The Vermont Long Trail Experience

The Vermont Long Trail Experience

Now that I’ve had a little over a week off the track, I can look back with a somewhat different and perhaps less emotional perspective than if I had written this a week ago when I I was still shot down by the track and the conditions I was handed out for the first ¾ of it.

I’ll start by saying that I was looking for the next big challenge…and I found it. The track itself is technical, challenging, sometimes unforgiving, and for all that didn’t provide me with the rewards I sometimes hoped for for the kicks I took. Earning its name the Green Tunnel! It looked like a rainforest for most of the trip. And on some of the toughest and biggest mountains I should have gotten, rain and storms kept me from getting those views again.

I have now had time to sit down with my Far Out app to work out my numbers more accurately. This app was amazing. It provided me with my daily goals, distances, elevation, water spots, mountains, shelters, and feedback from recent trail users on conditions, water, etc. I never had to use my watch and worry about recharging the battery etc. through this app. He provided me with all the data I needed. It had my photo on the map to show where I was in relation to everything.

I started with great days. My longest km day was 39 km (well technically 42 km as I had to backtrack about 3 km to shelter due to the trail being lost in a pretty big thunderstorm… but in counting only the km ahead!!) My biggest day of green pushed 2800m.

The total course is 273 miles and 19,925m of green. Don’t forget that the descent is right up there too!

My numbers work like this…..

14 days, 13 nights

221.25 miles = 354.4 km (must add the 6 km on the Pine Cobble trail to get to the LT trailhead on 361 km!! I want credit for this because there was about 600 m green at this era in crazy heat too! )

My green is a little harder to figure out, but again, best I can tell….

17,325m = 57,173 feet (plus 600m of Pine Cobble Trail)

This may explain why my legs are still not doing well!!!

The track hours ranged from 4 being my shortest, which was me meeting Justin and my track angels to get me to him…to some 12 hour days…and one day was 14 hours.

Package weight was around 50lbs…a little heavier the first 4-5 days until I threw a few items at Rutland.

The mind game!! That was the hardest part for me….yes, I was physically beaten but I was A LOT alone!! Facing conditions beyond anything I’ve had to go through before. Camping alone most nights. When people ask I tell them I found new depths of hell!! That’s saying a lot coming from an ultrarunner.

The first 4 days, the extreme heat and humidity combined with my ambitious big days kicked the shit out of me and humbled me. I think that set the tone for the rest of the trip as I was physically beaten from pushing too hard. Then it went to my head.

Getting to Rutland was an elevation I needed. Day 5 I was doing laundry, slept inside where it was a little cooler, met some amazing people, lightened my pack a little, restocked and headed out in a better state of mind.

I took the jump forward (shuttle forward by trail angel) from Rutland to get closer to Justin and my meeting point and take the pressure off….. dropping my kms per day…. ..

People say the Long Trail doesn’t really start until mile 108 when it splits off from the Appalachian Trail…and they weren’t kidding!! The technical game started and I was then in 3-4 days of thunderstorms, pouring rain, making the scrambles (up and down) tricky and sometimes scary. Since the beginning of the course, nothing was dry because of humidity, heat or rain!

I wondered for a few days if I would make it. Every night I looked at my map and planned the mission for the next few days… taking into account the mountains in front of me and the number of days I had to do until we met. In the end, I planned it well… I sucked it in and kept going hoping the next day would be better than the last. I still spent big days on this section… it became a stopping factor too soon which would have made me sit alone in the shelter or the tent, so I might as well keep going even if it isn’t. is not very fast.

A trail angel picked me up at my trailhead at noon on the 10e daytime. Got up early to do the easiest miles I’ve done on the trail for 14 days!! Then we left to pick up Justin from where he would leave his vehicle for us to pick up in 4 days. This trip was much shorter and easier in the vehicle than on our feet!

Restocking, real food, laundry, blueberry pancakes, then the next morning back to the trailhead I left the night before to reconnect at the same spot.

I promised Justin that we would drop the miles a day once he joined me, so there were 15 of us to just over 20 a day. In the end, the trail provided a little more manageable weather…warm but not crazy…no big storms…until we headed into our last 4 miles. The thunder and lightning started!! I said “For real mother nature!!” I didn’t think I could find another gear, but I did…it just spat on us as we walked in. There were tears of joy to be had, tears of pride…..it took me a few minutes to take my pack up to his vehicle. I do not really know why……

As disappointed as I was that I didn’t complete the whole trail I was mentally ready to be done…my body was battered but I could have done anything if I wanted to too and gave myself a few days off more.

I was asked if I would go back and do it again…..ummm….heck no!! Haha….actually there is so much more out there that I want to do….but this was the one I wanted to touch on as it was the inspiration for so many other things I want to do!!

To sum it all up…I overcame a lot to get to Justin. And I was grateful to have him with me for the past 4 days. Looking back, I know the big days had their effect on the whole trip because it beat me harder than I would have if I hadn’t set myself such tight deadlines. Especially in the conditions.

My highlights came from the stealth campsites where I got to see some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen as well as the most amazing sunrise on my last morning on the trail! Grateful for those moments the track has provided me!

Regrets… I don’t believe it. Having a regret and changing even one thing would change the whole experience. And even though it was hard and the lessons learned…… I look back and I think….wow….that was hard…but I’m harder for it!!!

Over the next two weeks I’ll be breaking down gear, food, clothing, safety and more!! This story is not over yet.

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About Ethel Partin

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