Katie (Trailname "Crayon") and Oliver (trailname "Poncho") thru hiked Vermont's Long Trail northbound in July/Aug of 2018. Crayon had a successful thru with Poncho and agreed to share a few details. We hope it helps you in your planning! Poncho at the time of the hike was 1.5 yrs old, weighed 42 pounds, is a cattle dog mix and wore the size small Trekking Pack. Enjoy reading about their hike!
What kind of backpacking trips had you done either by yourself or with Oliver before the LT?
Honestly, we only did one multi-day trip before thru hiking. I adopted Oliver in October and decided to hike the Long Trail the following summer, so we haven’t been together very long! We have day-hiked together once or twice a week since I got him. At first it was very difficult. He had spent his entire young life in a cage and was not leash trained, had a high prey-drive, and zero recall. It was frustrating. I got the help of a professional trainer and was totally committed to getting him up to speed- I’m very active outdoors and it’s really important to me that Oliver be able to participate in all my adventures! But it’s also really important to me that he be well behaved, safe, and not a risk or annoyance to others. I live in southern New Hampshire and have really close access to some less populated hiking trails, so all winter we were out there training, training, training. I had always wanted to hike the LT but wouldn’t commit until I was certain that Oliver could handle it behavior and conditioning-wise.
Did you have any concerns with Poncho and the difficulty of the terrain (slab climbing etc) and or Poncho meeting a moose or other potentially dangerous animal encounter (snakes, porcupines etc).
By the spring I was feeling very confident in Poncho’s behavior and really proud of how far he’d come! I started taking him up into the White Mountains to see how he’d handle the terrain and some really populated trails. He is happiest when he’s hiking and he really impressed me with how trail-savvy he is. Part of that is breed, I think- he’s a cattle dog mix. The LT offered up some of the more rugged and technical hiking I’ve done. He needed a few boosts here and there. The handles on your pack were so useful! It was fun to watch him get more comfortable scrambling as we headed further North. By the end I was barely assisting him at all. Unless we were scrambling, I had him hike behind me so I could see what was coming- critters, people, etc. This worked really well for us. I leashed all through the Pico/Killington area because of the high porcupine population- there were warning signs on the shelters! I also leashed if we were hiking early in the morning or at dusk. We did the rest of the hike off leash! We saw 2 moose from a distance and he stood quietly and observed them with me. He chases the occasional chipmunk but when we’re long distance hiking and he’s wearing a pack he’s usually all business. I think he considers it to be his job, hahah!
What did he carry in his pack?
Just his food! I upped his calorie intake by 50% by adding a powdered, dehydrated dog food formula on top of his regular kibble. He was able to carry both comfortably. His pack never exceeded 10% of his body weight.
Did you decide to resupply in towns or do mail-drops, or a little of both?
I did mail-drops because I wanted to be sure that I’d have his food and in the correct amounts. It was a short enough thru-hike that this wasn’t really a big issue!
How many day sections between town days did you do?
We had 4 resupplies with about 5 days between each.
How did you do town days with Oliver?
I did end up hiking with some great people who were more than happy to help keep him entertained if I had to go somewhere, but there were a few instances where I had to tie him while I ran quickly into a store. I had to make advanced hostel or hotel reservations because of limited dog-friendly options, so I was held more to a set schedule than other hikers who could take zeroes, etc. if they wanted to on a whim. We had no zeroes, just a couple neroes. Hitching took a bit longer because on all the days we hitched it was pouring rain and I had a wet, muddy dog! The people who picked us up were of course big dog and hiker lovers and I was very grateful to them, hahah!
Did you need to do anything to help protect his paws?
I applied Mushers Wax every couple days and had a set of emergency booties, gauze, and vet wrap. Luckily we did not need them! His paws held up great!
What kind of sleep set-up do you have with him?
I have a 2-person tent (Big Agnes Copper Spur) and he sleeps on his own thermarest z-lite. I sort of committed to carrying more weight/extra gear once I decided he would join me on the thru. He’s doing big miles and long days like me so I felt that he deserved to be comfortable at night! He didn’t need any sort of blanket/sleeping bag, but on the 1 or 2 nights it got a bit chilly I covered him with my down puffy jacket. We did sleep in shelters through the northern portion because it was wet and rainy. He was really well behaved and handled this just fine.
What time is "doggie-midnight" ;)
As soon as he had dinner he would be down for the count! I put him “to bed” in the tent or in the shelter and he would sleep through the night. He also learned to grab a nap whenever we stopped for a quick break along the trail. I also gave him a longer 30-45 min rest in the middle of each day. He fell into a routine really fast!
What was your favorite day on Trail with Poncho?
It’s hard to choose one! He’s my buddy and such a loyal friend. I think the last day was my favorite. I was just so proud of him and so grateful for our friendship. I’m convinced he’d follow me just about anywhere. Dogs really are amazing creatures! I’m so lucky that Poncho and I found each other.
I realize Valentine's Day isn't a hugely popular "holiday." But we can probably all agree that celebrating love, whether Agape, Philia or Eros is important no matter what form that celebration takes. This year for us, it did not come in the form of Russel Stovers and flowers. (Although I do like getting flowers and prefer any chocolate but Russel Stovers!) I'm so glad our celebration came in the form of a night at Hogcamp Gap and a night at the fairly new Three Springs Hostel in Central VA on the Appalachian Trail (North of Rt 60/Buena Vista, South of the Tye River).
