Posts Tagged 'appalachian trail'

The Long Trail

10 years ago this week, Debbie and I finished our Long Trail (LT) End-to-End hike. It was a wonderful experience that has left lasting memories. Our life for the outdoors, hiking, and trails is epitomized by those 13 days. I wrote about the LT five years ago when our anniversary coincided with the 100th anniversary of the trail. Debbie and I still help the Green Mountain Club in our role as LT End-to-End Mentors.

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For the past 10 years, we have helped 30-40 candidates a year. The story I wrote for the 2006 Summer/Fall issue of Appalachia, is still relevant. However, we have learned so much more about lightweight backpacking and fast-packing. We would definitely change our packing list and approach to the hike if we had to do it again today. Many of those lessons are shared in the standard email that I share with people who wish to hike the trail.

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The Long Trail and Appalachian Trail (AT) have been on my mind lately. Many people have been inspired by Scott Jurek’s quest to break the Appalachian Trail speed record (supported). He is less than 190 miles from Katahdin as I type and it is still up in the air if he is going to break Jennifer Pharr Davis’ fantastic record. I wrote about his attempt and our connections to Jurek last week when he passed through Massachusetts, and Debbie and our kids met up with him to offer their support. Yesterday, Outside Magazine published an update on his progress and how hard the attempt has been.

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Jurek has a crew with him. When we did our hike, we were self-supported. We mailed two food drops to destinations near the trail and we retrieved them during the trip. I would love to try the LT again some day, but totally self-supported with no drops. That would be cool. Hiking the AT is another “to do” list item. I frequently think about that opportunity. That would be a fun family adventure.

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To celebrate the anniversary of our LT hike, we returned to Vermont last weekend with our kids for a shorter trip. They have heard so much about our 2005 adventure and we wanted to share more of the experience with them. We frequently hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but hadn’t been on the LT with them in recent years. Though they had done multi-day hiking, they hadn’t done it backpacking style where you have to carry your own gear and food. We recently got our 8-year old son a backpack. He tested it out at a recent camporee with his Cub Scouts pack. Our 5-year old daughter split time with about 60% of the time on her own feet, and 40% in our Deuter kids backpack, which Debbie carried. When loaded with a kid, food, and other gear, it weighed nearly 50 pounds. We are fortunate that our little girl is small for her age.

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We chose to hike in southern Vermont and did the 21 +/- mile Glastenbury Mountain/West Ridge loop. We parked at the Green Mountain National Forest trailhead on Rt. 9 just east of Bennington. Last Friday evening, we hiked the 1.6 miles to the Melville Nauheim shelter. We took the chance and didn’t carry a tent. We figured that even though it was July 4th weekend, that we would find space in the shelters. We carried a tarp just in case.

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The kids got to meet some LT hikers who were just starting their journey. They also met some AT thru-hikers who were well on their way northbound to Katahdin. On Saturday morning, we departed the shelter at 7:15 A.M. We showed the kids how to treat water on the trail. We hiked 8.5 miles north on the LT to the Goddard shelter. We arrived at 3:45 P.M., so it was a long day. Not only was it long, but it was wet, really wet. It started raining at 9:00 A.M., and didn’t stop until after 5:00 P.M. when we were at the shelter. Southern Vermont had already seen a record amount of rainfall in June, so the trail was waterlogged. It poured all day and turned the trail into a muddy quagmire.

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It was a character building kind of day on the trail. We all had our low moments, but taught the kids how to cope with those feelings. When our son emerged from the trees in to a clearing and spotted the shelter, he was elated. We stayed at Goddard on our second night in June 2005. It was rebuilt in September 2005, but it was in the same spot. After dinner, the skies cleared and we walked to the summit and enjoyed a 360 degree panoramic view from the top of the Glastonbury Mountain fire tower. It was spectacular and we explained to the kids that those types of experiences are what make the long walks worth it.

