By Amy McClure
PITTSFIELD—Two 14-year-old boys—Jackson Ziegler (Pittsfield, Vt.) and Wright Frost (Tunbridge, VT)—recently hiked the entirety of the Long Trail in just 19 days.
The Long Trail stretches 272 miles, the length of Vermont, and it merges with the Appalachian Trail for 100 rigorous miles. It is a true test of endurance for any athlete.
Forest and Ziegler started talking about plans to hike the Long Trail well before the start of the summer. “I always had an interest in hiking the Long Trail, but I never thought I would do it this early,” remarked Ziegler.
“Amy, Wright’s mother, was the first was to say she was into the idea of the boys doing it this summer,” said Ziggy Ziegler, Jackson’s father, who also encouraged the boys to attempt the feat.
Planning months ahead of the trip, Forest and Ziegler had to learn what, as endurance hikers, they were going to need to carry in their packs. Packs needed to be light enough to carry all day but able to contain essentials for all 100 miles, like sleeping tarps, waterproof socks and light-weight water purification systems, they learned.
“Our packs were roughly 28 pounds to 30 pounds at max. daily,” said Ziegler, “They dropped a pound at every meal time.”
“They only carried about four days of food with them at a time,” added Ziggy Ziegler. The boys’ parents would meet them every four days to restock them with food and supplies.
The Long Trail crosses some of Vermont’s most well-known mountain peaks such as Camel Hump and Mansfield. “The terrain can become very rugged in these areas,” remarked Ziggy Ziegler, adding, “It may be rugged but is much more interesting.”
“We did about 15 miles a day, less in rugged terrain,” added Ziegler. “It was cooler on the ridges like Mansfield, but it was overall always very hot.”
One day while hiking in July Ziegler and Forest happened upon a group called the Rainbow Gathering—a group that meets yearly in different parts of the national forest. It had been over a decade since the last time the group had organized in Vermont.
“We saw the Rainbow Festival in the Southern part of the trail. It was thousands of loosely organized people, dancing in the woods,” said Ziegler.
The adventure ended on July 26 in North Troy, Vt., only feet away from the Canadian border.
Wright Frost- Tunbridge, VT (left) and Jackson Ziegler- Pittsfield VT (right), both 14 years old, completed the Long Trail.