My journey (Along with my dog Isis) began in 2014 with the thought of splitting the Long Trail into two LASHes (Long Ass Section Hikes). The first for 151 miles and the second for roughly 121 miles. Both would have been for 2 weeks each. The following is a record of what actually happened from August of 2015 to June of 2017... This is my journey on The Long Trail in Vermont.
Day 1: 8/7/2015: North Adams MA (AT) to Seth Warner Shelter 6.6miles/
Wow! Here I go (After saying good bye to my parents who dropped me off in North Adams MA).... First 6.4 miles down with a nice walk through town and into the woods. East Mtn and Ephs Look out were great. Stopped for lunch there. Ran into our first two hikers (Wayne and Charlotte). The pack weight is super heavy (50lbs) and I am feeling it. At the Southern Terminus, Charlotte gave Isis her trail name (Lil’ Nugget). There was lots of celebrating for the AT hikers at the southern terminus (border of MA/VT), they now have 3 states to go. Shortly after the Terminus, we arrived at Seth Warner for the night. Very crowded with hikers... Someone was snoring in the next tent and I thought it was a bear at first, that’s how close we were (No ear plugs for me). Lots of nerves for myself and Isis as we adjust to our life for the next two weeks.
Day 2: 8/8/2015 Seth Warner Shelter to Harmon Hill, Bennington VT. 8.5 miles/15.1 miles total
First equipment malfunction for me this morning... Water pump failure with the Katahdin Hiker Pro. Slight pain in my right foot again from a pervious injury (I’d find out in 2017 that I fractured my foot prior to this trip). Terrain is mixed ups and downs with a few steeper climbs, lots of mud, and some bog bridges thrown in. Breakfast at the power lines, lunch at Congdon shelter with a group of AT NOBO’s and a few more LT NOBO’s. All fun people. I am struggling with the ascents and with everyone moving faster than I am. Most are also younger than I am too. My level of discouragement is showing and having an effect on the dog. I arrive at Harmon Hill on schedule and set up camp at the over look with a deep sigh of relief. I was joined by a Thru Hiker who did not stay, and a local townie who had a few beers on his ATV before the sun set. It was a nice chat. Isis and I had dinner as the sun went down by ourselves. It was an enjoyable night up on the hill. Weather has been warm but nights have been cool.
Day 3: 8/9/2015 Harmon Hill to Little Pond Look Out. 7.6 Miles/22.7 mile
Walking through the beautiful fern forest prior to the steep drop to the highway will always be a highlight of this day. Stopped at City Stream to wash up and get water (still functioning without a filter and doing well). Isis drinks up too. We begin climbing on the other side of route 9 and head up... Slowly. Familiar faces Apple Pie and Greenleaf come up behind us and stop to chat. Two very strong hikers. Lunch at Melville Nauheim Shelter. Shortly after lunch, up ahead of us on the trail is the rear end of a large bear, thankfully heading away from us! Climbing to Little Pond Look Out took forever but when I got there, I stopped for the night (Stealth Camp). Had a conversation with 4B (Older AT Thru), who told me that on day 4, I would feel much better as he recognized my struggling. He moved on probably because Isis didn’t like him. We were also joined by AT Thru’s Tumbles and Scout for the night. Rain coming tomorrow...
Day 4: 8/10/2015 Little Pond Look Out to Kid Gore Shelter. 7.8 miles/30.5 miles total
You know something, 4B was right. I had never felt better than I did on day 4. I was finally comfortable on the trail and this section was really enjoyable. Finally, I didn’t care that everyone was passing me. I was hiking my own pace. My first challenge of the day was getting water and I was holding out until the spring by Godard Shelter. Unfortunately, it was really humid today and the water didn’t hold out. I had caught up to Tumbles and Scout who gave me water to get me to the Spring. Once there, I drank deeply and then filled my bladder. That climb to the shelter was a killer for me. At the shelter, there was a great bunch of Thru’s we all climbed to the fire tower for lunch. It was a long and leisurely lunch as I caught some sun to charge my phone. Knowing that rain was coming, I made this a priority. At Kid Gore shelter we were joined by German Thru’s and a few other familiar faces. Nice chat around the picnic table with Rigga, Boston, and Yetti, about a lost hiker and his father that they helped find. Russians with very Russian ways. The three of them are moving on... Rain comes in the morning.
