Thowback Thru-Hike: The Long Trail (1998)


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).

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New England’s 4000 Footers

Mt. Katahdin, October 3, 2013

Mt. Katahdin, Maine: October 3, 2013

New England’s 4000-footers showcase some of the most rugged trails and most spectacular views in the Northeast! So far, I’ve climbed 14/14 Maine 4000 footers, 35/48 New Hampshire 4000 footers, and 5/5 Vermont 4000 footers. As I continue hiking the peaks of the Northeast, I will post the links and pictures from my 4000 footer adventures here! If you have any questions about which mountains, trails, and hikes are my favorites, or if you have suggestions about additional information you’d like me to share, please leave a comment below!

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Bog Logs (112-116)


One of the things that I’ve noticed about New England is that there is a lot more water here (More streams, more creeks, more lakes, more ponds, and more swamps) than in other parts of the trail. All of this means that there has been a lot more mud on the trail, and that there are a lot more bog logs.

Bog logs are planks, either split logs or 2x8s, that have cross supports under them and span the muddy/swampy areas and at least theoretically keep us out of some of the muck. This sounds like a good thing, at least in theory, but all that moisture means that the logs get covered in slippery algae and that they deteriorate and decay quickly.

I am always extremely cautious when I approach a section of trail covered with bog logs. It is unnerving to see the evidence of past mishaps where the boards are cracked or broken…

I was hiking through one of those sections with a couple of other thru-hikers (Snacks and Lady Mac). As the person in front of me crossed each set of bog logs I would stop and wait until they were completely off of each bog log before I stepped onto it. I definitely didn’t trust the logs to hold the weight of two people at once.

As the person in front of me stepped off of the next bog log I stepped forward towards the bog log and was hit with blinding pain and began to fall. There was no log beneath my foot to step on… I managed to catch myself with my poles and evaded a plunge into the swamp, but the pain in my leg was so intense that I couldn’t think straight. The person in front of me turned back and asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t get my brain to formulate words yet. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then again before finally choking out, “I will be”.

The person in front of me had stepped off of the very edge of the board, the wood around the nails holding the other end of the board down had rotted out, and the board popped up like a seesaw around it’s pivot point. All of this was timed perfectly so that my shin (right above my ankle) with all of my body’s forward momentum behind it collided with the end of the 2×8 as it popped up.

Eventually my words came back to me and I explained what had happened to Snacks and Lady Mac. I let them hike ahead of me and hobbled after them. Ow! I was surprised by how much it hurt. As I hiked the limp went away. I was relieved since that meant that there wasn’t any structural damage that would prevent me from continuing with my hike, but dang did it hurt.

After a while I stopped to look at my poor shin to assess the damage. I was surprised to see that it was bleeding, but even more surprised to see a tennis ball sized egg forming on my leg. Damn, I took some ibuprofen and wished I had a way to ice my leg. There isn’t much ice on the trail, but sometimes I soak things in the chilly water of streams and creeks, so I started looking for a good stream to soak my leg in.


The first stream I came to looked pretty yucky. Since I was bleeding I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of infection to put my poor leg into that water. A few minutes later we came to a parking lot with an RV in it and a couple of people sitting outside of it. I wandered over and asked them if they had any ice.

Lucky for me they had a bag of frozen peas that I promptly put onto my shin as I plopped down on the ground beside my soon-to-be new friends. As I iced my shin for the requisite 15 minutes I chatted with the group at the RV. They were a group of southbound thru-hikers from England along with their support crew. After a nice cup of tea I was ready to hit the trail as good as new.


Well, almost as good as new. Mostly I was just thankful that I’d gotten a chance to ice it and that I could still hike!

Extra credit: A 150 pound hiker with a 35 pound pack is hiking at 2 miles per hour when he steps onto the end of a 12 foot long 2×8 plank approximately 1 foot away from it’s pivot point. A second hiker (145 pounds with a 35 pound pack) traveling at 2 miles an hour steps forward and into the rising edge of the 2×8 plank. What is the force of impact associated with the collision of the hikers shin and the 2×8 plank?


The Beginning (Days108-111)


People are always asking me when I decided that I wanted to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Until recently I’ve said that I grew up hiking and backpacking and have always wanted to hike the AT. As I approached the final section of the AT in Massachusetts and the start of the AT in Vermont I realized that that wasn’t exactly true… There definitely was a start, a beginning, a place, and a time when the dream of hiking the entire AT was born.

It was right there… The trail I was walking on was the trail that gave birth to that dream. It was the first backpacking trip that I went on with my family when I was 11 years old. We hiked from Massachusetts all the way into Vermont and it was awesome.

One of my strongest memories was of sitting around the campfire and sharing a meal and stories with a couple of thru-hikers. I was entranced by their stories and in awe of the fact that these people had walked all the way from Georgia to sit at a campfire in Vermont with me. It was unimaginably cool that you could spend that much time in the woods and survive!

Walking along the trail in southern Vermont felt like walking through a land of memories. Not only was my first backpacking trip in Vermont, but my first long distance trek was also in Vermont. In 1998 I hiked the long trail from end-to-end with my brothers.

Having my brother and his wife meet me and hike across the Vermont border meant that by the time I finished hiking through Massachusetts I’d gotten the chance to hike with all of my immediate family. It was a great way to go through my home state.

My brother’s feet weren’t quite as used to hiking 20+ mile days, but after a little doctoring he wasn’t any worse for the wear.