Freedom and Unity on the Vermont Long Trail


Hikes through don’t fade or fade; the hikes end suddenly and definitively. The very word “terminus” signals an abrupt conclusion. Four days ago, I emerged from the woods and mountains of Vermont after about a month of hiking to find the metal pillar marking the border between the United States and Canada, and at that exact moment my hike was over.

I wouldn’t drag myself, exhausted, into camp that night to pitch my tent, cook my dinner on a collapsible stove, chat with friendly strangers, and crawl into my sleeping bag long before dark. Instead, I dumped as much mud on my boots and body as possible, and climbed into the back seat of my parents’ car to be taken to a restaurant and an Airbnb. Although the physical part of the adventure is over and the somewhat jarring transition to ‘normal life’ has begun, the thinking and the right amount of learning have only just begun.

Thinking back, I can’t help but draw a parallel between my experience on the Long Trail and the motto of the state it passes through. Vermont’s “Liberty and Unity” was enacted in 1788 and has been central to the state’s ethos ever since. Writer Dorothy Canfield Fisher wrote, “The Vermont idea strenuously attacks the fundamental problem of human conduct – how to reconcile the needs of the group, of which every man or woman is a member, with the yearning for individual freedom to be who he really is. is.” I would say that the Long Trail (or at least my experience with it), “boldly tackles” the same idea. Although seemingly opposing concepts, freedom and unity were inextricably linked on the Trail.


There were many moments on the track where I absolutely didn’t want to do what I was doing. There were times of utter exhaustion and genuine pain and misery (aka “Type III fun“), but what I remembered in those moments was that I had selected be there. Basically, I was telling myself to be grateful: “Yes, you may be miserable, but you are also free.” Being able to choose whether to embark on a great adventure into the unknown, choose how many miles to travel, where to stop to admire the view or continue traveling, stay in a shelter or tent, be social or seek solitude , what time to go to bed, what time to get up and start all over again – all these choices represent an immense freedom.

There was also the freedom not to be beholden to the normal demands of society: going to work, shopping, going to the dentist (I missed my appointment, oops), etc. I was no longer held back by daily vices, like scrolling mindlessly for hours on social media or sleeping too late. Ultimately I found that hiking solo, while constraining in many “modern” ways (e.g. I couldn’t just turn on a tap when I wanted clean water and I couldn’t not just putting my leftover food in the fridge), was also incredibly freeing. I was accountable only to myself and my days belonged entirely to me. But calling my trek “solo” would also be a bit of a misnomer, because as cliché as it sounds, one of the most memorable and memorable aspects of the trek was the people I met and the humans who supported me throughout. along the way.


The general consensus of the notion of “freedom and unity” in Vermont seems to be that we can only enjoy our individual freedoms by recognizing the needs of others and operating cohesively and peacefully with our neighbors. If we can build and sustain something great together, then we can enjoy it as individuals to our liking. Likewise, there is a huge unit on the Long Trail. Yes, we’re all here to “do our own hike,” but we can only do that by supporting each other and the environment we travel through. Take “Leave no Trace” for example: it would only take one yahoo to leave their food lying around the shelter at night to wreak havoc a bear visit on everyone in the joint. On the trail, we recognize the work that needs to be done for everyone to thrive in their own individual business.

I found that most often the camaraderie and support was offered freely and without hesitation. During the part of the hike where the LT coincides with the Appalachian Trail, I encountered two hikers called Lightyear and Margaritaville who literally saved my hike. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I was battling a massive attack of incredibly painful plantar fasciitis, and without wifi I didn’t know what to do about the problem. It was terrible to the point that I seriously questioned my ability to complete the hike. And then, out of the blue and at exactly the right time, Margaritaville and Lightyear popped up with a slew of advice on how to deal with tendon issues. I acted on their every word of wisdom, including buying different shoes halfway through the company, and my PF left. I literally couldn’t have done it without them, and without many other amazing humans.

My partner, Jon, took care of our dog, garden and chickens without hesitation so I could act on my wacky hiking plan. He texted and called with words of encouragement and helped me feel that I was not alone even though we were thousands of miles apart. Jon’s parents also spent a lot of time looking after our dog, Opie. My parents, Andrea and Bobby, were invaluable with logistical support, helping out with restocking, transportation, and buying new shoes. My neighbor, Teddi, welcomed my two remaining chickens into her ultra-secure chicken fortress after a huge raccoon discovered our chicken coop and slaughtered two of my chickens. Bulbs and Yukon were great company and picked me up from Appalacian Gap for a delicious breakfast at Waitsfield’s Toast and Eggs. Both Ari and Sam supplied Advil when I was at my lowest, having forgotten to purchase this very important item on one of my restocks. Riley showed me the magic of Vault Logs, which I had paid little attention to before. No Idea boosted my confidence by making sure 15 miles on the Long Trail in Northern Vermont felt like 30 on the Pacific Crest Trail (which he had hiked). Tam offered a yard for camping, as well as a shower, laundry facilities and wifi. Spill Beer provided general entertainment and endless snacks from its 10-pound snack bag. Happy Packs and his brother, Ty, told me all kinds of interesting facts about the local flora and fauna and were, unsurprisingly, always in a good mood. My good friend from college, Sukie, offered her house as a stopover before and after cross-country flights. Friends from different stages of my life cheered me on through my phone screen. My extended family greeted me with enthusiasm and hugs at the end of my trip.

In conclusion…

So, yes, “solo” is a bit of a misnomer; I could not have had freedom without unity. And while Vermont is just as much in love with the phrase “good fences make good neighbors” as it is with its motto (just as I’d much rather sleep in my own tent than a busy shelter), there’s a undercurrent of camaraderie along the 272 miles of trail. Although you can go 23 hours and 50 minutes without seeing a single other human (as I did right after the AT/LT split), you are nevertheless connected to other seekers and adventurers through the “desert trail “under your feet. And what an amazing trail it is.

Small foot,

Done (for now).

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