The Long Trail

Started October 7, 2006

Long Trail Journal
Fall, 2006

10/6/06, Home in New Hampton

It's about to begin, the Long Trail hike..long awaited. It has taken me most of the day to pack and get ready. Now I think I'm all set. Drop boxes packed and ready for Nancy to send on the assigned dates. The pack feels great, perhaps a bit too heavy, too much food, too many clothes, but it will teach me much for future hikes.

Bob will come to our house tomorrow morning and then we head to VT to meet Meghan in derby for Lunch at the Cow Palace and then it's over to the trail head and into another world, the world of long distance hiking, which I know little about.

10/07/06, Journey's End Camp, 5:05PM

This is a great shelter to start the trip at. Bob and I spent the first hour cutting firewood. Lot's of it available.

Long drive up from New Hampton with Nancy-Bob following in his car. A beautiful day, clear and warm, 65 degrees. We got a late start, Bob trying to do too much at the last minute. We stopped in to see Meghan on the farm in Derby, Cow Town. We ate lunch at the Cow Palace and then Nancy drove us to the trailhead, a wild and crazy ride.

We will build a fire now, have supper, and head to bed, with the coyotes barking and yelling up on the ridge, not far in the distance. Also there are many geese flying overhead. It's cooling off a bit, but it should be great hiking tomorrow.

10/8/06, Laura Woodward Shelter

It was a long and hard hike over several minor mountains and then the ridge along N. Jay over Doll Mt. and then down into the shelter. It is another beautiful day, temps 60 with clear skies, no rain in sight. I hope this continues for a few more days. I am very tired and would like to nap before dinner.

Waking up from my short snooze and Bob had a fire going. How he loves camp fires. So do I. I just like collecting the wood. Bob's a great hiking partner. We hike at our own pace, he's usually ahead, but we just accept each other's hiking style.

Tonight's supper is pasta and sauce; my body is so hungry. It needs 4,000-5,000 Calories per day. Can I take in that much? That will be the real test of this hike. 2-4 days on the trail is one thing, but when you are continually burning more K's then you consume, you (I) may be in trouble down the road or the trail.

Settling down to bed after the campfire, some good conversation and Bob's scotch. The wind is blowing hard, but the air is still relatively warm. This warm, clear air has been a blessing and a gift. It will all come to a screeching halt very soon and the cold air of the fall will be back. It's just a question of when it will come.

My knee is holding up, don't know how much longer. I hope I can make the entire trail. This will be a test of my body and fortitude. When Bob leaves the trail in two days I'll be on my own. A new experiences that I'm not sure I'll be ready for, especially if bad weather hits.

Well, one day at a time-one foot in front of the other. Until tomorrow, the trek over Jay.

10/9/06, Hazen Notch Camp, 5:30 PM

Another gorgeous day over the summit of Jay and down to Jay Camp. From there a beautiful hike, though physically challenging, through some great landscape and 3 mountains and many ridges. The woods, fall colors, and the mountains around us made this a memorable day. I'm hopeful I can make the entire walk to MA, without my knee giving out.

I'm thinking a lot about Nancy, her love and compassion for all, driving out the in-road to Journey's End Camp where she brought Bob and I to start our adventure. She left me this little quote in my book:

"The Quest"

"The inner meaning of life does not readily reveal itself; it must be searched for. Such a search is a quest.

When a man begins to seek out his real nature, to find the truth of his real being, he begins to follow the quest.

The quest is a veritable reeducation of the self, leading in its turn to a noble transcendence of the self.

Some come to the truth in a roundabout way. The quest is direct.

The quest is spiritual mountaineering."
Paul Brunton

Tamara, trail name Duchess, just came into camp. We spent the evening chatting around the campfire. We discussed many topics including world politics, especially interesting to hear Tamara's worldview, given she is from Iran.

Tomorrow is another arduous day. The knee feels good, so another day closer to the end of the trail. Can't wait to get to Johnson, will call Nancy, and send her a card.


Tuesday, October 10th, 5:00 PM, Tillitson Camp

Tillitson Camp, built in 1939, the original cabin overlooking the valley below and over to Mt. Bellvidere. A short hike to get here, 6 miles but difficult and challenging-over Mt. Haystack and Mt. Tillitson. Bob has made another great campfire. Knee is starting to ache a little more. I hope it feels better in the morning. I'll take more med. at dinner.

