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A Year's Worth of Planning for the Long Trail

It's amazing how quickly time flies. Last year when I got off the trail at Lincoln Gap, my mind automatically shifted to planning my final Thru Hike of the Long Trail where I would essentially pick up where I left off and walk to Canada, the northern terminus, with my dog Isis (Lil' Nugget on the trail). First and foremost, I wanted my gear to be lighter and I wanted my food to taste better. All throughout the year, I changed things around and I proudly managed to shave off 10lbs from my gear.  It's still heavy at 45lbs but that is also because I am a solo hiker, carrying all her gear, and her dogs gear and food too. I also researched foods that I could make in my dehydrator that might have a little more flavor than instant white rice and some meats and also had plenty of calories. This is what works for me, you might find that something different works for you. In my opinion, gear should be tailored to the hiker. I try and keep it really simple when I hit the trail while allowing myself a few luxury items, plus carrying my dogs's needs too, I settled on carrying this:

Pack: Mariposa 60 GossamerGear
Tent: Eureka Solitaire
Poles: Leki
Sleeping Bag: 50* from Field and Stream
Sleep Pad: Klymet Static V
Rain Poncho: EMS
Waterproof pack liner: Sea to summit 35L
Guide, map, journal, pen
Leash, collar, harness, 2 dog toys
Bowl, cup, cutlery
Stove: Primus Camp Classic
Cook Pots: Optimus
Fuel: Jet Boil 3 season
Dog bowls (collapsable)
Bear bag rope
First aid bag (bandages, blister care, Aleve)
Water system: 1L Poland Springs seltzer bottle, Platty 1L collapsed bottle, Sawyer mini filter
Solar Charger: Goal Zero solar panel
iPod, ear buds, 2 portable chargers for recharging
Pack cover: Sea to summit
Eye glass case
Tripod (small)
Camera: Cannon Powershot SX400IS
Multi tool
Extra batteries
Waterproof stuff sack for electronics
Ball cap
Rain hat
Long pants Champion
Warm layer Columbia 3 quarter zip with Omni Heat
Extra T-shirt Columbia wicking with Omni Freeze cooling
Extra socks 2 pairs
Camp shoes
Pack Towel
Stuff sack
*** Wearing compression shorts, tank top, and sports bra
*** Carrying a weeks worth of food (3 meals a day), snacks, Dog food, and Dog treats 
         Oatmeal/Coffee/Pop Tarts for Breakfast
         Tuna packed in oil for lunch
         Dehydrated dinner made with rice, quinoa, beans, and meat in various flavors
         Wine (Just because)
         Gummy Bears (because hey fit in my hip pocket)
         Venison Jerky Bars by Epic
         Various Energy Gel's and chews, baby food squeeze tubes (fruits and veggies blends).
         Nuun Electrolyte Tabs for water
         Dog Food: Honest Kitchen Chicken and Quinoa Dehydrated meal
                            Treats Provided by Merrick (My only Sponsor)

Sorting through food and deciding what I would take was probably the hardest thing for me. I managed to dehydrate my favorite meals throughout the year in the hopes that I'd have something good to eat. Of course, realizing that anything will taste good after the fourth day on the trail, I called it good. Usually, I pared some kind of meat (Chicken, pork, steak, burger) with either a Zatarains or Ludberg rice mix that was also gluten free. Being gluten free is my main motivation for making my own food as I know EXACTLY what I am eating and there is no risk of becoming ill. My family will meet me at the half way point and resupply me for the last week of my journey with more food and cloths (fresh clean cloths!). This is always a fun time when I remember how heavy my pack was at the beginning my trip... I get reacclimated and push to the end.

So, how do I decide how far to go in a day? A lot of this planning has to do with my dog of course, she can only handle so much before she really hates me or gives up all together. I try and take her into consideration above all else. I also considered the four 4000 foot peaks I would be climbing. For me, that's a lot. I tried to devise a plan that I would arrive at the base of a peak and climb up and over it the next day. Or in the case of Mansfield, I'd arrive and climb it the following day and then I'd stay at a shelter close to the top and hike down to resupply in the morning. Realizing here that the weather will play a factor, I can always combine shorter miles and push on if a zero (day off for too much rain) is needed. There are going to be a lot of rocks and tricky spots to contend with this time around so, safety is a priority. Again, as with gear, mileage should also be tailored to the hiker. This is what works for me. I can pull big miles but not constantly. My body needs time to rest and recover so, a varied trip is necessary. Essentially, in a perfect world, my two weeks on trail will look like this: 

7/16: Lincoln Gap to Glen Ellen Lodge 8.8miles (Crossing Abraham and Ellen Peaks)
7/17: Glen Ellen Lodge to Cowles Cove Shelter 9.2 miles (Ap Gap/Waitsfield)
7/18: Cowles Cove Shelter to Mont Clair Glen Lodge 4.9 miles (At Camels Hump)
7/19: Mont Clair Glen Lodge to Bamforth Shelter 5.6miles (Climbing Camels Hump)
7/20: Bamforth Shelter to Buchanan Shelter 12.3miles (Crossing 2/89 Winooski Foot Bridge)
7/21: Buchanan Shelter to Taylor Lodge 7.9 miles (Mansfield base)
7/22: Taylor Lodge to Taft Lodge 6.9 miles (Climb Mansfield)
7/23:*** Taft Lodge to BARNS CAMP HISTORIC SITE/Picnic Area to Sterling Pond 5.5miles (Smugs resupply in the Late AM off VT108)
7/24: Sterling Pond to Round Top Shelter 14.3miles (Crossing 15/Johnson)
7/25: Round Top Shelter to Spruce Ledge Camp 12.4 miles (No Major Landmarks available)
7/26: Spruce Ledge Camp to Tillotson Camp 8.4 miles (Eden/118)
7/27: Tilllotson Camp to Hazen Notch Camp 6.1 miles (Hazen Notch/Montgomery/Lowell)
7/28: Hazen Notch Camp to Shooting Star Shelter 12.8miles (Over Jay Peak)
7/29: Shooting Star Shelter to Journeys End Camp 4.9miles (CANADA!!! North Troy VT)
7/30: .8miles out to Journeys End Trail Head off Journeys End Road North troy VT for Extraction in AM.

It doesn't matter that last year I completed a longer section of the LT (151 to this years 121)... I'm always nervous for a trip. Spending an extended amount of time on the trail is alway exciting and anxiety provoking at the same time. But the truth is that once I settle into a rhythm, I'm great. As the noise from civilization fades to the background and I am left with my own thoughts, I usually feel a lot stronger as I walk on. It's going to be hard and I will be tested both physically and mentally. Going without the comforts of home for two weeks can really play with a persons emotions and can be your downfall if you let it. I'll never forget the one piece of advice that I received from a Thru Hiker named 4B Last year... "You get your legs on the fourth day." He was right... The first day was all adrenaline, the second day sucked because I had barely slept or ate, The third day I felt drained and slept like a baby, and the Fourth day I was strong and I pounded out the miles. The pack weight will continue to go down as I walk until I reach resupply but then it all starts again. I hike for the challenge, for the chance to clear my head, for the chance to reset myself to the natural clock. I hike to escape for a while and for the chance to feel better sometimes as I still have aches and pains I deal with daily. It's going to be an amazing journey this year and I am excited to complete it as well and dream about what's to come.     

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