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Brief summary of my road trip to Maine

road-tripHaving already taken off three weeks in the beginning of summer to go to Spain and Israel I didnt even want to ask about taking off for and end of summer road trip which seems like it has become minhag to the Hesh. Traditionally at the end of August or beginning of September I hop in my car, usually alone or with one other half employed hippie type and run off to Montana for a couple weeks of mountain biking, hiking and micro brew drinking, while retelling close encounters with bears and mountain lions.

This year has been a weird one for road trips, having driven to and from Dallas 3 times, to New Mexico and Colorado once and now once a again a good drive was possible, but unlike those times when I was doing freelance blogging and Twitter spamming (social media) I actually have a real job, where I get paid a pretty good salary to sit and haggle all day long (you may have noticed I get to blog and tweet pretty actively Monday thru Thursday while I work in inside sales) and being in a pretty shitty economy I couldnt resist the move to NY for the money, I didnt want to mess things up.

So one day I found my boss in a pretty good mood and mentioned things about taking random days off and he immediately said that I could take unpaid vacation whenever I wanted for however long I wanted as long as I gave notice. Extreme hashgacha prutus one may call it, because I hate living in New York and sitting at a desk 8 hours day so much I had been debating moving to Berkley for some time to work as part time mashgiach, part time writer for some time. I immediately asked for 2 weeks so I could wander around Maine and New Hampshire with a friend of mine who lived all around New England.

Normally I dont like to use precious time off to wander in such close proximity, but this was a special case. I have driven everywhere besides for Alaska, at least twice, and have spent much time in my favorite states, but never in Maine, and having someone to split gas, do roadside cooking (my friend was a professional chef at two very noted NYC restaurants) and who had tons of friends we could stay by was too hard to pass up.

I have done past road trips in complete detail and this wont be the case, but some of you are obviously wondering if I blog or write full time and while I do, I dont make any money from it, although I do get free stuff and loads of press passes. Anyway, here is a brief round up of my vacation.

Drove up to central Massachusetts to stay by friends buddy in Holyoke, wandered the area, which I have mostly visited due to its counterculture artsy/hippie vibe plethora of used record/cd/book shops and amazing coops. The hot college girls and great mountain biking aint bad either.

The next day we wandered around the area, went to some great swimming holes and made our way to Portland, where we stayed by my buddies college friend and wandered around Portland, I was there once but this time really got to see what its all about. Portland is amazing, love the old red brick buildings at the waterfront, the houses of Portland are amazing and the general vibe is somewhat casual. Oh and be sure to check out Arabaco for what may possibly be the best espresso on the east coast.
The next day we made our way up to the north country through some amazing rolling farmland and ate our way through raw corn on the cob, Maine wild blueberries and mutated farm stand tomatoes as we walked around some great old mill towns and windy roads on our way north to Baxter State Park where we planned to camp and hike Katahdin, the highest point in Maine.

Baxter State Park is a strange animal in which they only allow a certain number of cars per day and you have to get there at 5 in the morning to get in. We camped nearby, in a beautiful yet bug filled area of swamps, bogs and a hundred mile long swath of evergreen forest. Maine is the most heavily forested state in the nation with nearly 90% of its land covered in forest.

After a restless night and a very early morning rise we got on our way up Katahdin, which is famous for the knife edge trail which follows a narrow ridge from Pamola Peak to Katahdin and is 2 feet wide with 2,000 foot drops on either side.

