Day 0 (no “official” LT miles), September 9, 2016 – Journey’s End Camp
It’s been a while since the AT! I haven’t backpacked more than two nights since last year. Because I only took 5 vacation days for this trip, I’ll have from Saturday morning through the next Sunday (8.5 days) to finish the 167 “non-AT” miles from the Canadian border to the Maine Junction (where the AT and LT join), just north of Killington Mountain. We’ll see how I hold up 🙂
Daniel (trail name Mexican Buddha), a buddy that I met and hiked with during the final month+ of the AT last year, flew into Boston with just enough time to get a 4-day resupply of food, send a 4-day resupply package to Jonesville VT, and meet at my apartment. Last year he hiked from Harpers Ferry WV to Springer Mountain, and this year finished the other half. He JUST finished his flip flop thru-hike on Thursday, caught a flight from DC to Boston, and is now finishing the LT! I’m so grateful to have his company! Dad picked us up at 5pm in Boston, and since Daryl wanted to backpack for the first two nights, he drove separately to a road crossing 30 miles south from the start, so that he could drive home Sunday afternoon.
There were a few hiccups on Day 0. First was the meetup location with Daryl at Eden Crossing on Rt. 118. It was concerning that we lost cell reception approaching it, and relied on my GPS pin. By this point, 10pm, it was dark outside, and we passed the pin location without seeing a trailhead, so turned down the next dirt road and drove for a few minutes before realizing it was definitely not the right way. Where was Daryl?!? Back out to Rt. 118, we turned back around the way we came and passed the pin location again, not seeing anything. We turned around one last time, drove super slow, and found a dirt road with a sign that we somehow missed the first time.
Dad was feeling terrible. Turned out he ate something bad from a pit stop we took at a grocery store and had to take some time to get it out of his system
BUT we all got to the trailhead about 45 minutes later, and night hiked the 0.8 miles to Journey’s End Camp, on a side trail to the northern terminus. Bedtime – minutes before midnight. Long day!
Day 1, September 10, 2016 – Hazen’s Notch Camp @ mile 18
The 4 of us hit the trail by 7:30am for a quick 0.5 miles to the northern terminus of the Long Trail on the Canadian border. Now we’re ready to attack the LT miles! We took some pictures, Dad turned around to hike back to the car, and Daryl, Daniel, and I got moving!
Jay Peak was about 11 miles into the day. The ski summit had food and beer, so we treated ourselves. It felt a bit too soon to reward ourselves though, day 1 wasn’t even complete! But hey, not every summit has beer on tap, sooo might was well take advantage 🙂
Poor Daryl. I told him the trail doesn’t usually go right through bushes, but he tried it anyway… (alright, so maybe he took an accidental tumble…wish I had a few better pics from this 😉
Hazen’s Notch Camp had a shelter that fit about 8 people comfortably, but there were more people than that and with the forecast calling for rain at night, a few people took the floor. I enjoyed listening to the thunder and rain pattering on the roof at night, ahh.
Day 2, September 11, 2016 – Corliss Camp @ mile 38
Overnight there was some serious thunder and torrential downpour, it was nice being in a shelter! Daryl tented, but today will get to his car and get home where drying out will be easier. There was some light rain in the morning, and mud was definitely out in some areas. People fondly refer to the Long Trail as “VerMUD” because of the sheer amount of mud that makes an appearance after rain.
We took a mid-morning break at a shelter, snacked and chatted with a guy also out thru-hiking, and then continued on. I took the rear, and realized 30 mins later that I left my poncho tarp at the shelter drying it out!!! Daniel and Daryl were too far ahead for me to tell them. I dropped my pack on the side of the trail, ran back to the shelter, ran back with my poncho, and continued on, losing about 35 minutes of precious time, and exhausting myself in the process. I was already nervous about the amount of miles we had to cover to stay on schedule, and I knew Daryl needed to get back to his car at a reasonable hour. But he couldn’t leave without me, because I stashed food in his car to lighten my load for the first two days. My adrenaline was at an all-time high, so I covered ground quickly and caught up to them before they got to the car. Ah! How could I have been so forgetful! Daryl had a Monster energy drink in the car, and graciously let me and Daniel split it. The boost was very helpful!
