Total Long Trail Miles: ALL OF THEM!!!!! 272 miles!!!
Plus a few extra miles of the Appalachian Trail into Massachusetts and then some road walking into North Adams.
Hiking is weird. It can be so meditative and relaxing and extremely uncomfortable at the same time. We use landmarks like shelters, mountain tops and road crossings to break up the miles and to decipher where we will stop for breaks and estimate our timing so we have a sense on when we can expect to get places to make the mileage feel manageable.
Sometimes I feel desperate for that next shelter or mountain top to appear the same way I have felt ready for a bell or gong to ring ending a formal sitting meditation. If I happen to actually catch myself suffering I pretend there is no landmark and that time doesn’t exist and all I do is walk and that my only reality is hiking and in those moments I have been able to make great friends with this trail and take in more of my surroundings. Other times I get stuck on particular discomforts and how I might make them go away. I can get caught up with a strap adjustment on my pack or indecision over whether I need to stop and rest or push myself harder. Ultimately, every opportunity I have had where I’ve been able to simply notice my discomfort out here and let go of trying to “fix it” has liberated me in profound ways. As someone who prefers to stay home and feels safest when in control and distrusts very trustworthy things, this hike has given me some new freedoms and highlighted some of the places I get stuck.
My hiking partner and oldest friend have gone thru a lot leading up to and during this hike. I am deeply grateful to discover the ways we have matured in relationship to each other and am extremely proud of the grace we have been able to bring to inevitable tensions that arise when dehydration, hunger, exhaustion, and physical pain are a constant obstacle. It’s been great to have a companion out here who makes me laugh and gets my humor and we can encourage each other and state our needs and look out for each other as well. We have taken turns taking care of each other around things like water gathering and dinner prep finding a natural flow of shared labor with a lot of care and love.
Despite hiking an average of 13 miles up and down mountains everyday for the last 25 days, I still ache at the end of the day, my feet still blister and throb, and I continued to stagger into each shelter half delirious where I toss my pack off my sweaty back and plop down on the edge of the shelter and sit there for a good 10 minutes soaking in the sweet relief of resting my body and chugging water and eating my trailmix until I can muster the energy to take off my shoes and set up my tent. Travis works on finding a temporary home for hammy meaning he hangs his hammock near the shelter and does some afternoon reading and relaxing until it’s time to find a proper sleeping spot.
We started referring to the shelters themselves as the “community centers” since it’s where folks convene and socialize. So once we establish good camping spots in the surrounding woods where tenty (my tents new name) and hammy (Travis’s hammock) can camp nearby, we set up our homes and get situated before returning to the “community center”(the shelter). Travis does some extensive tarp tying over his hammock while I get in my tent and sing about having a wilderness wipe-down which is a catchy little song I made up cause I got these wet wipes called “wilderness wipes” and travis sings along while I have my little bath.
We get in our dry camp clothes which are the clothes we preserve for the end of the day and never hike in. Then we grab our food, water bottles, stove and pot and head to the “community center” to cook dinner and socialize with other hikers.
The further south we get, the more hikers there are to talk with and its been fun to chat with folks who are just starting the trail as we got closer and closer to finishing. People have been congratulating us and it feels great. Especially when we get it from Appalachian Trail hikers who have walked all the way here from Georgia! For those folks to smile and give us props after all the miles and states they have hiked thru feels really awesome!
We left Manchester getting a ride to the trail from Jeff of The Green Mountain House hostel. Best hostel ever!!! He drove us along with a NoBo LT hiker by the name Lost Sailer who we fist bumped and wished happy trails to before departing.
We huffed and puffed up Spruce Peak and cruised in to Stratton Pond where the sun was out and the water was beautiful. We soaked our feet and thought about swimming but the breeze was kind of chilly and there were so many folks hanging out and we got shy. We met an AT (Appalachian Trail) thru hiker in her 70’s who was vegan and raising money to save the Elephants. We chatted with her about eating vegetarian on the trail and shared some tips.
Stratton Pond is a very popular camp site on the AT/LT and given that it was Friday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend, the place was filling up with weekenders so we decided to press on and hike up Stratton Mountain even though we were tired and it was after 2pm. We got to the summit and it was beautiful and quiet and we took the .7 spur over to the ski resort where the views were epic and we found a great spot to stealth camp. We cooked our dinner and watched the layers of mountains change colors against the setting sun until it was too cold to do anything but get in our sleeping bags. It got down into the 40s that night!
