What should you be eating? This National Geographic article loosely examines the diversity of hunter gatherer people from around the world and is full of beautiful (and somewhat horrifying) images of dishes you have surely not tried yet. Fried geranium leaves anyone?
Ayurveda has long advocated for a Seasonal, Local and Diverse diet. Which is the foundation of my upcoming Fall Cleanse (October 8-29). Early bird registration will be opening soon!
There has been some question about the effect of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli et al) on thyroid health. This article makes some great points about how and why too much of a good thing could be harmful, but also the real root of the problem which is that most of us aren’t getting enough iodine and other important trace minerals to protect our thyroid.
Here in Maine we have no shortage of fantastic seaweed options as a natural healthy source of iodine.
Move Your Body
You might want to stand up to read this article about how to undo the effects of sitting. Scroll to the end for a useful summary of glute-awakening exercises.
You do not need to be training for an Ironman to reap the benefits of exercise. This article argues that just five slow miles a week is enough to keep you healthy . . .
B.K.S. Iyengar died last week at the age of 95. Here’s the NYT article about the life and death of this tremendously influential yoga teacher.
And here’s an On Point discussion about Iyengar’s legacy.
According to Hindu tantric cosmology, mass, time and space are all relative attributes of the absolute. This quantum physics article is a fun example of how difficult it is to describe the infinite universe from a relative perspective. Very nerdy, but very fun stuff here.
After disastrously low numbers in 2013, Monarch butterflies seem to be doing better this summer. We’ve found a few caterpillars in the field below Blue Hill Mountain and others are reporting the same around the Peninsula. This CBC article concludes that numbers are indeed up from last year.
In my star talk last night I mentioned that song birds use stars to navigate during migration (yes, they fly at night). This site describes how. Which reinforces the point that you should be turning your outdoor lighting off for the next month (at the very least). And be sure to check out the good work of the Acadia Night Sky Festival, including the Bar Harbor Ordinance about lights and glare that helps keep the sky dark and the birds heading the right way.
Photo of the week:
Not a Monarch but a pretty and very tame Fritillary.
My first Iron-distance triathlon is in 26 days. I’ve been training solidly for 20 weeks, the first half of which was fully enjoyable and manageable. Then the hours started to creep up. A couple 20hr training weeks in mid-July and mid-August have left me pining for my yoga mat, wondering if I’ll ever do a full back bend again. When I finally dragged myself into his office, my body worker wasn’t very enthusiastic about the state of my body either. I mumbled some excuse about how my neck gets tight when I’m swimming in rough water while he gently pummeled the knots in my upper back.
The past two weeks have been particularly full training weeks (hence no Weekly News last week). They included several miles of open water swimming, a couple hundred miles of biking, a boulder-hop-hike up Katahdin and my own half-ironman yesterday. I rarely drink alcohol because I hate the hangover, but waking up the morning after hiking Katahdin I felt like I had been on a wild bender the night before. Stiff, tired, queasy and all I wanted to do was return to bed. I’m not very good at taking time to recover, but last week I was forced to lay low between workouts. The girls love it when I’m tired because it means more puzzles and books with them. The house and garden are showing my neglect and Jerome is definitely taking up the slack. (Thanks buddy!)
At this point in my training, when I am so fully committed that it would be an insult to all involved if I back out is exactly when I start to question the worthiness of my endeavor. A significant part of trail running and triathlon feels so utterly meaningless and self-involved. At my low points I start brooding: summer is almost over and all I have to show for it is some bike grease on my calves and a new forehead wrinkle where my swim goggles fit too tight. I mean, I have all these amazing friends who do all these amazing things in the summer – renovating their old farmhouse (and having babies), organizing gorgeous farm to table dinners and building their own permaculture yurt homestead. They are producing beautiful things and making long lasting friendships while I run around the Peninsula like a frenetic Labrador retriever.
I’ve heard that when you’re in the middle of a very long, very difficult training run or race, it’s helpful to have some meaningful reason to be out there. Something that keeps you from throwing in the towel, something wonderful and selfless to dedicate your efforts toward. This doesn’t seem to apply to me. I am really good at moving forward, albeit slowly. Moving forward is my default. Instead, it seems like I need something meaningful to hold me in place. For the most part that’s been my kids. If it weren’t for them I would surely be off wandering the wilds with my sketchpad and gallon jug of water. Least you think I’m heartlessly throwing Jerome under the bus here, have no fear, he would happily come along with his own beat up copy of Lord of the Rings, that’s why I married him, he’s just as happy wandering the desert as I am.
For me there is no bigger meaning, no broader dedication behind what I do. In all of my various practices I move for the in-the-moment feeling of connection to myself and to nature and because it quiets the static of my mind and mood. Also, I love setting an impossible goal and proving myself wrong. I’m not opposed to pain and discomfort, though I’m not as masochistic as some think. When the going gets tough I do say little mantras to keep myself going. I chant to my friends that I know would love to be out moving their own bodies down the trail but for various reasons can’t. I think a ton about the immense privilege I have of choosing my challenges and I try to honor that by not resenting or regretting how I spend my time.
