Reuniting and a fun event!

Next week I am flying out to Portland, Oregon to reunite with Bear Bait who I have not scene since we finished the Long Trail in September!  Bear Bait has created an amazing itinerary of fun adventures to take me on when I get out there including:

This event cosponsored by Unlikely Hikers and  The Venture Out Project!

We are going to share some pictures and stories about our thru-hike of The Long Trail, the oldest long distance trail in the country.  We will also talk about how we planned for our thru-hike and answer any questions that anyone might have.  If you are near Portland, Oregon I hope you will join us!

Return to the Long Trail

This past weekend I drove to Vermont to attend a Green Mountain Club event called Winter Trails Day.  It was an all-day event at the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners Vermont that started with coffee and a very helpful winter skills workshop.  There were maybe 10 different guided group hikes all heading out from the brewery to different trails and mountains.  Squirrel and Early Bird were leading one of the group hikes up Pico and encouraged me to come up and join them so I did.  I met Squirrel a year ago last March while stopping in at the Green Mountain Club Welcome Center to get some information about The Long Trail.  Squirrel gave me a load of advice and encouragement and we have kept in touch ever since.  I recently wrote more about Squirrel here.

When I arrived I was told that the Pico hike had filled up and that a second group would be added.  I was kinda anxious cuz I’ve never gone on a guided group hike before and this whole event was a a social push out of my comfort zone.  In the end I was the only person to show up who had registered for the Pico hike.  I figured it was just too cold for folks as it was about 5°.    While the other hikes did go out, attendance was overall kind of thin.  So it ended up just being the three of us hiking Pico which was great.

The sky was so blue and clear and the air was crispy fresh.  We all seemed to stay warm enough and enjoy ourselves.  It was so nostalgic parking across from the Long Trail Inn and hiking up the Sherburn Pass trail.  We summited careful to not get run over by skiiers and then we hiked back down into the trees stopping at the Pico Camp shelter to warm up and have a snack.  I took a picture out the window from the same spot where I took a picture of Bear Bait sitting and looking out towards Killington last summer on the trail:

After the hike we went back to the brewery for the Apres Hike Party.  Hikers slowly filed back into the heated tent outside the brewery where we shared stories and socialized and there was beer and soup and snacks and a big raffle and I won a T-shirt and a hat!

After the Apres Hike Party dwindled,  I followed Squirrel and Early Bird to Early Birds parents house which was basically a human-size fairy house deep in the woods within walking distance to the Appalachian Trail.  She made a fire in the wood stove and we drank tea and relaxed by the fire chatting for hours until it was time to sleep.  I got to sleep in the coziest nook next to a big dormer window looking out at the trees and the stars as if I was in a treehouse.  I reveled in the quiet.  I woke up and watched hawks flying around the trees outside until the smell of coffee brought me downstairs.  We ate some breakfast and drank many cups of coffee talking at great length about everything and anything.  My new friends had some great trail stories from both working on various trail crews while living in Vermont and also from thru- hiking all the great long distance trails in the US.  Squirrel and Early Bird have hiked the Long Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and The Continental Divide Trail together.   Squirrel has also hiked the Appalachian Trail.  They are both so humble about it and I enjoyed hearing some great tales from their many adventures.  Squirrel kept saying that the Long Trail was the hardest of them all which was incredibly validating to hear coming from a Triple Crowner!

After breakfast we put all our layers back on and headed back out into the trees.  We road walked the dirt roads from the house to the Appalachian Trail.  Early Bird had to turn around as she had some stuff she had to do so we hugged goodbye and then Squirrel and I continued towards the AT where we hiked southbound towards a shelter where we sat in the sun taking in the melting icicles, the snow, the trees, and the blue sky and ate snacks and talked about life and gender and purpose and past and dreams and all that deep stuff.  It was a balmy 15° and a luxury to be able to sit outside for a while without getting too cold.

We headed back and had a last cup of tea before I had to hit the road.

Grateful for micro-spikes, merino wool, Vermont, cheese, and my new friends.




Ode to Squirrel

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:

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!

Taking my new-to-me ULA pack for a spin up to Zealand Hut via Mount Hale.

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.


Post hike

It’s been just about two weeks since I finished hiking the Long Trail. I reunited with my awesome and incredible partner who picked me up in Northampton at The Venture Out Project Headquarters where Bear Bait and I were hanging out after generously being picked up by Perry in North Adams.