The Mts. are sublime, quiet and gentle, but when you are hiking it's much work. I'm wondering about tomorrow. We'll hike out over Bellvidere and then Bob heads home. I'll be on my own. What will it feel like, especially for many more days? I guess I will have to experience it to find out.

Bob is a great friend and hiking partner. He tends to take care of me, watches over me but not in an overbearing way. I will miss him when we depart in Eden.

Wednesday, 10/11/06 6:10 PM Corliss Camp

Arrived here around 4:00, and no one else in camp. First night alone and it seems strange. not having Bob around, just me, my thoughts, the cabin and the wind outside.

It is very windy. The weather is changing, starting to cool down. I was told on the trail that that a cold front was moving in tonight, temps dropping, wind and rain predicted along with the possibility of snow. Will see what breaks.

Today was a long day, 14 miles from Tillitson Camp. Bob left to return home where he parked his car in Rt. 118. I continued to Devil's Gulch. Bob would have loved taking pictures there, over Bowen and Butternut Mtns. It seems to go on forever, finally reaching the summit in a cold wind. I was worried about getting to Corliss Camp before dark, but I made it with time to spare. Wondering about the weather for tomorrow. I may have to hunker down for an extra day.

9:00 PM: almost lost my glasses earlier when I took them off to wash my face and lost them in the leaves. I'm thinking of getting to Johnson, the town of fond memories, when Annie went to school at JSC. I think a lot of the great times we had there. Fond memories Nancy and I have of Johnson, Nancy's love of the small and simple things of life. It's a wonderful gift she gives to others. I'm looking forward to my visit and re-supplying.

Thursday, October 12, 06 11:15 AM, Corliss Camp
Spending the day at Corliss camp to rest, plus the weather is not inviting nor conducive to hiking, wet, fog and rain, no views, plus may have trouble following the trail in the fog and rain. I slept 'till 9:00, got up slowly, had breakfast, and spent 1/2 hour of yoga exercise; felt great. My mind and body needed it.

It's so peaceful here, watching the fog roll along the mountains side, listening to the wind rush through the trees. Most trees are bare now, lost all their leaves, but some leaves cling and hold tight to their lifeblood. The jays and crows have been loudly calling most of the morning. There's a maple tree directly in front of the cabin that is still showing off its brilliant colors of yellow, orange and red. It's interesting that this is the only maple I can see from where I sit and it's showing off. This is a day well spent, taking in all that's around me. I are usually tasks to be done, [laces to go, agendas to follow, reaching certain goals. But today will be a day that will be memorable because of nothing to do but take in all that is around me in silence. This day will be more rewarding than climbing a summit or reaching a particular destination-just enjoy, take-in relax and reflect.

8:15PM: earlier in the day while I was washing my face, I set my glasses down at the edge of the brook. When I went to put them back on I wouldn't locate them, PANIC!
Luckily a remembered to back a space pair and off I went groping to find my way back to the cabin, put on the spar glasses and found the good pair buried in the leaves. A good reminder to always have a spare set of all essential equipment. I had a campfire, the last one of the trip, ate dinner, and read my book. It was a nice evening. Just as I got inside to wash up it began raining again and temperature began to drop. Hope for clearing tomorrow, but if not I must still get to Round Top camp over Laraway Mt. about a six-hour hike. The next day it's into Johnson to do chores. I'll fall asleep tonight listening to the rain on the cabin roof.

Friday, October 13th, 3:00 PM, Round Top Shelter
31/2 miles from Rt. 15, first full day of hiking alone, sunny but cool. Tonight will be cold. I hope to stay warm in my limited bag. I'm sitting at the rear of the shelter, overlooking the Lamoille River Valley as I write this. The sun is setting on me; its warmth radiates through me. It feels so good in comparison to the cold wind blowing.

I questioned whether I should stay here or head to Rt. 15 and stay at a B and B in the area where it will be nice and warm, in a comfy bed, hit shower, breakfast in the AM. I guess I'm crazy. I decided to stay here, dirty, smelly, no chance for a shower until I get to Burlington (Annie's). But I opted for the total LT experience: freeze my butt off, camp food, wooden planks for a bed, and a long night. I think the view convinced me to stay here and not descend into the valley.

