My sister is the real hiker having hiked many miles over the years and ventured off alone many times for days at a time. I am a minimalist day time hiker. . .occasionally. But when she asked me to do some hiking with her this summer I thought it was a great opportunity to try something new and spend time together.
Originally Marie’s request was for me to consider hiking the 100 Wild Miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine over 10 days. I considered this and began putting on some miles in my own neighborhood. I have miles of biking trails to explore right from home so began walking just for the sake of getting some miles under my belt. All was good for the first few weeks and then my left knee revolted in a BIG way. Suddenly it had decided that any weight bearing would be off limits, so I stopped my training walks, gathered the ice packs and went on the recuperation trail instead of the hiking trail.
After about three weeks and an unpleasant visit to the physician’s assistant I began walking again, but this time went very slowly. I got myself a good pair of hiking shoes, put on the pack and headed out again, eventually working back up to a few miles and a heftier pack. All was good, though my ankles, which must have had a conversation with my knee at some point, decided they were unhappy with my new plan. I ignored them and kept going. Marie suggested I use hiking poles, which would take some of the pressure off my legs. I did and it helped. Trust the experts.
Finally we decided to take on overnight practice hike to see if I was ready. Marie planned a Long Trail hike over Mt. Belvedere, Tillotson Peak, and Haystack Mt. We hiked from Eden Crossing to the Tillotson Camp where we spent the night.The next day we went over Tillotson Peak and Haystack to Hazen’s Notch for a total of about 10 miles. My first thought when done was ‘there is no way I could do that for ten days in a row.’ I found the hike challenging, particularly the second day descending Haystack. It was incredibly steep and I kept reminding myself how lucky we were that it wasn’t raining. It would have been treacherous in the rain. The camping part was great. The weather was perfect – 70 degrees, not many bugs, and Marie had a tent that was comfortable. This was the first time I had officially camped out in about 25 years.
Though I had decided I clearly wasn’t ready for a 100 mile adventure, we did go on another overnight trip a couple of weeks later. This time Marie chose Jay Peak and Doll Peak – a few miles north of our first hike. I had climbed Jay Peak on a day hike a few years ago, so I was feeling more confident about this one. The climb from Vt route 242 to the top of Jay was much easier than the Belvedere hike. We continued hiking to the Laura Woodward camp and spent the night there. This day at that elevation was incredibly windy and bit on the chilly side. We attempted to start a camp fire, but it was a challenge to keep it going with damp wood and so much wind. We settled into our tent about 7:30 pm – before dark, but had a great nights sleep and headed out early to climb Doll Peak and finish at Vt. route 105.
Again, the Jay Peak hike was about 10 miles in its entirety, but was a much easier 10 miles, though I was still sure I was not ready for that mileage in a single day, and certainly not over 10 days. And of course, by this time it was mid August and I was about to return to the school year routine, which would seriously reduce my availability for two day hikes.
These experiences have been wonderful because it gave my sister and I hours together to be sisters. We talked at length about our past, our families, our interests, and our dreams. Until now we have not taken the opportunity to be together in this way and I hope that we will have many more opportunities next spring and summer and on into my retirement years – which I hope are not too far away. Marie has many ideas for two or three day hikes and I look forward to planning those with her.
Whether it’s a sibling, a friend, a spouse ~ I would encourage you to venture out on the trails. It’s a wonderful way to see the best of Vermont and just plain good for the soul.