Dan and Thanksgiving – KGUA radio #27

For the November 30, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to title a free write “Thanksgiving” and go for it in 250 words or less. 

I am not a painter.  No, no, no.   Not a singer.  And heavens, not a dancer.  But I do like to write.

Remember Steven Weed?  He was Patty Hearst’s boyfriend when she was abducted by the Simbionese Liberation Army in 1974.  I n reading about that time, I learned that Steve kept a journal.  The idea unknowingly began to take root in my soul.

Weed and Hearst

Years later, in the early 1980s, I was supposed to teach writing to middle schoolers in Somersworth, New Hampshire.  Figuring I should write myself if I expected my students to write, I began keeping a journal.  Eventually, I wrote for more 2000 days straight.  Do the math, that’s more than a five year streak. 

That commitment made me realize that I was indeed a writer.  I felt that if I wrote, then what I had to say mattered.  In fact, that I mattered. Heavy, man!

After 20+ years as a public school teacher, I was as burned out as burned out could be and decided to try the university game.  You remember the old dictum, publish or perish for college professor wannabes.    

As a prof, I published just enough, but such writing did not feed my soul.  Once retired, I had the freedom to write what I wanted and that turned out to be my over60hiker blog.   

Over 60 hikers, Dan and Hannah, above Santa Barbara, California

In March 2020, my buddy Scott introduced me to Mark Gross of KGUA radio in Gualala, California (150 miles north of San Francisco) and his free write Mondays.  Yes indeed, I am so thankful to Mark for the weekly challenge to create, self-explore, and tell my story in a world that can’t stop talking (Shout out to Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts).

Let me say, Mark came through in the clutch.


Dan and Hannah Hike the Dodge Point Preserve in Newcastle, Maine

Our mid-November day on the Mid-Coast of Maine wraps up with another hike, this time along the Damariscotta River in Newcastle.  Thanks to the recommendation of our friend Molly Hogan, we drive a simple 18 miles back up the Pemaquid Peninsula, cross the tidal Damariscotta River and head south towards the Gulf of Maine on the appropriately named River Street.

By the way, Molly is a preeminent Maine nature photographer, a blogger/poet, (click here for her Nix the Comfort Zone blog), current elementary school teacher/hero during a pandemic, and a former student of mine in Teacher Education at the University of New England.

With sunset at 420P, we park at the Dodge Point Preserve.  When the information kiosk recommends that we wear hunter orange while hiking since it’s hunting season, Hannah and I don’t think twice about putting on our fluorescent yellow reflective vests for the trail. Momma didn’t raise no fool. 

A fashionable reflective vest, oui?
We start at the center of the map, head right on the Old Farm Road Trail, hike the Shore Trail, and return by way of the OFRT.

The trailhead map lays out a straightforward loop hike along the Old Farm Road Trail to the Damariscotta River.  Wide enough for a 19th century horse-drawn wagon, the sloping to-the-water, oak leaf-filled trail allows us to walk side by side on an unusually warm (64F!!). 

Old Farm Road Trail

At various junctions, the trail is well-marked and includes, for the first time hiker, the same map we saw at the trailhead.  Brilliant!

Ice Pond Hannah

By Ice Pond and then walking the wooden puncheons (planks set on boggy parts of the trail), we never lose the totally golden brown oak leaf covered trail as the river is always to our east.

Dan aboard the puncheons through the low lying area
Damariscotta River
Heading to the trailhead before sunset

From across the river we hear the sound of a gravel truck dumping its load.  Soon we realize that the sound is actually the echo from gunshots.  We are indeed in rural Maine and not in Kansas (and by that I mean York) anymore.

With the sun setting, we return by way of the Old Farm Road Trail as an orange-vested hound barrels at us (and by that I mean me). From 100’ away a woman loudly yells, Come, come.  Paying no attention, the pooch races at me at 70 miles per hour as I stare down the gun of a barrel.  Stopped dead in our tracks, not knowing what to expect, we watch it circle us and return to the distant woman.  As we pass, she genuinely apologizes and says, she always comes back.   Well not, this time.

Having been bitten and nipped on the road/trail while biking, hiking, and walking, it’s not hard to guess that I’m not a dog person.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I like dogs that don’t bark, are leashed, and don’t really care about me.

As Billy Shakespeare writes, All’s well that ends well!  The minor incident hardly disturbs our third celebratory adventure of the day hiking the preserves in coastal Maine.

