Four Bushcrafting Skills to Master This Summer
Although it sounds mystical and mysterious, the art of Bushcraft is really just using the skills that our ancestors developed to survive in the wilderness. The origin of the phrase “Bushcraft” comes from skills used in the bush country of Australia. Before electricity and the advancement in technology, humans had to study their surroundings and figure out how to use what Mother Nature provided in order to thrive in an outdoor environment. Even in urban areas, where the average person takes clean water, shelter and abundance of readily available food for granted, there has been a renewed interest in Bushcraft, particularly, in the last decade. Many people from all walks of life have been practicing or seeking ways to get back to the basics of fire-starting, hunting, fishing, shelter-building and navigation, among other skills. Either way, there are many levels of Bushcraft to learn and master as a hobby or to just get outdoors and practice, with family and friends, which could actually could help you or others in a time of need. Here are some of the basics everyone should learn for fun or for that “just-in-case” moment.
1. FIRE STARTING
This skill provides warmth, security and the ability to cook food and purify water. The two most common Bushcraft fire-starting skills for beginners are flint and steel and ferrocerium rods with a striker. (The spine of a knife could also work well for this). The skill level for these two fire starting methods are easy to moderate.
First, obtain a piece of flint and a piece of high carbon steel as well as an item called char cloth. To use, hold the char cloth under your thumb on the flint in your non-dominant hand. Then, in a downward motion with your dominant hand, strike the flint with the striker to produce sparks that will cause the char cloth to smolder. Place the char cloth in a pre-made tinder bundle of dried grasses, birch bark shavings, etc. and blow or wave to ignite. You should have kindling ready to place onto your nest of flames and like Tom Hanks in Castaway, you have fire!
The second method uses a ferrocerium rod and striker. As in the first method, you should have a tinder bundle (dried grasses, birch bark shavings etc.) prepared in advance as well as kindling. To use, scrape the striker across the ferrocerium rod. This produces very hot sparks, which will fall onto your tinder bundle, producing flame.
These items are best purchased on eBay, Etsy, or Amazon, etc.
2. SHELTER BUILDING
Elongated exposure to the elements can be your downfall, depending on the time of year and weather conditions. To learn how to build a shelter to survive a night or longer in the outdoors, start with the most basic shelter — a debris shelter. This is constructed out of anything that is in the immediate area. For example, arrange dead branches along the side of a downed tree and cover it with pine boughs to provide a space underneath to protect you from the elements. Leaves, boughs and grass also make a great insulator on the floor of your shelter to protect you from the elements.
3. WILD EDIBLES
Food and water are the next essential skills on your list. Some of the most common and familiar wild foods found throughout Maine during the spring and summer are easy to find: blueberries, cattails, dandelions, and even pine needles. All of these can be prepared for nutrients to sustain you if need be.
For example: Cattail (Typha Latifolia) is full of starch/carbohydrates. The stalk and roots can be eaten and the fluff at the top can be used for fire tinder. To harvest cattails, you have to dig out (not pull out) the root or else the roots will break off under ground. The stalk can be peeled to reveal a soft center ready to eat. The roots should be washed and cleaned first. You can either roast both the stalk and roots over a fire or eat raw; both will provide you with well-needed energy and nourishment.
4. WATER PURIFYING
Luckily in Maine, there are abundant water sources everywhere you go: in brooks, ponds, rivers and lakes. To purify before drinking, water should be brought to a roiling boil for at least one minute and at altitudes greater than 6,562 feet (greater than 2,000 meters). Boil for three minutes. If you don’t have the means to boil, dig a hole next to a water source (such as a stream) and let the water naturally filter through the ground to your hole. This is still better than drinking directly from the water source itself as the earth acts as a filter.
— Text: Alex Ribar. Alex is a Bushcraft expert and former Marine who was an Infantry Squad Leader and NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) that held a second MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) as one of two Company Armorers (Gun Smiths). Alex has completed a Maine Guide course, is working toward multiple registered Maine Guide licenses, and is pursuing a career in outdoor adventure. He and his son Logan were featured on the History Channel show ALONE (Season 4) in 2016. For more information on Bushcraft skills, visit his YouTube channel @LibertyRogueOutdoors.
— Photos: White Pine Studios. They offer portraiture where you want it, with on site services. Take advantage of the beautiful Maine outdoors, or bring focus to your business in action. Contact: Tim@whitepinestudios.ne
Tips for a Tech-Free Family Vacation
Introducing your kids to the joys of camping not only assures important family time, but also exposes them to a slower pace where they can be tech-free and not even miss it. Why would your kids want to drop their iPad and get outdoors? Remember the things that made it a wondrous experience for you – wide open spaces to run, the thrill of discovering new worlds and living like our ancestors, the smell of a pine forest…it’s in our DNA to take wonder in these elements.
1. The Fascination of Campfires
Building a campfire with your kids is a great way for them to learn a new skill while you sneak in some safety lessons. Start by showing them how many useful materials they can find in the natural world around them. Have them collect dry twigs and sticks and look for nature’s best fire-starter, birch bark. It’s a chance to teach kids about respecting nature. Remind them that bark is the tree’s skin and they should only collect pieces on the ground or from fallen trees, never live trees (even when it’s peeling). Help kids layer bark or newspaper, twigs, sticks and finally, the firewood, so that air can feed the fire. Later, show everyone how to properly extinguish the fire.
2. Cooking like a Caveman
First, come prepared with the right tools – at least a pair of long-handled tongs, roasting forks, and aluminum foil.
To prepare corn like a native, soak the corn in water with the husks still on, for at least a half hour. Place corn around the inside rim of the fire pit and turn often with tongs. Check after about 15-20 minutes (a parent should do this, carefully peeling back a section of husk) and cook longer if needed. The outer husks will be crispy, but inside the corn will be steamed and yummy!
For baked potatoes, show kids how to coat the potato with butter and double wrap in aluminum foil, then place on the outer rim of the campfire’s bed of hot coals. Turn every 10 minutes. A parent or an older kid can begin checking how thoroughly it has been cooked after 45 minutes.
