Mt Katahdin Gone Awry

Part 1

This is a true story. I wrote it in 2014 and published it. Here I will break it into 7 parts (7 postings) to make it easier to read. How does this relate to ME/CFS one might ask? Personally I feel our interactions here should be a good combination of science, theories, things that have helped some, background stories, mental understanding and support. But I also think it is just as important that we be able to side-step our current positions and challenges from time-to-time and reflect upon what we have accomplished in the lives we’ve led. To me this helps give emotional and mental support and hope, which in-turn can assist the body.

I, like many people around the world, have led a very adventuresome life until struck down by severe ME/CFS.

So here is a true adventure story for you all.

***

It was the year 2001 and I was living in the far north woods of Maine. Actually I was living on a homemade houseboat on an 8 mile long primitive lake. It was simply a plywood box with large windows, two plywood doors, a flat roof, a 3 foot deck and an 8 foot deck set up on a wooden frame with about twenty 55 gallon plastic food grade barrels underneath. It barely stayed afloat, but even in 4 foot waves pounding the walls it surprisingly survived.

My wife and our year and a half old son lived on this houseboat for about three seasons. For the most part we lived quite simply out there. No electricity, no running water or refrigeration. No motor either. If we wanted to move I had to use a long pole to get the boat where we wanted to go. Our mode of transportation was a 17 foot flat bottom canoe. Through calm, humid fog or howling winds and four and half foot waves, it was our mode of transport. Beyond that we had our feet and we would walk for miles through the mountains to get from place to place, or to find the best wild edibles to gather for food. I calculated that I solo canoed about 70 miles that summer.

Rabbits, squirrel and various fish were the meat sources. On the deck was a large metal wash basin that was our fire pit. It was set up on fire bricks and we cooked over the hot coals. Inside the house we had a wood stove with a glass door for heat when it got cold. Candles were our light source. That was about it. Life was simple.

I had been injured in the line of duty and had been given leave to recover. I was stationed on the east coast at the time, so we went to Maine. Outwardly I recovered fairy quick, but the agency wanted me to take the time anyway, and I found out before long they had the occasional job for me to do in northern Maine, so they figured my placement was opportune.

The sounds of loons, eagles, wolves and mosquitoes were our music. Fresh water eels would pop their heads up next to the boat on their way across the lake. The tiniest jellyfish I have ever seen would float by from time to time and raccoons would waddle across the rocky shore in the evening in search of mussels and clams. The occasional otter would be glimpsed swimming and playing in the distance, and the mighty moose would wander into the boggy edges to eat the many varieties of water plants. On warm sunny days the huge alligator snapping turtles would set themselves upon large rocks sticking out of the waters. The cackle of osprey would echo across the lake as they hunted from the skies for fish below.

During June when the mosquitoes were quite insane, we would anchor in the deep water and place three layers of screening over the doors. It was so hot and humid we had to keep the doors open so the screens were absolutely necessary. Our son’s playpen bed had five layers of screening over top inside the house. Every morning we would awake from a fitful night’s sleep and the house would be filled with mosquitoes that had worked their way through the screening. I would light a fire in the burn barrel, fill it with green grasses and place it inside on the floor. We would then close the doors and windows until the house was choked full of thick white smoke and then open it all up. The mosquitoes would flood out with the smoke and then we would screen it back up again. Luckily this only lasted about one very long month. Some nights, the loud hum from the mosquitoes actually kept us awake. Yes, there were actually that many that the night was filled with a loud hum. We decided to erect a tent on the roof and sleep in there since it had better screening. It was quite comical to see this funny looking houseboat with a tent on the roof.

So it was that our life went on through the warm season; canoeing, hiking, gathering, working on repairs, swimming, observing life, teaching our son, playing, exploring, star watching, connecting with the local animals and all manner of other simple living activities… and tracking people on the side for the government. Yes I did have a “company phone” they used to contact me with.

We had few visitors and those who did come down rode in on a small motor boat from town, 8 miles northwest from us. On occasion I would canoe solo 8 miles north on the lake to the small dirt parking lot where our 1972 Ford Ranger pickup was parked, and drive into the town of 600 people for some basic supplies. Once I had gathered them I would drive back, park the truck, load up the canoe and paddle 8 miles back down for a full 16 mile canoe trek. The ice cream was always liquid by the time I got back.