This was the first day of snow. When I woke up at Corliss Camp there was a light sprinkling of snow. I'm sure there will be more. I just hope not too much. I worry about the cold and snow, if this will turn me back and off the trail. I will just have to wait and see. The weather has changed and the warm days of autumn have passed. Winter is approaching and will it discourage me in completing the trail? I hear a quail drumming not far from where I sit. The ravens were all around me today as I hiked across Laraway Mt. Their many different calls and voices amazed me. They seem to talk to eachother. There will also many White throats. I saw 5 at one time.

Saturday, October 14th, Whiteface Shelter around 8:00 PM
I'm sleeping with 4 other hikers, young folks, 2 from Maine, Colby College and 2 from NYS, Albany area, and their dog. Round Top was beautiful this morning basked in the raising sun than was shining through the beech trees. I walked to Rt. 15 and hiked a ride with a Red Neck Trail Angel, great guy heading to the shooting range to get ready for deer season. Told me he heard about Trail angels and he wanted to be one so he picked me up.

It felt weird being among people, strangers. I shopped for food at the IGA, did my laundry, bought a book, sent a card to Nancy, and ate lunch at the Café. Everything is the same as it was when Annie went to school here. I didn't realize it then, but it now seems like a very poor marginalized and isolated town. I got back on the trail at 2:00, got to Bear Hollow Shelter and decided to push onto Whiteface. I arrived here at 6:00, just as it was getting dark and the snow beginning to fall. It's now snow hard and blowing into the shelter. I sure hope it clears by morning. This is certainly an experience sleeping in close quarters with 4 other people and a dog.

Sunday, October 15th 8:00 PM, Taft Lodge on the side of Mt. Mansfield
I have completed a very long and arduous day. The hike up Mansfield to Taft was very tiring, arriving here just before dark. Today's hike seemed to never end. I am so tired, but had to get here as there was no other option; no place to camp on the side of the mountain. However, what a great place to spend the night. I have the entire cabin to myself, including the caretaker's mattress. I hope to sleep through the night and well into the morning. Then head out over Mansfield tomorrow and looking forward to finishing this section. Will have to take alternate route to summit as the LT that climbs the chin is coated with ice according to several people I met on the trail. If this winter weather continues I may have to head home. The cold, the wet feet, and the anxiety caused by the snow and possibility of loosing the trail are all weighing heavily on my psyche. I don't know if I can finish as planned, but I always need to think of one day at a time. Having stops along the way are important and I'm looking forward to getting to Annie's, then Terry and Greg and meeting Bob to finish.

This morning the sunrise was spectacular! It was a brilliant red sky to the east looking out the windows of the Lodge. Looking up the mountain it is dark and ominous. Clouds cover the mountain, maybe a sign of rain or snow. Hopefully I will get over Mansfield and at least to Taylor Lodge. I had a great sleep for once, thanks to the caretaker's mattress. Thank you.

Monday, October 16th, 3:00 PM. Taylor Lodge
Today it is beautiful, warm, and sunny. What a contrast to yesterday. My goal was to reach Puffer Shelter, but I decided to stay here. I am very tired; my body feels like it's running with little fuel in the tank. I will eat two meals tonight, get up early, and push off for Buchannan Shelter, which is over Barton Mt.

The views from Mansfield were indescribable, clear, and bright. " I could see for miles and miles", The Byrds. What a pleasant surprise, given what I expected. I was thew only person on the mountain for the entire hike along the spine of Mansfield. I don't think this happens very often to one person. Getting down the mountain a huge challenge for me, many slips and falls on the wet and icy rocks. After completing this steep section the hike was very pleasant, so enjoyable. I need rest now; I'm falling asleep.

7:00PM, it's evening now. And I hear coyotes barking and howling on the mountainside. They are coming together as pack for the winter. It's almost like they are having a reunion party. I feel much better after having rested and eaten dinner (cos-cos and tuna-WOW!!!)
I read for awhile before I head to the bunk area. This is a beautiful area, many beaver flows. I would like to come back here with Nancy. We could hike up from the Fishing Club. Things I need to buy in Burlington: water bottle and carrier, matches, TP, liquid soap, candle, tea, 5 days of food, gum, chocolate, toothpaste, whiskey, pen, boot gunk, fuel and lighter.

