Why the Long Trail?
Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:28 pm

Vermont is a beautiful place. During my time in Vermont on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike last year, nearly every scenic outlook in Vermont was simply gorgeous. Vermont rivaled New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and large parts of Maine, for being the most picturesque portion of the Appalachian Trail.

And, in just a few weeks, I’m returning to Vermont to begin my next adventure: a thru-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail.

Why the Long Trail?

Sometime during my AT thru-hike last year — I forget when, exactly — I knew that the Appalachian Trail was not going to be my only long-distance hiking endeavor. The AT, along with the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails form what’s known as the “Triple Crown of Hiking”. Completing just one is an incredible accomplishment, to say nothing of all three.

Less known is the “Little Triple Crown”, which consists of the Long Trail in Vermont, the John Muir Trail in California, and the Colorado Trail in Colorado. Each of those trails predate, and share mileage with, their (much) longer siblings, the AT, PCT, and CDT.

After I decided I’d eventually complete the Triple Crown, that also put the Little Triple Crown on my sights (because, why not?). In particular, the Long Trail, being in the proverbial backyard, rose to the top of the list.

I remember clearly thinking at one point, in all seriousness, that after I reached Katahdin, I’d jump back to Vermont and finish the Long Trail immediately after my AT thru; after all, it’d “only” be another 170 miles, and that’d be two long-distance trails thru-hiked in a year.

Of course, by the time I got into the Hundred Mile Wilderness and was on final approach to Katahdin, I was ready to be finished. After 177 days on the trail, another couple of weeks of hiking was no longer appealing. Still, though, on the drive home, I considered detouring through Vermont and stopping in Rutland, near where the AT and LT split, and continuing from there. But, only briefly.

Which meant that my hike along the Long Trail was merely delayed, until this summer.

About the Long Trail

Whenever I tell someone I’m going to hike the Long Trail, I usually get asked either or both questions, “Where is it?” and “How long is it?”. After hiking the 2189.1 mile Appalachian Trail last year, it always gives me a certain amusement to answer that, the Long Trail in Vermont, is 272.7 miles long. In comparison to the AT, the Long Trail hardly seems to live up to its name. Without the Long Trail, though, the Appalachian Trail may never have existed.

This is because the Long Trail served as inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. A dedication plaque on Stratton Mountain explains:

Stratton Mountain

Cradle of the Appalachian and Long Trails

Stratton (elev. 3,936 ft.) is the highest mountain in Southern Vermont. It’s physical prominence and commanding views made it significant to Vermont’s original Abenaki and neighbors.

Stratton claims a unique role in hiking path history. It was here, in 1906, that James Taylor conceived of the idea of a “Long Trail” extending from Massachusetts to Canada. Then, in 1921, after construction of Taylor’s Long Trail had begun, Benton MacKaye — forester, author, philosopher — further expanded that concept into a footpath linking all the scenic ridges of the entire range — and the Appalachian Trail was born.

The Long Trail shares its southern 105 miles with the Appalachian Trail. Then, at Maine Junction, where the AT heads east, towards New Hampshire and the White Mountains, the LT continues north, towards Canada.

Learning from Experience

Having the experience of the AT behind me, I’m looking forward to tackling another long-distance trail, and revisiting some old ground in the process.

I’ll also have the opportunity to try out some new gear. While I could easily do this hike using all the gear from my AT hike, there’s a few changes I’m making to lighten the load. A slightly lighter pack will be welcome, since unlike the last time I hiked through Vermont, I won’t be slackpacking the entire way. I’ll have some posts on the new gear later.

This will also be a first of sorts: I’ve planned out an itinerary of where I’m staying each night and where I’m resupplying for the entire trail. Only an eighth as long as the AT, I’m expecting to complete the Long Trail in 22 days, at an average pace of 12.4 miles/day, plus one zero. (Well, it’s not really going to be a zero; but, more on that later.) I could go faster, but I’m treating this as a vacation of sorts: I want to enjoy as much of the scenery as possible (and maybe even some side trails as well).

So, I’m ready for my next adventure, short though it may be, and I hope you’ll enjoy following along. Just like last time, I’ll be updating daily with news, commentary, and photos. You can also follow my adventure on Facebook or Twitter.

Let the hiking continue!