Mount Hood

Drove up to Timberline Lodge and the sun was out and the sky was clear and the snow banks were 15-20 feet high on the side of the road.  Mount Hood loomed ahead.

We “split” our boards and put the skins on which are these long strips that stick on the bottom to give you traction so you can “skin” up the mountain.  We clipped in and headed up.  We started at 6000 feet and a mile and an hour later we were at 7000 feet.

We found a flattish spot and and sat and ate our pbjs and chugged water and chatted and tried to take in the endless views for about an hour unaware that our faces were burning.  The summit looked so close…but it was like an optical illusion cuz it’s over 11,000 feet and super steep and getting up it requires ropes, ice axes, crampons and technical mountaineering skills and I have zero of these things and zero interest in mountaineering.I did have an interest of continuing up the glacier but I felt weird from the altitude and Travis said even though it looked really gradual that it was actually very steep and this was my first time doing something like this so we decided to descend.  We peeled the skins off, clipped the board back together, moved the bindings and strapped in.  Oh the awkwardness of riding down on a rental.  I could hardly control the board and had trouble turning so I stayed close to the groomed Timberline area which is a ski resort  with lifts which we were basically next to.  Travis dropped into this gulley that looked really fun but I stayed up top since my board felt so weird.  I giggled all the way down stopping to do a face plant somersault which made me laugh so hard I wasn’t sure I’d be able get down.​We explored Timberline Lodge which is full of history describing how this massive place built in the 30’s on this giant active mountain volcano  where people ski all summer long.  We took advantage of the heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi.  We lounged by the gigantic fire places.  We smothered our sunburnt faces with fancy hotel lotion. We watched The Shining in our little bunk room where the windows were covered with snow.  We ate the infamous breakfast buffet.  We woke up to tons of snow and had to put chains on the tires – a new experience for me.  Of course the road was then clear so we pulled off to take them back off.  A fun adventure with chains. Once below the snow line we went for a little hike on the foothills of Mount Hood in the rainforest where there were old growth Douglas furs covered in electric green moss.  We hugged them.  Travis described them as Dr Seuss trees.  We walked long this raging river and it was intense how powerful that water felt.  Tomorrow we head to the coast!

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!

Mount Waumbek

Mount Waumbek

  • Elevation: 4,006 Feet
  • Location: Lancaster, NH
  • Date Hiked: 3/12/2017
  • Companions: 5e & Brenda
  • Trails: Starr King Trail

Nothing like going up a four thousand footer on a 0º winters day with a -30º windchill.  No seriously…there is nothing like it and I mean this in the most neutral way possible.

As I obsessed over my layering system, waiting for 5e and Brenda to pick me up in Lincoln where I had been staying in a tiny cabin for the weekend,  I seriously questioned the decision-making spot on my frontal lobe.  5e had proposed this hike way back in January inspired by daylight savings.  I enthusiastically agreed to join her despite my lack of winter hiking experience and my snow-shoe resistance.  She brought her best pal Brenda who had never hiked a 4000 footer before (never mind in winter).  Fortunately we were all on the same page as far as not being overly attached to summiting and keeping the communication lines open in order to stay safe.

The hike was described as being one of the more moderate of the NH48 for winter hiking and thats why 5e picked it out.  The trail was a 7.2 miles round trip out and back with a steady grade and nothing too steep or exposed.  There was a smaller peak called Mount Starr King along the way followed by a mile of ridge but the ridge was in the trees so we were protected from the wind.  The trail was snow and ice covered and totally packed down so we were able to just wear micro spikes without needing snow shoes.

