Thursday, June 29, 2006

Appalachian Trail, Part II


I've been meaning to write about this trip for a while. I'm happy to finally get to it! The picture to the left is of Bear Mountain Bridge (I found the pic on the web). I took a bus back on June 10th to Bear Mtn. Inn via the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan. The bus dropped me off with all my gear at the Inn which is maybe a 1/4 of a mile south of the foot of the bridge, which in the picture is the left foot-hold of the bridge, crossing the bridge over the Hudson river from the left to the right is going east. Anyway, my idea before starting out was to hike the Appalachian Trail from Bear Mtn. Bridge to the Appalachian Trail train stop up in Pawling, New York, some 54 miles in total. I wanted to find out just what my legs could do with my pack weight close to 55 lbs. So, I set out with spry in my step.

I headed north to cross the bridge then up to Anthony's Nose, which put me in a mild panic. The weight on my back put a considerable amount of strain on my legs on the ascent up this hill. I developed an overwhelming sense of doubt so early on on the trip. I drudged on and stopped to rest when I needed. It took a bit out of me but I made it up on the ridge and continued on at a good pace. I breaked and had lunch where the trees were few. It was really windy that day, but sunny and mild in temp., mid-70's. I was barely able to hear myself think with the loudness of the wind. During my pb&j sandwiches I had a visit from a doe who was only a mere 100 ft. away. A gust of wind moved a tree above me, and creaked, that scared her off. Seeing her walk off made me feel so good and happy to be alive.

The trail was moderate for awhile, a bit of a roller-coaster that led me to Graymoor, a catholic friary. They had signs along the trail pointing to where hikers could camp for the night, which came as a blessing that day; the wind brought rain clouds that covered the sun. As I followed along the markers directing me towards the campground I came upon another hiker. [This is where I introduce Groundhog and Dutch.] We all three talked it up like we knew each other already. I was amazed at how open these two were...they were both thru-hikers. This trip Groundhog was finishing out a thru-hike, he started back at the Delaware Water Gap. Dutch was also finishing out a thru-hike, this section she started back at Bear Mountain. Conversation went on about hiking, hiking gear, hometowns and the fucked up laws of the land. We all got along magically. I couldn't have dreamed of a better situation. We slept on metal picnic tables under an oversized awning through a heavily moonlit night where no rain touched the earth. We were awakened by a family of Somalians preparing for a day of BBQ.

Happy with finding some travel companions we started our day after breakfast and tea. This part of the A.T., from Graymoor to Fahnestock State Park, afforded some beautiful views of the valley of Putnum County. I totaled over 16 miles in one day. That is the longest I have ever walked and my body was telling me about it. I was dead on my feet. We made it to the concession stand at Fahnestock just in time, just a little before 5pm. I through my three month gain on being a vegetarian out the window and ate two hamburgers with cheese, fries, a sprite and chugged a big bottle of gatoraid. I also bought some food to go. We were lucky. We met some nice people that worked in the park. They let us camp for free and use the showers, hot water showers. Groundhog, Dutch and I sat around a fire and talked while car campers blared their stereos and danced to the light of their headlamps. Some people have totally different ideas about camping than other people do. Car stereos or not, I slept like a rock that night in my one-man tent.

Hiking is now one of my new great loves now that I know my body can handle it. I'm glad I don't have to worry about my health as much. There is something so oddly spiritual about hiking and camping, and simple. I wish I could do it all the time. Well, we packed out early and headed back to the trailhead of the A.T. before any of the car campers were up. It felt good to be going back to the trail, even more so due to my new totaling record of 16.8 miles in one day. But Monday, we stopped early, gaining only 8 miles due to the RPH shelter. A centerblock building with a covered picnic table out back, bunks, a privy, a water pump, and a means to get pizza delivered. We weren't going anywhere the RPH shelter was a palace. The caretaker himself showed up and talked to us. Other hikers started showing up. I ate a whole medium pizza with anchovies and black olives all by myself. I felt it in the middle of the night. Indigestion took hold of me and had me up and out of the bunk most of the night. I walked down a quiet country road and looked at the full moon. Listened to a nearby creek. Got back to the shelter and tried sleeping in a chair...I won't bore you with the details, but it was awful, it really sucked.