Day 5: 8/11/2015 Kid Gore Shelter to the base of Stratton Mountain. 8.6 Miles/39.1 total miles
Pouring rain this morning and I was restless. I tried to reroute myself and tried to consider staying put but I could not sit still. So, I packed up putting everything in my waterproof bag except the tent. Isis was not thrilled about her rain coat or the rain and neither was I. We began our slow walk on what seemed like a river of trails some of the rocks were a bit more tricky in this section due to the water as well. I got to Story Spring Shelter and I stripped down being as discrete as possible as there were kids there. I got dry and had breakfast plus my first cup of coffee since being on trail. Waited out the rain a bit more and then got going after saying hi to Rigga and Yetti who had apparently camped here with Boston last night. My goal was the base of Stratton Mountain. As we got hiking again, the sun came out and my spirit lifted. Once we arrived at the base of the peak, I wanted to dry out my gear and rest. I was joined by Rigga, Boston, and Yetti, 3 NOBO’s heading to Maine and it was one of the best nights of the trip. We laughed and relaxed and most importantly, our gear dried out.
Day 6: 8/12/15: Stratton Mountain Base to Prospect Rock 9.8 Miles/48.9 Total
Slow slog up Stratton Mountain. I said good bye to the crowd as they were pushing to get into Manchester. I would not see them again this trip. There was no rain but Stratton Mountain was locked in the clouds. At the top of Stratton Mountain, I was able to talk with the caretaker Jean and had a nice pep talk that was sorely needed. Descending Stratton Mountain and I explored the pond. Had lunch at the shelter there. The flat terrain was on my side and I opted to go to Prospect rock instead of William B Douglas Shelter as the shelter was a half mile off trail. I relaxed over looking Manchester VT. Tomorrow was resupply day so the pack is light and the food is minimal. I was joined by 2 young SOBO AT Thru Hikers that seemed more concerned with drinking than actual hiking.
Day 7: 8/13/2015: Prospect Rock to Bromley Mountain parking area Resupply to Summit 7.9 miles/56.8 total miles
It was pretty much a straight shot down to the parking area with some rocks and switchbacks to hike. Plenty of water too but I was getting clean water from my parents. I made good time and was able to sort my gear and clean up a bit when they finally pulled in. I changed out my dirty and broken gear for clean and dry cloths. Dropped a few things that I had not used yet on the trip and figured I didn’t have to carry the weight. I had to replace my camera with one provided by my parents due to the rain. Repacked and the pack was heavy again. We head into town for lunch to Zoey’s Double Hex. I began the second half of the day with an over loaded pack and a full belly. I made it to the shelter and almost stayed there until a family showed up with kids crawling everywhere who had been to the summit. I found my motivation and got moving up the mountain. Stayed on top with the AT Thru’s and saw the best sunset I had ever seen. Where it not for that family, I never would have budged and never would've seen it.
Day 8: 8/14/2015: Bromley Summit to Lost Pond Shelter 10.1miles/66.9 total
Caught sunrise from the top of Bromley and got going early. Walked to Mad Tom Notch for a snack and picked up some water from the water cache (trail magic). The day is pretty hot already and I took it slow. I let the AT Thru’s pass by over Styles and Peru Peaks and stopped for lunch at Peru Peak Shelter. Most of these Thru’s are younger than I am and for the first time, I struggled to have things to chat about. Many of them smoked as well which bothered me. Made our way over Baker Peak in the heat of the day it was a challenge but the views were worth it. 2 miles to Lost Pond Shelter where we saw most of the bubble move forward. Fine with me as I wanted distance between us to preserve my good hike and I also knew that we’d be parting ways with the AT Thru’s soon. A few other sectioners joined Isis and myself where we chatted over dinner and then went to the tent at dusk.