Twenty minutes into the hike and we were sweating bullets stopping to shed layers and trying to stay dry.  Our body temperatures dropped as we gained elevation.  We steadily climbed for hours and I became aware of the places where I was getting cold and I wondered if I would be okay, if we would be okay, if I would know if I wasn’t okay and where my edge was.   As we ascended,  we checked in a lot and helped each other with zippers and laces and buckles and clips.  Gloves and freezing temps make everything more challenging.  I take my gloves on and off dozens of times when exerting myself outside in winter.   My hands get sweaty and I don’t want my gloves to get too wet or I need to get into a zippered pocket and then unwrap a snack.  Then my hands are cold and I put my gloves back on and so on.  We checked each other out from time to time assessing each other’s okayness.  Now 5e and Brenda have been pals for 20 years and know each other pretty well.  But since they don’t know me nor do I know them as well, the gauge of “are you okay” was less precise and had a steeper learning curve but the trust was there.  The thing about hiking a 4000 footer with others is that it creates instant intimacy.   You go from, “hi my name is__” to detailed accounts of whats going on with your body as you burp and rip farts and help each other in and out of your clothes and boots.

The higher we got the more snow was on the trail and caked all over the trees. Any pain or discomfort or cold spots I had went to the back burner once we popped out onto the ridge.  The blue sky creeped through making way for a breathtaking wonderland up there.    Once on that first summit called Starr King we put on more clothes, ate some snacks and then quickly moved along.  Stopping for even two minutes was enough to start rapidly cooling down.  The ridge was gorgeous.  We were in the trees but there were some clearings with some intense views.  The first summit, Starr King actually had more views than Mount Waumbek.  We passed some remains from an old fire cabin…ironically all that was left was the fireplace and I wished it had a fire in it.

Before we knew it we had summitted Waumbek exactly 3.5 hours later.  We were elated.  5e made a snow angel, we snapped some pics, ate more snacks, and I discovered some ice chunks that had formed on my eye lashes that were just impressive!

We cruised down the mountain half trotting and I even butt slid a few of the steeper snowier sections saving my knees.  My feet started to throb once we got to a lower elevation I laid down on the trail and elevated my feet on a log reminding me of all those painful descents on the long trail last summer.  It was so beautiful looking up at the trees and the blue sky with the fast moving clouds and I tried to take in as much of it as I could.

Once back at the car we were stoked to have had a successful hike and it was a relief to take my boots off and change into dry cotton in the warm car.  It was a lovely drive home through Franconia Notch with Lafayette looming on the left and Cannon rising up on the right.  We texted and called our loved ones to let them know we were safe and off the mountain.  I got to know my new friends during the 3 hour drive home and we shared stories.  I was home in time for dinner and I was in bed by 8:30.

In conclusion, I’m still not sure how I feel about winter hiking.  I love the snow and I love the snow caked scraggly trees up there.  But zero degrees is kind of intense.  I’m hoping my next winter hike will be at least 20 degrees warmer.  I have yet to snowshoe up a mountain and to be perfectly honest, I am not that eager to.  I don’t mind the micro spikes…they feel like a super power.  I AM however VERY eager to hike up a mountain in sneakers and shorts and I can’t wait for that.  In the meantime I will continue to experiment with winter hiking.


Went for a lovely little loop on the skyline trail in the Blue Hills with a new hiker friend named 5e (pronounced five-eee).  We hiked leisurely chatting away about stuff that adult tomboys talk about.  There was a little ice on the trail which was totally avoidable but also kind of exciting.  There were some views and I felt relieved from constant a low level anxiety I’ve been feeling the minute I got in the woods.

I talked to Bear Bait on the phone and schemed about future adventures, processed past trials and tribulations, life angst and talked about deep stuff that tomboys talk about.  We reminisced about the Long Trail.

Seven helped me move a big pile of sticks.  We loaded up the little pick-up and then headed to the yard waste dump which is like a mountain range of mulch, leaves, wood chips and brush.  Some of the mulch mountains have “roads” up them meaning slopey ramp-like sections with tire tracks.  Otherwise the mulch mountains are tidy with steep walls.  We laid the sticks to rest among their great great great grandparent logs.

Then we went for an epic walk in the cemetery where we admired the holiday offerings on the grave stones.  We saw a hawk pretty close up.  It pooped and I inspected it but there was nothing much to see there.

Seven asked me if I would be willing to help her do something weird.  I obliged without knowing what it was.  Seven’s deceased neighbor had offered their Mary Statue before they died but it needed to be extricated from a stone base.

Mission Move Mary was in effect.