Click here for the first at the La Verna Preserve blog and click here for the second to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

Dan and One Thing He’s Accomplished Since March 2020 – KGUA radio #26

For the November 23, 2020 KGUA radio Monday Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about one thing we’ve accomplished since March 2020 in 200 words or less.  

I hope that this doesn’t come off as smug, but what I’ve accomplished during the last eight months is to accept my life as it is.  During the Covid-19 pandemic I have been merely inconvenienced, not devastated as has been the case for so many around the world.

It’s no false humility, just trying to keep it real, and acknowledge the advantages that Hannah and I have.  Among them are: being healthy, retired, having ample resources, believing in science, white, college-educated, and especially having each other.

I acknowledge that’s quite a septet of advantages going into the pandemic.  It’s my variation of white privilege.  There were no bootstraps that got me where I am today.  I didn’t hit a double; I was born on second base.

To maintain this reality during this crises, I wash my hands, wear a mask, socially distance, and avoid gathering indoors.  I’ll take the vaccine once Dr. Fauci gives me his personal go ahead.

I recognize my plentiful breaks in life.  The question becomes, how will I share my abundance with others?

Words – 182

Dan and Hannah Explore the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse on the Gulf of Maine

Rolling down Route 32 in Mid-Coast Maine, Hannah and I notice both the wealth evident in the seasonal coastal homes in New Harbor as well as the subsistence living that also remains a part of this rural coastal peninsula.

Route 32 is on the bayside route above New Harbor
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse appropriately fogged in

Going from the sunshine five miles away at the La Verna Preserve, (click here for that blog), we are engulfed in fog as we approach the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. After shorts at La Verna, I slip on sweatpants, sweatshirt, and light jacket to ward against the foggy chill.

Did you know that the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is on the Maine quarter. (All 50 states have their own quarter.)  I think of it as one of the three iconic lighthouses in the state of Maine (Portland Head and Nubble Light in our York are the other two).

It seems perfect that we are in the fog at a Maine lighthouse. Such beacons earn their keep in such weather. You see what I did! Okay, might be a little obtuse. But the primary worker here was a lighthouse keeper.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

As it is Monday, November 9, 2020, we are still in celebratory mood as we engage a mother with her grown daughter who have come from Florida for a Maine lighthouse travel tour.

Learning that mom is originally from Ohio, I have the opportunity to ask if they know of Wooster, Ohio.

Thinking so, she wonders how two Mainers ended up at the College of Wooster.  As a Jersey boy who picked a college entirely based on the possibility that he might make the varsity tennis team and who eventually escaped by transferring to Arizona State University for his senior year, I joke it was a series of bad breaks how I ended up in the Buckeye State, except for the New Yorker I met there – as I point to Hannah.  Thar’s gold in them thar fields of Ohio!

Then, the conversation takes an unfortunate detour as we learn that the women don’t believe the pandemic is real. (I choke back speaking up about the 240K that have died in the United State to date).  Their evidence? A nurse said it’s odd that she has seen no flu patients this fall, implying that the authorities are not telling us everything.

This left turn has no good endgame. We extract ourselves gently as we are no mood to debate or have their metaphorical rain douse our celebration.

Though a small park, the Lighthouse envrions allow us to walk down to the rocks on this low tide early afternoon.  We turn inland to views to the lighthouse cloaked in fog. 

A short walk on the Pemaquid Loop Road adds to our mounting Fitbit step total, but we have bigger fish to fry as hiking at the Dodge Point Preserve 18 miles away in Newcastle awaits. Next Saturday’s blog!

On the Pemaquid Loop Road

Dan and the Wisdom of Dr. Thaler of Kittery Family Practice

In conversation with my ping pong buddy, George Derby, I learned that at the end of his appointment, his primary care doc, Dr. Fred Thaler would ask him one final question – From one to ten, how are you doing?

Dr. Fred Thaler

Whoa.  Love a doctor taking the holistic approach to the care of his patient.  Shoot and score, Fred!

I know Dr. Thaler. One time, when my usual Dr. Graziano was not available, I had Dr. Thaler check me out. What I do remember of that appointment that he took the time to better understand my recent (June 2017) Transient Global Amnesia episode. By the way, Kittery Family Practice has a bunch of such docs.

