From Deli Hopping to the Agony Grind: A Wild Hike through New York
I’ve got to hand it to New York. There is nothing mundane about hiking through this flamboyant state. Unconventional, sure. But boring? Not even a chance! Here are some highs and lows from our trek through the Empire State.
Delis on the trail. I know. It doesn’t exactly evoke images of Daniel Boone. But seriously, is there anything better than coming across a deli serving Philly Cheesesteaks when you’ve been laboring across mountains since dawn? Or how about a restaurant that delivers pizza to the AT shelter — because in NY you can have that, too! Wilderness purists might sneer, but in my book these were welcome breaks from our usual diet of nuts and seeds.
Seeing the New York City skyline from the trail. Unfortunately the view that day was hazy, but I gaped at it like Dorothy spotting the Emerald City in the Land of Oz. When you’ve been living in the woods for a month any sign of civilization is noteworthy, even a gravel road. But New York City? It was an impressive and inspiring sight.
Bear Mountain. New Yorkers didn’t only put vending machines at the top of one of their mountains and spread pea gravel across the trail, but they installed nice stone steps up and down each side. And at the bottom was the Bear Mountain Inn, a beautiful lodge where we spent the night. Maybe it was a little too much, sort of the Disneyland version of the AT. But after enduring slippery slabs of rocks and knee-killing descents with names like “Agony Grind,” I think we were due.
The Dover Oak. We saw several big trees on the trail, but this 20 ft. thick white oak was something to behold. It is estimated to be 300 years old.
Trail Magic. From the strangers who offered us a room in their home, to the former 911 firefighter who encouraged us to hike on, to the trail angels who left drinks beside the trail, I’ve been continually struck by the kindness and generosity of the people we’ve met. New Yorkers are pretty darned nice!
Of course this week had its lows:
Spring arrived. It’s lovely to look at, but the hills are now rife with leaves, flowers, pollen and everything else I’m allergic to. I now remember why I like to sleep in an air conditioned room with the windows closed.
I learned that hammocks can fail. It was totally my fault. After answering a middle-of-the-night call of nature I sat on the underquilt instead of the hammock, causing it to collapse. Thank you, John, for helping me rig it back up (not so easy to do in the dead of night).
And on a final sad note, Barfly, the third member of the April Fools (aka Linda) is off the trail. After hiking on an old knee injury for weeks, the pain became too great for her to ignore, and she is now awaiting the verdict from an MRI. We’re hoping the setback is only temporary and she’ll be hiking with us again soon.
This week’s tally:
States completed: MD, PA, NJ, NY.
Miles completed: 459.
So adios, New York. It’s been a wild ride — from the harrowing rocks to the unexpected perks — and it set a pretty high standard to top. Next up: Connecticut!
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