Fast Lane

September 20, 2016

“Where am I? How do these covers work?” I wondered as I tugged at the thick comforter on the hotel bed. “Maybe this is another world from the trail, after all!”

Yesterday morning, light rain pattered on the tarp a couple of feet above my head. I pulled the down bag around me and snuggled back to sleep. “The rain was predicted to start around 3 a.m. so I have time to sleep some more before our final dawn walk to the border.”

A few minutes later John stirred, wondering what time it was. “6:05! The sky is getting light. Time to get up!” We would have slept in, delaying our arrival at the B&B at trail’s end where a shower and laundry beckoned.

It was indeed raining, although lightly, so we went ahead and fixed our morning oatmeal, pouring on the last two tablespoons of our maple syrup, and half of the remaining olive oil. “Save some for the tuna sandwiches!” It was time to finish our last section on this walk, judging by our diminishing food supply. Four dates, four ginger snaps, one pack of tuna, one small serving of mashed potatoes, five cloves of garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil were all that was left in the food bag.

Breaking camp took the usual 20 minutes, and we were off with 4.4 miles to walk to the end of the Long Trail. I savored the details of the forest and even the guesswork of maneuvering each step. Too soon, I knew, we’d be out of the woods.

A short two hours later we touched the “end of the trail” sign and emerged from the woods to the  cleared corridor that signified the U.S.-Canada border. We  chuckled at the frolicking blue jay as it wove back and forth over the imaginary blockade only we humans perceived. The bird made no meaning of the surveillance apparatus poised secretively a hundred yards up the corridor, its glass eye aimed at the celebratory obelisk of our accomplishment. We posed in our victory stance and snapped our photos.

Not quite ready to leave, we spread out our cooking gear and prepared the very last food items – oil roasted garlic, tuna, and basil on exactly four slices of sourdough bread – two full slices and two heels. It was, of course, the best repast ever! Oh yes, that small serving of mashed potatoes topped off the celebration. Now, we truly had no more food. 

As we were finishing up, two other hikers arrived. We had met Mike and Austin the night before last at Hazens Camp where six of us had shared the four-bunk cabin during the rainy night.

“Congratulations on finishing thw whole trail!” Mike said, as he took our monument  photo. I always like it when someone will take our team shots, instead of relying on my awkward selfies! “What’s next?” 

“We’re going into North Troy to stay at the B&B and get a ride to Burlington tomorrow morning – at 3:30.”

“We’re going to Burlington now! We could give you a ride there today!”

And that’s why I’m in a Ramada Inn in Watertown, NY, waking up feeling disoriented! We rented a red Toyota Corolla at the Burlington airport and drove through the Adirondacks, part way to Buffalo where our van is parked at my sister’s place. Just like that, without even getting a shower or doing laundry! 

Maybe the trail and the city are two worlds. I’m grateful to be blessed with both!

In joy,

Regina

Creative tarp raising for our last night

Long Trail’s northern terminus

Delightful Details of Another World

Verrry Close

September 18, 2016

We stopped at 6:35 p.m. when we reached the Shooting Star Camp, the northernmost shelter on the Long Trail, just 4.4 miles from the northern terminus. We had talked about pushing on in the dark to the end, but agreed that the risk and slowness of night walking in this rocky terrain outweighed the appeal of getting to the finish line tonight.

This was a fun day! At last I have become neutral about whether the path goes up or down, whether there are rocks, boulders, roots, water, or mud, whether I’m maneuvering down ribbed ledges of mossy rock or gingerly stepping on slippery ladders of roots.

The anticipated rain storm filled the night with pelting rain and wind as we slept quiet and dry in the Hazens Camp cabin. The other four hikers sharing the four bunks with us were congenial, bedding down with us by 9 p.m., quiet except for the one snorer.

By 7 a.m. the rain had stopped, so we left at the tolerably late time of 7:30. We had cooked and eaten our oatmeal breakfast which we usually eat on the trail, so that half hour of rest time was eliminated.

Although the rain was predicted  to return about 2 this afternoon, the sky cleared instead. We walked all day with no more rain, and in warmer temperatures than expected as well. The cold, wet day we had dreaded failed to materialize!

At 11:09 a.m. we reached the road that marked 11.9 miles to the end of the trail! A few minutes after 1 p.m. we reached Jay Peak, the mountain we had been anticipating for the past two weeks from way down at Killington Peak, 150 miles ago! Jay would be our last high peak, at 3985 ft. What a treat awaited us there, as the ski lodge was open, including the grill! We feasted on a pulled pork sandwich and refillable coffee, bonus food to supplement what we were carrying! What a strange contrast it was to our slow climb of the mountain to meet people in flipflops who had come up the mountain in the tram!

