In 1998 my brothers and I set off on an end-to-end hike (a thru-hike) of the 271.1 mile Long Trail in Vermont. For the majority of the hike the three of us wore matching blue shirts, and we were nicknamed the blue crew :) It was an awesome adventure. On that 19-day backpacking trip I came to the conclusion that I would enjoy thru-hiking. Although I dreamed of an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike, I never could have imagined that 20 years after that first thru-hike I’d completer the triple crown of long-distance backpacking with the completion of the CDT (2018), PCT (2014), and AT (2013).
It’s funny to read through my journal entries from that 1998 thru-hike (below) and see how much I’ve learned and grown as a backpacker (and writer) since then, and how many things have stayed the same.
Tuesday, July 21, 1998: Day 1, 7.2 miles
We started the day at 1:05 pm from the junction of Journey’s End Trail with the road. We are carrying enough food for 5 days with a planned resupply on Sunday. Between us we have 30 lbs of food. Travis’ pack weighs 56 lbs, mine weighs 51 lbs, and Evan’s weighs 45 lbs.
There were two momentous events for the day…First, as we were starting out, we saw a moose crashing through the woods. Then, I went swimming in a mud puddle. I was covered in mud from head to foot. After 7.2 miles we arrived at Shooting Star Shelter where we are spending the night. We arrived at about 5 pm.
Wednesday July 22: Day 2, 13.2 miles
We woke up at 5:30 am, and we had a very poor nights sleep. There were high winds that ripped off a piece of the roof. Then, every gust folded it, and made a lot of noise. By 6:30 am we were on the trail. We arrived at Jay’s Peak, 5.6 miles later at 10:30 am. We continued on to Jay’s Loop for lunch at 12:00 and decided and decided to push through to Hazen’s Notch Camp. We were back on the trail by 12:30, then by 2, we were out of water. That sucked big time, especially in the 90 degree weather of the day. Finally, after climbing 2 mountains and going downhill for seemingly forever, we found a trickle of running water in the trail. We were all so thirsty we tried to filter it. Unfortunately, we only got half a quart because the filter didn’t work, and we thought that we’d be at the shelter any minute. That was at 4. At 5 we decided to try for water at another stream. The filter wasn’t working so we used iodine tabs and we each drank almost a quart of Gatorade. 15 minutes later, we finally got to the cabin. After a sponge bath in the stream, and some food I felt much better. The mashed potatoes are definitely a must, light weight, and good tasting.
Thursday July 23: Day 3, 5.2 miles
We woke up and it was raining so we decided to sleep late and hence got off to a late start. Then, hiking in the the rain, we decided not to go the full 13 miles and we just stopped when we got to the first shelter. So, we spent the night at Tillotson Camp, in the nice dry shelter. Since we arrived fairly early we played Rummy all afternoon. We also met Crazy Guy number one and two. Crazy Guy Number 1 lit our table on fire with his tin-can alcohol stove. And he had conversations with Crazy Guy #2 who kept complaining about his missing fork. Anyway, it was a busy night with lots of company at the camp. There were 6 other people there.
Friday July 24: Day 4, 17.6 miles
We started early this morning to avoid the crowds and had done 11 miles before lunch at 1pm. We got to the top of Bowen Mountain at around 4 and just sat enjoying the sun until Crazy Guy #1 showed up, and we sat there pretty much for 2 hours until he headed out again, then we made our way down to Corliss Camp, arriving at 6. We decided we didn’t want to deal with people, so we continued up Laraway Mountain, then we decided to camp just the other side of the mountain. So, we laid down the groundcloth, threw up the tarp, and crawled into our sleeping bags for the night.
Saturday July 25: Day 5, 15.9 miles
We are spending tonight at Whiteface shelter. Once again it was a beautiful sunny day. We started Whiteface at 2:45 and we got to the top at 5:00 pm. Despite the numerous people who told us we couldn’t do it. Bear Hollow was a beautiful shelter. I was particularly impressed with the spice rack :)
Sunday July 26: Day 6, 8.1 miles
We started out the morning climbing Madonna, and we played for a while on the ski lifts before meeting mom and dad at 9:30 am. We then spent a lazy day with mom and dad. We ate Filet Mignon and Ben + Jerry’s and I took a nap. Then, we were on the trail again at 4 pm to start climbing Mt. Mansfield. We are spending the night at Tafts Lodge, partly up the mountain. We are now known as the Blue Crew (due to blue t-shirts that the three of us wear).
