Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

I hope you've also been enjoying this superb PBS special by Ken Burns. I've been watching enrapt and often with dewy eyes, savoring the old photos and new video footage of America's most glorious landscapes, and hearing the words of the visionaries who invented the concepts of "national park" and "national forest," and appreciating the labors of the politically adept who brought these concepts to fruition over the last century-plus.

For this series showcases our priceless parks, but also highlights the people who discovered and grew passionate about these special places, to the extent that they devoted their lives to getting them protected in perpetuity for countless generations to enjoy in the future. They exemplify a line from the series, "Our natural parks are not only our best idea, but also our highest ideal."

I've visited 38 of the 58 national parks (so far) and have backpacked in 11 of them, and when asked which is my favorite, I must confess they all are, but for different reasons, for each is special in its own ways, and each deserves to be a national park, set aside for future generations to experience and revere as we do.

President Theodore Roosevelt, upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, exclaimed, "Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it." The same can be said for all 58 national parks. Visit them, explore them, relish them, but do not harm them.

Here's an extended preview in case you can't watch all 12 hours...

Here are 2 interviews with Ken Burns...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

REST breakfast

Retired Educators and Staff Together is composed of former High School District 211 colleagues who gather together three times a year to socialize and eat. Today's breakfast was at Billy's in Palatine and here are some Fremd HS friends...

(l to r) Len Kortekaas, Helen Schersten, Chuck Morlock, Dave Rusch, and Paul Fuller. For more photos from today, see Reinhard's site.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mt. Washington Cog RR

Here's a short video I made of our trip up to the 6288 ft. summit of Mt. Washington (NH) on the world's oldest (1869) and steepest (37 degrees) cog railway. The train gains 3500 feet in altitude as it climbs to what is billed as the "world's worst weather" atop Mt. Washington, which holds the record for highest recorded wind velocity -- 231 mph in 1934.

Here's my post from the day we visited the summit.

Worthy Quotes #25

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
--Susan Sontag

One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.
-- Amy Carmichael

Life is not a series of punishments, but a network of consequences.
--Jose Ortega Gasset

Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.
--Lily Tomlin

Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.
-- F. F. Bosworth

Travel teaches toleration.
--Benjamin Disraeli

Stay close to nature, it will never fail you.
--Frank Lloyd Wright

Old age is like climbing a mountain. You climb from ledge to ledge. The higher you get, the more tired and breathless you become, but your views become more extensive.
--Ingrid Bergman

There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
--Mark Twain

The other night I was making love to my wife, and she said, 'Deeper, deeper." So I started quoting Nietzsche to her.
-- Dennis Miller

I didn't invent the hypothetical situation, but let's just suppose for a second that I did...
--Auggie Cook

All earthly delights are but streams. God is the ocean.
-- Jonathan Edwards

You are what you are.
--Bill Parcels

Friday, September 25, 2009

Biking the Millennium Trail

It was good to bike the Millennium Trail again from my house. After five weeks of traveling to and through New England and biking nine rail-trails there, I really appreciate the convenience and beauty of "my" trail. The Loop Trail (golf cart path) off the Fort Hill Trail through the former Four Winds Golf Course is still shortened with a section closed at the two bridges, but it appears they are finally working on replacing the old structures. Maybe it will reopen soon...

My old friends the sandhill cranes welcomed me back. In fact, they were walking across the trail as I approached and watched me from about ten feet away as I took still photos and camcorder footage of their browsing for supper...

In the five weeks I was gone, most of the luscious, multicolor display of wildflowers has ebbed, but these purple beauties have emerged and were bright and prolific in several areas...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Biking with the gang again...

Yesterday, the seven of us met in East Dundee -- our first ride in two months due to vacations... and had a tasty meal at Benedicts, after which we crossed the street, unloaded the bikes, and ...

...had a delightful 17 mile ride on the Fox River/McHenry Prairie Trail north to Crystal Lake, where we discovered that the trail reroute (part of the Pyott Road reroute) is nearly finished with only shoulder work to go as seen here...

Though the day had started out cool and foggy, it cleared and the afternoon was warm and party sunny. But of course, any day on the bike trail is a great day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Frickin' Elephant!

From the diary of a Pre-School Teacher:

My five-year old students are learning to read. Yesterday one of them pointed at a picture in a zoo book and said, "Look at this! It's a frickin' elephant!"

I gasped a deep breath, then asked, "What did you call it?"