Talk about a sight for sore eyes!  I’ve never been away from my partner for this long in the 8 years we’ve been together. In the 4 years we’ve lived together I’ve never been away from home for more than 10 days. Infact the last time I left Jamaica Plain for this long was 15 years ago when I spent a month at Haystack in Maine and then drove with my friend from Boston to Santa Cruz, CA via the Deep South following a map I saved from a skateboard magazine detailing every skatepark in the US and trying to skate as many as possible along the way. (This was before internet)  Before mountains inspired me to adventure, outdoor skateparks with concrete bowls led me to almost every state and up and down both coasts on many road trips.

Even after two weeks of being home I am still enamored by running water, flush toilets, the kitchen and the stove with its endless-seeming gas flow, chairs, vegetables with their water still in them. I enjoy the little things like the opportunity to wash my hands and I love making toast and real coffee.

I was extremely tired when I got home and was mostly grounded but there was definitely a crash.  I drove to Vermont with my pal Seven and picked up a Long Trail hiker on the side of the road in Johnson and drove them back to the trail which soothed some of my post trail grief.  We also drove thru smugglers notch and saw rocky craggy caves on this notch road. Then we went to the Green Mountain Club Welcome Center where I ritualistically handed in my journal and Long Trail End-To-Enders Certification Application which will formally put me in the archives with others who have hiked the trail and also award me a patch!  I also bought myself a hat.

After a week I feel like I finally recovered from a month of unrestful sleep and adjusted back to my urban environment. It’s very loud where I live. I’m on a Main Street directly on a major city bus route and a block from a fire station. Lots of sirens and squeaky breaks and engines of large vehicles. It’s overwhelming sometimes.

I finally went back to work this week as I have spent all my money. I am happily self employed. I was reminded of hiking down the forehead of Mansfield today at work as I have my ladder set up on top of some sketchy scaffolding of wood planks over a stairwell.  I actually think I was more comfortable and less afraid as a result of some of the sketchy steep spots I climbed in Vermont.  It feels good to work again but it’s emotionally challenging being out in the world surrounded by the chaotic energy of stressed out people rushing around chasing shiny things.  I’m booked solid for work for the next 3 weeks which feels both oppressive and relieving and I’m grateful for the work.

While I did wash my backpack and aired out some gear, my stuff is still exploded in my room. I think part of me is in denial that the hike is over and I don’t want to put anything away.  I’m looking forward to some fall hiking in the White Mountains in October after I catch back up on my finances this month.  I hope to hike more and do less and make my life simpler thus stay more connected and present to the stuff that matters most like the sky and love.

I do feel that I released something while walking  n the woods for a month. I had a self esteem boost that has enabled me to be more free. I’m just shocked sometimes when I realize I’ve been internalizing negative messages reflected back to me by a mainstream culture where bodies like mine aren’t enough. I am just that much more committed to this lifelong practice of self love and self acceptance as a hairy female bodied, pot bellied,  masculine mannered, male presenting (while not intending to pass and ridden with a lifetime of bathroom anxiety), sometimes slightly scruffy bearded, short, queer, butch, soft core, breastless 38 year old woman person human!

I met marathon runners who couldn’t handle the trail. I met conditioned athletes who have done all kinds of remarkable physical things but they could barely hike in the Northeast.  I saw people with fancy expensive ultralight gear and fit looking bodies who complained and wanted to quit. The Long Trail of Vermont is rugged.  The White Mountains of New Hamshire are rugged. I hike these ridge lines with great joy and sheer determination and I often give my mind all the credit.  But I must give my body some credit too.  I am strong. I may not look it but I am. And I am tough as nails.

Coming soon: A gear review and how my $35 New Balance trail runners faired the 272+ miles and how I missed my boots thus my overall footwear dilemma.

Lost Sailor 

I mentioned this hiker we met named Lost Sailor who we stayed with at The Green Mountain House   Hiker Hostel.  He was one week into the Long Trail Northbound and he was feeling pretty beat up and had just taken his first day off the trail at the hostel to recover.  He was super friendly and we chatted with him quite a bit sharing stories. He hiked the AT in 2000.  He was 57.  He was a really nice guy and very social. Jeff, the incredibly generous owner of the hostel gave us all a ride back to the trailhead together just this past Friday morning.  I kinda wanted to hug Lost Sailor but we fist bumped instead and we wished each other the best since he was going north and we were going south. I remember this moment so clearly as I was just kind of struck by this guys humility and sensitivity and openness to us.  He called us by our trail names and it was connecting.  We have since talked about him a lot and wondered how he was doing and I was seriously rooting for the guy!  

