In mid-July, the Krebs family — Charlie (16), Ruth (14), and Joe (8), along with dad, Matt — set off on a one-month journey to complete the 272-mile Long Trail. Below, Charlie, Ruth, and Joe share their experiences.
- Related: Thru-Hiking the Long Trail with Three Kids, by Matt Krebs (includes tips for kid-friendly hiking)
- Video: Thru-hiking the Long Trail with the Krebs Family
Thru-Hiking, According to Charlie
For me, our trip as a whole was a rollercoaster: it had its ups and downs, but it was fun in the end. We started with super muddy, foggy, and rainy conditions which were all mostly new to me. While they all wore on me after a while, it was super exciting to be out there in the middle of the woods, stomping through puddles up to fire towers that we would climb to look out into the seemingly endless white fog. Even in the sogginess, it was memorable.
This weather kept up for a good portion of our first week out, with frequent rainstorms that caused raging rivers and muddy trails. At Hell Hollow Brook, the water was flowing super-fast and a couple of the rocks that would be used to cross were submerged. Because of this, we decided to pick Joe up and pass him across, me to Ruth to Dad. We started by passing Joe’s backpack across to Ruth, who had hopped across the river. Next, we lined up with Ruth and Dad on each bank and I stood in the middle. Everything was going well, but when I was just passing him off, I slipped off the rock and my whole foot went straight in the river. It seemed bad at first, but thinking back on it, I realized how moments like this made our trip what it was.
As the rainy weather continued, we realized that something needed to be done about our wet feet. At first, we put gallon-size plastic bags in Joe’s shoes, over his socks, to keep his feet dry. But we quickly requested more plastic bags at our next food drop so we could all do that. These helped our efficiency hiking, as instead of jumping around puddles we would walk right through them and kept us more comfortable.
As the trip progressed, we entered a period where the initial excitement was wearing off and the hiking was beginning to feel hard and repetitive. To get through these, one of my main motivating factors was food. We brought freeze-dried ice cream with us and sometimes got surprise treats, like when Mom met us with a box of donuts.
Another motivating factor was trail magic. My favorite was when we hiked out of the woods in Mad Tom Notch to see a small sign pointing us to the parking lot right around the corner. We found hotdogs, fried eggs, treats, drinks, and anything else you could want. A hiker named “Gravy Train” had just completed the trail a few weeks earlier and wanted to come back and give out food to other hikers. It was a cool way to experience the hiking community come together.
Landmarks or prominent places also helped keep us going and led to some of my favorite moments along the trail. When we spent the night at the top of General Stark Mountain, we got a spectacular sunset, and then decided we would wake up early to watch the sunrise as well. This was such a peaceful and pleasant day that it is what really embodied my trip as a whole. We had a long, hard day to get there, but we were rewarded with an awesome crowd of people to hang out with, some great views, and a nice relaxing time out in nature.
Thru-Hiking, According to Ruth
My most memorable moments on trail were the moments of kindness we saw from other hikers and the community, like trail magic and treats. These moments really boosted our spirits.
One day, we decided to get off the trail a day early to rest, and my mom met us at Sunset Ledge so we could all hike down together. We got big creemees before dinner and burritos at Mad Taco. It was a great way to end the day. When the routine did get monotonous, I stayed motivated by thinking about when our next food drop would be or when our next rest day would be. Dividing up the hike into manageable chunks in my brain made it feel not so long.
Aside from the day-to-day, there were a few moments and peaks that stood out. The first day, we ended up night hiking trying to find a place to camp, which was a little scary.
The day we were starting to hike up Killington, it was pouring rain, and we had just arrived at a packed Governor Clement shelter to make breakfast where it was dry. A couple of minutes after we had arrived, somebody found out it was Joe’s eighth birthday and the 20 or so people in the shelter all sang happy birthday to him. It was a really cool moment.
We hiked up Camel’s Hump on a sunny and a clear day. Despite the weather and the trail’s popularity, there was nobody on the summit so we could enjoy it quietly. We were so high up, we could see the mountains we were going to climb over the next few days.
Papa spilled dinner twice while we were on the trail. At Kid Gore, he spilled the freeze-dried lasagna all over the ground right in front of the shelter we were sleeping in that night. It happened at the end of a long day, and we were all tired and hungry. We worried about coming up with a whole new dinner and if it would attract animals to the shelter. We cleaned it up as well as we could and then it started raining, washing away the rest of the food residue. It was stressful at the moment, but looking back it was kind of funny.
On our last day on the trail, we woke up early, ate a quick breakfast, and hiked in silence to the border swath. It was sinking in that we were about to finish the whole Long Trail! When we arrived at the boundary marker our mom met us with chocolate milk. We all hiked to the car together and got amazing milkshakes as a celebration.
A big takeaway from the trip for me was knowing that the world keeps going on even when you are walking in the woods for days. At the start of the trip, I was worried I would be missing out on things back home. But as the trip went on I just appreciated being able to hike and disconnect from my devices. I couldn’t constantly check my email, see what my friends were doing or what was going on in the world. Instead of the internet, I painted watercolors and kept a journal along the trail. It helped me document the trip, and see the journey in a different way.
Thru-Hiking, According to Joe
When I started the Long Trail, it was hard to leave my mom. My family and I stayed in an Airbnb for a night before we went to the trailhead. The day we got to the trailhead I did not want my mom to leave. After one day I forgot about my mom. The first day was a long day. We hiked 13 miles, all the way to Congdon shelter. It was a good night. The next night it poured on us. At the end of every week, we would stay at an inn, somebody else’s house, or our own house.
When we stayed at somebody else’s house it was a little different than our own house. It was not our stuff, but it was cozy. My mom brought us donuts and some cards from my friend, Finn. There were also some cookies with the cards. It was also going to be my birthday soon.
Next we stayed at the Swanson Inn. We had pie that night, chocolate cream and maple walnut. My favorite was the chocolate cream pie however, the bottom was hard and it was hard to bite into. My mom came again and played checkers with me. I had a good night’s sleep that night. We went back on the trail after we stayed at the Swanson Inn and stayed in our tent.
The next day I had to get off the trail because my ankle hurt. I stayed home for a couple of days, but once my ankle was feeling better I met up with my family again. Two weeks later, we finished the Long Trail. Those couple of weeks were hard. I think we climbed Mount Mansfield during those two weeks. Sometimes, we got on each other’s nerves, but overall I liked being together with my family for a full month. The Long trail was hard but very fun.
This post was written by Charlie, Ruth, and Joe Krebs. It appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of the Long Trail News under the headline “Thru-Hiking the Long Trail with Three Kids: The Krebs Family Adventure.”