Katahdin is insane, in fact having hiked and climbed various mountains all throughout the east and west, Katahdin easily beat out every climb as being the toughest and scariest. The 4,000 foot vertical is just half of it. Pamola peak is totally exposed, with hundreds of feet to go up without tree cover on precarious rocks, then when you reach the top, you must get to the knife edge, which requires some pretty tricky, nearly technical rock climbing up and down this huge notch. The knife edge was insane, I was grabbing on for dear life and it takes an hour and a half for even the fastest folks to complete the 1.1 miles trail. The views are great and we had weather on our side.

katahdin knife edge

Katahdin killed me, I was aching for 3 days afterward, I was hurting more then the 21 mile full pack hike I pulled off in the middle of a 5 day hike in Glacier National Park in Montana. It ached more then the 17 mile day hike up Mt Marcy and Skylight and this was only an 11 mile hike, but I ran out of water (took 100oz) and the hike took us 10 hours. My friend, a Yogi, was not tired at all and complete exhilarated by the hike, and talking about chi and jing and all that yoga hippie stuff.

We spent the night in a hotel and I soaked in the hot tub. Next day we drove around about way to the coast and wandered about the various nooks and crannies of the area before getting shabbos meal supplies at the Belfast Coop I mention this detail because the Belfast Coop is amazing, their local organically grown produce section is amazing and they have so much cool stuff there. I love coops, because they always have the coolest kosher stuff and randomness. You should see what my friend could do with a sauce pan, frying pan and one camp stove burner its simply unbelievable. We would be spending shabbos at his friends girlfriends house in Hope which is down the road from the coastal resort town of Camden, Maine.

Hope, Maine is so back-country but not and it rules, hilly farmland punctuated by arts and crafts shacks and farm stands and beautiful old Victorian homes dot the landscape of endless fields, streams and lakes. We got to stay in a house built in 1810, which was full of some amazing books, and ball jars filled with freshly picked wild blueberries, it was quite joyous for me, the insane blueberry lover.

After a few days spent hiking, eating, skinny dipping and wandering around coastal Maine it was time to go do some more hard core hiking in New Hampshire. So on we drove around the North Woods of Maine and New Hampshire which are a kayakers and fishers paradise.

Northern New Hampshire offers the best and most hardcore hiking, backpacking and climbing anywhere in the east save for Katahdin, which is just one mountain. The White Mountains of New Hampshire have loads of huge cliff, crazy high waterfalls and alpine areas to satisfy even the most western hungry of you folks. It aint Colorado, but for being 300 miles from New York, one cannot complain.

We hiked, the Franconia Ridge to Mt Lafayette one day which I had hiked a while back on a long, wet and cold 75 mile hike of the area back in 2006, before I realized that my knees were killing because I hadnt been using trekking poles. The ridge offers amazing views of the Presidential range, and the Bonds as well as a great place to walk above tree line and just below tree line in alpine and sub alpine forests.

franconia ridge

This was a general outline but there were many more hikes and wanderings. On the last day we went to Montpelier and meandered around central Vermont visiting some sugar houses, used book stores, farm stands and beautiful trails and eventually ended up for out last night back in Massachusetts and finally back to New York tomorrow. Of course I do have Friday off and will probably be dropping my buddy off and driving back up state to Albany for the weekend, as I normally do.

Will be back in the office on Monday and back to regular blogging once again.

Take a virtual road trip of your own. Visit Vegas via www.PartyCasino.com

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • anonymous frumgeress August 27, 2009, 12:38 AM

    Move to Berkeley! We could always use your mashgiach skills and there are some great shuls here, as well as an amazing frum community in Palo Alto.

  • Bsamim Smoker August 27, 2009, 3:36 AM

    Hey Hesh
    As an experienced outdoors-man, what do you find to be the best brand hiking boots and camping gear?

  • Miriam Tzipora August 27, 2009, 3:56 AM

    I’m not Hesh, but if I may be so bold as to answer as an experienced outdoors-woman…

    The best brand of hiking boots are the ones that fit your feet just right. It’s going to be different for everybody, so I recommend trying many pairs. I wear Chacos and love them. Vasques are popular, but the footbed wasn’t right for me. REI brand boots are made by Vasque and a bit less expensive. Oboz and Asolo are also fantastic.