Day 9: 8/15/2015: Lost Pond to Minerva Hinchey Shelter 14.6miles/81.5 total
Up and going at 7am I made my way to the various way points on todays planned mileage. I was moving slow and could feel my feet rubbing in my shoes. I made the mistake of not taking care of them right away and as I kept moving, they got worse. Stopped for a snack at Little Rock Pond. 5 miles to lunch at Greenwall Shelter and on the way we passed trough White Rocks. Beautiful Cairn gardens and other attractions, including some Naked hikers. Lunch with Tumbles and Scout and then over Bear Mountain. The most switchbacks I have ever had to deal with. Practically stumbled into camp at Minerva Hinchey where Beast , a peculiar hiker who had spent 4 or 5 days on Bromley before moving on, was sitting in the shelter smoking… Rain was coming but instead of staying some place I can’t breath, I set up my tent. After chores, I practically dove in the tent as the rain began to pour down. My feet were shredded with blisters. I did my best to take care of them and bandage them up. Popped a hole in my sleeping pad, thank goodness for duct tape. The thunder storm raged around us. Isis was not happy.
Day 10: 8/16/2015: Minerva Hinchey Shelter to Governor Clement Shelter 9.5 miles/91 miles total
After a very sticky and hectic night, I enjoyed a quiet walk with Isis to breakfast. Nothing mattered to me today. I just wanted to walk and see what I’d see. And what I saw was a great outlook with an undercast. I sat and watched it for awhile, thinking of how lucky I was that I can do this. Made my way across the suspension bridge and 103 after filling up at a water cache. From here it seemed to be a series of road and ridge walks. Time to myself is what I really needed. Isis and I past the 500 miles to Katahdin marker. The Thru’s were celebrating. Some great wooded walking to the shelter for the night. Loved this shelter but stayed in my tent off to the side. The nights are warm so, my sleeping bag is more of a quilt. The days are winding down and I just want to soak it all in and see everything. Tomorrow I am up and over Killington.
Day 11: 8/17/2015: Governor Clement Shelter to the Former Tucker Johnson Shelter 12.4miles/103.4 miles total
Up and over Killington today. Humid and sticky out, I slowly made my way up to the summit. Having already summited this peak once, I knew that I could take the ski walk ways to the summit which would have been easier for Isis. I had also ditched my pack at the lodge prior to the .2 to the summit. Spending most of the day walking the ridge between Killington and Pico was great as the temps had gone down a bit. Tucker Johnson had burned down but I had planned on tenting there anyway. Crossing route 4 was tricky on this busy day. I had my first real melt down, sat on a log and about lost everything. Fought with myself to the Maine Junction and then made the turn. I’d never see Tumbles and Scout again and I wondered about the rest of them (Yetti, Boston, and Rigga). Found a place to tent and proceeded to get over come by black flies. It was so quiet that I crawled into my tent early and stayed there because of the bugs and exhaustion from the muggy temps for the past few days.
Day 12: 8/18/2015: Former Tucker Johnson Shelter to David Logan Shelter 11.3miles/114.7 miles total
Everything is dirty. I’m dirty. The dog is dirty. But I press on with hot spots on my feet. Today we passed through logging country. Active logging country. This destroys the land and leaves behind mud that smells worse than myself and Isis. It’s humid and I’ve determined that August is not good for me to hike in. I miss winter. Had a snack at Royalston Rest and I spied a lonely jar of Peanuts Butter. Which I partook in regardless of who's it was. Even gave some to Isis who appreciated it. Never ending Gaps as I walked to David Logan. I also enjoyed the little outlooks and the occasional cool shade from the canopy. A school group from Vermont Academy also joined us at the shelter but I take a farther camp site right by the water source and away from most that are staying there. It’s good water too. Jonny Apple Seed and Mike who are LT hikers are also here at the shelter. Cleaned my feet, which is becoming a nightly chore and bedded down after dinner and my regular camp chores.
Day 13: 8/19/2015: David Logan to Sucker Brook Shelter 12.6 Miles/127.3 total miles
Last of the long days as the trip winds down and I’m a little sad. My feet are shredded but it’s a flat walk to Sunrise Shelter through some nice gaps. Some of the school kids are struggling today and I try to be encouraging to them. Crossing US 73 and then up to the Great cliffs of Mt. Horrid. So beautiful. From there it’s up and down a few peaks and with 2 miles to go we pushed to the shelter for the night where it seemed everyone was heading. Once everything was done as far as chores, we joined everyone around a fire. The best thing for my feet. I propped them up on the hot rocks and they dried out so good. As did my shoes and socks. The days routine was done and all was quiet.