Exactly how have I been spending my time the last 20 weeks? Here are some stats. It’s a little horrifying to see this in writing, but it also explains why my garden and house look the way they do (and why I may have failed to return your email recently):
April 1 – August 17, 2014:
Swim 85 miles (~56hrs)
Bike 2,050 miles (~130hrs)
Run 360 miles (~65hrs)
The numbers average out to 12 ½ hours a week, which doesn’t seem too crazy . . . Not included is the hiking I’ve been substituting instead of running. I’m working with some nagging inner heel pain that gets worse when I run on the road or when I use my shin muscles to lift my feet instead of my glutes and the pain goes away when I hike barefoot on uneven trails uphill, which the girls are happy to do with me.
Two more weeks of heavy training and hopefully the grass won’t be too long to mow during my two easy pre-race weeks. I’ll have a practice go at the Olympic distance Lobsterman Tri on September 6 in Freeport and then the big one in Hunter, New York on September 12. I’ll let you know how it goes.
P.S. Can we change the name yet? I simply cannot identify with or take pride in being an Ironman. Not that Ironwoman sounds much better, but at least I can own it. Multi-Sport-Person is appropriately gender and mineral neutral but still lacking something . . . help me out here.
A Kitten’s Guide to Blue Hill, Maine
“Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven doesn’t make them biscuits.” Even though I was born in Ellsworth (the Blue Hill Hospital doesn’t do twins), and even though I’ve lived in Blue Hill off and since then, I’m definitely not local. Nor are my children or m theoretical future grandchildren. Nor are the summer people whose families have been coming here since the mid 1800’s. Nor is the fisherman who moved here from Gloucester to dive for sea cucumbers in the ‘80’s and stayed.
So now that we’ve established that unless your name is Denny Robertson, you are not a biscuit, I’m calling this post the Kitten’s Guide to Blue Hill. Basically, this is a random ramble about the things I like about living in Blue Hill, Maine. I’m going to leave out a ton, so if you’re looking for a less personal, more inclusive guide to the area check out Melissa Coleman’s 2010 Maine Magazine article – just be aware that many of the eating establishments listed there no longer exist.
Let’s start with a typical summer day here on this eastern edge of the Avalonian Island Arc . The climate here is not as tropical as it was back when our bedrock was forming but because Blue Hill is slightly tucked in away from the Gulf of Maine it tends to be warmer and less foggy than neighboring Bar Harbor and Deer Isle. Somewhere in July or August we get at least one week of heat and humidity. Made more so because of the lack of air-conditioning on most of the Peninsula. But why would you want to cool off during the one week a year it gets over 80 degrees? I say soak it up kittens, you’re going to want that heat come January.
The sun is up early in the summer and I try to make the most of it by getting out on a bike or run before I teach my morning classes. Friends often tell me they are scared to bike on the shoulderless roads here. But early morning traffic is very light, especially on the weekends. Also, it’s good to stick to the roads that have good clean pavement so you can fully own your three feet – don’t move over onto broken pavement or a soft shoulder to make way for cars or you risk loosing your balance and falling perilously into the traffic you’re trying to avoid. The road around Brooklin was freshly paved last year and heading out that way from the center of Blue Hill makes for a scenic low-traffic 20-40-mile loop (add Naskeag, Flye Point and Harriman Point for additional quiet, gently rolling, scenic miles). The East Blue Hill Road was also recently paved though it is a hillier and curvier road. Novice bikers will love the flat and slow-traffic stretch on Newbury Neck, and I bike Toddy Pond Road a couple times a week because I love the pretty blueberry fields, views of Bald Mountain and light traffic. Beware of Route 15 between Blue Hill and Sedgwick (a.k.a the Mines Road), the visibility is terrible, the road is narrow and overburdened lobster trucks barrel by carrying their loads between the Stonington Dock and Bangor airport leaking rivers of fishy effluent as they go.
Trail Running and Hiking
Some mornings I start with a trail run instead of a ride. I live close to Turkey Farm Road, so I like to run up the 1.5-mile Becton Trail on the backside of Blue Hill Mountain to the 934 ft. peak, then down the front side past the Mountain Road and into town via the Post Office Trail, then back up again the same way for a round trip of eight, mostly shaded trail miles. All these trails and several more are maintained by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. You can purchase a guide to all the trails on the Peninsula at their office on the corner of the Mountain Road and Route 15 (Pleasant Street).
I do a couple of long swims a week in the summer. The ocean water is cold enough that I try to time my swims with an afternoon high tide when the water is warmed by the shallow mudflats and beach rocks. I often launch from the big rock off the Blue Hill Town Park and swim a circle around the middle part of the Harbor. This doubles as a nice DIY tour of the pretty wooden boats and summer houses along the Parker Point shoreline. I have several friends who swim an hour or more out into the Bay relying entirely on their winter blubber supply, but I’m a little wimpier and usually supplement my own insulation with a wetsuit. If I’m feeling ambitious and brave (great white sharks, also not biscuits, have recently discovered the Maine Coast . . .) I love swimming around the seal rocks or out to Long Island (~2 miles away), where my family meets me to ferry me back in our tin boat.
Aside from my own exercise-recreation, our whole family spends most of our time outside in the summer. There is a very popular and scenic swimming beach in East Blue Hill but since it is technically on private property, I won’t mention it by name. It, along with every other rocky, muddy, fir-lined beach in Maine, is optimal kid habitat. Unless there are explicit private property signs (uncommon and unwelcome), we freely wander the beaches around Blue Hill Bay. We mindfully avoid marring the view sheds of weddings and summer-people cocktail parties that take place in August. As a general rule, for 11 months out of the year, our beach is your beach. Or rather, your beach is our beach. We thank you. Those of us who can spend whole days on your (our) beaches with the kids running in a wild, salty, muddy pack, parents coming and going to and from work, trading off kid-watch, feeding and towel-wrapping duties. The kids bury jelly fish under rocky piles, hum to snails, sport rockweed wigs, dig up clams, engineer complex hydrological experiments and collectively threatening to blow out to sea on inflatable turtles, inner tubes and rafts. It’s a good life.