He told us that the Long Trail’s nickname is “The Quiter’s Trail” because it’s so hard and so many people quit. He gave us so many props for getting all the way to southern Vermont.  Before we parted ways he asked for my blog address and I was really hoping he would write me and tell me his adventures as he hiked north.  I was looking forward to keeping in touch with him.  

We were just googling Long Trail stuff and found this news that someone died  on the Long Trail who was from Indiana and put it together that it was him.  He died on the trail just 10 miles north of Manchester.  I was just literally just reading his AT Trail Journals earlier today.  So shocking and so sad and my heart goes out to his family and friends and the trail community for this loss.  We are stunned.  We have talked about Lost Sailor everyday since we met him and I have been imagining him hiking north.  

Lost Sailor you are in our hearts.

Manchester to Massachusetts! 68 miles

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!

Inn @ Long Trail to Manchester: 50 miles

Total Long Trail miles: 218

I’m sick of trailmix but I keep eating it anyway. I crave cheese. I now carry “seriously sharp” cheddar and happily slice it with my tiny knife.  

I mainly sleep in my tent. Travis sleeps in his hammock which he has named “hammy” and at the end of a long day we talk about finding a home for hammy.  Fortunately there are lots of trees. 

We camp near shelters or tent sites cuz they have privys and water sources (although the water has been dry lately).  I mostly avoid sleeping in the shelters cuz of the mice and needing my own private space at the end of the day.  But sometimes I don’t feel like setting up my tent or if it’s raining then I will sleep in the shelter.

We pass few Appalachian Trail NoBos and it seems the bubble has left Vermont. We’ve heard it described like a mullet hairstyle: “business in the front, party in the back.” Meaning, the latter part of the AT hikers are partying their way down the trail.  We are happy to have missed this party.  Most of the AT hikers we’ve met are really nice.

I drink leaf debris and floaties in my water and I don’t even care.  We treat it of course!  Although everybody reminds us just in case we forget.  Water has been dry for some stretches so we carry extra.

After a fun visit with Travis’ Mom & Aunt (Judy and Marje) we got back on the trail and climbed up part of Pico following the Sherburne Pass trail which took us over to Killington. We were blessed with another 70 degree sunny day and the climb was beautiful and full of disheveled pine trees with blue skies and misty mountains in beyond.  We made it up to Cooper Lodge and dropped our packs taking a spur trail .2 miles up to the summit. It was super steep and the wind was intense. It kept going up and up and I couldn’t stop myself from howling into the wind when I finally made it to the top where I was greeted by a boy who was shocked that we had climbed up instead of having taken the gondola up as he had with his family. We really blew his mind when we told I’m we had walked from Canada. The 360 views went on forever and the blue hues were almost impossible to take in.  We climbed over the summit towards the snack bar and enjoyed some mountain top snackbar treats along with running water and flush toilets! 

We headed back down to Cooper lodge, shouldered our packs and trucked on down the mountain on a lovely stretch of trail finding our way to Governor Clement shelter which was built in 1929 and it the second oldest shelter on the trail. There were a group of women also staying here and it was fun camping with them.  

The next morning we flew 7 miles to route 103 where we hiked west .5 mile to the Qu Whistle stop Restaurant where we ate lots of lunch and lounged in the sun. It was hard to hike back to the trail with full bellies but we pushed on and upward crossing an older suspension bridge.  We got to Minerva Shelter where we thought we might stay but it had bad energy and was kinda gross and the porcupines had chewed it to bits AND there was no water so we continued and ended up doing a 16 mile day with a very steep scent of a he last mile and I had to dig deep to get up that thing. Our packs were extra heavy cuz we were carrying extra water since the word on the trail was that things were dry ahead and there would be no water for miles. Stayed at Greenwall which had the best privy I’ve scene on the whole trail so far.  The thing had a front porch!  Met a couple NoBo AT hikers there as well as a NoBo LT hiker whose trail name was Atreyu!