Day 14: 8/20/2015: Sucker Brook Shelter to Skyline Lodge 9.6 Miles/136.9 total miles
Starting to look back on the trip with just two days left. What a walk this has been. From Sucker Brook I passed over some ski trails and stopped to take in the views. Over peaks that provided more views and some deep pine forests to provide shelter from the sun. The last 2.1 miles to Skyline Lodge was kind of rough and it appeared that I was trying to beat a storm. Originally, I was not going to stay in the shelter itself but near it in my tent. When we began to hear thunder, I pleaded my case to the guys and was originally going to stay on the top “bunk” with Isis but that quickly changed when the siblings showed up after departing for Cooley Glen and then the school group showed up a little later. And then the Russians came in too. We had 18 people in this shelter for the night. I don’t think anyone slept good but we all stayed dry.
Day 15: 8/21/2015: Skyline Lodge to Cooley Glen Shelter 7.5miles/144.4 miles total
I never thought I’d get here. I thought I would have quit along time ago, In a sense I did quit several times but I kept going. It’s raining today and I put on my rain poncho that my mother had brought at resupply. Made my way around Bread Loaf. No views today in this rain. By the time I got to Emily Proctor for a break, it was letting up and I found it funny that the day hiker I met up with had predicted Armageddon. I wanted to tell him of the rain day prior to Stratton. That was Armageddon. Got over Mt. Wilson, an unnamed peak, and eventually caught up to familiar faces. We arrived at Cooley Glen around 1pm where everyone I had been hiking with was having lunch. After a good long rest, some moved on and I set up camp. This was my last camp for the trip. Food was running low but Mike’s Brother came up from Lincoln Gap and brought treats which we shared. I was sad when I went to bed. Tomorrow I exit trail.
Day 16: 8/22/2105: Cooley Glen Shelter to Lincoln Gap 4.7miles/149.1 miles total
These miles today would go quick and become more populated with people the closer I got to Lincoln Gap. It’s Saturday and I am meeting my parents for a ride back home. I’m filthy, my dog is filthy, and I am smiling. I’m walking tall over Mt. Grant where Jonny Appleseed caught up to us. He’s getting resupplied at the Gap. He fixes his feet and goes ahead. I’m walking slow since I’m pretty sure I’ll beat my parents to the meet up point. We stop at the ledges for breakfast and I eat an orange that Mike’s brother passed me and it tasted so good. I carried my life only back for two weeks and walked for close to 150 miles. I am so incredibly proud of myself and I want to keep going. Next year, I go to Canada.
As I was training for the second and final leg of this journey (Intent was two LASH hikes for two weeks each). I was hiking a section of the AT between NH and ME, I had stayed the night at Gentian Shelter with Isis. I eventually could not move my right arm and had significant swelling in my left arm. I thought it was my pack. I left for the second leg of the LT shortly after. The swelling and feelings of lethargy would continue…
Day 1: 7/16/2016: Lincoln Gap to Glen Ellen Lodge 8.2 miles/ 157.3 miles
Here we go again but I’m hesitant. Not feeling solid on my feet as when I start this trip. Easily talked out of doing the miles I want to do. The pack feels too heavy and it’s raining a little. My mother drove to my drop off at Lincoln Gap and with an agreed upon half way point resupply I was off. I wanted to make it to Canada this year but I was not sure I could. I pushed this to the back of my mind. I remembered the first time I climbed to Mount Abraham and felt I was moving really slow. We made the summit with a few other Thru hikers. It was a young crowd again and one that I was not sure I wanted to insert myself into. I’ve grown accustomed to solo hiking these days. Walked the ridge to Mt. Ellen and then stopped at Glen Ellen for the night were we were joined (after a peaceful dinner alone) by a rather angry hiker who seemed to hate the world right now. We all have those days but it soured my first nigh and while I wanted to be supportive of this stranger, it set a tone. It was nice to sleep in a shelter with a door so Isis could roam a bit as I slept.
