The ABCs of The Rugged, Wet, VerMUD, I mean VerMONT, Long Trail

The ABCs of The Rugged, Wet, VerMUD, I mean VerMONT, Long Trail

I really wanted to be brief. I did. But it’s just not me. You should know that by now. So you can skim or skip this entry. Totally up to you. I did try to make it fun to read … And, if you want even more, I gave a FULL FULL day-to-day report on Trail Journals, a site for the long-distance hiking community.

Agendas: We had this whole big agenda before the trip. 10 miles or so the first 2 days, then we would get our trail legs and be up to 15-17 miles by day 3. Pssssh. One of the biggest lessons we learned about long-distance hiking is that you don’t make too many plans. You can MAYBE make a goal your day, but not the week ahead. Weather and terrain were definitely a factor for us. Day 2 we only did 3.1 miles, which was pretty depressing for us. But it was up and over this wicked high peak and the trail was seriously a complete waterfall because of the insane rain we got.

Breakfast: We ate oatmeal, pop tarts or bagels for breakfast.

Canada: That’s where we started. Our friends dropped us off Wednesday evening and we hiked into a shelter right on the border of Canada. The next day, we started the hike.Dinners: They were delicious. We are BIG fans of the semi-expensive dehydrated meals made by Backpacker Pantry, Mountain House and other companies. We dined on Pad Thai, Chicken with Stuffing and Potatoes, Primavera Pasta, Buffalo Style Beef, Mexican Beef … yum num yum.Elevation: We gained 26,545 feet and lost 26,585 feet. That’s a lot of ups and downs! One day, we started at 300 feet. And climbed all day to 4,000 feet. In 6 miles.

Emotions: I am the female, so of course I am going to say that sure I got down on the trail. We had rain on days 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then again on days 6 and 8. We were wet and cold most of the time. However, I did love it overall. There were approximately 10 hours of sunshine the whole trip and those hours were great. Plus, I felt so rewarded by what we were doing. We saw some spectacular views and things in nature. You truly have to be committed to the idea of hiking day in and day out, that’s for sure.

Falls: 8 for P (with a humungo bruise to show for it) and 3 for J. I know that makes me sound like an extremely clumsy person … I blame the ridiculously slick rocks and mud puddles that ate me alive. Plus, I did not take J’s advice and use hiking poles like him. I’ve always found poles cumbersome when hiking … I believe I am a changed woman now. Poles are my new friend.

Foliage: Oh my beautiful. I will say that in most cases our eyes were on the ground (for fear that we would get swallowed by the puddles), but the ground was covered in leaves and that was just spectacular. And of course when there were views, there were views!Going the Distance: 104.9 miles. Some of these miles were not on the LT, but we did complete just about 100 miles of the LT. Less than the 175 miles we originally planned, but we will be back LT, we will be back!Hygiene: Being a long-distance hiker definitely tests your hygiene limits. We did shower on day 5, then again on day 10 (at home). We used wet ones to clean up every few days. J was better about brushing his teeth just about every day, but I was just plain lazy with that. Resin-Q became our favorite item on the trip because of chafing. We own Body Glide (given to us once by Quick Question) and I think that will be an even better solution on the next trip.

Hostile/Hostel: We stayed in a hostel to get a shower and get dry on day 5. Hostels are not generally dangerous. And this one certainly wasn’t. This nice couple in their 70s have opened their basement (complete with cockroaches) to LT hikers for a hot shower and bed for the last 16 years. It is one of the few towns you go through in the northern section of the trail.Injuries: None. The LT is infamous for torquing ankles and tearing ACLs. But, we survived 100 miles without anything big. Except for my 9 million blisters (J got NONE) and the bruise the size of Texas on my right butt cheek.
J’s Bday: We spent J’s bday (Oct. 6) on the trail. It was supposed to rain (of course), but it held out all day! It was still cloudy and that’s the day we went over Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont (4,393 ft). It was super windy! It rained like crazy as soon as we hit the shelter, all night and next day. But at least it didn’t rain on his bday!

Killer: That would be the .4 miles down from Whiteface peak to Whiteface Shelter. It was insane! Actually, J & I have an ongoing joke about the last .4 miles of all legs of the trip. It’s always MUCH LONGER than it seems to be.

Lodging: The LT is unique because there is a shelter every 5 miles or so. Some have 3 walls, some have 4. All of them were pretty nice (by our standards)! And we were often by ourself (except for the one night we rolled up at 5:30 and the shelter only had 2 spots left!). We brought the tent just in case and were determined to use it since J carried the extra weight. We used it the one night we thought it wouldn’t rain … and it rained (of course).Lunch: Snacked all day and sometimes ate a full lunch, like tuna on tortillas.

Mail Drops: Typically with long-distance hiking, you carry food for 5 days or so. You can either resupply in a town or mail yourself food to pickup. We ended up deciding to resupply in a town 5 days in (the same one where we stayed in the “hostile”), but we also sent ourselves a mail drop. We thought we’d get there on day 7. We got there on day 9 (remember no agendas!). So we sent basically the whole package back home since we got off the trail on day 10!

