Completed in 1930, Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail- starting in Massachusetts, it spans the entire length of Vermont and ends in Canada- is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United States. When I spent my first night on the trail, July 9th, it had been almost three years since I first decided to hike the Long Trail end-to-end as a challenge to better explore Vermont, my home for the first 18 years of my life. On my first afternoon, I walked over the Massachusetts/Vermont border northbound along with two friends, Marc and Sophie, stopping to scribble a few words in the logbook posted there at the trail’s Southern terminus, “…and so I begin a journey to pay homage to my home state of Vermont. See ya in Canada.”
We started with a quick pace, keeping up with the seasoned Appalachian Trail thru hikers that would share the trail with us for the next 100 miles, averaging about 18-miles per day for the first six days. For the next 17 days, we had nothing but what we could carry on our backs. We were quickly blessed with new trail identities given to us by fellow thru hikers who began to know us as the three amigos named Irrational (Ari), Marx (Marc) and Eeyore (Sophie). As we wrote in the trail journals posted in the shelters along the way, we began to build our reputation and thru hikers began to recognize us from our passing notes as Cabot cheese connoisseurs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream addicts.
After passing Maine Junction in Killington, we no longer shared the trail with the AT. From there on we had 170 miles of pure Long Trail, or should I say ankle-deep mud and wet, slippery rock scrambles. The hiking got harder and harder but fortunately, the views kept getting better and better. Since parting with the AT, the vibe of our hike completely changed. While we were hiking long days in Southern Vermont, we began to lower our mileage significantly, partly because the trail became more difficult but also as a result of our desire for more leisure time in the out-of-doors. Marx said it beautifully, “The way I see it, the Long Trail is the AT’s hippie, less ambitious older brother.” The young AT thru hikers that we had been with treated the trail like it was a race as I often do. But when we began to share the shelters with just fellow Long Trail hikers, our mentality shifted. Sitting on the porch of the Starline Shelter on a foggy yet beautiful morning with a cup of coffee really gave me the urge for a slow, relaxing day on the trail for once.
As we continued North, we encountered plenty of pairs of what we called the Long Trail stereotype: two good friends, just chilling out, having a blast and taking it easy in the woods for 273 miles. Some of our favorite characters included River and Baxter, two brewers from Florida who made their way up to Vermont in search of an adventure that not many Florida residents even attempt. The two of them had worry-free attitudes, long hair and awesome outdoors stories to share. Not too far ahead of River and Baxter we met Pooh Bear and Tree, who had hiked the AT together last year and met up again to hike the Long Trail at a leisurely pace in short sections with light packs. They carried musical instruments the whole way and stopped at every good view to play a few songs. Earlier in the week we shared a shelter with two loud New Yorkers who we called The Hooligans. The two of them were a blast, just two friends out of work, spending a month moving up the trail, “bro-ing” out along the way.
On July 26th, around noon, after hiking through the dark until midnight the night before, we trudged through deep mud, our feet swollen, our legs tired and our stomachs hungry until we reached a big wooden sign marking the Northern terminus of the Long Trail, Canada. While it’s not the AT or the PCT, the Long Trail, for the three of us, was definitely a big challenge and an awesome adventure and I’m confident that all the friends we made along the way would say the same. For me, it was an incredible way to pay tribute to my home.