Appalachian Trail – NY section 11

Walking with Sunset

Walking with Sunset

We will be back to finish section 10 in 2 weeks or start section 12, depending on the many other deciding factors in our lives at the moment. Either way, happiness will win because we’re going to hike whether we hit the trail in the morning or after 6pm again. Last weekend it was about 645pm by the time we got on trail, as the usual rush hour traffic was multiplied by the fact that it was Friday, gorgeous weather forecast all weekend, and the first day of spring break for my kids and many other schools! We also slightly overshot the turnoff to the parking lot off Arden Valley Road and there wasn’t really a safe place to turn around on this road until a camp entrance a few miles later. So that ate a little time too. Fortunately, daylight savings recently kicking in and the less-forested mountaintop location of the trail and campsite gave us adequate light until almost 8pm and it was a short 1.5 mile hike in.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere signs

Signs, Signs, Everywhere signs

Section 11 starts just a quarter mile up a blue trail from the lot, and follows the spine of Fingerboard mountain. Here the A.T. undulates gently up and down along its ridge, sharing the route with the red-dot-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. As I mentioned in our blog a few weeks ago when we were on the southern end of it, it is the oldest trail in the park and some 28 miles long. I have been on another portion of the Ramapo-Dunderberg myself as well when doing a solo hike last summer. It has a lot of great views and some quite challenging terrain at times. In this area, the two trails’ shared route begins a few miles north of where we started today’s section and ends just south of our camp for the night, Fingerboard shelter.

Fingerboard Shelter

Fingerboard Shelter in the distance

The shelter is of the original stone style Harriman State Park is known for, and sits just below the summit at around 1380ft.  West Mountain shelter, William Brien shelter, and all the others in the park are all also made out of stone as are the other buildings throughout the park areas, including the Inn at Bear Mountain, administrative buildings, and bathrooms.

Go Yankees! Err, graffiti is bad

Go Yankees! Err, graffiti is bad

We were treated to a beautiful setting sun on the western side of the ridge as we walked in to camp, and met a friendly deer, who moved only slightly out of our way to continue her meal. When we reached the shelter we said hello to a nice younger couple and found one of the many beautiful spots there to camp. I hung the bear bag with my new Nite Ize reflective line and we set up the tent. While that line is a bit bright and maybe considered an eyesore to some, it sure beats wandering around on uneven ground in the dark trying to find the line when its time to hang the bag before bed. Nothing ends a hiking trip faster than a bad fall or sprained ankle! I also bought it with more isolated campsites in mind but this one just happened to be large enough for 40 people, not including the shelter!

Sunset at Fingerboard

Sunrise at Fingerboard

There’s a small seasonal spring at the bottom of the hill along the blue trail that goes from here back down to Seven Lakes Drive along lake Tiorati. According to my A.T. guide, Tiorati means “sky-like” in the native Algonquin language. Also according to my guide, it is a man-made lake. Where we parked there is a traffic circle with a beach area, concessions, bathrooms, and a large picnic area which must be quite busy during the summer. While the lot was empty when we parked, it was almost full when we returned to our car the next afternoon. While not quite swimming weather, it was after all a gorgeous weekend. The walk in along the ridge and the higher camping spots near the shelter had some great views beyond the lake to the Hudson as well, and the twinkling lights of what I believe was Peekskill, New York on the eastern side of the river. Not quite as grand a view as West Mountain shelter, but close!

Us at Fingerboard

Us at Fingerboard

Temperatures were to get down to the mid-30s though it was hard to believe until the sun set. We had dinner and made a fire in the main fire ring with the other couple as a few other overnighters settled in. We didn’t really chat with any of them, as they made their own camp further down the hill, but we did see a father-son pair from the campground the next morning on the trail. Around 930 or 10 we went to bed, which is later than usual for us, but we do usually get into camp a lot earlier. I was a bit cold until I eventually I put on my raincoat and that got my body temperature to its right place. I didn’t bring the down coat this time. Fielden Stream got bundled up in her new bag, which is part of the Big Agnes intergrated sleep system and has a pouch where her sleeping pad slides in. I was envious of the fact that her pad and bag were one and there was no way to slip off the pad.