For a very simple meal, let kids spear a hot dog or sausage on a long roasting fork and cook it over the fire. Be sure to show them how to hold it in the heat but not direct flame, so it won’t burn.
3. Going Wild
Ask park rangers or campground staff what animals are native to the area. Ask if they have a kid’s scavenger hunt notebook (many do) but if not, you can make your own ahead of time or with your child at the campsite, using sketches to help them recognize each animal. Challenge your kids to spot as many as possible. To make it even more challenging, add birds and insects to the list. Take this opportunity to talk about how wild animals differ from pets or those in zoos, including their reactions to humans. You can also talk about how humans impact them, the dangers of feeding wild animals or leaving food or trash where bears can smell it.
4. Fauna for Fun
Fauna can be lots of fun for kids when they realize how many kinds of different plants make up the sea of green around them. Come prepared with a notebook, blank paper, pencils, and crayons or colored pencils. Set up a scavenger hunt and look for specific plants, or have the kids draw the ones they find. How are they different from each other? Beyond learning about nature, a great side bonus is encouraging kids (and parents) to slow down and take in the details of the beauty around them. While reminding them never to pick wild flowers or take parts off live plants, you can encourage them to collect interesting souvenirs such as fallen leaves, acorns, or pine cones. Tip: Don’t let the kids know they are about to learn something – you can make nearly anything into a game or competition.
5. Getting Creative
For many kids, both boys and girls, building fairy furniture or structures from twigs and other found objects is a chance to be creative. Bring hemp twine or heavy brown thread and scissors and an active imagination. Tie crossed twigs with twine to make anything from a simple raft to a chair – or maybe even a four-poster bed with a birch bark mattress and leafy canopy. Layer in a little folklore and tell them to set up the evening’s work for the fairies to find in the night – they often leave gifts as a thank you! Other simple crafts are leaf rubbings and birch-bark cutouts: Simply draw a design on bark, and cut out to make tree or window ornaments.
Text and Photos: Lura Seavey. Lura is a freelance writer with a mission: to encourage families to travel and play together. She write regularly for planetware.com, is the author of several children’s books and co-author of Fun with the Family in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Summer Camping Gear Review
Reviewed by staff and friends of Activity Maine, here are our picks for great camping/hiking gear that we think you’ll like.
The 2018 Haversack by Raging River Trading Co. is packed with all the features any outdoor adventurer could ask for. This compact haversack is handmade with high quality military specification materials, specifically, 1000D Nylon Cordura with a Raging River Trading Co. Nylon liner. It comes with with two zippered inside pockets that will keep anything of value safe and secure. It also has a nice map pocket incorporated into the back outside panel for easy access while on the move. The main compartment has Velcro closer flaps at the top to hold gear securely in place. To secure your gear, there is Molly webbing on the front, bottom, side sleeve and shoulder pad, which is great for any add-on equipment, such as a bed roll, tarp, knife, etc. Under the flap on the front panel, you’ll find an axe or hatchet sleeve, a very useful feature. For 2018, Raging River has added a cinch-close water bottle pocket complete with a camo-colored stainless steel water bottle. Raging River Trading Co. is Veteran-owned and operated by Dan Edwards, a 20-year Veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. These Haversacks are made to be used and last a life time; they are great to keep gear sorted and at the ready…an excellent carry system for all your Bushcraft, hiking, hunting and outdoor adventures. Price: $99.95
Made right here in Maine from reclaimed sail material, Flowfold builds minimalist outdoor gear for everyday adventures. Their wallet is lightweight (only .07 oz) and very durable. I thought my last wallet was slim, but when I transferred my cards and cash into it, the Flowfold wallet was noticeably thinner and lighter weight. This design features a cash pocket, two ID windows and two hidden rear card pockets. This wallet is built for outdoor adventure, weather resistant, and backed by a lifetime warranty. Using sailcloth technology, it is supposed to float, if accidentally dropped in the water, which is a huge bonus for anglers and water sports enthusiasts. Made with a Lifetime Warranty, these wallets range from $12 to $40 and you may never need another one after that!
— Stanley J. Rintz
LOWA RENEGADE GTX MID
From a wooded walk along the Maine coast to an ascent of majestic Katahdin to the rigors of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike, Lowa Renegade GTX Mid boots are up to the task. Lightweight and comfortable, these 2.5-pound boots are trail-ready right out of the box, with minimal breaking in required. Nicely cushioned around the ankle, with solid leather uppers, an easy and secure lacing system of locking hooks, wrap-around rand, and a knobby, grippy Vibram sole, Renegades provide the support of a much heavier boot, but wear like a trail runner. Splashing across a stream or mucking it up on a wet trail is no problem with weatherproof Renegades, owing to a Gore-Tex lining inside and water repellent coating outside. When it comes to fit, hiking boots are as varied as hiker’s feet, but the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid gets high marks for its true-to-size build, snug heel and roomy toe box. Size options range from 7.5 to 15 in men’s and 5.5 to 11 in women’s, plus narrow, medium and wide widths. Downside: the toe rand tends to separate where it’s fused together, but this is easily remedied with epoxy. Price: $230
— Carey Kish
JETBOIL FLASH PERSONAL COOKING SYSTEM
The Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System is efficient, compactible, and lightweight. I’ve used it on week-long Appalachian Trail hikes and overnight campouts, and I’ve never felt I needed anything different. It can boil two cups of cold water in two minutes due to its high-speed burner. Be sure to push the ignite button on low gas and then increase the flame to avoid burning the hair off your hand. The one-liter, insulated cooking cup is easy to handle while hot because its notched bottom and side strap make it easy to detach from the burner and pour into a bowl or bag. I would avoid cooking saucy pasta meals directly in it, since it will scorch the sides.
