Appalachian Trail – NY Section 12 (Part 1)

Heading up the grind

Heading up the grind

Tomorrow we leave early for another hike on the New York Appalachian Trail. We started section 12 southbound last Saturday and slack-packed it as a warm up hike for this weekend. We thought about finishing all of the state in these two hikes but something about the rebar ladder up the cliff just north of the N.J. line said it to me that it was best going up that, and with a day pack vs a full weekend pack. So we will likely slack-pack that one too, to finish off our season, and the state in early fall.

Last weekend the weather forecast was much like this weekend’s. Stifling heat and humidity, and chance of heavy thunderstorms. We got both of those last weekend but luckily the rain came after the hike. In this kind of heat though, rain like that can be a blessing as long as you have a way to keep dry. We are going to bring the tarp this time too, as it really saved the day in these conditions last season. There is a shelter but we don’t like to sleep in them, and it will likely be full if the weather is bad.  I am hoping at the least that this means Fitzgerald Falls will be raging when we pass it tomorrow. As long as it doesn’t make the trail to precarious, I don’t mind the rain. We’re just going to drive down early in the morning as we are camping out for the night, so rolling into camp at 630 won’t be a problem and we can start at 10 or 11.

Fielden climbing part 1!

Fielden climbing part 1!

Fielden had such better results with her trail runners and normal socks last weekend and didnt get a single blister! Based on this miracle, and knowing how much rockier the trail has been getting in southern New York, I ordered a pair from the REI outlet that came recommended from a friend, and they will be delivered today. I went by the store yesterday to get some more appropriate socks, and a short sleeve merino shirt. The merino really works better for me in these conditions as it wicks away the sweat a lot better, retains no odor, and dries quickly. For my chemistry I find it better than synthetics in the humid and wet summers. I have one in long sleeve but at 95 degrees heat index, I want a short sleeve. The smartwool shirts are not cheap, but every review I read, and my experience with my current longsleeve say its worth it.  I love having new gear to test, and this weekend will be no exception. There are rock steps along the falls, and the rocky outcroppings of eastern pinnacles and cat rocks. I want all the traction I can get. Hopefully I won’t find the opposite to be true for me, and I load up with blisters with the new shoes and socks.

First view (east)

First view (east)

Last weekend’s section included the famous “Agony Grind”, a 500ft climb up rock piles in less than half a mile. While it was steep, and very rocky, there was really no spot where you would fall long distances or heights if you slipped. I would want to do this less if it was rainy, but going slow it could still be done. We lucked out this time in that it was dry out for the moment. We stayed in Fort Montgomery the night before so we could get to the trail as early as possible, and still be back by 5 to meet other commitments.

The second scramble

The second scramble

We stayed at a nice hotel and ate at a great BBQ place next door. We met a West Point graduate who was headed up there shortly to celebrate his 50 year anniversary of graduation with classmates, do a presentation and then hike. He had done many parts of the A.T. in the south, and we had a nice talk about our plans.

We saw they were having a Native American pow-wow at the Bear Mountain area, and since I am fascinated with that culture and collect Kachina, we wanted to make sure we had time to visit it too. And because we weren’t clear on if there was parking at our originally planned endpoint, we made the hike a little shorter that day and for tomorrow where we knew there was parking allowed. So instead of 5.4 miles we did 3.6. Still, it had many good ups and downs, and some great scenery.

View of Ramapo Valley and 87

View of Ramapo Valley and 87

As we headed over the interstate from Elk Pen, a truck honked at us and I didn’t even do the arm tug! I was filming but sadly had stopped rolling at that time. We ran across rt.17 and headed into the woods to start the climb up Arden Mountain and agony grind. Some thru hikers we saw earlier trying to get a ride into town from near here had set up their camp right by the road in the woods, clearly for this purpose. The uphill started right away, and there were about 4 different sections to ascend.

Fielden at Western view

Fielden at Western view

Someone was set up in their hammock on the ridge by the first view, half way up. It was very pretty throughout the ascent, and we were in good spirits and enjoying it. We met some thru hikers and stopped to chat with them below the third scramble. They had just resupplied so got a late start today. As we were chatting with them and exchanging blogs and instagram accounts, we saw another group of backpackers and they joined the chat. As the thru-hikers headed north (and thanked me for being a volunteer!), and I asked Fielden to get some good footage of my ascent up one of these scrambles, these southbound backpackers recognized us from when we hiked through section 10 in April! They too stayed at William Brien shelter that night. Small world.

