Miles, Not Milestones. Sierra taking a break from hiking Vermont's Long Trail

I am what some may consider a Vermonter; I was born and grew up playing in the Green Mountains. Many of my roots are embedded in enjoying what you can find in the outdoor community, especially on a local level. The hiking trails are no exception. I hiked Mt.Mansfield at the ripe young age of five, and grew up regularly Sierra beginning Vermont's Long Trailhiking Camel’s Hump and Mt. Abraham. Throughout my childhood, my parents would place M&Ms on the trail, that I would “stumble upon” to motivate me to get to the top. Today I don’t need them to leave M&Ms for me to get out and push myself. Instead I fill a bag with 3,000+ calories per day and go out on my own.

The Long Trail is a 272 mile trail along the spine of Vermont’s mountains. Two years ago, I packed up and headed out to complete it. I did 126 miles in a week. Due to subpar weather and a tight schedule I stopped. Not completing what I set out to do was difficult for me, but looking back with the perspective I have now, I know I made the right choice.

When I set out to hike the Long Trail this summer, I had a new mindset and took a different approach than the first time I attempted it. I had three weeks between ending classes and beginning graduate school. I knew that I needed to have a certain level of relaxation and enjoyment, so I started with these intentions for my hike. I aimed to be present each day, and not just focus on the end goal of reaching Canada, but on the day-to-day. To this end, I carried some luxuries I left behind the first time in pursuit of speed. I brought a tent. I Sierra and her Brother enjoying the sunrise on Vermont's Long Trailbrought a camera. I brought a stove so I could enjoy warm meals and beverages each day. These small things enhanced my experience immensely. I also took the time to be present each day, and established rapport with other hikers I met along the way. I would hike solo so I had time to myself, but each evening I would meet up with the same group of thru hikers and we would make dinner together and enjoy each other’s company.

When I stopped after 108 miles due to an ankle injury, I wasn’t disappointed in myself for not making it to Canada like last time I had been on the trail. Looking back I have so many positive memories. At the end of a day, hiking in the pouring rain, I had a shelter to myself and made some killer Patagonia Provisions chili while listening to the rain on the roof all night. Early on, my brother hiked up with burgers and we spent a night sleeping on top of a ski mountain. We shared the fresh food with the hikers who became my companions for the next four days, and woke up early to watch the sunrise together. Over the following days, my newfound Seirra enjoying a hot meal in Vermont's Long Trail sheltercompanions even bestowed a trail name on me, something I had never been given before since I undergo most of my hiking solo. Later in the week I ended a day early to spend an afternoon by the river washing my clothing, making soup, and bathing while enjoying the sun. My last day, as I hiked down off Killington, I ended with a beer at a local inn as I waited for a ride home. I’ve come to realize that hiking isn’t about meeting a milestone like completing a trail, but about the people you meet and experiences you have along the way.

- Sierra Martin,
Patagonia Burlington Sales Associate


Photo Captions:

Header: Hiking nineteen miles the day prior proved worth it as Sierra started her day with breakfast at Stratton Pond.

Photo 1: At the start of the trail Sierra takes a moment to fuel up and reflect on how she's grown since her last visit.

Photo 2: Sierra and her brother (who showed up on the summit with burgers) watching the sunset on Bromley mountain. Photo 2 was taken by Elias Johansson (known as Swedracer), one of the hikers Sierra met along the way.

Photo 3: The daily morning routine consisted of breakfast grains and coffee.