By the time we were ready to leave the warm lodge, the clouds were clearing and we got a good view of our next mountains – Doll Peak and Carlton. 10.1 miles to go!

Those last 4 hours walking off the trail from 10 miles left to 4.4 melted away, even though there were plenty of obstacles, which we now humorously call “tricks,” meeting each one with gradings of difficulty, like judges in an obstacle course. The biggest change in the trail today was that last night’s rain had turned a lot of the trail into a stream!  Sometimes we literally were ascending thin waterfalls as water naturally found the rocky trail to be the easiest drainage down the mountain.

I was curious when John seemed focused on taking a snack break on Doll Peak, an hour or so after we had left the Jay Peak Lodge. “Let’s get something from your bag!” he said. I opened my food bag and found a PayDay candy bar – something I had not put there! “Wow! Where did this come from?” John had surprised me with an extra snack, a welcome treat for this hungry hiker! I laughed at how easy it is to light me up – with food!

Those extra calories lightened my steps for the rest of our “gymnastics” on the trail to this, our last night out on the trail.

What a summer we’ve had, walking from June 3rd to July 6th from Rockfish Gap, VA to Delaware Water Gap, PA, from August 9 to September 5 from Delaware Water Gap to Killington, VT, and now from September 6 to September 19 from Killington to Canada. I haven’t added up the miles, but it’s close to 1,000! I guess I got what I want, didn’t I – a hiking lifestyle!

I love reading your comments! The comments function on this website is not working, though, so please send me your responses, questions, and stories by email to me at:

regina@forgivenesswalks.com

Thanks!

Regina

7 a.m. Jay Peak is 7 miles away

1 p.m. Jay Peak Summit!

Countdown

September 17, 2016

9 a.m. 26 miles to go! 

Yesterday evening, we reached our goal, the Spruce Peak Shelter. It was a nice shelter, but it was only 5:00 p.m.! There were still two hours of light. We kept going.

First, through Devil’s Gulch, a short scramble through huge craggy boulders covered with ferns. I was glad we were exploring that as an evening activity rather than first thing in the morning. 

We kept walking. The trouble was that the trail skirted the side of a mountain, so no flat spots for tenting were available. “There’s one” would reveal lumps and bumps on closer inspection. Another quarter mile. Now, the trail headed straight up the mountain on narrow stone steps, up and up to Ritterbush Overlook. Now, we’d gone another full mile and darkness was soon to arrive. The trail leveled out. Yay! A decent spot appeared, but John had already moved on. Keep going. Another hundred yards, and John says, “Here’s a spot.” It was a very good spot – flat, with two trees for tying the tarp, and off the trail down an old road about twenty feet. Yes! It was a good spot! We had walked 17.3 miles too! 30.1 miles from Canada!

We almost slept in this morning in our comfy spot. We were surprised it was already 5:55 when we noticed that the sky was getting light. We packed up quickly and got on the trail by 6:30, an impressive start!

And that got us up to our 9 a.m. milemarker – just 26 miles to go from Mt. Belvidere.

Mt. Belvidere provided a view of Jay Peak, our last high mountain. We’re making good time. Yesterday, the trail was mild – we even walked rather than constantly scrambling on rocks!

View of Jay Peak from Mt. Belvidere

We were enjoying our morning oatmeal when another hiker appeared at the Mt. Belvidere summit. As we talked, I rejoiced in another happy synchronicity of the trail – getting just what I need at just the right time from a surprising source! I had asked Suzie, the other hiker, “How did you get to the trail to start?” She answered, “The owner of North Troy Inn works in Burlington, so he gives guests a ride. I flew into the airport, rode to North Troy with him and stayed overnight.” 

Bingo! That’s a perfect answer for our quandary about how to get away from the trail. Later, we called and made a reservation to spend Monday at the Inn. Our ride to Burlington, where we can get to Enterprise car rental, will leave Tuesday morning – at 3:30 a.m.!

Now, it’s 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and we chose a bunk in the Hazen’s Notch Canp shelter to be out of the predicted rain storm. Even though staying in shelters, usually crowded and noisy, isn’t our favorite sleeping choice, we like the idea of a dry place. 

We’re in a really good position to finish the Long Trail with just 17.6 miles to go! We can do it all tomorrow – if the weather and terrain are congenial. Or, we can go 12 or 13 miles tomorrow, then finish up on Monday. Either way, we have a room at North Troy Inn where we can  clean up and begin our transition back to urban life!

