Day 101: Hitting the Wall

Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This

I woke up a little sore this morning. I slept like a log, but when I climbed out of bed I felt yesterday’s terrain and mileage more than I thought I would. It felt a little like mile 22 in a marathon. Everything still worked, but I was getting tapped out and was starting to question my motivation. It’s time to dig a little deeper.

But What If I Don’t Like Any of the Options?

Also, my head hurt from trying to sort through all my options today. My original plan was to hike from Harriman State Park through Bear Mountain State Park to a point just before the Hudson River Bridge. But a ton of trail closures, reroutes, and alternates lay between here and there.

First, the ATC had recently rerouted the trail to eliminate the surface crossing of Palisades Parkway, after a hiker died trying to dodge traffic. The reroute adds a few miles to the trail, turning my planned 19-miler into a 22-miler. After yesterday, I wasn’t particularly excited about another 20+ mile day.

Second, recent floods closed all of the roads in Bear Mountain State Park and some of the trail. The ATC just posted that the trail up Bear Mountain is closed and that the recommended route now follows Seven Lakes Drive through the Park. That would shave a few miles off the day but would miss one of the signature high points along New York’s AT.

Third, the NY Department of Transportation closed parts of several highways in and around Bear Mountain State Park complicating my logistics for getting dropped off and picked up.

Finally, I’m beat. I need a day off. We’d planned a zero day for tomorrow for Northstar’s birthday, but I had an early celebration on my mind. And by “celebration,” I mean a nap and some time in a hot tub. I could knock off early and stop before Bear Mountain State Park, but that would leave me short of the 1,400-mile mark which I’d hoped to cross today.

Hikers Hike

But hikers hike, or so I’m told by the AT apostles, so I hiked. I’d decide what alternatives and routes to take when I reach each trail junction. Maybe by then, I’d have some clarity, or the trail would decide for me.

Northstar dropped me off early at Harriman State Park. If I’m going to hike, I might as well get out early before the heat, humidity, and mosquitos kick in. Climbing out of Elk Park, I saw 17 salamanders on the trail, probably displaced by last night’s storms. That’s a good sign. Maybe today won’t be as bad as I thought.

Then Again, Maybe It Will Be Worse

Kate called. She gotten tangled up in one of those confusing NY round-about exits and bumped a pickup truck that had tried to zoom around her. She and Gus weren’t hurt, and the van was drivable, but part of the front bumper was gone. If my spirit was flagging before, it was sucked almost dry now. I had a hard time thinking about anything else for a few hours.

How appropriate that I arrived at the Lemon Squeezer just after she called.

Lemon Squeezer

The Lemon Squeezer is a well-known geologic feature similar to Virginia’s Guillotine and Grayson Highland’s Fatman Squeeze. New York’s squeezer starts with a triangular opening you must crawl through, followed by a narrow, chest-high, two-foot-wide gap in the bedrock. I walked through easily with my “small” pack, though my selfie video shows dozens of mosquitos swarming around my head as I went.

The hard part came at an 8-foot vertical climb after the slot that could have been a rated rock climb with serious consequences if I missed a hold and fell. I could have blue blazed around it but didn’t. I wasn’t going to let the trail get the better of me today. I made the climb, leaving my lemons unsqueezed. At least so far.

In a Daze

I trudged along, mostly in a daze, thinking about the van and my thru hike, trying not to lose the poorly marked trail, still unsure about what alternative routes I’d follow. I walked up one small hill and saw Boonie sitting on a sawn log that had once blocked the trail. I’d met him once before, the day I’d first met Cheater in Pennsylvania, but hadn’t seen him since.

I wasn’t in a mood to chat, so I just nodded and said hello as I passed. As I did, Boonie said, “You will want to see this,” in his thick German accent. I looked back and he pointed across the trail. I’d walked right by the 1,400-mile mark.

I would have missed it if he hadn’t said something. I’ve been making silly little reels on Instagram at every 100-mile mark, so I stopped and did my thing with a very somber German looking on. He looked amused, but didn’t volunteer to join in.

Re-Route #1

I asked Boonie what he planned to do at the upcoming trail reroutes. He said that he’d follow the new official route to avoid the Palisades Parkway crossing but wasn’t sure about Bear Mountain. He’d do whatever the signs recommended when he got there.

Then he reminded me that the Palisades re-route didn’t have any water sources. So, I trudged back down the hill to the last stream I’d crossed and filtered some murky stagnant water. Murky filtered water is better than unfiltered water, and much, much better than no water at all.

By the time I came back up the hill, Boonie had moved on, so I hiked on alone on the new official alignment. I’m such a follower.


Avoiding the Palisade Parkway crossing was absolutely the right decision. Safety first. But I was still unsettled about the Bear Mountain detour. Even though the Park is closed and the ATC recommends that thru hikers bypass Bear Mountain, online chatter says Park Rangers allow thru hikers to follow the old trail. I didn’t want to miss the Bear Mountain views and five miles of the trail, but I wasn’t excited about a 22-mile day either.


I reached the northern end of the first reroute, but as I started to turn toward the Palisades Parkway underpass, I saw pavement through the trees. I was about 400 feet from a road and an unmarked trail went right to it. A light dawned in my brain.

If Northstar could come get me at the road, I could stop right here. I’d bagged the 1,400-mile marker and had done 14 miles today. Northstar had texted me that the motel she’d booked for her birthday had let her in early. She was only ten minutes away. As was a shower and an air-conditioned room. Very tempting.

Then I realized that if I stopped right here, I’d start here again after my zero. From here, I could hike right through all the Bear Mountain State Park road and trail closures, across the Hudson River, and out of the flood damaged zone without having to do a 20-miler or worry about road closures preventing Northstar from picking me up. Win, win, win.

Zero, Baby, Zero

Northstar had made a friend at the motel who volunteered her husband to come pick me up. The husband is a mechanic, who agreed to look at the van with me, and figure out if it’s okay to drive. It is.

What a day. We deserve a zero. We need a zero. We just might need a double zero.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Harriman State Park (Mile 1387.9)
  • End: Unmarked Trail/US 6 (Mile 1401.3)
  • Weather: Hot, humid.
  • Earworm: Wrapped Around Your Finger (The Police). Uh-oh.
  • Meditation: Lk. 6:27-36
  • Plant of the Day: Boonie’s sawn log
  • Best Thing: Boonie catching the 1,400 marker
  • Worst Thing (besides the humidity): Bear Mountain closures and reroutes


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Comments 4

  • thetentman : Jul 30th

    Double zero. You might be smarter than you look.

    Make sure you drink lots of beer. I hear it has great restorative powers.


    And now the great heat is gone the fun will return.

    • Jon : Aug 2nd

      Couldn’t be less, could it?
      It has

  • tek : Jul 31st

    i’ve been following your blog, and was just backpacking harriman state park last week. hiked out via the AT from bear mtn across the bridge to manitou. i must have missed you by a day. it’s so sad that bear mtn. is closed during the bubble (but their vending machines worked!). keep inspiring strangers and hbd northstar!

    • Jon : Aug 2nd

      Sorry to have missed you.


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