Day 4 on the Vermont Long Trail

Today was packed with fun! We realized we had to hit town a day earlier than anticipated due to the food count. We geared up for a long day. Kids were dreading it because we had to push over 17 miles today in order to make it to town the next day to resupply.

We headed out of our favorite camp site around 6:30. Our first goal was 4.6 miles ahead, which was Story Spring Shelter to fill up on water. Shaggy past us on the trail after a couple miles and Tiny Turtle took off after him once again! Shaggy luckily enjoys Tiny Turtles company. We love having Shaggy around because he such a great motivator for Tiny Turtle. He is young, quick on the trail, full of energy, and has such patience with Tiny Turtle.

We reached Story Spring Shelter quickly. The shelter has a nice setting. A picnic table out front, platform, and a great water source. We had a quick lunch of protein bars and filled up on water. The Luna bars are the best! They have white chocolate and macadamian nuts. Yummy! Tiny Turtle loves the Carmel Apple Crisp meal bars. They are worth trying.

Shaggy headed out before us. We hit the trail after about a 30 minute break. About .5 miles into the trail the strangest thing yet happened. Sissy Bear was leading, followed by Tiny Turtle, myself, and then Bo Bonzi, when I came to a couple in there 40-50’s hiking. The woman was in front with a GoPro attached to her shirt, so I started talking to her because we had the same version. Well I glance at the man and he is NAKED!!! He had a backpack on his back but had NOTHING else on (sorry no pictures on this one). My poor children are looking at me trying to figure out what is going on. We just pushed on past. I don’t think they will forget the day they saw a naked person on the trail.

The trail came to a road crossing where we met up with Smiley! He was taking a small break. He is a very interesting man. He is an engineer and a Boy Scout Leader, so of course Tiny Turtle and Bo Bonzi had lots to talk about it with him.

We then proceeded down the trail. We came to the next road crossing about 2 miles later, which was the Stratton/Arlington Rd. To our surprise was trail magic by the Green Mountain Club! Trail magic generally surrounds food and drinks. They had brought out coolers of pop, Gatorade, juice, beer, fruit, crackers, meat, candy, and snacks! They set up chairs to relax in and talked with us. Lots of hikers pass through and they like to take care of the hikers. It was a delicious and refreshing surprise! The volunteers were very friendly and we’re excited to see a full family actually doing the entire trail! They already had heard about us from other hikers! They took our picture and apologized about the naked hiker they heard we passed.

We then headed onward after a good visit and lunch. Our next big challenge was about to begin. We had to climb 3.4 miles (1710 foot elevation increase) up Stratton Mountain. It was a tough climb especially with backpacks on. We were glad we got refueled but we were drenched in sweat. Once we were on the top they had a fire tower. We climbed up it and the view was spectacular! The climb was completely worth the exhaustion. The area is full of tourist as they do have a gondula to the top and back down. It would have been cheating on the trial if we took it.

After a short stay on the summit, we headed down towards Statton Shelter. It was a steep descent so we ran. It seems to feel better on the legs and knees to move swiftly. Sounds backwards but it worked. We covered the mileage (around 3 miles) quickly. We came to some spots where they had small wooden bridges built on the path where it’s prone to flooding, which was nice. Bo Bonzi was walking behind me and a board was loose. He stepped on the board and it was like a teeter totter effect. I got hit with the board and knocked forward. I didn’t fall but we got a good laugh out of it.

We made it to the Startton Shelter, which is a very nice shelter but had lots of people including 3 dogs already! We decided not to stay and just keep pushing forward. The privy needs a little TLC as it was over flowing (I didn’t go in it but the hikers were reporting it). I’m sure it’s better now!  A short walk from the shelter is Sterling Pond. A very beautiful spot. Tiny Turtle was heading in to take a swim but the poor boy slipped barely walking in the water and fell on his stomach. The poor kid had the wind knocked out of him and wanted nothing else to do with the pond. We were planning to filter some more water from the other side but it just didn’t seem like water we wanted to mess with as far as drinking. It could have been since one hiker yelled to her friends to get in the water it was warm and that she just urinated in the water! Yuck!

