FRIDAY…Up to Quebec
I am not yet comfy in a newer sprint K1 so opted to transport my barge-like K1 from Banook to Quebec, and drove up with it, and Jim's C1 in a van with Barb, Duane, Bim and Sean. The 12 hour trip up was un-eventful except for about 2 hours of the most rain I have ever seen fall in one period in my life.
SATURDAY…..A Day at Nationals
Bim and I are morning people, so we got down to Lac Beauport race course after an early breakfast, dropped off the boats and were treated to our first "War Kan U" experience. The first 4 days of Nationals are taken up by the Juniors and Seniors, with the Masters following on Sunday. So we were fortunate enough to watch the last day finals and those War Canoes exploding onto the viewing portion of the lake as the speakers blasted some war dance type of music. Still gives me chills.
After 5:00 pm, we had a quick War Canoe practice, which Robin and I followed up by being the first ones to try out the new Club K2. It was my first time in a K2 (actually had been in one with Sophie, but we barely left the dock, I was so nervous…she is still giving me grief about that one) and it was a real blast! The boat is light and feels fast, yet is very stable. That was as much fun as anytime I have spent in a boat.
Dinner was a team affair at the hotel, organized by Kim, followed by a quiet evening. Early morning reveille was provided by the kids coming home at 3:00 am yelling War Kan U and cracking themselves up in the process.
Race day. I love racing. I'm extremely antsy until I'm on site and with all my gear, but from then on it's all contained excitement. I love racing. The weather was perfect. No wind, lots of sun and a slight nip in the air. I put in a few kms on the lake before the crowd arrived and got to enjoy paddling thru the early morning mist on the lake. The mist was quite a bit warmer than the surrounding air, and the transition was delicious.
I was lucky enough to get in an open K1 race before my personal target, which was the Men's Novice K1 for my age group. I was warmed up and cranked and put in a PB time while finishing a full boat behind the guy who won. When I race, I want to get 100% out of myself and I felt very pleased with my performance. Robin and I got bumped out of the new K2 and did not do well in the little K2 trainer, but our time was good enough that I am looking forward to getting some K2 races in next year. I was also lucky enough to get in a K4 race captained by Shelley. She kept us in focus and got the best of out the crew, which also included Faye and Robin.
Banook dropped one of its War Canoe entries, which would have bumped me out of the boat, but Coach Greg got me a ride in the MicMac boat, where we grabbed a Silver behind Banook's Gold. That was a real blast. I also hooked a ride in a Senobe Mixed Novice boat for another Silver. To top off a great day, Banook won the Burgee, tho not until the second-last War Canoe race. Greg's 3rd time as coach, which has to be very satisfying.
All in all, the entire day was a blast and I am extremely glad that I went. While others partied through the evening (or at least until midnight, after all, we're Masters!), the little motor that runs my body shut down at 9:00 after a nice relaxing bath and a few beers. I was just beginning my 11-day odyssey and had to watch my stamina pennies.
MONDAY….The Long Trek Home
Up early and on the road to Halifax. The day proved long and I still had plenty to do once we got back. Get the boats back to Banook and get home in time to see Emily on her first day back from New York. Sophie had lots to tell me about her first week in high-school and her tryouts for cheerleading, Student Council and the student newspaper and then show me all the clothes her big sis had brought back for her. Emily was all fired up, visiting friends, going out for dinner and showing me her pictures. It was a wonderful evening.
Of course, life as a Gonzo means that you sometimes have to cram a bit, so Monday evening also saw me go back to Banook with Sean Amirault, so he could borrow the K1 for the Quad the following weekend. Oh, yes, and I had to pack for an 8 day trip including 4 overnites with just a backpack. Even with all the packing/planning I had done before going to Quebec, I was still up till midnite, which is waaay past my bedtime.
