Sunday, October 28, 2012

Peaks Island Day Trip

double lighthouses viewed from 20 min ferry ride to peaks
Double lighthouses viewed from 20 min ferry ride to Peaks island.

I lived in Southern Maine for 5 years before I ever took the trip out to Peaks Island.  I missed out.  It is the perfect outing for those looking for a change of scenery, casual seaside stroll, or bike ride.  This is a great idea for a fall outing since the crowds have cleared and you can expect a quiet, quaint island.
Ferry comes into Peaks Terminal
Ferry comes into Peaks Terminal

Follow this recipe for a perfect afternoon on Peaks....

10:10 am - Arrive in Portland.  Park and walk to the Ferry terminal.
10:25 am - Purchase ferry ticket.
10:40 am - Board Ferry to Peaks.
10:45 am - Ferry departs Portland.
11:05 am - Arrive at Peaks. De-board.
11:15 am - Walk up road and turn right on Island Ave.  Go to  The Peaks Island House for and early lunch and drink on the deck overlooking Casco Bay. 
12:15 pm - Exit the restaurant walk the island... This is a 4 mile stroll.
  • Continue walking down Island Ave, 
  • Turn left on New Island Ave
  • Right on Whitehead St. - You'll pass the 5th Maine Regiment Museum on your right.
  • Right on Seashore Ave which will take you down to the shore.  
  • Continue walking on Seashore Ave. You'll pass views of beach, quaint island homes, and rocky shore.
  • You will continue on Seashore Ave as it winds back into the inland island.  Continue past Pleasant Ave and wind down to Island Ave.
  • Stay on Island Ave until you return to the main part of town.  
  • Return to Ferry terminal.  
    hiker strolls along Seashore Ave
    Stroll along Seashore Ave
2:30 pm - Finish walk and grab a coffee at Peaks Cafe near the ferry terminal.
2:40 pm - Board ferry back to Portland.
2:45 pm - Depart back to Portland.

Bike Option:

- Rent a bike at Brad's Island Bicycles.  Bring cash.  This is an honor system in the off season and comes with a island map.  Once off the ferry, you can get to Brad's by walking up the road and taking a left on Island Ave.  Brad's will be about a 10 min walk on the right.  Address: 115 Island Ave., Peaks Island, ME.  Phone: (207) 766-5631

More advice for Peaks...

map around peaks
Map by google maps
- Check out the ferry schedule at  It usually departs Portland once an hour with some exceptions.

- The ferry is very affordable.  It is currently $7.70 round trip ($4.10 off season) with $6.50 extra if you are bringing a bicycle on.   Show up to ferry a 20 minutes prior to departure to get your ticket and get to your gate.

- There is a parking garage at the ferry terminal, but passengers shouldn't expect this to have open spots during the high season of summer.  Other options are street parking or other City of Portland garages which can be found on the Casco Bay Lines website under parking (here).  

- The ferry ride to Peaks takes 20 minutes one way and you will likely see lighthouses, islands, and lobster/fisherman hauling their catch. 

- Once on the island, you'll discover that the businesses are almost all near the ferry terminal.
biking peaks island
Biking is another option

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Top 10 Things to Pack for a Fall Day Hike

fall hiking trail
Fall Hiking Trail
Fall is one of my favorite times to hike.  The temperature is often that perfect point where you aren't sweating from the heat and humidity and as you exert yourself, you warm up enough to wear a light sweater.  As the season progresses, the scenery changes as fall colors appear transitioning into trees going bear before the snow comes.  This time of year, hikers usually don't need additional traction (like snowshoes), and there are far fewer summer hikers to dodge and back up the trails.  All in all - fall hiking is the best!

Fall hiking can bring on additional challenges.  For example, shorter days mean less daylight, colder and more unpredictable weather, and the possibility of ice or snow on the trail.  It's very important to, as the Leave No Trace guidelines suggest- Plan Ahead and Be Prepared.