A two-cup bowl is included and is great for instant oats or grits. All amenities pack into the cooking cup to about the size of a Nalgene water bottle, making it weigh only 15 ounces. If you want to go fancier than instant coffee, you can purchase a French press add-on, which can all fold up into the cooking system conveniently as well. Given its convenience and efficiency, the Jetboil is a great companion to have along the trail. Prices range from $75 to $100 and $10 extra for the coffee press add-on.
When Did You Last Do a Digital Detox?
Dear Dr. K, when I stop playing on my computer for more than an hour I feel anxious. I’ve gained weight, and when I am not online, I can’t concentrate, don’t want to do anything, and am waiting until I can get back in front of a screen again. What’s wrong with me?
The negative impact of technology on our mental, cognitive and physical health is becoming an increasing problem. A 2010 study from the University of Leeds found a significant connection between the amount of time people spent online and symptoms of depression. Since then, outcomes from a variety of studies suggest that, as both kids’ and adults’ time in front of a screen increases, their physical activity decreases, raising their vulnerability to mental health problems. Terms like “digital depression” and “digital dementia” have entered our mainstream vocabulary. It’s clear that screen time is having a major impact on our brains and bodies.
There is no pill (or drug) you can take to cure digital depression. “Digital detox” is the only known cure. When you choose to unplug, your brain can feel like you have gone from information gluttony to starvation mode. This is digital withdrawal. Here is timeline of what you can expect:
- Like someone on a highly restrictive diet, when you first go “offline,” you may experience anxiety, stress, and an urge to give up and go back to bingeing on screen time to get a “fix.”
- Irritability tends to creep in as if your brain is causing you to have a temper tantrum because you are not giving it what it wants.
- After a relatively short time, (which can seem like a long time) the anxiety and irritability dissipates and boredom sets in. When you are used to being fed new links, new activities, and new icons to click to get “rewarded,” the real world can feel a bit dull and your motivation can feel as though it needs a jump-start. Sleeping it off might feel like the “easy” way to handle this withdrawal.
Symptoms that might meet the diagnostic criteria for depression include:
- Diminished interest of pleasure in almost all activities
- Difficulty staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Agitation or lethargy nearly every day
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness
- Restlessness, brain fog, poor focus and concentration, mental disorganization, and impulsive urges to go online “to check just one thing” can make you think you are losing your mind.
You can white knuckle it through all this, or you can have a plan in place before you unplug to reduce some of this discomfort. My suggestion to clients, is to have a replacement activity. Create a list of friends you can call, activities you enjoy, events you want to attend, or goals you want to accomplish, now that you will have more free time.
Getting back in your body is one of the best ways to manage the stress of getting offline and avoiding digital depression. Physical activity burns stress chemicals in your body that build up while you are sitting in front of a screen. Being active with other people is even better! Activity and social interactions trigger chemicals in your brain that cause you to be more creative, healthy, focused, productive, and happy.
— Text: Kirsten Milliken, PhD.
Dr. Milliken is the author of PlayDHD: Permission to Play, A Prescription for Adults With ADHD. She lives in Portland with her two kids who hate her for restricting their Internet access!
Hikes & Brews in the Upper Kennebec River Valley
Moxie Bald Mountain & Kennebec River Brewing Co.
East of Moxie Pond in Bald Mountain Township rises the long, undulating ridgeline of Moxie Bald Mountain, which tops out at 2,630 feet. The Appalachian Trail traverses the mountain, leading hikers to extensive areas of open granite slabs and ledges. The 360-degree panorama atop Moxie Bald ranges from majestic Katahdin and other high peaks in Baxter State Park all the way to the Bigelows, Sugarloaf and Mt. Abraham. Follow the white blazes of the AT over the summit, then loop back around via the summit bypass trail. A log AT lean-to at Bald Mountain Brook makes a nice wayside coming and going. About ten miles round-trip.
Traditional British-style beers are what’s on tap in the beautiful open-timbered log lodge at Northern Outdoors in The Forks, Maine’s only whitewater rafting and adventure resort with its own brewery. Kennebec River Brewery is a throwback to a neighborhood pub, according to Jim Yearwood, vice president of Northern Outdoors and the brewery’s founder in 1996. They don’t distribute, so you’ll have to enjoy their beers onsite or take home a fresh growler. Magic Hole IPA is the brewery’s bestselling flagship beer. There’s also Let ‘Er Drift Summer Ale and six other custom brews on tap, plus a full menu of hearty pub fare.
Hike: Trailhead directions: From US 201 in The Forks, just before the highway crosses the Kennebec River, turn east on Lake Moxie Road and follow it for 5.3 mi. Turn right on Troutdale Road and follow it along Moxie Pond, and at 12.9 mi., reach a small parking area on the right; the sign for the AT and Moxie Bald is on the left.
Brew: Kennebec River Brewery
— Text & Photos: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is an avid beer drinker, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.
If you keep hearing about this ‘floating’ thing, it’s for good reason.
Floating is just starting to reach the mainstream, but the concept has been around since the mid 50’s and offers many benefits, with little to no drawbacks. Top level athletes, Navy SEALs, busy executives, mindful people, pregnant women, parents, grandparents, and even some kids are experiencing how this simple practice of floating in epsom salt can benefit their health. Floating is used for muscle recovery, relaxation, pain management, rest, mindfulness and more.
A float tank is filled with 10’’ of water saturated with over 1,000 pounds of epsom salt. This solution is warm, supportive, rich in magnesium and allows you to float effortlessly on the surface. The water and air are heated to the same temperature as your skin (about 94 degrees). Weightless with senses dampened; the salt solution, your body, and the air all merging in temperature, sensational boundaries become blurred. Modern float tanks are spacious and often equipped with colored lights and music options for easing into the sensory reduced environment. You can choose to turn both off and allow your central nervous system a reprieve from external stimulation. Float sessions are recommended to be around 60-90 minutes. Research suggests that around the 45 minute mark during a float session your body begins to show signs of reduced cortisol production, reduced inflammation, increased blood flow and dopamine production. It is a truly unique way to achieve deep physical and mental relaxation.
