Quiet Trails in Southern Connecticut and Northern New York
The trail has continued to traverse through areas once inhabited, as evidenced by stone walls and woods roads. The hills and mountains are at much lower elevation than further north, rarely exceeding 1500 feet. The leaves on the ground and still on trees are mostly muted shades of yellow, orange, and brown. I have gotten better st following the leaf-covered footpath. Varieties of asters and other late summer flowers continue to appear, as well as virgin’s bower, pictured below, which has fluffy seed pods in the fall.
Except on weekends in areas popular with day hikers, the trail has been very quiet. I have met perhaps 10 northbound section hikers during the past 5 days. I had not met any south bounders since I last saw Casper.
On Sunday, I hiked past Wiley Shelter, which has a little library, pictured below.
I was tempted to stop for the night and read a bit, but I wanted to get closer to Native Landscapes, which is a hiker-friendly business, where I had a resupply box waiting. So I stealth-camped that night further south. It was an easy hike the next morning, except my feet got wet walking through fields either still covered in morning dew or water logged.
Instead of simply relaxing at Native Landscapes, I had to wring out my socks and let my feet unpucker. While I was sitting outdoors, Third Wheel arrived. I hadn’t seen him in about a week. He was a sight for sorry eyes.
Third Wheel didn’t stop and instead walked 7/10 of a mile to Toni’s Deli. I didn’t have the time or leg energy for that trip as I planned to hike a total of 15.5 miles to the Morgan Stewart Shelter. Third Wheel graciously offered to pick up something for me. I requested a bagel with cream cheese.
After leaving Native Landscapes, I passed the train stop for hikers traveling to NYC on weekends.
During the week, hikers can take the train to NYC from nearby Pawling. The trail then crosses a wetland on a boardwalk before returning to the woods. Awhile later, Third Wheel caught up to me, handed me my bagel, and raced on ahead.
When I arrived at the shelter, Third Wheel had already started a fire in the tenting area. We ate dinner around the warm fire and discussed our daily hiking goals. I am trying to average 14 miles a day. He is trying to average 16 miles a day, but we are willing to hike more or fewer miles so we could camp together.
That night I realized that the cable for charging my iPhone no longer worked. Third Wheel lent me his cable and I later let him charge his iPhone with my battery. Yes, there are many benefits of being with another hiker on trail.
I was determined to replace the cable the next day. Third Wheel planned to walk to a deli close to the trail. I arrived at the deli first. Unfortunately it did not sell cables. While Third Wheel enjoyed a good breakfast at the deli, I traveled a few miles to a convenience store. How? I asked a friendly woman leaving the deli if she would give me a ride, and I arranged for a shuttler to drive me back to the trailhead.
When I got back on trail, I passed the Dover Oak, reportedly the oldest oak tree on the AT, over 300 years old.
That day we hiked almost 15 miles to a stealth site. The next day, Third Wheel got off trail to get treatment for a tick bite. I passed the RPH Cabin, which would have made a fine place to stay on a rainy night. I particularly liked the privy with its “flush toilet.”
However, it wasn’t rainy and I continued on to the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a Franciscan Monastery, which allows hikers to camp next to a pavilion in a baseball field. The site also offers an electric outlet, water spigot, privy, and picnic tables. I spent the night there with a man hiking north for the week.
In the morning, my tent was wet from the valley fog. Knowing that breakfast awaited me at the Appalachian Market, about a mile away, I quickly packed up and headed out. I enjoyed a delicious vegetarian omelet and resupplied. I asked a friendly local if he knew why water sources at so many of the shelters were contaminated with heavy metals. He thought it was caused by the early iron ore mining in Connecticut and New York.
Fortified with nourishing food, I continued my hike. Near one trailhead in the woods, a wall-mounted, rotary telephone was on the kiosk along with a comforting poem titled, “Telephone of the Wind.”
I did not take the side trail to Anthony’s Nose, has a magnificent view of NYC, but many day hikers were ascending the AT to reach the trail. I was eager to finish the long, steep descent to the road leading to the 100-year-old Bear Mountain Bridge which crosses the Hudson River.
Then I entered the Trailside Nature Museums and Zoo. In 1925, the curator of the Entomology Department at the American Museum of Natural History proposed that each state through which the AT travels have a trailside nature center. I believe this is the only one ever built.
I took a quick tour of the Historical Museum and the grounds, passing by the bear cage and reading sign about the native plants. Leaving the Zoo, I passed a statue of Walt Whitman as well as his poem, “ The Song Of The Open Road.”
Due to storm damage this summer, the AT was rerouted beyond Hessian Lake, featured above, to the park road and bypassed Bear Mountain. Some hikers reportedly ignored the detour, but I thought it would be unwise. I did not want to hike alone on a trail deemed unsafe. So I gradually ascended over 2 miles on the shoulder of the fairly busy road until the trail returned to the woods.
Although it was a relief to be back in the woods, there was a second detour down a steep, slab-rock trail to cross the Palisades Parkway. At 4:30 p. m., I realized I would not cross the Parkway and make it to the next shelter before dark. I was in a woods with open areas suitable for tenting and decided to stop for the day. About 15 minutes later Third Wheel arrived. There we spent the night.
If It’s Friday Or Saturday, It’s Raining
Mid-week, rain had been forecasted from Friday late morning to Sunday morning. As I have written the past several weeks, it is too cold to hike all day and camp at night in rain. Rain gear wets through at some point. Clothes get wet and don’t dry. Third Wheel and I planned to hike Friday morning and then get shuttled to the Tuxedo Motel, where we would stay for 2 nights.
By Thursday, the forecast had changed with rain expected to begin around 8 a.m. We decided to hike to a trailhead less than half a mile from our stealth site and shuttle to the Bear Mountain Bridge Motel, which was closer.
Unfortunately, rain woke me up around 5:30 a.m. About 6:30 a.m., we each got up in the rain and quickly packed. We were at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Center by 7:30 a.m., and waited under a tree for Jon, our shuttler, to arrive. Grandpa, co-owner of the Bear Mountain Bridge Motel, kindly let us check into our rooms at 8 a.m.
Warm, showered, wearing hiker loaner clothes while Grandpa did our laundry, and full of town food, Third Wheel and I planned what to do next. The forecast is for the rain to stop by early Saturday afternoon. We can both deal with some hiking in the rain if we know warm, dry rooms await us.
We will slack pack Saturday afternoon. Shuttler Jon will drop us off where he picked us up Friday morning. We will leave most of our gear with him. He will meet us late afternoon after we’ve hiked 8 miles, and drive us to the Tuxedo Motel. The weather forecast looks good until next Saturday. Hopefully the terrain will allow us to hike big miles next week!
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