Devil’s Gulch was a cool area to hike through – lots of big boulders. Reminded me of Mahoosuc Notch on the AT.
Corliss Camp was a quaint cabin that we shared with one other guy. Today was a lot of miles (20+ with my error!), but felt pretty good.
Day 3, September 12, 2016 – Whiteface Shelter @ mile 57
Great day. Daniel found a swimming hole which we enjoyed for a half hour before continuing on.
We also managed to somehow turn the wrong way and walk up a logging road for 15 minutes before a trucker told us we missed the turn. Heading back we noticed a small handwritten sign that pointed the right way. Not sure why there wasn’t a white blaze though! Those are what we were looking for.
What a cool tree, growing off the side of a boulder:
Whiteface Shelter had a beautiful view of Madonna Peak, which we were going to tackle first thing in the morning. We shared the shelter with another guy and a retired couple. Daniel busted out his travel-size guitar and we enjoyed the music! What a night.
Day 4, September 13, 2016 – Puffer Shelter @ mile 76
Great views from the summit of Madonna!
We then descended into Smuggler’s Notch before the ascent up Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. It was very confusing at the road crossing where the trail continued, but I came to the intersection as a group of ladies were about to head out for a hike, and I met “Yellow Jacket”, a former LT thru-hiker who is now on the GMC Board and directed me the right way. The climb up to Manfield wasn’t too bad! I was feeling good, and pushed up in about 1 hour 15 minutes. I relaxed and suntanned while waiting for Daniel 🙂
The final 3 miles of the day were very rugged. We were considering pushing to a further shelter, but arrived at Puffer Shelter by about 6pm exhausted, and the idea of hiking in the dark was not appealing. Plus we met Jess (aka Adventure Time), and had a great time chatting.
Day 5, September 14, 2016 – Bamforth Ridge Shelter @ mile 92
There was a beautiful sunrise in the morning, pictures just don’t do justice.
Rain was coming, and we had 10 miles to a road crossing where we hoped to hitch into Jonesville VT to get our resupply packages at the post office and maybe stop at a bakery. My green poncho worked wonders…
The miles flew by, and we got to the road crossing by 10am. We started walking the 1 mile to the Jonesville post office, thumbs out along the way hoping to catch a break. No luck. The post office didn’t open until 12:45, so we decided to hitch another 4 miles to Richmond, which had a bakery and other small town amenities.
As we were relaxing, eating, and charging our phones, a nice guy at the table next to us figured out quickly that we were hiking the LT. He offered to give us a ride back to the trailhead, or if we needed anything else. We gratefully accepted, asking for a pit stop back at the post office to get our packages before hitting the trail. His generosity blew us away as the following events took place: 1. He bought us 6 homemade granola bars from the bakery and 2 Snickers, as well as offered to let us shower at his home (we politely declined). 2. Drove us to the post office, where I found out they did not have my resupply package! (Somehow it was misplaced, even though I got confirmation on USPS.com that it was ready for pickup). 3. Drove us back 4 miles to Richmond so I could resupply at the grocery store. 4. Drove us back to the trailhead, where I realized I left my trekking poles at the bakery!!! Where is my mind?!? 5. He told us to relax at the trailhead, and that he would drive back to get my poles. He was back in 20 minutes. What an amazing trail angel! That is the definition of a trail angel. Such generosity.
The remaining miles flew by because of the physical and mental recharge (bakery goods and generosity from strangers will do a number on your spirit!). We met a few folks at the shelter, including an older gentleman with an external frame pack weighing probably 60+ pounds. Some people would rather carry the kitchen sink and enjoy themselves while covering less miles.