We have seen some wonderful restaurants come and go over the years (Pie in the Sky, the Left Bank . . . sigh . . .) and everyone I know has a vision of the perfect Blue Hill café. Mine is a warm, comfortable space with sunlit tables and a couch for the kids to play on. The food is heavy on flavor and freshness and light on Sysco . . . Alas, the combination of a low year-round population (2,600) and the annoyingly inflated cost of commercial and private real estate make it hard if not impossible to sustain small local businesses that don’t rely on national/corporate food distributors. Ideally Blue Hillers will get it together and figure out a comprehensive town plan that can keep downtown rent reasonable, prevent crappy dollar stores and fast food drive thrus and support local family businesses that cater to and thrive on the local income bracket. But too many people think that kind of planning would incite (another) kitten-biscuit war and no one wants to go there.
In the meantime there are places making it work by working harder than anyone should. Visit them often and tip them well . . .
Breakfast and Coffee
After I teach my yoga or Pilates classes I head to the Blue Hill Co Op Café for a cup of vegan soup or a warm gluten-free muffin. The baked goods are overpriced and the quality is variable, but the fact that there is a gluten-free, whole grain, kale salad option in this area makes the Co Op a miracle worth supporting. Another miracle is Anya’s brand new Greenspeed juice bar on Water Street (next to the tatoo parlor, and beneath the yoga studio!). At the moment she’s making fresh pressed green juice and real, whole food smoothies and there’s talk of adding some fresh, raw food options too. Three years ago the nearest espresso was in Ellsworth, but currently there is a gluttony of choices. I love meeting my girlfriends at Black Dinah’s for a latte made with 44 North beans surrounded by the sweet scent of Fairwinds Florist flowers. Or I head up to the Blue Hill Wine Shop where Max will make you an espresso while you nibble on one of their delicious little sandwiches made with Tinderhearth sourdough bread and real cheese combined with the smell of tobacco, old wood and coffee beans. Sometimes I just want to go loiter in the Wineshop without needing to buy anything (Max would undoubtedly be fine with this as long as you lend your ear and something of worth to add to the conversation). Sandy’s Provisions in Brooklin is similar and I often make up reasons to head that way so I can stop in for a cup of Bucklyn’s coffee and a homemade cookie. Having pretty much dedicated his life to the cause, there is no doubt that David makes the best espresso on the Peninsula.
After my Saturday morning yoga class I head over to the Blue Hill Farmer’s Market to grab the last bunch of broccoli or a pint blueberries before they close up at 11:30. One can make a pretty good brunch out Farmer’s Market fixins’.
Lunch and Dinner
My family rarely eats out for lunch or dinner because we tend to be picky and high maintenance. So when we do go out it is more for the social aspect. And Barncastle fills that need nicely. It has a cozy, family appeal and almost meets all my qualifications for the ideal local restaurant with the only problem that most of my family can’t eat dairy or gluten and Barncastle’s main gig is wood fired pizza. I suspect most of my friends eat one or more Barncastle pizzas a week. (They also serve nachos, ribs, salads and mussels).
The Fishnet (aka the Fishy Snack) is another glutenous-dairy-filled venue. Every spring on opening day they offer free soft serve cones and people emerge from the woodwork like carpenter ants on a warm day. The Fishnet is the place for authentic Maine fried and rolled seafood. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I was consumed by morning sickness. I would go into the hospital to get rehydrated and they would give me this medication that briefly allowed me to contemplate eating without barfing. The only thing I could think of eating during those few sober hours was a shrimp roll from the Fishnet. So, every June, on Lucy’s birthday and in honor of being un-pregnant, I order a Fishnet shrimp or crab roll and it is really, really tasty, white bread hotdog bun and all.
The other place to go in town if you are craving a fish sandwich, iceberg lettuce and thousand island dressing is Marlentinis. The only time I ever end up here is when the local Audubon chapter meets to go over our Christmas Bird count lists. There are times when it is the only restaurant open in town and it draws a steady loyal crowd, though it sadly lacks in flavor, freshness and atmosphere.
In downtown Blue Hill the De-li and Millstream bakeries are making a go at surviving the high rent/low traffic dilemma and both serve up sandwiches, coffee and baked goods. I admit I don’t visit either often, but they are great alternatives to the unmentionable chain venues that lurk on the edge of town.
A few times this year I’ve made the trip out to Jill’s new Millbrook Company Bakery in the old Country View building on Route 15. This is my daughter’s favorite place for special “Mom” dates (I think this is because unlike the Co Op Cafe, I am unlikely to know anyone at Millbrook so I will be free to pay full attention to them instead of chatting with my girlfriends the whole time). I like the fresh recipe ideas, the local ingredients and the sunny view. On weekend summer afternoons we like to swim in Walker Pond and then continue down the road to El El Frijoles which serves up fresh, fun, zesty, mexi-gringo grub. There’s always a local seafood option and my kids love the thick homemade corn tortillas, which resemble nothing I’ve ever had in Mexico but make a lovely platform for the refried black beans grown up the road on Horse Power farm.
