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.

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