Day 2: 7/17/2016 Glen Ellen Lodge to Birch Glen Camp 6 Miles/163.3 miles total
Raining in the morning and again I am glad to have a solid shelter over my head. Walked to the Starks Nest and met up with the young bubble of Nobo hikers. I had left the hiker from last night to her quiet morning and had my quiet time on the trail. Going down from here was tough. The jumps down got bigger, there were ladders and rebar assists to get down. I think my eye’s about feel out of my head a few times as I tried to figure out how to get both Isis and myself down safely. Appalachian Gap was the worst as the tourists gathered and I’m already a muddy mess. One even took my picture (without asking) as I sat and ate my tuna for lunch. I felt a little humiliated as she was dressed perfectly sitting in her BMW. I was shot though and pretty quickly shortened my day to Birch Glen. without thinking twice and setting myself behind. Ravenous (The hiker form the first night) met up with me again. Still angry, she would leave trail in the morning and skip ahead of Camel’s Hump. We were joined by a hiker who got her bear bag suck in a tree and instead of finding a way to get it down, she opted to hike on that night to the next road crossing to go to town and get more food, a significant amount of miles away. She claimed to have survival training but seemed to make some poor decisions. Sandstone was also there. He was rather soft spoken and friendly.
Day 3: 7/18/2016 Birch Glen Camp to Mont Clair Glen 8 miles/171.3
Up and at it early and away from this negative energy that seems to follow me. The trail was pretty flat for some time and when I arrived at Cowels Cove, I was happy to have stayed where I was. The next 1.5miles up Burnt Rock about did me in again as it was a lot of scrambles and rocks to climb over. The view was so worth it. Miles and miles around and I felt peaceful again. Sandstone had caught up to me at the peak and then we descended using the rappelling rope and we were laughing (this was very welcome). A storm was blowing in and I needed to get to shelter soon. I pushed franticly which unsettled Isis. We came to Ladder Ravine and I had to pause and figure out how to get my pack, myself, and Isis down safe. I decided to drop my pack and put Isis up my shirt and then we’d go down together. She did not like this. The hike over the Allen Peaks was confusing and just when I thought I was there, I still had more to go. When we began descending in ernest, I knew that we had just a mile to go to the shelter. Sandstone was there to greet us. We sat under the tarp and ate. Then the rain came in and we went into the cabin. We were joined by the care taker and had dinner. That night, I went over the weather, the mileage, and my general feeling in my head, I texted my mother to come get me. I announced to Sandstone that I was leaving trail. Something was wrong and I needed to leave. My family would come get me on the 20th. And I instantly regretted sending that text.
Day 4/5: 7/19/2016 and 7/20/2016 Mont Clair Glen Lodge to Camels Hump Summit to Duxbury Parking area 1.9 Miles/ 173.2 total miles
I had a day to kill while I waited for my family to come get me. I slept and repacked my pack. Decided to climb to the summit to keep my miles on track. The day was decent and I was already familiar with this section as I had traveled the Long Trail for my New England 67 patch. There’s a lot of ledges to contend with and on a dry day these are beautiful. Today was a mix as I waited for the clouds to burn off. I at least could pass the day while I waited and tried to sort out what was going on inside of me. Back at the Lodge, I paid for another night and the hikers began pouring in. It seemed to be a full house that night and I would get zero sleep for a snorer who kept the entire lodge up. I need to remember ear plugs and maybe consider sleeping in my tent from now on.
I left trail feeling defeated and in the process felt destroyed by something that is still not very clear to me. This was a very dark time in my life and even at home, I desperately wanted back on trail. The swelling in my arms went down again and I managed to get back on trail for 5 more days in spite of the fighting and in spite of my feeling guilty for asking for yet another ride and pick up…
Day 1: 7/26/2016 Winooski Foot Bridge to Buchanan Shelter 6.8 miles/ 180 total miles
My plan is to go up and over Mansfield this week and then I’ll find a weekend to go up Camels Hump SoBo to complete that section. Still feeling shaky but able to keep my head somewhat in the game. The weather is cool and my pack is a lot lighter as I got rid of enough unnecessary weight. Heading up by Stinson Mountain, I hiked the ridge and really enjoyed it for the flat walking. Hiked down to Buchanan Shelter and because it’s .3 off the trail, decided that I’d try and avoid shelters that are a distance off trail from now on. I kept a decent pace today and felt pretty good about my trip. Isis and myself were joined by another hiker who seemed very young and innocent. Isis and I tried to keep to ourselves. She didn’t like a dog that approached the shelter and they ultimately would move on to the next one. Despite trying to find a happy solution to having both dogs there. It was a quiet night after that confrontation.
