Hiking the The Long Trail, Retro-Style

Clad in a bright red shirt and woolen knickers, Mike DeBonis, executive director of the Green Mountain Club, paddled a canoe across the Winooski River on Thursday. He was on a mission to get from the Camel’s Hump Trail section to the Bolton section of the Long Trail–without using the Winooski River Footbridge, built in 2015.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Long Trail Guide book, DeBonis is hiking the original length of Vermont’s Long Trail as if it were 100 years ago. Wearing only woolen clothes and carrying a hand-woven pack made from ash splints along with the trail food recommended by the 1917 guide book (mostly cheese, bread, bacon and canned fish), he’s spent the past two weeks devoting himself to authenticity.

DeBonis has three more days on the trail before he’ll end his journey in Johnson, where the Long Trail stopped a century ago. “I’ll miss the last 50 miles,” he said, “So it’s not a true modern end-to-end, but it’s a 1917 end-to-end.”

Still, he will have hiked more than 200 miles in fourteen days, all using the retro pack, which has relatively thin leather straps, causing him to carry most of the weight directly on his shoulders.

“One thing I’ve learned is that modern gear is amazing. It makes the trail so much more accessible,” he said. “I think the biggest challenge has been carrying the weight on the shoulders and then camping at night. I have just a tarp that I made–I water-proofed a cotton sheet and used that–and a wool blanket as a ground cloth. So it’s been tough to get a good night’s sleep.”

DeBonis is carrying both 1917 and 2017 editions of the guidebook. The new edition of the Long Trail Guide will be released on Thursday, June 22 at a party co-hosted by the Green Mountain Club and Outdoor Gear Exchange. The book, which DeBonis calls “a modern, top-notch guidebook,” features updated maps and information, along with historical photos that give hikers a glimpse into the past 100 years on Vermont’s longest trail.

In DeBonis’s absence, the Green Mountain Club team has been posting updates and photos for the organization’s 18,000 Facebook fans to follow.

“I hope they’re inspired to just get out there and enjoy it and hike their own hike,” he said.