Monday July 27: Day 7, 10.2 miles
We left Taft Lodge this morning after saying goodbye to Noble, Buddha, the girl from Wendell, and few others. They were all headed in the other direction, so, when we reached the top of Mansfield we had the ridge to ourselves. It was really, really nice. The only problem we had was that Evan’s platypus broke and soaked everything in his pack. Then we continued on to Puffer Lodge, where we are spending the night. We even spent an hour in the sun on Mt Mayo. We got here at 4, so we definitely have time to sit back and relax. It is nice to be resting in the sun on this, day 7.
– 6V Lithium Battery for my camera
– 2 more copies of all of the cloth maps…one for T and one for E
– Thermarester for T
Tuesday July 28: Day 8, 9.8 miles
Oops…I lost my pen…Bummer. It rained during the night last night, but luckily when we awoke it was just really misty. We climbed Bolton Mountain, but there weren’t any views because we were still in the clouds. It was neat watching the sun filter through the mist and the trees. Anyway, we arrived at Duck Brook Shelter at 1 pm, which is where we are going to spend the night. There is a stream here with cool waterfalls that we played in for a while. I fell much Fresher now. Relaxing in the sun once again. :) The funny story of the evening however came from a Canadian guy who shared the shelter with us. He had just been in to town for groceries and thought that he would sit back enjoy his food and a couple of beers that he had picked up in town. He took a sip of the beer, then spit it out. He had unwittingly purchased the nonalcoholic beer O’Doul’s.
Wednesday July 29: Day 9, 13.0 miles
We had a food drop this morning at Honey Hollow Rd. with our grandparents. Also we had to go an extra mile to the Banforth Ridge Trail because the trail was moved. Last night it poured and poured…and lucky us, the roof at Duck Brook leaked so I didn’t sleep very well. Luckily the rain stopped, and we had a gorgeous hike up Camel’s Hump with stellar views. It was a long hike though, 6.2 miles up the ridge. Tonight we are staying at MontClair Glen Lodge. It’s kind of a shitty lodge, but the caretaker never showed up, so we didn’t have to pay. PC Rabbit and Blue Turtle were there. PC Rabbit seemed to be a definite pessimist.
Quote of the day: “1946…is that the elevation or the year?”
Thursday July 30: Day 10, 17.6 miles
Argh…what a day!! We climbed 7 mountains today, and it rained for the last 4 hours. We started out climbing the Allens and then we slipped down the Burnt Rock Mt. It was just wet rocks at a very bad angle. Then, we met the Christian Camp at Cowles Cove. They were definitely very friendly, and all under 16. They do about 6 miles a day, we had already done that much. Anyway, hours and mountains later, we arrived here, at Castle Rock Chair Lifts Warming Hut. It’s very cool…it seems that they don’t lock the warming huts, and boy did it look inviting at 7, when we got here and got out of the pouring rain. The floor even has a rug…and we are the only ones here. It is quite nice compared to where we have been staying.
Warming Huts Rule!!!
Friday July 31: Day 11, 16.9 miles
We were lucky and had good weather but it still felt like a long day. We didn’t get to the shelter until 6:30ish. There were definitely some beautiful views and the trail was some of the best we’ve seen. I’m looking forward to the new [water] filter…I’m getting tired of the taste of iodine in my Gatorade. We are staying the night at Skyline Lodge, which has a beautiful view of Skylight Pond. My feet are definitely a little sore today.
