A guest post by Ace
Let me start by saying I am happy to have hiked the Long Trail, grateful my feet held up, and that we both finished the trail injury-free. But (there is always a but), the Long Trail’s Yelp review will only get 3 out of 5 stars. It is highly recommended for hikers who like mud, roots, walking in trees and humidity. For hikers who prefer switchbacks, more views, and dry weather, you might want to try your luck elsewhere.
In all seriousness, hiking this trail made me appreciate it for what it is and made me appreciate other trails and areas I’ve already had the good fortune of exploring.
Some of the positives include:
- The trail’s history. The Long Trail is the first long distance trail created in the U.S. and its footpath traverses over the Green Mountains of Vermont. After hiking this trail I now have a better understanding of why Vermonters have a deep sense of pride for this trail and their mountains. I still don’t understand the “flat landers” reference though.
- Having the opportunity to hike 104 miles of trail that are coincident with the Appalachian Trail (AT) was cool. It gave me a very limited taste of the culture of that trail.
- Having shelters along the trail to serve as points of interest, a lunch spot, or as shelter during bad weather was a nice amenity you don’t experience in the west.
- The people. We saw more hikers on our first day of hiking the Long Trail than we did in the entirety of our Continental Divide Trail hike last year.
- The availability of water on this hike was a luxury. For the duration of the trail we never had to worry about our next water source or carry large loads of water.
- Resupplying couldn’t have been easier with town stops frequent enough to prevent more than a 4-day food carry. Plus, the accommodations in town were all very hiker friendly. I’d give the services on the trail 5 stars!
The negatives include:
- The scenery of the Long Trail can be monochromatic, consisting of forest walking with limited views. This was especially true on the southern part of the trail, my least favorite section.
- On the flip side, the canopy of trees was so dense it would protect us from rain during a rainstorm. No rain jacket needed. Thank goodness because although the rain would be a nice reprieve from the humidity it was still too warm to wear a coat. So, thank you trees for serving as nature’s umbrella.
- The East Coast is humid. Blech! You sweat your weight in water every day. Nothing dries and you and your belongings just feel sticky all the time.
- To make matters worse, this moisture helps feed the fire that is the stench coming off your clothes, socks, and backpack. Good thing I had my Sun Bum sunscreen stick. I didn’t need it to protect myself from the sun. Ha! There is no way the sun could break through the trees. Rather, the Sun Bum was better used to mask other odors emanating from my body. I was so over smelling sticky, stinky, musty, and vinegary that I actually considered applying the sunscreen just to smell piña coladas instead. I mean, why else was I carrying it if not to use it?
- The mud on the trail was relentless. Not much else needs to be said. Mud sucks.
The overall condition of this trail is both a positive and negative in my opinion. As Mountain Man articulated in his recent post, being the first long distance trail is cool and all but after years of use, better, more sustainable trail construction should be considered.
The terrain is too challenging to hike at your normal speed which can be humbling and infuriating. Hiking this trail also requires consistent mental and physical energy for the entirety of time you are hiking. It can be doubly tiring. This is not a trail where you can zone out. I had to think about every step to avoid any slip, trip, or fall which could result in injury. However, this same challenging terrain can also be really fun. Scrambling up and down granite boulders and ladders helped break up the monotony of the trail’s mud, roots, and tree canopies.
I was nervous starting this trail, knowing full well it would embody Northeast hiking in all its glory. It’s one of the many reasons I am glad we had my final four 46er shakedown hike right before we started this one. It helped level-set my expectations and reminded me why I have a love/hate relationship with hiking in this region. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize my hiking woes are the epitome of first world problems. I know how lucky I am to be out here and I always appreciate the sense of accomplishment I have when I finish. However, I am typically more happy it’s over rather than sad.
As we sat at the northern terminus of the Long Trail, Mountain Man asked for my thoughts about our latest adventure. What I said at that time closely mirrors what I say above. Even after a few days off trail my Yelp review remains the same. 3 stars it is! On to the next.