AT Part Eight: It’s All Uphill from Here
Delaware Water Gap, PA, to Mount Greylock, MA
Distance: 292.7 mi
Total Distance: 1,588.1 mi
When I am off the trail and in a public space, I often forget that there are people who don’t recognize that I am an aspiring thru-hiker. Some people don’t even know that thru-hiking is a thing.
When I am sitting on a curb outside a grocery store rummaging through my food bag like a rabid raccoon, for instance, I am likely to receive more than one interesting look from passersby.
Sometimes a person’s curiosity gets the best of them and they are brave enough to approach me to ask about what I am up to. They are usually quite surprised to hear that I am attempting to walk from Georgia to Maine.
In the South, I would usually get a “Bless your heart!” or “Well, isn’t that something!” in response.
As I’ve moved North, however, people seem to be more direct.
“What are ya, friggin’ nuts?” an older man in New Jersey asked me after I told him that I had been on the trail for over three months.
“I guess it’s better you than me, kid.”
New Jersey: A Land of Surprises
Having grown up in Eastern Pennsylvania, I have spent a fair amount of time in the neighboring state of New Jersey. I’ve even lived in the Garden State for a while, but never really ventured into the area that the Appalachian Trail runs through.
I was totally surprised by the natural beauty and diversity of landscapes in which I found myself.
I encountered glacial ponds, miles of boardwalk running through lush marshland, and scenic views of lakes from the tops of mountains.
The scenery combined with some relatively easy terrain made New Jersey a really enjoyable experience.
I also found myself in a surprising bubble of isolation in New Jersey. Although the crowd had definitely thinned out since Harpers Ferry, I still knew that there were a lot of thru-hikers both ahead of and behind me. Yet somehow I had gone days without seeing anyone.
One day during this solitary stretch, I stopped at a location listed as a “secret shelter” for lunch. The shelter was a small cabin on a beautiful property that the owners opened up for thru-hikers to use.
I sat down on the porch to eat when a donkey appeared from behind a barn and moseyed up to me.
He stared at me with large, unblinking eyes. I stared back at him.
Finally, I got the hint and started giving him a good scratch behind the ears. He nodded with delight.
I know he was probably just using me, but it was nice having some company for lunch for a change.
The Rocks of New York
I don’t remember there being such a distinct difference between state lines as there was between New Jersey and New York. I immediately went from hiking an average trail to scrambling over huge boulders and up steep inclines.
To make things even more interesting, it started raining and continued for days. The rocks turned slippery as ice. My pace slowed to a crawl.
A Break at Bear Mountain
After climbing up and over Bear Mountain in a torrential downpour, I decided to spend a night at Bear Mountain Lodge to dry out. I think I needed a mental break from the rain more than anything.
The next day, I got back on the trail, which immediately ran through Trail Side Zoo and Museum.
I admired the statue of Walt Whitman and reached the lowest point on the AT in front of the bear cage. It was a very different feeling to seeing these animals behind a cage compared to the open woods.
To Connecticut and Beyond
Crossing the Hudson River via Bear Mountain bridge was a spectacular sight and emotional lift. New York had been a tough stretch both mentally and physically for me up to that point. Crossing the river seemed to be opening a new chapter of my hike as I headed north to New England.
The terrain through Connecticut and Massachusetts consisted of rolling hills, a few steep descents, and some pretty flat sections. The trail regularly ran close to towns, so I only had to resupply for a few days at a time.
Bodies of water also became more common. Hiking along the Housatonic River and a number of lakes and ponds provided plenty of opportunities to swim and relax.
Gathering at Greylock
Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts and the steepest climb that I had done in a while. I was rewarded with an incredible 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains.
A large number of thru-hikers ended up at the summit of Greylock that day. I had been hiking with some of them for a few days, and some I was just meeting for the first time.
I found it interesting that a few weeks ago I was having a lonely lunch with a donkey, and now I was surrounded by the largest group of thru-hikers that I had seen since Virginia.
We celebrated our achievement with some sunset drinks at the lodge, where we swapped trail stories and discussed what lay ahead for us.
With Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire looming in the distance, we knew one thing for sure—it was going to be all uphill from here.
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