The Greenwood Mine

The Greenwood Mine

But I do like my new bag and pad, and I brought both sleeping pads again. I will probably just keep doing this when the nights will be colder, and then stick to one or the other over the summer. We slept quite well, though I had to make a few bathroom visits on account of enjoying a few luxurious trail beverages!

The next morning we made my favorite trail breakfast, grits with parmesan cheese. While this is a tough one to clean, we do it when we know we’re just out for the night and can clean the pot easily when we get home. We then packed up, said goodbye and hit the trail.

Shortly after the A.T. and Ramapo-Dunderberg trails split, the A.T descends Fingerboard mountain through some laurel groves and climbs a shoulder of Surebridge Mountain.

Looking back at Fingerboard Mtn from Island Pond Mtn

Looking back at Fingerboard Mtn from Island Pond Mtn

This mountain is home to several mines, one of which was the Greenwood mine. This mine is right along the trail as it follows the Surebridge mine road from that mine farther south up to this one. Its now a water-filled pit but you can see where the entrance was and the dynamite lines as well as the extracted rock on the other side of the old carriage road. This ore was used for bullets for the parrot guns during the revolutionary war and was shipped to Cold Spring for manufacturing.

Soon after the trail intersects with the green-blazed New York Long Path, a several-hundred mile trail from Manhattan to the Catskills and beyond. We took some photos of the signs there and then headed down the back of Surebridge mountain where there was a nice brook. In fact there were quite a few good water sources running at this time.

Rocks from Hell

Rocks from Hell

From there the A.T. climbs Island Pond mountain, with a nice place along its summit to have a snack and look back at the peaks of Fingerboard and Surebridge mountains. We did a taste test of two beef jerkies here and decided that the Boar’s Head brand was superior to the Field Trip brand from Starbucks. The reason should be obvious. Not one to waste food though we will finish the other packets of Field Trip. I just find it stringy and tough. We had some nice views of Island Pond below as we made our descent down to the famous Lemon Squeezer. The squeezer itself was as expected, and a lot of fun. We have some great video going through that. But above the squeezer is where the tricky spot is. There is a blue-blazed ‘easy way’ around the side but that way isn’t all that much easier. Nevertheless being stubborn I wanted to try the slide down the 7-8ft rock face and gave Fielden my pack so I could wiggle onto the boulder that would guide me to my landing a few feet below. Only I guess I thought I was taller. Or it was shorter. I had to slide between two trees down the outermost rock, so a fall meant falling off to the left, where it was at least 5-6 more feet down to more large rocks below.

The resulting rock rash

The resulting rock rash

As I slid down my elbows took some serious scraping to keep me balanced, but that’s an acceptable alternative to a nasty spill here. Fielden Stream gave me my pack and took this as good motivation to go down the blue trail. We then made our way through the ‘fun part’ as a group of day hikers waited below. We watched them head up and stop at the upward route over the death rocks, wondering how many of them would go around. Honestly it seems easier going up, though it is not easy, to be sure. As we got to the bottom of the mountain and the trail reached the pond, we passed by what was at this point our third group of Boy Scouts and leaders out for an overnight.

The 'fun' part

The ‘fun’ part

There were some nice stone canals we crossed here, which at one time used the pond to channel water to what I imagine was some sort of hydroelectric mechanism. A few folks were fishing and kayaking in the pond, and there is a gated road where fisherman can obtain a permit to drive down and fish here. There was one last climb for the day, and fortunately this side of the mountain was only a few hundred feet. Though at this point it was getting much hotter out and we were tired. On the other side of this mountain the trail descends twice as far to the lot at Elk Pen, so I’m glad we were coming from this side.

Island Pond

Island Pond

We passed at least two more groups of Boy Scouts, another large group of backpackers, and many many day hikers on their way up the mountain. Even if the first group of scouts we passed shortly after leaving camp and descending Fingerboard mountain were going onto the William Brien Shelter 6 miles farther, Fingerboard was sure to be a full campsite that night. Also a bonus for us spending the previous night there. We reached the parking lot and waited for our shuttle from Suzy of MyHarriman.com. She reached out to me on WhiteBlaze when I was inquiring about shuttles in the area. They are offering free shuttles around the park. She and her husband picked us up and drove us back to the car and we had a great chat about the hike, and the park. I highly recommend you contacting her if you need a shuttle at suzy(at)myharriman.com.

