Thursday, January 28, 2021

Meeting Backcountry Skiers on Whitecap.... Hike #16

Click on photos to enlarge.


It'll be cold the next couple of days, but today, at 28 degrees, the hike reminded me of summer. On the Yellow Trail, we ran into two backcountry skiers who were traversing the mountain. We met them on the way down 4-5 times as they picked their ways down a stream bed with a few extra rocks. I could see what I figured was the cold front coming in from the west. It's not going to be fun the next two days. Back to "Yoga For Beginners" on Prime Video. :-) Ha! 

The New Hotel

Best Western in Rumford
Click on photo to enlarge

I'm guessing most of my friends from away wouldn't think twice about a hotel being built. But for many of us in town, the Best Western on the bottom of Falls Hill represents progress and small-town commitment. A crew of local investors ponied up money to build the 5+ million dollar structure that's set to open in the summer of 2021. I admire the investors' faith in the project, one that's placed at the entrance to town. 

I've enjoyed watching the building take shape and have marveled at the amount of negativity surrounding the project. Judging by the comments on Facebook, the Rumford/Mexico River Valley has a lot of angry, unfulfilled people wandering its streets.  

My 1972 high school class officers have been interested in the hotel's progress since our 50th class reunion is planned in town for 2022. We'll be celebrating at 49 Franklin, a well-appointed event center, created with tireless years of work  by Scott and Cindy Grassette from our family's Methodist church. We also have plans on celebrating at Black Mountain's new lodge. They just added air conditioning, so a summer event will be doable for those of us who melt in the summer heat. 

Here's to the Best Western investors and our little town that can and will reinvent itself. 

Black Mountain of Maine's New Lodge replete with AC! 


Wednesday, January 27, 2021


Bailey on Whitecap


Bailey makes me laugh. I get a kick out of his waddling butt and his early-morning howls in anticipation of breakfast. Some nights, he leaps up onto my bed and hogs 3/4 of the space. Later on, I'll wake up to see that he's lying on his back, feet and legs sticking into the air... I can't help but laugh even at three in the morning. In the evening after a tough hike, he'll retreat to "his" bedroom and go to sleep around 8:30pm. He's like an old man... But then, most mornings when I'm trying to read and many evenings when I'm comatose on the couch in front of the evening news, he'll yank out one of his toys (like below with Andy the Anteater) and sit in front of me play-growling with a muted bark. Drives me nuts. Some times I chase him; some times I just stand up and eye him. When I have exchange students, I turn toward them and point at Bailey, saying, "This is why you're here." They laugh, get up, and chase him throughout the rooms of the first floor. That's Bailey. 

Bailey & Andy the Anteater

After the Whitecap hike

Late evening when he's had quite enough.


Watching me take down the garbage. 

Still watching... 

Even more...

"What? You didn't want me to help, right?" 

Co-pilot in The Rig.  

Bailey: I'll do anything for a treat. 

On the summit of Whitecap--
well below zero with the wind. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Toenails & Whitecap

 The foot of a long-distance hiker who's logging 25 miles a day.

This is NOT my foot. 
Click on photos to enlarge.... :-) 

One issue non hikers might not think about is foot health. In the Army, we were always lectured about keeping our feet dry and clean. As a day hiker, I have to keep my eye on my feet, knees, hips, and toes along with hydration. I've battled a toenail issue for several years.  On the way down a mountain, the front of your shoe tends to slam into your big toe. That, in turn, can crack a toe nail. And there you have it... a problem. 

Yesterday, on Whitecap, the pain in my left big toe disappeared on the way up, but on the way down, I had to adjust my foot plant so I didn't irritate that toe. I do minor "surgery" before each hike to wrap my toe and sometimes add gauze beneath the toenail. It's what happens when you hike. Above is the foot of a long-distance hiker I follow named Crunchmaster who has hiked 13,500+ miles over the past few years. That's what happens to your feet when you hike 25 miles a day. As for me, I might hike 25 miles in a week! 

Here are photos of Whitecap on a beautiful, January day at 15 degrees. 

Off the summit. 

Mt Abrams ski resort

Washington and Sunday River

That's Bailey's Carin where part of him will lay 
after he heads off to the great hiking trail in the sky. 

Right after the first stream. 

Where's my treat? 

Collapsed post-hike. 

Ready for action. 


Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Trail by Meika Hashimoto


On New Year's Day, Bailey and I were hiking on Rumford's Whitecap Mountain with long-time friends Kathy and Jim Bennett. On the descent, I crossed paths with Meika Hashimoto, a student in my last class at Mountain Valley High School back in 1998-1999. 

A gifted and serious student, Meika grew up on her father's mushroom farm just outside of Rumford in the shadow of Mt. Zircon. When Meika was in my class, she always wrote impeccably and her book projects immediately captured our attention, as you'll see in her Lady Macbeth scene in her black robe with bloody hands.

This morning I finished her book, The Trail, and wrote reviews for Amazon, a hiking website I'm on, and Facebook... 

