When we arrived in New York we did not hear Frank Sinatra singing to us the ode we all know, instead we were dripping with sweat and moving along slower than we were expecting. We had though we’d passed the Village Vista Trail which would signal we had about 2.7 miles to the road where more ice cream was waiting, but when we arrived at the sign we were greatly disappointed. Luckily the trail smoothed out a bit and we breezed down to the road and had ice cream before dinner. The Bellvale Creamery was heaven 0.2 miles off the trail and it was also packed. We got a few curious stares by everyone eating their cones, but after awhile you just tend to ignore the weird looks. We had about two more miles to the Wildcat Shelter where we were going to stay for the night and when we arrived we heard a lot of chatter at the shelter and thought it was a rowdy group for the weekend. A few minutes later we saw Merf come down to see who we were and we were thrilled to have caught up to her, Snack Attack, Caboose and Spark and a new guy named Speaker. Well, he wasn’t new, he’d started in Harpers Ferry and was flip flopping but this was the first time we’d met him. Also at the shelter was an Appalachian Mountain Club group from New York doing a short section. They shared pudding with us, so we liked them!
The next morning we left out of the shelter with a destination of just under 20 miles to the William Brien Memorial Shelter. It was a hot, muggy day, just about when the heat wave in the northeast really got going. It was miserable but we were happy to have a trail magic of water somewhere near one of the Mombasha Roads. It was cold and that was all that mattered. We went up and down a serious of PUDs, and seemed to be doing a weird weaving pattern on the trail which was greatly annoying. The heat really got serious when we were on top of Arden Mountain/Agony Grind as it was bare rocks with some scrub on top and the blazing sun in the pre-afternoon hours.
The heat was really bothering me by now and I was having a doozy of a time keeping up. We decided to stop and eat lunch somewhere near the large pond in Harriman State Park and took some time to cool down. Just as we were finishing up lunch a thunderstorm moved in and drenched us, but it felt so divine considering how I felt.
And then we found out about the secret part of the Lemon Squeezer, a doozy of a section that we had to pull ourselves up and onto the rocks. Did I mention it was raining??? Try doing this when it is slick! Merf had to show me how to do it and once Chris and Merf made it up I was able to follow. Yes, I’m a bit of a weenie. The rain ended up clearing out and we started drying off. Somewhere near the Fingerboard Shelter we came up with the idea to talk in an accent until we arrived at Tiorati Circle. I wish I could tell you what accents we chose for each other, but I’ve forgotten. I think I was an African man or something like that. Very hard to pull off!
A Tiorati Circle is a big park with a lake. Our intent was to relax for the afternoon and see about getting sodas and ice cream out of the machines. It was Father’s Day and the park was packed. We were also hoping to try to Yogi some food off of the people grilling, but unfortunately the wrong grouping of people were there—they were mostly Spanish speaking folks. Drat. Communication barrier and probably a completely lack of knowledge of the trail just up the road. I’m sure we looked like homeless people sitting around all day. The restroom here was disgusting; give me a hole in the woods any day!
We left Tiorati Circle for the William Brien Shelter (which has no water btw) to find trail magic left in the shelter. It was a bit sketchy, though, raw hamburgers and other assorted goodies. The hamburgers were individually wrapped and still sealed in the original box and were still semi-cool and had only been left the day before. Yes, yes, under normal circumstances this would be a no-go, but we were hungry hikers and willing to try anything. Since cooking the meat meant killing the bacteria we started a fire and made sure it was well done. I let the boys go first and if they ended up with stomachaches then I knew not to eat it, but the meat was find and we settled in with some burgers.
The next morning we got up to head almost 16 miles with stops at Bear Mountain and to pick up a mail drop in Fort Montgomery, NY. This photo is from somewhere on Black Mountain. When we got on top we were looking one direction and saw a bunch of buildings and thought it was NYC until we looked a bit to the right and were blown away with Ohhh, THAT’S NYC! You can’t see it in this photo, but it is there and it is the closest the trail gets to the city.