Floating was developed by a neuroscientist in 1954 at the National Institute of Mental Health to study the brain and its response to reduced stimulation. These studies became known as R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) or Sensory Deprivation. Eventually float tanks were made for commercial use as well. No longer exclusively for research, they became popular with athletes and hippies. Float centers were predominately located on the west coast, however sprinkled throughout the US and Europe as well. With recent research and the momentum and speed at which information now spreads, floating is experiencing a resurgence, and centers can now be found in most major cities.
As people all over are waking up to the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle, many are using floating as another tool in their wellness routine. It couples nicely with yoga, meditation, chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture. Try it for yourself and see how much better you can feel.
Runaways Run Club
When my wife and I moved up to her native Maine from my native Louisiana in January 2017, we had some adjustments to make. The crawfish were ten times bigger, and you had to worry about ice dams instead of levees. We loved drinking good beer, being active, and surrounding ourselves with great people. So that March, she found a free run club on Facebook that met Wednesdays at local breweries in Portland, and we did not run away from the opportunity. It was not only what we wanted, but it was what we needed.
Ken Krogsrud, founder of Runaways Run Club, said, “I thought there would be five people, but we now have 50 people on a Wednesday night.” Originally from California, Ken moved to Portland and was immediately hooked by its connectivity. “I started seeing people on the street I knew, and it felt more connected than separate,” he said. Raised in a very run-centric community, he’s been running ultras (50 or 100 mile races) for nine years, and is now the Race Director for GiddyUp Productions, which coordinates running events.
The brewery connection was forged when Ken befriended Craig Dilger, owner of Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland. “Our brewery network grew from there,” said Ken. Calling their club “Runaways Run Club,” they have since been all over the Portland area ending up at Foulmouthed, Bunker, the Great Lost Bear, Urban Farm Fermentory, Shipyard Brewing, and Bissell Brothers. Runners have even made it over to Maine Beer Company (Freeport) and Dirigo (Biddeford).
“Brewers here really want that culture and the business,” said Ken. “And, Craig actually brewed a Runaways beer at Foulmouthed, which was a red beer with peaches. I love both red beers and peaches, so it was a refreshing, after-run beer.” Additionally, the Runaways are active in the community as well. For example, they held a fundraiser at Urban Farm Fermentory for Sarah Emerson, a local runner, who was fighting breast cancer.
If you’re an avid runner, don’t let the beer emphasis fool you into thinking these athletes aren’t serious about running. Members will run in artic temperatures or snowstorms. This past winter, we ran in Freeport in single-digit temperatures in the darkness with headlamps; it just made the Mean Old Tom go down even nicer. We also did a brunch run at Becky’s Diner on New Year’s Eve morning, where customers waited outside in heavy winter coats, while we ran up in thermal tights. That perseverance has been good for thickening my Southern blood and crushing my fear that the bitter cold would kill me on contact.
No matter if you’re quick as Hermes or slow as Hades, there’s a spot for you at Runaways Run Club. Even if you don’t like beer (chances are that you do because why else would you read a beer magazine?) they have several weekly non-beer related trail runs. They also have a strong presence at local races, so look for them at the Old Port Marathon and the L.L. Bean Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms. “It’s completely free,” Ken said. “Just show up. Reach out on Facebook and Instagram. We all have a great time, and that’s how we’ve grown. It’s not the beer or the running. It’s the people.
— Text: John Breerwood. John is a cellarman at Shipyard Brewing Company and is currently trying to get his first novel published. He and his wife Madelyn had their first child last February.
Getting Back on the Road and Preventing IT Band Syndrome (ITBS)
While the most hardy Mainers continue to pound the pavement year round, most of us probably stick to cushioned treadmills in the gym, or even taking a breather over the winter months. But, whenever it’s time to get back out on the road anytime after a running hiatus, runners in particular, need to be cognizant of developing overuse injuries as they get back into training. By keeping a few key points in mind, athletes can prevent or significantly decrease the severity of these frustrating (and sometimes devastating) injuries.
What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is an overuse injury caused by friction between the Iliotibial Band (on the outside of the thigh) and the lateral femoral condyle (outside portion of the knee). It is most commonly seen in runners, cyclists, and other athletes who are repetitively flexing and extending the knee. Pain is usually felt in the front/outside portion of the knee and can be extremely debilitating. ITBS accounts for up to 15% of overuse injuries around the knee, and running athletes are at highest risk.
What causes ITBS?
Common causes for ITBS include a rapid increase in either the volume or intensity of running. A prime example is a runner who has not been running over the winter and returns at the same volume as he or she was running the previous season. Poor arch support from running shoes, particularly in athletes with a tendency to over pronate, also places runners at risk.
STRETCHING & STRENGTHENING FOR YOUR IT BAND
What to expect from medical intervention
ITBS is a fairly straightforward diagnosis. However, it is important to see a sports medicine trained physician if you are having persistent pain around the knee that doesn’t respond to simple resting. X-rays are typically normal in athletes with ITBS. MRI can be useful in athletes with particularly severe cases in order to rule out more serious issues that may mimic ITBS including meniscus tears and stress fractures.
On average, 90% of patients engaging in appropriate treatment will have resolution of symptoms within 4-8 weeks. Treatment initially consists of rest, icing, and oral or topical NSAIDs. Physical therapy with training modification is also a mainstay of treatment. Therapy focuses on stretching of the ITB, lateral fascia, and gluteal muscles, deep transverse friction massage, strengthening hip abductor muscles, and proprioception exercises to improve neuromuscular coordination. If initial attempts at conservative therapy fail to provide relief, a corticosteroid inject may be considered.
Tips for preventing and recognizing ITBS
Keep a running log. Increase your training intensity/volume by no more than 10% per week.
Consider including cross training with an exercise that does not require repetitive knee flexion/extension in your regimen. (i.e. swimming)
Allow a rest day once per week.
Warm up and focus on stretching before your runs. A foam roller can be particularly helpful to stretch the IT Band.
