By Jaz Levario
Fort Devens Reserve Forces Training Area (RFTA) Public Affairs
September 22, 2021
Devens, Massachusetts -- Therapy can come in many different forms. Finding one that works the best for you is vital. For some of us, that therapy comes in the form of reconnecting with nature. Alaina Killion, Fort Devens RFTA Outdoor Recreation assistant, decided to do just that by completing the 273-mile hike of the Long Trail from Canada to Massachusetts this past June.
Alaina has been a part of the Fort Devens RFTA team for the past five years as an outdoor recreation assistant. She is an avid hiker and skier and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the best trails and where to go on your next outdoor adventure. Alaina took this much-needed solitary escape into nature after facing a rather rough year. She wanted to challenge herself and be alone with nature.
“This time the trail was really challenging, and I felt like I was getting crushed by obstacles, but I learned that I can keep going and I can get through it no matter what,” said Alaina.
The Long Trail is a hiking trail that follows the ridge of the Green Mountains and runs the length of Vermont from the Canadian border to Massachusetts. The trail is considered strenuous and has a diverse terrain that takes the hiker through hardwood forests, beautiful mountain peaks, pristine ponds, and swift streams. It is easy in a few sections and rugged in most; steep inclines present many challenges to hikers. This is the second time Alaina has hiked the Long Trail and she was able to complete it in 18 days. She says her goal is to make the hike in the current record time of six and a half days
“There are lots of ladders to get you up, and over rocks and ropes, you have to pull your body up. The weight of your pack makes it a little bit harder,” said Alaina.
Along the trail, hikers will find various overnight sites to set up camp, which range from fully enclosed “cabins” to three-sided lean-tos and tent areas. They are all about a moderate day’s hike apart and can become crowded during peak season. Every year hundreds of hikers set out to hike the Long Trail. Some, like Alaina, will complete it in one go, while others are day hikers and will tackle different sections throughout the year.
“The people that you meet along the way help you out and give you a little more motivation to keep you going,” said Alaina when asked what was one of the highlights of the hike.
She met several hikers along the way, and they all looked out for each other and offered company and help when needed, once she was out of clean water and was about to drink the dirty water she had tried to filter when a day hiker showed up and gave her his water. That is what Alaina and other hikers like to call “Trail Magic.”
When asked the best way to prepare for this hike, Alaina suggests packing light and getting used to the weight of your pack. Bring only the essentials: water, food, an extra layer of clothes, and a shelter. Her shelter consisted of a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and a Bivy; which is essentially a raincoat for your sleeping bag.
You can find many resources and maps online to help you plan your own Long Trail hike https://www.greenmountainclub.org/the-long-trail/.