During my “funemployment” stage (honestly, whoever coined that term had never graduated university in the US with piles of debt and no job prospects post-grad), I took every opportunity to be irresponsible and enjoy the perks of not working full time while I could. The perks were far and few between, but one of them was booking a spontaneous hiking trip on the Long Trail.
The Long Trail, run by the Green Mountain Club, is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. Totaling 272 miles, the Long Trail was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail which join together for about 100 miles. The Long Trail runs through the state of Vermont, from the Massachusetts Vermont border to the Canadian US border along the Green Mountains.
For my first overnight backpacking hike, I for some reason chose this trail and took 5 days to hike roughly 50 plus miles of it…a bit ambitious if I do say so myself. Okay, well I know it’s not the whole trail or anything like that but it was my FIRST overnight hiking trip ever!
Camping was a big part of my childhood, but let me remind you once more that I had never done an overnight hiking trip so this was a big challenge for me personally. Okay, we all on the same page now? Like on the page where I was worried I was going to have to call a friend to come get me after two days of not bathing and literally not being physically in shape for the task. We all there? Good. I was so excited for this adventure, but I was also wondering what I had gotten myself into…and no I had not read Wild.
I flew into Burlington Vermont and was driven north by a friend to the trailhead where I was to begin my journey. I was to be picked up 5 days later hiking 50 miles south back towards Burlington. I hiked the trail with a friend, but after doing this hike I believe that it would be safe to do solo with the appropriate planning (and as long as I kept my wits about me as one should always do when traveling!).
The Long Tail had three sided shelters throughout so I did not have to carry a tent, merely a sleeping bag and sleeping mat. I was hiking in September so it was a bit muddy but nothing unmanageable. The weather was warm the first few days, but I brought several compact layers for the early evenings and for any elevation we gained.
I did some (very little) research on hiking food (I think that’s a thing) before I left, and so I had packed cliff bars, minimal oranges/bananas (they can be heavy but I ate them the first two days), turkey jerky, some powdered gatorade packs, sterilization drops for water, and peanut M&M’s to quickly restore sugar levels. I’m sure there is more advanced knowledge out there on what to bring to eat that’s light for packing and refuels you quickly, but this worked for me. Although if you really like cliff bars, maybe skip those. To this day I cannot even stomach the sight of them…5 days on those ruined them for me!
The first few nights we shared the shelter with other hikers, and had pleasant evenings exchanging experiences on different parts of the trail. I loved the landscape change back and forth between the bright and cheery beech forests to the eerie hemlock forests as the trail went up and down in elevation. I found it comical that this trail was affectionately referred to as Vermont’s “footpath in the wilderness” on every panel we passed because there were times where the elevation gain was so steep that I felt like I was climbing a ladder of rock! Those parts were grueling for me. I don’t know if it was the elevation, the exertion, or the beauty, but whenever we reached a peak it took my breath away!
On the final night we ended up hiking a bit in the dark (I know, a little unplanned on our part!) to reach a fully enclosed shelter because it was to be the coldest night of our journey. The temperatures were starting to drop more and more at the higher elevations that time of year. I’m so glad we decided to hike a little further even though we got caught in the dark because I was so, so cold that night! It took me about an hour to warm up and stop shivering once inside my sleeping bag.
Not only was I eventually warmer in the four sided shelter, but that morning we woke up to noises of a moose! It was the most beautiful moment. The memory of scrambling down the hillside to a pond in the freezing, early morning to see a giant male moose and his antlers emerge through the mist is seared in my memory forever. He just ambled along the edge of the pond across the way and bent his head to drink. He was so majestic yet peaceful all at the same time. At this point my phone was probably dead, so alas I have no photos. I’m kind of glad I didn’t have my phone because I think that’s why I remember it so clearly. Sometimes, it’s nice to have simple memories like that with nothing to show for it in this day and age.
This was our final morning of the hike and I couldn’t have picked a more spectacular moment to end this journey through Vermont.
The scenery was breathtaking during the hike. Vermont is a beautiful state! The leaves were just beginning to change and the air was crisp and fresh. It was invigorating to wake up every morning in “the nature”, as this city girl says, and get some exercise. I highly recommend an excursion like this…wherever you happen to be! It taught me patience, perseverance, and fortitude…and talk about a digital detox!
How about you, have you done an overnight backpacking hike? If you did, I am curious what you brought to eat? It should be no surprise that I was mostly concerned about food when I planned this trip! I’d love to hear your insights.