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[at-l] Long Trail Journal (long)

Hi all,

Here's my journal from my recent, two week, hike on the Long Trail.
It's not very philosophical (mostly talks about my knees), but some of
you may enjoy it!

-- Jim

Long Trail Journal
Jim Mayer
Canada to Killington
9/20/2002 through 10/3/2002

Friday, 11/27/2002

I've been on the trail since Saturday morning, so this is my seventh day
hiking.  Mostly, so far, I've been pushing myself fairly hard and
getting into shelters just before dark.  My knees have been bothering me
and I just haven't felt like keeping a journal.  Today, though,
partially thanks to hurricane Isadore, I'm mostly taking a day off.

I'll get the numbers and shelter stops down quickly, and will then move
onto whatever impressions I can piece together.

[Note: I've extended this table to cover my entire time on the trail -

-=09-=09-=09-=09Journey's End parking lot
1=0913.1=098am=09?=09Jay Camp
2=0911.8=097am=096pm=09Tillotson Camp
3=0915=097:30am=09?=09Corliss Camp
4=0919.2=096:40am=096:30pm=09Whiteface Shelter
5=0911.5=097:10am=096:00pm=09Butler Lodge
6=0916.6=098:00am=097:00pm=09Duck Brook Shelter
7=097.8=096:55am=091:00pm=09Bamforth Ridge Shelter
8=095.2=0911:1am=096:00pm=09Montclair Glen Lodge
9=0912.4=097:00am=096:10pm=09Theron Dean Shelter
10=098=097:30am=092:30pm=09Battel Shelter
11=0914=097:20am=095:00pm=09Skyline Shelter
12=0915.9=097:00am=095:45pm=09Sunrise Shelter
13=0919.4=096:55am=095:50pm=09US 4

That's roughly 170 miles in thirteen days, or about 13 miles a day.

[Back to Friday's entry]

I'd like to finish up no later than Saturday morning (October 5), and it
looks like I've got about 75 miles left to go, so things are looking
good, even if I have to write off most of tomorrow because of the storm.

By the way - two random observations - "Rosie's Vermont Beef Jerky -
Maple" is very good, and I make a really bad clothes dryer.  I figured I
would dry out my hiking shirt by wearing it - yuck - I'm not really cold
(or I'd change), but my sleeve is wet and I am very clammy under my
fleece, wet long john top, and shell.  Yuck!

Actually, having said that, I just changed long john tops - my old one
WAS pretty dry - It's the arms of my shell that are particularly nasty -
I'm still wearing it [the shell] though.  I may have to take it off and
retreat into my sleeping bag though if I don't warm up.

Let's see - I'm developing an appreciation for Snickers Bars (I just ate
one), and Snackmaster's Teriaki Beef Jerky is good, but not as good as

OK - Day zero - actually day (-1).  I headed off to Ithaca after work to
meet a friend for dinner.  We walked up to a vegetarian place she knew
and had a pleasant meal, then walked down toward the mall.  After our
walk, we wished each other good night and I went off to find myself
someplace to sleep.  I had thought of the "Super-8" motel, but felt
cheap, so looked for a place to camp.  Buttermilk Falls State Park was
not far off of my way, so I headed there, but no luck.  I ended up
sleeping in my car at a rest stop.  Actually, I had a lot of fun doing
that, and ended up writing a song about it in the car the next day.  I
had a couple of verses down and wanted to record the melody so pulled
off the road to look for a tape recorder (I hadn't brought one - a
mistake).  I located on at an Ekert's pharmacy.  They had several models
there but they were not price marked.  The one I picked up didn't scan,
so the manager said to give it to me for 9.95.  It should have been $40
more, but since $49.95 was way too much I didn't feel bad.  The woman at
the checkout had expressed interest in my song, so when I went back in
to get an address, she told me about the mistake.  She checked back with
the manager who said not to worry about it.  Anyway, I'll send her a
copy when I get home and figure out the chords.

I got to the Inn at the Long Trail around 1:00 only to find that the
information they had given me on the phone wasn't quite right.  They
won't keep cars there for more than seven days.  I parked across the
street, which they recommended.  I did leave my valuables with the, so
my car makes a pretty unattractive target.  Anyway, I caught the Vermont
Transit bus to Newport via White River Junction and, after a pleasant
ride and a nice conversation with a couple touring the world from
England (she's from Spain, but they are moving to Brighton when they get
back) arrived on time and was met by Jay of the Rose Apple Acres Farm.
He and his wife, Camilla, put me up for the night (I went strait to bed)
and, after a good breakfast at 7:00 am, he took me to the Journey's End
trail head.  [Jay and Camilla are really nice people and offer a
wonderful service to Long Trail hikers].

