Artist Rob Mullen walks down Long Trail, the country's oldest long distance trail, in Manchester, Vt., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Mullen was nearing the end of his 272-mile month-long hike down the length of Vermont, painting along the way. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

Artist hikes length of Vermont, painting along the way

MANCHESTER, Vt. — After hiking over 200 miles (320 kilometres) on the country’s oldest long-distance trail, Rob Mullen had just 3 miles (5 kilometres) to go in the rain to meet up with his wife and father for a break.

He kept dry with his foul weather gear as he walked down the trail with a backdrop of trees sprouting fall’s orange and yellow leaves and carrying trekking poles and a big stuffed blue pack on his back that held his precious painting kit.

Mullen, a 64-year-old wildlife and wilderness artist, is hiking the 272-mile (440-kilometre) Long Trail that runs the length of Vermont and over its highest mountains from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts state line and painting sights along the way.

He was nearing the end of his monthlong journey and planned to finish as soon as Saturday afternoon with half a dozen paintings and several thousand photos from which to paint. He’s also coming away with sense of hope about the country from the people he’s met along the trail.

“I’ll be painting from this trip for a long time,” he said during his break off the trail in Manchester on a Tuesday.

Mullen, who has done a number of wilderness canoe trips in Alaska and Canada, had planned to paddle in the Northwest territories of Canada this year with three others. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

He decided to do the entire Long Trail as a painting trip and to raise money with his art for the Vermont Wildlife Coalition, of which he is a board member, and the Green Mountain Club, which maintains the Long Trail.

Mullen managed to fulfil his plan to hike a certain distance and then paint a painting on the first day. He got to a shelter around 4 p.m., banged out a painting of an erratic boulder, cooked dinner and went to bed, he said.

But the northern part of the trail with the bigger mountains is tough and he admits he hadn’t trained properly, which slowed pace.

“I mean I was really suffering,” he said, adding that he stopped to meet up his wife to hand off some weight, including his 8-pound (3.6 kilogram) painting kit. But he wasn’t about to give up. As he continued, he gained strength and took back the painting kit. At times, he said the scenery was breathtaking.

Unlike paddling, provides a view he can see for miles, showing peaks poking through the clouds at higher elevations, his wife Bonnie Rowell said. She meets up with him about every five days to resupply him with food.

Along the way, Mullen has seen black bears and in a special sighting, a gray fox. And he’s met many hikers who are either hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine or, like himself, Vermont’s Long Trail, sharing shelters with them for the night or meeting up on the trail.

“You get these ephemeral friendships,” he said, of the bonds he made with strangers along the way.

The hikers look out for one another, share gear and help to fix what’s broken. When two hikers ran out of fuel on a recent night, another hiker loaned them a fuel cannister, he said. And so-called trail angels leave water at road crossings and other spots for hikers,.

His monthlong hike was also a reprieve from the polarizing political debate in the country, he said. He hasn’t heard a political discussion in weeks.

“It certainly gives you a little hope that the apparent polarization that comes across when you’re watching the news doesn’t go that deeply into the populace maybe, at least not in many of them. So it was encouraging for me,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Remand Centre
Red Deer Remand Centre up to 22 COVID cases

Eighteen inmates and four remand centre staff areactive COVID cases

Christine Cornelius, department manager at Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, prepares seed racks at the Red Deer County shop. (By SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Central Alberta gardeners already buying seeds to prepare for spring

Potatoes and carrots popular choices for backyard gardens

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Red Deer’s newest Waskasoo Park trail offers some bird’s-eye views of the city. It runs along the Highland Green escarpment, between Howarth Street Close and 60th Street. More information is available on reddeer.ca. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
PHOTO: New Red Deer trail offers hikers a bird’s-eye view

It links Howarth Street Close with 60th Street

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is resigning. The news comes as… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin responds to a question on COVID vaccines during a news conference, Thursday, January 14, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Delays to Canada’s deliveries of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses keep getting worse

Delays to Canada’s deliveries of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses keep getting worse

A man works in the broadcast centre at the TMX Group Ltd. in Toronto, on May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
S&P/TSX composite down on broad-based decline led by energy; loonie rises again

S&P/TSX composite down on broad-based decline led by energy; loonie rises again

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.'s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta's Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry's presence in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

Children walk back to their classroom while physical distancing at St. Barnabas Catholic School during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Experts at a leading children's hospital say schools need to ramp up COVID-19 testing and masking in order to have all kids safely return to the classroom as soon as possible. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Medical experts urge more masking, distancing for schools planning to reopen

Medical experts urge more masking, distancing for schools planning to reopen

Rode
University of Saskatchewan Huskies recognize DeMale’s talent

Joel DeMale has the resume to be one of the top linebackers… Continue reading

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Some provinces yet to say when jail inmates to be vaccinated against COVID-19

A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set… Continue reading

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta. Central Alberta counties are struggling to cover millions in unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies. (File photo by The Canadian Press)
Premier Scott Moe warns Regina city council about anti-energy company motion

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is warning Regina city council there… Continue reading

Most Read