Covered in Ink was reviewed by Dian Jordan (UT, Permian Basin) and published September 2016; 45 (5): 659-660. doi:10.1177/0094306116664524xx
[photos] “We may get detained at the Canadian border, or even denied entry,” I told mom as we were on our road trip from Albany, New York, through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine and Canada. “It’s because of a protest I tried to attend back in 2003.”
“Oh my goodness, I told you not to do that kind of stuff,” she complains, as usual, when hearing about my shenanigans.
“Look, I’m not going to play safe just to live up to your sheltered life ideals, I want to practice what I believe in and fight for social justice. If I have to suffer some consequences, it’s nothing compared to what other people have to face when fighting against injustice.”
“Oh, it is so hard to talk to you,” mom’s daily refrain.
Maine is a huge state to drive through, and so are even the smaller of the Canadian provinces. We made it to Portland, ME for our first night, dining at J’s Oyster, a place we’ve dined at before. A few years ago I lived for a summer in Portland, and this was my first visit back to this town that I adore. At the hotel, I ran into my Jeep twin Amy, a woman with the same purple Jeep Wrangler as me, same X Games special edition, albeit she had the 4 door model. We were laughing and taking pictures together as we basked in the Jeep love. The second day, we drove Route 1 up the coast of Maine, definitely the slowest route, and bypassed the Lobster Festival in Rockland, as mom had her fill the night before. We made it all the way to the border, but not past it, for the second night. Woke in the morning to a lake view from our tiny hotel. When we did finally cross into Canada, we were asked to go inside for further questioning, and I explained my previous entry denial due to a protest, we were let through. I love Canada, and wish I could live there permanently, such a better country. The roads were beautiful, well maintained, sparsely populated, and richly green. We drove and drove through New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia, landing in Dartmouth, across the bay from Halifax.
The next day was another drive to Prince Edward Island, where we had an amazing hotel in Charlottetown, with a view of the waterfront, boats, and mom was happy. It was a cute town to walk around, and we also explored the nearby coast, Point Prim, a lighthouse, and ate tons of lobster the entire trip. And the next day, we were already making the long trek back to Maine, through Maine, and back to New York state.
I was surprised that mom let us pick up a hitch hiker whom we encountered at a gas station at the base of Confederation Bridge, the only bridge out of PEI that charged the ransom of $46. JD was Chinese, spoke Mandarin, Cantonese, another dialect, and English. He was only 22, a student in Chicago, but had already lived in Washington state for school, Australia, and was hitchhiking across all of Canada, and had previously traveled across the U.S., Europe, and China. I was impressed by his lifestyle and ability to really go after what he wanted and network his way into such adventures. Had another nice lunch break for more lobster roles with JD, as he demonstrated his adventurous spirit by climbing on the rocks of the bay until security warned him away, and took pictures of the touristy sights. We dropped him at the border of Maine, as he attempted to catch another ride to Quebec, and then onward West.
Amazingly, we were detained by the US Customs and Border Protection for over two hours, as they searched the car, interrogated us about the last 40 years of existence, photographed and finger printed us. This was new treatment for mom, but something I have come to expect from agents of the US state. They interrogated mom about her citizenship states between 1975 and 1977, as she was transitioning from a student visa to earning citizenship. They asked about all of our marriages, previous addresses, arrest records, employment records, colleges attended, and why we looked different in our pictures, and why we were driving a new car. They graciously retrieved our jackets from the car, but we were not allowed to use the restroom, and hadn’t eaten, so we were not prepared for such a stop over. And it was killing our time on the road. In the end, the agent blamed the entire episode on a computer problem, yet warned that if I attempted to cross the border again, I would likely face similar treatment. It took us hours through northern rural Maine to eventually find a hotel, late at night, exhausted and hungry. Welcome back to the police state of ‘Merica. Unfortunately, the bad border treatment kinda ruined the nice memories of our beautiful but quick drive through Canada. We passed through Portland one more time for our last fill of lobster. [photos]
[RNC protest photos] I wrote my dissertation on mass demonstrations around the “anti-globalization” movement, as it was dubbed by outsiders, or the Global Justice movement, as it referred to itself. I attended most of the mass demonstrations from 1999 to 2004, including the WTO, IMF/World Bank, Republican and Democratic conventions, as well as various trade meetings. Those were exciting times, and I focus my field research on the mass arrests, over policing, the use of direct action inside the jails, the legal support offices, and so on. So this was the experience I was bringing to the streets of the RNC in Cleveland, where I expected an exciting mix based on the rumors: open carry laws, $50 million dollar police grant for fighting protesters, nazis, Trump supporters, protesters, fortress RNC, and protest zones far from the convention site. It sounded exciting.