"It's a frickin' elephant! It says so on the picture!"

And so it does...


African Elephant

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sailing the Maine Coast on the Windjammer Angelique: An Elderhostel Program

The Angelique, built in 1980, was modeled after a windjammer of the 19th Century. Amenities have been added to make life aboard more comfortable and enjoyable, including 3 heads (bathrooms) and 2 hot, fresh-water showers below deck. There is standing headroom in all 15 passenger cabins and all are well-ventilated, carpeted, and include a fresh-water sink, reading lights in both upper and lower bunks, and a generous supply of fresh towels, sheet, and blankets.

Angelique's red sails (she's the only boat in the fleet with them) depict an English fishing trawler circa 1880 that fished the North Sea. It was common in England to make the cotton canvas sails more resistant to mildew by treating them with tallow, tannic acid, and red ocher. She is rigged as a gaff topsail ketch with these specifications:

Length Overall: 130 feet
Length of Deck: 95 feet
Beam: 23 feet, 7-1/2 inches
Draft: 11 feet
Sail Area: 5269 square feet (7 sails)
Displacement: 142 tons
Passengers: 31
Crew: 7

A windjammer uses the wind to move, so our itinerary was determined by the wind and tide. We left the dock in Camden on the morning tide and returned on the afternoon tide, and the rest of the cruise was spent where the sailing was best during the day. Each night, Captain Mike found a snug cove or harbor to anchor in. Three times we went ashore on the rowboats -- with us supplying the muscle and the Andrew, Shelley, and Sparks providing the instruction and direction. In this photo, first mate Andrew steers in the stern with deck hand Sparks in the bow...

One stop was Brooklin, Maine, where we visited the Wooden Boat School and Store, enjoyed the concert by the wonderful Atlantic Clarion Steel Band, partook of the complimentary mussels, cheese and crackers, and apple cider, and savored the unusual spectacle of a dozen of the Maine Windjammers populating the harbor at the same time -- the annual Rendezvous of the Fleet...

The next afternoon, we rowed to the quaint town of Stonington on Deer Isle, and also rowed to Burnt Island for a delicious beach lobster bake. (You can see Ellen's post about the lobster bake here.)

Captain Mike McHenry (far left) happily explained ship operations and showed us our location and day's route on the charts (maps)...

..and allowed us a stint at the helm...

The crew patiently answered all questions and demonstrated all aspects of their daily chores. Passengers could do as much or as little as they chose, with many of us joining in each day to hoist the huge main and mizzen' sails...

...and later to help furl the sails as they descended...

Here's camcorder footage of us raising and lowering the sails and the raising of the anchor to give you a feel for the work involved and the sounds emitted...

Here's a video of our entire week aboard:

All Elderhostel programs require that a strong educational component be incorporated in every offering, and our educators more than fulfilled that requirement with three "class" sessions daily by our duo of teachers, Bud and Barbara...

Bud enlightened us as to local history, Maine coastal industries including boat building and launching, lobstering, granite quarrying, and even guano mining, as well as many other topics. And he also regularly dispensed jokes and candy! Barbara was our naturalist, with birds, plants, and marine animals from whales to mollusks as her forte. A highlight was her lesson on the sex lives of lobsters. Her final lesson was "show and tell" when she brought her barred owl (Miss Bernie), her red shouldered hawk (Ripley), and her turkey vulture (Ziggy). Lest you think Barbara scoffs the law by keeping such pets, she is a licensed raptor rehabilitator and these are her charges. Below she shows us Ziggy...

I would be remiss if I didn't laud the expertise of the cooks and bakers, Sarah and Maggie (below) assisted by Charlie, who delighted our noses and taste buds and stimulated our appetites with tasty meal after tasty meal. Delicious homemade (shipmade?) bread was part of our daily fare. They use a Beaufort model Dikinson stove that takes up most of the galley's 5 x 17-foot area, turning out wondrous meals that more than satisfy the whole boat load of guests and crew -- nearly 40 people in all. Thanks, ladies! (More info about the onboard meals on Ellen's post here.)

More photos of our week are here.

Non-Elderhostel trips on the Angelique are also available.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sailin', Sailin', over the bounty main!

