Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Long Trail: Day #1

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  ~ John Muir

Long Trail, VERMONT -- I don't exactly recall when the he idea to 'end-to-end' the Long Trail (LT) was born?  All I know is that since the seed was planted in my mind I have thought about little else.  At 272 miles, the Long Trail is the country's oldest long-distance hiking path and was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail.  I'm only a recreational hiker and have never backpacked yet in the summer of 2011 I'll set off from the MA-VT border and head north to Canada with my buddy Jay, a support team, and an unfulfilled dream.  This past weekend Jay, Karen, and I spent two days on the LT and covered 30 miles in an attempt to see the path firsthand and begin the long slow process of gaining backpacking experience. 
Friday afternoon, on our way to our northernmost car drop, we met Jay at EMS in Concord.  We had stopped to pick up a few last minute items including a UV water treatment system, the SteriPEN.  Having done a little research it seemed to me that UV was one of the lightest and fastest systems on the market.  Funny how a "few last minute items" at EMS almost always adds up to $150.  And in true Jim Dunn-like cooincidence we ran into teammate Mike Sallade who was browsing EMS during a break from work.  We arrived at the LT parking area on VT125 around 5:00 pm, transferred Jay's gear to my car, and headed back down VT100 to grab dinner at the Long Trail Brewery.  The plan was to grab dinner and then hike the 1.4 miles in to Tucker-Johnson shelter for the night.  Sometimes the best laid plans go awry.  Little did I know that the brewery's kitchen closed at 6:00 pm.  We didn't arrive until nearly 6:30 pm but the waitstaff was kind enough to recommend a pizza joint down the road.  Ramunto's Brick & Brew Pizza was a great little find.  Turns out they've got live music on Friday night and one of the most extensive speciality pizza menu's I've ever seen.  And, among the nearly dozen beers on tap they had Long Trail!  The downside was that the music, pizza, beer, and conversation were far more interesting that the final packing and hiking we had planned for the evening.  Somewhere between the wings and the last round of beers we decided to camp in the parking lot on VT4.  We would head out of Sherburne Pass in the morning on our way to Sunrise shelter...our first 19 miles on the LT.
Without any backpacking experience getting ready on Saturday morning seemed to take forever.  That was, however, no fault of my new JetBoil personal cooking system.  Two minutes to boil 2 cups of water was amazing.  We all ate our own doctored version of quick-oats with me opting for the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, walnuts, and dates version.  Washing it down with Starbucks VIA instant coffee we were ready to roll.  The first few hours on the trail were a mix of excitement and a stark realization that the Vermont wilderness is vast...beautiful, but vast.  With the exception of the ever present mud, the trail was pretty easy for those early miles.  The trail was pretty easy (minimal roots and rocks) and the elevation change modest.  Making good time we stopped for lunch around 1:00 pm and refilled our hydration bladders at David Logan shelter.  The shelter system on the LT is really impressive.  On the 19 mile stretch of trail we hiked that first day there were no fewer than four shelters all providing enough floor/bunk space for at least 8-10 hikers.  And each of them had a water source (marked) in very close proximity.  Two of them even had privy's!  We contoured for the most of the rest of the afternoon around Mt. Carmel (3365'), Bloodroot Mountain (3485'), and Farr Peak  (3522') arriving at Sunrise shelter by 5:30 pm. 

Because we hadn't seen more than a few other hikers all day we expected to have the shelter to ourselves but when we arrived we found that two end-to-enders had already arrived and set up camp.  In a way, it was actually a blessing.  The two young folks had been on the trail for 14 days as they trekked south.  We chatted with them watching how they moved around the campsite with incredible economy and purpose.  We broke down our packs and set up our sleeping arrangements.  Although overcast with the threat of rain, knowing I would be out of the elements I decided to use my Sierra Design bivy and a sleeping pad.  The next adventure was dinner.  I'm pretty finicky so the thought of freeze dried food from a bag was not terribly appealing.  Hunger has a funny way of changing one's perspective.  Within 15 minutes Karen and I were enjoying our first 'dinner in a bag'.  I hate to admit it but the Mountain House terriayki chicken was fantastic.  After dinner Jay and I made water filling our hydration bladders and an additional 4 liters for breakfast the following morning.  By the time we made it back to camp our end-to-end mates were already racked.  Noteworthy because at 7:30 pm the sun had yet to set.  I wrapped up some last minute business while Jay tended to his feet with some good old fashion backcountry surgery (see above).  Despite a couple of blisters and some aching knees the three of us fared pretty well on Day #1.  Jay was a great trail leader keeping a strong and steady pace all day while being ever mindful to keep the group together.  Karen was predictably rock solid keeping up with Jay & I despite the unfamiliar weight of her pack and the slippery muddy mess of a trail we negotiated for most of the day.  As we closed our eyes we all eagerly anticipated what lay ahead on Day #2.

To be continued...

Sherburne Pass (VT4) to Sunrise shelter
19 miles (1929' elevation gained) in 8:39 minutes (moving time).

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome! Stoked you're hiking the LT next year! You'll have a blast. That being said, you're carrying too much. I don't know what's in your pack, but I'm certain it's too much. We need to talk.