Monday, May 22, 2017

Canoe trip report May 2017

I left home early on Friday morning. I planned to hit the cabin for some light repairs before heading out on a two-night, three-day canoe and camping trip with friends. I parked my car along the dirt road, gathered my gear, and hiked.

Normally, my car would take me further along this road, but heavy spring rains required me to walk further than normal, rather than destroy the soft road addled by spring rains. I traveled quietly. Thoughts of whitewater canoeing adventures to come occupied my mind. Suddenly, a large black bear entered my view. I stopped as I surveyed this dark creature, walking on all fours and standing 3 feet tall. I estimate it being about the size of an office desk. The creature sauntered a bit heavily as it walked with a large head and body. It recognized me, as I recognized he or she. I stopped, stumbled, and retreated a bit. The bear looked at me and then drifted into the woods like a shadow passing with the sun. I regained some bravery and held my ground. I contemplated advancing towards my goal of working at the cabin. Many minutes passed as I imagined the bear lingering near my passage. Eventually, I retreated and returned to my car, having realized enough excitement for that day.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, I met my friends at a nearby diner. They arrived in a large 4-door, 4-wheel drive truck. I drove in what I call the Cadillac, basically a large sedan with a trailer hauling a canoe. A good friend joined me as a passenger, and we traveled to the take out. I dropped my car and the five of us eventually found the launch site. We dropped gear and loaded boats. Soon we were starting the canoe trip.

Ten years ago was the last time we paddled the river, according to our photo records. The high water levels and distant memories made the rapids an adventure. I remember thinking the trip had just one set of tough rapids, but we encountered three good drops on our first day. My partner and I lined our boats over a twisting drop and a beaver dam on the first day. We ran a majority of the subsequent rapids. The other canoe and kayak somewhat easily passed these sections. Our first night, we camped along an east-west sand beach. The black flies from earlier in the day no longer bothered us here. Our cook prepared a five course meal with personalized menus. We enjoyed local mushrooms, lobster chowder, mashed potatoes, corn bread, and local asparagus. Our colorful tents lined the sandy shore.

The next morning, we awoke and paddled across the windy lake. We found the outlet, navigated small but interesting rapids connecting us to the next lake. We lashed our canoes together and formed a sail to carry us down the next lake. I carried the sail support like a guitar, while my partner held his support more like a mast. We traveled about 5mph down the lake for almost 2 hours. We stopped at a large rock for lunch and muscled down the lake via the wind to our next beach campsite. A tasty chicken and coconut rice dinner, along with nice company and a roaring fire, made for an enjoyable evening.

The next morning, we saddled our gear into the canoes. The lake narrowed into a small rapid, some deadwater, more rapids, and then further deadwater. My canoe partner and I ran these sections well. When we approached another set of rapids, I questioned whether this was the big rapid or not. Do we want to stop and scout? My buddy said no. We ran the rapid. We hit the first large drop and took on some water. Serious waves fiercely guarded the passage downstream. I hastily pivoted our boat around a white birch tree standing upright in the water. We dropped down this next section, again taking on more water. The canoe floated a bit recklessly with too much water in the bottom. A large boulder approached us with much speed. Lacking control, we smashed against the boulder. The canoe warily swung around the rock. I clamored for some unimportant gear, and the boat wavered weakly. My mistake. The canoe tipped precariously and took on tremendous amounts of water. We were done. The boat, borrowed from a colleague, spun around 180 degrees and caught volumes of water rushing downstream. We fought the canoe to shore, emptied the water, and eventually carried the canoe and gear to safer passage. The other canoe team in our group dumped in the same place, even after scouting the rapid for some time. The kayaker in our team paddled the section, but shook considerably after running the whitewater. No one remembered the falls ever being this big, but the heavy spring rains somewhat explained our situation.

After gathering our gear and boats, we paddled through a few more rapids and calm lakes, and eventually found the reassuring site of my car and the takeout.