Woke up on Stratton freezing and covered in mountain dew but the sunrise was unreal!!!! We found a heated bathroom by the chairlift and made our coffee and ate breakfast in there which sounds gross but It was pure luxury at the time. We hung our rain flies till they were dry and then headed down the mountain and had almost reached the Stratton-Arlington Road when we had to stop and eat. We ate lunch at 10:30 and then walked out towards the road and discovered there was Trail Magic!!! We were full but we ate some cookies and filled our waters and I took a couple hard boiled eggs for the road. We chatted with the guy who had set up the Trail Magic and thanked him and heard about his Appalachian Trail stories. We pushed on and got very sleepy since we didn’t sleep so well on the cold mountain. We got to Story Spring and rested. Travis took a nap in the shelter while I chatted with some hikers. We pressed on and hiked to Kid Gore Shelter where we met Earth Dog & Snaker, two guys in their mid 60’s section hiking the AT. They were funny and engaging to talk to. We also met a NoBo LT hiker named Moose Meister who said her food bag got ripped down from a tree and torn into by an unidentifiable large rodent when she was just 15 miles into the trail. She lost her first 4 days worth of food and had to go into town and resupply after one day on the trail.
It was another cold night at the Kid Gore shelter. Woke up to another epic sunrise and after a leisurely breakfast we headed up Glastenbury Mountain whose summit was flat and cool and in the pines. We climbed the fire tower at the top and got more epic 360 degree views. Chatted with some AT NoBos before hiking down to the Goddard Shelter to get water. I was fading by mid day so Travis told me about the Lord Of The Rings in great detail and it got us up and over Maple Hill and into Melville Shelter. Met a LT NoBo who got lost on his second day and ended up getting a boat ride across a lake back to the trail from a resident in the woods. We also met a couple women who just graduated UVM. We cooked dinner and realized we were out of fuel which meant no more hot coffee or hot meals. But one of the hikers we met offered us some extra snacks since she was hiking out in the morning and heading back to work and it got us thru!
Had a rugged climb in and out of Route 9 (the road that goes into Bennington). There was an endless rock staircase in and out of that road and it nearly killed me. Intense morning! We were really feeling the exhaustion from the trail and collapsed on Consultation Peak. We were so tired and running low on food. We added some electrolytes to our water and pushed on feeling the boost and making it to the Seth Warner shelter which is the last/first or shall I say the southern most shelter on the Long Trail. Shortly after we arrived the place filled up with Northbound Long Trail Hikers just starting the trail. We felt like rock stars with all the congratulations they gave us and we wished them happy times as they head north. They had lots of questions and we happily answered all of them and offered tips and any useful information we could think of. Then we did a little ritual with some flying magic papers that Travis’ partner Jesse sent us. We lit up our hopes and dreams and watched the embers fly being extra careful not to burn down the forest. We ended our last night on the trail with a game Yahtzee.
Woke up early and excited to hike to the end. Got to the Massachuestts border at 8:30 this morning and cheered. Our celebration was cut short by an obnoxious AT hiker who assumed we were like high school boys and didn’t believe we were 38 and 39 years old and all he had to say was that at least 25 year old women probably still throw themselves at us. Eye roll. Where to begin here. A. I am a woman and I am life partnered with someone much older then me. B. Travis is a flaming homo. C. Don’t talk about women throwing themselves on people. D. We just finished the Long Trail! Either give us a cupcake or move along!
We hiked it off ranting and raving a bit. We’ve experienced a disappointing amount of offensive comments out here. Generally if someone thinks I’m a dude, I just go with it. But when dudes start talkin the kind of exploitive objectifying bullshit that they don’t talk about in front of women, it’s uncomfortable. My instinct is to hike away and then later I regret not having come out and saying something about how it’s not cool to talk about women like that. Whatever.
We hiked the 3.8 miles to a road and then a postal carrier guided us towards a diner which was very hiker friendly. We were exhausted and decided that hiking 3000 feet up Mount Greylock on the AT was not in the cards for us today. We’ve done it before and we needed to celebrate our Long Trail victory so we walked into North Adams and checked into a Holiday Inn, showered and did laundry and will rest and enjoy ourselves until we head back east tomorrow.
It’s been epic!