Mud, Bugs, and Humidity – 3 Days on the Long Trail

By:  Ben
June 28, 2010

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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Read about the author:   Ben
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: The Juuux


  1. Greg
    wrote on June 29th, 2010 at 8:37 am  

    HECK yes Ben! Well done both of you!

    Despite not quite hitting a “hundred year high pressure system” and enjoying the “North Shore of Hiking” like Sam and I managed last fall, it still sounds like you two had heck of a lot better time than you and Allen did during the fabled “Jay Camp Incident.”

    Come to think of it: I think “The Incident” might need a retrospective TR someday if you ever have a bit of extra time… it would help people to see that it’s not all peaches and cream for the F.I.S. :D

  2. robrox
    wrote on June 29th, 2010 at 12:23 pm  

    Blood, Sweat and Toil!

    Trail life….it has its ups and downs, don’t it?

    Great report; looking forward to the next installment :-)

  3. Sam
    wrote on June 29th, 2010 at 3:34 pm  

    “muddy, sweaty, and covered in bug bites..” – sounds like a romantic weekend.

    In other news, those pictures brought back some horrible repressed memories of my own long trail adventure. I think i may have been crying as I hiked through devils gulch in a thunderstorm and then hiked all the way to the Tilliston shelter, arriving after dark. Looking back through my photos, the frequency of my photo-taking certainly dropped off significantly on the final 3 day and 75 miles, and your collection has brought back many of the memories that were not documented. Thanks for that Ben.

    • Ben
      wrote on June 30th, 2010 at 8:20 am  

      haha I can understand that…

      I found it interesting how much harder it was to put in 20+ mile days when you’re starting out without 10 days of hiking before you get to this section!

    • Porter Haney
      wrote on June 30th, 2010 at 12:33 pm  

      Some good old fashioned Type II fun.

  4. Sam
    wrote on June 30th, 2010 at 1:55 pm  

    ^^^ had not seen that, awesome. Read the comments, “Type IV fun: postmodern fun”

  5. christian
    wrote on June 30th, 2010 at 8:10 pm  

    type II fun indeed! when i look at these pictures it makes me want to pack a bag and hit the trail. but when i finally shoulder the pack and walk 10 feet i remember that i hate backpacking.
    nice work ben and kate, thanks for keeping my backpacking ambitions at an armchair (read: barstool) level. keep ’em coming.

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