There are two fancy dinner options in Blue Hill, the Blue Hill Inn and Arborvine – both serve Frenchish cuisine with attention to detail. The environment is a bit too tranquil for this family’s children so we tend to go next door to the Deep Water Brewpub where you can get Blue Hill’s local pint served by the cutest bartender on the Peninsula. Oh wait, that’s my husband. He’ll also serve you mussels, curried fish, a local grassfed burger and handcut fries. We eat there every couple of weeks to keep him company. We’ve never gone to the Boatyard Grill, but the Deepwater bartender reports that it has a good reputation.
In truth, most of our meals come from Tradewinds Market, which deserves a ton of credit for providing this area with a steady and decent supply of affordable, organic and often local produce. They also have a very generous section dedicated to gluten-free, organic and other pseudo-health stuff like almond milk, kombucha and goat cheese. What we can’t get there we get at the Co Op or Farm Drop.
The Blue Hill Library provides about 95% of my family’s non-outdoor entertainment. Just last night the kids went to a magic show the library hosted at the Bay School’s Emlen Hall. On Wednesday afternoons in the summer musicians from Kniesel Hall play in the Library’s Howard room and every week there are local authors and artists discussing and displaying their work. In lieu of a formal event there is always something waiting to happen in the comfortable, well attended kid’s section.
There is so much else happening here socially – the Weekly Packet is the best place to find information about upcoming plays, music, gallery openings and more.
I’ve heard visitors complain loudly about what kind of community “allows” a car garage and a firehouse to occupy the most scenic acres in town? And how is it that the library (i.e. the only place in town with public internet) doesn’t open until 10am? Summer people might be tempted to think of us year-rounders as unsophisticated, unconnected, unwashed bumpkins and might wonder what we do for fun with little to no media or commercial entertainment.
The truth is, most of what we do involves getting together to muck around – building, stacking, planting, killing, chopping, hauling and fixing, as well as sailing, swimming, knitting, singing, dancing and hiking. Unless it’s a funeral or a wedding, we rarely get together to sit still.
I’m not trying to overly romanticizing our little village. The truth is, most of us move here because of all there isn’t. But those of who stay, stay because of all there is. If you find yourself driving through or spending a week in a summer cabin nearby, just know that behind the shuttered windows on Main Street, the ubiquitous blue tarps, stacks of lobster pots, broken cars and decrepit backyard boats, there is a vibrant community of talented, happy people struggling to balance easy living with making a living. We don’t care if you’re a biscuit or a kitten, how much money you make or who you know. We care if you are kind and generous and willing to see what we see – a quiet village, surrounded by wild woods and coast. Nothing more, nothing less.
I’ve got a potpurri of news items for you this week. Not particularly seasonal, but little snippets that have inspired my teaching over the last few weeks/months. Next week will be the first week of August which means the tourists will finally outnumber the mosquitoes here in Downeast, Maine. In honor of all our visiting friends, next week’s news will be a local guide to the Blue Hill Peninsula. Definitely let me know your favorite places and activities that should be included.
This coming weekend I’ll be traveling to the eastern most point in Maine to teach a workshop at the Eastport Arts Center on August 3rd. If you are interested in attending contact me or the local organizing teacher Marit Wilson.
Move Your Body
You know how I’m always going on about the actions of yoga such as deep rhythmic breathing and how they help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system? And how things like sucking in your belly inhibits vagus nerve stimulation? Well, here are two interesting links that explain a little bit about why. First up, the vagus nerve, what it is and why you should care about it, and second, why “sucking in your belly” sucks, and why I prefer the cue to “draw the four corners of your belly back”.
Next up, you know how I’m always telling you that over-stretched muscles aren’t beneficial to athletes? Well if we’re not supposed to stretch, how are we athletes supposed to heal and realign our fascia? Here’s some interesting research on the benefits of foam rolling, that explains a little about fascia and how rolling does and doesn’t work. And while I love rolling out my back, I absolutely love this roller device to get blood flowing to the belly of my calves and thigh muscles when I’m too tired to stretch (because passive stretching when your muscles are tired is a terrible idea!).
Ideally we wouldn’t even need to recover from our athletic endeavors. After all, the human body is designed to move! It turns out it’s how we move that causes unnecessary stress to our bodies, or more precisely, all the ways that we are not moving. Repetitive movements such as road running and biking are not the most natural or balanced actions for the human body and unless you balance out the repetition with other kinds of movement, you are likely to end up with an injury. I am fully aware of this hazard as I am smack in the middle of my Ironman training and just barely staving off plantar fasciitis, a classic overuse, stress related injury. So far, the one thing that predictably makes my feet feel better is hiking barefoot on rough, steep rocky trails.
Adding variety to your movement diet is a natural and easy way to prevent injury in the first place. I adore movement educator Katy Bowman, and here’s a great clip from her upcoming project “Move Your DNA”, where she talks about this exact idea.
And here’s a short NYT article about the need for children to move in diverse and unstructured ways as well.
Move your body, nourish your soul.
Lunch always tastes better when it’s eaten in the woods.
In lieu of my regularly scheduled Weekly News Roundup I want to tell you about a couple of our recent family adventures. If nothing else I want to remind you how gorgeous Maine is and show you how easy it is to get out ant and enjoy it even if you only have a day or two off at a time.
Like many local families, we make a significant chunk of our income during the summer tourist months. Thus, our family expeditions are constrained to the 36 hours neither of us works during the week. As you will see, this is not usually a problem.