We attempted to chisel it off which was but slow going but somewhat productive.  Seven got out the big guns (a concrete drill hammer thing) and walla!  Mary was freed and will have a new home in Seven’s garden.

Seven and I visited Mildred (who hiked the Long Trail in 1943).  I got to show her pictures of my long trail hike of 2016.  She showed us the aftermath of how the sun hit her chrystal ball and set the corner of her crossword puzzle on fire. 

I had an incredibly insightful Astrology reading.  It was the first time I inquired about a professional reading of any kind.  My mind is full of marinating ideas and my planets are aligning in ways that support whatever it is that is brewing inside of me.  I am in an intense transition towards living my most authentic identity breaking free from the shadows of other people and things.  It turns out that I am resilient as fuck and I got mad skills that I have been previously viewing as weaknesses. 🌌

On a sad note, I read that an experienced and prepared 26 year old Massachusetts hiker died on Bondcliff on Xmas Eve most likely from hypothermia as they were found on the exposed ridge line with their jacket unzipped and on upside down.  My heart goes out to his friends and family.  I haven’t been able to shake this story.  I was just recently considering a solo winter hike.  But hypothermia is creepy and this tragedy gave me pause. I’d like to think that I’d catch the warning signs like if I started uncontrollably shivering but what happens when you stop thinking clearly and are no longer able to make sound decisions?  I don’t ever want to take for granted having hiking companions that I can trust to stop me if I start slurring my speech and force me out of my wet clothes and into dry clothes and force me to stop and drink and eat.  R.I.P. Jack Holden



Mount Hale

  • Elevation: 4,055 Feet
  • Location: Bethlehem, NH
  • Date Hiked: 10/23/2016
  • Companions: Stud, Zannah, Seven
  • Trails: Up Hale Brook Trail, Down Lend-A-Hand trail and Zealand Trail

From sunny glistening peaking foliage and crispy fall breezes to gale force freezing winds and snow.  Welcome to the White Mountains.

Some time ago Stud and I had blocked off a couple days to try and hit a few more peaks on our NH48 list before fall turned to winter.  We recruited our pals Zannah and Seven to join us on an epic 22 mile round trip traverse over the Willey Range to try and summit Mount Willey, Mount Field, Mount Tom and maybe Zealand Mountain as well.  We reserved 4 bunks at Zealand Falls Hut which is maintained and operated by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club).  Some of the AMC huts stay open during late fall, winter and early spring with self service rates.  During self-service season you bring a sleeping bag but they still give you a pillow and a bunk with a mattress.  Instead of the Croo (Croo=AMC staff of young energetic outdoorsy campers) cooking dinner and breakfast for the guests, you get to use the kitchen and cook for yourself.  But they still keep the water flowing if not thru the pumps and pipes they keep it gathered and keep it potable.  Guests can use all the pots and pans and cutlery in the kitchen.  And there are pit toilets.  It’s a pretty sweet deal and it’s about $100 cheaper then the full service rates.  It’s a good way to try  an overnight hike without having to carry a tent, sleep mat, stove, fuel, pot, bowls, mugs, sporks, etc…

The weather forecast called for snow, gale force winds, and freezing temps.  Like I said, I’m not trying to die on a mountain.  We decided to avoid any exposed alpine zones and cliffs given the forecast.  Instead we chose a much shorter route to the hut on a more protected trail that would still bring us over one of the NH48; Mount Hale.  All the while, never leaving the trees.

The drive up was ominous and the foliage changed the more north we got. Once the White Mountains were in view we could see them living up to their name as everything above 1500ish feet was dusted in snow and stormy clouds swirled over the higher summits. Driving into Franconia Notch always flips my stomach and even more so in winter.

The dirt road we would be taking to our trail head closes in winter but not until November.  It was all snowy on the road and there were lots of downed branches.  We heard later that a tree had fallen and was blocking the road and some hikers were waiting for Fish and Game to clear the road so they could drive home.

It was fully snowing and very cold as we started walking up the path. We warmed up quickly and started shedding layers before we got too sweaty.  It was too cold to take breaks so other then stopping to pee or to quickly eat something or chug water we had to keep moving to avoid cooling down to that dangerous speech slurring hypothermia.

