March 2, 2012

My First Ultralight Backpacking Trip

My first Ultralight Backpacking trip was in 1999. I hiked 128 miles on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont averaging 19 miles per day.  My total pack weight was 23 pounds. That included 5 days of food and 20oz(!) of fuel. My base pack weight was 11.5 lbs. 

That backpacking trip was an experiment for me. Prior to it I was a traditional backpacker carrying a normal assortment of popular backpacking gear. Little did I know my whole way of thinking was about to change!

 From my trail journal:

Saturday, August 28 - Route 2 to Gifford Woods State Park, 19.3 miles.
  12:30 PM, stopped for lunch at Stoney Brook. Its become a mostly sunny morning after starting out in a cool drizzle. I've met 11 people hiking north so far today. All but 3 are thru-hiking. One guy is from New Zealand, he flew over here to thru-hike the AT.
    I've made good mileage so far today. Without really trying I've hiked 13 miles since 6:50 AM. I think I'll continue on to Kent Pond or Gifford Woods. I should be able to hike another 5-6 miles today.
   5:45 PM, I'm cooking supper at Gifford Woods State Park. I splurged... $15.00 for a lean-to! Had a cold Pepsi too... Hiked 19.3 miles today, plus .2 on side trail to the Look-out, not bad... This afternoons hiking was slower. Ran out of gas... but feel fine as I write this. Cooking Lipton Creamy Garlic Noodles....ummm smells good.
   My knee brace works well, no problem other than it bunching up behind my knee. Put a piece of moleskin there to prevent rubbing my skin raw... we'll see. My right knee told me it's there today, nothing serious though.
   I am writing this on the picnic table in front of the lean-to when all of a sudden..."BONK".  I'm sitting under an apple tree, and every once and a while an apple falls!
   Passed a lot of north-bounders today. The woods are full of 'em.
   I feel so good tonight. This ultralight  hiking thing is sooooo cool!  The last time I backpacked 19 miles in a day was back 1976 when I was 19 years old. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, August 29 - Gifford Woods to Clarendon Shelter, 17.7 miles.
   Left Gifford at 7AM. Slept well, nice quiet place. My lower back was hurting this morning when I got up. It made the first hour of hiking tough. Thoughts of going home. Felt better by the time I started up Killington. Spent a long time talking with the caretaker at Cooper Lodge.
   The woods remind me of Maine again, spruce and fir. I feel at home. Ate lunch at Governor Clement shelter. A large group of college kids from Tufts showed up for lunch too. They gave me an apple and some pita bread.
   Started to tire around 2 PM, not as much as yesterday though. Around 3PM the sky clouded up. That made up my mind the next shelter would be home for the night. I had thoughts of camping out at Clarendon Gorge... but... tired and threat of rain...
   Washed my socks and feet! Man these polypro socks stink like hell. I could hardly stand myself. Clean feet, clean socks, life is good.
   I feel good tonight. Just think, this morning I was thinking of going home!

Monday August 30 - Clarendon shelter to Lost Pond shelter. 18.6 miles.
   Did not sleep well last night. Tossed and turned. I was cold too. Got up at 6:30 AM. The other 4 people in the shelter are sleeping. I'm trying to be quiet, but...
   My back is sore again this morning. It's hard to bend over to pack-up. After an hour of hiking my back is fine... hummm?  I really settled into a rhythm today. Time just passes by...
   Someone left 2 gallons of "COLD" spring water at the Route 140 road crossing. Thank you for Trail Angels... I was thirsty.
     There was no water at Greenwall shelter, so I decided to go to a spring located 1 mile down the trail. That was dry too. So then I decided to have lunch at the next spring at Little Rock Pond. Got there at  1PM and that spring was dry too!  I drank lake water, warm but wet!. Nice camps...only 2 lean-to's and a tent site. All for $5.00 per night. I saw a sign that said G.M.C. (green mountain club) distorted into reading "gimme more cash"... oh well, the price we pay for not adhering to  'Leave No Trace'...
   Passed through a beautiful spruce / fir forest around the White Rocks area. So nice, kinda Walt Disney-ish...
    Made steady progress today. Left this morning at 7:15, got to Lost Pond shelter at 4:10. It looks like I'll be in Manchester tomorrow to resupply. Massachusetts watch out, here I come.

