This article was written by Lynn Lehouiller and first appeared in the Fall 2018 Long Trail News.
Baby steps. That’s how I’ve learned to accomplish goals in life. My latest success was gaining the confidence to hike seven miles of the Long Trail solo to my front door following a GMC women’s backpacking weekend this summer.
It wasn’t my first time joining the club’s backpacking workshop. Baby steps… Last summer I took my teenage daughter so we both could experience a backcountry adventure in a safe way. I knew we would be guided by expert GMC leaders in the company of other women, and it seemed like a great way to reconnect with the wilderness.
I spent more time in nature when I was younger. I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and I have childhood memories of camping at campgrounds with my family. In college, I took mini backpacking excursions on the Long Trail with friends and did some winter camping in the Green Mountains. Now I’m trying to find ways to reconnect with nature while raising three kids, working, and celebrating nineteen years of marriage.
Water filtration. Check. Bear bag. Check. Hand shovel. Check! The GMC’s female trip leaders reviewed everything in our packs to make sure we had all we needed before we started our ten-mile trip.
We hiked five miles, ascending Laraway Mountain on the northern section of the Long Trail. Some chatted away while others took in the experience quietly. The Long Trail is pure serenity.
Fresh air, green foliage, and babbling brooks create a meditative state that encompasses you. Yeah, this is what it’s all about, tuning out in nature.
The beauty of hiking is that everyone can travel at their own pace. Group hikes have one leader in front and another following behind as a sweeper. You can push your limits on those uphill climbs or go a slower speed toward the back of the group. We moved together but spread out on the trail with periodic check-ins to see how everyone was doing.
We meandered down the other side of Laraway and arrived at Corliss Camp, where we practiced setting up our tents. Then we made the rounds as a group and learned about each other’s shelters—the weight of the tent, the space, the style, what worked, what didn’t. Pretty cool to see roughly ten different versions.
After the tent tour, we began the evening routine of purifying water, preparing meals, and after-meal cleanup. Our evening entertainment included watching each other attempt to “lasso” bear bags up in the trees to keep animals from eating our breakfast. After a fun-filled day, it was lights out.
The next morning I studied the five-mile return route on the Long Trail Map. I thought to myself, it’s not enough, I’m not ready to get off the trail yet.
I had time to review my options as we hiked out to the parking lot. From there, I could hike home on roads, grab a ride with someone, or get back on the Long Trail and hike another seven miles to my doorstep.
I began to think through logistics, using the experience gained from the women’s backpacking weekend, to decide if I could go on. I had plenty of food. Water—I had plenty of that too. Rain gear. Check. First aid kit. Check. A can-do attitude. Check!
My third option—getting back on the trail—seemed like a gift, just waiting for me to accept it. I decided to take it and hike home alone. I climbed the steeps, I filtered my water, and I cooked up some lunch to enjoy on an overlook.
Seven miles of solitude. To put it simply, it was Heaven on Earth.
As I rounded the final corner on the trail, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what the GMC women’s backpacking trip had returned to me: confidence, backed by knowledge, to be comfortable in nature again.
Lynn also attended GMC’s map and compass workshop and received a wilderness first aid certificate after taking GMC’s SOLO Wilderness First Aid course. Her business, Johnson Hardware Rental, Farm & Garden, is a GMC corporate sponsor.
Are you itching to get out on the trail with some GMC support? Check out our upcoming workshop offerings for this spring and summer, including our End-to-Enders Panel and Introduction to Backpacking. More women’s workshops will be added to the 2019 schedule soon!