Therefore, when I arrived, especially on Monday, day 1, I was surprised to see so few people out, and wondered if I’d made a mistake in even coming here after an 8 1/2 drive from NYS. But over the next several days, the activity picked up, making it at least worthwhile. The major difference was that there were no national organizations demonstrating, no labor unions, non-profits, or grassroots groups. There were just a handful of smaller organizations: Ruckus Society, Code Pink, Stand United Against Trump, and the RCP. The RCP got the most arrests, around 21, for flag burning activities and such. Alex Jones of Infowars.com fame stopped by and caused one of the main riot situations on the second day, where the police sectioned off the crowds and contained them until Jones was arrested. Bikers for Trump showed up in a motorcycle caravan to shake hands with the police and stand on their side, but just twenty of them, at most. But with such fear of a Trump presidency, why weren’t more people in the streets, protesting such an event?
Of course, it seems that the Republicans didn’t need outside help, as they were imploding all by themselves with the various scandals of many members not showing, Melania’s speech, Cruz’ refusal to endorse Trump, and Trump’s own fascist, lengthy closing night speech. [RNC protest photos]
[Vienna photos] Vienna wouldn’t necessarily be high on my list of places to visit personally, but I was attending the third annual International Sociological Association (July 10-14) and rented an airbnb near the tourist attractions and the university for a two week visit, enough time to soak up the feel of the city. Randomly, the cheap ticket I booked had a layover in Amsterdam, which was a coincidence that overlapped nicely with my current research into marijuana legalization, the topic I would be presenting upon at the conference. So I took advantage of the short time I had to explore the city center, making note of the various coffeeshops and walking through the Red Light District, visiting the Erotic Museum while crowds gathered in the background to cheer on the soccer game viewed on bar televisions. [Amsterdam photos]
Vienna is a ghost town on Sundays, the day I arrived. After checking into my apartment and taking another nap, I wandered the streets for hours, hoping for a grocery story. I came upon some Chinese take-out, surprisingly vegan friendly, served by a young woman who spoke at least German, Chinese and English. The town embraced the vegan marketing fad, as most restaurants advertise their vegan holdings, even if just one thing on the menu. Of course, I was just off my raw vegan diet, but I was going to allow myself to eat whatever I wanted, in case there was some kind of special Viennese dish that I didn’t want to deny myself. But thankfully, within a few blocks of my apartment, there was both a raw vegan restaurant, Dancing Shiva, beautifully decorated in hippie Buddhist style, and a vegan gelato place one block away.
Another benefit for my trip was that a colleague had connected me to her friend Michelle, who lives in NYC, but would also be in Vienna during my same exact dates, and remarkably, was staying at the apartment complex right next door to me. It was so great to have a buddy to tour the town with, and especially one who knew the town from her repeated visits, as well as the culture some of the language. We visited the Schonbrunn Palace, MAK museum, Mumok (modern art), Freud museum, Stephansplatz, and walked around soaking up the sights, streets, and food of Vienna.