Make sure you have appropriate arch support from your running shoes. Change your running shoes every 300-500 miles.
If you have worsening pain that comes progressively earlier in your runs and is not relived by rest, or if you have persistent pain, particularly at night, seek an evaluation with a sports medicine physician.
— Text: Jonathan P. Watling, MD; Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
How to Get Started as a Trail Runner
Trail running provides all of the health benefits of traditional road running and more while connecting you with nature. Getting started as a trail runner is easy. You need to know where to run, what type of gear to use and some basic trail running skills. In this article I’ll review the very basics you need to get started as a trail runner.
WHERE TO RUN
The great thing about trail running is that it can be done anywhere, on any trail. Trails will vary from wide carriage trails to very narrow fun and twisty animal paths. To find trails in your area check on-line and look for local parks, fire trails, ATV and hiking trails. Check with local clubs or try the excellent trail by state database at the ATRA American Trail Running Association.
In trail running the right shoe can make all the difference. You wouldn’t use your cross country boots with your downhill skis and you shouldn’t use your road shoes on the trail.
Trail running shoes are specifically designed for rugged terrain and they are significantly different from running shoes made for the road. Shoes for the trail fall in two main categories: light shoes for racing, sturdy and rugged shoes for the more recreational runner. Knowing how you’ll be running and the type of terrain you’ll be tackling will help you determine which shoe is best for you.
For recreational use or rocky and uneven trails, a shoe that is sturdy and rugged is the best choice. These shoes will have a heavier, beefier chassis with added protection around the toe box, heel and ankle. These trail running shoes also feature thick tread with a pattern well spaced to distribute mud, sand and other loose surfaces.
For smooth, hard packed, dirt trails a lighter, flexible trail running shoe with good cushioning is a great choice.
If you’re just getting started and run for recreation, a good rugged shoe like the ASICS Women’s Gel-Kahana 6 Trail Running Shoe or the ASICS Men’s Kahana 6 Trail Running Shoe is an excellent choice. I have been running on Asics for years and, for my foot, nothing is better.
For clothing wear a wicking breathable top, loose comfortable shorts, and breathable socks to stay cool and dry. For colder running, add gloves, hats, thermal compression pants and other protection. Be sure everything is breathable because even when it’s cooler you’ll work up some good body heat.
The right mind set about trail running helps you enjoy the sport. Trail running is like life, it’s not a race. Enjoy your time along the way. Think “it’s more about the trail and less about the run” and it’s ok to walk.
Walking for the first few minutes of every run is a great way to warm up and get a feel for the terrain. Walking when things get more technical is smart and an excellent way to ease into trail running. The same is true of up and downhill sections that are particularly challenging. In fact, many experts will tell you it’s more efficient to walk, briskly, up a hill than it is to run.
Use a smaller, shorter stride. If you’re converting to trail running from the road your natural tendency may be to take longer strides. On the trail, where you need to make quick, fast moves on uneven terrain, a shorter stride allows you to be responsive.
Using a longer stride is a common mistake road runners make when trying trail running for the first time.
Trail running requires focus and attention. Make it a habit to scan the trail 8 – 10 feet ahead so you’re prepared for obstacles with time to react. The first time you get caught day dreaming you’re likely to take a tumble.
Trail running is an excellent outdoor activity that’s fun, exciting and can help keep you in great shape. Finding trails is easy and getting started doesn’t require a huge investment in time or money. With some good shoes and basic skills you’ll be ready for your first run in no time. Get out there and give it a try. I bet you’ll be hooked after your first run.
— Text: Steve Stearns. Steve is a blogger who writes about health and nutrition. He is interested in fat biking and mountain biking, and lives in Bowdoin.
What’s New in Running Gear for 2018
RaceME sat down with John Rogers, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Maine Running in Portland Maine, and Erin Flatley, Marketing Manager, to learn about trends we can expect to see in running gear this year.
Starting with shoe trends, John says, “I see the future of shoe innovations continue to be aided by the latest technology in 3D imaging and scanning. This precise data combined with in-store gait analysis, makes it easier to assess proper sizing based on a person’s foot type, individual shape of arches and pressure points. These advanced imaging tools give us more accurate details for measuring gait characteristics from ‘heel strike’ to ‘toe off’ with significant information in real time. In the future, I see more shoe stores having the ability to make customized shoes right in the store.”
fit id™ creates a 3D scan of a person’s feet and provides specific measurements including foot width, length, and arch height. The scan takes five seconds to complete and appears on an in-store tablet, allowing the fit specialist to review, discuss observations, and find solutions together with the individual. Customers can get rescanned on future visits so Fleet Feet Sports staff can discuss any changes in measurements. fit id™ helps create a powerful in-store experience for customers that is free and they can’t get online. The technology also includes a kids’ scanning feature which incorporates a gaming element into the scanning process.
Erin is seeing another popular trend in shoe technology.
“I see shoe manufacturers being more aggressive with their midsole material and new products are trending toward increasing the energy return from the shoe back to the person with every stride.”
Carson Caprara, director of global product line management for Brooks Running says, “The Levitate features our revolutionary new midsole technology that releases energy straight back to the runner, making the experience so much fun they might feel like running forever.”
Other shoe companies have their own proprietary and innovative midsole material. Nike’s midsole material is called React, while Saucony’s uses their EVERUN material and New Balance features Fresh Foam. The technology in the midsole foam is also working toward more resilient and durable material to last longer over time.
Garmin 645 Wrist Watch
Enhance your run with the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music GPS watch. Technology is improving for more than running shoes this year. Garmin made this watch with runners in mind, the watch has music streaming, Garmin Pay and heart-rate tracking.
- On-device music storage lets you run with your favorite tunes; download up to 500 songs and connect with Bluetooth headphones (not included) for phone-free listening
- Garmin Pay contactless payment solution lets you make convenient payments with your watch, so you can leave your cash and cards at home
- Tracks speed, distance, steps and calories burned, heart rate as well as advanced running dynamics including ground contact time, balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more.
