The following is my final Long Trail Journal from my final section of the Long Trail through Vermont. It has some trail conditions and a lot of thoughts...
Day 1- 6/3/17 VT108 Smugglers Notch to Madona Peak Warming Hut.
5 miles/60.8 to go
It's finally here. I'm back on the trail. Started today, right where I left off and promptly fell down a ladder and into a stream. It was a wet start that only got wetter as the day went on. There were parts that I was definitely OK with and those that I was not. There are two other hikers out here, Sunflower and Just Josh. Met up with them on the trail and then for lunch at Sterling Pond Shelter. We had planned to meet up at Whiteface Shelter but, the weather got the better of me. I stopped at Madonna Peak and found that the warming hut was open. Once I was inside, I was staying put. I had heard pretty things about this peak and hoped the weather would clear. It will make tomorrow at 13 mile day if I am to keep schedule. I think it's doable. I have not done high miles in a long time so, I guess we'll see how it goes.
It's been such a long road to get here. Spending the majority of the year in pain was not what I planned. Nor was my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. But you know, shit happens. Having zero drive to do anything was a drag too. I'm pleased though that I kept pushing and getting out and of course getting myself back to the trail.
This is my time to relax. I know, it's a funny way to relax but it's true. I can meditate when I walk. Except when it's raining like today and I have to walk slick ledges and climb out of a deep Notch. Then I get a little stressed. I took a lot of falls today. And by falls, I mean big nasty mean ones that may leave bruises. I also have to look out for Isis. Her paws can get pretty raw pretty fast in this wet weather and these wet conditions. Then where will we be the rest of the week?
So, here I sit. I'd rather be hiking. But the 4 walls of the warming hut as opposed to the 3 of the shelter is better. You never know which way the wind blows. I could only imagine getting there, soaking wet and not being able to get warm or dry. I'll hike those extra miles any day. That little girl is my life and I will gladly hike her hike instead. But I believe we have the same threshold.
I am taking this walk one day at a time. Rather than focusing on Canada, I will focus on the goal for the day. Taking advantage of the max daylight hours and keeping a general goal will do. Plus, being OK with cutting it short. Flexibility is always key. Sadly, it is something that I lack a lot of the time. Things had to go as planned or not at all. But since I got sick, I am pretty sure that I've learned flexibility. I can only do so much in a day. But again, I believe 13 miles tomorrow will be good.
I'm feeling the civilized world melt away. The trail routine is coming back. Hike, eat, Hike, camp, eat, journal, sleep, repeat. My only concerns are staying warm and dry. Keeping Isis safe is up there as well. I like this. None of that other BS to worry about. I've already got dirt under my nails too.
Feeling good on the first day. Not worried that I cut it short. It will all pan out. When the sun comes out, I'll have another hike to complete tomorrow.
Day 2 6/4/17 Madonna Peak Warming Hut to Bear Hollow.
5.9 miles/54.9 to go.
Cut short again, concerned about rain moving in and a desire to stay dry as well as getting my gear mostly dry before I have no dry gear at all. So, I stopped at Bear Hollow. In hind sight, I probably could have pushed on.
Today started out real nice. Down the ski slopes of Madonna Peak. Then, we turned into the woods. and the ledges came out to play. They were wet too. Hard to keep Isis from not panicking. She pulls me over a few times. But, because there was no rain today, I am able to dry out. In fact, I am sitting here pretty dry today. Got over Whiteface and I was glad that I did what I did to stay at Madonna. That shelter was exposed. Sunflower and Just Josh had set up their tent in the shelter and another couple had shown up so, no room for me. I would not have gotten warm or dry. Not that the warming hut was warm or did me much better. but it was 4 walls and a roof.
Up and over Whiteface was hard. Lots of ledges and lots of energy gone. The descent was gradual but still, slick. I fell... A lot... Again. Then it was a nice walk in the woods with intermittent ankle deep mud. But again, some breaks and my shoes dried out. Made it to Bear Hollow and really wanted to move on but something told me to take advantage of the dry weather. I'd like to start tomorrow with an almost dry pair of socks. Maybe I'll stick them in my bag with me to dry a little more. No rain yet but it is getting chilly. Time to crawl into the bag and watch for chipmunks. Isis is fast asleep. I worry about her... A lot.
I'm hoping I can pull this off. I'll go shelter to shelter (still a distance apart) and hopefully, pour on the miles when the sun comes out. My mind is squarely on the hike now. Have to psych myself up for 7.2 miles tomorrow.
