We were close to the end of the Colorado Trail and sitting around a fire after a tough 22+ mile day. Gimpy, a guy in his 60s who was happy to share his life story with anyone who would listen, and most people that wouldn’t, was talking about his other thru-hikes. At one point he asked me about hiking the Appalachian Trail. I replied that I was thinking about hiking the John Muir Trail, but didn’t have an interest at the time in hiking the whole AT. He suggested that after the JMT that I should hike the Long Trail in Vermont. That way I will have hiked some of the best of the three major cross-country trails.
Not a bad thought. That’s when an idea was born. I could do the Triple Crown of Hiking, just the Junior Version! The Colorado Trail is considered by many to be the best part of the Continental Divide Trail. The John Muir Trail is considered by (the same?) many to be the best of the Pacific Crest Trail. And, The Long Trail, which runs 273 miles through Vermont, sharing 100 miles with the AT, was the inspiration for the AT. Hiking this Triple Crown would not only be Epic, but Achievable. (Sounds like a book title I saw somewhere. I bet it’s good.)
As the faithful reader(s) of this blog is/are aware, I was able, after a few attempts, to secure a permit to hike the JMT early this fall. With its high elevation and difficult resupply, it was going to be a tough hike. I need to be in top hiking condition to tackle it. Then it occurred to me, I could get in shape for the JMT by hiking The Long Trail. Sure, a nice little warm up hike. It doesn’t climb over 5,000 feet and there are towns all over the place. Sounds like fun easy way to get into hiking condition for the tough JMT. I can do it right before I head west.
That’s when I started doing a little research. Maybe it won’t be quite the nice easy hike I had imagined. This trail is steep. Per some information I read, the trail has an average elevation change of over 500 feet per mile, nearly a 10% grade. By contrast, the Colorado Trail through the Rocky Mountains has an elevation change of just over 360 feet per mile. Pictures on the interweb show parts of the trail where metal rungs were drilled into the rock. I saw one photo where a guy was carrying his dog up a ladder. This was a real dog too, not a Chihuahua.
The trail is wet too. The Green Mountains certainly aren’t the highest in the world, but they are high enough to affect the weather, which means more rain. Rainfall averages over 7 inches most months, including August. This makes for my two least favorite aspects of backpacking, wet feet and mosquitoes.
Hmmm, if I skipped the Long Trail, just doing the doubleheader junior of hiking doesn’t sound near as good as the Triple Crown. I guess I need think about lightening the load, dealing with bugs and footwear for slop. Hmmm, am I going to enjoy this?