Last spring, on a visit to the Green Mountain Club Welcome Center, I had the great fortune of meeting Squirrel, a seasoned thru-hiker who spent about an hour generously answering all of my Long Trail questions and going over the entire Long Trail map and giving me loads of tips and information about towns and shelters along the way. After I got home I wrote Squirrel to say thanks and we kept in touch. At the time, Squirrel was gearing up to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) with their partner Early Bird. The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is one of the big three United States National Scenic Trails and it runs 3,100 miles (5,000 km) following the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains traversing New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana. The other two big United States National Scenic Trails are The Appalachian Trail (AT) and The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). There is a term for hikers who complete all three of these long distance trails; Triple Crowners.
While Squirrel was hiking towards becoming a Triple Crowner having already hiked the AT and the PCT, they took the time to write and say hello and encourage me leading up to, during and after my Long Trail hike. The friendliness and generosity I received from this person who I had met just once really set the tone for my overall positive experience of trail community. By the time I started my Long Trail Hike, Squirrel and Early Bird had made it from New Mexico to Wyoming. While they were preparing themselves for hiking thru grizzly country, I was guarding myself from mice. For every day I hiked, they hiked three. I would read their blog updates aloud to Travis and we were amused by how a half-day hike for them was more then a full day for us. These endurance athlete hikers became an inspiration to me, not just in physical ability but in humility and thoughtfulness and epic-ness. Check out their blog to see these badasses trotting across the rockies: https://squirrelandearlybirdcdt2016.wordpress.com/blog/
Less then a week after I completed my 272 mile Long Trail hike, Squirrel and Early Bird completed their 3100 mile Continental Divide Trail. We sent each other care packages. I sent them cookies with exploding pop rock like candy on them just in time for shooting stars in Montana. They sent me a care package to my house when I got home with some treats including a hand-me-down ULA Backpack. What?! I had literally been looking at ULA packs online all last winter but since you can’t buy them in a store (only online) it felt too risky to buy it incase I didn’t like it and they aren’t cheap. The care package came when I was feeling pretty low. The transition home was tough. Getting that backpack along with a note acknowledging the challenges of adjusting to life off the trail was profound. Oh and “TimTam” cookies are really tasty!
And while we’re on the subject of generosity, check out this beautiful gift from The Venture Out Project that I hung this weekend. So great seeing all the shelters and gaps and peaks. And the colors go so well with our plants.
Looking at this big map all blown up on my wall has really motivated me to start scheming my next big adventure: a solo hike! I’ve never ever done a solo hike. I’ve decided to do the last bit of the Vermont AT that runs from Maine Junction to Hanover, New Hampshire. The “Maine Junction” is where the LT and the AT split in Vermont. This will mean completeing the entire Vermont section of the AT since I’ve already done the potion that coincides with the Long Trail. I just bought a map and I’m really excited about having that experience of a solo backpacking trip. In the meantime, I’m really pumped to play in the snow this winter.