Putting Boots on a New Section of Trail
Off I Go!
“Putting boots on a new section of trail.” I like that expression. But I have to admit that I borrowed it from my hiking friend Vicki. At the end of our first day on a section hike of the AT earlier this year, we set up tents and gathered to cook dinner in the fading evening light. As we finished up, our trip organizer Coleen asked each of us to share their favorite part of the day. It was a great icebreaker, since several of us had just met, and it was our first hike together. I probably said something lame that I can’t even remember, but Vicki’s sentiment really resonated with me.
So here I am putting boots, or in my case trail runners, on a new trail. I’m at the start of my big hike on the Long Trail. Earlier today, my brother dropped me off at the AT trailhead in North Adams, MA. There’s nothing notable about the start. It’s just a street crossing at a traffic light in a small, nondescript New England town. From there it was 3.8 miles on the AT to the Vermont border and the southern terminus of the Long Trail.
I had originally planned to drive myself and leave my car there, but since the motivation for this trip is to follow my father’s legacy, it seemed fitting to take a road trip with my brother to start this journey. He’s also the one that told me about the existence of my father’s journal and its emphasis on all the “porkies” (porcupines) he encountered on his 1937 LT hike.
It was an easy drive with very little traffic on July 4th. Until we got to Williamstown, MA, just a few miles from the trailhead. Traffic was stopped for the local Independence Day parade. So, we watched horses, fire engines, police cars, and a float with a giant cow pass by. A day of celebration and a little extra fanfare contributed to an auspicious start of my trip. It all somehow seemed fitting, and we actually enjoyed the short delay.
On the drive up, Tom told me another of my father’s stories of his LT hike. One I hadn’t heard before. Talking about our father was a good way to connect with the main reason behind this adventure. As I set off on foot, I promised to tell my brother about any porkies I might encounter on the way.
A Wave of Warm Wishes
Before I left for the trail, I received words of encouragement and good luck from family, friends, and the local hiking community:
“Energies of protection and wonderment”
“Go man go!”
“The Long Trail awaits your footsteps.”
“Sending wishes for clear skies both day and evening on your path.”
“Have fun and stay safe.”
“Lift your feet.”
“Send pix and postcards.”
And a simple, “Hell yeah!” from my daughter Emily.
I feel fortunate to have received so much positive energy at the start of my trip. I’m sure I’ll lean on these words of encouragement when the conditions or terrain become extra challenging. Thank you all!
Speaking of Firm Footing!
It feels great to be walking again! That being said, I wasn’t quite expecting the terrain on the AT approach. There was a very steep boulder scramble coming out of Massachusetts. It was hard work climbing and maintaining balance with a fully loaded pack. There’d be no easing into this trip!
I moved quickly to get to the terminus and get a photo or two of the official start of the hike. I’m usually pretty good at judging distance while hiking, but in my excitement that skill failed me. I kept thinking I should have seen the sign by now. Where is it? I was beginning to think I may have missed it. But then, a trail sign in the woods – that’s more like it!
From here the LT and the AT run concurrent for just over 100 miles before they split at Maine Junction, just north of Sherburne Pass where my father started his 1937 journey.
I’m looking at this first section as a bit of a warmup. The terrain becomes more challenging the further north you go, so this should allow me to get my hiking legs back after a few weeks off from regularly walking with a full pack. Then I should be able to turn my attention to the section my father hiked, using his journal as a guide.
I spent the night at the first shelter on the Long Trail with a mixed group of hikers. Some doing the AT, some doing the LT. Some Northbound, and some Southbound, thru-hikers, section hikers, and flip-floppers. Every one of them with an interesting story to tell. When it was my turn, I shared the story of my father’s hike.
For now, though, I’m embracing my own experience and putting boots on a new section of trail.
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