It was getting late at this point but we decided to move anyway. We saw the rain clouds rolling in and both the kids were getting tired but still being troopers. We kept looking for good campsites. Tiny Turtle would put his little hands together and pray for a camp spot every time Bo Bonzi would walk off and check for an area. We finally found one a couple miles past the pond. It was a good spot! We worked together to quickly set up tents and make dinner. We ate dinner and then Bo Bonzi tied up the bear bag away from us with the bottle of course! It was bed time after a long 17+ mile day up a strenuous mountai

 

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Day 3 on the Vermont Long Trail

Today was a good day! We headed on the trail around 8:30. The trail increased in elevation most of day. Shaggy past us on the trail and Tiny Turtle took off after him. When a hiker he knows passes Tiny Turtle tries to match their speed so he can talk to them the whole time. It works because then we all move faster and make excellent time! At the 1.6 mile mark we stopped at a good water source and filled up our water bottles then continued on our journey.

We came to Porcupine Outlook, which was gorgeous! We decided to have a snack and enjoy the view. Tiny Turtle wrote messages to our hiker friends behind us. They showed up shortly after and thought it was great! He wrote “Get Moving”. He just loves to hike with them.

We continued on our journey towards Goddard. It started raining so we quickly put our pack covers on and decided we didn’t mind ourselves getting wet. The rain didn’t last long to soak us but enough to cool us off.

We reached Goddard Shelter by 2, so we had some lunch. Goddard is a platform shelter. No bunks but still a nice shelter. We had brought a summer sausage but realized we forgot a knife! Bo Bonzi had to get creative. He used a knot on a tree to start the cut and then “Indian burned” to break it. It worked! Our hiker group showed up and told us they named us The Incredibles! They said that is our family name now. We loved it and now sign all the register books with that name plus our individual names.

Since it was early we decided we could press on another 4.1 miles to the next shelter, which was Kid Gore. It was shortly up the trail (.3) when we came to the Glastenbury Fire Tower. We climbed up  and the view was spectacular. We didn’t want to go back down.

The trail was mainly decreasing. Lots of roots but not bad. We reached Kid Gore Shelter. The shelter is small. We decided we like tent camping better so we found a camp sight around the corner from the shelter. It was the perfect campsite. We were on the side of the mountain overlooking many other mountains. It was gorgeous. The temperature was perfect. We made a good dinner and then laid down in our tents. It was so peaceful. We woke up at 1:22 and looked at the stars. It felt like they were right on top of us because the view. So far this is our favorite night!

Day 2 on the Vermont Long Trail

Our bag was hung from a tree limb about 9 ft off the ground last night. Our bag was still attacked by either mice or chipmunks. We were lucky and only lost a few of the meal bars. We have a big hole in our bag now though. We did not hit the trail until around 8:45 today. The plan was a short day of only 5.6 miles. The terrain started off going down the mountain, which sounds good but for those of you that know hiking, down the mountain is sometimes as hard as going up the mountain! The trail had large rocks and roots that we had to climb over and down. This continued for about 1.5 miles. We finally reached the bottom and crossed the road into a parking lot.

The river was very close, we could here it and it was so peaceful. We walked about .2 up the trail and found an opening that we could climb down to the river. We filled our water bottles, ate some protein bars, and the kids climbed all over the fallen trees over the water. I will be posting those videos. I sat on the rock with my shoes off, the sun felt so good on my feet. We decided after about an hour, we had to move on. We walked across a bridge and then the rest of the hike was all increasing in elevation. It was a tough hike. Tiny Turtle was asking for a break about every 5 minutes but we would just get him talking about something like volcanoes and he would press on. We did take a break at a rock that looked perfectly split in two parts. We all thought of the part on Finding Nemo when Dori wants to go through the trench and Marlin wants to go over it and they end up in the jelly fish. The rock looked just like that! The family climbed all over the rocks. It was a blast.

When we headed back on the trail it was more inclining. We finally reached Melville Nauheim Shelter. The shelters are 3 sided huts basically. Some shelters have wooden bunks usually 4 and some just have a big platform. This shelter had the 4 wooden bunks. It wasn’t a bad shelter. We decided to stay in the shelter tonight instead of sitting up the tents. Rain was supposed to be coming in. We met Shaggy, which is another hiker on the LT. He is a middle school teacher and Tiny Turtle just loved him. Not long after we were there, the hikers we met the previous day (Baby Chicken, OD, Gunho, and Dabba Do) showed up! Tiny Turtle was super excited. OD had a couple frisbees they played with. Then Dabba Do, OD, and Tiny Turtle built a fire. Tiny Turtle likes to blow on the fire. Sleeping in the shelter was a different experience. Shelters have mice! You have to hang your food, which the trick is to stick a bottle between the bear bag and the rope and they can’t climb down it! That is another piece of advice you learn on the trail! Also bring ear plugs if you are a light sleeper like me and try to stay in a shelter! People snore, move around, and even talk in their sleep.