The International Sociological Association was held at the large and historic University Wien, a banner welcoming the 5,000 sociologists from 126 countries. Endless panels overviewed the usual sociological topics with an international dimension, in a handful of languages, but primarily English. Daily plenary panels discussed the various social crises in Europe, overviewing information we all know, but providing few solutions. Overall, while I definitely appreciate the international context and meeting my colleagues from other countries, paper presentations can be tedious and boring the world over. Luckily, I made a strong connection with a fellow panelist, John, with whom I share significant research interests in deviance, and we both expressed interest in working together. We also had a good time exploring additional sites of the city together, including the Albertina museum with their collection of classic paintings, Schonbrunn Palace, as well as the 21st Century Museum, which featured an opening exhibit for Ai Weiwei. Overall, I had a great two weeks in Vienna, and the best part was getting a chance to share the city experience with new friends, Michelle and John. [Vienna photos]
When I was seventeen, I was vegan for five years, and it continues to be my most idealized version of a healthy diet. However, I want to avoid the rigidity of labels, cult member status maintenance politics, or feeling bad about not being 100%. Since I was now on summer vacation from school, I had the time, space, and life-control to focus on maintaining such a rigid diet for a certain amount of time (until the next life event interfered). So I decided to do one month of “practice” during April, the last month of school. I needed practice because I had several mandatory work related dinners and I needed time to figure out just what raw vegan meant in detail. For example, are pickles, kimchi, sweeteners, or seaweed raw vegan? It would take some time to look up and learn the intricacies of such foods, especially condiments that many raw vegan individuals or restaurants continue to serve, but were not within the bounds of raw. The challenge would last for two months during June and July. In this way it would be a long enough period to establish a pattern of super healthy eating, provide enough space to learn many recipes, and break consumption patterns that I was ready to give up, such as the habit of drinking daily tea (I have already given up coffee three years ago, and only have it on very rare occasions, such as leaving the country). After the challenge, I would like to be as close to vegan as possible, maybe 90%, and also get away from eating refined carbohydrates. Ultimately, it’s about feeling what my idealized diet entails, shifting my perspective, and seeing that this would be a happy and fulfilling way to live. While we don’t always control our eating environment, by living alone and working a very flexible schedule, I have lots of room room to exercise such a regiment.
I covered the stove with a piece of black painted wood and put the dehydrator on top of it, which would be my main “cooking” machine for such things as dried fruit, crackers, kale chips, and coconut yogurt. I put my spices in my microwave to conserve space. I bought a food processor, and would be relying on my Vitamix and juicer as well. I would need to shop more frequently and intensely at the Asian Market, grocery store, food coop, and farmers markets in search of fresh produce and deals. It would take time, I could watch Netflix on the laptop kitchen counter while processing vegetables. I could take the trail mix, raw bars, and dried fruits on my hikes on the Long Trail in Vermont, as I added a new life changing challenge to the mix.
So what did I eat? [Pictures.] Huge piles of fruit that you would never imagine eating all at once. Making meals out of entire bags of cherries or organic red grapes. Kale chips as many nights as I could remember, and supplementing that with store bought kale chips (which are definitely not as good as fresh and covered in huge coatings of gook, that can also contain amounts of refined sugar, if you don’t read carefully). Only eating in a restaurant one time during the entire two months. Coconut yogurt made just from blending coconut meat and a bit of water, adding probiotic powder, and dehydrating for six hours, then adding fruit, and sweetened with agave (which is probably the most questionable ingredients I allowed, but it says “raw” so what the hell). I become found of kimchi and I bought sauerkraut for the first time in my life (the coop has an entire fridge section full of just these two products, my favorite was dill sauerkraut). I dehydrated bananas, apples, pineapples, yellow mangos, heirloom tomatoes, cherries, kiwis, strawberries, and crackers (food pulp from juicer, nuts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, tomato, orange juice, just any wet and dry ingredients, really, it just takes days). Chia seed pudding with cashew milk. (Soaked) black rice sushi with raw nori sheets and vegetables. Lots of banana ice cream. Red grape ice cream. Zucchini noodles with pesto basil cashew cream sauce. Almond butter celery sticks with assorted vegetables. Juices. Gazpacho soup. And (soaked and sprouted) hummus, which took an unreasonable three days to make, taking into account the soaking and sprouting time.
