Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bambi, Hunters, and the Coyote

It was an interesting week...

The days were full of outstanding views, beautiful sites, and colorful foliage... meanwhile the nights were just nuts. It wouldn't be a truhike for me without stupid happenings.

So I should start with all the beautiful things I saw this week... but that would be too boring. Instead we'll start with the crazier stories.

I've learned you can't reason with STUPID. STUPID follows me... STUPID happens... STUPID is as STUPID does. I'm wearing a shirt that says I'M WITH STUPID. So just who is STUPID?

I am... my alter ego... when I realize I just didn't give this enough thought.

So a few days ago I had taken a day off the trail to get gear together, get some things fixed, and get myself ready for the cold. On my return to the trail, I had one of the best hiking days covering almost 12 miles in 5 hours. That included one of the toughest climbs I've done since hiking the AT in the White Mountains and a long ridge hike with lots of ups and downs. It was a great day.

While it was a beautiful day it was also very windy, cool and just right for having freezing temperatures on an exposed ridge. That meant I needed to camp in the lower elevations. Finding a place to camp on this lower section of the Long Path however turns out to be one of the hardest parts of the trip. Not all the land that is hiked on is state or government owned land. Some parts of the trail cross private lands that have been approved for hikers to pass through. So my goal was to stay in the state park and find a place to camp, even though camping is not permitted in this state park. Well as I was coming down the mountain, I ran into the first people I saw on the trail all day; a father and his kids going to take pictures of the coming sunset. This told me I shouldn't setup camp where folks may complain of my stay, so I hiked on to another section of the trail where I can camp in peace.

I located a good spot in between two hills about a quarter mile from private residences and another half mile from getting into town. I setup the tent, got myself setup for the night, had dinner and laid down to rest just as it was just starting to get dark. No sooner did I lay down and I heard gunshots going off. First loud single shots probably from a rifle rang out every 30 seconds or so. Then I heard shots from something else, something with a more rapid succession of shots that sounded more like popcorn at the height of its popping power. The gunshots were very close to where I was camped. All I could think to myself was "What did I get myself into?"

The gunshots seemed to go on for over an hour, sometimes gaining distance from me and at other times almost on top of my tent. It sounded like the civil war was going on outside my tent. Finally the hunters were either running out of ammo or were getting tired of pretending to be Arnold Schwarzenegger...

Then the deer moved in. All the deer in the area that were left standing from the barrage of bullets decided to use me as cover. They surrounded my tent from all angles. They literally were planning my demise by putting me between them and the hunters. Every time I shooed them away, they usually returned with reinforcements. The were just as relentless as the hunters.

While I was beginning to entertain the idea of packing up my tent and moving to a less populated area in the middle of the night, I heard something else. At first I thought it was a bear growling, but as the noise continued I had to break out my new flashlight to see what it was. All I could see was more deer. As I watched them moving around I noticed one was limping heavily. Apparently he was shot and the noise he was making was him struggling to breathe. I felt bad for this deer however I had to shoo him away. I was still concerned about the hunters hearing him, tracking him, and stumbling upon my tent.

After he was gone I finally had complete silence in the woods. I was so tired I began to dose off with the comfort of knowing that if anything approached my tent, I would hear it due to all the dead leaves on the ground. Just as I was getting ready to completely conk out I heard something I have never heard in NY before... the howling of coyotes... right outside my tent... again. "Well this is new." Fortunately they didn't stick around. I think they were on the hunt for that injured deer.

The next morning I realized I didn't get an awful lot of sleep but I wanted out of this crazy section. I packed and I left.

I started my morning in Monroe, NY hiking the Heritage Trail to Goshen. I had plenty of time to think about what had happened the night before. I dwelled on the thought of having to deal with this hunting issue on every bit of state land I have to hike through. I later had learned that the areas I was climbing up to had snow cover that same night of my crazies. I kept that in the back of my mind.

