Long Trail Mileage: 2.8
Time: 3 hours
Day / Night Temp: 18 / 0 F
What a stressful weekend. I flew home very late Friday night, leaving a job in Florida to return to Boston's single digit temperatures. Saturday flew by with last minute errands and visits with friends as I tried to get my home life in order before departing for the next adventure. Sunday was my birthday, and was equally, if not more so, busy than the day before. I picked Santa up from Boston's Logan Airport around 1100hrs, and we immediately went to REI and the grocery store to pick up last minute gear. We had a great lunch with my parents and my dear friend Dana, then returned to my house to pack our bags for Monday's departure. I snuck in a quick nap before an amazing birthday dinner in the city, making it home early enough to attempt a full night of sleep. Phrase of the weekend?? "I need one more day." I've never felt so rushed and disheveled in my life.
Santa and I packed the car this morning only to find the rear tire flat, which ultimately delayed our departure until 1030, over an hour later than we had hoped for. My mom was gracious enough to drive us out to western MA, stopping for a not-so-quick lunch at the Friendly's restaurant in Greenfield before taking Route 2 to Williamstown where the trail begins. Despite our efforts to begin earlier, we managed to begin hiking at 1500hrs from the Pine Cobble Trail parking lot. The Long Trail is not accessible by road, and instead requires a 2-3 mile hike from either the Appalachian Trail crossing at Route 2, or this Pine Cobble side trail. Having already hiked the A.T., we unanimously voted on the latter approach.
A quick 0.8 mile hike up the well-traveled side trail brought us to Pine Cobble's small peak, with a carved sign indicating another 1.3 miles to the Long Trail starting point at the MA/VT border. We covered the distance at a decent pace, arriving as the sun set shortly after 1600hrs. We were quick with our photos, partially due to the 18 degree air temperature, knowing full well that the remaining 2.8 miles to the Seth Warner shelter would be covered in the dark. We put on our headlamps in anticipation of the wood's tendency to quickly become a pitch black environment, and carried on. While the beginning side trail had been well used, the LT itself had not been traveled at all, leaving us to break trail with every step we took. We alternated leading, putting our boots through a layer of frozen snow before compressing 4-6" of powder under every stride. It's exhausting work, and had we had more daylight we likely would have stopped for snowshoes to make the trek even a little bit easier given the additional weight on our backs.
Night hiking on the Appalachian Trail (and subsequently the first 100 miles of the LT) is not something I'm new to, but it's a whole different ballgame in the snow. We verbally called out blazes, or white painted trail markers, to be sure we stayed on track. Arriving at the Seth Warner shelter side trail around 1815hrs, we hurried down and set up our sleeping bags in the shelter itself, deciding against the tent for tonight. We'll see how often it's used, but either way I'm happy to carry the weight; at some point we'll most certainly need it. Dinner was cooked on a gas stove, and I had soup with spicy mango salmon (from a shrink wrapped package) mixed in.
It's more difficult to write this blog in the winter, that's for sure. Current temps outside are hovering around 3 degrees Fahrenheit, and will undoubtedly drop below zero as the night goes on. It's nearly 2100 now, and our alarm is set for 0600 with the hopes of making it 13 miles tomorrow to another shelter. We've mutually agreed on a bunch of safety checkpoints to make sure we're not pushing ourselves beyond reasonable action with our hikes.
That's all for now. I'm going to go hibernate in my sleeping bag. It's quite lovely here, despite the single digit temperatures... The light of the crescent moon is casting a million shadows on the white snow-cover, and the winter stars are brilliantly illuminated overhead. How lucky I am to be here.
Onward & upward..