TUESDAY….The Long Trek Back
5:00 am comes early when you're tired. Back on the road again, this time with the Sun god and a 12 hour drive to Gorham, New Hampshire to hook up with Viking, Scrounger, Mountain Goat and Marko Polo for an evening of packing/unpacking/eating/snoring and gaseous emissions.
After the Burger King breakfast buffet, its off to move cars thru the hinterland and finally, putting my knapsack on my back for what I love most. Having my entire world within my reach is a feeling I really enjoy. We hiked the Mahoosuc Notch and it was all it cracked up to be. Fun and difficult. I squeezed into little holes made just for me and my pack and scrambled over rocks bigger than Marko Polo's Outback. Definitely worth a return trip every few years. After a hearty lunch, it was up the Mahoosuc Arm, a hike that took the steam out of my legs, but provided those views that make it all worthwhile. We stopped at a nice lookoff that was atop a 30 foot tower. Marko made the climb up, which was quite a feat, as he has a fear of heights. Nothing like peer pressure to get you testing your personal limits. Dropping down into Spec Pond and getting a nice Gonzo swim in with Goat made for a great day. The evening was quite chilly, and as I was trying out a little silver, plastic bivy sack over my MEC Penguin bag, I definitely got to find the edges of my gear.
The bivy sack creation worked well enough, although I did wake up once in the middle of the evening thinking that any colder than the 5 degrees and it would have been uncomfortable. Breakfast was nice and sunny and then Marko and I humped it back to the vehicles to get a head start on the 'croo as we had to do the 50 miles of dirt road wilderness to get the cars back. I like hiking really slow, and I like hiking really fast. Actually, I just like hiking.
Next we had to drive up to Millinocket, Maine to get at a motel room, a restaurant and grocery store to stock up for the next 4 days of hiking. I enjoyed the hour or so it took to go through my pack for real and get it setup the way I like it. The packing done prior to Nationals was hasty to say the least.
The rest of the 'croo (imax, Geezer and Fireball) was arriving late that night and although I heard some talking, I spent the night in never-never land.
Up early for the Millinocket Buffet and into Baxter State Park, a place I really love to spend time in. BaxterPk39 has been there every year from age 12 to 60-odd and after this trip, I feel that a yearly visit makes a lot of sense. I have been to Katahdin 4 times (I think) and as much as I enjoy each trip, I think that this was the best one. The views from both the bottom and the top of the bowl at Chimney Pond have to rate with any view. Of course, there are more spectacular views, but in this case, I am humping hearth and home as I go and that makes the view a bit more personal.
The plan for the day is to hike from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond, drop the monster packs, have some lunch and attack the Bowl in some manner, each to his own. The Gorham group will rest, but most of us decide to do the "Loop", which entails climbing Dudley, scrambling across the Knife's Edge, doing the peak and coming down Saddle, a grueling 6 hour hike, even with daypacks. The weather is perfect and we have been very lucky in that respect. Many people come to hike Katahdin and are stopped by the weather. A few years back, we hiked all of Dudley not knowing if we would be able to do the Loop. Of course we got away with it, mostly because we made the decision at Pamola's Peak, not at Base Camp.
On this hike, we had a Katahdin Virgin!!!, namely Marko Polo. Just to add some spice, he has a fear of heights. Of course we lie like Arabs in the market and somehow talk him up Dudley. We've taken people across the Knife's Edge who spent the entire time in the Spider Stance (all possible body parts touching as many rocks at the same time as possible). To say that Mark acquitted himself heroically would be an understatement. Of course, now he can't say he's scared of heights, a small problem that perhaps had kept him just short of full Gonzo membership.
A hike around the Bowl on a good day is a pleasure it would take a poet to describe. This was one of those days. IMAX was nice enough to take a picture of me in my favourite spot, a small dip close to South Peak. I have a matching one taken by Lorenzo on an earlier trip. To top that off, I now have a stunning photo from the North Ridge, looking back into my spot, with IMAX in the foreground.