Day 2: 7/27/2016 Buchanan Shelter to Taylor Lodge 7.6 miles/ 187.6 miles total
It was a quiet morning. Isis decided she was not a fan of the other hiker either and would growl and bark at him. We got going on our way to Taylor Lodge. I stopped at Harrington’s View and then fought my way over Bolton Mountain. A lot of ups and downs and a few more ladders that Isis is not fond of. I stopped at Puffer Shelter which would have been great for sunrise but is rather exposed. It seemed like we went straight down to get to Taylor Lodge and then up again, navigating some pretty narrow trail. We make the final climb up to Taylor lodge and I’m surprised that no one really showed up at all. It’s a long distance to get water so Isis has to go with me. She just wants to sleep but I convincer her other wise and get enough water to have breakfast and get moving. I bed down early only to be woken up by two drunk townies and yet another dog. I stand my ground this time as I really don’t want them to stay. I am really hoping that these confrontations are not going to be the norm.
Day 3: 7/28/2015: Taylor Lodge to Butler Lodge 3.3 miles/190.9
I discovered that those two townies left their fifth of cheap whiskey on the table out front. I hope that others enjoyed it. I was in no rush on this short mileage day. The hike took us by the beaver pond and then we began climbing There was a storm moving later today so, hopefully I would get to the lodge before then. After a rough start, I was really enjoying todays hike. Gained the elevation before hitting a ridge and then eventually down a ladder to get to the lodge. I took the bunk on the ground floor next to the caretaker. I relaxed, ate, and wrote. We watched the storm roll in and out. Later, we were joined by the caretaker and eventually two other hikers. We all discussed routes over Mansfield and I had decided to take the alt route to bypass the ladders and keep my sanity as well as Isis’. We were treated to the most breathtaking sunset (it’s framed on my wall). The brightest pink I had ever seen. Sleep was good tonight.
Day4: 7/29/2016: Butler Lodge to Taft Lodge (Utilizing the Wampahoofus Trail and Profanity trail) 3.5 miles/194.4 miles total
I was told by the caretaker to take the Wampahoofus trail up to the forehead. That it would be better than the alt LT section for Isis and myself. She was right. What fun it was to go in and out of caves and use my whole self to get up and over rocks that were not wet and tricky to navigate. It pretty much made this past week look silly and making my way over all the sub peaks, when I got up to the chin, I was so proud of myself. The profanity trail seemed a better option to get down from Mansfield as I again keep in mind that this is actually Isis’ hike and not mine. Not that I really wanted to get down as it would mean I was going home again. The day was beautiful. But the profanity trail was a half mile, straight down. It was killer on my knees. But once we got to Taft Lodge, we could rest. It was a a big lodge with plenty of room. I took a space that would allow for Isis to move a little as I figured we’d be crowded. Night time chores and a decent night sleep. We would leave trail in the morning.
Day 5: 7/30/2016: Taft Lodge to VT 108 1.7 miles/ 196.1 miles total
The walk out was over populated with day hikers and I found myself wanting to go very slow. I didn’t want to leave trail and I was far from ready too. But at the same time, I was happy for what I have accomplished. I pushed through this leg of the journey and I came out stronger for it. The final 64.5 miles will be a tremendous feet and for now, I needed time to not only plan but to heal from what ever is happening to my body.
I went back to clean up Camels Hump Labor Day weekend…
Day 1: 9/3/2016 Winoosli River Foot Bridge to Bamforth Shelter SOBO 5 miles/201.1
I’m no quitter. I made plans that over Labor Day, I would go back and clean up Camel’s Hump by heading SOBO from the foot bridge. I enjoyed the flat walk through the farm fields. It was a cool morning and Isis did fine on the ladders over the barbed wire. The road walk had little to be liked but it went by quickly. We stopped at Duxbury Window for lunch and then continued to the shelter. Some tough sections of climb and then we headed down to the shelter. It was nice but I stayed true to my word and set up my tent on the tent platform. I was not going to have another experience like last time. I ate in the designated area as Camel’s Hump has a bad bear problem. All food was locked up for the night and we ate there in the morning. On our way to Camel’s Hump summit.
