Why Vermont’s Long Trail hikes were important for me.
As I transition in both my IT career and my outdoor one, I am continuing to strike a balance between having a career, preparing for a time when I no longer have to work and having more flexibility. That means getting out as much as I can since I am working.
I will not be able , nor do I wish, to get out for months at a time.
A few weeks at a time satisfies my needs for a longer journey.
I am almost at the point where I can do that type of hiking on a semi-regular basis.
And the first longer hike I did of this type was Vermont’s venerable Long Trail.
As I look back across the years, the treks on The Long Trail were perhaps the most important hikes I took.
- Vermont’s Long Trail allowed me to see if I enjoy hiking or not. I’ve always told people before quitting a job, committing several months of your life to a walk, and possibly putting a strain on family relations, etc. see if you actually enjoy HIKING. Sounds silly, but many perspective AT (or other trail) hikers get caught up in the romanticism of a long hike and not the reality. You are walking all day. Not hiking five miles to make camp and relaxing all weekend. At 270 miles, Vermont’s Long Trail is a great way to see if a longer hike is for you. A hiker has to walk all day, is out in all kinds of weather, and has to resupply. If a hiker found The Long Trail a satisfying experience, they will probably enjoy a longer hike as well. When I finished my own hike back in 1997, I knew I’d be ready for my AT hike the following year.
- The Long Trail helped me dial-in my gear. A lot. When I did my first Long Trail hike, I took my gear that worked well for a weekend. I quickly found out that the weekend gear is overkill and/or a bit unwieldy for walking all day. Likewise, when I did The Long Trail again in 1999, it put to the test the nascent lightweight gear concepts I was using. With a few exceptions, that hike in 1999 set the template for most of my solo hikes that I’ve been using since. The specific gear may have changed; the overall types have not. By the time I did the PCT a few years later I more or less have the types of gear I use now. But that hike in 1999 is what started it all.
- Comfort with solitude. The Long Trail, esp the northern part, did not have a linear trail community. I’d bump into other hikers once in a while, but I was just passing through. I did my own thing. It was less of a communal experience and more of a solitary walk. The shorter-distance longer trails, some of which I plan to do, are this way as well. I am comfortable hiking by myself and prefer it for anything more than a weekend. Those lessons learned on my Long Trail treks were even applicable to my CDT hike . I learned more from the LT about hiking solo at length more so than my Appalachian Trail or even Pacific Crest Trail experiences.
- By hiking the LT, I had the gumption to hike the AT. And hiking the Appalachian Trail is what lead to me moving to Colorado and ultimately my life since then. Colorado offers access to canyon country, big mountains, backcountry skiing, a large IT job market to fund my outdoor habits and it is where I met my someone. If I had not moved to Colorado, good chance I’d probably be in the IT dept at Kent Hospital. 🙂 Started when 16 and left when I was 24. I’d still be in RI wondering about all these cool things like 10th mountains huts, Utah canyons, the Rockies and so on.
So that is why the Long Trail was such an important hike for me. And, seventeen years after my first LT hike, the lessons and results of the hikes are still very much part of my life.
Good post Paul. It’s interesting to look back from time to time at the events that shaped our futures in ways we couldn’t imagine at the time.
My completed thru hikes list only contains two trails but if it weren’t for my completion of the 200 mile Superior Hiking Trail I probably would have never dreamed of attempting the PNT. Thanks for sharing this perspective, Mags.
I started backpacking in the white mountains 4 years ago. Then in August 2014 I headed to the Canadian border to start my sobo LT End to End. I had a fair amount of overnighter experience. But had never been out more than two nights. I was aware of lightweight backpacking, but didn’t have a ton of money, and I ‘thought’ I had my pack pretty light. Turns out when I hit the trail, my base weight was around 18lbs. However, everything you wrote hits the nail on the head. My journey took 27 days and taught me more about… Read more »