First of all, a huge thank you to the Green Mountain Club (GMC) for the hard work of creating, maintaining and preserving such an amazing trail. It’s truly a gift to the people, just as the GMC’s motto states “Make the Vermont Mountains play a larger role in the life of the people”. I love the fact the GMC takes it into their own hands, not relying on the Federal Government to preserve and protect Vermont’s Mountains. The Long Trail is America’s oldest long distance hiking trail, created in 1910 by the Green Mountain Club. The trail traverses the high peaks along spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains for 273 mile from the Massachusetts State Border to the Canadian Border
I started the Long Trail September 4, 2013 at 2:00 in Williamstown, Massachusetts. I hiked to Seth Warner Shelter. A cold front moved its way in making the nights chilly with temperatures down in the lower 40’s. It was an exciting feeling being back out in wilderness, a very good start to the journey.
After a cold night at Glastenbury Shelter, I woke up early from shivering. I started hiking up to the summit of Glastenbury and met another Long Trail hiker named RockFish, who is an accomplished hiker with a double Triple Crown (hiked all three major American trails the AT, PCT and CDT). I hiked a 20 mile day with RockFish down to Stratton Pond, we received trail magic twice along the way. First by an old couple day hiking who after chatting for a bit gave us fresh apples plus a bag of Raspberry Chocolate Milano cookies; next by Hugh and Jeanne who have been GMC caretakers at Stratton Mountain for 40 years, they invited us into their warm cabin and feed us bowls fresh homemade lentil soup and bread, it was delicious. We chatted with them about the mysteries of the Glastenbury area for close to an hour. Warning, if you ever see a bright orange rabbit in the area, do not try to follow it or you may not come back. The day was now turning to night and began to rain, we left continued on to Stratton Pond Shelter.
Awesome day! I Hiked 13 miles from Stratton Pond to Bromley Summit. Rockfish and I met another Long Trail hiker named Cackles, (she also Thru Hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012, and I actually met her a couple times last year on the A.T. in Pennsylvania). We all hitched into Manchester Center to resupply. We received a ride from a mysterious man from D.C., wearing a suit driving a fancy brand new Ford Taurus with leather seats and all the other new bells and whistles. He was traveling through for a job, but also claimed to be an avid winter mountain climber. He let us off at the grocery store and we had a great quick, in and out, town visit but of course also made time to stop at the local pizza parlor. We hitched out of town with hopes of getting to the top of Bromley for sunset. We received a ride from a very peaceful older man who was also hiking up to the summit to watch the sunset. The three of us crammed into his small hatchback, and cruised up the mountain pass slowly while he told stories about his hiking adventures in Nepal. We reached the summit in time for sunset, at the summit is also a warming hut that the ski area graciously allows hikers to stay overnight in. It was an amazing brisk fall night filled with warm company, sunset watching, whiskey drinking, inspiring conversation, stargazing, shooting stars, and a clear view of the Milky Way looking like an arch across the sky. I woke up early to watch the sunrise then hiked to Little Rock Pond. My camera stopped working along the way, it was a bummer. The Little Rock Pond area is freakin gorgeous! The next day was rainy, but hiking over White Rocks Mountain was surreal in the fog, creative rock cairns and sculptures are grouped and scattered along the trail on the mountaintop, it looked like a fantasy, faery world. The Claredon Gorge at the end of the day was exhausting , it was the first steep climb requiring scrambling up slippery mossy rocks. The next day was up and over Killington, climbing up the 4,235 ft mountain in 80 degree temps was a very sweaty experience. I actually had to take hike shirtless and take a bandana bath in a creek halfway up to cool my core temperature. A cold front was moving in fast though, on the way down the mountain thunderstorms were off booming in the distance. We made it to the Inn at the Long Trail and went into the Irish Pub McGraths for a beer, bowl of Guinness Stew and a rueben. While inside enjoying the food immensely, a fierce storm rolled through with violent wind and frequent lightning, it was intense. My tent was poorly set up outside and ended up flooded and flipped over, luckily my sleeping bag was still packed and protected. The next day Rockfish and I caught the first bus to Rutland to stay the night at the Yellow Deli Hiker Hostel run by the 12 Tribe religious group. It was a fantastic experience, the 12 Tribe people are generous and very hospitable, plus their food is delicious. I bought a cheap little $40 dollar digital camera at the Rutland Wal-Mart. (A cheap plastic point and shoot digital camera is a challenging new tool to create with, and helped deepen my understanding of light. I’m very happy with the result! With no manual controls, I ended up changing my shooting style a bit, under exposing most of the images. Setting the exposure to minus 3 darken, it underexposed the shadows creating over saturated colors and then tried to focus my attention on shooting vibrant scenes that the deep dark shadows would help to influence the mood of the photo. It was a great challenge and learning experience. Yeah sure some of the photos have digital noise and a little blurry but I kind of dig the rough quality it was like experimenting with a Holga or toy camera)
