Day 100: New York, New York


A hundred days. Now that’s a milestone. I should probably sit down and write about what I’ve learned over the past 100 days of AT hiking, but not today. Today, I had another milestone on my mind: New York. My home state. State #9.


After 40 years in Arizona, almost everything along the AT has looked somewhat the same to me. It’s all green, leafy, and wet, with its geology covered by dirt and plants. But today, I walked into New York State, and it looked a little different. It looked like home.

I recognized the knobby, glacially carved metamorphic and granitic outcrops sticking out above the dense woods as the ones I’d played and hiked on as a kid. The trees and birds were more familiar, like distant relatives whose faces I knew, though their names escaped me. I’d never visited the lakes and streams I saw today, but I’d known their upstate cousins once upon a time.

Welcome Home, Son

New York welcomed me back like a long-lost son. Unfortunately, not with a feast like a prodigal son. New York greeted me the son it banished to the Wild West and hoped to never see again. New York kicked my butt. It must have read the nice things I’d written about New Jersey.

New York had me scrambling on all fours to climb up and over every rocky ridge, and wishing I had two more limbs to swat mosquitos and wipe the sweat off my face. It picked the rockiest, steepest, slickest, buggiest, twisty, overgrown routes it could find.

And then it hid most of the white blazes. I spent an inordinate amount of time standing in open terrain, with either no trail or a myriad of them, trying to find the next blaze. Several times, I had to pull out FarOut and just follow the digital “You are here” icon toward the red line that indicates the trail. Lesser men might call that being lost.

Sure, some of the climbs were fun and had outstanding views of lakes and valleys. But I had to work hard for everything I got. I started thinking the New York AT had been built by Georgians, as the trail didn’t miss a single highpoint and seemed to pick the steepest route up every one of them. Did I see a switchback today?

I picked the wrong day for a 20-miler. I’ll need to revisit my plan if New York keeps this up.

Almost Alone

I only saw three other hikers on the trail today, and one of those was southbound. Just after entering New York, I met Pine. He started his flip flop less than a week ago at the Delaware Water Gap and is heading north to Katahdin. He’d been startled by a bear walking right through his camp as he climbed out of his tent yesterday and had scurried out this morning when he heard my bear-like clomping and puffing as I came down the trail.

Pine had a bright-eyed enthusiasm and eagerness few thru-hikers who started at Springer Mountain still have. I found it both refreshing and slightly off-putting. But I’m hoping we meet again. I could use a little refreshing eagerness. I wonder if we all looked like that in Georgia?


I met Fix-It as I picked my way along a narrow outcrop atop a ridgeline. He’s another flip-flopper, filling in the last section of his thru-hike. He started at Springer in late winter (snow and cold), skipped ahead to hike New England in early summer (black fly season), summiting Katahdin on July 15th. Now he’s hiking southbound back to southern Virginia (heat and humidity). We all hike our own hikes, but I sure wouldn’t have picked his itinerary.

Fix-It warned me about Cat Rock and Ledges (a.k.a., The Pinnacle), two exposed outcrops ahead that would be life threatening if I attempted them with my pack and poles. Then he noticed my small pack. Queue the usual small pack discussion, at the end of which he pronounced that my supported hike “was okay, since other people do that too.” I just smiled. I think it’s okay too.

I asked Fix-It if the bugs had been bad north of here, but he said bugs really hadn’t been a problem. Now, that’s good news! Then I noticed that he was wearing a hat, head net, long sleeves, long pants tucked into his socks, and full-fingered gloves. He seemed to want to chat more, but I had 20 miles today and a deadline, so I hiked on toward certain death at Cat Rock.

Reports of My Death Have Been Exaggerated

I didn’t notice I’d passed both Cat Rock and the Pinnacle until I stopped for a break a few hours later. To me they didn’t seem much more exposed or dangerous than a dozen other spots along the trail today. At one point, the trail went straight up a ten-foot vertical rock face. Fortunately, the trail builders had drilled rebar rungs into the outcrop to make a crude ladder. Weird, but fun.

Death By Mosquito

Despite my mantra of “One bad step is all it takes,” death by mosquito was more probable today than death by falling off a cliff. As long as I kept moving, the mosquitos just buzzed around my head, annoying me, but essentially keeping to themselves. As soon as I stopped though, the feeding frenzy began.

Not stopping was the obvious solution. Or perhaps stopping only in direct sunshine on a peak with a breeze. Yeah, right. New York wasn’t about to give me that option. The sunshine was punishingly hot, breezeless, and only slightly less buggy.

A family at the park in Unionville the other night asked me how to prevent the mosquitos from biting. I laughed and suggested staying home. Or covering up. Or Deet. They didn’t like any of my advice. They thought covering up would be too hot and that Deet is a dangerous carcinogen. Yup. Pick your poison.