Day 3- 6/5/17 Bear Hollow to Round Top Shelter.
7.2 miles/47.7 to go.
Another mile longer today. That's good thing. And a dog who wants to keep going is also a good thing as she whines in the shelter. It's raining and we walked an easy peasey walk over to Round Top. Again, hind sight says I could have done it yesterday but again, my gear would not be as dry. I'm getting good at drying things in my sleeping bag at night with body heat. My shoes however, might be a lost cause and probably will be replaced at the end.
So, yah it was a lot of road walking today and down hill to boot. Then I had to ford the Lamoille river over flow inlet. Which of course sucked and mean that my shoes are now wet again. Then we climbed to Prospect Rock and Round Top Peak. There was still little view at Prospect Rock for us. Then... The rain moved in.
We actually got to the shelter under book time and got water, .1 mile away down a hill at a pump no less. But then you have to go back up! There were quite a few guys milling around and all up in my stuff. Sunflower was also there but now with her Dad. Thankfully, everyone cleared out and now it's just Isis and I. My phone is about dead and it's been raining off and on. No chargers left, I need sun. It's raining off and on sometimes hard and sometimes just a drizzle.
So, who in their right mind does this? I'm dying on the ascents right now and hoping to do 8.2 tomorrow. Again, I really have no choice. Guess I'll just bundle up and walk it. All of this is fun. But who does this?? I DO.
Currently airing out my toes in my sleeping bag without socks. They need to breathe! I know it's going to be a chilly night too. Isis is restless, which is never a good thing. So, looks like we walk tomorrow. Thought about a zero But I don't know if I can swing it.
The sky lights in this place give some good light. I'll have to bury myself in my sleeping bak to get some sleep though. Life is simple now and I like it this way. I wish it could be forever but without all the ascents.
Dinner is done and the dog is finally settled. I'm crunching numbers for miles and finding big discrepancies between map and book. Guess we'll see how it all pans out. Next big peak is Jay on day 7 and so, may the trail be kind and the odds be ever in my favor.
Day 4- 6/7/17 Still Round Top.
Zero. Still 47.7 to go.
It's raining pretty hard this morning. I'm going to test my resolve and confidence and leave later around 8/9. The absolute latest would be 10. I want to see if even some of this rain will clear out. The hike today does not look too bad. One big push really. I'd so love to find a way to charge my phone first though.
Confidence? What confidence? Unless you count that I am confident that I'd be miserable in the rain. And that Isis' pads would be trashed and my feet would continue to deteriorate. Sooooo. We're taking a zero today. I'm going to drive myself crazy by looking at the maps all day. I'd love it if another hiker would come by for company.
It's still raining pretty good out there. I think, I've figured out that I'll snack today and that should stretch out the food. I've devised 2 plans. Each will get me out on Sunday. Plan A just pushes everything up a day. Plan B, plays around just little bit. Either one will work. I guess I'll see how my legs carry me.
It's now cold and raw here. I go back and forth about staying put. But I really don't want anything to happen to Isis. Better to walk in the sun tomorrow. At 9:40am, It's cold, raw, and pouring. I'm glad I am not out in it. I would be miserable. So, I am winging it. We'll get up early and go. I may have a walking breakfast. I hope the pack gets lighter if I can eat enough today.
At 11am, I noticed battery pack was blinking attached to the solar charger. We're CHARGING! There is hope. Rain had let up enough to get over tot he privy. Isis even stretched out a bit. Will probably try and send a message in a little while.
There is a reason for everything and while this is really boring, and I'd like to go Maybe I'm avoiding something worse on the trail? Or I'll get a better view tomorrow. I'm happy now. I should also be able to get word out.
Walked down to get water from the pump. It's drizzling out. Probably could have made it. But what can I do now at 2pm? Too late. Sort of like when they call school and the storm never shows up. Isis is restless again. Charger is taking too long. I'll give it until 6pm.
Figured on tuna for dinner. I'll snack throughout the day and lunch tomorrow. Looked at the times over the miles and the days seem better to me. Plus, the sun will be out. More incentive to walk with the most day light.
3pm and it's POURING. Shifted things around a bit. Chilled but doing OK in the sleeping bag. Itching to be out there and to see the sun. I've done pretty good today, eating down my pack weight. I just need this rain to clear out for good.
I've gone over the book and the map a few times. I just need to execute one or two plans. I know I can do this. I just have to get moving! Mileage still seems way off to me but, hopefully, I can do up to Spruce Ledge tomorrow. That would make me feel a lot more at ease.
