The Vermont Long Trail Experience
The Vermont Long Trail Experience
Now that I have had just over a week off the trail I can look back with somewhat of a different perspective and maybe a less emotional one than If I would have wrote this a week ago when I was still beat down from the trail and the conditions I was dealt for the first ¾’s of it.
I will start off saying that I was looking for the next big challenge….and I found it. The trail itself is technical, challenging, at times unforgiving, and for all of that did not provide me with the rewards I hoped for at times for the ass kicking I took. Earning it’s name the Green Tunnel! It felt like a rain forest most of the journey. And on a couple of the more challenging and bigger mountains that I should have gotten them the rain and storms prevented me from getting those views again.
I have now had time to sit down with my Far Out App to figure out my numbers more accurately. This app was amazing. It provided me with my daily goals, distances, elevation, water locations, mountains, shelters, and comments from recent trail users on conditions, water etc. I never had to use my watch and worry about recharging the battery etc due to this app. It provided me all the data I needed. It had my picture on the map to show where I was in relation to everything.
I started out with some big days. My longest km day was 39 km (well technically 42 km as I had to backtrack about 3 km to a shelter due to losing the trail in a pretty big thunderstorm….but only counting forward kms!!) My biggest vert day was pushing 2800m.
The total trail is 273 miles and 19,925 m of vert. Don’t forget the descent is right up there too!
My numbers play out like this…..
14 days, 13 nights
221.25ish miles = 354.4ish km (must add the 6 km on the Pine Cobble Trail to get to the LT trailhead for 361ish km!! I want credit for that as it was about 600 m vert in that time in the crazy heat too!)
My vert is a little trickier to figure out but again best I can tell….
17,325ish m = 57,173ish feet (plus the 600 m of Pine Cobble Trail)
This may explain why my legs are still not right!!!
Hours on trail ranged from 4 being my shortest bringing me to meeting Justin and my trail angels to get me to him….to a few 12 hour days…and one day was 14 hours.
Pack weight was around 50 lbs….a tad heavier first 4 -5 days til I dumped a few items in Rutland.
The mental game!! This was the toughest part for me….yes, I was beat up physically but I was alone A LOT!! Dealing with conditions beyond anything I have had to push through before. Camping on my own most nights. When people ask I tell them I found new depths of hell!! That says a lot coming from an ultrarunner.
The first 4 days the extreme heat and humidity combined with my ambitious big days kicked the poop out of me and humbled me. I believe it set the tone for the rest of the journey as I was physically beat down from pushing too hard through it. Then it got into my head.
Getting to Rutland was an uplift I needed. Day 5 I was doing laundry, sleeping inside where it was a tad cooler, met some amazing people, lightened the load in my pack slightly, resupplied, and left in a better mind set.
I took the jump forward (shuttle forward by a trail angel) from Rutland to get me closer to Justin’s and my meeting point and take some pressure off myself…..drop my kms per day….maybe make it more enjoyable ….until…..
People say the Long Trail does not really start til mile 108 when it separates from the Appalachian Trail….and they were not kidding!! The technical game kicked up and I was then in for 3-4 days of thunderstorms, pouring rain, making the scrambles (up and down) tricky and scary at times. Since the beginning of the trail nothing was dry from either humidity in the heat or the rain!
I wondered some days if I would make it. Every night I would look at my map and plan the next days mission….factoring in the mountains that lie ahead of me and how many days I had to do it til we met. In the end I planned it well….I sucked it up and kept moving forward just hoping the next day would be better than the one before. I still put in some big days on this portion….it became a factor of stopping too early would have me sitting in the shelter or tent by myself so might as well keep moving even if not very fast.
A trail angel picked me up at my trailhead at noon of the 10th day. I got up early put in the easiest miles I had on the trail the whole 14 days!! Then we went off to get Justin from where he would be leaving his vehicle for us to pick up again in 4 days. That journey was way shorter and easier in the vehicle than on our feet!
Resupply, real food, laundry, blueberry pancakes, then next morning dropped back off at the trailhead I left the day before to reconnect in same spot.
I promised Justin we would drop the kms per day once he joined me so we were 15ish to just over 20 per day. In the end the trail provided a little more manageable weather….warm but not crazy….no big storms…until we were headed in on our last 4 kms. The thunder and lightening started!! I said “For Real Mother Nature!!” I didn’t think I could find another gear but I did….it only spit on us as we came in. There were tears of joy to be done, tears of pride…..it took me a couple minutes to actually take my pack off at his vehicle. I am not quite sure why……
As disappointed as I was to not complete the whole trail I was mentally ready to be done….my body was beat up but could have done the whole thing if I willed it too and I gave myself a couple more days.
I have been asked if I would go back and do it again…..ummm….heck no!! Haha….actually there is so much more out there I want to do….but this was one I wanted to tackle as it was the inspiration for so many other things I want to take on!!
To sum it all up……I overcame a lot to get to Justin. And was grateful to have him with me in the last 4 days. Looking back I know the big days had their effect on the whole journey as it beat me up more than I would have been if I did not set such tight timelines for myself. Especially in the conditions.
My highlights came from stealth camping spots where I got to take in some of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen as well as the most amazing sunrise on my final morning on trail! Grateful for these moments the trail provided me!
Regrets….I don’t believe in them. Having one regret and changing even one thing would change the whole experience. And although it was tough and lessons learned……I look back and think….wow….that was tough…but I am tougher for it!!!
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