After Rutland the Long Trail splits from the Appalachian Trail at Maine Junction. The trail became narrower, the terrain rough and rugged with lots of rocks, roots, and mud pit obstacles with each step. The trail really turned into the “Footpath in the Wilderness” that it’s so famed for being. I slowed down my speed drastically, hiking only distances I felt comfortable with, enjoying the scenery, taking long relaxing breaks, lounging at views, reading frequently, it was truly an experience in stress relief. Everything flowed with ease and comfort; the strenuous climbs up the steep, difficult and exhausting terrain were balanced with long meditative relief. It continued to balance out with effortless ease until the whole hike became a meditation without trying to be. Synchronicities started happening often, gracefully providing whatever was needed at the time. I know that sounds like New Age mumble jumble but it’s the dead honest truth, and I have never before experienced such a smooth flowing, worry free journey, it was like a dream.
At Sunrise Shelter Rockfish decided to hike on ahead, he needed to hike more miles than I desired to daily, in order to finish his hike by the first of October. He was a cool dude and very experienced Thru Hiker, I appreciate the wisdom he passed down to me. Back to hiking solo which I love, being alone with yourself in the wilderness is healing. Once you enjoy your own company, you can literally feel the built up stress from life release and true relaxation begin. There were a few other hikers around, who I started to run into more frequently. Soon started to hike with my friend Cackles more often and she was great fun to be around.
After Worth Mountain the trail became wet and muddy from a few rainy days. It started to get cold especially at night. My hiking shirt became so saturated with sweat and just would not dry. I started putting it in my sleeping bag at night to let my body heat dry it out a little. Putting on a smelly, cold and sweat drenched shirt that sticks to your skin, on a cold morning is the worst part of the day for sure.
Mt. Abraham was great fun, the first real technical climb going northbound, filled with scrambles and cliffs. The alpine summit of Mt Abraham was such an adrenaline rushed reward, with a 360 view you can see the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the East the Adirondacks of New York and Lake Champlain to the West. There is such an addicting euphoric high, from being so high. I Hiked on to Glen Ellen Lodge, where Cackles, Purgy and I were blessed with a view of beautiful Full Harvest Moonrise during a colorful dusk. The next morning the three of us hitched into Waitsfield from Appalachian Gap. We received a ride in a Saab, by a friend of another hiker. We sat out on the patio at Mad Taco in Waitsfield for hours, then just before sunset we hitched back to the trail head with a local school teacher, she hooked us up with a few Long Trail Brewing Company IPAs and we sat at the gap drinking beer, watching the sunset. We decided to hike 3 miles to Birch Glen cabin at night with the moon light. The next day I hiked to the base of Camel’s Hump, It was a beautiful day with great scenic terrain the highlight for me was hiking up the cliffs on Burnt Rock Mountain.
I woke up, started hiking around 6am to watch the sunrise from Camel’s Hump. This is one experience so far in my life that is extremely hard to put in words. It was a profound moment of truth in my life, an awakening of sorts. I hiked down Banforth Ridge feeling refreshed. I stopped early lounging at overlooks, eating, napping and chatting people as they passed by.
The next day was rainy and cold. I hitched into Richmond for a hot coffee with a local farmer and his wife. A carpenter, who was working on a house near the trail, gave me a ride back. Made it a few miles to Duckbrook Shelter where I unsuccessfully tried to build a fire going in the rain. Another hiker named Top Shelf showed up just before night fall. The rain continued throughout the night, into next day. I hiked very slow through a lot of mud while becoming dangerously cold from the mix of wind and wet, so I stopped early at Buchanan Lodge and when the rain let up enough, I made a big fire to get warm. I continued to hike solo for the remainder of the trail, running into people only here and there, the solitude was nice.
The next day I hiked to Taylor Lodge just south of Mount Mansfield , and stopped early to rest, eat and mentally prepare myself for a big climb up Vermont’s highest peak the next morning. I was looking forward for nice weather and views on Mansfield.
