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Epic Hike Becomes Epic Fail

Long Trail

As I discussed in my previous post Preparing for a Long Distance Hike, the preparations that my son and I completed for our planned thru-hike of the Vermont Long Trail in the summer of 2012 went extremely well. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the hike itself.

On Saturday August 11, 2012, my wife drove my son and I down to Williamstown, MA and dropped us off at the trail head for the Pine Cobble Trail. As we set foot on the trail, we felt great excitement and anticipation as we looked forward to the adventures that lay ahead.

After hiking for about 5 hours, we arrived at the Seth Warner Shelter, the first shelter on the Long Trail. We rested for a few minutes and then went about setting up our tents, gathering water, and making dinner. Dinner never tasted so good! By 8pm we were ready to call it a day. I slept soundly all night. I rolled out of my tent at around 6am and made a cup of coffee. At 7am I called to my son to get up. I wanted to be on the trail by 8 o’clock. At first he just made a few grumbling sounds that reminded me of all those mornings trying to get him out of bed for school. I let him be for another 15 minutes. I tried to rouse him again. “Dad, I don’t feel well” came through the wall of his tent. I could tell by the sound of his voice that he wasn’t kidding. This was not another attempt to get out of going to school.

Long story short

My son had finally caught the illness that went through our household about a week prior to our departure. I do not believe his illness was from the water we had gathered. Regardless, he was sick and I made the tough decision to abandon our attempt at the thru-hike, less than 24 hours into our journey. Believe it or not, it was actually a pretty easy decision at the time. Yes, I wanted to complete the hike. Yes, I had spent months and months preparing, and lots of money on gear. Yes, it was incredibly difficult to get so much time off from work. But my son was sick. I was concerned about his well-being. So to me, the decision was a no-brainer. We had to get off the trail as soon as possible, and in a manner in which my son could hike out, carrying his pack, in a very weakened condition. Luckily the trail crossed a dirt road about 1/2 mile north of where we spent the night. Once we are on the dirt road, the going was pretty easy, even if it was a long way to the nearest town. After a few hours of hiking down dirt roads I was able to get a cell phone signal, and called my wife. She immediately dropped what she was doing and drove several hours to meet us in North Adams, MA… not very far from where we had started our journey the day before.

On the positive side

After a few days, my son was over his illness. We went for a 6 mile day-hike on the Long Trail near where we live, just to see how he felt. He felt great! The next day we headed out on the Long Trail once again! This time we stayed out for 5 days, hiking the northern sections of the trail, which are much closer to where we live (I wasn’t about to ask my wife to drive us back to Massachusetts again!). Then we came home for a day, and then headed back out for 4 more days. Finally we capped off our hiking expeditions by spending a few days at a hotel in the Adirondack Mountains of NY. We hiked Cascade and Porter Mountains near Lake Placid, and then went to a really nice restaurant for dinner. Not exactly the same as roughing it on the Long Trail, but it was fun just the same. The important thing is that I got to spend quality time with my son. We didn’t even come close to thru-hiking the Long Trail, but over a 15-day period, we spent 10 nights on the trail. All in all, a great experience! In 2013, we’re planning on spending another week on the Long Trail. We’re still deciding which part of the trail we’re going to hike. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on our future endeavors.

Have you ever had to abandon an epic adventure? If so, leave a comment telling me about it.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • daniel March 8, 2013, 5:46 PM

    glad everything turned out well. what kind of knife or knives were you equiped with?

    • Farmer Diddley March 8, 2013, 5:57 PM

      I considered several different knives, including my ESEE Izula and a Camillus Survival fixed-blade knife. But at some point during the preparation I decided I really had to reduce as much weight as possible, anyway possible. So I actually only carried my Leatherman Juice S2…. so just a medium sized multi-tool with a fairly small blade, but it worked well. Mostly used it to cut summer sausage 🙂 My son had a small lockback (Bear Grylls Scout, I think). Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for the comment!

  • Erle Shull March 8, 2013, 6:24 PM

    An Epic adventure all the same. Ten nights on the trail and time well spent with your Son is an epic no matter how you look at it! You made the right choice, don’t ever second guess that… and the two of you still worked around your obstacles to have a great adventure. Good thing is, you have the gear to do it again in 2013. The Great Spirit watches over one and all, especially hikers, to help them to adapt to changing conditions and to make the right choices to be prepared! Looking forward to your next post….

    • Farmer Diddley March 9, 2013, 10:44 AM

      Thanks Erle! I agree 10 nights on the trail was great. One thing I neglected to mention in the blog post is that we went on this trip shortly after my son graduated from high school. So that made it even more special. He’s now a young man in the working world, and while I’m sure we’ll still go on outdoor adventures together, it will definitely be more complicated, as we’ll have to coordinate our time off from work, he’ll be busy with other plans, etc, etc. So I’m very glad we got to do what we did, when we did. And yes, having all the gear is going to make it that much easier to get out there this year! Take care. ~Steve

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