame a well digetsted supper and a lack of more food on my decision to join in on Forest's round with another pint of G&T. Oddly enough I wasn't destroyed, the extra pint glass of water probably helped, though I was super careful on the walk back to the hotel. The bar had served up a load of nostalgia as well with lots of 90's tunes. We were definitely out before midnight, and I got a bed to myself due to my stupid eye infection and not wanting to risk passing it along.

Friday April 17, 2015

We were up at a fairly reasonable hour, around 8am or so. I got dressed and popped out to the second floor breakfast area to grab some tea and yoghurt, silently sharing the large open room with an older guy - the inn was really quiet that night. I sat by a window table that looked out over Cris's car to the river to the main street area. We grabbed our stuff and I did a quick check in / check out in one, surprising the inn lady by how soon we were going. It was a reasonable off season rate, $81 with taxes for the three of us, especially since it nominally included breakfast. But then we threw our packs in the car and walked over to Main St via the cute foot bridge over the river. I popped into the bank to grab some cash but the guys were still in line ordering when I got back to Boynton McKay having left their hats to claim a table. I think I've finally broken my acquired distaste for huevos rancheros and was able to enjoy a delicious pan of it that morning. We completely forgot to stop for water (dry camp site) in Camden, and decided to look for a grocery on the road to the park. A quick stop at the park ranger's gate kiosk to get maps, reassurance that the "floor was mostly intact" in the lean-to's and there wasn't much snow, though there might be more on the north side of the park, and to verify that the camping area there was closed up. We continued on Route 1 toward Lincolnville, noting a coffee roaster on the way. We first stopped at a delicious smelling bakery but they didn't have gallon jugs of water, though the clerk was able to direct us up the road to a grocery store. A quick run through there and we were out with 3 gallon jugs, one each. We backtracked from there to the northern park entrance, briefly worried by the red metal gates across the trail head. The parking area was next to it though, I think we were the first or second car parked there at around 10:30am.

We left the extra water behind since it wasn't all that far to come back to get it, and set up off the multi use trail. We also left the snow shoes behind since the trail was a mix of packed snow and mud/rocks. It was a pretty flat wide road, a mix of gravel, mud, and snow, fairly easy to walk on. At Frohock Mountain Trail we turned off the road to get into the woods. We took it to Bald Rock trail and turned there to climb up to the lean-to's just below the peak of Bald Rock Mountain (1200 feet, so not a huge climb, but hard enough in some deep snow, slippery mud, rain, and with a 50lb pack). We made it to the first lean-to at around 11:30am in the rain. The floor ... wasn't really intact. There wasn't enough room for the three of us in the area where the boards weren't broken or warped. I stayed behind to rest a bit and the guys went ahead without their packs to check out the second lean-to. I pulled out my rain pants and pack cover finally and of course that made the rain stop. :-) They said the other shelter was much more intact, and had a better view, so we hauled our packs the 100 yards further and started to set up (aka take out everything we didn't want to haul on a day hike up another peak). Forest climbed up on the roof of the lean-to to try and block the open knot in one board from letting rain through.

We left at 12:45pm to head out on the out and back to Frohock Mountain via Derry. The sun was really out, it was much warmer (we were all shedding layers). I'm glad that I had my gaiters, some of the snow was close to knee deep. Derry Mountain was more implied than seen, a wooded hump we climbed before going down and up again to Frohock. Not much of a view there either when we got there at around 2, it was a pile of rocks with a peak sign, but since there were places to sit and we were hungry, we ate our lunches there. I'd spaced out and left my intended lunch food in the hung food bag at camp, so had some Luna bars and some of their cheese. Since we were going to pass by the spur trail to head back to the parking lot on the way back to the lean-to, and had empty-ish packs now, we decided to head back to pick up the extra gallons of water before going back to camp.

