Miles 1300-1500: Stream after Sunfish Pond, NJ to Salisbury, CT
Who knew how scenic New Jersey is?! Kittatinny Mt has a rocky and scenic summit. Catfish Lookout Tower offered an extensive view of the surrounding forests, and Sunrise Mountain lifted us above the clouds. High Point State Park in NJ is the highest point in the state and has a large obelisk on the summit. (We missed the turnoff but we were able to see it from the distance and from a wooden platform.) The AT makes a 3 sided loop around Wallkill Reserve, a swampy area with lots of wild flowers and grasses. There are several boardwalks throughout New Jersey. They are scenic and flat so we enjoy them! One boardwalk lasted for 0.8 miles at Pochuck Creek over a swamp. We passed through Wawayanda State Park and on to the NJ/NY border! This section is full of large rocks and climbs. Prospect Rock had a nice view and was the highest point on AT in NY. The trail is so steep that in one spot along this section there was actually a ladder made of rebar! We stopped off for much deserved ice cream in Bellvale. Next came Fitzgerald falls and on to Harriman State Park. One section there is nicknamed the “lemon squeezer” because of the narrow trail between a split rock. The AT intersects the NY Long Path (you can walk 50+ miles to NYC). Black Mountain has amazing views of the Hudson River and NYC. The 4 lane Palisades Parkway was a challenge to cross on foot (build a bridge?!). Finally, we hit the summit of West Mountain and scenic Bear Mountain at 1,400 miles.
From Bear Mountain, we descended into a zoo! It features local animals such as fox, bobcat, hawks, owls, bald eagle, and even a black bear! Trivia- the black bear den is the lowest point on the entire AT. There is an amphibian house and outdoor museum, as well as a Revolutionary War museum. We crossed the Hudson River and climbed a big hill. Next was Curry Pond. The trail goes through Clarence Fahnestock State Park and we swam in Canopus Lake. We went up Shenandoah Mountain and stopped off for bagels at a deli in Stormville NY. Nuclear Lake was much prettier than it sounds (why is it named that?). There is an AT railroad station to go to/from NYC. Then, before we knew it we were at the NY/CT border! The trail followed the Ten Mile River to it’s confluence with the Housatonic River, which it then follows for most of Connecticut. We had notable views from Indian Rocks and St Johns Ledges. The Toymaker Cafe in Falls Village was an excellent Sunday brunch stop. Lastly, we crossed the road to Salisbury, Connecticut and walked a bit further into the woods, up a hill, crossed a stream, and were greeted with a beautiful sign announcing that we had walked 1500 MILES!
Highlights and Surprises
On our last blog, we left off with a wonderful day hike with Uncle Mike, Aunt Fran, and Jennifer! We took a zero day in NJ at Uncle Mike & Aunt Debbie’s house and enjoyed great meals, a mani/pedi for the ladies, and rock climbing on a tree in their yard! We scrubbed down our packs and power washed them to get the funk out.
The following weekend Uncle Rick so kindly picked us up right before a huge thunderstorm! Great timing! The weekend was full of good food, including a special trip to Newburgh Lunch and his famous homemade mango salsa. He took us on a driving tour of their family’s past homes in Newburgh (where he and Andrew’s mother grew up). We were overdue for a trip to Newburgh, and thankful to reconnect with Uncle Rick.
Andrew’s sister, Jennifer joined us for a second hike the day we crossed from NY into CT! She took the train up from Manhattan and met us at a hiker-friendly garden center on the trail. We caught up on what’s happened over the two weeks since her last visit, and she got us caught up on all the latest news from “the world”. The most the surprising development for us was that people are actually going outside and getting physical activity because of a Pokemon app!? Jennifer brought a backpack full of goodies from the city for us: bagels, 2 types of cheese, cookies, cherry tomatoes, and a bag of fresh herbs she grew in her windowsill. It was one of those surreal days… wake up in your tent, then your sister shows up with fresh NYC bagels and you spend a few hours together, then she disappears again back to the city. Now that she has hiked 2 days and brought us 9 bagels, Jennifer has earned the trail name “Bagels”!
A Day in The Life
We normally wake up between 6-7am, cook breakfast, break camp, and start walking in about an hour. We stop for about 30 minutes for lunch (tortillas with peanut butter, M&M’s etc), and hike until around 5-7 at night. We cook a hot dinner with dry ingredients that we ship to ourselves along the way. We have a great variety of ingredients, so we can put a new twist on the flavor of dinner every night. The texture, however, is generally an oatmeal-like consistency. As much as Andrew loves oatmeal, this is getting old even for him. Foraging has been a neat way to add some variety to our diet. Right now, blueberries are plentiful! We have also enjoyed ramps (wild onions), mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, dewberries, saskatoons, and strawberries.
