There’s going to be bugs there?

When I’ve read books about hiking the Appalachian Trail, more often than you would think, the author contracts Lyme disease. A case of this tick borne illness can put a real damper on a person’s hike. In addition, without proper treatment, there can be long term neurological damage. And guess where a real hotspot for this disease is located? That’s right, Vermont, where I’m going to be hiking the Long Trail.

In addition, the sometimes swampy backwoods of the state are a great place for breeding mosquitoes, and this past July was one of the wettest in Vermont’s history.

pants

Sounds like I need to pull out all the stops in preparing for bugs. Clothing is one way to do that. I’ll be trying out some Rail Rider “Eco-Mesh Pants with Insect Shield.” I typically wear zip off pants on the trail. Ones that start out as long pants, but convert to shorts when it gets warm. Bare legs are a tick magnet though. The rail riders have zippers, but they run vertical the length of the pant leg. Unzipped, there is a mesh panel that provides ventilation without giving a tick a direct path in. Remember the pants MC Hammer wore? They’re not that bad. Also, they’re treated with permethrin, a natural insecticide that stays in the fabric to repel and/or kill the little bastards. The factory treatment is supposed to last for dozens of washings.

I also bought a Buff, a tube of material that’s also treated with the same chemical. A buff can be worn over the neck for shade, like a dew rag, Russian Peasant woman, you name it. They even have a video that shows all the ways to wear it. I just want it to keep the ticks off my head.

Beyond the fashion statement I’ll be making, treated clothing sounded like a good idea, so I bought some of the chemical and treated my shirts and socks. Home treatment only lasts for 6 washings or so, but that should be long enough unless I’m walking slow and/or doing laundry pretty often.

bug juice

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m not a fan of either ticks or mosquitoes. So they’ll be more weapons in the arsenal. My sunscreen is a product called Skin so Soft. This is not a poison, but supposedly has a scent that repels insects. Based on my initial testing, I hope it’s a better sunblock than it is a repellant. Otherwise, it’s time for skin cancer. I’ll be carrying a small tube of Picaridin, advertised to be as good as Deet, but won’t destroy your nylon clothes or equipment. And, if that fails, I have some Deet. I’m trying it in solid form, which will help target which part of my body I douse with poison. That’s gotta cover it, right? I’ll let you know who wins this little competition, me or the disease carrying insects.

Take a Load Off

Recently I’d mentioned that, with the difficult climbs I’ll be encountering on the Long Trail, it’d be a good idea to try and lighten the load I’ll be carrying compared to what I brought on the Colorado Trail. Then, fully loaded with 2 liters of water and 4 days of food, the pack came in right about 31 pounds.

Let’s see, my new IPhone means I’m not bringing an IPad. That saves 14 ounces. With more resupply stops, the 4 ounce Solar charger can stay home too. And since the trail is (hopefully) marked pretty well, the 5 ounce GPS won’t need to be there to bail me out if I get lost. Wow, that was pretty easy. Nearly a pound and a half saved just in electronics.

electronics

Banking on warmer weather saves a couple ounces with no gloves or cold weather hat. A bigger risk with the sleeping bag saves some more. With the silk liner, an REI Travel Sack should keep me toasty all the way down to 46 degrees. Plus there’s no down (or much of any) insulation to get wet in the damp environment. The savings of 7 ounces only cost 30 degrees of comfort. (Actually 20 degrees of comfort and 10 degrees of survival.)

The “camp “sandals” that were abandoned in Colorado were replaced with a pair weighing 5 ounces less. (Whenever this new pair gets abandoned, there’s another pound of savings.)

The Long Trail has more opportunities for resupply, so three days of food will be the most carried, saving over a pound.

At this point, I’m down to close to 27 pounds. Unfortunately there are add-ons to fight. Food on the Colorado Trail was insufficient, to say the least. Adding in more trail mix, peanut butter and soft tortillas puts about a pound back. As an aside, I waited until the last minute to buy tortillas for my resupply boxes in an attempt to have them last on the trail. I needn’t have worried. I don’t know exactly what’s in the Old El Paso brand, but they don’t expire until next February.

I also had to fight weight with the guides. Instead of one (4 ounce) data book like for the CT, the information needed on the trail is spread between a map, an End to Ender’s Guide and a big honking Trail Guide. Fortunately, a razor knife can be used to edit the books. Between the two, close to 100 pages were carved out of the final product. What was left was split in two with the 2nd half being mailed in a resupply box. I think everything worked out to about a wash.

Guide

Considering it’s been a wet summer, and it’s Vermont, there’ll be more insect repellent to carry too.

All in all I’m still saving about 3 pounds, or 10 percent of the load. Time will tell if it’s enough.

Longing for the Long Trail

Colorado-Trail-275

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.

Dog lade

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?