Imagine if we all took the time to ask that question to our family and friends and really listen to the response. That’s next level!

I just wanted to add Fred’s Question to your repertoire of how you might interact with your world during these tumultuous days, weeks, and months ahead.

Fun fact – Dr. Thaler was a high school classmate of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, yes of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. 

Click here to learn more about my Transient Global Amnesia episode.

Dan and Hannah Celebrate by Hiking the La Verna Reserve near Damariscotta, Maine

Unusually warm weather for early November has Hannah and me itching to the hit the road and rock and roll up the coast of Maine for some hiking and lighthousing.  Having my own personal Maine travel guru in Paul Rosenblum, I learn that 100 miles north of York are hiking trails on the Pemaquid Peninsula for our time to celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

Warm temps over the cold Atlantic bring heavy fog to the coast this Monday after the 2020 election, as we drive north on the Maine Turnpike before turning onto coastal Route One in Topsham. 

Our WAZE GPS takes us through Damariscotta south on the Pemaquid Peninsula to the parking lot for the La Verna Preserve.

With promised water views of the Muscongus Bay, we do wonder what we’ll see as the fog has us hiking in a wonderland cloud.  With well-marked, blue blaze trails, we begin on the Hoyt Trail, turn left at the Ellis Trail (see map below), to maximize our hiking mileage (by that I mean our Fitbit steps!). 

Wouldn’t Robert Frost love this stonewall!

With a few firs of green, skeletal oak trees, and hemlocks dying a brittle death from the tiny white hemlock woolly adelgid, we trample the fallen oak leaves aware that hidden stones and roots lurk below. 

Shorts in Maine November!

Once to Muscongus Bay, we channel our Inner Zen Sunshine, having faith that the fog will lift. At various points along the Shore Trail we head down to the rocks and get our full Maine coastal experience. 

And then Voila! The sun breaks through.

With few others are on this trail, when we do cross paths, we all don our masks.  It’s our effort to support the common good. It’s not rocket science. Fact is, it’s second grade science!

Returning by way of the La Verna Trail, we encounter a solo hiker who we greet with It’s a great day for a celebration.  He knowingly smiles and laughs his agreement about the momentous conclusion to the 2020 presidential race just two days ago.

La Verna Trail

Soon, a younger couple, he with tattoos (not that there is anything wrong with that) and both without masks pass by.  I am not so lighthearted with them as we are deep in Red Country. 

You see, there is talk of two “Maines.”  We in the south are more progressive, brunch-loving, and drive Priuses and those in the north have more conservative views, pick-ups, and gun racks.

An American flag truck at the trailhead

After 90 minutes of temperate November hiking, in shorts no less, we return to the parking lot to see two women about our age dressed in hunter orange with their pooch suitably covered with her own orange reflective vest.  We smile and say, It’s a great day for a celebration.  The first woman looks at her partner as she smiles back broadly. Then they wonder if we have heard any gunshots? No, only a distant chain saw.

It’s one thing to be white in America and be disgusted by the tone and substance of the last four years. It’s something else to be gay, undocumented, or a person of color who is directly threatened by policies of exclusion and hate.

We celebrate today but know the journey is nowhere near done.

For those wondering more about the backstory of the La Verna Reserve, please read on. Tap on the images to enlarge them for easier reading.

Dan and His Advice to His Younger Self – KGUA radio #25

For the November 9, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write some advice that we would give to our younger self. 

Advice for My Younger Self

Son, sit yourself down.  It’s time you and I had a little talk.  You know, I notice you seem to be afraid of even your own shadow.

I look down to the ground, I know he’s right.

My young man, it’s courage that you need. 

But old man, how do I develop that courage?

Ah, lad, it’s time you learn to speak up.

You may not believe this, but you are going to age well and love a game called pickleball; it’s like tennis but with wiffle balls.

You’re messing with me, right?

No, younger self, it’s true.  You are going to love it.  But there will be issues.

Issues? you say.

One, you’ll be playing with younger players with uncontrolled testosterone that will blast wicked shots at your head or family jewels.  That’s not right.  Speak up and address the issue directly.

Two, you’ll get pretty good, such that when you play doubles pickleball, your opponents will hit away from you and play to your less skilled partner all the time.  You’ll feel like a potted plant and wonder why the hell you are out there at all.  Do not despair.  Speak up and work with your opponents to come up with a solution.

