On May 24, 2007, I crossed into Vermont from Massachusetts on the Appalachian Trail. The sign welcoming me to the state was large and informative, but didn’t say much about the Appalachian Trail. Instead, it welcomed me to the Long Trail, Vermont’s footpath in the wilderness. The next summer I led a trail crew for two months at a base camp near Stratton Pond, a major destination on the Long/Appalachian Trail. From there, I spent the next year working for the Green Mountain Club, the organization responsible for the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and, more specifically, the Long Trail.
Though I worked for the Green Mountain Club for a year, and spent so much time on the Long Trail, I still have yet to hike the entire thing as a through-hike. If all goes well, that will change this spring.
I’ve been hoping to eventually hiking the Long Trail ever since I walked along it on the AT almost four years ago. Some hikers I met there told me about the northern part of the LT, the part after the AT splits off toward New Hampshire and Maine, and enchanted me with stories of the tall and imposing mountains of northern Vermont. I had to come back and do the rest of the trail someday.
While I was working at the Green Mountain Club, I hiked all of the major mountains of the northern Long Trail as day hikes and weekend trips, so it’s not like I’ll be seeing much that’s entirely new. That in itself is something new for me, since almost all of my long-distance hikes so far have brought me to completely new territory. Knowing this, my original plans for hiking the LT were to spice it up with some kind of crazy embellishment.
My first idea was just to see how light I could get my pack and still have a comfortable hike. Because I spent so much time working with the trail, I know which shelters to stay at in order to avoid crowds and where to stop for the most convenient resupply locations. I figured I could go without a tent and super light on other gear. Then I thought, maybe along with lightening my load I could try to carry all of my food and supplies from the Massachusetts border, never stopping to resupply. Since I can easily pack a ten-pound base weight and hike twenty miles a day, I could carry two pounds of food per day and still start the trail with less than a forty-pound pack. Well, that would be interesting.
As I thought through the idea of hiking the trail some more, I realized I might as well just relax and not bother with gimmicks. I invited a few of my old friends along, so hopefully they’ll be along for the ride. I’m also going to be playing with a GPS unit and making a track of the entire trail (for use in a few projects I have planned for the future). I’ll also be marking a big point as I walk the trail, which is my 6000th mile of long-distance hiking.
There are some obstacles that may impede my hiking of this trail, however. I’ve been dealing with some health issues that I picked up before the PCT last year. Hopefully they’ll be cleared up by the time I start the Long Trail, and if they don’t I can probably still hike with them, but it could still be a bit of a downer. That’s all I’ll say about that. Then there’s just the motivation and fitness factor. This will be my first hike of the summer after a winter of relative lethargy.
I find that starting long-distance hikes in the spring can be difficult because there’s the tendency to start off fast while my legs are still soft from the winter. And once things start hurting, it’s a mental game to keep myself going. On shorter hikes it’s easier to say “I’ll come back later and try again” than it is with 2000-milers where it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s easier to give up.
If the pre-hike preparations don’t run into any problems, I’ll be on the trail in late May, which is earlier than I’d like to be on the trail (the best time is August and September), but sometimes you just have to take what time you have. I can’t wait to see how the stepping stones and bog bridges I put in with my trail crew have held up in the past three years.