Tuesday, October 17th, 4:00PM, Buchannan Shelter
Woke up this morning to gray skies. The wind picked up while on the trail and it started raining around 2:00PM. This shelter was a pleasant stop over given the conditions, mud, wind and rain, but it's not cold, no snow. This is a nice enclosed shelter. I like it here. It has a nice feeling to it, as I write, listening to the rain on the roof and the wind blowing through the trees. I hope it stops by morning, so I can have a nice walk out to Rt. 2, call Annie, and spend a couple days in Burlington. I really looking forward to it: shower, laundry, eat, 3 primary necessities.

7:00PM: The wind is still howling and it's raining hard. What if the rest of the trip is punctuated by this kind of weather? Will I continue? It would very hard and at what discomfort. I must ask myself, how much pain do I endure for the sake of reaching my predetermined goal? It the goal of completing the LT at all costs that important, not in perspective of other life's goals and drives. I think the phrase, "one step at a time," is overused and maybe even trite, but it does have significance with respect to this journey, in that I just have to make decisions on each step, each path, each day. I maybe thinking, it's too difficult, lousy rain, bad weather forecast, my legs are heavy and I can't continue. Other the other hand I can look for beauty of the sunrise, the color of the leaves, the birds flying around my head, seeing that little Downey woodpecker about 5 feet from me, just pecking away at the tree. These woods are so beautiful and have so much to offer. Even the gale that is raging outside has its own beauty and one must be struck with awe by its power and ferocity. One must take each moment as it comes, live in the present moment and be consumed by all it has to offer. I think this is a Buddhist thing. Well, back to my book and then lights out.

Wednesday, 10/18/06, Burlington, VT
This was a pretty uneventful walk out to RT 2, a lot of ridges to hike over, up and down, with some great views of the valley below. The first half of the hike was in the fog, second half clear and in hearing distance of Rt. 89 and 2. I got to route 2 in the early PM and hitched a ride with a young couple, UVM students. They told me I was lucky to get a ride because of the recent murder in the area, scary thought! I met Annie at Howard DD Services. Tonight she made a wonderful stew and we spent a relaxing evening together. We talked until late, 11:00 (late for me) into the evening looking at her old family photo album. In reaching Rt. 2 I've hiked 88.3 miles with 184.4 to go.

Thursday, 10/19/06, Burlington, VT
Rest, take stock of the hike, reorganize, eat, shower, clean up and plan, this is what today is all about, in addition to spending time with Annie. Today I'll read and shop. Annie and Kelly will be here later in the day to feast at Re-Ra's, Guinness and stew can't wait. Forecast is for heavy rain on Friday, so I'll delay a day and begin again on Saturday with a grueling assent up Camel's Hump, 3600 ft vertical climb. I'll make my way over the mountain and to the shelter. The weather forecast sounds great for the weekend, then showers that will probably be snow at higher elevations. My brother Hal called Annie to say he couldn't join me for the hike. I think the weather forecast discouraged him, as he's a warm weather person. I was looking forward to the possibility of his joining me, but I can understand his reluctance to make the trip. It would have been good for us to hike together, as I feel very isolated from him and we really need to reconnect. He's always been an important person in my life.

Friday, 10/20/06, Burlington, VT
Today it is raining hard and I decided to wait out the storm and resume the trip tomorrow. The rain turned to wet snow tonight. It's miserable. It should clear tomorrow and I'll get an early start. I should be able to make up the lost day along the way.

It's been nice to spend time with Annie, touch base, and listen to her stories of work. I'm so proud of her and her accomplishments. It has been time well spent. I'm looking forward to getting back on the trail. Just me, the trail, the mountains, the wind, birds and all the beauty that I have come to appreciate even more.