Tuesday August 31 - Lost Pond shelter to Spruce Peak shelter. 17 miles
   Left the shelter  at 7:10AM. Thought I was going to have the place to myself last night but 2 thru-hikers came in well after dark. Am heading into Manchester today to pick up 2 days worth of food. Not planning to stay to stay in town, The Hostel closed Sunday night. Monday was the first day of school and the hostel is at the church/school.
   10:10AM, I am sitting on top of Styles Peak, beautiful crisp sunny horizon to horizon blue sky! Above me a hawk cries out as it soars back and forth without flapping a wing. It feels so good to be alive.
   11:00AM, stopped at Mad Tom notch road to fix a blister on the ball of my left foot. "TURTLE" and family left 30 gallon jugs of water at the trail crossing! Someone broke the Forest Service hand water pump. Way to go Turtle!! Time to move on, Bromley peak here I come...
   2:30PM, just finished a pint of Cherry Garcia! and I am drinking a Coke in the parking lot of a supermarket in Manchester. I reached Rt 30 at 1:30PM and hitched a ride into town. A young kid picked me up and drove me to the supermarket clear across town (now to find my way back to the trail!) I bought 2 days worth of food. I am going to shoot for Williamstown MA!
   It feels funny to be in town after 3-1/2 days in the woods. Everything / everyone in town is so clean! I got some strange looks in the supermarket, oh-well. Off to the trail, hope it's as easy to catch a ride out of town.
   Got back to the trail at 3PM! Had to walk about a mile to get out of town before a man and his son, both from MA, gave me a ride to the trail. They where not going that far but brought me there anyway!
   Spruce Peak shelter is fantastic, Best shelter I've ever seen. It's actually a log cabin with a front porch, and sliding front door.  Inside is a wood stove, table, windows, and 2 levels of bunks that will probably sleep 18 or so. Lot's of room. BUT NO WATER! The spring ran dry. I had to back track 1 mile down the trail to get water... oh well.
   Did some major foot repairs tonight. I have 3 blisters, one is large on the ball of my left foot. Washed feet with soap. Dried them off, broke the blisters and drained them. I then put triple antiseptic on them, moleskin, and duct tape! Put on clean socks that I washed 2 days ago, and washed the dirty ones. All set to go I hope. If my feet don't hold out, I won't make it to MA! Lets wait and see...

Wednesday September 1 - Spruce Peak shelter to Kid Gore shelter. 23 miles.
   10:10AM, I am sitting on the shore of Stratton Pond. Another beautiful cloudless crisp dry day! Easy hiking this morning. Will move on and have lunch on top of Stratton Mountain. There's suppose to be a warming hut open to hikers up there, TV, phone, heat, electricity, stove, 'fridge,,, nawwwwww I'm staying away! Also, the Gondola ride down and back up the mountain is free and it takes you to Stratton village... hummmm, no, I'll stick to the trail!
   I am no longer feeling like a visitor here, but a part of...

Thursday September 2 - Kid Gore shelter to Congdon Camp. 18.7 miles
   What a beautiful sunrise I saw from Kid Gore shelter this morning. This shelter faces due east and has a view! Shared the shelter with a thru-hiker who is also backpacking ultralight. We had much to talk about...
   Nice view from atop the tower on Glastenbury Mountain. The Goddard shelter 3 tenths of a mile away has a nice view too!
   Met a family hiking down from Goddard shelter this morning. Mom, Dad, and 2 little kids. I spent time encouraging the kids. They looked tired, but where having a good time. I love to see families together outdoors, especially when the kids are little...
   Reached City Stream hot and thirsty... have been thinking about a cold soda all morning long... and what do I find there? AHHHHHH thank God for Trail Angles!
I've been on the trail for over a hundred miles now, I guess it's o.k. to have a cold soda left in the stream for thru-hikers...
   The climb up from Rt 9 was tough! Had to rest several times. Reached the top of Harmon Hill and enjoyed a fine view towards Bennington. The views in Vermont have been spotty, today has been a real treat!
   Reached Congdon Camp to find 2 large groups of college freshman already camped out there. It is freshman orientation week I guess. I enjoyed their company, and their food!!
   Spent the night in the shelter with 3 thru-hikers. 2 north bounders, and one heading south. They where amazed to find out I wasn't a "day hiker". My little pack and sneakers give the "wrong" impression I was told! Hummm, am I a stealth distance hiker? We where up late sharing stories and swapping gear info... a fitting way to spend my last night on the trail.

Friday September 3 - Congdon Camp to Route 2, MA. 14.1 miles.
   Reached the Vermont-Massachesetts border at noon. Spent a long time there reflecting on my trip. Another state finished, another piece of the puzzle in place. In a few more miles I'll be back in town...
   Reached Rt 2 and walked into Williamstown MA. Spent the night under my tarp out in back of the Mountain Goat, the local outfitter. Nice place, hiker friendly.  Their shop is on a stream with good swimming. There is a laundry next door too. I got all cleaned up, washed my clothes (the owner of the laundry gave me free soap, and he leaves the side door to the bathroom open for hikers), then had a nice meal in town. Although I was camped out that night in town, I went to sleep  to the sound of the stream... what a fitting end to my trip.

More information on Ultralight Backpacking Gear, Tips, and Techniques can be found at Onestep's Ultralight Backpacking Resource  “section hiking the Appalachian Trail with a 10 pound pack”.

1 comment:

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