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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Picture of Me on Index Rock, Mt. Katahdin, Me.


This isn't exactly a picture that relates to the sea, but if you give me a minute, I'll find a connection. (For the most part, I just like the picture, as it reminds me of my more carefree and fearless days.)

Index Rock is on the Dudley Trail, a steep, boulder strewn climb up the north slope of Pamola Peak. The boulders are huge, and most of the climb is a hand over hand crawl. Very strenuous. At one section, the boulders are so large they form caves.

I used to go to Katahdin every year for three days to a week. When I first started going, at the age of thirteen, you could hike or climb all day and not see another soul. Those days are long gone. Katahdin, and the park it resides in (Baxter State Park), see many thousands of tourists and campers every year. August is probably the busiest month.

If you asked the park rangers what the increase in traffic has meant to them I'm sure they'll remark about the physical stress, i.e. erosion, litter, waste, etc. They'll also mention that many tourists are ill-prepared for a visit or hike in the park.

Indeed, this is the connection I was looking for.

Preparedness.

One of the worst things that can happen to a climber, and one of the most frequent of all mishaps on Katahdin, is getting stuck on the mountain after dark -- without a flashlight. You might as well sit down and wait until morning, because to go farther in the dark, especially down, is a recipe for disaster.

You would be amazed at how many people start climbing Katahdin without the basics, good shoes, enough water, a flashlight.

By the same token, you'd be amazed at how many people head out to sea without the same basics.

When I was running daily tours to the outer islands, it got to the point where I'd tell people to dress for winter. They would be stunned to hear this, or they'd just laugh. "What, you mean," they'd ask. "Like gloves and a ski cap?"

"Yep."

"But it's July."

"Trust me."

And we would get out there and the smart ones would have listened and they'd be in hats and coats and gloves, all nice and toasty.

I used to carry blankets on the boat but they tended to walk off by themselves. So then I started bringing my ratty old winter coats. Moldy, smelly, grease stained things that never, ever got washed. The kind of coat I'd lean on in the bilge to keep my knees from getting dirty or bruised.

People would come to me half way through the trip and say. "Do you have a blanket or something I can have to keep warm?"

I'd tell them no, but that they could wear this . . . and I'd hand them one of my coats. Nothing I liked more than to see that special guy or gal who disregarded my advice bundled up in one of my disgusting rags -- and lovin' every minute of it.

Hey, if you don't heed the advice of the professionals, smelling like a day old herring belly is a small price to pay.

-seabgb

Copyright © Bob G. Bernstein (seabgb) All Rights Reserved

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