It’s been cold this February in Maine—by local accounts, we’ve had more ice in Portland Harbor than has been seen in decades, and the Coast Guard has been using it’s ice breaking ship to keep the harbor navigable. However, “navigable” is relative; smaller boats have not been able to escape the harbor due to the ice buildup, which has now even reached Peaks Island:
View looking north along western edge of Peaks Island.
The cold weather means that small animals (such as a recently sighted mink) can even make the trek from Peaks Island to neighboring House Island (mink not in this photo):
View from Peaks Island to House Island at -20 C.
Just the other day (Feb 16, 2015), on a frigid walk around the island with my daughter, we spotted a beautiful sun dog—an optical phenomenon caused by reflection & refraction through ice crystals in the atmosphere. The two opposite rainbow arcs are formed when the light refracts through a minimum deviation of 22 degrees:
Sundog from back shore of Peaks Island, ME.
Sometimes, but apparently much more rarely, one can see a parhelic circle extending from either sundog part way around the sky. On this morning, the arc extended more than half way around the sky, and I took this panoramic image before my iphone6+ battery totally tanked in the -18 C temperatures:
Parhelic Circle extending from a sun dog on Feb 16, 2015 on Peaks Island, ME
After a long snowless stretch this winter, Portland Maine has now received over 6 feet of snow, and has been in a deep freeze for some time. This morning Portland Harbor was flooded with ice, and I made this image from the Casco Bay Lines Ferry to Peaks Island.
Now that I’ve finished teaching the Spring Semester and am into summer school, I was able to go to my oldest daughter’s track meet, which was held in Scarborough, ME. It was a gorgeous day, not too cold, not too hot.
A lot of standing around occurs as events are run by grade level, so I spent my time photographing mostly students from King Middle School. It’s way more interesting to photograph track events now that I feel like I consider myself a runner at this point. The long jump was especially interesting, as the camera affords one a glimpse of each runner’s form in a few thousands of a second that the eye has no chance of seeing.
It’s a little early in the season for proper trail running in the White Mountains,
but I decided to try for a Presidential Traverse this past weekend.
(The Fastest Known Time (FKT) was set last September by Ben Nephew in a crazy time of
4h 34min; a time I have no hope of achieving)
In any case, I started at 5 am with a breakfast of 4 eggs, sour cream, bacon, and a coffee with heavy cream.
I then ran to the dock to catch the 6:15 ferry off the island.
Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are the excellent New Balance MT110’s.
Then, it was a 2.5 hour drive to Pinkham Notch, and after a quick talk with the AMC about weather and trail conditions, I headed off to the Appalachia trailhead. On the way, there was a nice view of the Presidential range from the Mt. Washington Auto Road:
View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.
Finally, I started from the Appalachia Trailhead at 9:40 am. That’s really too late a start (IMHO) for a Presi-traverse, but here I was, finally ready to go:
Start of the traverse attempt…took Valley Way to Madison Hut.
The first 3 km were pretty straightforward running—okay, that’s really not quite true, because the average grade from the trailhead to the summit of Mt. Madison is 20% (about double that of the UTMB). But there was good footing and no snow. However, around 3km, the trail turned to serious amount of snow and ice which continued until Madison Hut. To top it off, every other step would involve post-holing, and it was plain slow going. There were even a few frozen waterfall sections (which would have been impossible without my Yaktrax)—just to make things more fun. I made it to Madison Hut in about 2 h 17m:
Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014
Now it was much easier going (snow-wise anyway) and I made it to the summit of Mt. Madison in 2h 49m.
View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather began to deteriorate by this point, with increasing wind and visible precipitation approaching in the distance.
From the summit of Mt. Madison, it was clear that the weather was changing for the worse (as predicted), and I didn’t want to summit Mt. Adams with the potential of a thunderstorm. I therefore headed south along the Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction, at which point I could re-assess the weather and either summit Adams and continue, or bail down the Spur Trail with a stop at Crag Camp.
Unfortunately, as soon as I descended Mt. Madison and arrived back at Madison Hut, I began having cramps in my quads that forced me to stop and stretch. This happened to me back in November on a 35 km run, and it eventually went away. But this time, the combination of iffy weather (forecast to definitely get worse) and persistent cramps made the decision to abandon the traverse pretty easy.
Well, at least the decision was straightforward. The descent on the spur trail was a blast through a snowfield by Thunderstorm Junction, but then turned into a slow post-holing and icy descent on a super steep ice covered Spur Trail down to Crag Camp. By the time I arrived hail had begun in earnest, and I was psyched to have a respite from the weather. You can see the sleet/hail beginning to fall on the porch of Crag Camp:
View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival – you can see sleet/hail on the deck.
After taking a rest and getting out my pack cover and proper raincoat, I headed out down the Spur Trail. I figured I had about 300-400 meters of ice and snow, and eked my way down another long steep icy-snowy-ending-on-slushy trail. Finally, after making it to the Amphibranch, I could run the rest of the way to the trailhead. This last section was super fun, and was in fact the best running of the whole day. Strangely, the cramping was really not bothering me anymore.
By the way, there’s a great excellent article about cramping over at iRunFar. You should read it. Seriously, it’s quite interesting. I especially like the part about how apparently the taste of pickle juice on the tongue somehow convinces the brain to stop the cramping in your leg. See. I told you that you need to read the article.