Our church had a sermon on "What is Love" (queue the Haddaway song) recently. There is no one definition! Because love is not easily definable, it must be other-worldly: out of this world! On Wed night as we were pitching our tent under a perfect blanket of vast cosmos, we were engulfed with this other-worldly LOVE. Seemingly so unreachable for some, and yet always SO near to ALL.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
You know us, love of course also comes in the form of a sweet black and white face, always so thankful for these trips to "the woods" as he calls it. We enjoyed some day hiking in the Mt. Pleasant/Hogcamp Gap area and let me tell you, it was nice to not carry a full pack!
Three Springs Hostel
Kathleen started speaking poetry as we climbed the Falls of Campbells Creek on the Mau-Har. She said "The Appalachians aren't about the mountains, but about the rivers. The rivers carved the mountains and placed the boulders." I never knew theses mountains are sandstone. You can tell because when the rock breaks it makes "play-dough" shapes instead of right angles. Also, sometimes I've seen sand on top of mountains and this explains why! I always new the Appalachians were ancient but if I knew how they were formed, I had forgotten. Thanks Kathleen!
Yeah, it took us about 3 hours to do the 3.8 miles from Harpers Creek Shelter to Maupin Field. I say that just to show how strenuous the Mau-Har Trail is. Quite worth it and we were looking for a good workout! The temperature dropped as we came back up to the Maupin Field Shelter and I put the camera away. The descent down Bee Mountain back to the car was so icy, I wish we had micro spikes!! No joke! We had to slide down on our butts and then skip the last bit and just walk on the Parkway to get back to the car. We immediately drove into Waynesboro and since Wheezies Diner (terrible name, I know) was closed, we ate at the Mexican restaurant across from the infamous Tastee-Freeze. Yum! I'm not sorry that I was too tired to make it to the Super Bowl party when I got home. We had a great weekend and I'm so glad we were able to break up the dreary urban winter that drags on and on here in Baltimore! It's much nicer to be out in the cold and moving than caged in a grey city. Thank God for healthy bodies and beautifully maintained trails through the most special parts of Creation!
Camera: on this trip we decided to leave our big three pound DSLR (Canon 6D) at home and instead took the small Panasonic LUMIX GX1. Very happy with how these photos turned out!
Bobwhite's winter sleep system and clothing pack list:
Photography: photos on our hikes are primarily taken by my husband Jeff, a.k.a. Powder River: www.jeffsellenrick.com
If and when we do a longer section hike around 100 miles, we will probably average 15 miles in Fall (fewer hours of daylight) and maybe 18+ miles in summer (more daylight). It is pretty funny how much night hiking we typically do. And we did a bit on this trip too! The frustration of it is always searching for the shelter/campsite and the nagging feeling that maybe you've missed it! Cooper stays on leash during night hikes- his senses are always alert and maybe more so at night when all the animals are out, and we would never want to risk him tracing a scent and then not being able to find us in the dark. Again and again, he proves to us that his night vision is no better than our own. Although his night footing is far superior to our own!
We eventually made it to Damascus and were glad to be warm. We stayed at a new hostel for us, Woodchuck's and enjoyed the company of many other hikers who were also glad to be warm and dry. The next morning, we woke up to snow! Sadly we didn't take any photos. We headed out of town with a hiker named Gumby who just so happened to need a ride to the exact place we planned as our next destination of our altered trip: Catawba, VA. We had a great two hour ride getting to know Gumby. We dropped him off at the hostel in Catawba where he planned to stay for a while and do work-for-stay. We then headed up to the trailhead for the A.T. and made our way up to camp at the most photographed place on the A.T., McAfee Knob. We had a nice 4 mile hike to the Catawba Mountain Shelter, where we camped for the night. We attempted to hike up to the knob, and did get very close that night, but darkness and cold wind sent us back down to our sleeping bags. The next morning we left our tents set up and hiked to the knob soon after sunrise.
Our hike this year, once again with Powder's dad, was to Emerald Lake. This was Cooper's second time in Cloud Peak, and boy did he enjoy it! The constant chirping of picas and marmots really kept him busy and gave us some fun photo opportunities! (No picas or marmots were harmed in the creation of these photos, or during the hike.)
It's great to hike with Gary, Powder's dad. He is always positive, even through some of the less fun parts. And we did have some mishaps on our trip! A flat tire on the way up, killer mosquitos, he fell on a rock and had some stomach issues. Yet he constantly smiled. God's joy is so present in his spirit. This has also helped him to run the Sheridan hospital lab for the past 40 years! Keep smiling, Gary!
Night One: Car camped at Loft Mountain Campground (the campground was fully reserved, but we took one of the walk-in sites)
The Next Morning: We set up our car shuttle, with one vehicle at Loft Wayside and the other in Black Rock Gap (0.7mi hike South from Black Rock Hut). Mic's husband kindly dropped us off in Loft Mtn campground so we didn't have to hike up to the Trail from the Wayside. From here to Black Rock Hut is about 7 mi. Our blue blaze added about 3.5mi.
Night Two: pitched tents at Black Rock Hut. A few good tents sites here, great piped spring and decent shelter.
The Next Morning: very short walk out to the car in Black Rock Gap
A.T. SOBO 2011
A.T. In MD
A.T. In PA
A.T. In VA
Best A.T. Overlooks
Dog Hiking Pack
Green Mountain Boys
Hikes In WY
Hiking In Polar Vortex
Hiking With A Dog
Minimal Elevation Gain Hike
Mountian Harbor Hostel
Teton Crest Trail
The Long Trail
Three Springs Hostel
Tmax And Topo's Hostel
Winter Hiking With A Dog