We made it back to junction by 3:45 I think, it was a bit faster despite having to climb up from Frohock to Derry since we'd broken out the trail (not a lot of traffic on the dead end trail). We were back at the car by 4:15, retracing our steps from this morning. We saw a man walking his dog, pacing us up the multi use trail. The 10 pounds of water and a lack of calories slowed me down but we were up to the lean-to again by 5 I think. I dug out my intended lunch and had it as a pick me up snack, sitting on the rocks at the peak of Bald Rock mountain. The guy and his dog had also come there, going up mostly via the multi use trail then cutting back on the other part of the Bald Rock trail.

Then Cris and Forest and I all cooked there, enjoying the view out over Camden and Lincolnville, and out toward Acadia. I had cowboy pasta and pretty much inhaled it, I was pretty hungry. :-) I cleaned up and layered up back in the lean-to, then went up on the rock again for sunset, after a failed attempt at getting a fire going. A group of teens rampaged up, then got quiet when they saw me up there taking pictures by myself. Forest had put his tent up to enjoy the sunrise view, but Cris and I were in the shelter. The teens settled in to camp in a clearish area on the other part of Bald Rock trail, made their dinner and ate up on the peak and were mostly quiet, just a bit of guitar and singing floating up as the night got darker. We saw lots of satellites and the International Space Station, and it was neat watching the stars slowly appear (no moon that night). I went down the out-cropping to the lean-to at 9 to get ready for bed. I had a moment of disorientation when I looked down at my blue jacket in the post sunset plus headlamp light, it looked absolutely gold! I kept blinking at it and trying to see the blue I knew, but had to give up, it was just always looking like a yellow/gold colour. Cris and Forest had pointed out the second outhouse behind our lean-to and two downed trees, so I grabbed my poles and went back down to the other one to retrieve the roll of toilet paper that I'd left there. I almost freaked myself out, my headlamp isn't all that bright and has a small beam, and the wind was making the trees rustle ominously. 200 counted steps back to the lean-to we were using and I was soon safely inside my sleeping bag + bivy. I was fine with just long underwear and a wool hat, though I probably had my pashmina in the bag with me to use as an extra layer of warmth.

Saturday April 18, 2015

Cris poked me at around 5ish or 6ish to say that the sun was rising, but I waved him off and rolled over to sleep some more. When I eventually got up, they waited more or less patiently for me to eat my granola on the peak and get ready to head out for our full day of hiking. We left camp at around 8:45am, the teens from last night long gone after viewing the sun rise. We went down the continuation of Bald Rock trail to the multi use road and then branched off on the Sky Blue Trail. It was described on the map as meandering through the forest, and meander it did. I got pretty good at predicting which way to look for trail blazes, but taking giant steps to follow in the snow prints of the one other person who'd done that trail was getting tiring, and I was happy to trade off leading with the guys. We connected with Zeke's trail for a bit, then went along the Ridge trail to climb up to the peak of Megunticook. It didn't have much of a view, but the Ocean Lookout spot, 85 feet lower in elevation, had a huge open rock that looked out over Camden harbour. We made it there after about 4 miles at around 12:30. There were lots more people on these trails, quite a few with dogs (most off leash *sigh*) as well as hardy Mainers hiking in running shoes and shorts. Both Cris and Forest had had their boots over topped by water (deep snow over deep streams were annoying), and Cris's boot seam had completely split and was barely holding together with duct tape, so while resting in the warm sun, enjoying the view and eating our lunches, we took off our socks and boots to let them dry out. We didn't end up staying all that long, it felt a bit crowded and I at least was tired enough that I was semi-dreading the trip back to camp, so we started back at around 1pm. We backtracked to Megunticook and then took the Ski Slope trail down the steeper side of the mountain. At the multi use trail we came across the super cozy ski shelter. It had indoor/outdoor fireplaces, 3 double bunk beds, a sturdy large outhouse with an actual stock of toilet paper and a vent, as well as firewood for use in the wood stove. The sign said it was $32.10 for up to 7 people, I wouldn't midn coming back with a group either later in the summer or for a winter snow shoeing trip. From there it was a fairly simple fast walk along the multi use trail back to the Bald Rock trail and back up to camp. The sun had melted some of the snow on the improved part of the trail, I'd walked down the edging rocks on the stairs part, but could walk up the actual steps on the way back.