Overall, it was a shift in how I conceptualized meals, and when I craved a cooked comfort food meal, the kale chips came in handy, as well as some hearty salads with homemade dressing and seaweed, but otherwise, snacking on fruits and veggies throughout the day without set meals was a fine routine. Hefty green smoothies could be taken to the office or as a filling breakfast. Crackers with cashew cream sauce, avocados and tomatoes made a good platter. Avocado cucumber soup was rich, creamy and filling. It was great to be able to eat a large container of nice cream desserts completely guilt-free. I had my food fantasies and cravings, but I could eat those soon enough, if I even wanted to, and it was fun to learn to make new things and add new varieties of food to my meals, a chance to explore items I wouldn’t ordinarily choose or even notice, without such a restriction which begged for creativity.
But alas, July 1st came and ended the challenge, because I was off to Vienna and would be spending over 24 hours navigating airports and an overnight layover in Amsterdam. I would allow myself to eat whatever was available, but keeping my sensibilities of consuming from lower on the totem pole, but also giving in to some cravings if just to prove that such foods weren’t as amazing as I had imagined. They would be a disappointment. When I did do such things, I felt immediately guilty, and realized that it was awesome to not have food guilt feelings for over two months. Luckily once arriving and settling into Vienna, it seemed that vegan had become a trendy buzzword, so restaurants with only one or two vegan options would advertise that fact on a vegan menu sign in front of the establishment. But there was a vegan gelato place named Veganista one block away, and five blocks away was Dancing Shiva a beautiful, large, raw vegan restaurant with many complex and delicious meals, and a good refrigerator full of take-away items such as walnut pate, zucchini hummus, house made kombucha, mousse, kimchi, raw vegan chocolate bars, and so on. I could come here everyday. What an excellent find after breaking the raw vegan challenge and finding one’s self in a meat-oriented culture.
I definitely enjoyed my raw vegan challenge and the space it provided for me to learn new recipes and expose myself to new products that I would otherwise pass up. I look forward to doing the challenge again, and even mom is impressed and wants to move in a similar direction, especially as she continues to battle cancer challenges. And as I previously mentioned, committing to 90% veganism would be three days of non-veganism per month, which should provide a good enough release valve for my food cravings and could be adjusted according to my change in palate. Ultimately for me, while there are many reasons folks become vegan I mostly encourage folks to just shift their diet in a vegan direction more and more, without the idea necessarily that one must be 100%. That would be a less intimidating idea for most people who would otherwise not consider such a shift. One less meat meal a day or every few days, and then increasing fruits and veggies into the diet gradually until it could tip the 50% marker. Change one’s taste and understanding of food gradually. But it is undeniable that meat and dairy industrial production is having a catastrophic impact on the environment and is completely unsustainable. Therefore, all of us can shift our diet in this direction more so than we are currently, and continue to push it gradually, but quicker than the expansion of one’s comfort zone, in order to be conscious and continue to grow and improve. And one way vegans can encourage newcomers is to prepare delicious and welcoming meals that will expand people’s minds of stereotypically vegan fare. There’s finally a diet where you can eat a huge tub of ice cream without feeling guilty, what’s not to love?
Hike 1: Southern Terminus to Country Road (Seth Warner Shelter). Division 1. Mile 0-3 on the trail. Total hike of 16 miles.
I call myself an “indoorsy person.” It’s not that I do not like nature, I just rather view it through a window, while sitting in a climate controlled environment. And it is not that I have not tried my hand at outdoorsy events, I’ve dabbled. At one point I was married to a wildland firefighter who would drag me outdoors to accompany him while hiking up a mountain without rest, kayaking while we lived in the Everglades, fishing,
or even learning to enjoy spending time alone in the forest when we lived in the two bar town of Crouch, Idaho. The thing was, these were his interests that he was forcing on me. And, well, I was miserable with him. At the time, while I knew such things did not appeal to me, I thought the exposure to something new would be good for my development, and so I tried, often with a big frown on my face.
