Gay Couple Finishes Long Trail

By Mike Boisvert.

Jon Normand and I have been backpacking across Vermont, south to north, since we first met over four years ago. This September we completed our last leg from Rte. 15 to the Canadian border.

We spent five nights and six days backpacking 52 miles on this rugged trail until we reached the Canadian border. The day we climbed up the firetower on Mt. Belvidere (3,360’) was one of my favorite parts of the trip. A rough and steep trail in places led us to sweeping views. Below the firetower we enjoyed the warm afternoon sun as we gazed to mountains all around us. We saw for the first time on this leg Jay Peak.

The weather during our trip was wild to say the least. On Sunday we had cloudy skies, Monday showers, Tuesday/Wednesday sunny, Thursday winds exceeding 50 mph and rain, and Friday rime ice on Jay Peak. Temperatures were reasonable until Thursday when the storm brought in a cold front. Temperatures that night went down into the 30’s. During the course of the trip, we spooked many spruce grouse and found moose droppings on the trail. Jonny Rosenfield and his dog, Katahdin, accompanied Jon and me. Our trail names were Dirt Devil (Jon Normand), Falling Waters (Jonny Rosenfield), Katahdin (Jonny’s dog), and Rolling Rock (myself). We met a few people on the trail, mostly when we were at our planned shelters.

One of the highlights of the trip was the windstorm on Thursday as we traversed the Haystack Mountain (3,040’) ridge. On this ridge we witnessed trees about to be uprooted from the ground due to the 50-mph winds. We saw tree limbs being blown around and feared that one might injure us. I expected to see Dorothy’s house and the wicked witch fly past us! Mt. Washington recorded the strongest wind gusts to date this year to give you an idea of how bad it was. Add to this showers and periodic bouts of heavy rain. Hypothermia was a concern and Jonny’s dog Katahdin was shivering so we had to keep moving. It was a wild day and something none of us had ever experienced before and care not to repeat anytime soon.

We ate quite well as none of us lost any weight except for Jonny one pound. Jonny stuck with freeze dried meals while Jon and I were more creative with spaghetti and  packaged meat, stovetop with chicken/gravy, and various Lipton noodle packages. We planned our meal rations perfectly since by the end of six days we had little food left.

Our last day on the Long Trail was quite adventurous. This was to be the hardest day of all-backpacking 13 miles including our highest peak, Jay Peak at 3,880’. We awoke at 6am at Jay Camp and got going around 7:45am. It was in the low 40’s when we started and windy the higher we climbed. Our ascent led us through birch groves. We found  cold temperatures had browned most ferns. Throughout the day we found the trail littered with fallen trees and broken branches from Thursday’s storm. We then paralleled a ski trail and hiked over steep ledges. When we emerged on the ski trail we found ourselves in fog with all the trees covered with rime ice. It was windy and cold so we put on our Gore-Tex jackets over our fleece, put on our gloves and hats, and covered our heads with the jacket hood. We found ourselves in a forbidden landscape and decided not to spend much time on the summit. I was reminded that winter is knocking on our door.

Katahdin was always ahead with Jonny in tow. We then descended and took a break at the Laura Woodward shelter where it was warmer. We then ascended Doll Peak (3,409’) and still felt strong with fresh legs. The fog began to lift and we felt the warmth of the sun again.

On the ridge we encountered the famous Long Trail mud. Mud was one thing that Jon and I found consistent on the high ridges of the Long Trail. No matter how much you try to bypass these muddy areas, at one time or another, all of us went in ankle deep into them during the day. The book time from Laura Woodward to the Shooting Star shelter was 2 ¾ hours however the rough terrain slowed us down and it took us 3 ¼ hours without ever taking a break! We were relieved when we finally reached our lunch spot. We hung out on warm rocks near the shelter situated on a rocky pine grove.

It was 3pm and we still had 4.4 miles to the Canadian border on top of another 1.3 miles to our car. And we had two more mountains to climb Burnt Mtn. (2,608’) and Carleton Mtn. (2,670’). As we approached the Canadian border, I felt proud what Jon and I accomplished as a gay couple. Emotions ran through me. We have experienced quite a lot on the Long Trail over the past four years. We used our two week vacations the last three years to complete this project along with a couple of weekend jaunts.

We came full circle with this ending! Jon and I first began backpacking the Long Trail on the Vermont-Massachusetts border with our headlamps on a Friday night four years ago and here we were finishing at sunset as darkness surrounded us. We observed that golden glow that sunsets provide over the mountain landscape. 

We kissed each other at the boundary marker and posed for a few photos. I licked this phallic symbol when I first completed the Long Trail in 1991 (this was my second time) and felt that it would be only appropriate for Jon and I to lick it together. This "footpath in the wilderness" over the last four years has helped us learn more about each other by sharing the Long Trail’s hardship, joy and beauty. On our way to Canada, we backpacked rugged 4,000-footers, passed by pristine ponds, enjoyed alpine sedges, appreciated the hardwood forests canopy, and listened to swift streams. It was steep in places, muddy in others, and rugged in most.

The Long Trail provided some real tough moments and these also became the most rewarding. It's a journey that Jon and I will fall back on as our relationship continues to grow in the years ahead. You can find photos at the GayOutdoors Photo Gallery. 

Special thanks to Jonny Rosenfield and Katahdin for accompanying us on this last leg. If it wasn’t for him, the photos of Jon and I could not have been taken especially at the end. We enjoyed Jonny’s humor, enthusiasm and keen sense of observation during our last leg. We enjoyed Katahdin's company and felt proud that she began to accept Jon and I into her tribe after a couple of days-while always in the lead, she would show her concern by looking back behind Jonny to make sure we were fine.

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