 

Day 1 on the Vermont Long Trail

We woke up at 5am to get the journey started. We had everything packed and laid out in the room for an easy take off. Sissy bear was very unhappy about this.

We were able to get our car parked at the Greylock Community Center. They were very friendly! We started the journey on by crossing a footbridge in North Adams, which is part of the AT. We had to hike along the AT for about 3 miles, which was partly scrambling up the rocks to the top before getting to the registery box at the trail head of the LT! That was an exciting moment!

Sissy Bear and I use trekking poles, which are life savers at times! About a mile into the trail head of the LT I saw a porcupine! Poor Tiny Turtle was walking right behind me, so when it startled me I stepped back and my trekking pole hit him. He looked at me in a startled look himself. We all started laughing about it.

We reached Seth Warner Shelter around 11am, which is about 7 miles into the trail. We needed to refill our water supply. The Shelter has a water source but it wasn’t great. Sissy Bear looks at me and says, ” Mom it smells like someone farted in it”. Another good laugh on the trail. We met some awesome hikers at this Shelter named Baby Chicken, Daba Do, OD, and Gunho. The plan was orginally to stay at this shelter but considering it was early and everyone was doing pretty good, we decided to press on.

The trail became more strenuous with the increase in elevation then decrease then increase and so forth. I knew my feet were hurting but wasn’t sure the extent at this point. Tiny Turtle was asking me our mileage and if we could take a break about every 5 minutes at this point. He gets bored! We caught back up with Gunho, who gave Tiny Turtle a little pep talk to keep pressing forward and it’s just one step at a time. We pressed forward and about half a mile later, Gunho come running by us. Tiny Turtle looks at Bo Bonzi and says, “We can run on this trail”! He then takes off running after Gunho!

After 14.4 miles we reached Congdon Shelter. It was about 7pm when we finally made it. The shelter was full of hikers so we set up our tents in a designated tenting spot near the shelter. By this point My feet hurt so bad and I was barely walking due to the multiple blisters. Baby Chicken and Gunho were so helpful. They showed me the proper way to lace shoes depending on where the blisters are. For me, they were in multiple spots but the worse was the bottom and sides of the heels. They also said to pop the blisters, take it easier on day 2, and where 2 pairs of socks for added cushion. Luckily none of the rest of the family had any problems.

We set up our tents and Tiny Turtle hung out with his new found friends. They loved him. Sissy bear and I made dinner while Bo Bonzi finished setting up camp. We finally brought Tiny Turtle back to camp to eat, read his book, and sleep. It was a good night!

 

Keeping Kids Entertained on the Trail

Tiny Turtle gets bored quickly. During our hikes we will play games.  The first game is the “word” game. Most people have played this at one point or another. It’s a simple game. The first person says a word that begins with the letter “A” like apple. The second person then says “Apple” and a word that starts with the letter “B” like bear. The game keeps going until the end of the alphabet but each person has to say each of the words before making their additional word. You can change it up by going backwards on the alphabet or making it categories like animals or plants.

The second game is finding something like a walnut to use as a ball. This works great for an eight-year-old boy! Tiny Turtle was in a boredom spell and the only thing I could find was a walnut. As we walked the trail, he would kick and/or throw a walnut down the trail.  Then we would race to see if we could get it before he did but he was always just a little too fast.

The third game is Tiny Turtle will go up further on the trail and hide. Make sure your child knows not to go too far off the trail. The idea is to be on the trail but to see how long it takes to spot him/her. Kids love it.

The fourth game was to be the first to spot the blaze. This keep their attention on the trail in order to be the first one to see the blaze! An addition to this game is having them keep count of the blazes.

The fifth game we would use is a modified version of a scavenger hunt, which we call a survival hunt. The idea is that you have them be on the lookout for certain items along the trail and when they see it they alert you and you mark it off their list. With multiple kids this is a fun competition. You could have them point out items they could use if they needed to make a fire if they were lost in the woods. It is also a good teaching moment because they learn different types of trees, plants to avoid, and plants that are edible.

These are just some of the games we played and they seemed to work. If you have any suggestions, we would love to hear about them!

Training for the Vermont Long Trail by Mamma Bear and Bo Bonzi

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The past four months we have been training to take this long backpacking trip on the Vermont Long Trail, which is 272 miles. We started without any packs and low impact to build up our connective tissue. The idea was to decrease our chances of injury on the trail. The next step was to start carrying the packs and increase the length of the hikes. We also added a 2-mile run through the woods, which included some steep inclines to help with cardio. After the run we would strap on the packs and hike the same trail. This was a game changer! Switching terrains and training in all weather conditions is important. We practiced in low temperatures, high temperatures, and the rain. As time progressed we would increase the weight of the packs until we reached trail weight. Our packs were filled with the exact gear that we would be taking on the trail to ensure we had the right spot for each piece, the weight was right, and the packs were balanced. If we did not have the right gear at the time of training, then we substituted an item of equal weight. Something we learned by doing this was the difference that a 45-pound weight verses 45 pounds of food may feel on your back. So a helpful hint is to buy your gear you know you will be taking as soon as you can and use it in training.