Fielden at Western view

Fielden at Western view

They were headed to Wildcat shelter for the night, where we are headed tomorrow. We passed each other on and off along the way and chatted each time. We told them at the last stop together that we were parked at the next road so that would probably be the last time we see them. They were finishing New York and we still had more to go. But you never know. We had a snack at the top of Arden Mountain at a trail crossing, and signed a trail register there. It apparently goes 2 miles north to the Harriman train station. We passed a group camped on a ledge on the western side of the mountain, that the thru hikers had told us about. They didn’t seem to be backpacking as they had a fairly large campsite and lots of beer. Even though its a good uphill to this site, its not too long a hike.

Blackberries!

Blackberries!

Where we met our old friends at the last stop together on Orange Turnpike there was all sorts of trail magic, both at the bottom of the hill and the top. At the bottom there was a whole tarp / lounge setup with a trash bin, a bin of fresh fruit, water jugs, sodas, snack bars, bug spray, even athletes foot cream! There was a register book too which we signed. Our friends snapped a photo of us here before heading off. There were a few blackberry bushes and we all treated ourselves to some.

I’m certain they got stuck in the storm that rolled in later, but hopefully made it to the shelter not too long after to dry off. At the top of the last short climb of the day, there was a camping area and a first aid trail magic box, full of first aid supplies! I’ve never seen that before. This uphill was a bit steep but not too long and before long we were descending to the edges of LIttle Dam lake.

1st aid trail magic

1st aid trail magic

The lake was absolutely beautiful, and we spotted what I thought was Indian paintbrush but was actually cardinal flower. It lined the lake, which itself was full of lily pads and croaking bullfrogs. At the inlet area where you cross on stone steps, there were obvious signs of camping areas, but no signs saying it was prohibited. Though I’ve read you’re not allowed in the guide and on whiteblaze. In New York, I think the unspoken rule is you can camp where needed if you leave no trace. The cardinal flower was everywhere here and was quite beautiful. We saw another trail magic area on the way back to the road, with a couple more water jugs. I think that is great as long as the people come back and pick them up when they are empty. Its been brutal weather. I know how much we appreciated it when we were in Massachusetts.

Cardinal Flower at Little Dam Lake

Cardinal Flower at Little Dam Lake

When we did get back to our car, someone had written “hi” in the dirt next to it. We were hoping it was our friends from William Brien. We gave them the blog address so guys if you’re reading this and that was you, leave a comment!

On our way to get the other car at Elk Pen, we stopped at a gas station in Southfields near the trail to get some drinks and use the bathroom. Even though the gas station was state of the art and in pristine condition, they had a sign on the door that said ‘bathroom out of order, sorry use porta-potty outside.” We got our snacks and the second car and tried to find a bathroom farther up the road on the way to the pow-wow. There was a gas station with a ‘Wally-Mart” right across from the Harriman train station on rt. 17 that the blue trail leads to from the A.T. on Arden Mountain. Guess what, they said no bathrooms too. Clearly, the proximity to the trail has made these two businesses refuse to offer their bathrooms to hikers. I’m not going to pass judgement on these decisions, but I thought if you were reading this, you should know the situation and not expect that amenity at these places.

We drove over to Anthony Wayne Recreation area for the pow wow. We ate Indian Fry bread, bought some momentos, watched some dances, and I got to go inside a Tee Pee and shoot a bow and arrow for the first time since summer camp. I was quite good back then and once I got comfortable with the bow, I got a near bullseye on my second attempt. I am always looking for more ways to relax and decompress in this hectic world and I found the local Y is doing adult archery courses in the fall. So I think I’m going to try the class and see if its something I enjoy doing regularly.

Little Dam Lake lily pads

Little Dam Lake lily pads

We saw the black clouds start to roll in around 4 and headed to the car, literally as the sky opened up with torrential rain. The drive back over the Bear Mountain bridge and around Anthony’s nose in the downpour was sketchy. The road winds up and around the mountains and we could barely see out of the windshield. It didn’t last long though and before you knew it it was sunny and humid and sweltering hot again. The rain never did make it to our home in Connecticut.

"Hi" at the road

“Hi” at the road

This weekend is the famous perseid meteor shower and the display is supposed to be better than most years. I hope the skies are clear enough to see from the shelter. We will also look tonight from our deck, but we live in a small city, and its currently raining now, so its anybody’s guess if we will see anything. We are also excited because the Bellvale Creamery ice cream shop and the hot dog stand are right at our end point Saturday, so we plan to reward ourselves properly when we get back to the car.

Archery is fun!

Archery is fun!

After tomorrow’s section, we have only 5 or so miles left of New York! Also, you’ve probably noticed I’m beardless now. It’s just been way too hot a summer for a fur-face!

I added the recent footage to the New York video, and I can’t wait till we finish the final section and I can post the video of the whole state!

