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.

img_1489Delis 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.


NY City skyline.

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.


The Lemon Squeezer

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

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, NY style.

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:


Steps down Bear Mtn.

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.


A train station on the AT.

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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Comments 12

  • Ruth Morley : May 6th

    I have been enjoying following your journey since Day 1. I remember one of your early posts when you first hiked with a 20 lb pack. And coming home after a one-nighter trial run and marveling over modern plumbing. Look what you’ve done since then. Rehanging a hammock during the night earns you even more “seasoned hiker” points.

    And on you go to state #5. I look forward to hearing what experiences that state presents to you.

    • Gail Barrett : May 6th

      Thanks, Ruth! I appreciate that you are following our progress. We are definitely gaining muscles and skills as we go along. There is still a lot of misery involved in the actual hiking, but I’m trying not to focus on that. One day at a time!!!!

  • Pat : May 6th

    I’m proud of you guys!! I’m still taking notes for my spring ’18 trip. So, others are asking about the flip flop route. You still feel this is the better way? And how will you two be getting back to Harpers? I haven’t read up on that point yet?

    • Gail Barrett : May 6th

      Hi, Pat. I think any route has its pros and cons. The nice part about flip flopping is that it is not crowded and you escape the norovirus contagion in the south. We are mostly meeting older section hikers right now, although a few fast Nobo thru-hikers have passed us by (?). We probably should have waited a couple of weeks and begun after the FF festival to be around more people. Still, I think it was a good choice for us. As for getting back, we might rent a car and drop it off at the Hagerstown airport since that’s our town. We haven’t decided yet.

  • Therese : May 6th

    Loving every update you publish. Thanks for making me laugh and giving great updates!!!!

    • Gail Barrett : May 6th

      Thanks, Therese! I’ve been thinking of you and wondering how you are doing in PA. How is it going?

  • Paul rhoades : May 6th

    Thank you for your posts on trek,You are a great inspiration for me,I am planning on hiking the AT when I retire at 63 in five years.

    • Gail Barrett : May 6th

      Thank you for following my posts, Paul. It’s an adventure for sure!!! You won’t regret it!

  • Sherry Jarvis : May 6th

    Thank you for pointing out all the beautiful things in New York. I think so many people here New York and think of the city and crowdedness. But the state actually has a very beautiful state. Once again I’m enjoying every post you put out it is wonderful keep them coming.

    • Gail Barrett : May 6th

      New Jersey was the same way, Sherry. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. We are seeing some marvelous sights!

  • Brenda Lynch : May 7th

    I so enjoy reading your updates and sorry to hear that Barfly is off the trail. Thank you for allowing us all a glimpse into your lives. Hike on!!

    • Gail Barrett : May 7th

      Thanks, Brenda! We really miss Barfly and hope she can rejoin us. She should have the MRI results in another day or two, so keep your fingers crossed!


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