Allison Desbonnet's Vermont Long Trail Thru-Hike
Landscape Designer Allison Desbonnet recently made the bold decision to tackle a thru-hiking trip. With nothing but herself, a backpack, and a compelling desire to explore the outdoors, Allison set off to hike the Vermont Long Trail. Below is her report on this challenging and adventurous trip:
Long Trail Facts
– Runs the entire length of the state, 273 miles from Massachusetts to Canada.
– The oldest long distance trail in the United States, and was completed in 1930.
– It was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail, which coincides with the LT for the first 100 miles
– It takes approx. 20-30 days to complete a LT thru hike
– About 150 people complete the full trail each year
– The entire trail gains approx. 70,000 feet of elevation
– Mile for mile, the LT is known as the most rugged hiking trail to conquer in the U.S.
What is thru-hiking?
– A form of backpacking that focuses on long distance and high daily mileage. Typically involves hiking a trail from end to end in one period of time.
– The backpacking paradox: the more distance you walk, the less you should carry
– You carry everything you need to survive comfortably in the woods, average pack weight is 20-40 lbs, depending on how many days of food are being carried.
– Physical and mental preparation is key. Planning gear, food, and a loose daily itinerary is very important
– Most commonly hiked & known trails are the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail
Why did I want to thru-hike?
I love the outdoors, adventure, and physical challenge. The fact that the Long Trail was such a strenuous feat was even more of a draw for me. I started hiking last year about the same time that the Appalachian Trail hikers were rolling through the White Mountains in NH. I noticed them, it was hard not to. The more I found out about thru-hiking, the more it terrified me in a way that drew me in. I knew how rewarding it would be to conquer it.
Why now? Why not take the time to train through other big trips first? Many long distance trails and National Parks are currently at high risk of harm due to pressures for oil, gas, and mineral extraction. I felt and continue to feel compelled to get out and experience these wild landscapes first hand while there is still time to take action.
– I hiked solo, taking 20 days to complete the trail (no rest days)
– I averaged 14 miles per day
– pack weight (including food and water) about 30-35 lbs
– Made 4 stops into town to resupply food at local grocery stores
– Stayed indoors 2 nights, one at an inn & one at a family friend’s house
– Camped by a shelter every night, slept in tent every night except twice due to weather.
– Extremely challenging hike mentally, and extremely rewarding
– I have never put so much physical stress on my body, and I have never felt so relaxed and comfortable–a surprising swap from the usual day to day city life in the higher stress/faster paced environment.
– The weather was on my side as it only rained a few times, with one notably chilly night
WHAT DID I EAT?
The more lightweight and higher in fat and calories, the better- aka what most consider junk food.
Breakfast: instant coffee, instant oatmeal, poptarts
Lunch: constant snacking on nuts, dried fruit, hard cheese, peanut butter & Nutella, protein/health bars, cheese crackers & gummy bears
Dinner: rotated between Ramen noodles, mac & cheese & rice sides
Thru-hiking changed my life and lead to a big mental shift. It forced me to be fully in tune with my body, and pay close attention to any feeling I had, and act on it. I learned fairly quickly of the minute signs and signals that my mind gave off in certain situations; whether it be a need for salt, or a notion to keep pushing on to the next shelter. During my solo hike, I was surprised to find that I did not feel any stress or anxiety, even on the first day which I expected to be a nervous mess. I have taken this mindset back with me to the city. Since my hike I am more laid back and patient. I feel a sense of peace that comes with slowness and independence.