Miles: 3.6

— Linus

Advertisements

Appalachian Trail – NY Section 3

Great Swamp Boardwalk

On the (Great Swamp) boardwalk

And now it’s my turn…

This is Fielden Stream speaking – I let Linus write the first few posts but now I want to share my perspective on our backpacking adventures.  Also so you can hear the differences of what it’s like to backpack as a woman.

Dover Oak

Dover Oak

As you may know we recently went hiking on the AT, section 3 of NY.  What you might not know is that we almost didn’t make it and that was completely because of me!  The day before our hike my knee started feeling stiff on me – this has happened before but only once a year or so – and it usually goes away if I stay off my feet and keep my knee elevated.  Which I did.   However the morning of our hike I woke to discover my knee the size of a grapefruit (a large grapefruit) and I was unable to walk without a cane.  The first time that this had happened I had gone to a doctor and he had removed the excess fluid in there and I had been much much better.  So this time I did not panic (although Linus was about to have a conniption fit) and I called the doctor, got an appointment at 9:20 AM, and was out of there at 11:00 AM walking perfectly fine.  In an hour we were on the AT.  I think this proves the point that I, and many women, can tolerate a whole lot of pain!!!!

Two-pack rocks

Two-pack rocks

As for the hike itself, we had a great day 1 as the weather was nice and a bit cool, but sunny.  This section also has a lot of wildflowers growing alongside the trail as it goes through a few swampy areas and quite a few fields.  I like wildflowers – in fact, you will see in upcoming posts from me a lot about all the flowers I find on the trail and my process in discovering what they are!  I have posted a photo of some pink honeysuckles we saw that were just starting to bloom, but we also saw columbine, wild geraniums, wild violets (hundreds of those), and a few that I haven’t figured out yet.

We also walked by the biggest oak on the entire trail – it’s called the Dover Oak and it’s over 20 feet wide and at least 300 years old.

Lounging at Telephone Pioneers

Lounging at Telephone Pioneers

I took a photo of Linus being silly in front of it.  We also ate a lovely sandwich here although I don’t suggest anyone else do that as the tree is right on a heavily trafficked road.  Linus had a whole lot of road dust get blown on top of his lovely sandwich by a mack truck going 60 down the road.  Let’s just say he was NOT happy, LOL.

I am also going to comment in these posts on the campsites a bit more than my husband Linus.  The quality of the campsite is very important to me as I like to be a little bit comfortable in where I camp and also I like to enjoy our time at the campsite.  That being said, Telephone Pioneers Shelter was only an ok shelter.  I have stayed at much nicer ones.  However, I have also stayed at much MUCH worse.  ‘

Cat Rocks

Cat Rocks

This shelter has an enclosed mouldering privy.  That is already a big step above than some other shelters!  But it does not have very good tentsites as we could not find one that was actually flat.  I think we got the best one but we were still slightly tilted all night.  My only other comment on this campsite was that it was rather buggy – but a nice fire stopped the pesky critters from becoming too annoying.

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake

We got to the shelter a little early in the afternoon so we went up about a half mile to the view on top of West Mountain which is called Cat Rocks.  It’s quite a view up there – I recommend it to anyone and everyone!  It would be nice to go up there in the morning and watch the sun come up – that is if you want to get up that early…

A mini squeezer

A mini squeezer

When we came back to the shelter, we were treated with guests!  About 9 different hikers – all going various different distances, but mostly hiking for at least a month – arrived to camp at the shelter.  Trail names were Phase 2, Shebeast, Meadowlark, Alabama, Puck, Nightcrawler, Better than Expected, Zack and Josh.  Everyone was great and it made for a fun evening swapping hiking info and stories of life on the trail.

Rain came overnight, but we expected it so we were properly prepared.  Had to wait it out a few hours in the tent though as the rain didn’t stop until around 8:30 or 9 AM.  Then we packed up our stuff and off we went to climb back up to the top of West Mountain, see the view again, and then down about 4 1/2 miles to civilization.

Honeysuckle everywhere!

Honeysuckle everywhere!

A few other interesting landmarks on this section were Nuclear Lake – a nice big lake which looks very pretty for swimming and is supposedly cleared of radioactive activity although it used to have a research facility there in the 70s.  Let’s just say I was not jumping in!  Also there was a fun “lemon-squeezer” type rock that you had to walk through, although it is not as narrow as the actual lemon-squeezer which is farther south on the AT in NY.

All in all a nice hike, with medium to easy level of difficulty.   I had a great time (as usual!) with my husband and I look forward to our next one, finishing the Connecticut AT!  And it’s going to be quite a closer as this is the highest point in CT.  Wish us luck and no-bum knees!