Technically there’s a scant 0.3 more miles of this section, to the route 17 crossing… but seeing as how we will be starting here for the section 12 hike, it will get done and I am marking section 11 complete.

Name these flowers (please)

Name these flowers (please)

We hit the road, satisfied for the moment, and already planning the next trip at the end of the month. This weekend I have my wilderness first aid training. I am really looking forward to having those important skills when I’m out on the trail alone or with family or friends. But our packs are sitting in the corner of our bedroom, mostly packed and ready for the following weekend’s escape! Either hike will have its challenges whether its West Mountain and the dash across the Palisades Parkway to Black Mountain, or the rock scramble known as “Agony Grind”. Either is better than, and a fine reward for, a 40 hour work week.

Total miles Day 1: 1.6

Total Miles Day 2: 4.5

– Linus

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Appalachian Trail – NY Section 10 (Part 2) and Timp-Torne Ramble

Stone work on Bear Mtn

Stone work on Bear Mtn

Last weekend was the first time Fielden Stream and I were on the trail together, or hiking together for that matter, since we began this section with our final hike of 2015. We were proud to have not only finished the last section of trail in Connecticut last year, but also covered 53 miles of the trail in New York — from the northern boundary at the Connecticut state line to Bear Mountain. And so Bear Mountain was where we did our first hike this past weekend, to continue our trek across the New York A.T.

We celebrated that final trail night of 2015 at the Inn as it was her birthday, and did so this past weekend as well to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Our next hike together will be in about six weeks, when we finally finish section 10, and spend our first night of the season in our tent.

Views to West and Dunderberg Mountains

Views to West and Dunderberg Mountains

At over 14 miles, this section is at least twice as long as most of the New York sections and with everything we have going on at any one time right now, we’re lucky when we can get away for more than two days / one night of hiking. Regardless, it was a joy to be out there again together, passing white blazes in tandem for the first time in six months. As I’m sure you know, in between and nearly every weekend, I’ve been hiking — either solo as an AMC volunteer on the Connecticut section or other local trails, or on group outings. But these hikes together are extremely special to us and this was no exception. And I have more day hikes and volunteering in Connecticut to do to keep me busy until our overnight in April.

Moonscape on Bear Mountain

Moonscape on Bear Mountain

If you’re reading this regularly you may also recall that our first section hike together ever was in the fall of 2013 up the impressively steep Major Welch trail (once the A.T.) on the north face of Bear, and down the A.T. from the summit to the Inn. So this time we just needed to out-and-back up the south side of the mountain to connect the dots from our final section of 2015 this past October. We did the hike today northbound up, and southbound down.

Hiker humor

Hiker humor (not ours)

I was eager to see all the incredible new rock work volunteers had done on this section over the last few seasons, which was showcased with a ribbon-cutting last fall. We parked at the hiker lot just off of Seven Lakes drive, nestled in the gap between Bear and West mountains. It was a relief to start on a Friday vs a Saturday, as I didn’t stress over the parking being full by the time we got there. It’s about an hour drive from home, and we were waiting to leave until the end of the morning rush hour, to avoid turning it into a two-hour drive. Only once have we gotten to a lot and found it full, but it provided enough anxiety that I decided starting on a workday to have less crowded lots and trails was worth the vacation time.

Shortly after leaving the parking lot on the historic 1777 trail, it joined the A.T. and we headed north through one of many groves of mountain laurel. Soon after, the 1777 trail split off on its path down the old Doodletown road and the northbound A.T. crossed 7 Lakes Drive headed for the summit. Almost immediately we were treated to displays of fine stone work and even rebar handholds as the new trail wound up the hill through glacial erratics and over terraced stone slabs.

Linus & FIelden Stream with Northern View from Major Welch/A.T.

