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Best-Laid Plans: LT Fail

Everything came together for this hike except me. My Seasonal Affect kicked into high gear early this year, starting in late August. By the time I started this hike I was pretty far gone and being on trail seemed to make it worse. Disrupted sleep from camping with so many people, constantly hiking in wet clothes, bad stomach from wrong hydration formula all pushed my buttons and when it came time to embrace the suck and hike on I just didn't feel it happening.

I was sort of amused to see that the gear, organization and skills could hold things together so well on trail despite the madness. Everything is so automatic that I just kept doing all the things and moving down the trail for a week. Even when my stomach revolted at the excess sugar I kept putting the miles in. It was only when I hit town that I got a real sense of being off the rails, though the fact that I didn't eat my pop tarts after dinner on a couple of nights did tell me things weren't quite right heh.

Anyway, here are a few pics from along the way. It was sort of like a Fellini movie with periods of whirling confusion and moments of focused beauty, but I haven't looked at my video yet to see what I captured there. 


US/CA border



View from Jay Peak



Alpine beaver pond



Looking over Devil's Gulch towards Spruce Ledge



Laraway Lookout viewing south towards Mansfield



Prospect Rock looking down at the Lamoille River

I always like to learn from mistakes so I've been pulling this apart in my head for a few days now. As mentioned, gear and logistics are important, but without a captain at the wheel the ship is in peril. Going to have to spend as much time on getting my head right as I do making sure the cheese shipments arrive on time if I'm gonna try things like this ;)

Sorry to hear you bonked on this trip but glad you were able to make the best of it.

It's hard being an old, tough guy!  You do some pretty tough venues, so bugging out sounds like you enjoyed all the fun you could stand, for the time being.  Live to hike another day.


Age is not an excuse this time heh. In fact, age should have given me the wisdom to know better :) This was purely mental and in retrospect, pretty easy to understand. My particular brand of SA hits when the light starts fading in September. Been an issue all my life but I didn't know what it was, so just thought I was crazy. Much better now that I know what is happening.

This year August in Maine was tropical. High temperatures with really high humidity. We cancelled trips and hid out in the house for most of the month...the dark house. That totally got my brain chemistry out of whack before the light really started to fade.  In the green tunnels of Vermont there wasn't much light even on sunny days and the gray days were especially dark. Perfect recipe for bad brain chemistry.

That really is my point in posting about this because the brain is an important bit of gear we sometimes take for granted. I had the gear, the supplies, the skills and everything else I needed to complete this hike except for a working brain. By the time I left the trail I had worked my legs and stomach into shape for the long haul, but I knew that I didn't have the focus to deal with the rest of the hike. Seeing long periods of cold, rainy weather where I would have been, I continue to support that decision.  It takes a lot of self control to keep hiking in those conditions.

The 15 days I spent on the Cohos in June showed me what a person can do when they are focused. I was carrying almost the same exact gear and supplies, yet had a very different result. Granted the LT SOBO involves a lot more work in the first week compared with the Cohos, but it wasn't my body that knocked me off trail.

I know TS is a gear site and we are all gearheads to some extent, but I think it is important to remember that the gear can't do much without us.  :)

You are so right about the importance of mental disposition - clarity and focus of the mind is the most essential item to bring on a trip. 

I assume you use light therapy for SA, its something the Nordic countries use to cope with moods swings resulting from short daylight hours.  But in case this is something new to you, perhaps check it out.



Thanks for sharing your experience on this trip, LoneStranger. I'm sorry it didn't work out as expected, but I would not call it a "fail" at all.

You went out prepared logistically, eventually realized that it wasn't working out for you mentally, acknowledged that and changed your plans. I don't think we acknowledge the importance of one's mental health for trips, outdoor recreation, life in general...enough. It's essential to our mood, safety, and essentially everything. 

Embracing the suck can feel and look very different depending on what is happening in our heads.

I was also going to suggest a lightbox, if you aren't already using one, in additional to any professional support and help if needed.

Good luck getting back to yourself. I hope you're soon able to get back out there on your own terms and enjoy the journey.

Here is the video version for those so inclined. Grab a beverage first.

With the time of year I have light issues, hiking is my usual treatment. I always plan to be on trail as much as possible for Sep and Oct. Being outside all day is usually enough. By the time Thanksgiving comes I am done with it and ready to enjoy Winter. Last year I did 90 miles or so on the Cohos and was darn happy out there. Those NH road walks are good for getting some sun while northern VT was a dark tunnel.

Lesson learned is to get out more in late Summer and pack vitamin D along with the cheese and sausage. Natural light is better, but on a dark trail I think I'm going to need it in pill form.

I'm also going to have to figure out what to do about the people. Hiking alone and camping alone I find it much easier to focus. Being used to wilderness trails where I don't see many people and almost never camp near them I was really noticing how stressful it seemed to keep seeing people. The concentrated camping makes sense for LNT purposes, but is very noisy. The disrupted sleep is bad of course, but just having people around all the time was wearing. Not sure popular trails are going to work for me.

Always more to ponder I guess. Right now I am pondering which cooking system I want to pack because I am heading out for a few nights. I have all this cheese packed up and ready to go. Might as well climb a few mountains while I'm wondering about future hikes :)

May 22, 2022
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