A perfect day on The Long Trail.
By Rosie Enos of Roam the Woods
The Long Trail is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United Statesand was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. At 273 miles long it spans from the Massachusetts-Vermont state line to the border of Canada climbing over some of Vermont’s highest peaks in the process. Hardwood forests, flowing creeks, alpine bogs, and rocky ridgelines are all found along this foot path. Check out: www.greenmountainclub.org for more information on The Long Trail.
It was a lofty enterprise that encompassed 273 miles, one Alaskan Husky, two slightly out of shape long distance hikers and a tight timeline, 21 days. One of the goals was to see if this trip could be accomplished straight from ‘couch to trail’- to get an idea of what thru-hiking the Long Trail would be like for the average person with little physical preparation. The end result of this Long Trail adventure ended almost before it begin, 54.4 miles in, 4 full days of hiking, 4 nights of good sleep, 8 sore feet, some long hours in the rain, an impromptu night hike, one particularly drenched porcupine, countless ascents and descents (known by many as p.u.d.s., pointless ups and downs), sunrises, sunsets, and one husky, named Trinity, with one particularly sore foot. Trinity thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007 and 2008, so she has quite a few miles under her collar! We definitely thought the humans would be the weak link in the equation.
We had no intentions of cutting our trip short, but decided with our stringent time line we couldn’t finish without exacerbating Trinity’s injury. Our finish was not quite the finish we had expected inCanada, but still a true adventure.
Trinity and Half Brew at the Goddard Shelter
Yes, you guessed it ‘couch to trail’ is hard but not impossible! It will make for a more enjoyable adventure, especially at the beginning of your trip, if you are in good physical condition. In most cases, unless you are preparing for a very intense expedition- daily walks around your neighborhood will be a good starting point. Make sure you are increasing your mileage on these walks every so often. A couple weeks before the hike, load up your backpack, with all of your gear while you are out for your daily walks, to get comfortable with loading, unloading and adjusting your pack. You will be able to work out most of the kinks this way and get used to carrying a load on your back.
Know what the terrain is going to be like, and adjust mileage accordingly! Get a guidebook and topographical map of the area to familiarize yourself with your trip before you set foot on the trail. The average backpacker covers 2 miles per hour dependent on the elevation gain, add one half-hour per 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Your pace will likely vary from these times, but they are a good guideline to use while planning. Set manageable goals for yourself, do some practice hikes, if possible, in terrain similar to the area where you will be hiking. Educate yourself, so you can create a flexible and manageable itinerary for your trip. Things do change while backpacking due to unforeseen weather or other circumstances that can alter plans, so while backpacking you have to be flexible. Success sometimes is not the end goal foreseen before hitting the trail.
Trinity relaxing on the trail
Thinking about bringing your best friend along? Dogs are amazingly adaptive animals, with that being said Spot should get some exercise before the big adventure and will be a great pre-hike motivator. Bringing a dog along provides its own set of challenges and rewards. In your pre-hike research please make sure the area you will be hiking in allows dogs. Be aware of the terrain you will encounter: are there steep scrambles or ladders you will have to climb over, that would hinder a dog? Do you have enough experience in this environment to keep your dog safe as well as yourself? These are some questions you should ask yourself before committing to a trip with your furry friend.
Please keep your dog leashed at all appropriate times. Yes, I know this is vague but it may depend on your dog. If your dog is well behaved on trail, at your heels, responds to voice command and will not go trouncing about cornering wildlife, beg or intimidate other hikers, then by all means allow them to go un-leashed. Be aware of leash laws in the wilderness area you will be traveling in. Always leash dogs near busy roads, parking lots, high use areas, or when enticing wildlife appears.
Trinity carries her own pack on trail that means she carries her own dog food, a few tuna packets or other “treats”, sleeping pad, meds, a small plastic water bowl, and a collapsible food bowl. For the Long Trail hike she also carried a light weight pair of pliers in case of a porcupine encounter. Dog packs are essentially saddlebags, make it easier on your dog by making sure these are balanced weight wise.
Just as your caloric needs will go up on an extended hike so will your dogs. Make sure you always have something you know they will eat- packs of tuna and powdered chicken gravy packets can go a long way to entice your dog to eat. Be aware of how your dog is feeling. Since they can’t tell you if something is wrong, it becomes essential to be attentive to changes in your dog’s behavior on an extended hike. Pay attention to these red flags: prolonged lack of appetite, change in your dog’s gait, changes in your dog’s personality and attitude. Be aware it will probably take a couple of days for your dog to adjust to life on the trail. Pack for your dog as you would for yourself on a backpacking trip, so you do not forget any essential or incidental gear—i.e. some working hands cream for your dogs paw pads in your first aid kit might not hurt. Remember not all dogs will be hiking dogs, so be aware of what your best friend’s true needs are!
Have fun and be responsible hiking with your best friend.
Rosie Enos is a long distance backpacker, dog sled musher, co-owner and guide for Roam the Woods, a U.S. company dedicated to empowering women to get outside. She tells of her recent and brief but no less awe-inspiring trip on the Long Trail in Vermont.