Next day, Groundhog took off early. When I finally got my shit together I took off, up into the Hosner Mountains. It was truly beautiful once I got up there. I hiked by myself for most of the day till I got to Stormville. I had a salami and cheese sandwich from a deli off of the trail. I met up with Dutch at the deli. We hiked with each other a bit, enjoyed some heavy conversations about life...she was great, a really open person. I hope to see her on the trail again sometime in the future. One of the strongest women I have ever met...she kindof reminded me of my step-mom. They share one of the same character traits, they don't mince words. Dutch kept going, but I hung back for awhile. I was so tired. This was the longest day. We hiked from RPH all the way to Telephone Pioneers shelter. Now, that was the longest hike I had ever been on. After taking a bath at Nuclear Lake it took some coaxing on my part...to get my muscles going. I was dead tired. Twlight threatened my every breath. I really didn't think I was going to make. I was prepared to walk in the dark, but finally once on top of the mountain I knew I was close. I made it. At the shelter, Dutch was getting ready for supper. Groudhog was relaxing in the shelter under a mosquito net. I collapsed and set up camp. Had supper by the fire and went to bed on crooked ground.

I took my sweet time in the morning. I knew I wouldn't be with my friends anymore. They were going the long haul all the way to Mt. Katahdin. Me, I was maybe going to Kent, CT then turn back to the train, but not sure. I let them go on without me. I made it to the next shelter (Wiley Shelter) and stayed due to some storm clouds that covered the sky. Good thing I did, the skies opened up that night. I slept in the shelter. I met a guy named Don, and an older couple from the south. We all talked and watched the heavy rain. I thought a lot about my wife and how I missed her and made a decision to go home the next day. I would hike back the way I came and down to the Pawling station. Even though I was going home early I didn't feel like I was giving up. I just decided I had had enough for this time around. Besides, it didn't make sense to keep going and then have to back track...so, Thursday morning through the dew in the grass I went back home.

Once on the train, station after station the people crowdeed the cars and out came the cell phones, the radios, the bickering of families and whining kids. I sat there stinking of body odor, holding a walking stick acquired from the woods of the Hudson Highlands staring out the window thinking of when I'll be back on the Appalachian Trail, the dense green became past tense as the train hurried it's way to the city.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Catfish said...

Sounds like you had a great time. When I was a boy scout, many years ago, we use to hike and make camps in every wooded area we could find. Take care and keep writing son, love you, Dad.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Tessa said...

FF: I enjoyed reading about your hiking trip. I used to love to hike in the national forest near my home, but have responsibilities that prevent that at the moment. Just as your hiking is a reprieve from the cellphones and bickering of everyday life, your stories are a welcome relief to some of us from the blog world bickering.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Dee said...

Hey Flatfoot,

I missed you by a day. I stayed at the same motel as Groundhog and Dutch in Bear Mountain and it was wonderful to read your account of them. Groundhog was such a hoot - I think he should be renamed Yogi Bear. I only had breakfast with Dutch but really enjoyed her company. She has such a beautiful spirit. Unfortunately my feet took me off the trail and I have not gone back...yet! Reading your account of what is in store next makes me want to drive in my car and head back out.
Thanks for a lovely account of your experience on the trail.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Flatfoot said...

Hey Dee!

Thanks for your comments. My feet are itching to get back to the trail too! I actually can't wait to do some winter hiking up in the Catskills.

Be Well!

8:47 AM  
Blogger Dax Montana said...

Hiked many Southern miles on that ole trail. Never a Thru-Hiker though. I always wanted to do it. Just Damn!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Sassy Sistah said...

Damn, you're a good writer! Was right there with you on the trail and in the campgrounds! Please - more - when you can.

8:18 PM  

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