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...

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