Monday, March 26, 2012

Hiking for Maine Mt. Lions

The following post was written in collaboration with Madison (Maddie) Kahn of Outside / Backpacker Magazine. Maddie approached me with the idea for the story and I assisted her with the research and development, compiling the sightings information and making hiking suggestions based on areas with the highest number of Mt. Lion sightings. With permission from Maddie, I have asked to publish my blog posting ahead of her future article and she agreed! Thanks Maddie!

See game camera photo to the left from Augusta, Maine. Mt. Lion or Bobcat? Maine certainly has experienced its share of “Big Cat” sightings, both real and imagined, since a trapper in Somerset County, Maine harvested the last confirmed eastern mountain lion in 1938. From that time, Maine has developed a long and sorted history surrounding the existence of a breeding population of cougars. Put 10 guys around a campfire, ply them with enough alcohol and you are sure to hear at least one tall tale of a Mt. Lion encounter.

Even I have a Mt. Lion sighting story, that occurred one late night while driving down the Lake Road in St. Agatha. In the glow of the headlights a large long tailed cat leapt across the road and was gone in less than a second. If not for my passenger swearing he had seen the same sight, I may have not believed my own eyes. It would be less than a year later, a confirmed cougar sighting was made in St. Agatha, bringing credibility to my account.

Most reported cougar sighting remain unconfirmed, likely based on individuals claiming to see Mt. Lions when in actuality they see large mature bobcats with unusual but not uncommon dark tan coats (see game camera photo above). Only a small handful of these accounts by using scat, hair and foot print identifications have ever been authenticated (See RED dots on Map). What is of course not yet determined is if these animals represent a real indigenous population of Maine Mt. Lions or if these are pets released into the wild. Currently 6 Maine residents are licensed to keep these large cats but it is suspected many more unlicensed owners exist.

Below is a listing of the town where sightings have been made. By mapping these sightings, it is easy to note there exists a concentration of animal sightings well within the boundaries of central Maine. It is a misnomer to think that to potentially see one of these large cats you need to travel into the most remote and isolated areas of the state.

Maine Mt. Lion Sightings Confirmed Sightings (Red):
Waldoboro
Owls Head
St. Agatha
Whitneyville
Kennebunk
Paris

Maine Mt. Lion Unconfirmed Sightings (Black):
Brunswick
Lincolnville
Searsmont
Waldoboro - Medomak Pond
Bangor
Dresden
Augusta
Oakland
Sidney
Monmouth
Greenville
Cape Elizabeth

Within the areas of highest concentration of sightings, there are a number of access points and hiking trails were one may chance to potentially see a Maine Mt. Lion. Several means exist to find more in-depth information concerning these trail systems including: Maine Trail Finder and an excellent book titled “Applician Mountain Club – Maine Mountain Guide

Given the areas of the highest likelihood of seeing a Maine Mt. Lion, I have selected the following hikes
1. Deboullie Mountain Trail - Long Lake
2. Big Squaw and Little Squaw Mountain Trail - Greenville
3. Little Moose Mountain Trail - Greenville
4. Mount Megunticook Trail fromthe North - Lincolnville
5. Crocker Hill Trail - Paris
6. Frye Mountain WMA– Augusta
7. Down East Sunrise Trail - Whitneyville
8. Bald / Ragged Mountain - Camden
9. Bangor City Forest - Bangor
10. Check out other Interesting Areas to hike in Maine with: One Minute Hikes Map 
11. Other secret areas exist, where you may be able to find Maine's mysterious BIG CAT'S. If you wish to inquire about these additional areas please comment on this post and include your e-mail address. I will personally respond to any inquiries.

*If you are really serious about attempting to see a Mt. Lion it would pays large dividends to hire a Maine guide who is skilled in the art of predator calling. These professionals are skilled in the use of electronic devices are capable of luring in meat eating predators from miles away. Hiding in a portable blind and using these “calling” devices, photographs and video of these elusive cats of legend may be possible if enough time and energy is invested.

For more on Mt. Lion sightings from my blog as well as the links to the online information used to craft this article, please see the following:
http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/me-puma/
http://bangordailynews.com/2010/12/17/uncategorized/ghost-cat-lives-in-vivid-memories/
http://www.downeast.com/node/6252
http://www.themaineoutdoorsman.com/2010/08/maine-mountain-lion.html

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*Disclaimer – Mt. Lions are obviously large, fast, smart, agile and dangerous animals that have been known to hunt, kill and eat unsuspecting hikers and backpackers. If you are planning to look for these large cats, you need to know that you are potentially putting yourself at risk of possible dismemberment and /or death. Please take all appropriate precautions whenever visiting the Maine woods and pursuing large game animals.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guaranteed to Last L.L. Bean's Century of Outfitting

The L.L. Bean team in celebration of their 100th year of service, catering to the worlds various outdoor interests and passions, has published a 224 page “coffee table” book that highlights some of the major milestones that have occurred within the company over the past century.