Saturday, 10/21/06, Montclare Glen Shelter
7:45PM, what a day! Winter has really sprung on me. It was a long slog up Camel's Hump. When I got to about 1200 ft I started to see signs of snow and as I continued to climb, the snow got deeper, around 4-6" at the higher elevations. Most of the clothes I was wearing are now wet. The snow created another problem, not being able to read the trail marks on open rock faces, snow covers whites markings. When I reached a treeless ridge I lost the trail. It took me a good 45 minutes to find it after many paths broken on the ridge. I almost turned around at one point, giving up the look for any sign of the trail. The hike over the summit was a challenge, high winds, blowing snow, ice, and fog.

The enclosed shelter I'm staying in small, but comfortable. The caretaker is here this weekend. I am also sharing space with 2 other young guys, UVM students. It wasn't bad enough that some of my clothes are wet, but I spilled water on myself, getting my 2 other inner pants wet. What luck, this section of the trail, with the snow of last night was very difficult, and it is an ominous beginning to the next few days. This will be a true test of my endurance and will power. I can turn around and head back to Burlington or push on southward. I hope the morning starts a little better.

Sunday, 10/22, Birch Glen Shelter
7:06 PM, I arrived at this shelter around 4PM, tired, hungry, wet and cold. I'm not sure if I can go on. The weather has turned very bad. It was a miserable hike for most of the way, but with some good moments and highlights: the view from Burnt Mountain and following the moose and bear tracks in the snow. I was so cold when I arrived here. I immediately got water, made tea and ate cheese and pepperoni. I then got into my sleeping bag but couldn't stop shivering. I lay in my bag for about an hour trying to get warm. I then realized that I hadn't eaten lunch and had only a few snacks along the way; my body needed fuel, carbos. I couldn't get warm, because "there was no wood in the stove." I made supper, ate and now feel 100% better. My mind is clear, alert and I'm warm. A was getting hypothermic. A good lesson on eating along the trail; taking in an equal amount of carbos to what I am burning.

I've decided that when I get to App Gap I will hitch down to Waitsfield to dry my clothes and spend a day and figure out what to do next. I would like to stay on the trail, but don't know if I could continue with winter conditions setting in. It's raining now and probably snowing in the higher elevations. I have to go over Mt. Ellen and Abe tomorrow. I will go to sleep now and figure out what to do in the morning.

Monday, 10/23/06, Glen Ellen Shelter
3:30PM, snowing heavy and about 30 degrees. Well, I made the decision to push ahead, perhaps the wrong decision. 13 miles to the next shelter, Glen Cooley. I have to get to Hancock I need to re-supply and I have a mail drop waiting for me at the PO. I hope the weather clears. It's been raining/snowing for 2 days now. Things are getting pretty wet. Yet I want to complete this trip. I always need to focus on one day at a time, one shelter at a time.

My plans to stay overnight in Waitsfield changed. When I got to App. Gap it was warm, about 40 and there were breaks in the clouds. The call of the trail on the other side of the highway got to me. I said to myself, "Go for it. I feel good; my clothes have dried out. Let's climb!"

My feet, socks and boots are always wet The trail is filled with water, between the continual snow and rain they are literally small swamps. I have sunk to my knees on some occasions. There is never a chance to dry out and the trail is getting wetter and muddier. I plan to stay at the Hancock Inn when I get to Middlebury Gap. I'll be able to dry my clothes there, eat some good food and then head back out on the trail, rested and dry. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, one step at a time.

I just finished eating soup and a cheese and a pepperoni sandwich along with a cup of tea. I'll lay down and read for awhile before supper. Looking forward to a nice day tomorrow.

10/24/06, Tuesday, Glen Cooley Shelter
7:00 PM, 12.7 miles today in the snow, fog, freezing rain. A long hard hike over Ellen, Abraham, Lincoln and Grant. I'm exhausted, discouraged, and think about leaving the trail. It's the snow and fog, 3 straight days. I'm wet and tired. When planning this trip I certainly didn't expect this continually bad weather. It is trying and I'm not geared or clothed for winter conditions. There is no let-up. I just want to get to a warm and dry place.

I miss home, Nancy, the dogs. I hope she is not worrying about me. I want so much to get to Hancock and give her a call.