Worth it's weight in gold have been this sleeping bag and pillow. I need to work out a better electronic system though.... Mine sucks.
It seems like I am just beginning and yet I am really close to the end. It's really not that far off. I just feel like I have miles to go and maybe it's because I got sick and had to step back. Or I lost my nerve. I have to dig deep now and get this thing done. Otherwise, I'll be hiking this trail FOREVER. It's nice but I have other goals to reach. This dog (and I) need to see so much more of this world. I refuse to keep looking over the notes and finding the places where I will fail. I can do this. I have plenty of day light in a day. I will get to Canada.
At 7:45pm, It finally stopped raining. Tomorrow, WE HIKE!
Day 5- 6/7/17 Round Top to Spruce Ledge.
15 miles/32.7 to go
As predicted, I was up and ready to go early this morning. Thankfully, it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY. Round Top to Corliss Camp in the rain would have been awful. The trail passes by a cliff with water already running over it. Double that amount with the rain yesterday and I would have had the crap scared out of me with slipping. The trip in the sun today was nice. A bit of a struggle in places in the heat and all but we can just high 5 on the fact that I hiked 15 mile and that is the first time I have done that in a year. Another reason to wait out the rain, the views. A few peaking out her and there made for avery nice day. And here at Spruce Ledge, there is a nice view that I'll see if there is a sun set from.
The ugly of it all though is that my feet are getting shredded. Just when you think your shoes are dry, you are back in the mud up to your ankles. After a while, you just stop caring. and go though it. I'd make another attempt at cutting my toenails if I was not positive that it would really hurt at this point! My legs are pretty tore up too. I fall a lot because you also slip in the mud. Sometimes you slip down slime covered rocks too. I am pretty sure my pants will stay wet until I am picked up. And of course, I stink!
It was a long day but such a successful one for me too. I am so tired and I ate all my dinner. I am hoping that I can do it all over again tomorrow. Another early day... I hope.
A couple more things to note, That rabbit on Laraway Lookout was cute BUT, nearly set Isis over the edge in a tizzy to get at it. The porcupine at camp tonight was also cute and I am glad Isis was too tired to even get a whiff of it's scent. I have this place to myself tonight but it has also been nice to run into people. Many younger than I am and we all share stories. I just sound a lot older. Equally nice to run into that side to side hiker who offered me the contents of his pack for food. I still have plenty even with the extra day.
Looking things over again for tomorrow, it looks like repeat of today. Friday is over Jay Peak and Saturday is CANADA. I am on the last map finally.
Day 6- 6/8/17 Spruce Ledge to Hazen's Notch Camp.
14.8 miles/17.9 to go
What a seriously hard day today was. If ever there as a day to wonder why I do this, today was the day. Three hard peaks and one Notch, Plus Devils Gulch. Some very steep down sections and so many blow downs with a trail that is poorly blazed. Isis was stressed and I was too. So many F words. I of course fell a lot again. I'm tired of being dirty and wet. I believe that I will loose a few toenails after all this is done. Not many pictures today because I had to concentrate on getting down the trail. BUT, I did catch some great views.
So, while I curse and the world, I'll do it all over again tomorrow. I'd do it all over again the next time it strikes me. BUT, not for a while. I love the challenge of backpacking. I love the simplicity. Isis will recover from all of this and we will have a good go of these last few days.
I was able to get a message out and shocker, I have service at this shelter. It's a lot creepy here. Move on if you can. I am up and over Jay tomorrow. But I am exhausted tonight and going to sleep.
Day 7- 6/9/17 Hazens Notch Camp to Laura Woodward Shelter.
8.8 Miles/9.1 to go
What a frustrating day again. My feet are absolutely tore up. I have only my camp socks left. Spending the night in Hazens Notch Camp was not too bad. Hiking out early this morning was good too. It's been a cool day with a little sprinkle. The trail is rough and probably the roughest I have ever been on. The downs are super steep and long. It seems to cut through the most remote parts of the wilderness. The mud and water are still a factor. I tried so hard to stay dry but could not do it. My shoes are scrapping against the front of my legs and it is painful. Who in their right mind lets this happen while carrying 35Lbs on their back? With a dog? I have to be a little crazy but I love being out here.