One of the reasons I do the Gonzo website is that I like to sit around every so often and re-read some writeup that I've done, or review some pictures from a favorite trip. With the website, we can all do that, with all our writeups and photos. So cool. Maybe one day, we'll crank out a Gonzo CD so that our grand-kids will believe the stories that will dribble out in the nursing home.
When we finally get down Saddle and return to camp, it's time to go for a dip in water above 3000 feet, which makes it a candidate for a Gonzo Swim. imax, Goat and myself are pretty regular, but today, we had a newbie. None other than Geezer! I love the shock of cold water, followed by the delicious warmth of not being in that same cold water. I'm always pleased when I can convince others to try the same. I try to make the water on each day of a hike. So far we have Speck Pond and Chimney Pond. Next on the list is Davis and Russell. Supper is back at the Aiderondacks, followed by tea on the beach, food on the bear line and a very sound sleep, broken only by a mid-evening wake-up call and a crystal clear view of a sky you can only see away from the big-city lights. Life is good.
SATURDAY… and Davis Pond!!!
Up before the sun and down to the beach to make brekkie. Chimney Pond beach pre-sunup cannot be described, but I can take you there sometime. Some Gonzos know that I'll be on that beach early and drop down for a chat or to make their own vittles. As much as I enjoy that place and time, I enjoy it even more when it is shared with good friends.
Today is the hike to Davis Pond. The much anticipated Davis Pond. How can people like this place so much? How can it possibly live up to expectations? What are my expectations? Actually, I don't have any to speak of. I enjoy being outside, being with Gonzos and hiking, so I'm going to enjoy myself no matter what. I'm sure, like everyone else, the things that I actually enjoy are not easy to describe. I enter this hike with an open mind.
Unlike the hike around the Bowl, this one entails dragging all our gear up and over Saddle. It's a 2 hour hike and will test your mettle on a good day. After that it's a few hours of rolling flat flowed by some wicked downhill. Geezer is feeling the effects of the Bowl climb and has opted to hike out from Chimney Pond. As well, Sun god hits his personal wall on Saddle and has to turn around. Considering how much I enjoy the next 24 hours, I know there must be a way for him to get back to this little pearl.
As we approach the top of Saddle, the wind gets up to a fierce roar and makes communication difficult. Viking, Marko, Scrounger and Goat have to make Russell Pond so are itching to get ahead. Fireball, imax and I are only trying to make Davis Pond, so we have a lighter day ahead of us.
We split up and slow down. IMAX can't be speeded up anyway, so we move along at a pace agreeable to all. I have been burning the candle at both ends for a few weeks now and am really looking forward to a semi-off day, relatively speaking.
The wind is quite intense. Usually, I dislike wind quite a bit, but in the right context, it is very enjoyable. Like on a sailboat, or hey, on top of a mountain ridge on a fall day. We actually have to search out some rock shelter to have a break and get some water and fuel into us. You are always conscious of your water intake on these hikes. Without water you deteriorate very quickly. On a hot day, lack of water in the mountains can be disastrous.
We catch sight of the Russell crew on some far ridges, but other than that we are quite alone. I find some single tuckamore and get a picture taken. IMAX and I spend some time figuring out just what ridge/valley we are on. The local topography is all ridges and valleys. So just how special can Davis Pond be?
We find the turn down into Davis and begin what can be described as the hardest descent I've ever down with a full pack on my back, at least on par with the rainy downhill back into Western Brook Pond, Newfoundland. It seems to go on forever and is made even more treacherous by the fact that all the rocks are slippery with a damp moss that scares the bejesus out of you. We are VERY FAR away from civilization and a sprained ankle here would not be good.
I can't believe the angle of descent and never-ending path down and turning around is not an option. Needless to say, we finally make camp, only to find the Russell crew having lunch in our shelter. The " Crows" don't stay long and we are left to our own devices. We hike down to the pond and it's not unlike Chimney Pond, except there are no people. As well, the angles up are quite a bit steeper. It's hard to define what makes a space special, but this place has it. There is a large outcropping rock just off the pond and we agree to hike it later in the day. We all go for a Gonzo dip and the setting is absolutely gorgeous. Cool water and warm air. This place is addictive and I've only been here an hour.