 

Training is very important especially before a long hike like the one we are going to embark on. Going 272 miles on the Vermont Long Trail is going to be an adventure! A lesson we learned after our last trip to the Sheltowee Trace Trail, was training is important and we are not in as good of shape as we once thought. Yes, I just admitted that! On the good side, we learned our lesson, came home, and began training for the next big adventure.

Training is not always fun and sometimes it is hard to get the entire family motivated at once. Generally, if you can make it out of the door then everyone gets it in gear and the day is productive.  I have to say the “bargaining” of a twelve-year-old (Sissy Bear) can be amusing at times. I heard the excuses that she had to “take a shower” or “gather chicken eggs” and even “my toe hurts”. Generally, I heard excuses when it about to rain, which is ironic considering when it starts raining is when we have the best times. With kids it sometimes just takes someone hiking along with them to keep their mind on the goal.  During our first few runs at Fern cliff, I would run behind Tiny Turtle and Sissy Bear to keep them moving. The little bit of encouragement of someone running behind them reminding them they can do this was enough for them to keep the pace and continue.

Training by Tiny Turtle

I think the training was fun. The training was more fun than work. My favorite day was when it was raining at Fern Cliff. I was sliding in the mud up the side of the cliff. Dad was pushing up the side to make sure I didn’t fall. The longest day and hardest day was the day dad made us do 13 miles. I feel like I am stronger because I can kick harder and move faster.

Training by Sissy Bear

I am happy that we were able to get training in before this big trip. I feel like it is going to help me a lot on this trip. I did not like all the training exercise but I did them anyway because I knew it would help me. I especially did not like the boulder training. We would carry our packs and go up and down the boulders. We would go up and down 172 boulders. They were not very tall at least.  It was the harder part of training for me. My favorite training day was when we took a trip to Fern Cliff in the pouring rain to test our skills in the rain. I had a blast even though I fell a bunch! I was thankful for my trekking poles that day.

Sheltowee Trace Trail Experience

By: Tiny Turtle (age 7)

My backpack was 9 pounds on the first day and then went to 11 pounds. I was the line leader the first day.

Sissy Bear kicks from her sleeping bag and the tent was very small but I slept like a baby.   Luckily my sleeping bag was incredibly comfy.

The food was good. I kind of liked the breakfast. It was a trail mix. I only liked the M&M’s, nuts, and pretzels. I kept taking my mom and dad’s because they did not really like the M&M’s anyway. I liked the lunch but I really wanted to eat the chicken for lunch. I liked the summer sausage. It was really good. I really really liked the dinner. I love the chicken and pasta. The 2nd night, my dad and I had to eat all the left overs for dinner. We can’t have any food left over because it attracts animals. I was stuffed and my belly was big.

One day it starting raining when we were all grumpy and it made up happier. It was super easy for me to get my pack covered and my jacket on because my rain gear was on the outside pocket of my pack. None of my stuff got wet.

The last day it got dark on our way out. It was really muddy and everything looked like a bed and blankets because I was so tired. My dad ended up carrying me over his backpack for like 10 minutes for me to get a power nap.

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Sheltowee Trace Experience

By: Sissy Bear (age 12)

I had a great time. I learned a lot on this adventure. It was hard for me to sleep. I was in a tent with my little brother, Tiny Turtle. He lays there and snores but not bad. I did not sleep well because I couldn’t get comfortable and I was a little scared. I am working on the being scared part. I am going to try to get my parents to invest in a sleeping pad for me before the next trip.

The food we had was delicious. I did not much like the breakfast. It was a trail mix, but I only liked the M&M’s and peanuts. Lunch was good. I love the summer sausages. My favorite is dinner with the pasta with chicken and the mashed potatoes. My dad, Bo Bonzi, cooks it all and it is delicious.

My pack was 20 pounds on the first day of the trip but it became lighter. The third day was my hardest day. I hurt my ankle, but it wasn’t bad with the trekking poles. I learned it was a good idea to keep all the rain gear easily accessible. I had to get it out quickly and cover my pack and myself. It was so much fun.

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