I really wish I had a video or a photo of road at the Palisades Interstate Parkway because I would say if I ever felt my life was in danger this would have been it. I can only compare it to crossing I-95 or I-35 at rush hour. Yes, my friends, we backcountry hikers had to cross a major thoroughfare that runs into New York City smack dab during rush hour. There were four of us standing there on the side of the road patiently waiting to find some speck of an opening in which we could dash across to the median and then cross the other side of the highway. Eventually we made it, laughing at the idiocy of it and found the other side very quiet since no one was leaving the city. We filled up on water on the other side and started making our way for West Mountain.
Eventually we came to Bear Mountain where on top is an observation tower and a soda and candy machine. WOOHOO! Merf performed for us….
and showed us her backpack putting on technique. On Bear Mountain a major trail renovation was going on and construction rerouted us up the mountain on a road instead of in the woods. On the way down we found that section of the trail completely in order in the form of a nicely formed staircase. This is a big tourist area so I know that is why it was well manicured but, dang, what a nice, nice piece of trail—too bad some of that money couldn’t have been invested in parts of the trail that really needed it. At the bottom of the mountain we found Snack Attack and Caboose and Spark waiting for us. Caboose and Spark were meeting family for the night as was Merf. Snack Attack ordered a deep fried Twinkie for a snack and Chris and I split something. The park was a trashy mess from the previous day and the bathrooms were again, disgusting.
We split off from everyone else at this time in order for us to walk 0.7 miles to Fort Montgomery to get our mail drop. We ate at a deli while waiting for the post office to open and then we still had to wait for a bit for them to open.
At U.S. 9 and N.Y. 403 we spotted a gas station practically on the trail and were pleasantly delighted to see it there. We also saw that Merf was sitting with Speaker and another lady who was doing a short section hike. Merf was going to be picked up from the Graymoor so she finished walking to the center with us.
When we walked up to the ball fields at the Graymoor we saw Snack Attack running towards us with an urgent message that we had to order food NOW in order for it to still be delivered. *phew* we hadn’t missed ordering pizza! It was nice to order pizza and drinks to be delivered. The Graymoor Spiritual Center is a monastery that allows hikers to camp at their ball field or stay under their shelter. They have a log book and some things to read and even a shower and sink. The shower is COLD, but it was nice to rinse off and be semi-clean again. That night proved to be very crowded as several groups caught up to us including the Traveling Circus, Moose & Tetherball, Cubbie & Dilly Dally and a few others. It was one of the larger groups we’d been around for awhile.
The following day was fairly uneventful as we walked through the Clarence Fahnestock State Park and some other areas near there. Near Sunk Mine Rd we saw a coyote run up a hill. We hoped to see it when the trail turned back towards the direction it went, but we never saw it again. It spit rain a few times but nothing major and was mostly overcast the entire day. We got a nice view of Canopus Lake on top of Shenandoah Mountain and made it to the RPH Shelter before the bottom dropped out of the sky. The big group followed to this shelter and it was packed as well, including Caboose and Spark who showed up that night and a newcomer Sly Jangle a French Canadian who’d started in mid-April and was boogeying down the trail at this point. We took the time to ask him who he’d passed in recent days and to figure out where everyone we knew happened to be.
At this point we thought that we were all splitting up because Moose & Tetherball were planning on doing shorter days to delay getting to Connecticut by a certain day to take some zeros and we were all going to be doing different mile days.
We stopped for the day at the Native Landscapes & Garden Center located on the trail on N.Y. 22. There is also a train stop to New York City at this location but only stops on certain days. The plant nursery allows people to tent in their garden at the back for free and to use their showers inside if you get there before they close. The only problem with this site is that the trains run all through the night and you can feel the whoosh of the train as it speeds by during the night. Not the best nights sleep, but if you don’t want to do another ten miles to the next shelter it is best to stop here. Plus, you an walk .6 miles to a deli for dinner. Sly Jangle and Cubbie and Dilly Dally showed up for the evening and we had a good night eating food and chit chatting for awhile.
Our crazy chipmunk video near the William Brien shelter. Skip to about 47 seconds for the best parts.