And damn, you’ll just feel so good.  And here’s the kicker, most people will respect you because you spoke up.  Do not delay, start now, my young friend.

Words – 234

Dan Hits the Shoreline, Marsh, and Woodland Trails at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Maine

You would not be off base to wonder when in the world I am going to post a blog about actual hiking since my blog is over60hiker.com!

PR at the farm as dawn breaks

Fear not! Thanks to my hiking buddy Paul Rosenblum, I’m set to return to the trails this weekend. To refresh your memory, PR is the public school teacher who often came to my University of New England classes to wow my pre-service teachers with his passion and student-centered focus.

Early morning on the Atlantic near the barrier dunes

Of course, there is one small problemo.  Our start time is at 7 A.M. when the forecast is for low 20s on this blue moon Saturday in October.  Who hikes in such cold?  Well, it turns out Paul does.

Sucking it, putting on layers, and for once not being such a big baby, I meet Paul at Laudholm Farm, just 25 minutes from our York home.  In the 38 years that Hannah and I have lived on the coast of Maine, we have never been to this hiking venue. My bad.

Trail to the Atlantic

Arriving at the near empty parking lot, I head out with Paul through the grassy lawns of the historic main house and barns of the Laudholm Farm, part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

For a little background, after glaciers retreated 6,000 years ago, the Wabanaki settled in the region.  In the early 1900s, the Laudholm Farm was the largest saltwater farm in York County, selling milk, cream, butter, eggs, broilers, and roasting chickens to locals and for the Boston market. 

In 1978, local citizens banded together to protect the historic landscape and its structures.  Click here for the fabulous website with further details of Laudholm Farm.

Along the tidal Little River Estuary

Crossing the fields to the clearly marked trail to the Atlantic, Paul and I have easy walking on the feet-friendly wet beach sand.  Overlooking the marsh we wind along the tidal Little River Estuary.

Inland along the Little River Estuary
PR heading back from the beach through the woodlands

Returning to the woodlands, we have six foot wide trails that meander through the pines and oaks.  Stepping six feet into the woods in these Covid times, we let two women pass by.  We greet each other with distinctive Mainer smiles that say, Aren’t we lucky to live in such a place!

Trail through the fall woods
Sing “Under the boardwalk!” Really, we walked on the boardwalk.

Returning to the farm, we take the mowed grassy path through the fields.  To either side are stalks cut to ground level, that once flourished as ground cover for the wildlife.

The woodland trail takes us to the marsh overlooking the Rachel Carson Preserve.  At low tide, the Little River Estuary river exposes the mudflats minutes from the Maine coast.

Returning by way of the fields which we circumnavigate to stay in the now 32 degree warming sun, we have had three hours on the shoreline, marsh, and woodland trails.

Thank you Paul for getting my butt out of the house on a muy frio morning.  We make plans to hike again before Thanksgiving.  Stay tuned.

Dan and a New Place Discovered During the Pandemic – KGUA radio #24

For the November 2, 2020 KGUA radio Monday Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about a new place that we have discovered locally since our travels have been restricted during the pandemic.   

A local foray

With the coming of the Maine winter, the pandemic has indeed limited our travels.  There’s no September overnight to Acadia National Park for Hannah and me.  No foray to Georgia for fall pickleball.  But it takes Google to take me on a local trip.  Let me explain.

Apple iPhone 8

Wanting to put my iPhone video of our Frog Wall (it’s a collection of frogs on our front yard stone wall) on YouTube, I find I can’t log in.  Google wants my password.  I guess a few passwords and come up empty.  So I accept their suggestion of “bibre3-zUkvgs-hitjuv.”  Really!  Who remembers such gobbledygook?

Going back to YouTube, I see it wants my new password which I didn’t write down.  So, I am locked out of my Gmail account.  I can’t share my video.  I can’t get email.  And I am lost.  I know, first world problem.

And this is where my local trip begins.

Instead of going down the rabbit hole of worst case scenario, I go upstairs and travel to the quiet of my mind.  A few breaths in and out and I just relax. 

Thirty minutes later I return from my short trip to Zen Land to find instructions on my phone to go to my Settings app, which I had overlooked.  In minutes, I change my password to something intelligible.  Voila!  My video lives.

Just rolling down the road to the quiet my mind.

Words – 233

A little mirth for this day before the 2020 presidential election

Click here for the 80 second Frog Wall video.