Monthly Archives: July 2014

My Long Trail

I began to realize how excited I was only a couple of days before I left. I could hardly sleep for thinking about my upcoming trip. Meal plans and other logistical details kept spinning through my brain; the last I checked the clock was 3:55 AM. This is actually good I think.

I’d been casting around for some meaningful way to spend the 5-week early summer sabbatical time I had blocked out months before thanks to a new company policy (thank you Safari!). I considered launching an effort to climb state high points, and did a warm-up climb of Mt Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, but something about the plan never quite sat right with me. It would provide an excuse to go to Hawaii, sure, but would also require me to go to some only mildly diverting places, like someone’s back yard in Rhode Island, and Hoosier Hill in Indiana. Even the more dramatic high points are often not among the more interesting hiking trips in their area, and are usually beset with crowds seeking the obvious. I knew this from previous climbs of Washington in New Hampshire, and Whitney in California. And then there was Denali: I wondered just how much time, effort and resources I would want to devote to this program, which couldn’t possibly be completed in five weeks.

Then some plans I had made for the early part of my time off fell through, and I realized I might just be able to squeeze in an end-to-end Long Trail trip. I spent four happy summers at camp in Southern Vermont, and some of the most memorable times I had were backpacking trips on and around the LT, a trail that stretches the length of Vermont, passing over the main ridge of the Green Mountains on the way. The idea of hiking it end to end was always in the air on these trips, and it has stayed with me for more than 30 years now.

The LT is the spiritual ancestor of the more well-known Appalachian Trail, and coincides with it for 100 miles or so. The distance, about 270 miles, is a great deal more manageable than the AT’s 2200-odd, but the walks both seem to promise a similar kind of communitarian ascetic experience. A big part of the draw for me was to pare down my life to bare essentials; to focus my attention on basic issues of transport, shelter and survival. I hoped to gain some perspective on my everyday life through a period of detachment, and I felt that an extended hiking trip would challenge me while maintaining my attention.

This is the story of my end-to-end Long Trail journey.

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