I just got back from an epic 40 mile hike section of the Long Trail in Vermont, hiking northbound from Rt. 9 to Rt. 11/30. The weather was great. We had a little rain the first night before our first day of hiking, and after that, blue sky with wispy clouds. The nights were in the high 30’s and the days were in the high 60’s and low 70’s with a strong wind chill on all of the summits.
Day-by-day mileages looked like this
- May 23: Park at Rt. 9 trail head and hike 1.6 miles (1,000 ft. ascent in cold rain) to Melville Nauheim shelter.
- May 24: Melville Nauheim, over Glastenbury Mt. to Kid Gore shelter, 12.7 miles.
- May 25: Kid Gore over Stratton Mt to Stratton Pond shelter, 15.4 miles.
- May 26: Stratton Pond to Rt. 11/30, 10.4 miles.
There was very little mud on the trail but the black flies were out and they were biting, particularly at dinnertime. Last night, we all sat in the shelter eating dinner and wearing bug nets because they were so thick. But once the sun went down and the temperature dropped into the 50’s, the bugs vanished for the night. I was sleeping in a hammock on this trip with built-in no-seeum netting, but a few hikers in my party were sleeping in the shelters without bug protection.
DEET did not appear to have any deterent effect against the black flies even though I was wearing Ben’s 100%. However, the permethrin I sprayed on my clothes last week did keep them from landing my shirt and pants, and my new Buzz-Off French Foreign Legion style hat with side and back drapes worked very well at keeping them off my ears and neck. This hat is a real fashion statement!
We hiked over 2 major peaks in this section: Glastenbury (3,748 ft.) and Stratton (3,936 ft.) Mountains. Both have fire towers on top and we were treated to spectacular fifty mile views in the clear weather. Both summits were tough climbs, but Stratton was the harder of the two because we had to hike 9 miles to the base of the mountain, before hiking another 6 miles to summit and descend. I was so tired by the time I got into camp last night, that I had a cold dinner and went to bed before sundown. We were all zonked.
We saw some great beaver dams this trip. These animals are the most amazing civil engineers. This damn, neat Story Spring Shelter, traps the water from several mountain streams creating a huge pond. The damn itself was about 4 ft high and at least 100 yards long.
Even though it is late May in Southern Vermont, the foliage is still not fully out. Many trees are still just budding and a lot of the surrounding peaks are still a slivery grey capped by evergreen trees with patches of snow still remaining. The forest contains silver beech, white birch and hemlock with lots of jewel weed, common in damp climates, which was flowering this weekend. Fiddle head ferns were everywhere, a goldmine for some enterprising shelter gourmet.
After hiking this section, I have started to re-evaluate my strategy for section hiking the rest of the Long Trail. Despite the Long Trail’s rainy reputation, water availability can be poor in stretches and there were times when we had to carry extra water. So, while I am still planning to do the same mileage in a few weeks, I am going to work out a water plan in advance instead of winging it. I think I am also going to drop my stove on the next section and bring heavier, less boring food instead. I’m really getting sick of dehydrated food. Bring me a cheese.