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Unlike our first night when we had a fitful sleep because of a shelter-mate with a snoring problem, the night at Goddard was awesome. Everyone slept well. The fact that we were knackered probably helped our slumber. On Sunday morning, we departed at 7:15 A.M. again after a quick snack. We took the West Ridge Trail south and looped back around to a dirt road just off of Rt. 9. We got to the end of the trail at 3:30 P.M., and covered another 9.5 miles. We had a beautiful day not the trail. West Ridge sees less traffic and cuts through the Glastenbury Wilderness, so the trail wasn’t as muddy, though it was overgrown. We saw lots of moose droppings, but no moose.

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We had some great moments on the trail. The sunshine on Sunday was glorious. Our son was pretty tired by mid-day, and we helped him by carrying his pack part of the time. We had some nice views from the summit of Bald Mountain and the kids got a taste of what it is like to experience multiple false summits on a long uphill climb. We were all happy to reach the road at the end of the day. Debbie ran ahead to fetch the car so we didn’t have to walk on Rt. 9 with the busy traffic. She picked us up, we returned to the trailhead, and washed off in City Stream. We took the backroads into the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and stopped in Shelburne Falls for dinner. We met up with Debbie’s brother, Tom, and enjoyed a meal at Hearty Eats, a wonderful vegan/plant-based cafe. We spent a little time on the Bridge of Flowers, and then headed home to clean up and put the wraps on another weekend of family fun.

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That story I wrote 10 years ago had the sub-title: Miserably wet feet, too little food, and no ride home at the end—a couple’s most cherished adventure to date

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I don’t think Debbie would argue. Despite climbing all of the New England 4,000 footers, hiking, running, and biking all over the world, the Long Trail trip still is our most cherished adventure to date.

Catching up with the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston

The Appalachian Mountain Club is cranking. We recently closed on the purchase of 29,500 additional acres of land in Maine’s 100-mile Wilderness Region. This came at the end of a successful $45MM campaign to support the larger Maine Woods Initiative. Known as the Roach Ponds tract, this land abuts the 37,000 acre Katahdin Iron Works property that we already own, and extends our reach in a region that was already threatened by land development.

The Fed tower

The vision that AMC’s leaders had more than five years ago has come to fruition much faster than anyone expected. Debbie and I got a nice update on the club’s growth when we attended a Board of Advisors meeting earlier this week in Boston. The progress with MWI has been remarkable and our club is now positioned to take advantage of our land conservation efforts. Our system of Maine Sporting Camps will expand again in 2010 with the addition of the Gorman Chairback Camps. Debbie and I haven’t been to the KIW property since our last trip to Little Lyford Pond Camps nearly six years ago. Acquiring LLPC was the first step that AMC took towards establishing our major presence in Maine.

MBTA's South Station

Our trip to Boston was a quick one. Since our BOA meeting was at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, I dressed like a banker. The Fed was an interesting place to have a meeting, but as you would expect, the conference facilities were top-notch. It was somewhat ironic that we were in a city skyscraper discussing the expansion of our wilderness land holdings. AMC recently revised its mission. We are the oldest recreation and conservation organization in the country, with more than 100,000 members. With the global environment facing such challenges, AMC is uniquely positioned to make a difference and it is cool to be part of that process.

The Fed

Where’s Karl?

Karl Meltzer is a friend from the ultra-marathon trail running community. Debbie and I have chatted with him at various events in recent years and exchange e-mails and blog posts from time to time. We got to know Karl a bit better at last year’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) in Chamonix, France. Shep, fellow ultra-runner Buddy Teaster, and I were crewing for Debbie. Cheryl, Karl’s wife, crewed for him. UTMB didn’t end the way Karl and Deb had expected (both were DNF’s), but we joined some of our other running friends for a beer to discuss the race. He is an accomplished ultra runner with multiple wins at the Wasatch 100, Hardrock 100, and San Diego 100. He lives in Utah, though he has roots in New Hampshire. 