But now I find myself (happily divorced and) living in the Northeast, close to the Adirondack Mountains, the Berkshires, Vermont, Maine, and endless hiking trails. In an effort to appreciate the area I live in (which doesn’t come naturally), I have decided to turn over a new leaf and see if I have any interest in hiking. Besides my ex hiking me up that mountain in Idaho as practice for his pack test, I’ve gone out with friends for super casual and easy hikes in the upstate New York region. But only now am I thinking seriously about hiking The Long Trail in particular–alone. I’m an extremist, and when I get interested in something, I jump in all the way (sometimes I also quickly jump back out).
So one week after my 39th birthday, I finally made it on the trail, starting on Pine Cobble trail in Williamstown, MA, which lead to the Vermont border, where the Long Trail starts, and with which the Appalachian Trail overlaps for the next 100 miles. It was a cool, windy day, on the verge of rain. I had a very small pack with me with just enough food and water to get me through the day, along with an emergency poncho, trail book and maps. I was surprised by how excited I was to be out in the woods, away from all the social structures that always make me brood daily about the plight of humanity (I’m a sociologist). I was away from people, buildings, rules, authority, construction noise, human voices, television, neighbors, traffic, consumerism, to-do lists, students, work, and mindless human interactions. And I was facing a challenge: how far could my two legs take me? I realized that I’ve never challenged myself to this before. I’ve run (er, walked) my hometown Bloomsday Race, which is nearly 8 miles, and have been hiking on my local Mohawk Hudson Bike Trail up to two hours (with no water or breaks) for the last year, but this was different.
I charted a path on the maps the night before which would follow the Pine Cobble trail about four miles before reaching the Long Trail on the Vermont/Massachusetts border. Then another four miles, past the Seth Warner Shelter on to Country Road, the next place I could park my Jeep for the next section hike. I climbed East Mountain to Eph’s Lookout and made it to the Appalachian Trail (AT) and saw my first white blaze, which signifies both the AT and the Long Trail.
Because of my experience of my ex pushing me into following along on his interests, and experiences where men seem to generally default in taking the lead in activities: picking locations, restaurants, making plans, having experience, knowledge, and so on, it is very important for me to have adventures alone: where I am in charge of every detail, for better or worse. Instead of having a man take care of the overall plans, I want to learn to figure out things for myself and to pay attention to detail. To learn quickly. I also want to bask in the glory of accomplishment in facing a challenge that I wasn’t sure I could handle. For this inaugural Long Trail hike, I was about to walk twice as long as I have ever walked in my life. What if I reached Country Road, but couldn’t make it all the way back? But then again, I didn’t leave myself a choice. I had to make it back.