I met an older hiker coming north from Hazen's Notch and he game me some
pointers about trail conditions ahead.  I was also passed by Tom,
another south bound hiker.  Tom and I walked together a while and then
he pulled ahead.  My biggest memory is that my left knee started hurting
about as soon as I hit the first big downhill stretch!  I thought I was
going to have to get off the trail.  Being a stubborn cuss I pushed on
anyway and spent the night at Jay Camp, about which I remember very
little.  Tom was there, along with two north bounders.

On Sunday I traveled to Tillatson Camp.  There were lots of people there
that night - either nine or ten in an eight person building.  Two
decided to tent (actually tarp) outside, but they must have had trouble
finding a good spot since they came in a few hours later when the rain
got hard.  There was a lot of rain that night.  Among the guests were a
woman around my age hiking north, an older man from Florida visiting
family and hiking south - he had thru-hiked ten years ago.  We talked a
while and I decided to cut my mileage way down, resupply in Johnson, and
end up in Jonesville.  Obviously I didn't follow through.  There were
also two couples from Canada, French speakers, who were traveling with
enough wine for each to have half a bottle a night!  Tom had pushed on.

On Monday, 9/23, I headed out at 7:30.  I was planning on hiking the
sever or eight miles to Spruce Ledge Camp, which must have replaced
Ritterbush.  It is new and apparently very nice.  I must have been
feeling better because I decided to push on the extra 6.6 miles to
Corliss.  There I met Tom again, and also a fellow named Max.  Tom had
nasty blisters and I gave him some of my moleskin.  He planned to do
some recovery work in Johnson.  There was also an interesting pair who
had more sense than me and who were deliberately hiking shorter
distances and just having fun.  What a novel concept!  I'll have to try

On the way to Corliss Camp I went through "Devil's Gulch," an impressive
rock formation and one of those "Oh, Shit" moments.  An "Oh, Shit"
moment is when that feeling of impending death, so terrifyingly absent
in two year olds, comes over you as you look at the improbable
progression of innocent white blazes.  I found myself wondering how they
laid the trail out without the benefit of LSD - perhaps they had access
to Peyote back then - I doubt that mere alcohol would do it.  I've since
learned that Devil's Gulch is mild - oh well!

On Tuesday I broke camp early, skipping breakfast except for a couple of
energy bars.  I decided to eat breakfast later when the break would help
my knees.  Tom caught up with me around the Laraway Mountain summit and
we exchanged email addresses.  We walked together until Roundtop shelter
where I ate and Tom decided to get of the trail for a day or two to let
his heels heal.  They were really raw.  I met Max a little bit later and
we walked together and talked for a while.  I found my first blister (my
left forefoot) around 3:15.  I'm not sure when Max pressed on, but I
think it was then.  I decided to press on to Whiteface Shelter, on the
other side of Whiteface mountain.  There is some wonderful stone trail
work on that tough climb, and an amazing scarcity of white paint!  There
were several "Oh, Shit" moments going up, and a major one going down
towards the shelter - a steep drop with nothing much to hold onto but a
dead tree fallen in the slit.  My first words on arriving at Whiteface
Shelter (6:30, getting dark) were "Excuse me,  do you mind if I babble
incoherently for a while?"  After nineteen miles I was beat anyway.  Max
was at Whiteface, as was an older 2000 miler, and a young man from
around here [Vermont]... a chef.  We met later, but I've lost hist name
for now.  I was feeling pretty gimpy - I don't know why I kept pushing
myself  - perhaps just to shut the rest of the world out.  Oh... there
was an incredible view from Whiteface shelter by moonlight.  The moon
was nearly full and the whole mountain skyline was lit up.  Incredible!

On Wednesday, 9/25, I left Whiteface at 7:10 am.  There was some steep
climbing down and then things got saner.  Max caught up to me and we
walked together over Madonna Peak to Smugglers Notch.  There was a
detour over Madonna peak - unmarked for SB hikers... it turns out we
walked through a blasting zone!  Max had left his car at Smuggler's
Notch.  He wasn't sure what his plans were at first, but was having
blister problems and decided to heal up and get off the trail for a day
or two.  His parents live in the area, and his mom had packed a cooler
with some excellent sandwiches, tomatoes, red peppers, and root beer.
Since Max was headed out he shared, for which I am eternally in his (and
his mother's) debt.  Simple cheese sandwiches on good bread with some
lettuce and Dijon mustard!  Wonderful!

