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~About the Long Trail and My Hike~

-About the Long Trail-
Excerpted from the Long Trail Guide

Vermont's Long Trail, with it's 270-mile footpath, 175 miles of side trails, and nearly 70 primitive shelters, offers endless hiking opportunities for the day hiker, weekend overnighter, and extended backpacker. The Long Trail (LT) follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont state line to the Canadian border.

Although the Long Trail is known as Vermont's "footpath in the wilderness", its character may more accurately be described as backcountry. As it wends its way to Canada, the trail climbs rugged peaks and passes pristine ponds, alpine bogs, hardwood forests, and swift streams. The Long Trail is steep in some places, muddy in others, and rugged in most. Novice and expert alike will enjoy the varied terrain of the trail as it passes through the heart of Vermont's backwoods.

Built by the Green Mountain Club (GMC) between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the country. It was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail (my note-the AT runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine), which coincides with the Long Trail for one hundred miles.

-About my Hike-

O.K., so you must be thinking to yourself now, "Why would anyone want to do something like that?" Well, only about 70 people each year do. So why do I want to hike the LT? Why not! I am an avid outdoorsman, an experienced backpacker, and pride myself in keeping my body in shape (hey, it's the only one I am going to get, eh!), so it seems only natural that distance hiking would be a challenge that I would someday undertake.

In June of 2001 I will graduate high school in the top percentage of my class. Having worked myself to the bone, I naively thought that grades will automatically equate to my later success and now find myself questioning this and some of the other foundations which I was brought up to believe. I am moving on to a new phase in my life. I am leaving my childhood cocoon behind. Am I ready? Thinking about all the changes and challenges that lie before me in the near future I began to wonder, "Am I emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually ready to begin my new journeys?" "Where is my place in life?" "What purpose to the benefit of man am I going to serve by being me, by doing what I can?" Despite my eighteen years of existence, I honestly don't know myself well enough to even begin to give answers. I doubt that most people, if confronted with the questions, are either. I am out of touch with my inner self, out of touch with my nature. I am a stranger to even myself.

My Long Trail hike will be my Native American Vision Quest or Aborigine Walkabout in which a young man, ready to become an adult, is sent to wander through the wilderness in search of guidance from the One and tranquility in hearing the Voice. Upon gaining that knowledge, they return to the community stronger, gentler, and ready to face the tasks that will be presented to them throughout their life. They are no longer strangers to themselves and, thus, can begin to know others as deeply and meaningfully. I know that these answers to my questions are not going to be written on the rocks that I stumble across or the reflections in the water that I gaze into, but know that it is the collective experience that will bring me closer to wisdom and to who I am. As I travel through The Creator's temple, Mother Nature will teach me the rhythms of her universe as I begin to find the inner strength that will guide me the rest of my life.

In thinking about my hike, I am reminded of the man that has had such an impact on my intellectual maturation in the last four years, Henry David Thoreau, who stated in Walden:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

Modern day society, in the name of progression and advancement, has become complicated. From cars to microwaves to T.V. dinners to email and chatrooms, our lives are filled with things that no doubt give us a great deal of pleasure and convenience, but, at the same time, distract us from the natural world. Along the Long Trail, I will confront life at its simplest worrying about food, shelter, water, and warmth (the bare elements of life) rather than the little things that drive us mad in our everyday lives. I will literally be able to stop and smell the roses and, like Thoreau, front only the essentials, learn what our Mother has to teach, and live my life to the fullest.

In closing, I would just like to thank my family for their constant support and understanding. Although my actions and words may appear to hint otherwise sometimes, they know that I will always love them and appreciate everything they have taught me along the way. I would not have the strength and direction to tackle any adventure without them.

Hope to see you out there sometime!

Happy Trails- Ryan