The Appalachian Trail enters Vermont atop a thickly wooded ridge at 2,300 feet. For the next 105 miles it coincides with the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in the U.S. Completed in 1930, seven years prior to the AT, the Long Trail extends 273 miles from Massachusetts to Canada.

I enjoyed an extended period of near perfect weather as I trekked through the verdant forests that cloak the mountains of the 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest, much of which is designated wilderness.

At the shelter high on Glastenbury Mountain amid the fragrant spruce and fir, I reveled in the first cool night in months, snuggling deep in my down bag for a great night’s sleep.

The next day I topped out on 3,936-foot Stratton Mountain and climbed the firetower for one of the best panoramas on the trail. Benton MacKaye conceived the idea of the Appalachian Trail in 1921 while sitting in a tree on the summit admiring the same view.

At Stratton Pond and again at Little Rock Pond, I escaped the late summer heat, and washed off the hiker sweat and dirt with a leisurely swim. Several other cold streams and rivers beckoned, but only for a quick dip.

The 4,100-foot top of Killington is reached via a short side trail; the last time I’d been at that elevation was on The Priest in Virginia just before the Shenandoahs some 750 miles south. Besides the fabulous view, I made the detour for a burger and fries at Killington Ski Resort’s Peak Lodge, true to form for a thru-hiker.

Just north of Route 4 at Sherburne Pass is Maine Junction, where the AT diverges from the Long Trail and heads 50 miles east to New Hampshire. Before moving on I made another side trip, to MacGrath’s Irish Pub at the Inn at Long Trail, for hearty fare and a pint of Guinness. My trail name is Beerman, after all.

By the time northbound thru-hikers cross the Connecticut River into New Hampshire, they’ve done 80 percent of the miles but just 50 percent of the effort – so goes a favorite statistic bandied among the trail community. With 160 miles of big ups and downs in the White Mountains just ahead, followed by 280 miles of tough Maine mountain terrain, my rough math backed up the estimate.

To ease into this stretch, I slack-packed the first 50 miles of New Hampshire, carrying a light day pack, and getting vehicle support to and from trailheads with the help of my wife and a friend. At Kinsman Notch, I again shouldered the full pack for the push over the high peaks of the White Mountain National Forest, which encompasses 750,000 acres.

I knocked off South and North Kinsman in a long day, then the Alpine heights of Franconia Ridge, enjoying incredible weather over Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette and Garfield. I traversed South Twin, Guyot and Zealand the following day, and by nightfall was camped alone at the old Ethan Pond Shelter on the edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

The 25-mile length of the Presidential Range, and its rocky and exposed 4,000- to 6,000-foot heights poses a significant problem for thru-hikers, given that camping is prohibited above treeline. Many opt for a long pull between Nauman and Osgood campsites, or hope for work-for-stay at the Appalachian Mountain Club huts en route.

To be sure, I reserved a bunk with meals at Mizpah Spring and Madison Spring huts, and hoped for good weather. Lucky me, I hiked the 12 miles between the huts over 6,288-foot Mount Washington on a sunny and windless 70-degree day.

Beyond, I negotiated the Carter-Moriah Range in two days, with an overnight at Carter Notch Hut. Immediately north lay the rugged Mahoosucs and Maine. I am almost home.

Carey Kish of Southwest Harbor is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast. Follow Carey’s AT thru-hike in his Maineiac Outdoors blog at: maineiac-outdoors

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