After a nice rest in town and new shoes for Cameron (which we waiting for us when we arrived, thanks to Zappos!), we were ready for the last days on the trail to finish the hike to Canada. We were excited to be back on the trail to finish, but a bit sad because we knew the end would come soon.
Tuesday, Day 27, Codding Hollow Road to Corliss Camp, 4.8 miles
Since we slacked packed the day before, we knew that this day would not be long. We didn’t get on the trail until after 9:00a, but that didn’t matter. The footing was nice and easy and the climbs weren’t too hard. We went over Laraway Mt. and enjoyed some lunch and noticed there was a USGS marker. Then we saw another one, a reference marker, which was labeled “#2”. That meant there was a “#1” as well, and by scouting around, we found it, too. We thought it was interesting that a completely wooded summit would have three markers on it. We moved on and by early afternoon, we were already at Corliss Camp. The plan wasn’t to move on, but we really were in camp too early. Both of us thought the other one wanted to stay, and by the time we figured out that we both wanted to move on to Spruce Ledge Camp, it was too late in the day. We could have saved a whole day and been home back on our original schedule of Sat., Aug. 17. Was there any way to redistribute the miles so that we could be back on Saturday the 17th? Time for a planning session with the map and guidebook. It looked doable, but it would take one big day to get the job done. Our best bet was to do a 15 mile day the next day to Tillotson Camp, which would include a big afternoon ascent of Belvidere Mt., by which point we’d already be over 10 miles into the hike. We knew it would be hard, and I didn’t sugar coat it for Cameron. After discussing it, we both agreed to do it. That would mean an early start, so we worked on getting our gear set for an early, quick departure. Meanwhile, two other hikers came in that we knew also traveling northward, plus two southbound hikers who were still in their first week of the trail. It made for a fun evening, catching up and getting information about the trail ahead.
Wednesday, Day 28, Corliss Camp to Tillotson Camp, 15 miles
This was a long day. There was no other way to describe it. Notice there aren’t any pictures from this day. It isn’t that there weren’t any decent ones, but that we just didn’t take any! We got up early and were on the trail by 6:30a, I figured we’d have a good 12 hours of hiking ahead of us and I was right. We made it to Tillotson a little after 6:00p. The first part of the day’s hike wasn’t too bad, with rolling hills and nice footing. We ate some lunch near Spruce Ledge Camp and then went through Devil’s Gulch, which was spectacular with its primeval feeling due to the large boulders, abundant moss and foliage, not to mention the moose skeleton. After that it was a cruise to the road, but we knew it was not over yet. We ate a snack and started the hike up Belvidere. We hiked up more, and some more and for what seemed like way too long. Near the top we saw a few groups of hikers, some we had met before, so it was nice to chat again. Almost to the top and pretty tired, I slipped in the mud (no surprise!), and got scraped up on the rocks pretty badly. This was worst time for something like that to happen. Not that we each didn’t have our share of trips and falls, but this wasn’t at a good time. We were almost to the top, it was the last big climb of the day and it was past time for a snack. We regrouped, continued on and in less than 10 minutes were at the top. We sat down for a long overdue break, ate a snack and got ready for the last 2.8 miles of the day. We both felt much better, but those miles seemed to drag for a while and then we decided to sing. It sounds odd, but I can tell you that singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” really does make a difference and makes the time go by! We sang for almost the whole way from Belvidere to Tillotson Camp, Christmas music, church music, whatever we could think of. Soon we came to a beaver pond and I thought I remembered something about a beaver pond being near Tillotson Camp from the guidebook. Sure enough, less than 30 minutes later, we were at Tillotson Camp setting up for the night. The longest day was over and we thanked God we had made it and would be home as planned for Dakota’s birthday. Later than night we were joined by a solo southbounder, and enjoyed chatting with her before quickly falling asleep.
Thursday, Day 29, Tillotson Camp to Jay Camp, 11.5 miles
We awoke to a beautiful sunrise and the knowledge that we had less than 25 miles to Canada and that we would not have another high mileage day on this trip. We had a lot to be thankful for! We knew that today would be a lot of rolling terrain and little peaks, so we got ready and set out on the trail. We covered the first two peaks and were about to crossing Rt. 57 in Hazen’s Notch, when we saw a familiar face. It was one of the Boy Scout leaders we had met a few days earlier; we also knew he had left the trail and was now van support for the group. He was looking for the group and we hadn’t seen them the previous day. He figured they were ahead and after a nice chat, he went up to the next road crossing. The afternoon brought more rolling terrain, and thankfully, a few signs on the summits so that we knew where we were! Once in a while through the trees, we could see our last really large peak in the distance, Jay Peak. We crossed the final summit and headed down to another road crossing from which we could hear construction vehicles beeping as they backed up. As we descended, we could hear them louder and louder, which was encouraging since Jay Camp wasn’t too far past the road crossing. The Vermont road crews were paving the road, so we scooted across and headed to Jay Camp. We wondered how many people would be there and if we’d have to tent. The trail seemed busy recently, so we prayed there would be room, but we shouldn’t have been worried. We walked into an empty camp and had the place to ourselves the whole night!