Day 6, September 15, 2016 – Stark’s Nest Warming Hut @ mile 110
The day began with an ascent up Camel’s Hump. Fantastic views from the summit.
Great day. We met McGoober at a break after descending Camel’s Hump. She just finished a NOBO thru-hike of the AT and had the extra time to wrap up the Long Trail! We ended up hiking the remainder of the LT with her 🙂
Today ended at Stark’s Nest Warming Hut, not technically a shelter that is maintained by the GMC, but rather a ski hut at Mad River Glen ski area. It was luxurious. A nice big cabin that really was warm!! Caught a beautiful sunset over the Adirondacks to the west.
And the moon was out for a great view.
Day 7, September 16, 2016 – Skyline Lodge @ mile 131
Naturally, we got up in time to see the sunrise.
We met a nice GMC caretaker today who chatted with us for a while and shared a couple oranges with us. Fresh fruit was a luxury!
It’s so frustrating when you pass someone going the other direction and they decide to let you know how much longer is it until you reach your destination. This one guy we ran into towards the end of the day was like, “Oh yeah, you don’t have much longer to the shelter, it’s pretty easy from here on out.” I should know to take anything/everything someone says going the other direction with a grain of salt. This guy had just come from the shelter we were headed to, so had only covered a few miles that day. We were approaching 20 miles for the day. He was going downhill mostly. We were about to go uphill. Basically, I let myself get excited because I believed it would be “easy” to finish the day. Not so. Everyone has a different fitness level, eats at different times of the day and has different energy swings, has good days and bad days, etc. etc. When you set an expectation such as “the rest of today will be a breeze”, you set yourself up for disappointment if it doesn’t work out perfectly. That being said, getting to the shelter was amazing, because it was right on a gorgeous pond 🙂
Day 8, September 17, 2016 – David Logan Shelter @ mile 153
The morning started out right, with coffee, oatmeal, and a sunrise 🙂
We knew our journey was coming to a close soon, and got to a road intersection before 9am and decided to get a hitch somewhere for a hot breakfast. There must be a diner nearby right?!? Within 5 minutes (wow, that was fast!) the 3 of us got a hitch with a mother and daughter in the area looking at colleges. We started to get slightly concerned as the minutes passed without passing anything remotely like a hot breakfast. This could make the hitch back to the trailhead particularly difficult. After a 15 minute drive (!) we came across a quaint convenience store, Ripton Country Store. A pint of Ben & Jerry’s and hot coffee sounded like the perfect start to the day. We were randomly approached by a man who could tell we were hiking the LT (yes, our attire, backpacks, and scent possibly gave us away), and he offered completely out-of-the-blue, without us asking, to drive us back to the trailhead. Oh, and he had a pickup so we’d have to sit in the bed of the truck (yes please!). What a drive back. Hot coffee, ice cream, and enjoying the open Vermont air and scenery.
Again, powered by other people’s generosity and loads of sugar, the miles flew by. I decided a campfire was necessary to cap off our final night on the trail, so we got a good blaze going.
Day 9, September 18, 2016 – US Route 4, Inn at the Long Trail @ mile 167
Only 12 miles to go before the Long Trail would meet the Appalachian Trail and our brief journey would end. The 3 of us (Mexican Buddha, McGoober, and myself) stuck together for the final miles. An amazing surprise was seeing a young black bear (barely visible in this pic, but right in the center).
Finally got to Maine Junction!
It was just another 20 minutes to the road crossing where I met up with Phil and Emily to get a Guinness and a ride home. Oh, and a pit stop at the Long Trail Brewery was in order of course, after finishing hiking the LT!
In case you’re curious, details of trip planning are at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KY3CedsBEHk7mfYJZv6BCRxK_iJmQiWOWxpTMRbbqmU/edit?usp=sharing
Hmmm what adventure is next?!?