Today we board the 95 foot windjammer ketch "Angelique" out of Camden, Maine, for a week sailing on the 1000 sq. mile Penobscot Bay, visiting small coastal towns and exploring uninhabited islands. More about the trip -- and photos of course -- after we return.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Biking New Hampshire's Northern Rail Trail

The Northern Trail of Graft County, New Hampshire, runs about 24 miles from Lebanon to Grafton, with another 30+ miles in the works. The trail is gravel/ballast and is in good condition. Snowmobiles use it in the winter, but ATV use is prohibited.

Out of Lebanon, the southern terminus, you follow the Mascoma River, crossing it on trestles seven times in just a few miles. Some moist sections were obvious to us though it hadn’t rained in over a week, and the guide book warns against trying this section after heavy rains.

The trail is verdant and tree-lined for much of its length, but in addition, the scenery varies and is spectacular, from the greenery of the foliage (imagine it during the Fall color change!), the rushing water of the rock-strewn river, and later around mile five, the views of the long and wide Mascoma Lake -- all these make for a delightful and scenic ride. There is a gradual uphill as you bike to the lake, so the ride back to Lebanon is easy pedaling and seems to go by too quickly.

This lovely section has exposed rock that the building crew had to cut though when constructing the rail line, giving a real appreciation for their arduous work. On a historical note, famous senator, statesman, and orator Daniel Webster spoke at the railway’s grand opening back in 1847.

Approaching Canaan, you'll cross a high bridge over the Indian River. Note the old depot, which has yet to be restored. Beyond town, the trail passes through two culverts. These are narrow with little headroom; cyclists should dismount and walk through. Toward trail's end in Grafton, the general store beckons from across Route 4. This marks the last available parking on the improved section of the corridor, which ends at Zaccaria Road on the Merrimack County line.
To reach the Lebanon trailhead near the Lebanon College campus, take Interstate 89 to Exit 18 and head south on State Route 120 toward Lebanon. The trailhead is behind the college at the intersection of Taylor and Spencer streets.

To reach the Grafton trailhead, take State Route 4 east into town. Trail access lies opposite the general store. Park in the dirt pullout on the trail side of the highway. Additional trailhead parking is available along Main Street off Route 4 in Enfield and at the end of Depot Street off Route 4 in Canaan.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Biking Vermont's Delaware and Hudson Trail

We biked the northern segment of the D&H Trail out of Castleton, Vermont to the New York State border. The southern segment runs from the border near West Pawlet to just beyond West Rupert. Together the segments total over 22 miles split about equally between them.

The trail follows the old Delaware & Hudson rail line that ran between Rutland, VT and Albany, New York. Where the right-of-way crosses into New York, the corridor has not been developed as a trail, resulting in the gap. The trail is single and double-track and composed of gravel and ballast. We found it in good condition, probably because ATV use is prohibited, and it is fringed by trees and bushes much of the way giving a verdant border to your ride.

Frequent breaks in the foliage reveal the delightful Vermont countryside, with its farm fields, hills, small streams, and even a slate quarry.

Seven miles along, you'll reach Poultney and the trail continues another 2+ miles to its terminus at the NY state line. A few small roads and 2 paved roads are crossed, but none presented difficult crossings.

To reach the northern Section's Castleton trailhead: from Rutland, take US Route 4 west to Exit 5, head west a half mile on State Route 4A, and turn left into the entrance of Castleton State College on Seminary Street. Turn right into the visitor parking area. At the end of the lot are rows of designated trail parking spaces. The trail is across the road alongside another parking area and the college's stadium.

To reach the Poultney trailhead: from Rutland, take US 7 south to Wallingford, then head west on Route 140 into Poultney. In town, turn left on Grove Street, then right on Bentley Street. The trailhead is on the left.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Vermont

The Robert Frost Trail is located east of East Middlebury, Vermont, east of US 7. It is well marked on the right side of Route 125 as you head east toward the Snow Bowl, halfway between Ripton Village and Middlebury College's Bread Loaf Campus. For 42 years, Frost was associated with Middlebury College and the college now owns and maintains his former Ripton farmstead as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus.

Frost also possessed a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was awarded a lifetime appointment to the university as a Fellow in Letters. Frost's Ann Arbor home has been moved to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1940, he bought a 5-acre plot in South Miami, Florida and he spent his winters there for the rest of his life.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) was named Vermont's Poet Laureate in 1961 and lived and worked just a mile from this Ripton, Vermont, trail location for 23 summers in a cabin set within the 335,000 acre Green Mountain National Forest. He walked these woods often and derived inspiration from their beauty and solitude. This interpretive trail was built in 1976, 13 years after his death. In 1963, Ripton was declared "Robert Frost Country." Frost was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, and many of his poems were influenced by his years in his beloved Vermont in particular and many were based on rural life in New England in general.

