This past week I walked a portion of the Long Trail in Vermont. For five days I backpacked with my cousin Tom from Lincoln Gap to the base of Camels Hump.
Nine years ago I took up backpacking in the mountains of my then home in Oregon. For several years I packed with friends in the Eagle Cap Wilderness along the Idaho/Oregon border. We climbed and camped at the 12,000 foot level. I thought I knew what tough packing was like.
But the Long Trail is different. The tallest peaks I climbed were in the 4000′ foot category. But instead of the gradual switchbacks of a broad Oregon mountain this trail is essentially vertical. Climbers scramble over glacial boulders and a twisted labyrinth of roots and stone. Going down is no easier than up.
On the Long Trail you have to be mindful lest you fall. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn would likely praise the Long Trail. He’s all about being present to where you are: ‘When you walk know you are walking’.
The Long Trail heightens your senses. On one of the few relatively flat stretches I entered a mix of forest and wetlands. Scattered along the trail were perfect piles of moose droppings.
Moose droppings or the colloquial ‘moose shit’ are perfectly round balls of one inch in diameter heaped in impressive piles along the trail. Walking my senses were on alert looking for a moose in the flesh.
I didn’t see a moose. Only the tell-tale sign that I was in the land of moose. I know this because I was not simply passing through. I was fully present to my surroundings, my antenna was up my senses on alert.
Like the good Buddha Baptist that I am, I knew where I was. I was on the Long Trail. I was walking through the home of moose.
The Long Trail is not for the faint of heart. It focuses ones attention. It makes you feel fully alive. The trail reminds you of where and who you are.
Be distracted at your own peril.