I saw about twelve people on the trail, many with big packs who may be thru-hiking on the Long Trail or the AP. Local people came out towards the end of the day and hugged the entrance of the trail closely. I saw two lone women hikers, which warmed my heart. One male-female couple who were just exploring the edges, and the rest were men, mostly solo, maybe one or two pairs. I greeted them all, but only spoke to two of them, and both of them were asking me for directions! The first guy, Josh, said he had taken a month off work to thru-hike the Long Trail. His gear looked shiny and new. I imagined him to be an office worker. It was Day One for him, but after hiking eight miles, he was beat and desperately seeking the first shelter, Seth Warner. He was looking at both his trail book and his iPhone map, but couldn’t locate the structure. I was able to pull out my superior map and direct him precisely to the shelter, impressing myself, greatly! He was ready to get to the shelter, “eat so much food, and veg hard.” I had just hiked the same eight miles as he had, but was now turning around and heading straight back for another 8 miles, with only two brief 10 minute rests on the entire trip! How was he going to make it through tomorrow, let alone the whole month? I was impressed I could compete with someone who was attempting such a long thru-hike. I felt great, as if I could keep going forever, and just wanted to keep putting one step in front of the other, rather than taking breaks. To turn around after eight miles and four hours and think I had to go back just as far was intimidating. Yet on the return trip, I felt like an old pro, I knew the trail now, hit the landmarks I remembered, and it was somehow a much shorter journey, because of this knowledge. As a solo hiker I also realized that if I wanted to hike much of this trail, I would also be doing it twice, once up and back, because of car parking issues, unless I get rides in the future. On top of it, it was day 40 of my raw vegan challenge, so my bag was backed with trail mix, bars, dried fruits, and other treats that fueled me. Overall, I was impressed with the incredible confidence boost that this outing provided. I set new records for longest walk ever (the previous record was set months ago after spending an entire day walking around all the sites of Rome, Italy.) I enjoyed the experience more than I ever have before. (After the history with the ex of throughly not enjoying similar outings, I guess that was the company and not the event). And I was capable at it, even offering directions to other serious thru-hikers. Hopefully, this will be a journey that continues, and not a one-off adventure.
Hike 2: Country Road to Congdon Shelter. Division 1. Trail milage 3-10. Total hike 18 1/2 miles. [photos]
Finding my way down the unpaved Country Road from Stamford, Vermont to the small parking lot I had seen on my first hike was a challenge in itself, but I came across the wide spot in the road that I remembered and would be the only Jeep to find such a hidden space for cars, startling hikers. As soon as I entered the trail, just north of the Seth Warner Shelter, I could hear two men, well, one in particular, talking loudly not far behind, a disappointment from my desired escape from loud talking men. We overlapped and ran into each other several times. One, the big talker, was a local, who had attached himself to Damien, a thru-hiker on the AP, coming from Georgia. “How is it to hike without poles,” Damien asked.
“I don’t know what I’m missing.” I replied. Gear is one of the biggest conversational pieces among hikers, it seems. As a sociologist, my interest is in the area of subcultures, how they are established and policed, how hierarchies are created, and the distinction between serious members and the wannabes. Thru-hikers seem to be at the top of the pile, with knowledge, experience and gear being the important cultural capital of the scene. There were more people on the trail, thru-hikers for both the AP and the Long Trail. Single men, male-female couples, a pair of two women, everyone white. I spoke with one AP thru-hiker briefly, his trail name G-Bear, and he asked for my trail name, the first that I’ve encountered this subcultural phenomenon. One doesn’t name themselves, however, it has to come from another and be related to one’s experience on the trail. Nicknames from one’s other lives won’t do. I passed Consultation Peak, one of the points where I could turn back, but I decided to push on through to the Congdon Shelter.
I was soon joined by another AP thru-hiker, with the trail name Snaus, who had been on the trail for months. We fell into an easy pace and got to know each other. He was a college student, majoring in Sociology and Criminal Justice, who had switched from wanting to join the Marines to the Peace Corps. He was raised in a military environment but was questioning the war machine and leaning towards peace, “I want to help people, not go to other countries and kill them.” He was friendly and outgoing, with more tips on gear and encouraging me to get a tent and do longer stretches on the trail. At one point, he said I could feel how heavy his pack was, and I decided to put it on and carry it for the next stretch, just to see how it feels to hike with 30 pounds on my back. When we entered the Congdon Shelter area, G-Bear was waiting for him, and he had quite the laugh at me carrying Snaus’ big pack, while Snaus carried my tiny day pack. “I hope he’s paying you,” G-Bear said and shook his head.
This was the first shelter I’ve seen in my life. It had four wooden bunks, big enough to fit two people on each shelf, with a picnic table in the shelter as well. G-Bear and Snaus got to work cooking their Ramen noodles on their hiking stoves and I watched Snaus set up his tent, as I admitted I’ve never set up a tent in my life. He suggested types of tents and sleeping bags to get for space and weight efficiency. Quite a few other people were setting up camp this afternoon, and all of them knew each other and had been keeping pace for a long time. Snaus knew that other people were back on the trail and would be arriving to this space shortly, so everyone grabbed their space and set up for the night. I had a meal and spent an hour with them, chatting about their adventures and soaking up all the tips and advice.