We cover anywhere from 12-24 miles per day, depending on the terrain, weather, water sources, and when we can find a good place to pitch the tent. We have dropped our mileage the past few weeks due to the heat, humidity and terrain. Our daily victory cry is “We’re still here!” Slowing down has given us time to enjoy the many swimming holes and views of New England. Did we mention we are in New England!?
We have walked as far as your food
We have now walked as far as the average piece of commercially produced food travels from farm to plate! 1,500 miles is a long way, and a trip this far doesn’t happen by accident. It takes planning, time, and energy. How is it normal and ‘average’ that our food travels this far? How could food possibly be palatable after traveling that far? We must be using the wrong preservatives because we are definitely over-ripe! We have been through many growing regions where food was historically produced, from the Shenandoah Valley, the “Garden State” of New Jersey, and now the Housatonic River Valley in Massachusetts. Farms have mostly disappeared from these areas, turning food-exporting regions into food importers! To quote Joel Salatin: “Folks This Ain’t Normal!” The irony for us is that we are enjoying the outdoors and very much in touch with the changing seasons, but we have lost connection with the flow of seasonal produce. Save for a few foraged items, we are eating the same meals we were 4 months ago. The trail experience is full of contradictions.
Favorite Recipes of 14th & 15th 100 Miles
The up-side of crossing so many roads and being so close to society is that we have been indulging in wonderful food! We recently ordered pizza and salad to the RPH shelter, stopped off for ice cream twice, had bagels with cream cheese 2 days in a row, etc. Definitely a yummy section of the trail!
Andrew caught us some protein! Boil 1 crayfish, 1 cup couscous, 1 cup white beans, pinch of jalapeño and red pepper, 1 Tbsp file powder, and 1 Tbsp celery. We cracked the crayfish tail and claws open for an appetizer before the meal. The crayfish tasted great, like crab or lobster, must be the clean river water it lived in!
1.5 cups rice, 1/2 cup split peas, 1/2 cup quinoa, 4 Tbsp pineapple, 2 Tbsp green beans, 2 Tbsp garlic and onion, 2 Tbsp curry powder, dash of numeric and salt, drizzle olive oil at the end
Hot Breakfast Cereal
1 cup quinoa, 1 cup rice, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 3 Tbsp powdered milk, handful of dried blueberries, cranberries, and cherries, drizzle of honey
Where We Stayed/Mileage
Crossed 1300 miles on day 102 at Uncle Mike’s and Aunt Debbie’s and then took a zero, Jacob’s Ladder stealth site (12), High Point (18.4), Wawayanda (23.9), Fitzgerald Falls stealth site at top (13.9), Uncle Rick’s in Newburgh, NY (13.6, 0), West Mountain (7.4), Graymoor Spiritual Center (13.4), Ralph’s Peak Hiker’s Cabin (18.8), Telephone Pioneers (16.8), Ten Mile River, CT (12.8), Stewart Hollow Brook (15.7), Belters Campsite (15.3), on day 117 we passed the 1,500 mile marker and hiked on to Sages Ravine (17.0)
Aside from the zoo animals, we saw our usual critters. This time, we also saw a beaver and blue heron. Garter snakes are plentiful in NY/CT, and we saw two copperheads. One night, Andrew came face to face with a skunk! It was nosing around outside the tent just loud enough to wake him. He wanted to scare it away, but at the same time didn’t want to scare it, so he whistled at it… and it walked away!
What We’re Reading
Andrew- Folks, This Ain’t Normal- Joel Salatin https://www.folksthisaintnormal.com – Joel points out the wastefulness of using potable water to flush away human waste. He promotes the use of methane digesters or moldering privy to turn human waste into something useful. Most Privys along the trail are the moldering type, and I have to agree that they make a lot of sense! Once the waste is composted in the privy, trail volunteers spread the compost out on the forest floor.
Trail Beta for Future Hikers
- Once it gets hot and sweaty out, it pays to wash your pack once in a while.
- The water supply in NY is very limited. Most of the springs and creeks along the trail were dry when we passed. Trail angels have been leaving water at road crossings, so we got most of our water there!
- The High Point, NJ trail is easy to miss. AWOL says it’s a green blaze, but it’s actually a blue blaze with a green/red tag.
- The views from West Mountain Shelter are worth the extra 0.6 mile hike off trail. Seeing sailboats on the Hudson and the Manhattan Skyline lit up at night, all from the comfort of the AT is a great way to spend the evening!
- The flat tent spots at Telephone Pioneers shelter are on the privy trail.
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