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Refelections on my Long Trail End-to-End Hike

Smuggler's Notch Border Sign, The Long Trail, Vermont

Last weekend, I finished the 8th and final section of my 270 mile End-to-End hike of the Long Trail, in Vermont. Of those 270 miles, I hiked about 230 miles by myself, beginning on May 23rd and ending on October 12th, 2008.

  1. Long Trail Southern Terminus to Rt 9. Northbound: October 11-12, 2008. Solo.
  2. Rt 9 to Rt 11/30. Northbound:  May 23-26, 2008, NY/NJ AMC Trip.
  3. Clarendon Gorge to Rt. 11/30. Southbound, June 6-7, 2008, Solo.
  4. Clarendon Gorge to Middlebury Gap: Northbound, June 26-29, 2008, Solo.
  5. Middlebury Gap to Appalachian Gap: Northbound, July 18-20, 2008, Solo.
  6. Jonesville to Appalachian Gap: Southbound, August 1-2, 2008, Solo.
  7. Jonesville to Johnson, Northbound, August 22-24, 2008, Solo.
  8. Journey’s End to Johnson: Southbound: September 11-14, 2008, Solo.

Whether you complete the trail in one year or over many, it is customary to send a summary of your hike to the Green Mountain Club. They issue you a certificate of completion and award you with a complementary club membership. Your name is also published in the spring edition of the club magazine, with the names or the other 200 or so people who complete the Long Trail each year.

Whiteface Mountain, The Long Trail, Vermont

Compiling that summary from my past trip reports brought back a lot of memories for me and made me think about what I had experienced and learned on this trip. 

If I were to sum it up, the single most significant thing I took away from hiking this trail was that "it is what it is." You can't control what the trail throws at you and when you let go of worrying or being frustrated about unexpected obstacles, you feel like a great burden has been lifted from you. You develop an unflappable calmness that carries over into your daily life. This feeling, which buddhists call equanimity, combines the ability to be in the moment with the understanding that obstacles are often transient and impermanent.

To put this in context, it rained about 50% of the days that I hiked on the Long Trail. At first, I perceived this as an inconvenience, but about half way through, I realized it was something I had absolutely no control over and that there was no use getting upset about. Rain, mist, being wet, whatever: all these were passing states and sensations that were no better or worse than sunny weather or being dry. I learned to simply accept them and get on with my hike.

As a lay buddhist, I've known about equanimity for many years, but never imagined that I'd be able to experience even a glimpse of it. Hiking the Long Trail solo gave me the personal space to take that first step, and that has been the trail's greatest gift to me. 

6 comments

  1. Congrats on finishing the long trail! I've enjoyed reading your reports on it and glad you were able to get things out of the hike that helped with your practice of Buddhism.

  2. P.S.

    What will be the next hiking series?

  3. Thanks Jason. I'm not entirely sure what's next. I'll probably continue section hiking the Appalachian Trail next season in Connecticut (in early spring,) Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. I've hiked sections in all of these states except Maine, and hope to complete MA, VT, and NH where I'm mostly done already. Other options under consideration are to finish my 3500 club list in the Catskills, the Massachusetts mid-state trail, or a side-to-side hike on the Long Trail which is 164 miles long and requires hiking all of the east to west spurs of the Long Trail system. Then there's also the 88-temple pilgrimage in your neck of the woods (Japan), but given the economy that adventure might be delayed a while.

  4. I've been looking into hiking part of the Long Trail before starting an AT thru-hike. Any ideas on when the optimal start time is? Seems people don't start before mid to end May.

  5. The green mountain club asks that people not start before Memorial day to prevent erosion from snowmelt. The optimal start time imho is September 7-15th.

  6. Hi Earlylite,

    Congrats in completing the AT, now you might like to consider a similar trail in Australia named the Bibbulmun Track, 600 easy miles, 8 weeks

    Peter Green

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