Linus & FIelden Stream with Northern View from Major Welch/A.T. intersection

After ascending the first crest we were treated to a symphony of (mating?) frogs in a pond nestled in a rocky valley, with the sounds of croaking filling the air. Unfortunately, despite two attempts to capture the audio, my GoPro’s lackluster microphone did not capture it and I wish I had just taken the second video with my iPhone. Audio is not something the GoPro excels at… but I use it for our video channel. Check out the ‘links’ section. So far we have made a video for Connecticut, though I didn’t get the GoPro until we were almost finished with that state so most of that video is stills. My son “Jiffy Pop” made the music in Garageband; it’s cool stuff. I’ve been working on and adding to the New York video as we go, and since we plan to finish the state by fall I will put up the New York video before the end of the year.

Vintage inscription on summit of Bear

Vintage inscription on summit of Bear

The trail then crossed Perkins Memorial Drive, the seasonal road that takes tourists to the top of the mountain the easy way, and then heads along an old unused portion of the road that was decades old. It was lined with impressive stone buttresses that were holding up the rock cliffs overhanging the roadway. Clearly, these were not preventing enough of the higher loose rock and debris from sliding into the road, and hence they took it out of service. That’s our guess anyway. A short distance past these, the trail ascended more well-hewn rock stairs up that rock face until leveling out and following the tops of those rocky ledges to a wide open vista facing southwest. Here there is also a short blue-blazed trail that follows these ledges a bit farther out to a view point on the western shoulder of the mountain. On our return I did explore about three quarters of the way out while Fielden took a break. We took a quick snack break here on the way up as well.

Fielden Stream at the Perkins Tower

Fielden Stream at the Perkins Tower

We then followed the western ridges of Bear through some more laurel groves and past the blue-blazed summit shortcut we would take back. About half a mile later the A.T. runs concurrently with the steep Major Welch trail, with its sweeping views north up the Hudson to Storm King and beyond. We reminisced about our first big hike here together and took some photos. The combined trails traverse the summit to the Perkins tower. There is also a large handicapped-accessible loop around the top of the mountain here for those who drive up and want to experience some of the views but have limited mobility.

End of the Major Welch

End of the Major Welch

We had a nice snack and took in the views once again at the top. We were expecting the tower, the vending machines, and at the very least the restrooms to be open, but none of them were. I guess it makes sense since the road was closed at this time. But, it was a bummer. We took some more pictures, had lunch and observed the interesting mix of those who had also ventured up the mountain in various ways, including a small lapdog. It seems somewhere in the area you can rent a powered bicycle and ride it up the Perkins drive. We saw only one pair of backpackers this Friday morning, though we did see many heading out the next morning from the parking lot at the inn, as it was a Saturday.

CIty skyline close up

CIty skyline close up

We headed for the shortcut on the other side of the tower and headed back down the mountain to the car. It was a clear, warm and beautiful day and we were elated. We had a nice dinner down the road in Tomkins Cove, passing two or three other trailheads in the park on the way. The next morning we headed for those trailheads, which turned out to be for the 28-mile long Ramapo-Dunderberg trail as well as the beginning of the Timp-Torne trail, which also crosses the park, and ascends many summits. I hiked on both of these on my solo hike last summer.

Stone buttresses

Stone buttresses

We started on the merged trails from the lot and it ascended quickly and steeply. There were no stairs here to speak of. Just rough, steep trail. We split off on the Timp-Torne at the junction and it continued to rise and skirt the ledges, providing a challenging and exciting hike. We had just a few hours before we had to head back, so we climbed about a mile and a quarter up the mountain before taking a short break by a brook and headed back down. There were some really interesting features on this trail.

Fielden Stream making the steep climb up Dunderberg Mountain

Fielden Stream making the steep climb up Dunderberg Mountain

Along the road at the start was a tunnel from the abandoned Dunderberg Spiral Railway, and about 700ft up the mountainside was a graded path and a large cave-like opening in the rock. It looks like it was originally intended to be another tunnel, for this path, but they only blasted on one side before giving up. Seeing as how it was filled with water when we saw it, perhaps that was a problem at the time as well. So the graded trail skirted instead around this rock wall on an equally wide man-made path along the ledges. There was also an unblazed, unmaintained trail called the Jones trail that once led steeply up from the road and crossed the Timp-Torne trail near our turnaround point and continued up to the top along the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. I am guessing this was an old route for getting supplies up to this point. I will definitely look into it more.