24 hours in Acadia National Park
Don’t let the crowds of summer tourists scare you off. When I worked at Acadia as a Park Ranger part of my job was to hike the parts of trails where I would encounter as many visitors as possible. Basically that meant staying within a half mile of the most popular trailheads (Eagle Lake, Cadillac summit, Sand Beach . . .) Beyond that and the numbers thin exponentially. As a rule visitors don’t like to walk, and they never, ever go off trail. Of course the trails themselves are part of the attraction of Acadia. The rock work is as inspiring as the views they’ve been so carefully designed to reveal. But there are plenty of unpopular trails (i.e. difficult or more than a mile from a concession stand) and I’ve gone hiking for days without seeing anyone else.
Acadia is only a 45 minute drive from Blue Hill which makes it an easy last-minute camping destination for us. So a few weekends ago we packed up the car and headed over for a short family vacation.
We arrived at Seawall Campground around 4pm and paid $14 for a walk-in tent site. We choose Seawall because it’s on the “Quiet Side” of the island and because there’s almost always a few walk-in sites available even in the middle of summer.
After setting up our tent we biked all over the campground, exploring every possible loop. Adventure is easy with a 6 ½ and 8 year old: “Wait, we haven’t gone down Loop C yet!”. After building our appetites we headed back to the campsite, lit a small fire and cooked our sausages over the flames. More easy entertainment. After dinner we headed to the Ship Harbor Trailhead and walked a half mile or so through gorgeous spruce-moss forest to the coastal jack pines and huckleberry bushes that I love so much. At the end of the trail there are some of the best tide pools on Mount Desert Island. The big tide pool that I relied on during my days as a Ranger has gotten too warm for much to live in it, but we got to the shoreline right at the lowest part of low tide and had no problem finding tons of creatures in the lower, cooler crevices and pools. Including the tiniest sea urchin any of us has ever seen.
After hiking back to the car and being forced to identify at least 5 species of birds by song, the 6 year old was ready for bed. The 8 year old was more awake than ever and we spread out a blanket to watch the stars through the treetops. Moments like these are timeless, and if it weren’t for the no-seeums that know exactly what time it is, we could have spent all night chatting quietly while the leaves waved gently overhead.
The next morning Jerome took off early on a bike ride to Bass Harbor Light House while the girls and I cooked breakfast over our trusty little camp stove. We packed up our gear and got ready for a day of hiking and swimming. By the time Jerome returned we were ready to go. We got to the popular Echo Lake parking lot by 9am and there were still plenty of spaces left. The hike up the cliffs is spectacular. The ladders are high enough to be thrilling, especially to kids, and the view of the lake is gorgeous. There was no one else on the trail that Monday morning, and once again I marveled at how well this tiny park handles its 4 million annual visitors. We had a snack of snap peas and nuts at the top and headed back down for a swim. The girls spent a few hours snorkeling around the shallows while Jerome and I hid in the only patch of shade reading our books and people-watching (a great feature of the Park in the summer).
By the time we were done swimming we had run out of provisions. We decided to head to Bar Harbor for lunch, which is a bold move in early July but our timing was perfect. We hit the Side Street Café at the perfectly dead hour of 2pm. We had been there once before right after it opened a few years ago and it was terribly disappointing. But then lately we’ve been hearing all kinds of good things about it so we thought it we should give it a second try. It was totally worth it. My grilled vegetable sandwich was fantastic in so many ways and the they had lots of gluten-free, dairy-free options for our high-maitenance family.
After refueling we took the bikes to the Eagle Lake parking lot for a short spin up the carriage road to Duck Brook Bridge. The girls love family bike rides and would have gone much longer, but I had to get back to Blue Hill to teach my evening class. Not to mention that the tourists are thick here and between their gawking at the view and my girls’ utter lack of road rules, it’s amazing everyone made it out unharmed. We made one last stop at A&B Naturals for coconut ice cream bars (kids) and dark chocolate (adults).
And just like that, our vacation was over. 24 hours in Acadia well lived.
Maine Huts and Trails, a hidden gem
I am a passionate cross-country skier but I rarely get beyond the groomed carriage roads at Acadia except when I make my annual trek up to Carrabassett Valley for the Maine Huts and Trails ski marathon. This past year, after racing all out in the 40k and not even coming close to beating the Colby College ski coaches, I was thrilled to win the post-race raffle instead: a night for two at one of their four huts.
This past weekend we made good on the offer with a trip to Flagstaff Hut. We drove our canoe three hours north just shy of Kingfield, to the Bog Brook inlet of Flagstaff Lake, at the Eastern edge of the Bigelow Preserve. Ok, that’s not exactly true. We missed the turn onto Long Falls Dam Road and drove past Kingfield before realizing our mistake. We also missed the turn onto Bog Brook Road and continued several miles before turning around. This is pretty typical for us and the girls long ago stopped asking us why we make so many U-Turns. Anyway, it took us closer to four hours to get from our door to the Bog Brook put-in. (Which incidentally has no parking, so after unloading our gear Jerome drove the car a 1/2 mile back up the road to park on public land and then ran back down to rejoin us.)
When we left Blue Hill it was hot and sunny but when we arrived at the southern end of Flagstaff Lake it was raining. I had packed the girl’s raincoats but Jerome and I stupidly forgot our own.