The hike to Goshen was a long walk on concrete paths that tore up my feet. After not finding any cheep hotels in town I decided to hike further up the trail to get to a hotel about 6.5 miles away. Well STUPID took over again. I had miscalculated the walk. It was actually 9.5 miles... and it was all road walking through neighborhoods with big beautiful homes. There obviously was no place to camp here so I had to make the hotel before dark. Now that days are shorter I feel like I have less time to hike and figure out what to do in a bind. Once I got to the location of the hotel I found nothing there... the phantom hotel was a setup by Google maps (Thanks Google!). Still I should have called before walking out of Goshen. Now I had nowhere to go but forward 13 miles on the road in the dark or backwards 10 miles in the dark to the nearest hotel.

Lucky I have supportive friends... Fran called the hotel to ensure they had room and go the numbers for taxis in the area (THANK YOU FRAN!). unfortunately there were no taxis running. Again I got lucky... A fellow walking his dog on the road I was walking on and the first person I ran into on the road helped me out. Dave gave me ride back to Goshen to the hotel (THANK YOU DAVE!). I thank God for the help when I needed it.

Well I thought a lot about what I'm dealing with and I know there a several days of cold rain coming my way. I can't help but think that there are icy conditions coming that will make climbing some of the mountains tough. How far will I get? How many nights will I end up in town? what is this going to cost me? What about other hunters, will that be an issue again?

I felt like I needed to make a decision... pay $50 bucks for taxi ride to get back where I left off or call it a quits for now. Well I decided to take the trip home... It's hard for me because I really didn't want to quit this, but timing, logistics, and most importantly safety are behind the decision.

Since I still have some vacation left I will be doing something else soon. I'll blog those options and decision soon.

Pictures coming soon.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

First week in... and it's all coming back to me

More trail time... that's what I've been missing. I've taken a few days here and a few there to get out and hike, but I haven't had the opportunity since the Appalachian Trail to spend any significant time hiking any great distances. This trail, The Long Path, is giving that chance. In fact, when I first discovered the Long Path by hiking small sections in Harriman State Park and along the Palisades, I had realized I wanted to just keep going. Those day-hikes were sometimes torture because I knew I had to go home and get ready for work the next day. I began to dream of long distance hiking.

Getting out on the AT a couple years ago was the first time that I was able to make that dream become reality. I learned everything I needed to be able to sustain myself for other trails. When I first started thinking about hiking the Long Path, it was around 2006. I had noticed there may be issues with me hiking a trail that no one else ever really thruhikes. I knew from all the reading that the amenities that surrounded the AT just didn't exist on the Long Path. So I had obviously made the choice to commit to the bigger trail for the experience before embarking on any other remote trails.

So from time-to-time I have to admit when I'm wrong. This week there have been too many places to get water and meals, or a place to sleep, or groceries. I should have expected that being the trail runs through the Palisades, Alpine, NJ, and Nyack, NY. But I didn't account for it, except I knew it would start out as a safer hike. Add to that, I had a partner for a 4 days, my friend from school Mandy. For her first time, she did a great job. Her backpack was not overloaded, she knew her limits, and what she wanted to experience. she also took so many awesome pictures with her phone (better than anything I would have taken). So I'm borrowing a few here.

Start of the trail

Down the Long Path

George Washington Bridge

View of the New York Skyline

As we headed north along the Hudson River high above on top of the Palisades, New York got further and further away. This was the start of that feeling of making real progress. Even though we started out late, our first day we hiked 9 miles. Then we followed that up with a 13.5 mile hike the next day into Nyack. There we took a break, resupplied, got some rest and headed out the next day. Leaving Nyack put us more into the wilderness of Hook Mountain. This was by-far my favorite park on the hike so far. With the leaves on the ground across the trail it made for a colorful landscape that will forever be burned into my mind.

Hook Mountain on our third night was also where it started to get interesting. We decided to set up camp near a beautiful cliff view. After we got ourselves settled in with the tents, I went to look for a place to hang our food (bear bag) to avoid any encounters with the local critters. About 50 feet from our carefully chosen camp site, we found some scat...deer scat. Ok no big deal. But wait, there's more deer scat over there, and over there, and over there, and oh my... it's like a bunch of landmines around here. "Hey, that's too big to be deer scat. Bear maybe? I don't know."