The snow wasn’t deep but it left the trail slick and it was slow going as we deciphered what we were stepping on.  We felt the wind pick up as we popped out on the summit which was a big cairn of rocks in the trees and we took a quick pic and ran back into the trees following the Lend-A-Hand Trail towards the hut.  There were lots of little water crossings and we miraculously kept our feet dry.  We reached the hut around 1pm and all was quiet.  We discovered it was no warmer than the outside air. In fact I think it was colder inside the hut then it was standing on the icy front porch outside.   The sun shed some rays on some mountains in the distance and it was beautiful.  We sat drinking hot chocolate and soon the caretaker popped in and made a fire in the tiny wood stove.  Other weary hikers came in covered in snow describing tales of literally crawling on all fours in fierce winds over exposed alpine ridgelines and losing their rain covers.  Some hikers talked about continuing onto other exposed alpine ridges.

The caretaker (AMC Croo Member) shared the weather report of dropping temps and gale force winds.  130 mph winds and negative whatever wind-chills were being reported on Mount Washington.  We looked at each other wide eyed and relieved we made the decision not to traverse the Willey Range in these conditions while the caretaker strongly discouraged another party of hikers from continuing on up over the higher peaks as they planned.  He told tales of other hikers stumbling into the hut the night before at 2am all hypothermic and sleeping on the floor next to the wood stove.  Fortunately the group that wanted to keep hiking heeded the caretakers caution and settled in.  We all warmed our boots by the wood stove and cooked our dinner and played games and laughed and talked to other hikers.  It was cozy.

I was concerned I’d be cold in my light summer sleeping bag but with my liner and all of my layers on I was toasty even though I could practically blow “smoke” rings with my breath.  I found a copy of “Not Without Peril” in the huts’ library and I read aloud to my companions in our little 4 person bunk nook.  We had our lights off and were drifting by off by about 9PM.  I listened to the howling wind outside and hoped no hikers were stuck or lost out there.

In the morning we made our coffee and oatmeal and followed the Zealand Trail under a sunny sky.  The moss and smell of pine revealed itself as we descended thru the valley and we walked by beaver ponds and across streams.  The clouds moved quickly over the higher summits and we happily strolled thru the temperate valley.

Once back at the car we drove in and out of Crawford Notch and through Franconia Notch and left the stormy White Mountains in the rear view mirrors while the brilliant peaking foliage came into focus blowing our minds under the bluest skies with the puffiest Simpsons-like clouds.

It was rather invigorating to face some more intense elements in the White Mountains.  Zannah talked about the quality of aliveness that comes with harsher weather.  Stud shared excitement about our forced change of route and how we still managed to bag a NH48.  Instead of views and relaxing summits, we got muffled snow caked pines and frozen air delightfully snapping us into the present moment again and again.  Seven posed a question about hiking away from something vs towards something and then later concluded that it might be possible to be doing both at the same time!  I recently had the opportunity to notice that I am often living my life almost a week ahead of myself at a time.  When I finished the Long Trail I set an intention to scale back my involvements in ways that that would allow more simplicity and spontaneity and less rushing around from thing to thing.  Last Monday after hiking the Kinsmans with Stud I learned my dad had a heart attack.  A few days later he had a double bipass heart surgery.  All week I was forced back into the present moment with no other choice but to live in each day as every plan I attempted to make or unmake was not in my control.  Things happened really fast and really slow at the same time.  Yesterday my dad went home after a long week in the hospital and days in ICU.  I just got home myself after staying with him and helping him get settled in after returning from my hike that he insisted I not cancel.  He’s doing so great and I am so grateful for the reminder to slow down as every plan I made last week ended up not being what I expected.

Hiking continues to be this great metaphor for life in that I can set my intentions and make my plans but I can’t get too attached or I might miss out on what’s right in front of me or I might really suffer when things have to go differently.  Hiking simply supports my desire to be more conscious and suffer less.  Grateful for the babbling brooks that are like miracle grow for my amygdala and grateful for my companions who willingly walk into snowy cold mountains with big smiles, open minds, and great senses of humor.

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.

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!