A Long Trail Hike - Division 1, 17.8 Miles

By Chris Eubanks

I pulled my pack out of the car, and discovered that I could barely lift it to my back. I could not lift it beyond my waist without severely straining my back. This thing is too heavy…much too heavy, I thought. My brother Sean and my dad had to come on both sides of me and physically lift it up so I could strap it on. It took two guys just to get the pack on my back. And I was going to carry it 270 miles?  I took a test walk around the parking lot.  Although I knew the pack still weighed 29 pounds, it felt much heavier than when I was walking around with it at home. Contributing to its weight were five changes of clothes, a jumbo bag of trail mix, two jumbo packs of beef jerky, metal breakfast bowls, a composition notebook, and a tube of toothpaste. Though heavy, the food and bowls were essential, but the rest was dead weight that I could have done without.

Our plan was to hike the Long Trail straight through for twenty or thirty days, depending on which one of us you asked. Dad had his mind set on twenty, while Sean and I thought thirty was more reasonable. Every five days or so, when we reached a highway, my mom and my sister Shannon would drive down with five more days of supplies. I knew that my pack would be heavy the first day, but I just figured that we would eat about five pounds of food from it.
We stood at the edge of the woods and posed for our picture that Mom took of us. Our faces revealed a slight expression of overconfidence. We each sincerely believed that we could reach Canada in one month, which was reflected particularly in my Dad’s beaming smile. In our minds we were well conditioned. We had already hiked Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England twice in the two past consecutive years, as well as dozens of other peaks near our home in northeastern Vermont. When some of my Mom’s friends expressed concern about our lack of experience, she would just reply, “Well, they’ve climbed Mt. Washington twice.”  She would not mention that we had not done a single overnight backpacking trip.

Now we were hiking in Massachusetts on the Pine Cobble Trail, the approach to the Long Trail. The LT officially starts at the Vermont border, a four-mile hike to the north. My pack straps were already digging into my shoulders in the parking lot, but I was too busy thinking about our adventure ahead to feel the pain. I easily climbed Pine Cobble, the first small mountain in Massachusetts, and had a surge of confidence. We had been hiking for half an hour...

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Longtrail 100

VPR is marking the 100th anniversary of The Long Trail with a month-long series of reports and essays. Through this series, we'll explore the history and future of The Long Trail and introduce listeners to the people who built, maintain and hike it today.