ANOTHER RIVER VALLEY WRITER! Bailey and I were hiking Whitecap recently when we crossed paths with Mountain Valley HS graduate Meika Hashimoto. A book editor and author, Meika has written "The Trail," a Scholastic book for 7- to 12-year-olds. The good news? This 229-page story about a boy, a dog, and an Appalachian Trail adventure will hook readers of any age. I loved every page. Congratulations, Meika!  

I love celebrating local authors, especially friends or former students. I know well, and from experience, the struggles they face with writing and publishing.

Monday, January 18, 2021

A Snowy Ascent.... #12


This week, real winter weather will strike midweek. Today, at 30 degrees, I decided to climb Whitecap yet again even after climbing Red Hill yesterday. Bailey did a good job with these back-to-back hikes. There's a video down below that has him jumping a stream in youthful fashion. Good boy, Bailey. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

January 1971


Fifty years ago today, I broke my leg in a giant slalom ski race. Called a boot-top transverse fracture of the lower tib-fib, the break is not a good one. (Are any?) Such injuries happened frequently before modern bindings. Why? Back in the day, ski racers cranked up their bindings as tight as possible and wore long-thong straps to keep their skis attached to their boots. The leather straps were about 3- to 4-feet in length and in my case during this "fall," the straps worked exceedingly well. 

Three-quarters of the way down the course, I traversed the slope and cut back hard across the fall line. I was wearing 207cm K2 Comp skis that I now realize were too long for a light-weight like me. The two bones in my lower right leg broke across the top of my leather boots--thing is, I had not fallen. You're probably wondering how my bones broke without a fall? The straps kept my boots in place and the torque in the turn... well, something had to give and that something were my leg-bones. 

Immediately, my lower leg went numb. I leaned into the slope, dropped onto my hip and shoulder, and skidded to a stop. It sounds like I did this intentionally, but to be honest, I just did what came natural.  The fall was not a wild crash. People along the race course thought I'd just lost my edge, slipped, and fell. Fortunately, the ski patrol knew better. 

I don't remember pain until later on in the hospital when the spinal anesthesia wore off and the pain seared through my leg up through my body. 

That "spinal," as it was called, is also known as an epidural or spinal block. A local anesthetic is injected near the spinal cord and nerve roots. It blocks pain from the entire lower region. It was then that the fun took place. The doctor asked me to reach up and hold onto the top of the operating table while he (and maybe a nurse) yanked on my foot to bring the two bones back into alignment. Don't worry, I didn't feel a thing. But I have for the past 50 years.  

The doctor got 80% retraction and that would look something like this: 

After six months in different casts, the leg built up calcium deposits around the jagged edges. Here's what the healed leg looked like in the 1980s in an X-Ray taken by my personal physician at the time time, my brother Fred. No, I didn't have health insurance. Thank goodness for the good care at the Countryside Animal Hospital!  

Guess which one was broken? 

I don't remember the figures exactly, but my lower right leg has an 8+- degree bend in it. I have worn orthopedic inserts in my shoes for over 20 years to keep my legs balanced. When I finally purchased alpine ski boots again as a ski coach for Rumford HS, I had them fitted for the bulging bones of my lower leg. On my skis, the Ski Rack technician named Charley, added plastic lifts known as a cant. Those plastic wedges kept my skis flat on the snow. Eventually, I did the same for my cross-country skis, and they were especially helpful for the skating technique. Nowadays, my knee gets tweaked if I walk without the orthotics, and I'm always careful with my shoes or boots to make sure they fit properly. My every-day shoes (hiking shoes) usually last 6 months. 

Having a minor physical issue like a crooked leg, which could have been a major problem if I didn't keep hiking and exercising, has kept me in-tuned with my body for the past 50 years. I used to have a road biking partner who was also an orthopedic surgeon. In the 1980s, he'd be drafting off me on some long ride out to Andover or thereabouts, and would periodically remark, "Some day you're going to have a problem with that knee."  So far, I have not. Time to gear up and go for a hike. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Mount Will, Bethel .... Hike #10

 We trucked off to Bethel on Thursday afternoon. In about 18 minutes we were at the trailhead of Mount Will. Microspikes, water, treats, and a double layer of hats we headed off toward the North Cliffs. Mount Will has been cut a great deal, so the lower levels look like remnants of a war zone with branches and bark scattered all over. The higher we climbed, the more forested. Like most Maine forests, this is an old one. 

We stopped by the Gray Memorial, the site of a long-ago plane crash that killed 2. One survived. My other purpose in  climbing Will was to see if I were mistaken about seeing Sunday River from along the summit trail. Not only did we see splashes of the seven-mountain ski resort where I worked in the late 1970s and early 1980s, now there's a home (a ski chalet?) about 150 yards from the summit trail that has a full-on view of the mountain. There's a snowmobile trail that winds its way up from the house, but I didn't go closer to the home than about 75 yards. They've earned their privacy. 

Near the summit on the Northern Ledges' side

From the Northern Ledges

Near the trailhead

From the Northern Ledges

From the Northern Ledges

Sunday River through the trees

Gray Memorial

The blue bit is part of the plane's fuselage. The local
small-town air field is just beyond Mt. Will near Bethel center.  

Southern Ledges

Mt Abrams

Note the gray bits in Bailey's eyebrows and on his snout.