Canada 17.4

Devil’s Gulch boulders and ferns

Corliss Camp Shelter

Final 50

September 15, 2016

Johnson, VT 5:22 p.m.

We are finishing up a fantastically successful resupply stop in Johnson. The last two days have been challenging for me. That rain we missed on Mt. Mansfield slowed us down – and made me colder than I like to be.

There’s an existential question in that for me about my limits between comfort and survival, speed and observation. I’m still exploring that, and will keep it til later.

For now, we’re heading out again – without an overnight in town, proving my mettle in laundryfree living, for the last 50 miles on the Long Trail.

I may not be posting much, but you can be sure that I’ll be climbing rocks and maneuvering mud puddles on our way to Journey’s End, the name of the northernmost shelter on this trail.

Then, we’ll create a way to get to Burlington, VT to rent a car to drive to Buffalo, NY where we left our van. We’re happy to receive a pickup or shuttle idea if you know of someone in northern Vermont who would like to pick us up near Jay, Vermont, probably next Tuesday, September 20 morning.

(Txt me at 678-938-2075) if you have a  contact for me!)

Here we go!

By the way, we slept last night in the warming hut on Mt. Madonna, 3900 ft elevation. Gratitude fills me for the ski slope folks for leaving it open for hikers! Beautiful sunrise this morning!

In joy, 

Regina

Mt. Madonna, VT Sunrise

Hiker Friends

September 12, 2016

“Hiker Friends, we need a hiker friend, to pick us up at this trailhead and take us to town.”

That’s my new thought when I have to hitch a ride into town for resupply. I accept that most of the drivers passing us by don’t know anything about the Long Trail and why backpackers would be hitching a ride. I pass by all the self-hating things they could be thinking about me. They are not who I am signalling with my thumb.

I’m signalling one of the Hiker Friends, who know that long distance hikers need a ride into town every few days. 

And here they are! A car pulls over. The driver hops out and coaxes the dog to the back, puts up the back seat. His wife smooths a cover over the seat, apologizing for the dog hair. Our backpacks go quickly into the back stowage and we’re off.

“I hiked the Long Trail a few years ago,” he says. Yep. He gets us! He’s our Hiker Friend. Waterbury, here we come!

In joy,

Regina

Moonlit Mansfield

September 13, 2016

The Forehead on Mt. Mansfield, 6:21 pm

It’9 p.m. and I’m standing on the highest point of Vermont. No, really! I climbed Mt. Mansfield, the highpoint of Vermont, at night! 
We reached the first peak, The Forehead, at 6:21, just as the sun was setting. The almost full moon was up. Happily, we had made it that far in daylight. Some of those obstacles had challenged my agility greatly. Leaning ladders, a slot called Eye of the Needle, an oblong and rounded boulder squeeze, things like that. 

The moon lit up the slope for the last half-mile easy slab walk up the final knob called The Chin. We kept our headlamps off and picked our way over the gray rocks. I kept thinking, “This should be scary and forbidding, but it’s actually very thrilling and not even so hard! What a neat thing to do!”

My heart sings tonight, gratitude filling me as I live into my New Story that my amazing body climbs mountains whenever I want!

In joy,

Regina

P.S. Our reason for summiting Mansfield last night was just validated! 8:25 a.m. the predicted rain just started! Ooh! It’s pouring! Instead of fretting a dangerous traverse of the mountain, we are dry and warm in Taft Lodge, on the north side of the mountain. Yay!

I am in awe of John’s attention to the fine points of strategic planning. Yesterday, even though the sky was perfectly clear, he heard a clue in another hiker’s conversation about “today” being a good day. He checked the weather forecast and saw 100% chance of rain for this morning. 

At 1 p.m. he proposed that we go ahead o er the mountain instead of stopping at dusk at the shelter on the south side. That would give us 7 more miles to walk, including the 3-mile summit traverse after dark. We did it!

Intown Ingenuity

September 12, 2106

I bought a backpack in Waterbury. It’s very cool, emblazoned with “I ♡ 1 Direction” and a photo of the boyband. “Whaaat?” you say!

Actually, it’s perfect…….because…

It has a zipper! My pouch needs a new zipper, and this backpack has a good one. I can cut it out and use it. And it only cost one dollar at the Bargain Boutique in Waterbury.

With my tiny swiss army knife scissors, stashed needle, and multi-purpose dental floss, I can switch out the failing zipper in my pouch.

Well, sorry boys, you are  not coming along, but glad you had a zipper I could use.

