Vermud lives up to it’s name. I suppose it doesn’t help that I hiked it during the rainiest month on record. The first two days were glorious, the trail conditions wonderful. The trail actually felt like a trail, there were no big climbs, and I got to go through fields (I’d been looking forward to fields).
After those two days, though, it deteriorated quickly. The afternoon storms started, and then the day long rains started. It got cold and windy, and the trail became one giant creek/mud pit/pond. I thought Maine was bad as far as mud, but it had nothing on Vermont. The mud would seep in over the top of my shoes and soak my socks as I trudged through. It actually ate my shoe at one point. It was so bad, the only thing you could do was laugh at it. One day, it was all I could do to keep walking because I was laughing so damn hard at all the f***ing mud. By the end, I was able to semi-enjoy the mud like I did as a kid. If you can’t avoid it, you may as well stomp and splash through it!
Mornings were pretty awful though. Crawling out of a warm, dry sleeping bag and having to put cold, wet, muddy socks on your feet, and then put those into cold muddy shoes was no fun. Fortunately feet warm up pretty quickly when you hike. Unfortunately, my socks and shoes never had a chance to dry.
Despite all this, I loved Vermont. The trail was beautiful and I met some AMAZING people. I met awesome Long Trail and section hikers, wonderful trail angels, and bad ass NOBOs. I had a lot of fun nights in the shelters just talking with people, hearing their awesome stories. I love how friendly and social the trail is. No matter how different each hiker is, everyone seems to get along. Even after long nights in shelters filled with incessant snoring, farting, and general hiker funk, people still get along.
Unfortunately, I had to leave all this. Vermont was great, but it also threw me some unexpected curve balls. We had to make a VERY expensive trip to the vet for Solomon (yay infected hot-spots!), we were warned about how bad this tick season is supposed to be (instead of 1 in 3 deer ticks having lyme, it’s supposedly 1 in 2??), and my knee decided that it couldn’t take it anymore. I may have been able to wait for my recently dislocated knee (slippery rocks are no friends of mine) to heal, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of putting my dog in danger.
I’m sure he would have been fine, and I’m certain he could have completed the trail. But the further along we got, the more nervous for him I got. It’s one thing to put myself at risk for injury, exhaustion, and disease, but I felt more and more guilty for putting him at risk. This sucks because he was loving the trail. He loved hiking, splashing through the creeks, streams, and mud pits, and was even learning to love full shelters.
So we are back in Starkvegas, land of the now unbearable heat and humidity (those northern summers are something to envy, even with torrential rain). There’s some major emotional distress going on in my life that stems from this failed thru-hike attempt. Injury and the safety of my four legged friend are valid reasons to leave, but a small part of me feels like I’ve given up. It’s difficult. Really difficult.
I haven’t given up though, just postponed the trip. I’ll be trying again in the spring, this time going North and without my pooch. I now have a better idea of how to prepare and what to expect on the trail. It’s been a huge learning experience, and I’m so glad that I made the attempt. I’ll always be a little embarrassed that I didn’t make it this time, but it was still an incredible trip. I’m lucky to have had this experience, and I’m even more lucky that I get to attempt it again.
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I would just like to say THANK YOU. I see a lot of journals that just inexplicably end. Thank you for writing this post and outlining what made you get off the trail.
Sorry to hear you had to leave, but YAY for joining the NOBO class of 2016!! Look forward to seeing you out there next year! Any idea yet when you’ll leave Springer?
I have been debating a NOBO trip this Spring with my dog, Russell. I was looking at your journal and saw that you were a pro dog thru-hiker, which was a relief. Can you give me your recommendations/thoughts on thru-hiking with a dog?