The book itself, titled “Guaranteed to Last L.L. Bean’s Century of Outfitting America” is artistically beautiful, boasting a canvas cover and stitching designed to mimic the company’s iconic boat and tote bag (Be sure to read the tote poem on p. 101).

Inside are hundreds of classic hunting and fishing pictures that depict L.L. Bean and his family and friends (Don’t miss the impressive haul of fish on page 95) in various outdoor adventures. I especially enjoyed the sections depicting and describing the L.L. Bean Corporation during its hunting and fishing heyday up till approximately the 1950s. This was obviously a time when the store was squarely centered on the specific needs of hunting and fishing enthusiasts.

As the years pass, we find that the classic pursuits of hunting and fishing, once the bread and butter of the L.L. Bean storefront become of lesser importance. Hunting and fishing are no longer the only games in town and must give way to a wide variety of outdoor pursuits including kayaking, backpacking, nature photography, ice/rock climbing, bungee jumping, paragliding, mountain biking, down hill skiing and advanced wine country tours. Society had evolved and L.L. Bean had to evolve as well to be able to maintain its bottom line.  

To see this trend it is eye opening to look at the “Best Sellers 1962 vs 2012 on page 135. Note that almost all of the top sellers in the 1960s are purely focused on hunting. In 2012 almost every major seller has the word “Chino” in the description. Preppiness (p. 159) provides additional written details on this societal change and also pay special note to the comic on page 154 concerning “Bird-Shooting” pants, as I feel this very eloquently puts into perspective the shift that is grossly apparent in the American culture and climate.

Duck hunting enthusiasts will appreciate the brief write on George Soule (p. 53) and the photographs and description of the Maine Duck Hunting Coat (p. 76). It is amazing to see just how far waterfowl apparel has come in such a limited amount of time.

Maine Guides are provided a brief write up on page 83 and there are several quotes by L.L. Bean the Maine Guide (p. 29) including this one of mine that is now a favorite, “You may fish all day and not get a strike. Therefore, make up your mind to have a good time. Enjoy camp life and exercise in the open air and you will be well repaid for your trip.” As is certainly apparent, Mr. Bean understood that there is more to the sports of hunting and fishing then the taking of hair, fin and feather.

I enjoyed reading the “Going the Extra Mile” customer service stories (pg. 112-113). It is apparent that the L.L. Bean manufacturing machine has a vested interest in people and preserving our outdoor heritage. Near and dear to my heart is a full page quote that expressly centers on introducing kids to outdoor activities, “Kids who are exposed to outdoors activities will make outdoor escapes part of their life as they enter adulthood.” (P. 218)

The book closes with a few words from Chris McCormick that paint a picture on what we can expect to see from L.L. Bean during the next century and it is one we can all appreciate as outdoor enthusiasts, “one hundred years from now, our natural environment and the pleasure that comes from escapes to the outdoors will be no less important than they are today. L.L. Bean will continue to be there to help preserve and protect the precious places to escape, and will be there to inspire and enable successive generations to enjoy their outdoor experiences even as outdoor activities continue to evolve.” (p. 222)

Afterword: It is certainly no secret that I have had issue with the direction L.L. Bean has taken through the years in relation to their divergence from their roots in hunting and fishing and also my displeasure with their new signature series, however, after reading this book and being able to see specifically why they were “forced” to evolve, I am beginning to understand why they need to make certain concessions in order to not just survive but to grow and thrive. I will continue to be a valiant supporter of L.L. Bean and a certain selection of their products, however, that doesn’t mean I won’t give them a hard time when I see them doing something I don’t agree with . . . so please, please, please don’t make any more men’s pants with lil duckies on them or sweathers depicting polar bears having tickle fights!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mt. Katahdin Summit Video

video

Ever wonder what the summit of Mt. Katahdin looks like in the winter? Wonder no more, as this short video show what it is like to stand on top of Maine’s highest peak during the oppressive winter climbing season!
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For more on Katahdin See:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Winter Summit of Mt. Katahdin Not for Faint of Heart

My crampons fight for purchase and my gloved hand and ice axe claw at the ice covered granite, as my entire body struggles to climb over the few remaining boulders, marking the crux of Abol slide. To the uninitiated, the top of the slide appears as a false summit and many a climber has reached this spot only to be hit by despair when they realize the actual summit still lingers miles away.