The next morning I was thinking about my meditation group as we ascended White Rocks Mountain.  It was a Wednesday and my meditation group meets on Wednesdays.  We came upon these amazing rock gardens on the mountains and I felt so connected to my fellow yogis back home.  We hiked on passing some lakes and rivers and I had a mid day swim and while it was freezing, it was so refreshing to rinse off some salt. We ate lunch by the river and then climbed Baker Peak which was an existed rocky summit treat!!!  Also I hiked by a woman thru hiking in the buff. Such freedom out here.  14 miles later we had Griffith Lake to ourselves where I swam again and we cooked our dinner at like 4:45 and were in our respective hammock and tent by 6pm.  

This morning we woke to blue skies and climbed up Peru Peak and hiked another gorgeous ridge line over Styles Peak and up Bromley Mountain for more 360 views and mountains beyond mountains.  We descended into Manchester and hitched a ride to the post office to resupply and then walked into town for town for some pizza and groceries before getting picked up by Jeff of The Green Mountain House Hiker Hostel!  This place is great! Showers, laundry, loaner clothes, a free pint of Ben & Jerrys ice cream (which I’m too tired to eat) and a ride back to the trail in the morning!

Trail Magic at its finest

Something happens when you strip away all the complexities of everyday life and break it down to the basics of just walking with nothing but your essentials on your back.  The flow of connectivity and energy becomes tangible in profound ways. 

Some call it trail magic, or karma, or paying it forward, or god, etc…It can all be summed up to say that the trail provides.

It’s an incredible privilege to be able to go on a thru-hike.  I am blessed to be able to take a month off and be on this wild adventure.  It’s strange to be in the heart of the green mountains and know that I walked here.  I’ve experienced so much generosity from strangers.  Like this guy gave me his water on top of camels hump. Another guy offered us water and snacks in a parking lot on the trail. It’s strange to experience brief feelings of desperation and vulnerability when I have so much and I chose to be out here and I’m basically on a hiking vacation of a lifetime.  Yet people want to help me and sometimes I need help and I accept it as graciously as i can.

Today we decided to go into Rutland to get a few supplies. I decided to get a new air mat since my 15 year old mat leaks and I’ve been waking up on the ground for the past week.  Being on foot in rural areas is limiting. It’s easy to hitch with a full pack on but much harder without. Fortunately there is a bus that goes down route 4 into Rutland so we decided to take the bus. We missed it by a minute and even though it wasn’t coming for another hour we were so happy to just frolick on the front lawn of the Inn.  We were goofing around and contently hanging out when this hiker we had met at the last shelter before here came strolling up and offered us her minivan since she and her husband had two cars cuz they had been out section hiking.  What?!? A car?!?? Seriously?!?! I was overwhelmed by her trust and generosity.  We drove into town and were able to run all our errands so much easier as a result. The co-op and the outdoors store were miles apart and walking on asphalt after hiking for miles is not a pleasant experience.

Thanks Kim!!!!! 

Appalachian Gap to Route 4 at the Inn at Long Trail: 60 miles

Total Long Trail Miles so far: 169

Had our best day of hiking since leaving Journeys End with Stud. It was the ridge over Mt Ellen and Mt Abe from App Gap to Lincoln Gap. Just beautiful and we had perfect weather for it.  We did some bigger mileage this section and saw more people.

Most folks out here think I’m a dude and I kind of want to wear a sign that says “this is what a dyke looks like”.  Travis kind of wants to wear that sign too sometimes. We’ve had a lot of social awkwardness out here as a result of both intentional and unintentional passing and we are very aware of our out-ness or stealthiness depending on who we are sharing space with.

After an incredibly restorative day off the trail in Waitsfield strolling thru this cute little sleepy Vermont ski town in our goofy camp clothes running errands like picking up our resupply from the post office and doing a little supplementary food shopping and relaxing in a local coffee shop writing postcards and journaling.  We walked back to the Millbrook Inn and sat in a double wide Adirondack chair in the yard eating chips and guac and drinking kombucha and resting our blistered feet.

The next morning after a hearty round of French toast we got a ride back to the trail in clean clothes with full food bags. The sky was blue and the air was a crisp 70. We climbed up the ridge and had the most beautiful 10 mile ridge walk over General Stark, Mt Ellen & Mt Abraham.  We weaved in and out of Mad River Glen and Sugarbush ski areas which gave us sweeping views and nice spots to eat snacks. We barely even stunk by the time we got to Battell Shelter.  Another hiker named Cody showed up and set up a hammock and we played dice. Travis and Cody got in their hammocks and I got in the shelter. Just as I dozed off, two bro dude hikers came tromping in around 9:30PM and scared the shit out of me. They had done a 24 mile day and were wicked loud about it. I did not sleep well.