>From Smuggler's Notch  haded up Mount Mansfield.  Taft Lodge is
beautiful, the sun was warm, and I was severely tempted to spend the
afternoon sitting in the rocking chair and soaking up rays.  Instead,
after a 45 minute break, I headed up over the Mt. Mansfield summit
towards Butler Lodge.  The climb over Mansfield is insane... at least it
feels that way.  Sometimes I think that humanity sprang from two stocks:
tree dwellers and ground dwellers.  I have much more of the ground
dweller in me, and am not amused by hand to hand climbing over fifty
foot drops.  Some people apparently find that the high point of their
trips - I am simply scared.  Still, just like the thousands of other
people who make that climb each year, I made it over the mountain.  At
the summit I met up with a very nice summit warden and two tree-dweller
types that had passed me earlier as I was preparing to die.  One of the
tree-dwellers, oddly enough, was a geologist, as was the summit warden,
and I asked them about an interesting feature of the northern part of
the trail.  There is an innocuous looking dark stone there that acts
like it was impregnated with oil.  Water beads up on it, and hiking
shoes have absolutely zero traction.  They couldn't be sure, but guessed
that it might be talc.  Don't step on talc.

>From the Mansfield summit the trail leads past some transmitter towers
over to the visitor center (there is a road and a gondola, but no place
to eat).  After talking with another GMC person and a visitor who wanted
to know what weapons I carried for protection I headed down.  Going down
there are ladders and one moderate "Oh, Shit" where you have to shift
your body across two rock outcroppings separated by a bottomless pit...
OK, I could see the bottom, but that only made it worse.  I lived, and
at 6:00 made it into Butler.

At Butler there were three other people.  A couple who had met on the AT
and were out for a shortish hike and a man.  All were quite a bit
younger than me.  The woman was moved in a wonderfully self-confident
way and, because of that, was very beautiful.  All three had brought too
much food and all offered me some of their extra so they wouldn't have
to carry it... or perhaps they were being nice to the old, crippled,
man!  The couple gave me three bagels (thank you) and the young man a
big piece of cheddar (bless you!).  One of the bagels instantly
disappeared with the cheese, one bagel left with some Lipton noodles at
dinner, and one went for a snack the next day.

Anyway, somewhere on Wednesday my left knee completely stopped hurting.
Unfortunately, after a couple of hours of bliss, my right knee decided
to pick up where the left had left off.  I was pretty sore again - I
think my lodge mates felt sorry for me.

On Thursday I left around 8:00, again determined to take it easy.  I
started out by turning the wrong way (or by missing a turn off) on the
Butler Lodge trail, which I mistakingly assumed ran from the LT to
Butler Lodge.  Wrong.  But by the time that I realized that I'd hiked
way down.  Luckily the LT guide showed that the trail ran down to a
road, and that the Nebraska Notch trail ran back up to the LT.  The
result was both a little longer and a little easier than the LT, and
time-wise appears to have been a wash.  I hope the LT gods will forgive

I stopped at Taylor Lodge and met a very well rested hiker (the fellow I
had met at Whiteface) and two women out for a day-hike with their dog.
The backpacker gave me hi opinion on the trail from Buchanan Shelter to
Duck Brook and I, fool  that I am, decided to try.  I passed the
Buchanan Shelter sign at 4:00 and, despite the guide book's 3 =BD hour
estimate, decided to press on.  I got there at 7:00 with both knees and
my left foot killing me.  I met two north bounders there (Roger and
George?).  One was completing the trail and the other was hiking with
him.  A third had been with them but had gotten ill.  As a result they
had extra fuel, which one of them got rid of with enough enthusiasm to
make me a bit nervous.

On Friday we all got up at 6:00.  My shelter mates skipped breakfast and
headed off a few minutes before me.  I promptly missed a blaze and had
to backtrack but, nevertheless, made it to the Jonesville post office at
just after 8:00.  The guy there was very nice.

>From the post office I walked to the general store (where the lady was
nice as well) and ate a ham sandwich, a turkey sub, an ice cream bar, a
bottle of root beer, a large bag of potato chips, and a jar of salsa.  I
had shipped back some of my healthy snack and replaced them with
Snickers bars and "Combos."  Surprisingly, my knees felt pretty good.

The GMC shuttle was due at 10:00, so after calling my parents, leaving a
message for my kids, and calling a friend I want to visit on the way
back, I settled in to wait (that's when the chips disappeared).  Around
10:10 the shop keeper got a call - there was no one signed up for the
shuttle and the woman, bless her, who let the GMC keep the van at her
house, was calling to find out if there were any hikers.  She made the
trip, picked me up, and picked up NB hiker for the return trip.  I,
unfortunately, left my poles back at the general store, so we made
another trip back, with an intermission while she stopped off at home
and turned off the beans baking in her oven.  I felt very silly and
thankful for her generosity.