Crossing the expansive table lands, in the middle of winter, can be a physically and mentally demanding endeavor. High winds, snow drifts and bitter cold challenge even the most fit and courageous adventurer. It is a battle of man against a monolithic obstacle older than time itself.

Staring across the clear vast expanse, it is easy to forget oneself and proceed forward without locking in a GPS coordinate and determining a compass bearing. This however could prove a fatal error given that this area is prone to whiteout conditions that can appear from no where on otherwise calm days. The God Pamola striving to obliterate those who violate these high empty expanses during his time of slumber.

My plastic boots creak and groan in the cold and my crampons pierce packed snow the consistency of Styrofoam. The squeaking noise sends a shiver down my spine with each footfall. Rocks and crevasses are hidden by the snow and a footfall unfortunate enough to land upon one of these soft spots could easily break a leg or hyperextend a knee, instantly making a winter hike a life or death experience.

My face is protected by goggles and a full face balaclava and my labored breathing momentarily fogs the mask with each exhale. A fierce wind blows from the North East. Numbness on my flesh signals the potential for frost bite and I am forced to use my gloved hand to provide my face with additional coverage against the raging and unforgiving winds. Very little visibility makes it crucial to always be within sight range of all members of the group and I continually scan to make sure my comrades are in close proximity.

Here high on the mountains there is little room for error and a lost team member can invoke a best case scenario of an exhaustive search and the worse case possibility of death. As I tire I begin to count my foot falls, putting my mind into a meditative state that allows me to forget that I am tired and my legs hurt. The trick of the mind works and within a short time I am standing with my friends on the summit. It is yet another battle hard won and a chance for reflection, wonderment and pride that is connected to the accomplishment of a difficult goal. Our moments on the summit are brief and we are soon on our way down the mountain. Though our breath is labored and our backs tired, in our minds we are already plotting our return to this high place.
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For more on Katahdin See:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Indestructible Pack Basket

Wane Loring
Loring Pack Basket is a small unassuming shop located just a stones throw from the Old Town Trading Post in Old Town, Maine. What the shop lacks in impressive size, it more than makes up for in the creation of a product big on quality and durability. A short while ago, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to stop by Loring Pack Basket and chat with Wane Loring the owner, designer and primary builder of these amazing pack baskets.

Wane is a registered Maine Tribal Guide and avid sportsman. As I chat with him, he points to several of his own personal specialized pack baskets, filled with gear for his various adventures afield, ice fishing, hunting and trapping. It is immediately apparent that Wane’s construction principals and pack basket designs are hard tested in Maine’s woods and waters, refined by actual sporting pursuits.

Wane's Son Jesse Loring
Wane’s understanding of pack basket construction is based on time tested traditional techniques passed down from father to son for centuries. This knowledge is apparent in his craft, as he painstakingly incorporates traditional Native American basket building skills with present day space age materials. The end product is an exquisite pack basket that is indestructible in all but the most dire of situations. These baskets have been run over by ATVs, hit by trucks, shot with rockets and basically torture tested in an attempt to find their practical limits. Wane jokes that if my pack basket gets caked in ice, I should simply beat it against a tree until all of the ice breaks off . . . try that with your old wooden pack basket!

10 Lbs of N. Pike
Wane is driven not by the construction of a product but how to continually make that product better. While talking, he described a laundry list of improvements to be incorporated in future models. Some of these modifications are ergonomic; others aesthetic but a majority are to provide the public with an extensive list of ways to personalize their pack baskets. As he describes the possibilities, I begin to see how much his ideas separate him from the current one size fits all mentality, seen in some of his competitors.

Wane and his wife as well as a small contingent of workers, complete a majority of the pack basket construction processes. Wane mentions that he is potentially looking to expand his operations in the spring, a testament to the popularity of these pack baskets.

The Loring Shack!
Popular at ice fishing derby’s and sportsman shows, the giant Loring black and green checkered ice fishing shack is a classic sight to behold. Complete with an enormous set of Heritage ice traps sticking out of the baskets top and an ice scoop hanging by the door that would take two men to successfully heft, it is a display well worth seeing. Wane hints he is planning to soon begin construction on another giant pack basket shaped ice shack, thought he suggests that the next one will be based on a more “traditional” design.

If you are in the market for a pack basket and searching for a product that is indestructible, highly functional, comfortable and guaranteed to make you stand out slightly from the crowd, I strongly suggest dropping Wane Loring a line and ordering one of his indestructible pack baskets!

For the traditionalist, wanting to own a true masterpiece, Wane also builds impressive hand made ash wood pack baskets upon special request! When you order a pack basket, please tell them the Rabid Outdoorsman sent you!

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Torture Test Conducted by my Son the Wild Outdoorsman
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