Abandoned tunnel on Timp-Torne Trail

Abandoned tunnel on Timp-Torne Trail

On another occasion I will come back here and complete the climb over Dunderberg and Bald Mountains, perhaps spending another night at West Mountain with its glorious views to New York City. The only negative to this hike is the sweeping views to Indian Point energy center and it’s smokestacks and loud announcements. I couldn’t make out the words so I kept joking that they were paging Homer Simpson to wake him up from a donut-induced nap.

Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks offer a lot of challenging, scenic, and varying terrain with hundreds of miles of trails and beautiful lakes. All of those make it a popular spot to come back to repeatedly. And I look forward to returning next month with Fielden Stream as we continue on our Appalachian Trail adventures. This weekend i will be joining my AMC club on one of their two Ives trail hikes in Connecticut, to finally complete that entire trail.

A.T. hike miles: 4.75

Timp-Torne hike miles: 2.6

Snake sightings: 1

Bear sightings: 0

— Linus

 

Harriman S.P. Solo Overnight Backpack Adventure

Heading up

Heading up

Last weekend our next planned New York section-hike turned out differently than planned. Fielden Stream’s knee swelled up again and we weren’t able to get her up and going quite as easy this time! Crushed about not being able to hike together, but understanding that it’s not a good idea to stress a recent injury if we want to be able to keep hiking together in the future, we decided it would be ok for me to go on what seems to be my annual solo overnight trip.

As you may remember if you’ve been reading my blog, I recently received a replacement rainfly for my solo tent for only the cost of shipping from the manufacturer Easton products. This is because I had packed it away wet in a classic amateur mistake after my first solo trip last October, and it was covered in mildew when I pulled it out for my brother to use earlier on our July 4 weekend trip. They were awesome when I told them what I had done and promptly replaced it for only the cost of shipping. So my solo tent was back in action! Luckily the tent itself did not have any mildew.

View east from West Mountain

First view – south east from West Mountain

I changed the itinerary to facilitate a loop-hike with a single vehicle, yet still one in the same region and with great views. I also still wanted us to do those full A.T. sections together later. And it was an opportunity to challenge myself a bit more than usual since I was on my own. For instance, I’ve been working on my fear of ledges and ridge walks with steep drop-offs. I know there will be a lot of these in my future if I want to complete the whole A.T one day, and so I wanna get through this phobia. Nothing wrong with a little self-preservation especially when you’re a husband and a father, but sometimes it borders on just plain silly the things I will avoid.

For location, I chose to head down the trail a bit to include one of the most beautiful views (if you like a view with a city skyline in the distance, that is) in the area, West Mountain shelter in Harriman State Park. This is a popular one, perched on the ledge almost 1,300 ft up and overlooking the Hudson river, all the way to NYC which is visible on clear days about 40 miles south. It’s about .6 off the A.T. but many thru hikers make the extra trek as its not hard, and its worth it. I had a photo of it on my desktop background for about half a year, planning to make it there by the end of the season on one of our section hikes. Now, although alone this time, I was going to.  That was a silver lining, to be sure.

Descending the first ledges on West Mountain

Descending the first ledges on West Mountain

Harriman is the second largest state park in New York, with over 225 miles of trails, including 18 of the A.T. West Mountain is the next peak southwest of Bear Mountain on the trail. Together, the two are part of the Bear Mountain-Harriman State Parks.

Narrowly surviving my drive up the Palisades Parkway to the trail head at Anthony Wayne Recreation Area, I arrived around noon to get on the trail. Notice: the drivers on this road don’t seem to be the considerate or patient type. The fact that the A.T in fact crosses this very road TWICE (north and south lanes) with no sort of bridge whatsoever is terrifying. There’s no stop light, nor much of a warning as a driver as you approach the crossing other than your typical hiker sign.

Please be extremely careful when on trail and having to cross it. I pondered adding a walk up Black Mountain before departing on day 2 of this hike, but the very thought of crossing that road in both directions to get there and back left a lot to be desired. It’s a miracle no one has been killed doing so. Or have they? They should probably put a pedestrian bridge across it, or use the Anthony Wayne rec area overpass as part of the route and re-route it slightly north to do so. The bookstore is in the highway median just north of the trail, which may be why they do it this way, but I nearly got killed in my CAR just trying to make a left into there to get a park map and a Gatorade.