    As for camping gear, it depends on what you want to do with it. Are you looking for lightweight for backpacking or durable for car-camping? In general, I like Marmot and have had good experiences with their tents and sleeping bags. My current tent is by the North Face, and I really like it. Again, REI brand stuff is a bit less expensive, but pretty comparable to name-brands.

    If you’re willing to give me more details, like general climate, intended usage, and desired price point, I can help you out a bit more.

  • FrumGer August 27, 2009, 10:50 AM

    man I havent been back to maine in like 6 years I miss it so. i used to go camping in freeport as a kid every summer it was great.

  • Bsamim Smoker August 27, 2009, 11:40 AM

    Miriam Tziporah

    Thank for the info. I’m looking at a $500 budget and I want to go hiking and camping in the Rockies

  • Miriam Tzipora August 27, 2009, 12:36 PM

    Get whatever boots are comfortable. Expensive ones can blister just as easily as cheapies, but budget about $150 for them.

    For sleeping bags, I’d look for something in the 15 degree range, unless you’re a person who gets cold easily. Synthetics tend to be cheaper than down bags, but also a little bulkier and heavier. With sleeping bags, once you find the temperature range you want, they all perform just about the same and the biggest difference between the costly bag and the cheaper one is how small it gets. Marmot Trestles 15 & North Face Bighorn 20 are in the $100 range and pretty decent. See also the Kelty Mistral, which can be had for about $60.

    For tents, I look for vertical walls. These tend to have higher ceilings, which makes things like getting dressed more comfortable and things like sitting up for a card game possible. I tend toward a 3-man tent for a 2-man party because I don’t find sleeping like sardines too relaxing. Notables are REI Quarter Dome T3 at $300, Marmot Aeros at $369, and North Face Minibuss 33 at $389. I find that adding in a gear loft is helpful for keeping flashlights handy, but probably not a necessary add-on. I do think a footprint is a good idea, since modern tent floors are pretty thin. An alternative would be to pitch the tent over a tarp, but it would need to be just slightly smaller than the tent’s floor or you run the risk of getting wet. Footprints are custom for each tent, so much more foolproof.

    REI starts a sale on Friday, and it’s just about the time of year when summer stuff like camping gear goes on clearance. You may be able to find some good deals. Full disclosure: I work at REI, but Friday is also my last day. I have had good experiences with other purveyors, and I bet their sales are either now or soon, too (I just don’t know when).

  • Miriam Tzipora August 27, 2009, 12:38 PM

    I forgot to mention what I use:
    Chaco Event mid hiking boots
    Marmot EcoPro 15 sleeping bag
    North Face Minibus 33 tent

    I have also used:
    Vasque Breeze gore-tex hiking boots
    Marmot Aeros tent

    I had good experiences with all of these, even if some of them just weren’t right for me.

  • s(b.) August 27, 2009, 12:48 PM

    smoker, keep an eye on steepandcheep dot com for some nice deals on gear. the product changes regularly; they’re on twitter, too. other online retailers that are real good for stuff like that are campmor and sierra trading post. cabela’s has some nice stuff, too (and they have camouflage baby clothes for little outdoorskinderlach)

  • Parent in NY August 27, 2009, 1:35 PM

    great post hesh

  • speaker August 27, 2009, 5:04 PM

    hey frumsatire, kinda off topic here but im speaking to a group of your favorite kind this week- fresh from seminary girls in the heart of flatbush- and i thought you might have some ideas on what they need a good reality check in. some good mussar to incorporate in my speech. so lets hear it.- girl who used to have a page of her own

  • mendel August 27, 2009, 9:54 PM

    A job as a mashgiach? You got to be kidding!

  • Bsamim Smoker August 28, 2009, 7:19 AM

    you’d be surprised who could be a mashgiach.I got 2 words for you Monsey, New York.Enough said.

  • Parent in NY August 28, 2009, 9:26 AM

    to parent in ny faker – C’MON!

    Let me mess around in peace!