One day in early evening we heard a motor far off on the lake. It slowly grew in volume. This was normal at that time since fisherman would drop their lines for white perch at the end of the day on weekends. However, this sound kept coming and so we knew we had visitors. Sure enough, in a little while we saw a familiar little motor boat round the bend.

It slowed down as it neared our floating house and drifted up to the sideboards where Mac threw me a line. I tied it off and he and Jenny came aboard. Joe, the old man who owned the boat remained in his driver seat.

Mac said they were out driving around the lake a bit, just to get out, and decided to pop in before heading back to town. Well it was nice to see them. After all we sometimes would go for weeks without seeing anyone, not that I much minded that. Mac proceeded to tell us that he, Jenny and Libby, who was still in town, were planning on heading south to climb Mt Katahdin the next day. They wanted to know if we wanted to go along. Well since we had our year and a half year old son we decided we would pass, but my wife said that she would not mind if I went for the day.

Well I decided to go and packed a backpack, kissed my family goodbye and traveled back to town with Mac and the motor boat crew. We needed to get an early start since the trip to the south entrance of Baxter State Park where Mt Katahdin stood was about 70 miles south, and the hike in was long. We would need to be in the car heading out by 3am. It would be a very long day since our aim was to be back in town by the next night.

We arrived in town just before dark and they dropped me off by the slide-in camper my wife and I had left. This is the same camper that fit into the back of our pickup when we traveled around the country. I unlocked the door and climbed in with my pack for the short night.

A knock at the door woke me at about 2:30am, the middle of the night. I knew that was my wakeup call and drug myself out of bed. At that time in my life I was in immaculate condition and needed very little sleep to function at peak. I could swim 2 miles in the open ocean, sprint full out for 2/3rd a mile at 400 feet elevation before my lower face started to lose feeling; I had already climbed around 20 mountain peaks above 14,000 feet in all 4 seasons, and many between 13,000 and 14,000; trekked all over the country, and some in Central and South America.

I was also excited to climb the highest peak in Maine, so I was up and ready in no time.

We all packed into one car and headed south towards Millinocket where the south entrance was located. Mt Katahdin stands at 5,269 feet (1,606 m) and easily claims the title of the highest point in the state of Maine. The peak is well above tree line at that latitude and the ancient weathered rock can been seen for miles and miles. Tree line is at about 3,500 feet (1,066 m) on that mountain. Created from granite intrusion, the peak is a formation of five peaks of which the most famous are Baxter peak (5,269 feet) and Pamola peak (4,912 feet-1,497 m). Pamola Peak has a sub-peak on the east end of the knife edge ridge called Chimney Peak, (4,900 feet-1,4935 m). Both of these peaks are connected by a mile long “knife edge ridge”. Mt Katahdin can either be looked at as the start or end of the famous Appalachian Trail spanning from Maine to Georgia.

From south to north, the five peaks form a horseshoe in this order; Pamola, South Peak, Baxter Peak (the actual summit of Katahdidn), Hamlin Peak and Howe Peak. Baxter Peak has a sub-peak called South Peak (5,260 feet). It was the Penobscot Native Americans that gave the mountain the name Katahdin which means The Greatest Mountain. Pamola was the name of a storm spirit and many Native People in the region would avoid the Katahdin region fearing the wrath of Pamola who was supposed to dwell in the Katahdin Mountain.

They say Pamola is protector of the mountain. The belief is that it is male in origin with the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle. Because of Pamola, to the Natives climbing the mountain was considered taboo.

Many people head out to the Maine wilds to attempt the climb of Mt Katahdin and many get turned back because of the severity of the weather. Huge and dangerous storms can sweep up on that mountain very quickly and about 20 lives have been lost since the early 1960’s. Most have been from exposure and falls from the weather. It may not be a 14,000 foot (4,267 m) peak of the Rocky Mountains, but it is a megalith of its region and demands respect.

To be continued in Part 2-

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Comments

Hi @ Nord Wolf,,,,,,,So you never really grew up, huh? I do think men like to rough it, plenty of callouses that type of thing. But you wife is another story...where did you find a gem like that?

We haven't been camping since our move to Dallas (lots and lots of water moccasins at one time. Scary business), but I like the great outdoors...why do some of us like it?.....and with others it never makes the list.