We have lunch and take a little nap. I doze on the rock beach for an hour or more and end up hiking around the eastern edge and taking yet another nap on some rocky ledge. I can' t describe the peaceful feeling of being here, but basically, it's the right place at the right time. I'm mentally and physically beat up and Davis Pond is the antidote.
The john at this place has to be seen to be believed. It's throne, fit for a King, and considering that there is not door, it's possible that women may not have the same opinion of this woodsy artifact.
I drop back to camp and we all go down to the pond for a sit-around. IMAX hikes up the rock and does some writing. I'm doing my crosswords on the beach, Greg is puttering around. Before supper, we all end up on the outcropping and get a nice group photo before the light leaves for the day.
Supper is nice and quiet and we get our food up on a bear line before turning in. IMAX is up quite a while working on his notes and I gather Greg had to do battle with some critters overnight. I spend the night in never-never land, getting a good rest.
SUNDAY…Lots of Swimming and Russell Pond
It's a gorgeous, sunny day and breakfast down at the Pond is a treat. We're in such a deep bowl that the sun doesn't get over it until we are about ready to move on. I'm in one of those moods where the body and brain seems to be greased. My aches and woes seem quite diminished and I am enjoying everything. The view climbing out of the bowl just seems to keep getting better. It's a perfect fall day for hiking. Lots of sun, but not too hot. We're in the shady woods a lot and following a nice running brook. During one of the water breaks, I stumble upon a sheltered little waterfall that absolutely MUST be swam in. IMAX gets a picture for me and and falls under its spell as well.
We continue down the stream and the early fall smells are delicious. It is a gorgeous day. I'm about as relaxed as I get. IMAX is checking out the river as a white-water challenge. With boulders the size of cars and no open water, it would be a short, suicide run. At morning break, we are enticed once again to go for a dip. Man, I could do this all day. About ½ way to Russell, we run into the Caretaker and his wife (John??? And Joanne???) They look like experienced hikers. Nothing really specific, just a comfiness factor that you can sense.
Russell Pond is quite the place, remote and quite spread out. There are a small number of hikers here, but it's hard to tell. We check in, get some water, have lunch and the requisite mid-afternoon nap. I'm beginning to like this speed quite a bit. After checking out the tres shallow swimming area, we decide to hike ½ hour up to the local swimming hole, Deep Pond. Paydirt for the 3rd time today. The water is refreshing and hanging out on the big rock makes for the perfect finish to a perfect hiking day. Back to camp, a supper that finishes off all the non-emergency food and out for the night. IMAX does his diary and I assume Fireball entertains his rodent buddies. Me, I'm out for the night after a nice stop at the Pond looking out into dark wilderness accentuated only by a hazy, star-lit sky. Man, what a nice day!
MONDAY…Hike Out & Drive Home
It's another nice, sunny day with breakfast down by the water. We can't see the barn, but we know that the hike is basically over. The Caretaker has given us yet another nice tidbit about the choices of trails back to Roaring Brook and we opt for the easier, slightly longer one. The trail is basically flat, and after fording a small stream, it's a pretty quick jaunt back to the cars. Of course, we are caught and passed by Joanne, who is in her fifties, carrying a big pack and wearing sandals. There is no thought of staying with her. We are out-classed. As we had hoped, Sun god and Geezer had decided to hike out to meet us and we exchange catchup stories as we share the last ½ hour of hiking.
It's into the cars for a trip to BurgerLand and the quick zip home. Other than a few furious hours of chatting and packing, I've been gone from home for 11 days. I'm even going to take the following day off and relax, something I never do with vacation days if I can help it. Unfortunately, the next day happens to be September 11, 2001 and after a little sleep-in, shower and delightful breakfast, the world turns towards the dark side.
" It's the end of the world as we know it."