THINKING OUTSIDE: The University of Maine at Farmington
When people think of Maine colleges with a strong connection to the active outdoor lifestyle, the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) is the first school that comes to mind.
Perfectly situated at the gateway to Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Saddleback, UMF is also smack in the middle of some of the best hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, camping and rafting in the northeast.
Miles of trail running and mt. bike paths just off campus. Groomed Nordic skiing trails. Night skiing at Titcomb Mt. just on the other side of town. The swim-able, paddle-able, fly-fishing-able Sandy River running right beside its athletics fields. Flint Woods and Bonny Woods trails a short walk up the street from campus. And a quick drive takes outdoor enthusiast UMF students to the extensive Maine Huts & Trails system, the Appalachian Trail, Mt. Blue State Park and Tumbledown Mountain.
But the University of Maine at Farmington and the great outdoors isn’t all just fun and games. The University also offers an Outdoor Recreation Business Administration program (ORBA), an innovative academic major with a four-season focus and an emphasis on the business side of recreation.
Developed with leaders in the industry, the ORBA program gives UMF students the skills and knowledge to succeed in a variety of outdoor recreation fields. Students develop a broad range of business knowledge, skills in writing and oral presentation, problem solving, decision-making, leadership and team building. ORBA also has a required internship, which provides students with valuable hands-on experience and a network of professional contacts.
UMF’s Alpine Operations Certificate program is open to UMF students in any major and is designed to provide students with core skills for working in the skiing industry while also preparing them to earn PSIA Level 1 certification.
Alpine Operations uses Farmington’s Titcomb Mountain (just 7 minutes from campus) as its on-hill learning lab. Students run Titcomb’s successful UMF Snowcats children’s learn-to-ski program and also teach young adults, fellow UMF students and others how to ski and snowboard.
Both the ORBA program and Alpine Ops program not only bring students to the mountains — they bring the mountains to the students. Industry experts from Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Copper Mountain (CO), Ski Maine, Winterstick Snowboards, Mountain Force Apparel and many others come to UMF classes as frequent guest speakers.
MAINELY OUTDOORS — ACTIVE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE!
To take full advantage of its perfect location, UMF also offers a backpack full of epic outdoor adventures through its Mainely Outdoors program. Mainely Outdoors offers students, staff and the local community a wide range of exciting outdoor opportunities: trips and excursions, equipment and gear sign-out/rentals, clinics and lessons, certification and training opportunities, and much more.
Mainely Outdoors introduces people to new active outdoor activities and takes advantage of the unbelievable natural resources in the Farmington area: hiking Tumbledown Mountain, overnight camping at Acadia National Park, mountain biking the Carrabassett Rail Trail, skiing at Sugarloaf, flatwater kayaking North Pond, overnight camping at Gulf Hagas, whitewater rafting the Kennebec, snowshoeing the Maine Huts & Trails System, sunset canoeing Wilson Lake and a whole lot more.
At the University of Maine at Farmington, college students from across the northeast come to get their outdoors on.
— Text & Photos: The University of Maine at Farmington
Surrounded by beautiful lakes, and with 10 of Maine’s highest peaks within reach, Rangeley is a world class 4-season town that comes alive with winter events!
The 55 km, mapped trail system at Rangeley Lakes Trail Center offers winter trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking. Trails are groomed for skate and classic Nordic skiing. Dedicated single-track trails offer the backwoods experience for snowshoeing and fat biking. There are a variety loops that offer you a choice of trek length, from a quick workout to a day-long outing with a picnic!
Skis, snowshoes, and fat bikes are available for rent. The RLTC staff can offer suggestions for routes to match your ability or available time. When you return, warm up with a variety of choices for soups, hot or cold beverages, and snacks. Check their website for daily trail condition reports and special discount days. The Rangeley Lakes Trail Center is open 9AM to 4PM every day.
Located on Haley Pond is Ecopelagicon, a nature store. Purchase books about the Maine outdoors, maps and camping supplies, as well as crafts, cards and jewelry. Right outside their door is the town cleared ice rink on Haley Pond. Need skates? Free skates are available at Ecopelagicon.
At the end of the day, get some rest at either the newly updated Rangeley Inn or stay lakeside at the Town and Lake Motel and Cottages. Come experience the revival of a landmark, the Rangeley Inn offers a perfect combination of location, ambiance, and comfort. The Town and Lake Motel and Cottages are open year round and located on Rangeley Lake.
Whatever type of outdoor enthusiast you are, this four season vacation destination is sure to pull you back again and again. Ready to help you call this place home is Caryn Dreyfuss of Morton & Furbish Real Estate. From building lots to condos, and lakefront homes to mountain camps, they’ve got something that will tickle your fancy. Come to Rangeley and embrace this winter wonderland. Be sure to bring your camera!
Gearing Up for Winter Day Hiking
THE LONG, COLD AND SNOWY MAINE WINTER AHEAD MIGHT HAVE YOU WANTING TO HOLE UP INDOORS for the next few months, but what fun is that? A better plan is to get outside frequently on foot, on snowshoes or skis to enjoy some healthy exercise and beautiful scenery with friends and family. Winter hiking is challenging and has inherent risks, so you’ll need to be well prepared and self-sufficient. Here are some tips for comfort and safety in the winter woods and mountains.
Winter air is dry and since you’re usually working pretty hard, you’re going to lose a lot of water through respiration and perspiration, and this lost fluid must be replenished. In cold situations, your body tends toward emergency mode, redirecting blood from extremities into your all-important core. Frostbitten fingers and toes, or worse—hypothermia, can be the result.
The solution is to drink a lot of water and drink often, as much as three to four liters in a day. Drink before you’re thirsty. Fill your bottles with hot water before setting out, and use insulated parkas around them. Take along a Thermos of tea, cocoa or soup for a much-appreciated hot drink at lunch.
