Hiking Home: AT Days 80-82
Lott Road to Waywayanda Shelter, 16.7 miles
After a fun and restful evening at the house, Mr Rogers and I were ready to get back to it the following morning. My parents opted to take off work this day and hike some of the trail with us, along with our dog Maverick. My dad drove us back to Lott Road where he left his car, and we continued right were we left off. I left my overnight pack with my mom to obtain later, so this was my first “slackpack” experience. Slackpacking is when a hiker only uses a daypack with some snacks for a section of trail.
The first several miles of the day were very flat and enjoyable, at first starting off in the forest, then followed by a few brief road walks, before reaching the Walkill River National Wildlife Refugee Area. We were all enjoying the expansive views of the surrounding marshy land, eventually returning back into the woods. A steep climb up Pochuck Mountain soon followed, before descending down to County Road 517 where my mom was waiting for us with lunch and snacks.
My mom now joined us for this upcoming stretch as the AT once again leaves the forests and enters the swamp. The trail follows a massive, wonderfully constructed wooden boardwalk for over a mile. My mom has walked this section before and had always known that she wanted to walk the boardwalk with me on my thru-hike. I was glad it worked out on a day where the weather couldn’t have been any better.
Together, we reached NJ 94 where my parents turned around and retraced their steps back to County Road 517. Mr Rogers and I continued on, stopping for a snack at a farmers market just off trail. We then began to make our way up the steep climb up “Stairway to Heaven”, which gave excellent views of the land we walked through the past couple days. The Waywaywanda Shelter was only a few miles past the view, and we arrived just after 5:30, where only one other section hiker was already at camp.
Waywayanda Shelter to Island Pond, 23.8 miles
Anxious to cross into NY, Mr Rogers and I were on trail by 6:30, with the border roughly 4 miles down trail. Just one mile before reaching the border, I lost concentration for a second, slipped down a slick rock, and slowly fell to the ground right under me. I was completely fine, but my trekking pole snapped in half. The remainder of the day was spent using only one pole, making me appreciate how much two trekking poles really help.
We crossed the painted sign that marked the official entrance to NY, took some photos, and pushed on along the open, rocky ridge. The terrain got more technical almost instantly, and the AT remains on the open, rocky ridge for about a couple miles before returning back into the forest. Flat and easier miles followed before descending down to Fitzgerald Falls, the perfect spot for a lunch break. I had been to these falls many times, and returning as a thru-hiker felt surreal.
The AT climbs up above the falls and continues ascending all the way up to Mombasha High Point, followed by a steep, technical rock scramble up Buchanan Mountain, then a long, tough climb up Arden Mountain. It seemed like there was more vertical elevation gain in this stretch of trail than the entire state of NJ.
A very steep descent dubbed “Agony Grind” leads down to NY-17, crossing the road and leading to Elks Pen Trailhead, marking the entrance of Harriman State Park, or my “backyard”. Prior to my thru-hike, I have hiked countless miles with friends, family and myself all over Harriman State Park. These are my old stomping grounds, and I was thrilled to have returned with close to 1,400 miles under my belt. We climbed up and over Green Pond Mountain to Island Pond; a place I have always wanted to camp.
I was awake early, excited in anticipation for the day ahead of me. I took my time with breakfast and breaking down camp today since there was all day to hike the 17 miles. I imagined hiking through Harriman State Park as a thru-hiker for years, and today was finally the day to do so. It was to be the perfect weather day for hiking too; just above 70 degrees with not a cloud in the sky.
Mr Rogers and I made our way through a tight fitting rock formation known as the Lemon Squeezer to start off the day, followed by a climb up to Fingerboard Mountain, the highest point in the park. Flashbacks to fun times with friends and family hiking in the park played through my head constantly, while still enjoying the moment.
Later in the day we climb Black Mountain where I got my first up close glimpse of Manhattan for the day. Another climb up West Mountain, followed by a short side trail to West Mountain Shelter, provided excellent views of the Hudson River and Manhattan Skyline. I was surprised at the lack of day hikers at the area, as usually this spot is booming with people from NYC wanting to capture a view of their home.
At the Base of Bear Mountain, Mr Rogers pushed on while I waited for my Uncle Larry and Cousin Zach to arrive, who had plans of hiking the final mountain of the day with me. They soon arrived, and we tackled the steep set of stairs to the top, followed by the 2 miles of well constructed stairs all the way down to the Bear Mountain Rec. Area and Inn. My dad was meeting us there, and we all hung out before headed home to rest for a couple of days and catch up with friends and family. I had now officially “hiked home”.
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