Northbounders: We were going Southbound, so we passed/met about 15 other NBers. These peeps were just about done with the whole 273 miles of the trail! All of them told us that the southern portion was so much easier than the northern portion.

Nighttime Routine: Get to camp. Get dry, warm clothes on. Put out sleeping bags/mats. Someone gets water from the river/stream/puddle to purify. Someone gets dinner ready. Eat. Clean up dinner. Hang food bag (so the mice, bears and other animals don’t eat our stash). Journal. Go to sleep between 7pm and 8:30pm.Outhouses: I only had to dig a hole once! There were established privies pretty much every 5 miles.

Puddles: The size of Alaska. Usually you have to find a way to navigate around them (like walking a tightrope). Sometimes there were bog bridges, but even then, it’s iffy.
Porcupines: One chased us down on the trail. We were coming up the hill and he/she was coming up the other side. I thought it was a baby cub and when J said it was porcupine, I said what should I do. He said “GET OUT OF ITS WAY!” I was too startled to take a picture though!

Quartz: I never realized there was so much quartz in Vermont. There definitely is!

River Crossings: We crossed more brooks, streams and rivers than I can remember. I did slip on a beaver dam, but did not submerge fully. The largest river crossing we had to make was Lamoille River. It was flooded because of the RAIN (did I mention it rained?). Just up to our knees and we went across in our Crocs. It actually felt refreshing (this was pre-shower).

Smell: Yes, we smelled. But you get used to the hiker stench. And, when our friends picked us up, they INSISTED we still go out to a restaurant together. I’m sure the other diners were not happy.

Temperatures: High was 65 degrees, low was 29 degrees (frost on the spruce trees one day!)Unused Gear: Sunglasses, cards, books, extra fuel, bear bag and we brought way too many snacks!Views: Like I said, we did see some. We even saw a great sunrise from one of our shelters.Weather: Our first real day on the trail was Thursday and it rained all day. Pretty steady. We got wet. Set the tone for the trip. Wet, clothing, wet trail, wet, wet, wet. That first Thursday night, the crazy tropical storm hit. We stayed in a 3-walled shelter with 3 other hikers and we were all a little unnerved by the trees swaying back and forth from the 60 MPH wind gusts! The rain continued the next day. And the day after. And so on.
Wildlife: We saw tons of moose tracks (and poop). Lots of grouse. A cute frog. The infamous porcupine. Mice are often shelter habitants, but we didn’t really have a bad experience. J only had one mouse run over his sleeping bag! That’s actually considered a success!White Blazes: This is what we were following. I know this is going to shock most of you, but I was often leading the way, except when J had to navigate the mud with his poles. I know, I know, the one who got lost in the Grand Canyon. But anyways, I followed the white blazes. And sometimes, they were missing. When they were non-existent, we would look at each other puzzled and think, do they seriously want us to climb up this waterfall? Really? Really? Is this the trail?

Yikes!!! We said this many times as we were swallowed by the mud puddles.

ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …… How much we slept when we got home.

6 responses to “The ABCs of The Rugged, Wet, VerMUD, I mean VerMONT, Long Trail”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks like unbelievable fun… sign me up for the next one!!!! JK!

  2. Shayna says:

    All I can say is holy s#$*! I'm sure you had lovely views, but the constant wet would've probably given me pneumonia or something. Oh yeah, and I would have died from fatigue before the first mile, so 100+ is unimaginable for me. Sending so many kudos! What's a grouse? And I would hardly call those shacks "shelters." You guys are really like the pioneers of the old days who had to live off the land (so much for my idyllic vision of them). You've taught me much more about backpacking than I've ever wanted to know (body chaffing? freeze-dried "food"?)…J's lucky you are happy to join him on these adventures! Hopefully it was a good learning/prep experience for AT. Now I have some good gift ideas for you too!

  3. plavigne says:

    Actually, we are surprised we didn't get sick. But we did take Emergen-C as a precaution on the trail … maybe that helped. You do kind of get used to being wet and when you are hiking, you're not really cold.

    Grouse are really cool birds whose wings make a propeller noise when they fly (that's my non-technical definition). They always scares the crap out of me, but I'm sure we are scaring them. They were all over the trail.

  4. Misti says:

    Ah, trail life! This is just the beginning! 🙂

    When you start the AT, you can plan for a four to five day stint, but yeah, plan low miles and if you make those miles in a good time, push on to another site or stealth somewhere.

    We were lucky in VT we had very little mud and the one re-reroute because a bridge was out at a stream, we were lucky enough to just rock hop instead of making a 3 mile reroute.

    And time…yeah, the Whites are what showed us that we couldn't plan much any more. And Mahoosuc Notch….you'll just be amazed how slow you go for a mile!

    Love the photos!

  5. You guys are so weird. What is a bear bag??

  6. Leanne Fosbre says:

    Wet, wet, wet and cold, cold ,cold??? Sounds miserable. Plan a spa trip next. You two need some serious pampering after the Long Trail.

    Mom/MIL

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