Unfortunately, the main loop of the interpretive trail was closed due to a 2008 flood which had destroyed this bridge, making the trail unsafe. A new metal bridge will be installed when funds allow...

We could only hike the short section leading to the bridge, but it did give us a taste of what we were missing -- a scenic trail wending through this magnificent mountain setting, interspersed with his poems presented on plaques mounted on posts as seen here...

This scenic wetlands overlook had the words "We dance around in a ring and suppose,/But the Secret sits in the middle and knows" from his poem entitled "The Secret Sits."

One of my favorite poems was on the section of trail we were allowed to walk (click photo to enlarge)...

I was disappointed we couldn't walk the mile loop trail beyond the bridge because I especially wanted to see the intersection marked with my favorite Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken," containing the lines "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."

Finally, here's his poem "Reluctance"...

I did find this web page by Kirsten Rohstedt detailing her walk on the trail one winter day.

Though he never graduated from college, Frost received over 40 honorary degrees, including ones from Princeton, Oxford, and Cambridge universities, and he was the only person to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College.

Frost was 86 when he spoke and performed a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. He died in Boston two years later, on January 29, 1963 and was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont. His epitaph quotes a line from one of his poems: "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Biking Vermont's Burlington Bikeway

Also known as the Island Line Trail, this 12 mile is mostly paved and mostly in good repair as it traverses the lakefront of Burlington, Vermont, passing through several shoreline parks and displaying spectacular views of Lake Champlain and New York's Adirondack Mountains across the lake...

Though the trail does hug the waterfront for a bit in Burlington, it leaves the lakefront for most of its middle section and you'll find homes on one or both sides of the trail, and in Colchester, you'll be routed through subdivisions to get to the unusual and fun Causeway Trail segment.

A few miles north of Burlington, you'll reach the Winooski River Bridge and the half-mile elevated boardwalk across the Delta Park floodplain which was the crucial link that united the Burlington Bikeway and Colchester Causeway rail-trails in 2004 after 15 years of planning.

The trail is mostly flat though it does climb to the bluff level to the north of Burlington, and the northern end features a unique and scenic trip out into the lake on a gravel 2.5 mile causeway that was constructed in 1900 atop huge marble boulders, giving you a sense of skimming the water's surface. The causeway ends abruptly out on the lake to allow boats to pass, but a seasonal bike ferry connects the trail with South Hero Island using a pontoon boat that ferries bikers across the short open section so they can continue their ride to the island. I suggest only mountain bikes and hybrids bike the causeway section due to the gravel trail surface.

The trail's official starting point is at the Oakledge Park trailhead on Flynn Street in southern Burlington (west of US Highway 7) which offers plenty of free parking and amenities. When you begin there, you do have a brief detour on city streets and then onto a narrow corridor alongside railroad tracks.

To reach the Oakledge Park trailhead in Burlington, take Interstate 89 to Exit 13 and follow I-189 south to US 7. Turn right on US Route 7 north, then left on Flynn Avenue. Follow Flynn to its end and look for signs to Oakledge Park.

To reach the Airport Park trailhead in Colchester, take Interstate 89 to Exit 17 (US Route 2). Follow signs for US Route 2/US 7/Lake Champlain Islands/Colchester. Turn right onto Theodore Roosevelt Hwy./Route 2. Continue for 3 miles before turning right on Bay Road, and then take another right onto West Lakeshore Drive. West Lakeshore becomes Holy Cross Road and then Colchester Point Road. Trail parking is on the right at Airport Park on Colchester Point Road.


Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour

The tour of the Ben and Jerry's Waterbury, Vermont, factory costs only $3 and lasts 30 minutes. It consists of three parts -- a 6 minute video of the company's history, a look at the production floor from a glassed-in mezzanine, and a visit to the "FlavoRoom" for a taste of whatever new flavor they are dispensing that day. Photos are not allowed of the production area, but here's the tasting room with a tray of the new flavor "Orange with Cream" which was delightful and reminscent of the "Dreamsicles" of my youth...

The grounds include this huge lid where we pretended we were Ben and Jerry...

Behind the plant is a hill with a playground, and beyond that, a "Boot Hill" type cemetery they call the "Flavor Graveyard." They have discontinued 200 or so flavors over their 3 decades and 27 of the defunct flavors are "honored" here...