The next day we descended in and out of Lincoln Gap and continued to have great weather and a pleasant climb up Mount Grant. We passed a bro dude who had lost his inner spark. When we pass nobos on the trail sometimes we stop to chat, other times we say hey and blast by. This bro dude paused and seemed to need to connect. He was about ready to quit and we told him to hang in there and gave him a pep talk. He was headed to App Gap for a much needed break. He said he hasn’t had views for miles and we told him about all the views that laid ahead. He said he felt better and we cheerily went on our way stopping for a sunny fiesta lunch at the Cooley Glen Shelter. Considered staying put cuz we were so sleepy but we decided to push on. We entered the Breadloaf Wilderness and everything changed. My inner spark started to dim.  There are a few different wilderness areas on the LT. In these areas there is less signage and less blazing (the white paint strips on trees and rocks that mark the trail). Getting lost in here would be catastrophic. There are lots of downed trees and the trail is very narrow thru thick brush which creates a lot resistance kind of like you are walking thru a car wash. Our bags got snagged on so many trees and it’s like we were in a pine tunnel which smelled great and sounds nice while I write about it but I actually got pretty claustrophobic in there. I understood the issues that bro dude had been having! It was like the swamps of sadness in there and for the first time on this thru hike I considered leaving the trail. Not super seriously but I was so not enjoying myself. But we pushed thru doing a 14 mile day and were rewarded by having the skyline lodge all to ourselves which sat high on the ridge overlooking a pond and possibly The White Mountains. 

We continued in the Breadloaf Wilderness the next morning getting a slow start. Travis bag starting falling apart so he needed to do some repairs so I relaxed in my sleeping bag. The skies clouded over and we hiked up thru the Middlebury Snow Bowl and transitioned into the Joseph Battell Wilderness which was better but the rain was a challenge.

We cut our day short and decided to stay at the Sucker Brook shelter where we met two women and one of their nephews who were just starting a week out on the trail. Two young brothers passed thru and stopped to make gourmet ramen. They were carrying 50lb packs stumbling up the trail.  I pretty much LOVE heavy weight backpackers. Got to meet Little Bear Stumbles! And Honey! They started northbound on the 15 so it made sense that we would run into them at the halfway point.

It ended up not raining all night but as soon as first light came, it poured and nobody moved on the shelter. Travis and I made our coffees and ate our cereals and headed out into it. It mostly burned off by mid day and we perked up with the sun. We descended some cliffs into a sunny clearing where we stopped for a sunny siesta and dried some things out.  The trail really became a true footpath from there and we had a very lovely hike over bloodroot gap. We hiked a total of 13 miles and stayed at the David Logan Shelter. I slept in my tent and tried to repair my air mat which has a slow leak and I’ve basically been sleeping on the ground. 

Got an early start today and busted out a quick 13 miles to Route 4 to The Inn at Long Trail, a famous old school hiker-friendly place where we showered, did laundry and resupplied and ate.  We are now also on the Appalachian Trail!  The Long Trail and the Appalachian trail merge at Maine Junction and I was very excited to reach this spot and expected to merge onto a hiker highway based on the stories I’ve heard about huge numbers on the AT this year.  No more empty shelters and quiet trails. It’s going to be very different from here.  Fortunately we missed this scary event that happened here at the Inn at Long Trail last week called “Dude Fest” which was described exactly how it sounds. Drunk dudes everywhere. We met a woman who was hiking the LT solo northbound And unfortunately ended up at the Inn during dudefest and tried to camp as far away from the chaos as she could. A lot of AT and LT hikers camp across from the Inn if it’s full or if they don’t want to pay for a room. It’s a great place to stop regardless cuz they will hold your resupply box and they have a washer/dryer and it’s literally right on the trail. As we came down the mountain towards it we could smell the soap and shampoo of the day hikers. Now I’ve heard people describe this but it blew me away how intense and suddenly foreign the scent of cleanliness became!!! I’m sure we were funk-tastic to them!

We were going to get back on the trail tom after breakfast but it turns out that Travis’s mom and aunt are passing thru Vermont and are going to visit us! His aunt hiked the Long Trail in 1988 and stayed here at this Inn on her trip and has not been back since.  Looking forward to sharing stories and relaxing and going to town tomorrow!