Before heading out for a day hike, use this list and check it twice....

hiker in ravine
Matt has all his gear in his day pack for a comfy fall hike.
1.  Non Cotton Clothing - You might have heard the term "cotton kills".  This is because wet cotton wicks heat away from your body.  Stick to these materials - nylon, poly, and wool, and don't wear jeans and a t-shirt!

2.  A Day pack - Find a sturdy backpack with a hip belt.  I use an old L.L. Bean school pack.

3. A Map - Don't try to save money or get lazy by not getting a map.  Trails can be confusing (especially in New England)  Don't leave home without one and don't rely on a phone.

4. Water - For an all day hike - at least 2 Liters, for 1-2 hour hike, one Liter should be fine.

5. A First Aid Kit - For a day hike bring sunscreen, band aids, a pocket knife, gauze/pad, tape, and benedryl/ibruprofen, space blanket, pencil, and paper.

6.  A Flashlight/Headlamp - These are life savers if you over estimate the hike length and loose daylight.

7.  Food - For a full day hike bring a meal + snack.  For a couple hours, bring a granola bar, piece of fruit, or trail mix.

8. A Rain Layer - Get a light weight waterproof jacket.  I also bring a pair of lightweight rain pants.

Fall colors in New Hampshire
9.  A Warm Layer - Bring a non-cotton warm layer like a fleece or wool sweater.  You might not need it at the start of the hike but if you stop for a snack, summit view, or first aid - you'll be glad you have it.

10.  Warm Hat and Gloves - If you are traveling up in elevation, this can really make your trip a happy one.

Optional:  I also bring the following...
* Camera - capture the memories
* Trekking Poles - protect your knees
 * Compass - it's only useful if you know how to use it
* Sunglasses - for the sunny days
* Identification (driver's license) - Just in case...
Hiker covered in leaves
Enjoy the fall

With this list, you'll be able to have a comfortable and safe hike in fall!  

I welcome comments and questions below.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fabulous Fall Foliage Family Friendly Hikes!

Fall in New England
Fall in New England

Gorham Mountain Acadia National Park
Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park
Leaf Peeper? Here are a few great fall hikes.  Remember fall weather can be unpredictable.  Bring warm layers and rain gear, water and snacks, and a reliable map.

Gorham Mountain Summit Sign
Gorham Mtn, Acadia
1.  Gorham Mountain,
Acadia National Park, Maine  
- Acadia's trees are mostly hardwoods which makes it a wonderful place to experience the changing of seasons.  There is a plethera of family friendly hikes including a stroll around Jordan Pond Nature Trail, Bubble Rock Trail, and Cadillac Mountain.  The one I recommend here for some great foliage views is the Gorham Mountain Trail.  This is a moderately strenuous hike with some steep grades but accessible to most fit people.  Too access, park in the Gorham Mountain Parking area past Thunder Hole.  The hike is 1.8 miles round trip.  It provides many stunning views.

Summit of Mt. Willard2.  Mt. Willard, 
Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire 
- Don't let the term "Mountain" scare you.  You will get a great bang (in views) for your buck on this hike.  Located in Crawford Notch State Park, NH, this 3.2 mile round trip hike takes you up 900 feet to a gorgeous view point looking down into the U-shaped valley.  Park at the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch.  Bring a snack to share at the summit.  You'll want to drink it in.

View from summit of Mt. Willard
View from Mt. Willard Summit

3.  Cardigan Mountain,
Cardigan Mountain State Park, New Hampshire
- There are multiple access points and trails to the summit of Mt. Cardigan in the New Hampshire Lakes region.  The summit of this mountain is completely bare due to a fire back in the day so you will experience amazing 360 views when you reach the still operational fire tower at the summit.  The nearby Mount Firescrew is worth a trip too if you want to elongate your loop.  The shortest/easiest hike is up the West Ridge Trail which can be accessed from AMC Cardigan Lodge.  The hike up Cardigan is 2.6 miles one way.  Plan to spend the whole day hiking and pack accordingly.  AMC Cardigan Lodge provides comfy lodging and food as well as a camp ground for the overnight trip.
hiking cardigan in new hampshire
Hiking near Cardigan Mountain
I welcome comments and suggestions of other awesome fall hikes!  Let me know!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cold Night on the Mountain

A night on Mt. Pierce, New Hampshire
Mt. Washington in Snow
View of Mt. Washington from Mt. Pierce 

This is the perfect adventure for the experienced hiker looking for a one night backpack with great views and cool weather.  