I pick covering up. I’ll be bringing my head net tomorrow to slip on whenever I stop. If the bugs get really bad, I’ll pull out my Deet.

Fitzgerald Falls

I stopped for lunch at Fitzgerald Falls, a popular day hiking destination just past Lakes Road. The falls were down to two small cascades with a half-foot deep pool at the base, but it was miraculously almost bug free. I took advantage of the flowing stream to filter water, having already drained three liters today. I also soaked my head and torso in the pool to cool off. After lunch, I packed up and climbed the steep stairs next to the falls and headed out for the last eight miles.

May As Well Be Raining

Within minutes, despite having washed off at lunch, I was rainstorm wet with sweat. Northstar called but I couldn’t get my phone’s touchscreen to work with my sweaty fingers. When I finally dried my thumb and the screen enough to use (I pulled out a spare pair of socks to use as a towel), I downloaded her voice message saying that many of the roads and trails around Bear Mountain State Park were closed due to the recent floods. She also mentioned that the National Weather Service had just issued a severe storm warning.

Almost on cue, I heard thunder rumbling in the west. I shifted into high gear, hoping to clear the final ridgeline before the storm reached me. But New York wasn’t done with my welcome home party yet. Raindrops started pelting me as I hiked the last climb of the day. I started counting the seconds between lightning flashes and thunder as I scurried along the ridge.

I missed the worst of the lightning, but the intense rain hit just as I reached the ladder-steep, 500-foot, quarter mile descent to NY 17. I got to the bottom without injury, silently chanting “just one bad step” as I went. By the time I crossed the NY Thruway I was thoroughly soaked.

I walked into Harriman State Park rainstorm clean, salt-free, and singing Gene Kelly’s famous show tune at the top of my lungs. And by “top of my lungs,” I mean humming quietly, happy that at least Sting wasn’t wrapping me around his finger anymore.

The Tentman Cometh

Northstar was waiting with dry clothes and our route back to the Bellvale Farms Creamery queued up on the navigation system. The Tentman, one of our blog e-tramily, had invited us out for a chocolate malt. We’d planned to meet up when I passed by the Creamery that morning, but I got there three hours before it opened, so we had rescheduled for the afternoon.

The Creamery lived up to its reputation and The Tentman delivered as promised. A former outdoor company rep, he even gave us some Darn Tough socks leftover from his trail magic stash, along with some sound advice about the upcoming sections of the AT. Too cool.

Wrap Up

I earned my 20.6 miles today. Neither the total mileage nor the total elevation gained was extreme, but the terrain was tough. I felt like I’d been walking over picnic tables all day. Every step was an effort. I’ll need to consider terrain more carefully when planning my daily mileage from now on.

I have the feeling that day one in New York was just a hint of what I’ll encounter in New Hampshire and southern Maine.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Longhouse Dr. (Mile 1,367.3)
  • End: Harriman State Park (Mile 1,387.9)
  • Weather: Blue sky, puffy clouds, nice early, but then hot, humid turned to thundershowers
  • Earworm: Wrapped Around Your Finger (The Police)
  • Meditation: Lk. 6:20-26
  • Plant of the Day: Fall Phlox
  • Best Thing: Chocolate malts with the Tentman
  • Worst Thing (besides the humidity): Mosquitos on the PUDs



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Comments 11

  • thetentman : Jul 28th

    Nice post.


    • Jon : Jul 29th

      Thank YOU!

  • Homeward : Jul 29th

    Not all who wander are lost…but some are ;-).
    Hike on, my brother!

    • Jon : Jul 29th

      Brother. I like that.

    • Mike Nixon : Jul 31st

      I like to say that I’m never really lost; I just may not know where I am.

      Stay safe & strong!

  • Andrew Mitchell : Jul 29th

    I’m a 66-year-old arborist and wildland firefighter from Montana. I’ve been living the dream for decades, having been a National Park Service Backcountry Ranger, animal packer, and helicopter-based firefighter. I also did a stint as a smokejumper in Alaska. I very much enjoy your blog. I want to compliment you on your toughness and relentless approach to hiking your own hike. Also, my compliments to your wife for steadfastly supporting your effort logistically. All my best to you both for a safe and successful conclusion to your AT endeavor.
    Andrew Mitchell
    Livingston< Montana

    • Jon : Jul 29th

      Thanks, Andrew. Northstar is truly a gem.

  • Lulu : Jul 29th

    Yes. We are all bright-eyed and eager out of the gate. Keep it up. Following you and Northstar is a highlight. Best to you both.

    • Jon : Jul 29th

      Thx, Lulu.


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