FOOD IS FUEL
For strenuous winter hiking, your body needs plenty of fuel for optimum performance. Food is fuel, and one of the joys for many winter hikers is the need to consume a lot more calories than normal. Eat before you’re hungry, and eat often. Carry a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your pockets and pack, like jerky, cheese sticks, nuts, dried fruit, candy and granola bars.
Cold weather activities require dressing in layers so you can regulate your overall body temperature in response to changing environmental conditions and activity levels.
The base layer is worn right up against the skin. A good long sleeve top and long john bottom made of wool, polyester or a blend of the two will wick moisture away from your sweaty body and help keep you warm and dry. The initial mid or insulation layer consists of a fleece vest, sweater or jacket, worn on the move. At rest or in camp or if it’s really cold on the trail, add a main insulation layer, a down or synthetic fill jacket or parka. Finally, an outer shell layer of waterproof-breathable fabric keeps out the wind, snow and rain.
A ski hat and balaclava plus gloves or mittens and accompanying weatherproof shells help keep your upper extremities toasty. Spare gloves and hat and a second wicking shirt to change into are worthy extras.
Your feet are your transportation, so be sure to treat them well with a warm pair of Pac-style or other insulated boots with a good tread. Wear liner socks under heavy wool or synthetic socks. Knee-high gaiters will keep the snow out. Ice traction devices like Microspikes or Stabilicers are a must for slippery trails. If you plan to venture above treeline, you’ll want plastic mountaineering boots and crampons. Trekking poles with wide baskets aid with stability.
A quality pair of snowshoes will get you through the deep snow and require little more effort than regular walking, while backcountry Nordic skis require more skill but open up a whole new world of winter exploration.
PACK THE ESSENTIALS
For the winter trail, the “Twelve Essentials” should always be in your pack: map and compass, ski goggles/sunglasses, extra clothing, headlamp/spare batteries, first aid kit, knife/multitool, lighter/waterproof matches, extra food, extra water, emergency shelter (bivouac bag or heavy-duty garbage bag), cell phone, and toilet kit (toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer).
Check the weather forecast before you go and leave a trip itinerary with someone responsible (or at least put a note on the driver’s seat of your vehicle). Pack along a healthy measure of common sense and good judgment and use both liberally on the trail. Have fun, but always remember that getting to the summit is optional, while returning to the car is mandatory.
TAKE A HIKE!
With 120 miles of trails and 57 miles of carriage roads, Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island is an awesome place for a snowy hike. The Park Loop Road is closed in winter, but numerous public roads offer good access.
There’s more to the Bethel Region than downhill skiing at Sunday River and Mt. Abram. Tackle the high peaks of Old Speck or the Baldpates from Route 26 in Grafton Notch, or scamper up the open ridgeline of nearby Rumford Whitecap.
The Kennebec Highlands in and around Rome are home to more than a half-dozen easy to moderate hikes, like those on French Mountain, Mt. Phillip, Round Top, Sanders Hill, The Mountain and McGaffey Mountain.
— Text: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, and writes a regular hiking column for the Maine Sunday Telegram.
Unique ways to stay active, indoors and out
Staying active in the summer is a breeze. Warm-weather bike rides, outdoor yoga, hiking, and paddling feel more like adventures than exercise. And waking up for that early-morning fitness class ain’t so hard when it’s 75 degrees out and sunny.
But during the winter – when it’s not even close to 75 degrees and the sun isn’t anywhere to be found in the early morning – we need a little more incentive. Embracing the snow is a solid way to start. Renting cross-country skis or snowshoes for an outdoor jaunt on the trails is a good way to work up a sweat and have a memorable winter adventure that’s worth posting about on Instagram. If you’re more of a “stay inside where the snow and cold can’t reach me” kind of exerciser, there are a host of fun and unique classes around Maine. Slog away on a treadmill no more – this winter, you can stay active with the help of a hula hoop, a jump rope, a paddleboard, and a pair of drumsticks.
FOUR UNIQUE WAYS TO WORK OUT INDOORS
6:15 p.m. Thursdays at Body by John, 190 Riverside Street, Portland
Jumping rope as an adult is way different than it was when we were kids. The equipment hasn’t changed, but our ability to jump effortlessly for hours on end HAS changed. This makes a punk rope class a challenging and sweat-inducing workout, which will have your calves aching for days. But jumping rope to loud tunes (plus all the burpees and high knees and planks in between) still retains that fun we remember years ago, which will keep you coming back. $10 drop-in, $60 for 10-class pass. Body By John also has spin, kettlebell, step and a bunch of other classes. bodybyjohn.com
HULA HOOP FITNESS
9:35 a.m. Tuesdays. Quest Fitness
2 Livewell Drive, Kennebunk
A couple of points we should get out of the way: 1. Yes, hula hooping is exercise. 2. Yes, you can hula hoop, even if you haven’t done it in decades. It might take a few weeks to get the hang of it, but you’ll have a grand time along the way during this class. There is plenty of time spent swinging your hips in the hoop, but the class also includes flexibility and strength, too, so you’ll get cardio and work those muscles. $20 day pass, $139 for 10-visit pass. Quest also has host of other great classes and an indoor saltwater pool! questfitnessmaine.com
INDOOR PADDLEBOARD YOGA
7:40-8:35 p.m. Tuesdays at Riverton Pool, 1600 Forest Ave., Portland
Paddleboards are generally spotted on lakes, rivers and the ocean in warmer months, but this winter, the SUPs are coming inside for this indoor paddleboard yoga class. Yoga instructor Ashely Flowers leads the series, which is open to people who are new to paddleboarding or yoga. The SUPs will challenge your balance and the yoga will awaken your muscles. And if you fall in? No biggie. Just pretend you’re at a summer pool party. $125 Portland residents, $140 non-Portland residents for the series. www.portlandmaine.gov/390/Recreation
10:30 a.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays. Maine Pines Racquet & Fitness, 120 Harpswell Road, Brunswick
Pound is a cardio workout with drumsticks. It sounds peculiar at first, but once you start drumming those sticks on the floor and over your head to the rhythm of the loud music, you’ll feel why it’s such a fun workout. The sound of the sticks drumming in unison sounds cool, and it also feels really good to drum those sticks on everything. You’ll get your heart rate up and do lots of floor work too. $15 day pass, $100 for 10-class punch card. Memberships also available. In addition to all the tennis, Maine Pines offers a ton of fitness classes. www.mainepines.com
THREE PLACES TO BE ACTIVE OUTSIDE
BETHEL NORDIC SKI CENTER
Bethel Inn, 21 Broad St., Bethel
You can rent cross-country skis and spend the day skiing the trails at the Bethel Nordic Ski Center (there’s even a dog-friendly loop trail). Or rent a fat bike or snowshoes, if you prefer. The 40 kilometers of trails here are groomed for classic and skate ski and include a mix of open fields with mountain views and woodsy trails with more challenging terrain. Even better, you can take advantage of the inn’s Ski, Swim and Sauna package. For $27, you’ll get access to the trails and the health club (which includes a couple of saunas), plus the outdoor heated pool. There’s also a tavern on site, so ski, swim, sauna, and drink.. Day pass for the trails costs $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12 for youth and kids 6 and under are free. bethelinn.com
ROBERTS FARM PRESERVE
64 Roberts Road, Norway
There are 7.5 miles of trails winding through the woods at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway, which are perfect for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the winter. And there’s a steady stream of cross-country skiing clinics and snow-related events, including the annual Snowshoe Festival and Nordic biathlons. But what makes the place even more stupendous: You can borrow cross-country skiing and snowshoeing equipment out of the warming hut for free. Yep, free.