It's about 2.7 miles up Camel's Hump to the Bamforth Ridge Shelter.  I
left at 11:00 and got in at 1:00, somewhat wet from the rain.  A man
from Israel, having decided that no one was crazy enough to hike up in
the storm (still only a gentle rain) had set up a hammock in the
shelter.  There is still room for me, but if anyone else shows up
(unlikely now, at 5:00) he'll need to take it down.  I've spent most of
the afternoon writing this journal (candied ginger makes a weak, but
pleasant, tea), munching, and attempting to dry out my clothes by
wearing them.  I have succeeded at two out of three!

Saturday, 9/29/02

Wow!  What a rainstorm last night.  Hurricane Isadore dropped a lot of
water - it must have been incredible down south when it still hat most
of its power.  The rain went on all night, in waves, and the wind
howled.  This morning there was water about four feet into the shelter.

When I arrived that the shelter "Ronnie from Israel" had set up inside.
Much to both our surprise another, very, very wet couple came in around
6:00 or so.  Zack and Baily are a young couple hiking north from
Massachusetts.  They were rather shell shocked and cold.  The wind was
so strong up there that the water was flowing up hill and they were
soaked to the skin.  There is apparently a lot of exposed rock on
Camel's Hump!

Ronnie took down his hammock and we all appreciated being out of the
rain.  This morning Zack and Baily left around 8:15 to catch the shuttle
and resupply in Jonesville.  My tentative plans are to wait while things
clear then head over to Montclaire Glen Lodge - just over five miles
away (and the summit).  I think a short day is in order.  I thought of
taking a zero day, but I'm not sure I want to just sit here.  I haven't
decided whether to go over the hump or take the Alpine Trail - which is
an alternate route for foul weather.

Sunday, 9/29/2002

OK... time to catch up again.  I'm spending the night at Theron-Dean
Shelter, which is a somewhat beat-up, old, shelter.  Right now I'm lying
in my sleeping bag waiting for my dinner to get ready.

Yesterday I ended up leaving Bamforth Ridge shelter at 11:15.  The wind
was blowing, mist was everywhere, but it had stopped raining.  I decided
to go over the Camel's Hump summit and I'm very glad that I did.  My
destination was Montclair Glen lodge, only about six miles away (but
over the summit).  I loved the approach to the summit - I was dressed
well (long john tops & bottom, shell top & pants, hat, gloves) and just
took it slow  The mists were blowing all around me and I fairly quickly
got up into some exposed, sub-alpine, areas.  I was enjoying the mists
and wind when, around 11:00, I heard geese calling.  I listened, and
they flew closer, then farther away.  Finally I saw one or two in the
mist.  Then at 11:15 the whole flock come right over my head, about
fifteen feet above me, flying against the wind and silhouetted  against
the mist.  Total visibility was about 20-25 feet, so all I could see was
shadows in the sky.  Very, very cool.

Then, around 2:00, the sun broke through.  It happened very quickly...
one moment everything was mist, and then the sun was there and I could
watch the clouds around me.  I took some pictures.

I got to the summit at 3:50.  There were already lots of people there -
they headed up another route after the weather broke.  The wind was very
strong and I appreciated my shell - the folks in t-shirts looked cold!
The climb down was difficult, with several "Oh, Shit" moments.  I was
happy to get to Montclair Glen at 6:00.  My shelter mates were Eliza
(the caretaker), Dan/Old Swampy, and Heinz.  Eliza was happy to hear
that Zack and Baily were OK, and reported that she had told them that
they "could" go over the summit if they really wanted to... I think they
interpreted that as "permission"!  Everybody sees the same events
through the filter of their own wants and desires!

Dan and Heinz are older men in their seventies and are hiking most of
the LT.  They have been doing this a long time!  Dan is also the author
of "Don't Die on the Mountain."

On Sunday I left at 7:00 and hiked off to either Birch Glen or
Theron-Dean.  I agreed to take a new site map over to Birch Glen for
Eliza, which I did.  It was a pretty morning and I saw some lovely
rising mists off in the distance.  I had lunch on top of Burnt Rock
Mountain (and re-did the Molefoam on my left foot).  I got to Birch Glen
at 2:10 and decided to press on - a mistake as my knee (left) started
hurting shortly afterward.  Annoyingly, I left my water carrier at the
shelter, and apparently I left the ACE bandage there as well.  The ACE
bandage is probably the more important of the two!  The trail was quite
rough, with lots of climbs and some scrambling.  Still, a very pretty
day.  I home my knee feels better in the morning.  This is my first
night alone on the trip!