The walk over Jay was long. Seemed to take a lot longer than I thought. I had lunch at Jay Camp and Isis didn't want to move so, we waited until she did. Walking up Jay was pretty easy before the boulders. Ran into a dad with his 3 year old son coming down. So cute! I broke tree line and boy was it windy. My hat and rain shell came on to break the wind. We did not stick around up top to see if I could get in to charge my phone. Isis gets spooked in high winds so we descended to Laura Woodward shelter. It was 1.5 miles and it was STRAIGHT DOWN. The most punishing descent yet. We did make decent time though. It just seemed longer than I thought. I set up in the shelter and the winds are still blowing. I believed that we were far enough into the shelter that we'd be protected. Isis was already out cold and I was not far behind her. I had dinner and tried to patch up my feet. I washed off my legs too. Feel a little better. Tomorrow is CANADA day. this means we walk until we hit the border. Then we walk down to camp. Wonder if I will see anyone else just starting out? I am having a hard time believing this journey will now end. The take way is that I am a very strong person. In my weakest moments, I never gave up. Even when I got sick, I still came back and finished it. I may have thought about giving up but I did not. I also completely forgot for this week that I have RA. Not a flare up. Not even a twinge of hurt in my hands. I felt NORMAL this week. This is the day I start to think of my next big adventure.
Day 8- 6/10/17 Laura Woodward Shelter to Journeys End Camp.
8.4 Miles/.8 to go (out to the car)
Woke up this morning and got a lazy start. It was chilly last night and I had a hard time sleeping. 7am, we were on the trail and I still wondered if I would see anyone else. I had barely seen anyone this trip and had shelters all to myself.
Todays hike would just walk me to the end with the exception of the mileage out to the car. But first we had some minor peaks to climb. Funny but they still seemed to have equally punishing descents. Or maybe it was because i was tired and my feet are just gone. I did realize today that this section has been the most challenging thing I have ever hiked. This back country is so rugged that if you are not careful, you will get lost. It's not clearly blazed at all and the blow downs obscure a large part to the trail.
I had several instances on my way to shooting star shelter where I wondered if I was on the trail at all. Blind faith and a little compass work and I landed at Shooting Star for lunch. This was after several ups and downs. And the downs are still punishing on the feet and body.
Up until this point, my feet have been dry. I am happy about this as my toes will fall apart soon. Sitting at Shooting Star for lunch, I shared my tuna with Isis. We took an extra long break after struggling to get here. It's a great shelter and I wish I had stayed here too.
Once we got going again, things started to look a little too familiar. I had to back trck to the shelter and get my bearings. I added probably a half an hour but we continued to Jay Pass. Came out to the road and a racing team was arriving at the parking area. Lots of hellos and smiles. Looked like the team was from the CCCP Bike club. Loved all the friendly people. I now had 2.6 to go and figured that would go by like a blink. There were a few more peaks to climb before I go tot the Northern Terminus and in the heat, it was actually hard. When the breeze came up, it was beautiful. We passed over the last peak on the LT... Carleton Mountain. Another steep down and my feet are only wet from sweating today. But they hurt.
We continued up and over a few more "bumps" and I wondered if 1.4 left was accurate? Then we turned a corner and I saw it... The Northern Terminus sign. All bets were off and I lost it. 273 miles hiked. Isis and I are now end to enders. From Massachusetts to Canada and that little dog as no clue what she's done. She just knows that I took her for a lot of very long walks where we slept outside. I am more proud of her than I am of me.
This was a hard week. Starting with the rain and a lot of hard falls. I dug deep and I spent a lot of time screaming at the top of my lungs about my wet feet, dirty cloths, and how tired I was. I spent a lot of time also thinking how lucky I was to be out here. Tuesday when we had the rain all day, I thought I was going to loose it all, but I surprised myself and poured myself into those miles. Thinking that the two shorter days would help, but they too were unforgiving. Each night, I'd collapse and so would Isis. I seriously question bringing her on anything else like this. The northern section is not to be taken for granted. It is rugged.
But each day, I did get stronger and also more frustrated by conditions. I could not take one more steep down. I had the thought of falling, again. But I pushed forward. Each landmark served as my reminder that I can do this. The mud, water and what not became games or after a while, I just didn't care.
So, as I sit here at Journeys End Shelter, I had my victory Pad Thai and the wine that never exploded no matter how many times I feel on it. My feet and legs are finally clean but I still smell really bad. I'm happy, peaceful. I've lost track of the world and I'm fine with that. My phone is dead and it is what it is. The sun will go down soon and I'll be doing the same. Tomorrow I meet my parents and that concludes the remaining miles. I'll go home to see Roxie cat and see what parts of life I pick up and what parts I just leave behind. The trail forever in my heart. Time to think of the next adventure (once my feet dry out and heal).
❤️Mouse and Isis
End to Enders 2015 to 2017