Day mileage: 19
AT total mileage: 1,387
Time: 7 hours
Waking up to no rain or fog was a very welcome surprise. The storm system that had kept the trail grey and wet for a week has moved on, hopefully being kind enough to leave me with some clear skies and sunshine for a while. Taking my last hot shower for a few days, I routinely packed up my gear and got my bag ready. Assisting in packing up the cars and tidying up the vacation house, I then sat down and devoured an entire box of cereal and half gallon of milk before hitting the road. My aunts Barb and Betsy had volunteered to drive me back to the same parking lot on 17A where I had been picked up Wednesday afternoon by my cousin. Hugging everyone goodbye, we piled into their fully loaded Prius and began the three hour drive back to the Trail. My request had simply been to be back hiking by 1300hrs, as I wanted to still make some kind of decent mileage for the day. We were on the highway by 9:30, with a three hour trek in front of us. With a little traffic and an otherwise smooth ride, we arrived in Tuxedo, NY at 12:30. Stopping to pick up some kind of lunch (ultimately a steak and cheese sub) from a small town diner, we were at the trail head around 12:45. I hugged them both and thanked them for the generosity of driving out of their way to get me back here, parting ways as I hiked off into the woods and they got back in their car to head home.
The first few miles were attainable at 3 mph. The terrain was flat with few rocks, and despite some pains in my legs (I figure due to not using them for two days) I made good time. Passing by the Wildcat shelter, the trail climbed up over some rocky sections before dropping down to a road crossing. Per usual it then climbed back up to another ridge line, a tradition that would be repeated a few times throughout the day. On the first climb out the terrain changed and my speed slowed. Instead of an occasionally rocky trail it became more hand-over-hand climbing up rocky walls. With trekking poles stowed I made these tricky ascents, reaching the top of an incline before dropping back down into the valley below to cross a road and do the entire process again. It was on one of these rocky climbs that my heart nearly stopped... I reached up with my hand to grab onto a rock in order to hoist myself up a few feet, when the rock I reached for had an angry head protrude from it... yet again confronting a snapping turtle in the middle of nowhere. Loudly saying a few colorful words, I made the climb up and around without touching the turtle, snapped a photo, and carried on. I really do love the little things like that which keep me on my toes. Descending into the next valley I crossed a footbridge over New York's Interstate 87, then entering a state park area where many weekenders had left cars in a dirt lot. Per the sign they had posted, it was 9.3 miles from that point to the shelter I was aiming for.
I ran into many day hikers and a few weekenders, one of whom had attempted a thru in 2012 before tearing his ACL. He had some input about the next section of trail, which I listened to before pressing on. Passing by the massively expansive Island Pond, the trail then entered into what's nicknamed the Lemon Squeezer. A very tight section of trail passing between, under, and over many glacial boulders- some 30' tall- it certainly 'squeezed' me. I had to hand carry my dSLR and water bottles in order to fit through the crevices. I arrived at the Fingerboard shelter at 1930hrs to find it packed with weekenders tenting around the vicinity. I ran into Lead Dog and Slim Jim who were surprised to have gotten ahead of me, but happy to hear I spent extra time with my family. At this point I was only 16 miles into my day, so I said goodbye and hiked on. My goal had been to reach the William Brien shelter, a 22 mile day from my starting point, but at 2030hrs I decided I didn't want to hike for an hour in the dark on these rocks. I found a flat top rock face and set up my tent, ending at a 19 mile day. In the end I suppose it isn't too bad of mileage considering I didn't start until an hour after noon.
The skies are clear and the wind is breezy, I left the rain cover off my tent in hopes of seeing the Super Moon overnight. Tomorrow I'll continue on, passing over Bear Mountain Bridge and the Hudson River. Weather looks to be playing nice so I might try and push for some good mileage.
I'm missing my family already.