Did you ever have pelvic stress fractures? Please tell me yes....and what you did to get over the joy of doing absolutely nothing, zilch. That's painful, plus it really is a painful injury. Hubby has been a miracle and can't do enough. So we do appreciate a good man....indeed we do.

Did you end up building your own home in the end; do you still have the boat. Also, someone please tell me this: Of what use are mosquitoes? I keep thinking about them and their place in the food chain and really can't think of one single good thing about the nuisances. I mean nothing....do Lenoa
 
goodness, this is gold. Thank you for sharing you and your familys adventures with us. So fascinating! The mosquito situation had to be maddening with a 1 1/2 year old. The peace had to be surreal being that far from people.
 
Hi @ Nord Wolf,,,,,,,So you never really grew up, huh? I do think men like to rough it, plenty of callouses that type of thing. But you wife is another story...where did you find a gem like that?
Ha, well I was forced to grow up very quickly as a child... so perhaps since my childhood was cut very short... well who really knows. I really think its all just what sort of spirit we have ;-)
My wife, ah well I met her almost 28 years ago. I was fighting in the ring during weekly Thursday night fights. One of the girls who knew me came to watch with some other people, and brought my future wife along. We met after the fights and talked; ended up going out to eat, left the restaurant around 11pm in the snow... and the rest is history :)
(lots and lots of water moccasins at one time. Scary business),
I have some good snake stories I might eventually share on here ;-)
Did you ever have pelvic stress fractures?
Nope. Had a LOT of injuries, but never that. Just some of the injuries I have endured, but not all; 20 broken and or cracked bones, 7 severed tendons, many sprains of ankle, wrist and elbow, 5 chest wall contusions, numerous organ contusions, a partially collapsed chest wall, 7 major concussions, 5 stab wounds, one shattered foot, broken teeth, over 35 major lacerations, two dislocated shoulders, many lacerated tendons and torn ligaments, damaged spleen stomach, lungs and small intestine from being poisoned in 05.
Did you end up building your own home in the end; do you still have the boat.
I did build a cabin for us around 2003ish... but the home we are in now was build in the 60's. No that old houseboat was dismantled many years ago.
Of what use are mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes, though unliked by many, are heavy pollinators for many plant species, and are a big food source for a great many animals, birds, amphibians, fish and reptiles. Nature has a place for all her creatures.
 
goodness, this is gold. Thank you for sharing you and your familys adventures with us. So fascinating! The mosquito situation had to be maddening with a 1 1/2 year old. The peace had to be surreal being that far from people.
Indeed the mosquitoes in June were horrific. I found the same to be true in Alaska in spring, northern Minnesota, the jungle side of Maui and various parts of South and Central America.:wide-eyed:
 
OK@Nord Wolf......You seemed like a pretty nice sort of guy, but anyone who has anything good to say about mosquitoes is heading off in a wrong direction...totally wrong.

Now I told you that my husband's idea of retirement and relaxation is tearing something apart and putting it together again...the right way. A number of years ago he stated a business selling mosquito screens, and right from the beginning made a small fortune at it...all in the name of relaxation. He even sewed the things to fit himself....then hung them, but I insisted that he hire someone for that.

One rule only: He has a habit of coronary problems, so he wasn't allowed to hang them in the middle of summer. Everyone has great looking mosquito drapes except ours....probably age. Anyway he finally gave that up just a couple of mos, ago, but I swear that nothing excites him more than a repair job of some sort or another. Needless to say, our garage is a far cry from presentable.

So, nice woman you found there....likes wresting too, or was it boxing?

But no, they can be great pollinators, but I'll grow my own pollinators thank-you, definitely not a mosquito patch. Yours, Lenora.P,S. I'm impressed that you had an answer though...do you know how many years I've been looking?
 
OK@Nord Wolf......You seemed like a pretty nice sort of guy, but anyone who has anything good to say about mosquitoes is heading off in a wrong direction...totally wrong.
:lol:
So, nice woman you found there....likes wresting too, or was it boxing?
It was a full contact martial arts fight. She took martial arts herself for a few years back in the day. No she didn't compete, but she loved watching others do so. She loves the outdoors as well, was a musician before Parkinson's took that away, and has always been very adventurous and active.
I'm impressed that you had an answer though...do you know how many years I've been looking?
Ha, ha - well I did run two wilderness schools for 8 years or so ;)
 

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Nord Wolf
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