As a former NOLS instructor, my greatest fear is that I will need to be rescued from a wilderness adventure and that upon finding me freezing to death on the side of a mountain the search and rescue team will chastise me for not having the proper gear. This fear is magnified by the fact that the girls and I regularly hike barefoot get plenty of tsk tsking from fellow hikers for our obvious lack of experience and preparation.
So there we were, packing our canoe in the rain, preparing for a five-mile paddle to the hut. Jerome donned a trash-bag rain coat and I put on his wetsuit. The plan had been for me to swim a few miles along side while he and the girls paddled and fished their way north. This plan worked for the first hour and then Jerome was cold and worried about us getting to the hut in time for dinner (they had told us dinner is served promptly at 6pm). So I climbed in the boat and we paddled hard for another half hour.
We got to the hut just before six and discovered they are not so strict about mealtime after all and were still waiting on a few other groups to arrive. Many people access Flagstaff Hut via the 1.8 mile trail, and there are closer boat put-ins than Bog Brook. Eventually another dozen or so guests showed up in time for the family-style meal.
We got situated in our bunkroom and the girls were very excited to each have their own top bunk. Dinner was was delicious. There was gluten-free pasta with a creamy cashew and red pepper sauce, garlicky beet greens from their own garden, a huge green salad, homemade bread (including a gluten-free loaf), grilled chicken and homemade (gluten and dairy free) cookies for dessert. After dinner we walked out to the point and watched the sunset over a family of loons. Baby spotted sandpipers peeped around our feet while the girls played on the rocks. After sunset Lucy was very excited to go on the Energy Tour offered by Libby the hut keeper. We learned all about their off-the-grid energy systems which include some very cool and modern innovations. Lucy especially liked getting a first hand look at the clivus multrum’s odorless, red-wiggler filled humanure.
After a restless night of sleep on the crinkly plastic-covered mattresses, I woke up early to go on run. I headed south for five miles on the Maine Huts and Trails trail until I hit the Appalachian Trail which I followed north for a few more miles until I got to the top of a small mountain. Being in the white-blazed emerald tunnel filled me with joy. I ran into several thru-hikers, the north bounders having come all the way from Georgia were wirey and economical in their movement while the south bounders having only hike 180 miles from Katahdin were soft and clumsy in comparison. The trail culture has changed a good deal since I was a thru-hiker (15-20 years ago) but wilderness is timeless and its transformative effect is the same as always.
On my run I came across a set of fresh moose tracks and something loud crashing though the woods (but no good visual) plus at least a dozen snow shoe hares bounding so high to get away from me that they looked like they might take flight.
Jerome saved me breakfast and after my run it tasted ridiculously good. Scrambled eggs with spinach, turkey sausage and oatmeal with chopped apples and nuts washed down by an excellent cup of organic coffee.
After eating I found the girls fishing off the dock. We leisurely packed up the canoe and headed back down the lake toward our put-in. Jerome swam this time and the girls did their best not to cast their lines directly onto him.
As the day got warmer (and life jackets are hot) we stopped a few times so they could jump in and swim along side too. It took us about two hours at this leisurely pace to get back to the beach where we ate the sandwiches the hut staff provided for our lunch. The girls had tuna fish (which, I, their mean mother NEVER make them) while Jerome and I had chosen the delicious curry chickpea spread on gluten free bread.
A family vacation where you don’t have to plan, pack, make or clean up after food. Dang, we could really get used to this.
After jumping off the dock several hundred times we drove to the nearby Safford Brook trailhead. This pretty shaded trail follows a cold mountain brook and meets the Appalachian Trail at the base of the Bigelow peaks. After an hour and half of hiking we made it up to the AT where we turned south and met a few more thru-hikers. A little further on we hit a lovely view point and enjoyed our final meal of the day, the only meal of the trip that I had to plan and pack. Then down we went, through the beautiful old mossy forest and the increasingly hungry clouds of black flies, mosquitoes and no-seeums. We took one last swim at the pretty campground near the trailhead (and made a note to return there someday). It was bedtime and we had just packed the girls into their car seats and gotten them settled in for the long drive home when we came across a sick thru-hiker that needed a ride to town. We moved our gear around and made room for him. Jerome and I got countless rides from the middle of nowhere during our own thru-hikes and we always happy to return the favor when we can.
The day ended with us singing the girls to sleep while we navigated our way through the hinterlands of a Maine that I am incredibly grateful to know.
Once again I find myself at the end of another very full summer week. After such a long, dark, cold winter I think it is safe to say that us Maineacs are universally thrilled with the recent bounty of sunlight and warmth. Despite the fantastic weather, I still can’t figure out how to grow vegetables and my garden looks like an anemic insect haven. I will keep trying, but in the meantime I want to express my gratitude to all the amazingly talented farmers on the Blue Hill Peninsula. How, oh how do you coax so much green out of glacial till and granite bedrock?
Move Your Body
The early, warm mornings have been great for Ironwoman training and I’ve been getting in some nice long rides before I teach my morning classes. Which is a good thing because as I keep telling you, it is much better to stretch after you workout then before. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a bit about why less flexible runners are more economical than us gumbies.
I wish this could explain my dismal sprint triathlon time this past weekend. Alas, I think that had more to do with my lack of sleep the night before. Just in case you think my life is a rosey L.L. Bean cover shot, let me reassure you, I too am wrecked after a night of camping out and tending to a puking daughter while fending off a billion blood thirsty buzzing friends. The effect of sleep on recovery and performance is well established, not just for athletes but for all of us. This New York Times post reveals how sleep helps your daily performance and this Atlantic article shows how adding more time sleeping might be more effective than adding more time training.
