Mud, Bugs, and Humidity – 3 Days on the Long Trail
It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a multiday backpacking trip. It’s not that I dislike backpacking, but somehow over the last few years whenever I’ve had a few days free in the summer I find myself rock climbing or mountain biking instead of sweating down the trail with a heavy pack. Still, I have many fond memories from countless backpacking adventures throughout the Whites and the Greens growing up, and when Kate and I found ourselves with several free days between graduation festivities and starting summer work, we decided to go for a hike.
Kate and I standing on the Canadian Border
Vermont’s Long Trail runs 270-some miles from the Canadian border to the Mass border, following the spine of the Green Mountains in a long line down the center of the state. I hiked the trail several years ago and was impressed by the amazing shelter system, views, and lack of crowds. Kate and I decided to check out the northern 50 miles, from the Canadian border to the town of Johnson, VT.
This sign means more when you’ve hiked 273 miles to get here instead of the 1.3 we did from the Journey’s End trailhead…
Armed with Lionel’s weather forecast, we set out from Hanover Friday morning bound for the woods of Vermont. Unfortunately, we got a sub-alpine start and start down the trail until a little after 12 pm. About 100 meters later, we realized we had forgotten a lighter for the stove. Fortunately, the bustling metropolis of North Troy, VT had a store open, but that excursion set us back another half hour. It was almost 1 pm when we finally locked up the car and began up the Journey’s End trail toward the border and northern terminus of the Long Trail.
The first few miles went quickly by, although the 80 degree humidity made for some sweaty hiking. Surprisingly, the black flies weren’t that bad. Unfortunately, the deer flies were out in force, and delighted in following us for long distances, buzzing incessantly around and landing in our hair whenever they got a chance. There was mud everywhere; despite a fairly dry spring, the mudpits were overflowing the boundaries of the trail making for some challenging acrobatics to avoid wet feet. At one point Kate messed up a key, difficult one-footed-leap-from-small-rock-to-thin-wet-root sequence and plunged knee deep into the muck. By the time we reached Shooting Star Shelter, where we ate a late lunch, we were both dirty, sweaty, and covered in bug bites.
The sun was already starting to get near the horizon as we began to ascend Jay Peak
Stowe needs a couple of these near the top of the Gondi…
Hiking is still fun though. The bug situation improved as we climbed higher up on the shoulder of North Jay, and as we climbed the Jay massif the late afternoon sun shone off the summit ridge and tram building, momentarily causing us to forget about our sore legs and tired backs.
Kate hiking toward the distant summit
By the time we got to the top the sun was just starting to head down toward the horizon, so we stopped and hung out for a while on the top enjoying the show while watching tourists come and go on the tram. There’s something distinctly satisfying about sitting watching the sunset from a ridge top you’ve sweated to the top of instead of paying your way up.
Another crew of tourists arrives at the summit…
Kate doesn’t care though!
The sun putting on its show
Finally it was starting to get dark, so we left the summit and began heading down toward the next shelter, Jay Camp. The trail was steep and rocky, so we broke out headlamps quickly, only to find a fun surprise – Kate’s headlamp had developed a short and exploded one of the batteries. With only my headlamp between the two of us, the descent went slowly in the gathering darkness. When the familiar lines of the Jay Camp cabin (site of many of Allen and my high school shenanigans) materialized in the thin rays of the headlamp, we breathed a relieved sigh.
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