...with gravestones displaying a poetic epitaph. Here's the one for a flavor called "Peanuts! Popcorn!" (Click photo to enlarge.)

A visit to their gift shop will amuse you and perhaps tempt you into an impulse purchase, and a stop at their ice cream stand for a full portion of your favorite flavor is also a must!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

The Mount Washington Cog Railway is the world's first mountain-climbing Cog Railway, starting operations in 1869. It was conceived, designed, and built by Sylvester Marsh over a 3 year period. The entire history of this 140 year railway can be found here. The track runs up a three mile-long trestle with a maximum gradient of over 37%, making it the second-steepest mountain climbing train in the world and the only one entirely built on a trestle. Using a vintage steam engine, replica coaches, as well as bio-diesel locomotives which were added in 2008, the railway continues its 140 year tradition. We rode the first train of the day, which typically is the steam locomotive. But since it requires a ton of coal and 1000 gallons of water to make the ascent, the rest of the day, the new environmentally friendly bio-diesel engines pull the coaches. Here we are at the top...

This photo is shot through the open front door of the coach. The brakeman (unseen here) is sitting on the "front porch" of the car to the right of this door, carefully watching the track for any problems. His real job is on the descent, when he uses 2 brake wheels to control the speed going down.

Here's the steepest portion of the route, measured at 37.41 percent grade. The brakeman suggests people stand in the aisle to experience how steep an angle it is.

Your trip begins at 2700 feet. The top of Mt. Washington (elevation 6288 feet) is a 59 acre parcel of the state park system, land purchased by the state from Dartmouth College decades ago. All surrounding land is part of the 750,000 acre White Mountain National Forest and the famed Appalachian Trail runs near the summit and through-hikers often visit the summit. The highest wind velocity ever measured on earth, 231 miles per hour, was clocked on the summit on April 12, 1934. Wind exceeds hurricane force (75 mph) over one hundred days a year. An average wind velocity of 35 mph, coupled with an average temperature of 27.1 F, makes for extreme wind chill conditions. Snowfall averages 17 inches. But the views remain a drawing point, as the Presidential Range spread before you always grabs everyone's attention.

The summit offers a snack counter, gift shop, post office, museum, and rest rooms.

The trip up takes an hour and the return trip takes half that. The base station of the railway has a museum, and one photo shows how workers used to descend the 3 mile route in merely 3 minutes using a "devil's shingle," averaging 60mph on the ride down. It was a small wooden sled with 2 brake handles that can engage the center cog to control speed. What a wild ride that must have been!

Here's a video of our trip to the summit...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Biking Maine's Kennebec Valley Trail

Also called the Anson to Bingham Trail, it runs nearly 15 miles along the Indian path taken by Bendict Arnold in 1775, on orders from General Washington, to take Quebec from the British. The northern section follows alongside the lovely Kennebec River which you often get to see through breaks in the foliage as you head south. You will also cross the 45th Parallel, the midpoint between the equator and the North Pole, though you'll need a GPS unit to know where since no sign marks the location.

The surface is largely packed dirt, and though it has many washouts or "rolling dips" from ATV use on the sandy stretches, the trail nevertheless delivers a good mountain bike ride. It is far less rough than the Lagrange Trail I reviewed here. The Kennebec has very few rock outcroppings and far fewer loose rocks and gravel, making it a nicer ride. We did see 10 ATVs and 5 hikers on the trail, as well as 5 kayaks and a canoe on the river.

While the trail has only been fully developed from Bingham to south of Solon, additional undeveloped, less manicured trail miles stretch north from the North Anson cemetery, nearly doubling the overall length.

Below you get a feel for the verdant foliage lining the trail...

...with numerous views of the river...

North of Solon, you cross the Williams Dam on a former railroad bridge, and the rest of the trip south has you on the west side of the river, though no longer alongside it.

To reach the Bingham trailhead, take US Hwy. 201 south through town and turn left on Goodrich Road. The parking lot is on the left in a large gravel lot with trail access across Goodrich.

To reach the North Anson trailhead, take US Hwy. 201A to town and turn west on Fahi Pond Road. The trail starts on the right just before the cemetery.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Biking Maine's Lagrange Rail- Trail

Also known as the Lagrange Right of Way Trail, it runs 15 miles from South Lagrange north to Medford. We parked in South Lagrange. When driving north on Route 16 from I-95 there is a small sign showing the left turn to trailhead parking -- down a hill, past a couple homes, and into a grass parking area. If you miss the sign, you’ll cross a bridge over the trail and realize your error and can turn around. I had hoped there would be parking north of there in Lagrange where the trail crossed Route 6, but there was none.