So, now it’s two days later and my quads are still sore. Funny though, I can tell they’ll be fine in a day or so, and I’m already psyched to get out for another run. Next time maybe I’ll try something more runnable until all the snow is gone.
This past Saturday (19 October) was the 18th celebration of the “Sacred and Profane”, and art festival that takes place just down the road from my house on Peaks Island. It takes place at Battery Steele (See the USM Free Press article. Although I lived on Peaks Island 11 years ago, yesterday’s event was my first time attending. The weather was wonderful, and the venue at Battery Steele (and old WWII concrete bunker) was totally transformed and an enormous amount of effort went into cleaning up Battery Steele, and creating all the art installations.
Of course, Battery Steele is dark as hell (imagine a 200 meter long massive tunnel with 1 meter thick reinforced concrete walls and multiple side rooms and you get the picture), so almost all the photos inside were handheld at iso 3200. All images were taken with a 50mm f/1.4 lens.
Before entering, I was greeted by
some slightly surreal costumed folk (that’s an baby in the giraffe (?) suit; click on images for an enlargement):
and inside, there were performance art/acrobatics:
To darkly-hooded keyboard musicians:
and, my favorite performance piece that really needed to be experienced, reduced here to merely a photograph:
There were also wonderful sculptures that utilized the darkness and engineered lighting to wonderful effect:
All in all, a celebration not to be missed. I can hardly wait till next year.
(In the meantime, I have more images made into a video that I would be happy to send you a link to if you are interested. )
For the last year, I’ve been meaining to run the 4 local mountains close to my rental house in DownEast Maine. I’ve run up and over Schoodic Mtn many times,
and today, after being dropped off by my wife at the base of Catherine Mountain, I ran all 4 peaks. Here’s the gps track:
and here’s the elevation profile (absolute height should be lowered by 100 meters since I fogot to calibrate my watch at beginning.):
After a week of rain and cold, today was finally a nice sunny day. Got a late 8 am start, ran over Catherine Mt, and then to Caribou Mtn where one has this
view of Black Mountain (with 2 (or 3 depending on your criteria) peaks):
From Caribou Mountain, it’s down the cliffs then down to the valley, and then up to the west summit of Black Mtn (in the woods) and then down to the col and up
to the bare east summit, which affords a nice view back toward Catherine and Caribou Mtns:
From here, we can also turn around and see the forested west peak of Black, and the bare summit of Schoodic Mountain (and in the distance, the Mountains of Acadia National Park):
I was thinking I could run all the mountains in 3 hours, so I brought no water but did bring about a half dozen prunes and a few pecans to keep me from bonking.
Alas, I took 3 hours to get to the base of Schoodic Mountain, and by this time, the temperature was rising, and I was pretty much running out of steam. Managed to push to the summit and run slowly the rest of the 5km home from the summit. Legs were pretty beat today.
I’m glad I did this “run” but don’t think I’ll do it again, as it’s not really very runnable. The trail is pretty technical (rocks, roots) but too brushy to confidently see your footing ahead. Consequently, I could not really get into a running rythm. On the other hand, there’s over 1000 m of vertical in this 19km
section, so no matter what, your legs get a pretty good workout.
For trail runnning in DownEast Maine, it’s really hard to beat Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. Lots of vertical and nicely runnable trails.
At the top of the dead-end road is a blueberry field owned by my neighbor. The field is rented out to some (presumably) local blueberry farmer. I run by this field almost every day on my trail run up Schoodic Mountain. This morning I took our dog out for a few full-on sprints up to the top of the field, and was treated to a simply wonderful crisp, clear, vibrant spring morning.
As I walked along the top of the field, I just basked in the gorgeous views and of next thing I new I was composing photographs and thinking visually about the compositions I was mentally composing. So, I ran back home grabbed my camera, 40mm pancacke and a 70-200mm and spend some time making photographs.
Went on a nice 13 km trail run with my sister-in-law Charlotte Clews (proprietor of Wild Open Heart Yoga). Ran up and over Schoodic Mountain and back to Franklin, ME. Finally the snow is gone most of the DownEast peaks, and normal crampon-free trail running can resume.
Charlotte’s photo was taken with her iPhone5.
If things work out, my family will be living on Peaks Island, ME this fall, in which case I’m really going to miss being able to run from my doorstep over five different mountain peaks. On the other hand, we’ll all be living together in one house, the White Mountains of New Hampshire won’t be more than 2 hours away (yeah), and the convenience of walking or running to work will be pretty sweet.
Mount Desert Island from Schoodic Mountain. Photo by Charlotte Clews.
Next day, took my kids for a quick hike up Tunk Mountain on a gorgeous blue-sky day. Still chilly on top, but from the vantage point below, you can see Catherine, Caribou, Black and Schoodic Mountain. Click on either image for a larger version.
This house, just down the hill from me in Franklin, Maine, is slowly being reclaimed. The roof has been breached, plaster is falling off the lathe inside, and the granite slabs making up the foundation have fallen in on one side. A good reminder of our own impermanence.
A blustery March day just before the March 19 Snowstorm. Just as I was getting psyched to see the mountains open up to running, winter returns. Now another week of wet slush and mud to follow.
(1/100 Sec, 40mm f/11, ISO 100)