Skip to main content


Profile: Deb Brown (7/03)
Burlington Section Director and Trip Leader

Deb’s earliest hiking memory was when she was five years old, on the trail with her father.

“We were near the top of Camels Hump, on a little landing or opening. I’ll never forget how the trail looked – the rocks rising up on my left, towering over me. It’s like a snapshot in my mind.”

When she was 25, Deb decided to hike the Long Trail. Her dad suggested that she join the Green Mountain Club to get companionship on some of her hikes. A few months later she went with Pat Collier on a hike to the Adirondacks, and before the day was over, Pat had recruited her to be a trip leader. Deb’s first hike as a leader was up the Jerusalem Trail to Mt. Ellen. Over the next few years, she continued volunteering and also finished hiking the Long Trail end-to-end.

“My father would drop me off at the trailhead and I’d start off wondering what I was doing. Ten miles a day felt really scary, especially with a big pack. It took me three years to do the LT. I did quite a few day hikes and then my first backpacking trip from the Appalachian Gap to Lincoln Gap. Later, I did longer hikes, including a six day, 75 mile section from the Massachusetts border to Danby.”

After finishing the LT, Deb took a 30-day NOLS backpacking course in Wyoming.

“It was very different from solo hiking. I’d become used to planning my own trip and doing my own thing. Now I was traveling in a small group. Thirty days of trying to do well with all those people, when everyone’s tired and maybe someone’s sick and sometimes there are personality conflicts, and just about everyone else was a lot younger than I was. But NOLS was a great experience. Being outdoors for a whole thirty days was fantastic, and at the end I felt I could have gone another thirty. It was a proving ground, giving me the courage to be out for six months - to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.”

In spring 1998, Deb quit her job, stored her belongings, and caught a bus for Georgia. “When I was fixing dinner on Springer Mountain there was a man beside me with the trail name Long Drop - that’s New Zealand slang for privy. There was a huge crowd of 40 hikers camped around the shelter. I whispered to Long Drop that twenty-five percent of the people who start the AT quit by the first road crossing. He said yeah. Somehow I knew that neither of us would quit. Long Drop was one of many quirky people I met along the trail. He snored a lot and he swore a lot and he smoked from Georgia to Maine.”

“I remember that there was a birthday party on Bigelow Mountain in Maine, less than 200 miles from Katahdin. One of the hikers at the party said, ‘The one quality that unites us all is we’re just plain stubborn’. I think that’s true. All the people who finish the AT and many of those who don’t are really determined individuals.”

Since finishing the AT, Deb has hiked on the International Appalachian Trail, in Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness, and on the John Muir Trail in California. She has celebrated three summer solstices by hiking all of New Hampshire’s “presidents” in one day. (That’s 20-24 miles, 9000’ elevation gain!) She has also participated in several naked solstice hikes.

“Wearing hiking boots, of course. And insect repellant. And lots of sunscreen.”

Besides hiking, Deb is interested in nature photography and birding. She also is helping her mother reach her personal goal of getting to the summit of Camels Hump.

Deb was asked what part of the LT she would choose if she wanted to just sit and look around her.

“Well, I guess Prospect Rock and Baker Mountain. They’ve both got great views of the Taconics and they’re usually not crowded. But, you know, it’s hard to think about being in one place for a while. That’s not what hiking is. I’ve heard yoga described as a moving meditation. For me, hiking is moving meditation.”