During this trip, we endured higher-than-expected rapids, ravenous blackflies and mosquitoes, plus a great time among friends. Sore muscles and sunburns were part of the deal. This same group has paddled spring and fall trips off and on for the past 20 years. A few bug bites and overturned boats were completely acceptable. After a handshakes and hugs, exchanged by men who haven't showered for days, we agreed to paddle again this fall.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Canoe trip report from late June 2016

Happily, I left work around 3pm on Friday. Upon returning home, I gathered my cooler, food, and remaining gear and saddled up the Subaru for the trip. I had two canoes on top of the car. The lower one faced down and the higher one laid on top of the first and faced skyward. My Maine Guide friend recommended this setup. I lashed the boats together and to the car with 5 ropes. After five minutes of travel, I stopped and spent another 30 minutes of retying everything. I traveled slowly north, just 60mph in a 75mph zone. I passed numerous cops without incident or inspection of my load. One guy laughed and said many people would take pictures. I joked that the pictures would not be for insurance purposes.

I pulled into the campground around 7pm. My friends from southern New England arrived about an hour later. This extra time allowed me to setup my tent, repack my gear, and settle into a quiet weekend away. The boys arrived around dark. No one really knew which site I had. Two vehicles approached slowly. Guys emerged from their trucks darkened by the night. We exchanged hugs, handshakes, and salutations. After a few hours of tomfoolery, we conked out for the evening.

We awoke early, around 5am, gathered our gear, and hit the road. We ate at a local cafe in town. The service was slow and food was just ok. One weary worker looked a bit lost in life. His job at the time was to transcribe Appalachian Trail hiker's notes onto a drop down ceiling tile. I hope he didn't have a college loan at this point in life.

We escaped this scene and traveled north. A familiar road led us to parking at Ambajesus Lake. Here, I dropped my car and warily reviewed my car contents before I remembered my keys and locked it up for a few days. I loaded my gear into D's SUV and we traveled along the Golden Road, a "highway" of sorts into the North Maine Woods, an actively managed forest and recreation area. The road alternated abruptly from pavement to gravel without warning. Huge potholes emerged as if this was normal. As a kid, I traveled this road probably a hundred times (without exaggeration), and I could not recognize it at all this day. Logging of wood, new skidder trails, and a 6 year absence contributed to my astonishment.

We traveled south of the West Branch of the Penobscot River, also south of Baxter State Park. Many times we enjoyed views of the river and 3000-5000 foot mountains hovering in the distance. The road finally became dirt without a surprising reversion to pavement. We pressed forward into the early summer heat and haze. Eventually, we met the Caribou Checkpoint, where we spent about $250 on 3 days of access. Being a Maine resident was cheaper for me, but I subsidized my southern New England friends.

We continued towards Lobster Stream, unpacked our gear, and eventually met my friend who assisted with the shuttle. He and I drove in his truck and two other vehicles followed. We saw a momma bear and two baby bears on the dirt road. One baby bear separated and climbed a tree. We watched this bear for a few minutes, took pictures, and departed. We next saw a bobcat at a small swamp and few deer running along the road. The road was bad and not fit for cars. My friend D punctured a tire. We fixed it with a plug so he would have a spare as backup. Many places were washed out, culverts were smashed, and deep ruts recklessly carved the road.

Eventually we reached the Chesuncook Lake. We dropped our vehicles and quickly checked out where we would take out. The state recently installed a boat dock and provided parking. Previously, this was somewhat manhandled by the local lakehouse. The lakehouse recommends that people fly in via seaplane and stay. The village has a population of 30 people, a small church, and an abandoned schoolhouse. The village was originally settled in the 1800's. Henry David Thoreau paddled through here in the 1800s.

After dropping vehicles, we piled into my friend's truck and we traveled an hour back to the start. The other three guys waited three hours for us to arrive. We packed our gear, said goodbye to my friend, and headed downriver.

M and I shared a boat and we eventually separated from the group. On the paddle, we saw 8 eagles, 4 moose, and many ducks on this section of river. We pulled into the campsite well ahead of the rest of the gang. Eventually the other two canoes pulled in. Most of the boys were not in a hurry at all. M and I had already setup tents and were enjoying some relaxing time in camp chairs on Big Island. M cooked a nice meal of breaded chicken, broccoli, coconut rice, and blueberry crisp -- all cooked on the campfire. I slept outside under the stars at the top of the cliff.