Well it was too late to go anywhere else, so we stayed... Then it rained... then my flashlight died.

It's funny how the noise of the rain hitting the leaves on the ground can sound like a bear sitting outside my tent contemplating popping in for a visit. This coupled with the idea that Bambi was going to leave me a present outside my tent left me a bit uneasy... and unable to sleep.

With the two of us being tired and Mandy hurting from all the hiking, we took our time getting to the top of High Tor where the views were incredible. From 810 feet, we could see everything. I can't help to think that this is just a taste of what's to come since I'll be hitting peaks of 1300 feet, 2500 feet, and even over 3500 feet on this trip.

Mandy left at the end of the fourth day making High Tor her last peak to bag before taking off. That same evening I had stayed in Nanuet, NY several miles from the trail so I can get rested, washed, and resupplied. The next day out was tougher as I hiked over 11 miles in 4 hours, mostly uphill which was unexpected. On the way I ran into a relic from the past.

There were no roads here but there was evidence that there may have been an old carriage road just above the wreckage. I don't know the story behind the car but I intend to find out.

Blessed with good weather (or just missing all the rain that came down that day) I made my way to Harriman State Park, one of my favorite places to hike in the area. My goal was to link up with the Lichen trail and camp at the Bald Rocks shelter. On the way I was able to answer the ever so famous question... "Does a bear shit in the woods?"

Yes... he does... Big ones!

While hiking to my next camp site I stepped in this HUGE TURD. Had to be bear scat because there sure aren't any elephants around here. This thing was all over my boot, greasy too, probably because the bears have been eating all the wax berries in the area. It took me almost an hour to get the crap off my shoe. Once I did, I was able to get closer to my destination. I decided to stop and camp a mile or so before the shelter since it was getting dark. Luckily it didn't start raining again until I was just setting up the tent. GOOD TIMING! So that evening it rained again... and it didn't stop until morning. My only concern was the scent of the bear I was carrying on my boot. I prayed it didn't attract the Mrs. to my tent.

After an uneventful night with I slept in until 9. That was the best sleep I've had on this trail. Hopefully as time goes on I'll have more to come.

I've taken a couple days off the trail to regroup, get my itinerary straight, and get a new flashlight and sleeping bag for the cold weather coming. I'll be getting back to the trail tomorrow, this time ready to tackle bigger days.

To be continued...

Friday, October 10, 2014

A New Trail = New Adventures

The Trail: The Long Path (

Description: Starts at the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey and travels north along the Hudson, turns west through Harriman State Park, meets the Shawangunk Ridge Trail, turns north into the Catskills, and ends just west of Albany.

Length: 350 Miles

What I have to look forward to: I'm starting this Saturday, October 11th and if you haven't noticed, the leaves have just started changing colors. This is my favorite time of year and I'll be out hiking in it. Just having the ability to be outside for several days at a time brings back many memories from the AT... especially fresh in my memory... the stinky-ness I wore all over me. Oh, that's my backpack. It still has that hiker stench left over from the last trip. Washing it just hasn't worked.

New challenges on this trail: There are several things about the Long Path (LP) that will be different than the AT. First is that this trail does not have the infrastructure that is built around the AT. Fewer shelters, no privies, fewer places to camp, there are no cheap hostels, no hiker boxes, and no hiker towns ready to welcome me. The social aspect that you find on the AT will not be on this trail either. I may run into other hikers from time-to-time, but there will be no other thruhikers like me to share the experience with. And those that I do meet on the trail will probably not want to chat it up with a smelly hiker.

I'll be alone for the most rugged parts of this trip which means I'll be a bit more cautious on water consumption, watching for dehydration, preparing for the cold, and prepared for any animal encounters. I might see bears, coyotes, and possibly even mountain lions (here kitty kitty). So I have all my favorite snacks ready to share with my woodland friends. Just kidding Mom!

For the first part of the trail I have one of my friends from school who will be joining me. Mandy has a desire to hike the AT one day and this is an opportunity for her to get experience backpacking before planning for the longer hike.

So tomorrow morning we're off!

I have no idea how often I'll get to post out here but keep checking back for updates.