Monday, 9/30/02

Gee, I'm nearly out of paper, so I'll have to write small!  I started
today at Theron-Dean and finished at Battel Shelter.  That's about 8
miles, and not particularly hard ones either.  I had really bad knee
problems starting about two hours out of camp and am in no position to
go any farther tonight.  My right knee was the surprise culprit today,
with shooting pains that stopped me right in my tracks.  I had to stop
and, after a bit, made a brace out of a pair of socks that seems to have
helped a lot.  Other than that the day was pleasant and uneventful - the
view from Abraham as nice, and must be really incredible on a clear day.
I think the trail is really getting easier now - I met a NB thru-hiker
who informed me how hard going up Abraham had been - Abraham is a piece
of cake!  I probably should have packed it in today - walked back to the
Glen-Ellen lodge and gotten help - but I just am not ready to end the
trip.  I wish I could grad another week and finish the trail, but I
think my kids need me, I have work commitments, and my body hurts!

Wednesday, 10/2/2002

On Tuesday I made the 14 miles from Battel Shelter to Skyline Lodge.  I
started out feeling pretty good, but my knees got plenty sore by the end
of the day!  The walking was mostly in the woods, with a few vistas
thrown in for fun.  At the lodge the first ting I heard was the yapping
of two tiny white dogs!  A woman and her SO had climbed up and fallen in
love with the spot, so he had headed back to the road to get some
camping gear.  I think they would have been happier to have the place to
themselves, but they were very gracious.  He came up around 7:00 with a
queen sized air mattress! He knows about backpacking, but they had been
planning to stay at a state park!  He's a strong guy!

Today I made the 15.9 miles to Sunrise shelter, which is a barely
possible 19.4 miles from Sherborne pass.  I did that distance over
harder terrain earlier, but my knees were doing better then.  Today I
started out strongly, but there was a lot of downhill walking and by
12:30 when I hit the Sucker Brook shelter I was in pain.  I hung out
there (ate and stretched) till 1:45 and felt a lot better.  Still, by
the end of the day my knees were gone again.  The last 25 minutes were a
pleasure though - the trail is an old woods road and rises slowly to the
shelter.  I could open up and walk really fast and hard - no pain and it
felt really good.  I walked the 9/10 of a mile in 25 minutes.  Actually,
the whole section from Sucker Brook shelter to VT 73 is pretty, and the
"Great Cliff" on Mt. Horrid is kind of neat!  The weather today as
mostly overcast, and when the sun made a brief appearance the haze
pretty much kept the mountains invisible.

P.S., It is raining tonight, but I am warm and dry!

Thursday, 10/3/2002

Well, I did finish up today after all.  I started at Sunrise Shelter and
hiked around 19 miles on the "official" LT, ending up on US4 about a
mile from my car.  I got off to a fast start on the old road by Sunrise
Shelter and was able to maintain nearly a 3 mph pace for the first hour.
After that things slowed down, and when the first downhills came my
knees started bothering me.  I was wearing long john bottoms and shell
pants to try to keep my legs warm - I don't know if that helped.  I also
tried taking it very easy on my legs on downhills even before they
started hurting - I can't say if that helped wither.  I did pretty well,
though, until hiking out of "Telephone Gap," where my right knee
absolutely refused to work anymore - I had to stop and rest right where
I was.  The next section (a couple of hours) after that was something of
a slog - lots of woods walking, no clear idea of where I was, and always
some knee pain.  I met an older guy out doing some light trail
maintenance and we chatted a while.  Then I got really lost.  I mean, I
knew I was going south on the LT, and I knew I hadn't gotten to US4 yet,
but my watch had stopped for a while (and the clock in my camera was off
by a half hour, though I didn't know that then!).  There were no road
crossings, no signs, and lots of trees.  The guide book mostly talked
about "slabbing hills" and "an unnamed summit."  Well, I slabbed a lot
of hills and, I think, crossed several unnamed, unnoticed, and
unremarkable summits!  By the time I finally got to Roleston Rest
Shelter I had really lost track of where I was.

At the shelter I met a young couple out for a week or sos hiking and we
chatted for about a half hour while I stretched and let my legs loosen
up.  Then I took off - my knees, miraculously, felt pretty good and the
terrain was easy (and mostly slightly up).  I kept better than a three
mile per hour pace to the next shelter where I met a slightly odd young
man (I was happy to be moving on), then zoomed over to US4.  I got to
the road at 5:50 and to the inn about a half hour later.  I'm staying
there (The Inn at the Long Trail) tonight,  will visit my friend
tomorrow, and should be back in Rochester on Saturday.

This was quite a trip and I'm beat!