Friday, Day 30, Jay Camp to Shooting Star Shelter, 7.7 miles
With a shorter day, and only one big climb, we were in no hurry to get out of camp really early. We had heard about a snack bar/deli at the top of Jay Peak, so our plan was to time our arrival so that we could get something fresh to eat. Nothing motivates hikers like food! We also knew the climb up Jay Peak would be our longest of the day, but it didn’t seem all that long and we enjoyed going up through the different sorts of forests. Soon the footing became more ledgy and we crossed some ski trails; then it was the last bit up some ledges and we were on top! It was windy, but we found some shelter near the buildings at the top. We also met up with the Boy Scouts again, who were finishing the trail the same day we were. They were waiting for the tram and snack bar to open up, just like we were. We waited quite some time on the summit, but finally got a tram ride to the resort at the bottom of Jay Peak, and enjoyed the views on the ride down and up. The snack bar was open when we got back and we easily split a 15″ sub, plus other goodies between us. Full of delicious lunch, we were ready for the last five miles or so to Shooting Star Shelter, everyone’s destination for the night. More rolling terrain with easy footing was the order of the afternoon and we arrived at Shooting Star to find the Boy Scouts already there, but their leader still behind us. They were setting up to tent as they were also expecting some of their family members to be there to support them on their last day of the trail. Once the family members arrived, camp was busy! It ended up being an enjoyable evening as the scouts and their families were friendly and respectful and even included us in their last evening campfire on the trail. It was a great way to spend our last evening, listening to everyone talking about their adventures and memories of the trail.
Saturday, Day 31, Shooting Star Shelter to Canadian Border and Journey’s End Rd., 5.7 miles
Today was the day, our last day on the trail. It was the day we would stand on the border between the U.S. and Canada. It was bittersweet for me. It was the moment we had worked so hard to get to, and yet I was sad to be going home and ending the journey. We got a reasonable start as we knew that our family would be at the Journey’s End parking lot around noon, and probably before then. There were just a few more mountains to ascend, one more road to cross and we’d be at the end. We enjoyed a few peeks at the undercast from the top of Burnt Mt., crossed Rt. 105 and ascended our last peak, Carlton Mt. It was a beautiful sunny morning, cool but not cold and perfect for hiking. We knew we were close to the border and while crossing one of the last mud pits, I slipped on a log and ended up in knee deep mud, while also scraping my leg. I didn’t want to arrive at the border terribly muddy (you can’t avoid being just a little muddy in VT!), so I started to clean off the mud, but needed some water. Cameron and I both were out of clean water in two of our bottles. The other two bottles we had made into lemonade. So, lemonade it was. I cleaned up with lemonade and although slightly sticky, thought it might smell better than the mud. Off we went, where we saw the first people since leaving camp, two guys who said the border was just 5 minutes away. We weren’t too sure as other people’s hiking time estimates don’t always match our pace, but sure enough, they were right! We saw the northern terminus sign and knew we had finished. After a prayer of thanks, we headed over the last bits of rock and there it was, the granite line marker with the long clear cut behind it heading into the west.
We took pictures, enjoyed the moment and soon were joined by the Boy Scouts. Congratulations were given all around. We then picked up our packs for the last 1.3 miles to the parking lot, the last little bit of the journey. The trail was pleasant and the trip was quick. After checking my phone in the parking lot, I realized my husband had called two minutes earlier. We called back and he and my daughter were in the lower lot, so they came up to pick us up. Perfect timing – both parties had arrived at almost the same time! It was great to see family and be on our way home, yet small part of my heart was still on the trail, in Vermont.
We’ve been home over a week now, and the Long Trail was a great experience and journey, and we’ve learned so much not only about backpacking, but about ourselves and our faith. There were certainly highs and lows throughout the trip, but the whole experience is one that I wouldn’t change. Before we even got to the border, Cameron was already talking about the next long distance backpacking trip. Who knows where next summer will take us!