Saturday August 1: Day 12, 9.6 miles
This morning we had our second major resupply. We hiked from 6:30am-8:30am, then met mom and dad. We went out and bought food, then went back to the campground for showers. It was a gorgeous day, and very hot. Anyway, we ate lots of good food…hamburgers, Ben+Jerry’s Ice Cream. Anyway, we spent a lot of time just relaxing until we went back to the trail at around 5:30. We are all feeling really good though because we are more than 1/2 way done, well fed, and well rested. We got here at Sucker Brook Shelter at about 7:30pm and sat back to enjoy our monstrous sandwiches. Now, it looks like we’ll enjoy the nice campfire they’ve built in front of the shelter while we play rummy.
Sunday August 2: Day 13, 25.7 miles
We saw a huge moose and we are staying at the Long Trail Inn. More later, maybe…my feet hurt and it’s 9:45 pm, so I’m tired. Anyway, the moose was huge…6-7 feet tall, and only 20 feet away. It was really funny because about an hour earlier this lady had been complaining about how she’d never seen a moose. The scenery was nice, but amazing to see the amount of damage from the ice storm in a few of the birch forests. The Inn was very nice, and we had great nachos, root beer, and beef stew. Yum Yum.
It was, however, a really rough day. According to the map all 25 miles were supposed to be flat, and not surprisingly they definitely were not. The other problem that we had was that we ran out of water, which was all the more painful because it was 90 degrees out, and there was a lake in view but out of reach all day.
Monday August 3: Day 14, 15.3 miles
We had a great big breakfast of pancakes this morning with real maple syrup, ham, and a couple of strawberries on the side. We were on the trail until 9:30-10 pm. We had fairly flat terrain all day. We also popped up to the top of Killington. Anyway, we’re spending the night at Clarenden Shelter, which is fairly crowded. There are a couple of AT southbounders and a bunch of LT northbounders. We’ve seen more people on the trails today than we’ve seen in the last few days combined.
Tuesday August 4: Day 15, 18.3 miles
We had a nice easy day…it was actually fairly nice and flat. We also hiked most of the day with SpinnerBait. Last night we were in a fairly packed shelter. There was even some lady reading out loud in the shelter last night until around 10:00pm…Argh! But we were at the shelter before 5. This morning some really nice people met us at the road with a bag of cookies for each of us. Then, later an old guy pulled his car off the road and waited just to chat with us. The people around here are really quite friendly. And Travis cooked carrot cake for dessert. It sure does look good. It was nice to have the shelter pretty much to ourselves. It was just Spinner and the 3 of us.
Wednesday August 5: Day 16, 17.3 miles
We hiked this morning with SpinnerBait, and we were amazed at how quickly we gained the mileage…we had finished out 9.6 miles this morning well before noon so we had to wait around for a while for grandpa. But, the rhubarb pie made it all worthwhile. We also saw Cliff and Lucy for a while.
Thursday August 6: Day 17, 18.3 miles
Stratton was fairly easy today. We buzzed through the mountains. There was a cool tower on top of Stratton though. At the top it started to rain, so we decided not to got down the chairlift. We got to the shelter and heard that 9 more people were headed this way. We decided to stay anyway because I was tired. We ended up sharing the shelter with 4 AT through hikers. They are a very friendly bunch. One of the hikers is diligently building a sculpture with some rocks out front, and a stick.
Friday August 7: Day 18, 17.4 miles
When we woke up this morning it was pouring, and none of us were too anxious to get started on our 17 mile day. Luckily the rain only lasted for a couple of hours. The fire tower on top of Glastenbery Mountain was neat. We didn’t get many good views though because of the rain and the clouds. Trav and Ev amused themselves by spitting towards each others packs from the top. Goddard Shelter was nice and had a good view.
Did I mention that Evan kept releasing air from my Thermarest last night that was kind of annoying. We are spending tonight at the Nauheim Shelter.
Saturday August 8: Day 19, 15.9 miles
We managed 2 miles/hour even up the darn stairs on either side of Route 9. Anyway, we decided to go all the way home after meeting mom and dad at the shelter. They brought us a chocolate cake. We also ended up being trail angels…we gave about 10 pounds of food to one of the through hikers. Then, we hiked with our parents to the border and shared a bottle of sparkling cider to celebrate the end of the Long Trail.
Total: 271.1 miles