Snaus had me go through his food bag to see what they ate on the trail: Slim Jims, dehydrated foods, bars, more Ramen. He said back home in college he had been vegan and looked forward to going back to his vegan ways, because he felt he was eating unhealthy on the trail. But of course, it’s not like one can pack a salad for the hike, nor pretty much any vegetables nor produce, it appeared. And even for those stays in towns, they talked about the big burgers they filled up on, not salad. Protein and calories were of the essence. But still being on my raw vegan challenge (day 44), I waved off G-Bear’s offer of Gold Fish snacks and shook my head at the content of Snaus’ bag. I don’t want to eat like that. But of course, not being on the trail overnight, I don’t have to. It’s just when they start packing food for the next seven days that portability and weight are the big factors. Still, I went home and looked up vegan hiker videos for ideas about how it could be otherwise. Although I understand the challenge of travel and hiking limitations restricting one’s diet. After all, I will be ending my raw vegan challenge as soon as I get on the plane for Vienna in two weeks, not even wanting to deal with such a restricted diet in such a restricted airport zone. But still, eating cooked vegan food will provide me with a plethora of opportunities that I have not experienced in about three months. I don’t need to totally fall off the wagon.
By 4pm, I had to head back: I still had over 7 miles to walk back to my car and about four hours of daylight in which to do it. Back to my solitude after the unexpected social gathering. My first time really hanging out with other hikers and hearing more of their stories in depth, and seeing their lifestyles and gear used at the shelter. G-Bear was a former military member in Ireland and I asked him why it seemed that thru-hikers had higher status. “It’s not that,” he said, “it’s just more of a challenge.” But it’s something to work up to. One can’t just get on the AP trail and start walking. Legs need time to adjust and prepare for such a strenuous event. After my first hike, I needed a good break. And after this one, I’ll need another. The hike back was all business, just getting back before dark, passing the landmarks that had been such a struggle to achieve, in reverse. Passing two mountain peaks and two impassable roads and two hikers setting up camp for the night. One was setting up his tent right on the trail, and seemed miffed that I was walking right through his campsite and was mumbling something off-putting as I walked passed, wondering about the etiquette of camping right on the trail. For the last hour I was waiting for the image of my Jeep to pop up on the trail. I heard at the shelter that many hikers had commented on my Jeep, Snaus quoted the two women hikers who had raved about the Jeep, saying, “we didn’t even see a road there, but all of a sudden, we saw a Jeep.” I liked that.
It was a long day. I had started on the trail at 11am, after a two-hour drive to get to the starting point. Now it was 8pm when I was getting back to my Jeep, with another long drive through Stamford, Vermont, up to Route 9 and back through Bennington. I’m sure quickly, having a tent for an overnight will make more sense, as I gain more experience, and as the distance between parking spots lengthens.
Hike 3. Congdon Shelter to Route 9. Division 1. Trail milage 10-14.4. Total miles hiked 8.8.