No amount of hard work or sleep will allow me to run like Kilian Jornet, the winner of this year’s Hardrock 100 in Colorado’s San Jaun Mountains. And that’s ok. Instead I get to revel in the humility and awe of watching a fellow human do something I never will. This video shows how even the most talented runners look mortal as they follow Kilian the mountain-goat-god down a steep pass.
Speaking of being inspired to move, I admire this doctor’s bold approach of prescribing personalized outside walking routines. Individuals are sent outside to reclaim their health and communities start to reclaim their parks.
What is modern yoga exactly? Carol Horton breaks down the recent Paradigm Shift in her excellent blog post.
And did you catch this week’s Maine Calling on Maine Public Radio? Here’s what your fellow Maineacs are saying about yoga.
The second Maine Yoga Fest happened this weekend in Portland’s East End. It was full of happy, relaxed yogis enjoying each other’s good company and enthusiasm. I enjoyed presenting my class on how to prevent common injuries in yogis and athletes and I’ll be putting together on this important topic soon.
The wild roses have a way of blooming just as the heat of summer intensifies. My 8 year old daughter plucks the petals right off the bush to eat them whole while I prefer drenching a small jar of petals in raw honey to use in my mint water. The sweet, moist, cooling fragrance of rose petals helps balance the hot, dry fire of summer.
Rose oil is also great for all kinds of things, from soothing puffy summer eyes and ocean-water filled ears, to softening the soles of our summer-hardened feet. I make about half my rose oil with coconut oil (it is more cooling and appropriate for summer use) and half with olive oil (more neutral smelling and more nourishing for facial skin).
My friend Stacie Jacques recently wrote these instructions on how make your own Rose Oil. You can find out more about Stacie and her work at her Flowersong Herbs facebook page.
Make some now to use next season . . .
How to make rose oil
1) find amazing, vibrant beach roses – on a dry, sunny day ~ mid afternoon is the best time to gather – the petals will be thoroughly dry
2) breathe in outrageous fragrance and feel the gratitude!
3) have clean dry jars or a dry paper bag
4) fill the jars loosely to the top with rose petals
5) if you only have a bag ~ harvest petals and when you get home you can transfer to jars
6) place jars on a flat surface, slowly pour olive oil over the petals, filling in all the spaces
7) fill to nearly the top, stop and use a chopstick or butter knife to wiggle the petals all around to release air pockets trapped… when there are no more air bubbles
8) continue pouring oil to the top~ making sure all plant material is under the oil!! cap loosely
9) store in a cool, dark spot – check every few days at first to ensure that all plant material stays under the surface of the oil and that you don’t have any mold starting to grow.
10) you may need to add a small amount of oil to keep the jar topped off as the oil can tend to ooze out from the top a bit ( sometimes)
11) if there is any mold – scoop it up along with plant material all around it – compost and add fresh oil to the top again…
12) let soak for several months -
13) strain using cheese cloth ~ compost plant material and jar the strained oil.
14) Make sure to clearly label the jar and store in a cool place
15) I do this same process with all plants and flowers – to eventually make awesome heal all medicinal salves – that is another story
16) My favorite sore/ tired muscle rub is rose oil and st.john’s wort oil mixed together with a little rescue remedy and some lavender essential oil…
ahhhhhhhhhh- it helps stiff necks, and everything really….( a little goes a long way)
17) have fun in the roses – it helps all maladies of mind, heart, body and soul!
18) roses nourish and support us in amazing and unique ways.
Move Your Body
Have you ever noticed that I am obsessed with awakening the gluteus, deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles? Hatha yoga offers several strategies for balancing the upward (prana) and downward (apana) flow (vayu) through the pelvic region. Our good health is dependent on things being held in and let go of at the proper time, and mixing this flow up is the cause of many problems: constipation, incontinence, prostate and erectile dysfunction, pelvic floor prolapse, hemorrhoids, endometriosis . . . need I go on? This week I chose a few articles to get you up to speed on a few of these issues . . .
Katy Bowman has long challenged the emphasis on kegels for treating pelvic floor dysfunction. This article talks about using squats as an alternative to kegles, especially during pregnancy. But it’s information that everyone (of all gender persuasions) can benefit from. And be sure to check out Katy’s iphone app if you need extra support in healing your pelvic floor dysfunction.
Now how about firing up them glutes? Doug Keller gives you some good information on the importance of using your glutes and some exploratory exercises to find out how efficacious your own backside is.
Moving up to the belly, and to the topic of diastasis – the separation of the abdominal muscles along the midline of the stomach that happens during pregnancy. This series of articles written by a doula will help you understand how to best engage your core post-partum.
And finally, up to the ribs. Here a personal trainer tells you everything you every needed to know about how keep your ribs over your hips. And why you should.
After the last few week’s seriously-toned articles, I thought we could use a little breather. First up, “What’s Your Yoga Mats Name”. Mine is Captain Dirty Toes. How did they know?
Next up is one of my favorite yoga parodies. You’ll know why at about 45 seconds in. There’s a little bit of Stressed Out Yoga Chick in all of us. Um, right?
It’s summer. Don’t miss out on the abundance of raw, ripe, crisp and local foods right in front of you. I love the recipes on the My New Roots site, and this Early Summer Abundance Bowl is no exception.