Karl is attempting to break the speed record for the 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail. He started 14 days ago on August 5th at the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, and is headed south to Georgia. He has projected that it will take 47 days to complete the trail. The current record is 47 days, 13 hours, and 31 minutes. He is currently ahead of his projection and averaging an astonishing 42 miles/day through the rugged New England section of the trail. As things “flatten out” as he heads south, his daily mileage will increase and his overall projection requires 46+ miles day average to reach his goal. 

You can track Karl’s progress at

Debbie and I have been particularly interested in Karl’s attempt. We don’t often get wrapped up in these feats, preferring to do them ourselves (at least mini versions), but Karl is a friend and we love the AT. We want him to break the record, but mostly to have a wonderful experience and to provide inspiration to others. We told him before the quest that we would try to hook up with him when he passed through Connecticut, and possibly run with him a bit, but at least get out there to see him go by. He is projected to be in the Nutmeg State later this week. 

As it turns out, we got a chance to see him sooner than anticipated, which is a pretty remarkable story. This past weekend, we were headed to a rugged mountain bike race, the Hampshire 100 in Greenfield, NH. The plan was to visit some friends in Norwich, Vermont on Saturday, then head to Oak Park in Greenfield where we would camp.

After spending the day in Norwich and nearby Woodstock, we discussed our plans. It was mid-afternoon, Shep was passed out in his car seat, we were all cranky and it was time to move on. Debbie had noted earlier that there would be a chance Karl would be coming through Hanover, NH today. Hanover is directly across the Connecticut River from Norwich, is a the home of Dartmouth College, and is a legendary stopover town on the Appalachian Trail. Many AT thru-hikers choose to hang out in Hanover because of the hostels, laundromats, restaurants, and bars. Hanover in summertime is a blast. However, Karl isn’t the average AT thru-hiker and it was likely that he wouldn’t be stopping for a beer. 

I suggested that we follow the white blazes up through town and keep an eye out for the RV and Karl’s crew. His run is fully supported and there are at least two people manning the RV at any given time. For the first two weeks, his father has been on crew along with someone from Backcountry, the title sponsor for his assault on the AT.

We crossed the river, drove up through town and kept our eyes open. The trail headed off into the woods and Debbie remarked, “This is a wild goose chase.” Clearly, she was ready to go. Just at that moment, I yelled, “There it is.” The RV, emblazoned with Karl’s photo and the names of his sponsors was at the back of the Co-Op Food Store parking lot where the AT emerges from the woods. 

We parked next to it. The crew dog was inside but no one was around. We knocked, hoping not to wake anyone. They have been getting up between 3:00 A.M. and 4:00 A.M. every day. Crew duties include meals, laundry, and logistics. We couldn’t find anyone. I went into the store to look for Karl’s dad or another crew member doing groceries. Still no one. After 15 minutes of hanging around, Debbie wrote a note to Karl and the crew. We put it on the windshield and were just about ready to take off for NH, when she looked up and yelled, “There’s someone running.” Whoa, it was the man himself. He emerged from the woods at just the right moment. Truly, a needle in a haystack kind of find. 

A handshake, a hug, a few photos, some directions through town, and he was off again. Now, we definitely feel part of his quest, though he is doing all the running! We updated the note so the crew knew we saw him, hopped in the van, and drove down to the river. We piled out, including an awake Shep, and went out onto the bridge. We waited for him to arrive again, shot some photos, shouted encouragement and he headed into Vermont. We laughed about the events, relaxed for a few minutes, Shep did some running of his own, then we took off to our next stop in Greenfield. 

We may still try to hook up with Karl in CT later this week, but we are pumped about seeing him in Hanover. His solitary quest requires the support of his family, crew, sponsors, and friends, but he is doing the heavy lifting. 2,174 miles in 47 days takes a lot of planning, fitness, and mental fortitude. When Debbie and I did a self-supported thru-hike of the Long Trail in 2005, we averaged 23 miles a day, and that was serious pain. We were backpacking, not fast packing/running, so it is a bit different, but we still know what 15 hour days are all about.

As Karl headed across the river and into Norwich, Shep simply said, “Goodbye.”

Go Karl!

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