Climbing up Mansfield was fun, but also tricky. Going up the Forehead was particularly gnarly, one obstacle required scrambling up the edge of a steep cliff, then stepping up about 2 feet over a 20ish foot deep crevice up onto a slanted rock ledge and pulling yourself up the ledge while dangling off the mountain with a straight drop off of about 500ft behind you all while carrying a pack on your back. It was the hairiest obstacle I’ve yet to face hiking. The rest of the climb up Mansfield is above tree line. The day I went up it was fogged in, windy and cold, I didn’t have a view but it was still cool. I hiked up and down the Chin which was fun, and stopped early at Taft Lodge because it was so welcoming. The caretakers Turtle and Early Bird were very hospitable, a couple of the most friendly and genuinely awesome caretakers I’ve yet to meet.
The next day I hiked down to Smugglers Notch and hitched into Stowe to resupply. When I got back on trail I hiked up to the Smugglers Notch ski lift and stayed the night at the warming hut. In the morning hiked up to Madonna Peak and waited hours for the clouds to clear. The wait was totally worth it, the view of Mansfield was superb! I ended up staying most of the day enjoying the warm sunlight and vistas. Eventually I motivated myself to hike a couple miles down to Whiteface Shelter and spent the night there. I woke up early to climb Whiteface and hitched into Johnson. I got a ride with a very convincing Sasquatch hunter; who knows, maybe Bigfoot is real. In Johnson I ate a delicious 9oz BBQ Burger with swiss cheese, onion rings and bacon. I caught a ride back to the trail with a hiker friendly deputy sheriff then hiked up to Roundtop Shelter for the night. In the morning I hiked slowly to Corliss Camp, the red leaves were really popping near peak colors, for sure. The terrain was relentless and my pack was heavy from the food resupply at Stowe. My body started to feel a bit weak so I stopped early after 8 ½ miles to eat my pack weight down, while also fueling my body with the much needed calories and fat. I built a fire, and spent the evening relaxing by the warmth while snacking on a brick of Vermont’s delicious Cabot Cheddar Bacon Cheese, Spicy Buffalo Cheddar cheese, fancy Italian seasoned Salami, Pepperoni, dehydrated apricots, dehydrated pineapple, dehydrated papaya, banana chips and a variety of Little Debbies pumpkin snacks. Only 38 miles from Canada and 2 ½ weeks without a shower and laundry, the bittersweet feeling of the hikes end was hitting. After feasting, relaxing and a good night’s rest, I felt great and hiked 15 miles through peaking autumn colors and a lot of deep mud pits to Tillotson Camp. The next day I hiked 12 miles to Jay Camp, located at the bottom of Jay Peak, the last “big” climb. I climbed Jay in the morning and took a long break at the Tramway station at the top. It was the finishing day and I cruised to the Canadian Border, which is The Long Trail’s Northern Terminus, just in time to catch sunset over the Sutton Mountains of Quebec.
I stayed the night at the Journeys End Camp then hiked 3 miles back down the trail to route 105 and hitched into Richford with a Baptist Pastor. He was a very interesting man who talked about the idea of Faith vs Religion. He explained his view of how faith is trusting in the way God provides, and religion is chasing the way God provides, creating fear of being off course. I caught a ride out of Richford to St. Albans with a very nice man named Dave, he went out of his way driving me around St. Albans to make sure I had a clear direction of how to catch the next local bus to Burlington then went out of his way again to bring me out to the bus stop, which was near the ramp onto interstate 89. I taped a Burlington bound sign to my pack and sat outside a gas station near the interstate waiting for the bus, which was still a couple hours away. I was generously offered a ride from the Davis family in their family filled mini-van, heading to the airport in Burlington, I jumped aboard. They dropped me off near the University of Vermont Campus and I walked into town. In Burlington I had a great visit with my friend Laura (Hips) who I hadn’t seen since the Appalachian Trail last year. Then, bright and early in the morning I caught the local bus to Middleburry at 5am, then caught a local bus to Rutland, from Rutland to Manchester, Manchester to Bennington and Bennington to Williamstown, finally Williamstown to Pittsfield, where I’m currently staying with family. It was awesome taking public transit down through rural Vermont seeing all the scenic mountains, farms and small towns especially during peak foliage. Another thing I noticed is the sense of community the rural public transit has, everyone on the bus talked to each other and everyone on the bus was active, aware and involved in the conversations, all smiling, laughing, and joking , the drivers were even involved in the fun. It was a nice way to end the hike.