The next morning we awoke, cooked and ate breakfast and hit the water. We paddled for a few hours, stopped for lunch, and continued our way down river. Eventually the river opened up into Chesuncook Lake. We paddled towards Gero Island, a 3200 acre island. The island is now a preserve, having been last harvested for wood in 1920. We setup camp, made a nice dinner of steak and vegetable wraps, and enjoyed some quality time on the beach watching the sun eventually become a full moon evening. I pulled my sleeping bag and pad onto a rough beach and slept under the stars. A tumultuous evening of wind, waves, clouds, full moon, and stars interrupted my sleep.

We awoke not as early as the previous day, enjoyed a nice breakfast, and packed our gear. We paddled across a slightly choppy lake to our takeout. A hazy sky shrouded a normally clear view of Maine's tallest mountain. The gang begrudgingly departed from the canoes for the last time. We visited our vehicles to find another flat tire on the same vehicle that had this problem before. We replaced it with a spare and loaded all the gear and canoes onto the vehicle. Sadly, we missed seeing the 1800's cemetery on the way out. However, we saw our fourth bear, which is always a treat for me. I am happy if I see one bear per year.

After two hours or so of dirt roads, we finally made it back to pavement. I gathered my gear and two canoes from my friends. We hugged and vowed to canoe again in the fall. I know it will be tough. Some will make it. Some will not. Hopefully, I am on the right side of the equation. I drove the interstate slowly to my home. I vowed never again to travel with two canoes on top of my car.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Watching January and February 2016 Downtrend

As stocks began the early 2016 meltdown, I stopped out of many positions and watched. My favorite screens showed few stocks of interest. The downtrends and overhang were too daunting. Somewhat stung by the downturn and change in market behavior, I tracked what was working instead of actively buying and selling.

Almost nightly, I continued my normal screens for growth, margins, and flags. I added additional screens for large caps, perhaps as a safer play vs. smaller companies, but still targeting positive financials and technicals. I separated all of my ideas into speculative and defensive.

During this downturn, my defensive ideas played out well. Some did not work, but a majority ran higher rather quickly. My speculative ideas were less fruitful. While I didn't buy new positions during this time period, I realized that what was working was working. Good setups quickly turned into 5-10% moves.

The lesson for me is to keep hitting the gas pedal. When I know what I know, I know what to do. While the overall market affects all stocks, attractive financial and technical aspects should always attract buyers. Market action for defensive and speculative stocks may depend on the market's desire for risk.

I've consistently learned I want to be early on stock moves. I need to keep this perspective, whether the market is climbing, topping, or bottoming. The desire to act must always be present.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Long-term stocks vs. short-term stocks

For many years, I posted breakout ideas on Twitter and StockTwits. I've been happy with seeking these daily setups, mostly based on charts, as well as fundamentals to a lesser degree. Scanning for breakout stocks is fun every night. Actually 3pm is the best.

In 2015, I had some awesome breakouts in $AGEN, $LXRX, $ANAC, $XON, $ESPR and maybe a few others on buyouts. But, also a few shit the bed - $SWIR, $OVAS, $CTSO and $CUR come to mind. Sadly or perhaps thankfully, I'm not a day trader. But I've been scanning the market with this mindset. And 2015 was flat for me after a ton of work. I also work full-time, hike incessantly, and have an awesome summer gig.

Previously, my goal was to scrape 10% out of a stock in one or two weeks. My new goal is to reduce the portfolio dedicated to riskier moves, but seek the same reward on the riskier portion. The safer moves should holds their own, pay a dividend, and not get easily wacked unless earnings suck. Current thinking implies these riskier stocks include those priced under 10, biotechs, and companies with a seemingly weak business model. Biotech and small cap giveth and taketh away. I love the potential with these higher-beta stocks. I can't give it up. The reward is too great. Perhaps if I dedicate less of the portfolio to risk, this percentage can be easier to manage.

In general, I plan to seek a blend of breakouts and "safer" stocks. Maybe this is a consequence of the market conditions. Or, I'm approaching middle age when I previously thought I was approaching Middle Earth. Sorry. I've had that line in me for a few years. If my speculative stock buying proves more fruitful, I can change the balance. Until then...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Stock ideas - $ORBC, $PLAB, $QSII

First, I'll start with $ORBC, a wireless data company, seemingly a growth company going through growing pains. I am no financial analyst, but it appears they took on some debt and didn't have the growth to support it. Please investigate further. The chart, however, looks strong.