I grabbed my kitchen stuff and took it up the rock again. I ate the last of my bean dip with my spork and then made cowboy pasta and tea. Forest rec-hecked the forecast, rain had re-appeared in it, though I had suspected as much from the clouds - they said that they looked too high for rain, I joked that they might produce snow instead. I rushed a bit to finish my meal, lean up, and hit the outhouse and brushed my teeth as it was starting to rain. Then it started to come down harder. Cris adjusted the tarp to try and reduce the amount of rain coming through, but we still had 5 or 6 pots and mugs out to catch drips. But then the leaking seams seeped down to the cross beams and dripped off of the bumps on those, changing the drip pattern. And then it started to snow. But it went back to rain and only accumulated a little bit. We went back to the lean-to at 6pm, and Cris challenged me to stay awake until sunset, which I just managed. :-)

Sunday April 19, 2015

I skipped sunrise again, though I didn't lie a-sleeping-bag for all that much longer after Cris got up. Well, okay, maybe I did, the picture I took shows the sun well up once I made it up the rock. :-) I hadn't slept well with Cris shifting to stay out of drips and on his mat and out from under the sketchy foam pad that had been left there by another camper. I'd almsot given up on my ear plugs since they didnt' seem to cut much noise, but I put them in and put the eye mask on after a while to see if they'd help a tiny bit, and I guess they did since I must have slept a little bit. I hauled my stove and pot and water up to make some hot cereal this morning, I should have done that yesterday, it was much more filling. Cris let me use his stove since it was set up and just needed to be lit. Then it was time to head back down to the lean-to to pack up for the hike out. I used the last of the last gallon to top up my camelbak and strapped the crushed gallon jug to the top of my pack. Cris climbed up on the lean-to roof to get my tarp down, handing me down the rock that Forest had used to secure it. My pack was so much lighter without the extra 2L of water, as well as without the food I'd eaten.

We'd agreed to go down the rest of the Bald Rock Trail to the multi use path and out from there as the descent was less treacherous, especially with packs on. We passed a few people heading up the trail jogging as we made our way out. There was a tall white van in the trail head lot with a nice wooden canoe strapped to the top, and a ladder strapped to the side so that they could climb up to the canoe. :-) We stuffed our packs into the car and were soon on the road in search of caffeine. We were a bit worried that we'd be out and about too early for things on a Sunday, but when Cris pulled into Green Tree Coffee and Tea of Maine they were open though with just a lone person behind the till. She brewed up coffee for the guys and after some confusion, a mug of Fogcutter tea for me. I also grabbed a tin of Maine blueberry black tea.

Cris pulled into the main park entrance and we paid the auto road use fee ($13.50 for all of us, it was per person) to drive up to the top of Mount Battie. There was a small stone tower there that we promptly climbed (though coming down was a bit nerve wracking due to the open design). Reading a sign on the headland looking out over a sun drenched Camden harbour, I found out that the view inspired Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Renascence". The wind was picking up a bit and we were dressed for inside the car rather than outside in the weather, so we soon headed back down and back to Camden for second breakfast.

We went back to Boynton Mckay, and we all swapped around the meals we'd had before camping. I had Cris' skillet number 1, he had Foe's brisket hash, Foe had my huevos rancheros. The skillet was delicious, glad we got to go back, I'd be willing to go and hang out there again and day hike in the park. Back up route 1 to 295 and 95 to NH. We made a quick stop at the NH liquor store by a roundabout, finding an exotic car rally in the parking lot. Traffic was fairly light, I was home by 3, and promptly unpacked all my wet stuff to lay it out to dry on the porch. A friend had tried to organise a training run at 4pm and I somehow found motivation to get ready for it, since I'd been using the backpacking as substitute strength work outs but I needed to keep up on my running. It was a slow 3 miles, but the extensive stretching and foam rolling afterward really helped the hiking soreness. I also finally got around to making the split pea and chicken sausage soup that I'd meant to make for camping, ah the luxury of standing up to cook. :-) I was out like a light by 10pm though, tired out from my outdoor weekend.

Back to my diary page.