Day 2: 9/4/2016 Bamforth Shelter to Camel’s Hump and back to the car at Winooski Bridge 3.5 miles/204.6 total miles
In the morning I ate breakfast and we got under way. It was a short trip to the summit but a long trip back to the car and I needed to be back for a family obligation tomorrow. The trail was quiet and I didn’t expect to see anyone. Once we began breaking tree line, the world opened up. The views were spectacular and the summit look so far away. I persisted and continued and took it slow over the crevasse. Had to place Isis on the other side and leap a little but made it. That was the only tricky spot for us as we made good time to the summit from there. Seemed like we immediately turned tail to head back down to the car. The return trip was long but quick with a few stops as down hill is always faster with gravity just taking me down. This would officially end my 2016 LT journey.
Then things really fell apart. The swelling got worse and was now in my feet. I could no longer hold anything in my hands because the swelling was so bad. Imagine your hands swelling so big that you’d swear your skin was going to split to relieve the pressure. I felt like I was walking on marbles due to swelling in my feet. I was sleeping sometimes 12 hours a night and that was not enough. I had a low fever (which continues) and a dull headache from my body fighting with itself. November, while I was day hiking the AT in Vermont, I lost my voice, I also got strep throat. I was put on Prednisone and antibiotics and the swelling went away temporarily. I saw my PCP in December and was told that it could be Rheumatoid Arthritis. Blood work was slightly elevated and I was sent to a specialist. Originally, I would have been scheduled to see her in April but the pain was so bad that I fought for an appointment in January. Diagnosis confirmed and I started on medications. It took me about 2 months to get on the right track and begin hiking again. That included a 2 week period of intense back pain that about crippled me. All the while I was prepping for the final 65 miles of the LT. If I had waited until April, this trip may have been in jeopardy.
Day1 6/3/2017 VT108 to Madonna Peak Warming Hut. 5miles/209.6 total
Day started out with a big fall in the creek and got wetter from there. It’s raining today so, no views coming out of the notch. The difference between last years rain and this years rain is that I am ready to go and I want to be here. I felt this to be hopeful. I stopped at Sterling Pond for lunch and quickly got moving to stay warm as I was shelling while eating my tuna packet. I felt so bad for Isis that I shared the tuna with her. Sunshine and Just Josh are out there too today and we had lunch with them swearing that I’d see them at Whiteface shelter. However, I got to the Warming Hut on Madonna Peak and decided to call it a day early. I needed to get warm after this wet day. Staying here was the right call for both myself and my dog.
Day 2 6/4/2017 Madonna Peak Warming Hut to Bear Hollow. 5.9miles/215.5 miles total
The clouds parted and I got underway early. Stopped at Whiteface Shelter where Sunshine and Just Josh were and I was happy to have stayed where I did. Turns out that because of the exposure, they could not get warm last night. They tried to set up their tent in the shelter which took up a lot of room. They were joined by two SOBO’s so, there would not have been a lot of room for me. I had a snack and then headed up, which and over Whiteface was a killer and got a little turned around looking for Bear Hollow and ended up at some kind of hunting shack. Backtracked and decided to take advantage of the dry day to dry out a little. Sunshine and Just Josh moved on to what I thought was the next shelter.
Day 3 6/5/2017 Bear Hollow to Round Top 7.2miles/222.7 miles total
It was a pretty easy walk to Round Top except for fording the river, and the climb to Prospect rock. I almost fell in the river for loosing my balance in the current just a little. The ascents is where my RA shows its ugly head so, the climb up Prospect Rock was tough for me. I know now that I need to take my time and it’s OK. I was trying to beat the rain too. Plenty of hikers there when I arrived. I didn’t get their names. Went down to the pump to get water and a new group was there, except instead of minding where my pack was as well as my sleeping gear, they were practically standing on top of everything. I sat on the bench shivering as I waited for them to move. Sunshine was also there eating and she was now with her father. She got off trail again which seems to be her thing each night. No one stayed at Round Top and I was happy to have the place to myself.