Finally, in follow up to my post about sunscreen last week, here’s a little more discussion about the recent study on the link between sunscreen, the need for Vitamin D and skin cancer. In conclusion, if you are pale skinned living north of Florida or primarily inside, take your Vitamin D.
Have a great week and do let me know what you think and what you want to hear more about. Better yet, come find me at the Maine Yoga Fest on Sunday and tell me in person!
This week’s photo is brought to you by the chickadee that decided to build her nest right on top of a ziplock bag filled with trail brochures.
Sometimes I feel like my entire life is defined by the effort to balance effort and ease, trying to find that sweet spot that is embodied liberation. Here Emelie Forsberg demonstrates her talent for balancing effort and grace.
This episode of Talk Ultra is perfect for a long car trip (or run), and happens to feature two excellent interviews with minimalist/barefoot runners. Also Lisa Smith-Batchen who is about to run Badwater 135 four times.
In that same episode Karl Meltzer expressed his concern about “getting chicked” at Western States 100. Look here boys, the running goddesses hate that phrase and I’m pretty sure that’s why they forced him to drop out of this weekend’s race. Sucks for him, but maybe he’ll be more interested in running like a girl next time? (And watch out, ’cause if you keep calling us girls, this actual girl is gonna pass you too.)
While I’m on the topic of goddesses. Here’s a good article on diastases (the abdominal wall separation that happens during pregnancy).
Being fair and outside for most of my life I’ve been subjected to a few kinds of skin cancer including melanoma so I’m probably not the best person to tell you not to wear sunscreen. But I completely agree with the fact that we shouldn’t be putting anything on our skin that we wouldn’t put in our mouths. There’s more work to be done with optimizing modern sun-saftey, but in the mean time here’s a good homemade sunscreen recipe.
And as a side benefit, I swear putting coconut oil all over my body everyday has kept the deer ticks away (knocking vigorously on wood as I type). For the last four years I’ve found them regularly on my clothes and skin but never attached.
And finally, now that it’s getting warmer, are you balancing the heat with cool, green and sweet? Staying topped-off with anti-oxidant fruits and vegetables will help keep your skin and immune system healthy.
Photo of the week:
The Summer Solstice was Saturday. For those of us living close to the 45th parallel (the Blue Hill peninsula is 44.4 degrees, hence the name of our favorite local coffee roaster 44 North) the sun rose at 4:50am and set at 8:22pm for an official 15hrs and 31 minutes of daytime. However, if you live around here you know that the real day lasts much longer. It is light enough to read by 4am and there is still a glow in the western sky until 9:30pm. I always feel nostalgic for Alaska at this time of year, there is something very magical about the land of the midnight sun. In honor of the summer solstice, here’s a short time lapse video of a summer week in the arctic.
And while we’re on it, you know how I’m always telling you to look up time-lapse videos of plants growing to watch how they follow the sun? Here’s a nice example.
This story from Diane Bruni (via Matthew Remski) more or less parallels the first ten years of my own yoga experience and how it shifted over the next 10 years. This will help you understand why I am so obsessed with incorporating integration, engagement, sensitivity and responsiveness in my practice. Oh, and I why I started teaching Pilates. Glutes are good. So are hamstring attachments and rotator cuffs.
If yoga is a conversation with yourself, how deep should you go? Here’s a Huffington Post interview with Tom Myers on the connection between emotional patterns and fascia. While I’m not sure we should get too obsessed with reinventing ourselves, I do appreciate the access yoga gives me to different depths of my being.
I went to high school with Seamus Mullens so it was extra fun to stumble across his Cooking with a Blender article in Men’s Journal. Just in time for some light-weight healthy summer “cooking”.
I got an email yesterday from a friend who is feeling a bit boggy and bloated despite slowly transitioning to a fresher, greener summer diet. Among other things, I suggested she add more gut-bugs in the form of fermented foods. Which reminded me of this article on probiotics and how or if they really work. For the record I’m big fan of raw, lacto-fermented vegetables as a source for gut-bugs, though I have been known to take pills in a pinch.
This week’s photo is brought to you by our future slug-eaters first swim:
Upcoming community events:
PKMDI (Pecha Kucha MDI) – an eclectic group of local talents come together to entertain you with 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide. June 18th, 7:30pm Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, back yard.
Deer Isle Bridge Fun Run and Walk. Saturday June 21st. The bridge will be closed to traffic so we can cross the scariest bridge by foot. At least you won’t be trapped in your car if the bridge collapses. Pre-registration for the 5k race is required.
Michelle Marchildon makes a good point about the irrational yoga teacher business model. Even the best teachers are not exempt from good business practices.
Once again Matthew Remski takes on modern yogis “unconscious rationalization of neoliberlism” in this funny and insightful article “Tara Stiles in a Glass Box. Dead Guru in a Freezer”.
We have one container of hand soap in our house that gets renewed annually during my mother-in-law’s visit. Otherwise we are a soap-free household. This New York Time’s article examines the potential benefits of a sustaining a diverse skin ecosystem!
It’s the first week of summer vacation in Downeast, Maine. We don’t really need to be told to back off – most of our kids already run amuck lighting fires, cutting down trees and falling off cliffs. But just in case you need a reminder, here’s the Atlantic Monthly article The Over Protected Kid (aka Hey Parents, Leave Those Kids Alone). Be sure to watch the video.
Here’s what I was talking about in class last week – get your little, balancy muscles strong so your big muscles can spend more time moving you forward and less time holding you up.
Photo of the Week