180 Ski Slope Road, Farmington
Titcomb is a family-friendly place to ski – downhill or cross-country. The mountain might be small compared to its bigger cousins in Bethel and Carrabassett Valley, but with day passes from $5-$22 and a kid-friendly atmosphere, it’s a cool little community ski area. The 16 kilometers of cross-country trails are pretty sweet, too, and Titcomb happens to be one of the few places in Maine where you can ski at night, under the trail lights. It’s generally pretty quiet out on the trails in the evening, so you can ski for hours and feel like you practically have the place to yourself. A day pass for Nordic skiing is $10. Rentals are also available. www.titcombmountain.com
— Text & Photos: Shannon Bryan. Shannon loves to get active in Maine – from aerial yoga to moonlight paddles — and she writes about them all (to encourage you to try them too!) on FitMaine.com.
Five Mountain Trails to Ski Before You Die
FOR SOME PEOPLE, BUCKET LISTS ARE ARE ABOUT RESTAURANTS TO VISIT, OR BOOKS TO READ, OR CONCERTS TO GO TO. For skiers and snowboarders, they’re about checking off the best trails to be conquered. From massive resorts to small community hills, Maine has a wealth of terrain that you could spend a lifetime exploring. Here are five Maine ski trails that everyone should tackle at least once in a lifetime. They aren’t necessarily the most difficult trails in the state—there’s more to these experiences than an expression of raw skill—but they’re trails that are emblematic of the variety of skiing in Maine.
SUGARLOAF offers a wealth of options, from multiple miles cruising down Tote Road, to the snowfields that top its iconic logo, to the relatively wild chutes and glades of the ever-expanding Brackett Basin and Eastern Territory. However, no trail says Sugarloaf to me quite like Widowmaker. It’s a perfectly cut trail, which rides the fall line as it curves from the King Pine Bowl toward the rest of the mountain. Since being cut in the early 1960s, the trail has been one of the Loaf’s premier expert runs, even used by the U.S. Ski Team for training at one time.
At SUNDAY RIVER, there are almost too many runs to pick from, with eight peaks and more than 10 dozen trails. The cleverly advertised White Heat stands out to me. The trail, bisecting the White Cap peak on the resort’s eastern boundary, is a beast, to be sure. With an average pitch of about 30 degrees, and one side of the trail dedicated to burly moguls, it’s an exhausting and challenging run. But, more than just the terrain, I like the pitch that’s long been given for the trail—“the longest, widest, steepest lift-serviced trail in the Northeast.” It’s a good reminder of English classes and sentence structure; while there are longer trails, wider trails and steeper trails, none beat Sunday River at the combo of long, wide, and steep on a single trail.
At the CAMDEN SNOW BOWL, the Lookout trail provides a view you can’t get anywhere else. The Atlantic Ocean and the islands beyond Camden Harbor, spread out like a canvas. It’s a view you can get from a few places on the hill, but it’s best experienced on the appropriately named Lookout. The trail swings to skier’s right from the summit, just a short shot from the top of the triple chair installed at the resort a few years ago. The trail, a black diamond, offers both steeps and scenery, dropping dramatically towards Hosmer Pond and the Atlantic beyond through thin stands of trees.
I’d argue that Bull Moose at LOST VALLEY is emblematic of the community roots of Maine skiing. To really get the full experience, you’ve got to ski the trail on a weekday afternoon, when hundreds from school ski groups descend on the mountain. Kids swarm all over the trails and fill the lift, which runs over Bull Moose. It’s iconic in the sense that it shows the importance of Maine’s community hills in growing the sport, and gives any skier an experience akin to those of us who learned to ski this way. It’s one of the few black diamonds on the hill, and doubles at the race slope for the Auburn resort. Short and steep (you’ll only link a few turns from top to bottom), but wicked fun.
If you feel like showing off at one of Maine’s ski areas, take a few runs right under the Way Back Machine at MT ABRAM. The Cliff, one of the two double diamonds at the resort, is just that—a serious drop that just happens to be right under the lift, in full view of everyone. If you’ve got an exhibitionist streak, it’s a run where you can show off your skills to the assembled crowds. Just make sure you have the talent to back it up — otherwise, it’s a long trip down Fractured Fairy Tales under everyone on the lift.
Penobscot – Squaw Mountain
Saco – Black Mountain of Maine
T-Line – Shawnee Peak
— Text: Josh Christie. Josh is the author of a number of books on beer and the Maine outdoors, and co-owner of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine.