Monday, July 30, 2012

Hiking Lead Mountain

In Washington County, Maine a few miles off Rt. 9, quietly sits Lead Mountain. For the few of us in the know, this small mountain makes for an enjoyable hike. Over the 4th of July holiday, it was climbed by several of my family members. The group consisted of my 63 year old Dad and kids 4, 5 and 6 years old. Only the 4 year old had to be carried a couple times on the ascent and descent . . . thankfully, we didn't have to carry the 63 year old even once.

Those interested in exploring this small 1,479 ft. monolith, the directions are relatively simple. Driving from Bangor toward Calais you will pass the Airline snack bar on your left and Rt. 193 shortly after on your right. Drive (approximately 1 mile) turn left onto the 3000 road at the Ranger Station. If you cross the bridge over the Narraguagus River, you will want to turn around. In about 150 yards, turn left . . . accidentally following the road straight will take you up the 3000 road into great partridge hunting territory but not to Lead Mt. Simply follow this dirt road to the end and you will see a small parking area.

The first thing you will encounter, is a gate and a large sign that says “No Hunting” and some idiotic verbiage indicating that the university owners don’t want any Rednecks accidentally shooting research scientists. Follow this road until it splits and take the path to the right. This ATV trail was heavily worked on in the last few years and leads a majority of the way to the summit.

After about 1 hour of “kid pace” hiking and time to play with the 100s (I am not exaggerating) of toads that could be found along the hiking path you will reach the original summit weather monitoring equipment and several small shacks. The path to the summit now changes in difficulty and stretches up for about another 30 minutes of slow hiking. You will certainly know you have reached the top, as you will be staring face to face with a titanic cell tower and an auditory barraged by the buzzing of the electronics necessary to keep the equipment functioning. Unfortunately, there are no sweeping views from this location and many hikers will miss out if they do not explore the area straight back on the left hand side of the gated area.

You will note a small path thorough the tightly growing spruce trees. Squeeze thorough this small area and the path opens up to a rock face with a small tower you can easily climb that will allow you to see over the surrounding trees and out onto the impressive view below. Directly behind the tower, hanging on the backside of one of the thick spruce trees is an ammo can size geocache. When we looked, the cache had only been checked a handful of times since it was originally created, so this is definitely a very cool cache to get a chance to check off your list!

Lead Mountain Geocache details:

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Quarter Million Reflections

As my blog hit the milestone of a quarter million page views (see counter on my sidebar!) and around 200 followers, I wanted to share the following account of how I began writing and blogging. I know that in publishing the entire post in one LONG segment, I am committing to what amounts to blogging suicide and breaking all blogging etiquette but I don’t think the post has the same power and message chopped into shorter segments. 

This tale breaks from my typified outdoor writing style and is a personalized story, filled with accounts of adversity and renewed faith. Please take a few minutes to read my tale and from it perhaps develop a new found understanding and respect for people who live with chronic pain and rejoice in your good fortune to be mentally and physically healthy.
The month was September and the year was 2007. I was lying on an operating table waiting for what I hoped would be a life altering surgery. After suffering with chronic pain for almost 7 years and recently presented with living the remainder of my life in a wheel chair, I was praying this surgery would forever change my life for the better.

In the fall of 2001, I was partridge hunting with my brother in rural Washington County. After a very long day of heater hunting over a collection of bumpy old logging roads, I noted my back was aching fiercely. Believing it was a muscle pull, I didn’t think much of the pain and decided to take a few ibuprofens and lie down.

About a month passed and my lower back pain had not improved. Understanding that this was likely NOT a muscle pull, I decided to pay a visit to the local ER. After a series of x-rays and MRIs, it was determined I had a sustained a back injury, likely while riding those bumpy roads and now had a severely bulging disc at spinal connector L4/L5. Due to a congenitally narrow spinal column the bulging disc was rubbing against my nerves and causing the shooting pain and sciatica I was experiencing.

When I inquired about surgical options, the doctor stated, he could only recommend physical therapy and continued medicinal treatments at this time. Given that to this point, any of my previous injuries were all curable with surgery, I was angered that this new “injury” wasn’t able to be “fixed”. With all our advances in medical services, I ignorantly exclaimed, why can't we fix a man’s damaged spine? Yes, sometimes I am an idiot.

Unfortunately, the 800 mg per day daily doses of ibuprofen did practically nothing for pain elimination, only making the discomfort “bearable”. Multiple visits to physical and massage therapists and a variety of other back and spinal specialists all ended with the same results, continued pain. I was in constant physical discomfort, yet I refused to give in to my debilitating problem. Fighting it constantly, I invested in an arsenal of therapeutic equipment from back braces to portable heat packs, magnets and chair supports. In the end, however, none of these "gimmicks" seemed to provide anything beyond a glimmer of relief, though I prayed regularly they would.

January of 2006 found me climbing 22,843 foot Aconcagua in Argentina, completing for me what had been a life long "bucket list" dream to climb at least one of the worlds 7 summits (highest peaks on each continent). During that 3 week climbing expedition, at times carrying over 75 pound pack loads, I suffered a full rupture of my spinal disc at L4/L5. If there was ever the proverbial straw that broke the camels back that was it. Some would think my choice to climb foolish and reckless but for those of us with an adventurous spirit these "rash" decision are crystal clear.

Returning back home to the states, my once if annoying but controllable pain was no longer anything but manageable. I began to research pain pumps, heavy narcotics and anything that would provide me with even a few brief hours of relief. As the months passed, I became continually more and more agitated and depressed and my ability to effectively walk became severely limited. Numbness and sciatica would spread into my legs making walking more than a hundred yards impossible. I would sit on a stump on the 200 yard walk to the mailbox, to allow the feeling to return to my legs so I could continue.

A comfortable night’s sleep eluded me. I was only able to sleep in one specific position and if I moved in the night, pain would awaken me immediately. I was feeling like I was slowly losing my mind. I wonder, if it had not been for a loving wife and new baby boy, if I would have eventually considered drastic measures to end my torment.

Knowing that my quality of life was rapidly failing, I again saw my doctor and begged to be reevaluated for surgery. I was granted a referral and sent to a back specialist. Upon review of updated photographs of my lower back, the specialist determined that my only option was surgery. Of course, even with surgery, there would be no absolute guarantee I would come out of the ordeal with any less pain or added mobility. It was all part of the dangers of spinal surgery and the reason my doctor had delayed for so long, surgery could in fact make the problem even worse. While I do not classify myself as religious person, I do feel that I have a spiritual connection with a higher power. Perhaps that makes me “religious”, perhaps not. Regardless, it was at this time in my life, as the surgical date rapidly approached that I had one of those “enlightened” moments and “found Jesus”.

Awakening from the deep sleep of a medically induced coma, my eyes flicked open and I stared up at the bright glow of the fluorescents. It took me a few minutes to understand where I was and what had happened, as my mind refocused, I nearly broke into tears at the realization my back pain was completely gone! There was certainly the lingering burning feeling where I had been operated upon but the deep, dark, penetrating pain that had been my constant aggitator for years, had been completely eradicated. It was truly a moment in my life I will never forget and still thank God daily that I was cured.

The recovery from my surgery left me practically bed ridden for weeks and unable to complete all but the simplest of tasks for well over a month. Even picking up and holding my new baby boy was considered “off limits”. Days spent lying on the couch and watching TV quickly began to drive me to insanity and it was at this point, I decided to start writing. Admittedly, my first few stories were rough to say the least but I quickly found that while my technical abilities were lacking, my passion for writing had words flowing freely across the screen of my laptop.

My first story “Bear Hunt Taken to the Extreme” was submitted to the Maine Sportsman and shockingly it was accepted. Vastly encouraged, that my first attempt would be received so readily, I was excited to continue in this new writing endeavor. More stories were extracted from my memories and converted to the written word. Before long, I began to amass quite a collection and started looking at ways to share my writing beyond my friends and family.

To write better, one must continually practice their craft and discover their particular writing style. This can only be accomplished by continuing to create. Some fortunate people accomplish this by writing professionally for magazines, newspapers and journals. Knowing it was unlikely I would score a job in publishing but still wanting to have an audience upon which to present my writing, I decided to start blogging.

Now with the blog near 250,000 page views and 200 followers, I look back and offer a hearty THANKS to all of the people who influenced me, helped to get my blog going and through their support build it to the point it is today. Without comments, suggestions and a dedicated readership, it is unlikely I would still be blogging. It is YOU the audience that makes my writing enjoyable and I receive great pleasure reading your comments, knowing that a post makes someone smile, remember an old outdoor memory or learn something new, perhaps even making them a better sportsman.

Looking back on the last 10 years, I see that there was good and there was bad. Though I would never want to return to those years of back pain and discomfort, it is highly likely I would not be where I am today as a writer, had I not been injured. The past experiences, have also taught me to be a little more cautious and careful with my physical being. Reckless behaviors tend to eventually lead to situations often difficult to correct and some tragedies can never be corrected, no matter how much therapy you undergo.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Are You a Gear Head?

Beware of friends, returning from the backwoods of West Virginia, bearing mason jars filled with a clear liquid smelling reminiscent of lighter fluid and possessing the smooth throat pleasing drinkability of crushed glass with an iodine chaser. Hence is the reason, I am currently attempting to write something witty, while lying in bed sporting a hat fashioned from a bag of frozen peas.

It is my desperate hope that soon the Tylenol, Excedrin and Ibuprofen, I have choked down, will finally kick in, allowing me to eat some soda crackers and drink a cup of ginger ale. Well despite now having to pay for my excess, I suppose it is the SUMMER season, a time to celebrate the warm weather with an ample helping of over indulgence!

Speaking of extravagance . . . why is there something strangely arousing and perhaps a tad bit exotic about wearing camouflage long underwear, despite the fact that it was $20 more than the solid prints and has zero percent chance of ever being seen by a woodland creature? Yes, I am well aware I just called camouflage long underwear arousing and erotic . . . lay off and work with me will ya!

Be careful my friends, for it is exactly these types of over indulgences that will quickly get you categorized as a “gear head”.

Other violations include: 
  • Having more money invested in smart wool socks then in your kid’s college savings plan. 
  • Owning “snow camo”. 
  • Having more than 10 pair of “sporting” boots. 
  • Having 6 rain suits all in different colors and camouflage patterns. 
  •  Always struggling to decide what rifle to bring to deer camp because you have half a dozen in your closet that would make an acceptable choice. 
  • Having 20 or more ice tip ups (Don’t judge me! I have 5 rigged for salmon, 5 for pike, 5 for perch and 5 spares!) 
  • Having everyone in your family equipped with at least one ThermaCELL
  • Turkey hunting with three or more decoys. 
  • Duck hunting with three or more dozen decoys. 
  • Having enough ammo in your house that if there were ever a fire it would be necessary to evacuate an area encompassing 5 city blocks. 
  • Having your basement and garage FILLED with hunting and fishing equipment while the Christmas decorations, kids toys and the wife's off season wardrobe are in garbage bags under the deck. Shhh, she will NEVER know. 
I know there are a ton of gear heads out there just like me so please drop a comment owning up to your latest, greatest “gear” indulgence!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Red Neck 4th of July!

Had a chance over the 4th of July holiday to pull out the firearms, tannerite and zombie targets and have some fun shooting with family in a sand pit. Featured are the Remington R15 and Windam Weaponry's AR15 in SRC configuration. Enjoy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Button Bucks Work to Preserve Our Hunting Heritage

There is a disturbing trend occurring across the United States and it is the slowly dwindling population of my hunting brethren. The number of hunters has slid from a peak of 19.1 million in 1975 to 12.5 million in 2011, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This trend is not reserved for the most urban of state as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) also reports nonresident license sales peaked in 2002 at 30,676 and since then sales have dropped off to a low in 2010 of 17,513 . . . an over 40% drop.

 At some point in the rush of our society to become more “civilized”, we have managed to completely lose all connection to our most basic food sources. When did buying our meat off a Styrofoam plate, wrapped securely in cellophane become more socially acceptable then killing and slaughtering your own animal? It is an unfortunate condition of our society that we have found it necessary to distance ourselves from the realities of where our food comes from in order for us to feel “good” about what we eat. It is important for us as a society to stand against this unfortunate trend and instill in our offspring a love for the bounty of the land and what it is able to provide. The skills and knowledge to successfully hunt, fish, farm and garden must continue to flourish for our society to remain healthy and stay connected to what we eat.

Leading the charge, in this effort to support the introduction of women, novices and ESPECIALLY kids to these traditional outdoor pursuits, is a company called Button Buck. Their mission is to message through their clothing that hunting’s future is in our youth and must be protected!

The company has a huge selection of hats and clothing but my favorites are their T-shirt’s and include: Food Chain Champion, Vegetables are for Deer and Deer Camp Guide. While obviously meant to be humorous, these shirts also send a powerful message that hunting and our other traditional outdoor pursuits are here to stay!

Button Buck clothing is made right here in the good old U.S.A. and constructed of tough 100% cotton, for rugged wear by even the wildest and most savage of little boys and girls. It is immediately apparent that each article of clothing is made with love and affection, as off the rack they are vintage-soft, with screen-printed interior tags to prevent itch . . . always a thorn in the side of the young and old alike! I can also testify that with just light washing their shirts are able to effectively repel stains from Moose Tracks Ice Cream!

Take a kid fishing, introduce them to hunting, show your support by proudly pronouncing your little ones are button bucks and refuse to let our hunting heritage pass into oblivion!

Also find Button Buck on Facebook and Twitter @ButtonBuckKids!
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