June 21 was my third hike on the Long Trail, a nice sunny day, but not too hot, with a high of around 80 degrees. I parked on Route 9, the busiest road intersecting the trail and took the steep rock staircase climb up to the viewpoint on Harmon Hill, where there was a registry attracting hikers to take a break and check up on their trail buddies. The hike flattened out to the usual leisurely walk through the covered woods and then a slight descent to the shelter where I had been last time, still my first shelter that I’ve seen. I stopped there for lunch and there were three folks just closing camp, while other hikers showed up out of the woods and joined me for lunch at the shelter. There was Clementine, a thru-hiker on the AT, who had started March 26 on his journey. He’s originally from Ohio, but moving to Oregon for graduate school in water management in the fall. There was Dave, a section hiker on the AT, who was out for three weeks on this leg, the longest he’s ever hiked, but he has the freedom on his schedule to see how it goes and continue on for as long as he can. Dave was an older guy with primitive black tattoos, a spider web and spiders on his arm. There was Will, an older man with white hair doing the Long Trail in weekly sections. A father and son showed up and talked about the partiers at last night’s shelter, that was too near the road, thus attracting this element. They were on the trail for about a week, when they would be picked up by the wife. Two women and an Asian guy packed up their camp and walked out, even with a dog in tow. It was the first time I saw a person of color on the hike, and just before, I had been wondering how long it would take. I ran into people on the trail, seemingly becoming more populous now. I saw only one single woman thru-hiker, and I realized that the long women that I see and am impressed by, might be there with the single men that I encounter further up the trail. Even though it was more of an easy day on the trail, it was still exhausting and tough, and made me worry about the upcoming sections where I might be hard pressed to find parking spots within a day’s hike of one another. But somehow, this is part of the thrill and challenge.
Hike 4. Route 9 to Little Pond Lookout. Division 2. Trail milage 14.4-20. Total miles hiked 12.
entry onto the trail from Route 9 was nice, with the finest bathroom one can find in the woods on the trail head, complete with toilet paper. And then the William McArthur bridge takes you across the little river and into the forest, with a more gentle incline uphill compared against the entry directly south of Route 9, with the brutal rocky incline. This may be the nicest stretch of the trail I have encountered so far, where the entry was the biggest incline and the rest was a walk on the mountain ridge, between two lookout points, Porcupine and Little Pond, both of which provide green mountain views through peek holes through the trees. I saw maybe twenty people on the trails today, all with big packs, AT and LT thru-hikers and long distance section hikers. Two older men were spending two weeks on the LT. I lunched with two AT thru-hikers, 6-Legs and Big-
O. It was 6-Legs’ birthday, he was thirty two. His trail name came from the fact that he had a dog with him, packing dog food was his biggest weight to carry. I saw another dog later, so three total on the trail. He had quit his job in insurance to hike for month, he started in Virginia on April 15th. After this trail, he was going to move out west, which he defined liberally (including Denver), and he wants to work in a nature oriented industry. Big-O was the second Asian guy I saw on the trail. We had lunch together on the Little Pond Lookout before they headed on the trail, where they hoped to be in Manchester in another day or two. Soon after, I saw the first black woman on the trail, solo. The walk back became warmer and I was tired, even though the temperature wasn’t suppose to be much above eighty today. I stopped at the shelter 1.4 miles north of Route 9 and it was peacefully off the trail and deserted, so I had the place to myself. The descent was more difficult than the assent, and I was annoyed and tired, wondering why I was putting myself through this Long Trail journey, which seemed impossible in my condition of being alone and dependent on car parking, and having to do the trail twice, once up and once back, unwilling to spend the night and carry gear. It would be impossible to compete at this point, or it would take years. I didn’t find the connector trail to Little Pond, which I was counting on for my next parking spot. I basically decided to give up on hiking The Long Trail completely, and to focus on other more doable trails, preferably loops. After getting to my car at 3:30, after starting at 7:15am, I was exhausted. But I still drove to Little Pond, with hopes of maybe finding that connector trail. Instead, I found a fun jeep road, which got some good mud on the jeep and was fun for me. Maybe I’ll switch to the day hiking Vermont book and focus on some mountain peak day hikes instead.
I attended the Justice Studies Association this last week, June 1-4, 2016, to present on my research, “Felony bans in the legal cannabis industry” (see program). The location of the conference was local for me, taking place in my town of Albany, NY at SUNY. The organization is a place for researchers and practitioners to promote transformative, restorative, social, economic, and political justice in all areas of our lives–from the local to the global. It was a great opportunity to share research related to the criminal justice system from a radical and justice oriented perspective.