My friend Jenny and I decided to try our first overnight in early fall snow.  We went up Saturday, Oct. 13 and returned Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012.  We experienced amazing views, some icy trail, and uncrowded summits.

Saturday morning we drove up to the AMC Highland Center in Bartlett, NH and took the Crawford Path up to Mizpah Hut/Nauman Campsite.  The hike took us about 2 hours to get to the hut.  I was glad I had my trekking poles as the trail had some slick parts.  It would have been helpful to have traction in the form of microspikes or yak traks, but it wasn't absolutely necessary.

We set up camp at Nauman tentsite in a dusting of snow and summited Mt. Pierce at 5 pm and were back down at 6 pm as it was getting dark.  We got water and used the restroom in the hut (their last weekend open), then cooked dinner at our campsite.  Since the summer season had ended, camping was free.

Summit of Mt. Pierce
Jenny and I at the summit of Mt. Pierce
Jenny and I agreed that the trip was overall wonderful, but it could easily have been catastrophic had we not prepared with 35 below sleeping bags, lots of warm clothing, and proper hiking gear.  Only hikers with experience and proper gear should try this weekend adventure.


Camping in Snow
Prepare for Cold
Hiking Challenge Level: Experienced
Camping Challenge: Experienced/Challenging

Gear: AMC White Mountain Map #3 (Crawford Notch-Sandwich Range), Overnight Backpack, Pants (3 layers, non cotton - shell, fleece, long underwear), Tops (5 layers, non cotton - long underwear, fleece, puffy, shell), gloves, hat, scarf, hiking boots, wool socks, 35 below sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad, 2 L of water bottles, camp stove (whisperlite), fuel, food/hot drink mix, camera.

Directions to Trail Head:  Drive to North Conway, New Hampshire.  Take Rt 302 West into Crawford Notch State Park.  Park at AMC Highland Center.

Trail:  We took the Crawford Path from across the road from AMC Highland Center to the Mizpah Cutoff, stayed at Nauman Campsite.  Slackpacked up to the summit of Mt. Pierce and back down.  In the morning, we hiked out.

AMC Mizpah Hut in Snow
AMC Mizpah Hut is 1 min walk from our campsite

Trail Guide

Fall in Acadia
The Freelance Adventurer - 
A guide to local New England Adventures and beyond...
by Lindsey Hansen

When I moved to Northern New England 7 years ago, the only way I could find interesting outdoor day trips was to read a thick travel book or ask a local.  Still, I was often referenced to the same two or three hikes or viewpoints.  After visiting Mt. Agamenticus and Mt. Washington 3 or 4 times, I was aching for something new.  I realized I'd have to take this adventure seeking into my own hands.

 The goals of this blog is the following:

Summit of Mt. Pierce
Hiking in New Hampshire

1. Document my adventures so I can revist my experiences and recall those adventures.
2.  Provide ideas for other visitors to my region and to the locals of Northern New England  who are looking for interesting day, weekend, and road trips.
3.  Display my outdoor photography to those who appreciate the Northeast North America and beyond.

Cairn on Mt. Washington, NH
Hiking in New Hampshire

My Experience...

Writing: I received great feedback about my summer's short blog about a trip to Newfoundland (On the Rock) that I decided to continue blogging my adventures. I also have a few published pieces and an award for my play "Standing North".  

kayak in vermont
Kayaking in Vermont
Hiking and Adventuring: I have worked at multiple outdoor facilities/adventure places including six seasons for Appalachian Mountain Club as a Mountain Classroom Instructor and Teen Wilderness Adventure Instructor.  I have also worked as an environmental instructor at The Whale Camp, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, and Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School.