I think I might get out of the woods tomorrow. I am concerned that if it does continue to snow and turn colder I may be in trouble, plus my pants are now ripped. The hike through the Breadloaf Wilderness is very beautiful. The landscape soft and gentle, not like the hard mountainous region I just crossed. I hope to sleep well tonight and see how far I get tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10/25/06, Hancock Inn, Hancock, VT

Well, the journey has ended for now. I've hiked 126.6 miles from Canada and have 143.6 miles to finish in MA. I woke up at 11:00 PM last night at Glen Cooley Shelter to pee and saw the snow, about an additional 2". The rest of the night it continued to snow , and I couldn't stop worrying about the trail, wet clothes and running out of food, 2 meals left with few snacks, no bread, a few other odds and ends. There is nothing to sustain me for 1 - 2 more days, only a few odds and ends. I thought about hiking through to Middlebury Gap, 10 miles, but worried about following the trail with the new snow on the ground. It would be difficult to follow the trail.

By morning, 4-5 " was on the ground. I realized I couldn't continue the journey south. My only option was to turn around and head back on the trail I came in on. I remembered some of it and could look for a few makers along this section of the trail. With the new snow it would be extremely difficult to continue hiking the trail in the Breadloaf Wilderness. The journey back to Lincoln Gap was challenging at times-trying to stay on the trail, recognizing a cut log, broken branch, foot print (mine) a dip in the trail and very occasionally a white 2" by 6" white trail marker. The drifting snow made it very difficult at times.

I made it out, hiked the Warren Road, hitched a ride to Hancock with a "trail-angel", nice young woman and I am now waiting for Terry to pick me up. It will be good to see Terry and Greg and spend a couple days with them before I head home.

8:30PM at Terry and Greg's house in Rutland.

The final stage of the adventure, it's over for this year. I now look forward to getting home. I wonder how it has changed from my perspective; off the trail and back into everyday life. I will no longer be thinking about the maps, the journey, miles to go each day, what to eat, where to sleep, the weather, my knee. It isn't about me and the trail anymore, but about us, we, keeping our lives together (Nancy and me and whoever else our lives affect)

Getting off the trail: "No regrets coyote" Joni Mitchell. If I went on I may be dead now. I have another adventure waiting fir me. I have learned some things about long distance hiking. Where does the journey take me now? I think about the "LT South" sign next to the Cooley Glen shelter. The trail was so inviting. I wish I could have continued, but I know it would have been very risky. My life was in the balance and now I can return and at another time and truly enjoy the hike through the Breadloaf Wilderness. That trail sign is still waiting for me. That sign and the map of the Long Trail will burn in my brain until I return.

Being alone: I have gotten in touch with my inner thoughts and can write these thoughts down. The mind block is gone. I hope I can continue. 17 days on the trail, not many, but it has given me much that I can carry with me from the experience

I have ended the quest with mixed feelings: of regret and self-doubt on one hand and feelings of elation and accomplishment on the other. I now look back and think, " should I have left the trail? That question is still with me today (12/19/06). If only I had stayed with it. If only I had the fortitude to go through the Breadloaf Wilderness. Why did I start so late in the season, October 8th? If only I started in mid-September like Nancy suggested. I will miss the trail and long to be back; the freedom of decision making, only myself to think about; the feelings of independence and self reliance; caring only 40 lbs. of possessions, all that I need to live, none of the stuff I carry with me all the time, the mental baggage carry everyday back home; emotional and psychological baggage.

I will miss the calling of the trail; looking forward to seeing what's around the bend in the trail or over the rise; the views; the sounds of many birds, especially the ravens; footprints and tracks in the mud and snow; the beauty of the wilderness; so much will be missed. On the other hand it's always there for me to experience again, whether it's on the LT or some other trail in the Whites or even the trails behind my house in New Hampton.

I am happy to be returning home; to the warmth of our home; to the loving eyes of Nancy; to the presence of Maggie and Rufus (our dogs) and to plan for the next adventure. I hope to continue my journal writing, it's something I have been looking forward to since I started the journey. Each night on the trail after dinner I would finish the evening by writing in my journal and then reading with a small glass of Jameson's and a chocolate bar. Life couldn't be better then this.

I will return to this journal when I start the second half of the LT, the second half I didn't finish, 142 miles, until then, "what a long strange trip it's been." (Garcia/Hunter).

 

 

 

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