  • Nechama August 28, 2009, 10:05 AM

    Off topic but I don’t care
    Let me disspell a rumor about the ‘shiduch crisis’ liberal girls have no problem finding a shidduch.It’s ONLY Bais Yaackovy consevative girls that do

  • Offwinger August 28, 2009, 12:52 PM

    Breaking my usual lurking policy on this blog to offer a recommendation on hiking boots, with the #1 caveat being that you have to find what fits YOUR feet.

    About six months ago, I replaced my old worn out Hi-Tec boots with a pair of Salomon hiking boots. My old pair served me well, so no disrespect to that company, but I *LOVE* the Salomon boots.

    Note, though, that I have a long history of finding the fit of Salomon footwear to be extremely comfortable. It started when I found Salomon snowboarding boots that felt good (whereas most brands I tried felt awful). When it was time to replace my rollerblades, I was psyched to learn Salomon made blades, and putting them on was like blading with slippers!

    This year, I also got a pair of Salomon trail running shoes that were a bit too awesome. I liked them so much that I’ve been wearing them out too fast with everyday wear, rather than saving them only for trail running or light hiking.

    When it came time for the hiking boots, I wasn’t surprised the Salomon ones fit well, though I was impressed at how comfortable the feel was, even for a stiffer boot. I did try on other brands, but nothing was as good.

    The moral of the story is not “Go buy Salomon,” though I do recommend them (I don’t work for them or make any money off these shoes). It’s that whatever brands have worked for you in the past or in other athletic footwear contexts might be the best bet.

  • Mainer August 28, 2009, 9:36 PM

    Again, long-time lurker here and Maine native/Portland resident. You saw some of the best parts of the state! Glad you enjoyed it! I’m a fan so it was cool to know that you were right here in Portland.

  • anon August 29, 2009, 2:31 AM

    For tents, I look for vertical walls. These tend to have higher ceilings, which makes things like getting dressed more comfortable and things like sitting up for a card game possible. I tend toward a 3-man tent for a 2-man party because I dont find sleeping like sardines too relaxing.

    lurker here who cannot emphasize this enough. When my husband and I got married, we registered at REI, and we picked out the ultra-lightest, 2-person tent we could find. Yes, it packed up tiny and weighed only a few pounds, but the first time we got rained on while camping we were absolutely miserable because we were stuck in the tent and we couldn’t even both sit up at the same time. Get vertical walls!!!!!!

  • Heshy Fried August 29, 2009, 9:39 PM

    I used a 2 person single wall tent that had no ventilation for years and continue to do so, it works for two people and weighs 4.6 pounds, only problem is and you will notice this of almost all lightweight backpacking tents – its is not freestanding, problematic for car camping, and rocky ground. I have had to use it as a tarp in a pretty bad storm in Montana, bec the ground was two hard to get the stakes in.

    At EMS they have this one man 2 pound tent that packs into a loaf of bread the single pole is pumped up by blowing into it.

    For sleeping bags, I just got a Marmot 20 degree bag, a little heavier than my last – my bag was stolen with all my gear in Costa Rica this past year – I had a 1.8 pound 35 degree ems bag. My new pack rocks btw, Osprey Atmos 65 – OM G!!! My buddy just bought one for his trip to Glacier this summer and loved it, super light.

  • Telzer August 29, 2009, 10:50 PM

    He got up early in the morning and went up the mountain fearing for his life. Followed by extensive wandering in the wilderness. There was no water to drink. What will he eat?

    Hesh’s Bamidbar.

  • talmida physika August 30, 2009, 10:39 AM

    I keep meeting all these pretty girls on Shabbos who like hiking and are kinda hippie-ish and wanting to become more religious. Except I don’t know the first thing about match making, but I think you would like them.

  • Yitz November 24, 2009, 1:00 AM

    Heyy…so me and 2 friends plan on going up to Maine from New York this Thanksgiving weekend and want to know if you know of any cool or interesting stuff to check out along the way? Also, if you have any tips. Thanks alot!

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