Day mileage: 38
AT total mileage: 1,424
Time: 13.5 hours
A few weeks ago I decided that I'd stop making a schedule for my hike. I'll typically draw out a week or so at a time and pick the shelters or camp sites I want to end each day at, so that I know going into it where I'll be on what day. While I was in Rhode Island, I got a bit carried away with this planning and drew out a schedule through the 30th of June. I blame my scheduling on my career, as in the live events industry we really do love schedules. Having a crisp piece of paper with a newly revised schedule instills a sense of security (that being said, the famous 'f**k it, we'll do it live' quote is a common occurrence as well). Anyway, my grand plan had me at mile 1,424 for the evening of the 15th. Based on my schedule that would be a 35 mile day, not unattainable but certainly a long one. The issue arose when I ended 3 miles shy of my scheduled stopping point yesterday. Not only would today then include the original 35 miles, but an additional 3 to make up the difference. Hence a 38 mile day... But hey, I'm back on schedule.
Sleeping with no rain fly on the rock was a perfectly fine decision. The Super Moon was present as promised, and throughout the night lingered much lower on the horizon than I seem to recall the moon typically doing. I woke up at 5, and at a leisurely pace packed up camp, having to wipe some condensation off the tent. I was on the trail at 6:45, debating my sanity and my plan for the day ahead. My legs felt much better, and before long I was 3 miles ahead at the shelter I'd intended to stay at. I'm thankful I didn't, as the place was packed with weekenders in their monstrous tents. I stopped to fill up my water bottles, and while filtering the stream water, my Platypus bladder exploded. For those keeping track, this is the second time this has happened. The first time it developed a slow leak, but this second bladder that I found on the trail actually exploded, soaking my feet with two liters of water. I was not pleased. My aunts who drove me to 17A yesterday are going to work on finding me a replacement, as I'll be seeing them tomorrow afternoon. Until then, it made my water sourcing for the day quite challenging. I hiked on, climbing up and over a few separate rocky ridges before dropping down New York's Palisades Parkway to a sign indicating only 34 miles to NYC. Climbing out of that gap I made my way up to the summit of Bear Mountain, a notable trek for weekenders with a full parking lot and observation deck overlooking the Hudson River, and with hazy views of the Manhattan skyline in the distance. The most important part of this summit for me was the vending machine of Gatorade. Despite horrible pricing inflation ($2.50 per 20oz bottle) I bought three to try and make up for any potential dehydration I might have had due to a lack of water intake thus far in the morning. I spoke with a few weekend cyclists, and began my descent down to the Hudson. The climb down was rather pedestrian, with beautiful stone staircases built by the local Appalachian club for the weekend hikers to climb up from the campground /state park below. Shortly before reaching the bottom of the mountain I was overwhelmed with the smell of hot charcoals, hamburgers, and hot dogs wafting from hundreds of occupied grills around the lake at Bear Mountain's recreation area where immeasurable amounts of families were gathered around picnic tables for a Sunday in the park.
It's rather funny that to these people, I look homeless. I can only imagine the thoughts that went along with the stares I received as I walked through the park, practically drooling over their hot food and mentally begging to be invited to share some. I stopped at the food pavilion and asked one of the employees if they had a tap they could fill my water bottle with, explaining my situation and the lack of clean water on the trail. They said no. Great! So I found the bathrooms and forced myself to drink 3 liters of water (something we call 'camel up' on the trail) and ate a quick lunch before carrying on. The trail passed through more of the recreation area and picnic tables before passing under Route 9 and into the Trailside Zoo. In a million years I never would have guessed that the Appalachian Trail actually takes hikers through the middle of a zoo. Here I am, 1,399.6 miles into a thru-hike, and I'm staring at a black bear... in a cage... Which is ironically also the lowest elevation point on the entire trail at 160' above sea level. Exiting the zoo I began my trek across the famous Bear Mountain Bridge, a steel cable bridge spanning the Hudson River. It's about halfway across this bridge that the 1,400 mile mark resides for northbound hikers. I celebrated with myself for a moment, and hiked on. The climb out of the riverbed was steep, and was busy with make weekenders. One guy stopped me and after asking if I was thru-hiking, gave me a bag of peanut M&Ms saying he'd been carrying them all day without running into a thru-hiker. I didn't catch his name, but thank you again!
The afternoon mileage flew by. I did my best to maintain a 3 mph pace as I still had 20 miles to go. I stopped at a place called the Appalachian Market, a grill & deli inside a Shell convenience store. Purchasing 2 Gatorades, a coke, and a cheeseburger, I upped my fluid intake and got some calories in me to fuel my afternoon. I pressed on, covering as many miles as possible per hour. Around 1700hrs I came across a pump house alongside a road with a spigot marked 'potable water' so I again drank three liters before filling my bottles and carrying on. I'll be happy to have a filtration system again. Around 1900hrs I passed within a mile or two of Fahnestock state park, carrying on alongside a gorgeous lake visible from the ridge above. The sun set around 2030hrs, and I donned my headlamp to fill out the dark sections of forest as dusk settled over the sky. From the highest point of the last miles there were gorgeous sunset views, and a painted 9/11 memorial flag on the rocks atop the mountain. True to modern annoyances, next to the flag was a giant 'KELLY- PROM?' spray painted. This is the 10th time I've seen this along the trail.
The campsite I aimed for and arrived at is called the Shenandoah Campsite. It's an abandoned & boarded up old house with a large field for a yard where tenting is allowed. There's also a spigot for water, which is a huge plus in my book. There was a shelter 1.1 miles further along, but I had no intentions of descending a steep and rocky mountain in the dark. I set up my tent in this rather eerie lot, and will get as much sleep as possible tonight to rest my aches. Tomorrow I'll be meeting the same family members I saw in Rhode Island, and will have a leisurely 25 mile day. Connecticut will come first things Tuesday morning.
Anyway, I'm off to bed. Onward and upward with the sun.