I ♡ 1 Direction

Camel’s Hump

September 11,2016

My New Story that my amazing body takes me up stunningly beautiful mountains whenever I want helped me fulfill a wonderful accomplishment today!

We kept going past the Montclair Shelter, a good stopping point for a comfortably short day, to Camel’s Hump!

Tricky rock climbs, slabs, and straight-up trail made our approach up the 4,080 feet to a windy, cold summit.

But…

Wow! What a place!

360 degree view, perfect visibility, and even a siting of a surprise mammal, perhaps a flying squirrel.

Hurray for belieiving in my body!!!

Camel’s Hump!

Rain 

September 11, 2016

First, I remember the World Trade Centers. May all the significance of that day be sanctified and elevated to its spiritual clarity, in perfect timing.

Now, for my current story. It’s 6 a.m. Thunder rumbles in the distance. The severe weather that motivated us to choose yesterday’s early stop at the Birch Glen Shelter has finally arrived.

I have no idea how many hikers are bedded down in this structure. After we had gone to bed, granted 7 p.m. is early, two college orientation groups of 8-10 hikers arrived!
They were graciously quiet, except for their clumping boots. It was a remarkably quiet night! Apparently, college freshmen sleep through the night!

It’s now 7:48, the rain is pelting down and it’s still quiet in here. I’ve got to get up soon! We have a big day planned, up to 13 miles, including Camel’s Hump, one of the five 4000-footers on the trail.

8:30 Everyone is up. WIell, everyone but Henry, one of us four Long Trail hikers over eighteen. I just counted the hikers from the two groups who crowded in last night – 11.

That makes 15 people in the shelter with four double bunks! Good thing, Birch Glen Shelter has two rooms! Hikers were packed in all over! I was so thrilled that everyone was quiet. I slept way better than I thought I would!

9 a.m. we’re out the door and the rain has stopped. A little apprehensive that the trail – and the rocks will be wet and slippery.

But, it’s warm and we’re off to Camel’s Hump!

Amazing Body

September 10, 2016

It’s hard for me to admit and write about my Old Stories, those beliefs that could sabotage  my outer journey and yet open gateways to my inner journey. I’m up for walking my walktalk, so here goes!

Yesterday, we walked 11 1/2 hours through dense forest, up some steep and rocky mountains. 14 miles was enough – a big day. But, I was fine! We had reached our destination, Battell Shelter. We knew it had a caretaker, and we had heard that another  couple had already taken space in the shelter. No problem, we would tent nearby.

The caretaker started explaining that in shelters above 3200 feet elevation, no one may tent in the fragile high forest until the shelter is full. Full means having at least eight people, not just two with their gear spread out over the whole thing. We would have to join the others in the shelter  – and pay the $5 per person fee for having a caretaker.

We wanted to tent, get some sleep, and be ready for tomorrow’s summit of our first 4,000 footer.

John waited next to the shelter, pack still on. I unloaded, put the cooking pot on the table, where the others had cleared  a space,  and settled in to a social evening of shelter life.

I made a final stab at getting something I wanted. “Can I get half-price camping with my Senior Discount Pass, since this is a US Forest Service facility?”

“You can contact the Green Mountain Club about that. I haven’t heard of it.” The caretaker replied.

Meanwhile, John had moved to a space on the ground nearby, laying out dinner food packages. I took out one of my two bills, a ten.

I went over to pick up the noodles and tuna from John. “I don’t want to stay here,” he muttered. That motivated me. Time for action! That’s where my Old Story kicks in – “Keep moving, even when you’re tired! Give him what he wants, doesn’t matter what you want.”

Without speaking, I packed up. I said to the caretaker, “I made a mistake. We’re not staying. I’ll take that $10 back.” He explained in detail where we could camp next – a viewing platform at the ski lift 1.7 miles up Mt. Abraham.

I walked with determination. We literally climbed straight up for an hour and a half. I was sure my body would give out, ankle or knees. Or I would collapse from hunger. I believed I had to prove to John that fulfilling his need to avoid social discomfort would hurt me more.

Well, it didn’t. My Old Story was not true. My amazing body got up there just fine! We summited a gorgeous mountain before sunset. The view was spectacular! 

The platform was challenging to set up on, but private, free, and almost two miles further along!
My amazing body had walked 15.8 miles of mountain that day! I didn’t collapse or starve or anything bad. Guess I’ll need a new beleief about myself, like “I have an amazing body that can take me to stunningly beautiful mountaintops whenever I want to go!”

Do you have an Old Story that pops up in challenging situations that could have a New Story or belief? Let me know and I can help.

View from Abe Peak