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

By:  Ben
June 28, 2010

In order to make it to Johnson, we had a 20.5 mile day planned for the next day. We got up nice and early to make it possible, but the sun was already making things unpleasant for us. The humidity was worse than the day before, our legs were more tired, and the trail was every bit as muddy. The first part of the day went slowly, although we did see some interesting looking rock walls in Hazen’s Notch that led us to wonder whether they’ve ever been climbed? Vermont is full of little backwoods crags that haven’t seen much development…

Kate is really, really excited about the hike out of Hazen’s Notch as the Green Tunnel stretches onward

After Hazen’s Notch we plodded up the long slog to the ridgeline on Haystack Mountain. This climb was one of the classic “switchbacks!? We don’t need no switchbacks!” climbs that seem to be a hallmark of the northern Long Trail. Fortunately, we reached the top before heat exhaustion claimed us, and we were rewarded by expansive views of the ridgeline ahead of us.

Finally! The top of Haystack

At Tillotson Camp, we ate a late lunch and faced a dilemma. The next camp, Spruce Ledge, was 8 and half long miles away, and it was already mid afternoon. Our legs and backs were tired, but in order to make it all the way to our spotted car, we needed to get in a full day. We decided to go for it, thankful that it was the third longest day of the year.

Kate at the top of Belvidere

The next few miles went by in typical zoned-out-covering-mileage fashion. We had great views from the top of the Belvidere fire tower, then descended toward Devil’s Gulch. A lake appeared tantalizing close in the heat, but our legs didn’t have the energy to go off trail to swim. Finally we saw the welcome trail sign announcing Spruce Ledge, a nice cabin near a beautiful overlook. For just walking all day, hiking is hard!

This is the official “why-are-you-make-me-stop-while-taking-pictures-20-miles-into-a-20.5-mile-day” face

We got another early start on Sunday, the last day of our trek. The mountains were shorter than the previous day, and the grades mellower, but around mid morning the drowning humidity changed to raindrops as a few scattered thunderstorms moved over the area.

Kate eating lunch near a foggy overlook

You can see forever from up here!

We pressed on though, and even got a lucky break when the skies decided to open up for 10 minutes while we sat snug and dry snacking in Roundtop Shelter.

A nice afternoon river crossing

As the afternoon pressed on, the sun came out and we started our long descent into the lowlands surrounding Johnson. By the time we got to the car, over 18 miles into the day, both our feet were aching and we were glad we would soon be sitting behind air conditioned vents. Rarely have I enjoyed a beer as much as I enjoyed the waiting Long Trail Double Bag in the car!

Kate is ready for the next 50 miles!

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Read about the author:   Ben
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: Lee’s Birthday


  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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