Artist Rob Mullen stands on 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 Rob Mullen stands on 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 nation’s oldest long-distance trail, painting along the way

He had planned to paddle in the Northwest territories of Canada. But then the pandemic hit.

By LISA RATHKE

Associated Press

MANCHESTER, Vt. — After hiking over 200 miles on the country’s oldest long-distance trail, Rob Mullen had just 3 miles 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 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.

[Man summits five peaks in Herculean effort]

“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 fulfill 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 his 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 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.

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 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)

More in News

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Monday, Jan. 25

The most recent state and local numbers.

This October 2020 photo shows the illuminated Kennicott at the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal. Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is now accepting comments on the proposed Alaska Marine Highway summer ferry schedule. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Public comment period opens for ferry schedule

A teleconference is set for Feb. 8.

Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé senior Cooper Kriegmont shoots during a basketball game against Ketchikan on Friday,  Jan. 22, 2021. Kriegmont scored his 1,000th point during the two-game series. (Courtesy photo / Lexie Razor)
Good to be back: Short run up leads to mixed results against Ketchikan

“It doesn’t matter what the outcomes were,.”

Cars zoom down the track at Saturday's Pinewood Derby. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the race to move a virtual format. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)
The race must go on

Cub Scouts take the Pinewood Derby high tech.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Pebble developer files appeal with Army Corps

The Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership’s application in November.

This August 2019 photos shows a redline at Treadwell Arena designed by Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan. The arena is adding new weekly events to its schedule, City and Borough of Juneau announced. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Treadwell Arena adds new weekly events

Hockey and open skate are on the schedule.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 22

The most recent state and local numbers.

A Coast Guard Station Juneau 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Auke Bay during an exercise in 2018. A response boat similar to the one in the photo was struck by a laser near Ketchikan on Saturday, Jan. 17, prompting an investigation into the crime. (Lt. Brian Dykens / U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard wants information after laser pointed at boat

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews…”

Most Read