The trail is tree shrouded and quite lovely...

...but breaks in the foliage allow you to occasionally glimpse homes, some fields, a few wetland bogs, and some small lakes...

The trail is dirt and is multi-use. It is the roughest rail-trail of the many dozens I’ve biked across the country, with constant rock outcroppings poking through the dirt, some tree roots, constant washout holes, some mud and standing water despite the last rain being 8 days ago, and multitudes of rocks and large gravel strewn on the trail. This is a multi-use trail for bikes, hikers, horses, and motor vehicles (ATVs and snowmobiles) and no doubt it is the last two which are the predominant users of the trail and no doubt account for its rough condition. In fact, 11 ATVs passed us during our two hours on the trail, all of whose riders were friendly -- they slowed for us, smiled, waved, and greeted us.

The last few miles as you near Medford to cross the Piscataquis River are very rough and even a light rain can fill the gullies, making it difficult to navigate. Cyclists must use a mountain bike. Less than a mile from the bridge, the trail threads through quaint Medford Center. To access the trail from Medford, cross the trestle and drive 0.3 mile along an unsigned dirt road till it bends to the left. Park along the shoulder.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Acadia National Park volunteer trail project

This trail project was under the auspices of the Appalachian Mountain Club in conjunction with the Acadia National Park trail personnel. We stayed at AMC's Echo Lake Camp nestled on a lovely forested hillside at the south end of Echo Lake bordering Acadia National Park. The camp was in its final week of its 9 week season of hosting campers, so we ate breakfast and supper in the dining hall with the other campers, enjoying delicious meals by the chefs and service by the servers -- a rare treat compared to my other 20+ volunteer trail projects where we had to cook our own meals and clean up after each meal -- all before or after an arduous day of trail work. And it was the best food I've ever enjoyed on a project! Thanks, AMC staff!

With 125 miles of trails in the national park -- most with elevation changes, years of stormy weather, and much use by hikers -- the trails require much maintenance, and like other parks, volunteers supply a good measure of the hours devoted to reconstruction and maintenance.

Here's a video that encapsulates all our our activities that week:

Years of rain had washed out much of the Great Head Trail and a rebuilding of the trail was deemed necessary. The National Park Service professional trail crew under the expert leadership of Chris and Jeff had begun the project many weeks earlier and had the assistance of a Youth Conservation Corps team to get part of the work done. We started on a new segment of the trail by digging a deep drainage ditch alongside the trail to divert rainwater and winter melt-off...

Of course, digging in the mountains is no simple task, since you constantly encounter dead trees, roots, rocks, and boulders, all of which are removed to allow water to flow freely without damaging the trail tread...

A deep base of rocks was installed to provide the anchor for the new trail and thus prevent washouts in the future, but rock has to be brought down to the trail from the mountainside above. The rangers had rigged a "grip hoist" system, meaning a cable that a pulley rides down. Rocks can be chained to the pulley and "flown" down to trail level...

...where they are laboriously broken with sledge hammers into usable sizes as seen here with Bill, Eben, and Dick hammering away...

As the six or more inches of base rock are put into place and the drainage ditch dug, holes are dug for culvert pipes to carry the water under the trail and down the mountain slope (notice the big black pipe in the upper left of photo below -- click to enlarge)...

The final step is to put fine rocks over the larger rocks and then dirt over all of it to create the finished trail tread as seen below -- tread which should last against all storms due to its solid foundation of rock and the drainage ditches to control the runoff of water.

A fringe benefit of working in such a gorgeous location was that a brief five minute hike took us to jaw-dropping beautiful lunch spots each day...

Another fringe benefit on the project was a special treat -- Tuesday evening when we all drove to the Thompson Island picnic area for a supper of clam chowder and boiled Maine lobster. Here's our entire hard-working trail crew enjoying that evening meal...

(l to r around the table) Lindsey, Ellen, Bill (our AMC co-leader), Eben, Maya (our AMC leader), Joanie, Marianne, Pam, Michelle, and Dick.

Here's a camcorder movie showing use of the grip hoist and high-line cable to move several tons of rocks down to the trail for crushing and spreading...

For more photos of this project, go here.