Gnarly New York – From the Beginning
“From the Beginning”, an interesting Emerson, Lake and Palmer song. The first 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail were opened in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in New York. I was born in New York City. It all began in New York. Bear Mountain State Park was supposed to be a site for a new prison. There was such an uproar about that proposed use for the land, that Mary Averell Harriman made a deal with the governor. She would donate 10,000 acres of her estate and $1,000,000 to build a state park if the state abandoned the proposed plans for a prison at Bear Mountain. The first section of the AT opened in 1923 heading west from where the Bear Mountain Bridge lands on the west side of the Hudson River heading then up and over Bear Mountain and into Harriman State Park. The bridge was opened in 1924 and at the time was the longest suspension bridge in the world.
New York Is No Joke
After being lulled into a nice variety of easy terrain and features in New Jersey, New York wastes no time in its presentation of the many ups and downs of the trail. From Maryland, through Pennsylvania and continuing into New Jersey, the trail has been paralleling the ridges. You would drop down into a gap to a town or road crossing, then head back up the other side of the gap to continue along the ridge. New York trail builders decided that the trail should run perpendicular to the ridges. This makes for a continuing series of up one side of a ridge, then down the other, then up, then down, etc….very different that the previous 400 miles from Harpers Ferry. For a flip flopper like me, this is the first time you head up and down multiple times in a day. The climbs are steep, not long, but they are climbs. They are relentless in the repetition. Even some of the Georgia start folks who still continually pass me by mention that New York is starting to look like the mountains they experienced in the south. Experienced hikers who I run into just remind me to be thankful as New York is the first place where the preparation for the coming Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine becomes serious.
Only In New York
New York has few outhouses at the various shelters. It’s no big deal, but it is a change from the consistency of various facilities in New Jersey. The New York water sources are more flowing streams with a lot of surface run off versus the springs that had been prevalent in the previous three states. Again, no big deal, just different. New York begins to have some significant rock pile features. It’s kind of like some of the rock pile features in the previous states, but with a little more bouldering and technical aspects to it. One of the better examples is the “Lemon Squeezer”. The picture below is just the entrance, as I didn’t want to ruin the surprise that is just on the other side of the entrance. It’s worth the wait. Plus if you are ever looking for a section hike or day hike in the New York portion of the trail, this might be one of the three I would recommend. The others being part of the original 20 miles up Bear Mountain, and then the part of the trail from the Metro North Appalachian Trail commuter railroad stop. New York has many delis, pizza joints, and hot dog stands very close to the trail. You could almost time your stops to not have to carry much food in your pack. New York also has a couple of great little towns closer to the trail then maybe the previous states as well. The trail towns is really one of the things that makes the AT experience great.
Complete the Train Loop
I loved the train ride from DC out to Harpers Ferry and onto the trail. The New York AT has the unique feature that it has its own stop on the Metro North railroad. The station is actually called “The Appalachian Trail”. Whereas there are other railroad stops in other towns along the trail, this is the only unique station named by the actual crossing of the trail. If you cant do the whole trail, maybe an itinerary would be to start in NYC Grand Central. Take Amtrak to DC Union Station, then take Amtrak out to Harpers Ferry. Hike the 450 miles or so through the mid-Atlantic states ending with a ride down the Metro North railroad back to NYC Grand Central. Or just take a day trip up the Metro North and hike an out and back using the Appalachian Trail station on both sides of the hike. It just sounds like a nice little adventure.
And of Course, New York, New York
It is pretty impressive that the green corridor that envelops the Appalachian Trail through the Mid-Atlantic states runs so close to New York City. The views at night from the West Mountain Shelter have to be experienced in person as any photo just does not do the New York skyline any justice. Maybe add this to your Bear Mountain hike, you wont be disappointed. Just make sure to wake up sometime after hiker midnight to take in the full beauty of the lite up skyline some 50 miles away. It doesn’t compare to the God created beauty that surrounds the AT, but it is a nice sight to gaze on the lights from the West Mountain Shelter and think about all the various ways the Appalachian Trail brings together different experiences from such a diverse place as New York.
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