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Luskin: The Through Hike

In May 2015, my friend Jan visited me on her way back to Alaska. We’ve maintained a strong bond for almost forty years even though we don’t often write and never call. But when we do get together, we pick up where we left off.

Jan’s annual holiday cards always report on her great Alaskan adventures, where she’s flown in to a backcountry cabin for a week of cross-country skiing, kayaked to remote coastal regions, and hiked up countless mountains, to say nothing of driving to Mexico and biking in China.

Her visit last year was brief. She was here for just twenty-four hours, and we talked for eighteen. Just before she left and without premeditation, I blurted, “Do you want to hike The Long Trail with me?”

“Sure,” she said. “What’s that?”

I explained it’s the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States, running along the spine of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada. In thirty-odd years of hiking it in sections, I’ve managed to walk about two thirds of it, some of it multiple times. But until I asked Jan if she wanted to hike it with me, I didn’t know a through-hike was something I wanted to do.

A couple of months later, Jan emailed, asking for dates, so she could purchase her plane ticket east. We picked a time that seemed far distant. Then I started telling people my plans, as if repeating them would make them come true.

It has.

We leave in ten weeks; for now we’re collecting gear, planning meals and organizing food drops. I’ve started to get into shape, seriously.

At 272 miles, The Long Trail makes up for difficulty what it lacks in length. A friend who’s a world-class athlete hiked the 2, 650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada his first try, but made three attempts before he completed the Long Trail. Another friend, currently hiking the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine for the second time, finished The Long Trail on his second attempt.

What makes The Long Trail difficult are all the ups and downs, the rocks, and the weather.

The Trail traverses eight major mountains, the path is mostly narrow and rocky with occasional sinkholes of mud, and the weather can change in a flash. We’ve carved twenty-five days out of our lives to hike as much as we can.

Rationally, this trip makes no sense whatsoever. And I can hardly wait to start.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator.
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