Day 4 6/6/2017 Still Round Top Zero Day Still 222.7 miles total
I zeroed due to rain ALL DAY.
Day 5 6/7/2017 Round Top to Spruce Ledge 15 miles/237.7 miles total
Up and at it early and good thing too. This was the first time in over a year I would do more than 10 miles in a day. I saw virtually no one until Corliss camp for a snack and I liked it. Having plenty of time to think, I was able to work through some doubt. Going over Lauraway Mountain with the Cliffs would have been hell in the rain. Again, I was glad for my decision to zero. However, because the trail is so wet, my feet are just not drying out. I’m sure that I will loose some toenails as I’m pushing a good case of tench foot. Walking over to Spruce Ledge camp dried things out a little bit and I was exhausted when I got there. The outlook seems to be growing in and there was a porcupine at camp. Thankfully the dog did not care. I have been grateful to have the trail and camps to myself this time around. As always, I promised myself that if anyone showed up, I would use my tent. I just have not had the need yet.
Day 6 6/8/2017 Spruce Ledge to Hazen’s Notch Camp. 14.8 miles/252.5 mile total
Hard day today. Humid and long miles over very tough terrain. I ran into Sunshine again and it would seem that I was right, she is leaving trail each night and sleeping in hotels. I am unsure if she hiked by Hazen Notch but that is her hike. I’ll keep hiking through. Caught some great views over lesser peaks during this trip but the downs are super steep and my feet hurt. I arrived at Hazen’s Notch Camp after another significant climb up, I was bruised and bloody but in good spirit. The camp itself seems a little run down but it was good for a night. No critters which surprised me as the wood pile is in the shelter. I had a really good dinner to lift my spirit and cleaned off my feet prior to bed.
Day 7 6/9/2017 Hazen’s Notch to Laura Woodward Shelter. 8.8miles/261.3
Up and over Jay today. I had no clue it would be that hard. I reminded myself that it was a mind over matter thing and that I was going to get to Canada. The miles were going down but my struggle remains with ascents. Lots of breaks. I ran into a father and his 4 year old son hiking down and they were a joy to chat with. Once we hit the ledges, things got very challenging in the wind. My dog hates wind. So, we didn’t stick around the summit building very long. This meant that my phone would not get recharged and I’d need to stretch out my remaining battery. Once we got back in the woods from the ski trails, we then heading STRAIGHT DOWN it seemed to Laura Woodward which was wild. As I stood at the top of the trail and looked down. The wind was till whipping when we got to the shelter where I look up and saw how far we went down. I thought about setting up my tent but it said thunder storms were brewing. I have been the only hiker on the trail for days it seems so, we continued to stay in the shelter. The terrain is not getting easier and the mud is still plentiful. Tomorrow I will be in Canada.
Day 8 6/10/207 Laura Woodward to Journeys End 9.7miles/271 miles
Today was Canada day. The trail did not get easier even with short miles. It seems at times I was not even on trail as there were so many blow downs. Steep descents on tired sore feet made for a challenging day. Stopped at Shooting Start shelter for an extra long lunch in the sun or as Isis preferred, the shade. Got turned around by a similar looking trail and had to back track to get myself right. Once I reached Jay Pass, I thought it would get easier. But there were more ups and downs and just when I thought I’d never get there, then it hit me… Canada! I had just hiked the Long Trail end to end. Down to the cabin at Journeys end, we celebrated with food and wine and dog kibble. I would hike out the next morning to meet my ride at the road.
What an amazing journey this has been. It started out as a bucket list item and turned into so much more. It was not a Thur Hike, A LASH, or what ever you want (or need to label it). It was my hike. I’ve over come illness and continued to get better and better. I’ve over come doubt and negative feelings and I have never felt stronger. I carried everything on my back for each hike and survived based on my decisions. My dog walked every step of the way with me and she’s only 16Lbs (but all muscle and heart). The most misunderstood dog finished something that she’s not even aware of. She’ll never know exactly what she did but I am more proud of her than of myself. I have met some great people along the way and I am inspired to keep exploring. So, what ever you need to label this as, is fine with me. This was my journey where I found myself.
You can also check out the video I made of the entire trip to see for yourself.