$QSII, a health care information services stock, has been on a tear. Company looks solid. Seems like a great sector. They report earnings near January 20. Company has a history of beating estimates, which sadly doesn't always translate into profits for long investors. I've saved 6 charts for this stock in the past 6 months. Still watching. 

$PLAB is showing up on all my screens tonight - growth, margins, flags. Chart is very strong after long decline summer 2015, which I decided not to hold through. Since then, it trended higher for quite a while, then spiked. Buying volume seems to be building.

Lastly, sorry I haven't been posting on Twitter or StockTwits. The regular job has been hell and a down market gives me time to pause. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Keep posting stock ideas on Twitter

A cool stock trader guy retired from Twitter recently. We were kinda friends. And now he is gone. Today, I'll outline why you should post stock ideas, charts, and blog posts. Perhaps, I write to keep myself going. More importantly, Twitter provides financial value and knowledge. I'm also trying to resurrect my Twitter friend from the grave. Joking.

Twitter finance encourages expressing ideas, learning from the smart people, and digesting pure entertainment. Some people are insanely funny, knowledgeable, or crazy. I like the last group. However, the smart ones, including yourself, help you learn to make money.

By explaining your stock ideas and perspective on the market, you build knowledge and market experience. Writing down your ideas gives you a force to lean on. Extra Jedi. You've been there. You saw it. Time will prove you right or wrong. Looking at your own Twitter feed should reflect your experience and personal growth. Or misery. As you express your own ideas, you add to the knowledge of Twitter finance. Normal people will read and reflect on your ideas. Mean ones will attack. Crazies will make you laugh, which is great. Seriously, your tweets could be helping someone, perhaps yourself, understand a new concept.

Beyond the continued value of thinking, writing and building ideas, Twitter allows you to study the great stock people. If a person consistently makes amazing calls and describes part of their strategy, you can find commonalities - profit margin, growth, volume, market cap, chart, market conditions, time frame, sector, debt, location, anything. You have to spend time to figure out their logic. It could change depending on market conditions or anything. However, when you know the logic for a person with repeated success you observed, you should be able to screen and find good stock moves using their strategy.

More simply, news, sports, and history are great Twitter entertainment and follows. Personally, an interesting Twitter person is the best. They think aloud and write great lines. I remember a few great Twitter stock moments when people's inspired words are powerful enough to dictate great novels or lead armies. I'm exaggerating, but it was still amazing at the time. You had to be there. More commonly, people are nice, friendly, and outgoing. Normal. Keep writing. Keep posting. Keep thinking. Know that everyone sees it differently.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Remembering a "retired" twitter friend - Paul

Paul was a heck of a guy. Prior to us "meeting", he worked in finance and left to day trade on his own. For some reason, he followed me on Twitter. I am just a regular guy. But Paul always encouraged me and made me feel like I had great ideas. If I posted a chart posted while having beers one night, Paul retweeted me and gave compliments like I was a stock veteran. I remember numerous nights (maybe 20), he would favorite every one of my posts in a row. As my phone beeped incessantly, my wife would look at me and say, "Is that Paul again?"

He had an interesting time with Twitter. He likely burned out a few times. Initially, he posted at a somewhat normal but frequent rate. He must have had a bad experience (or a moment of zen) when he cut back considerably on who he followed, including me. I missed him. Somehow, I got caught up in a tweet with his name, and I mentioned some gratitude towards him, and we were buddies again. Paul once again retweeted me, gave me accolades that humbled me. In one tweet, Paul mentioned myself and another guy. As Twitter history would have it, this other guy has me blocked and I block him. Paul brought enemies together in one tweet -- classic! Paul blogged feverously and had tons of energy for social media. I still admire his energy and passion for stocks and writing.

Alas, he disappeared and canceled his account. A few times, he mentioned how he hated twitter. He gave so much to others, with kind words or in his effort, perhaps he wasn't getting it back in return. I admit, Twitter is sometimes shouting into a blinding snow storm. No one may hear you. At best, you might be talking to yourself. Spending time with the wife and kids might be better if you aren't getting satisfaction or entertainment from Twitter. But Paul gave me some good Twitter "friends". A few stock symbols remind me of Paul. I thank him for some fun experiences and cool Twitter friends. These things are fleeting and seemingly unimportant, but people still have an impact on you, no matter how brief and even if through just an Internet medium.