The Timp from West Mountain

The Timp from West Mountain

Anyway, it was a beautiful day and I made it in one piece. The parking lots for the recreation area are MASSIVE.  In its peak season I imagine these to be fairly loaded though the southern lot where I parked has less recreation areas and seems to be more of an overflow lot with overnight and day hikers using the area by the trailhead most. As it was only mid-August I found it a bit odd that it was off-season already and all the facilities were closed. Who knows — maybe it was just closed for this weekend. You can catch the Timp-Torne trail and A.T which share the same path for about a mile and a half farther north at the upper lot, but this was not part of my planned route and I will do that later coming through on the A.T. section.

Where's the trail? Ascending the Timp

Where’s the trail? Ascending the Timp

I had mapped this route out extensively, starting with the NY/NJ Trail conference’s “Trail Walker” newsletter where I got the idea for the new hike.  They had a day hike recommendation up to a spot called “Cat’s Elbow” on West Mountain that included the Shelter as a lunch spot and was about 2/3 of the route I did. I then researched more online to plot the route, adding in one more peak, “The Timp” to make it a bit more of an overnight hike distance. And because I wanted to peak bag it! It turns out the Cat’s Elbow was down a short access trail from one of the ledges I was on at the beginning of the hike, but I did not realize this at the time and just assumed I was on it. Not to fret, I had my fair share of ledge walking and views and challenges on this hike. I imagine that view was just one that would be to my benefit had I not added the extra 1.5 miles over the Timp, which offers those same views.

Holy elevation gains, Batman!

Holy elevation gains, Batman!

The hike started on one of the many mountain bike paths through the park from the lot for about half mile before crossing the A.T. From here I continued on the bike path a bit farther until I picked up the Red-dot-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, heading east. This would take me all the way over the shoulder of West Mountain down to “Timp Pass” between the two peaks and up to the top of the Timp. Immediately I was treated to rock scrambles leading up to many ledges. The views on this hike never ended. At the top of this shoulder of West Mountain I could hear hikers across the valley at the shelter on the peak, and snacked on tiny blueberries as I passed through fire-scarred meadows on the ridgeline. I would recommend long pants because I was not wearing them and the underbrush was knee high through much of this section of the hike and the concern of poison ivy and ticks was very real.

Bones on the timp

Bones on the timp

Over many you-fall-you-die spots, I crawled over ledges on the ridgeline, my heart racing but full of pride for accepting this challenge and conquering it. I descended down the ridge line steeply into the gap, a descent equal to that of Bear Mountain in Connecticut’s north face until I reached Timp Pass. Here I had the chance to venture right up the other ridge of West Mountain to the shelter but decided that was too early to call it a day and continued on to the Timp ascent.

It was a hot day and there is no water at the shelter, and there were no streams with water to count on. I knew this going into it and packed extra water so I had enough for the climbs and for dinner and coffee. But not being able to see my water supply in my bladder while in my pack, I was conserving a bit and definitely getting dehydrated. This is a major fault in the design of an integrated camel bladder sleeve. Many hikers opt to carry their bladder between the brain and the body of their pack to alleviate that, but thats a hack that doesn’t need to be necessary.

Goldenrods on the Timp

Goldenrods on the Timp

Turns out I had enough water but I didn’t know for sure till I got to camp. I could have taken it out and checked and would have if it was a longer hike, but buried behind all my other gear in my loaded pack, I decided not to since I was almost at the summit. I had a full smart water bottle with me as well in case of emergency, and was close enough to the trailhead that I could return to the car in case of severe water shortage. I also knew there would be others up there who would have water in case of emergency. And I was right. One family shared some water with some other hikers who needed it. They used to have pumps at all these shelters but the closeness to the city meant a lot of partiers would come up to these spots and leave messes. So to discourage this, they removed them so that only hikers who carried the right gear and were prepared with filters and such would be able to stay longer times up here. A shame to punish the few because of the masses but it happens all the time. Because, stupid people.

West Mountain and Bear Mountain from the Timp

West Mountain and Bear Mountain from the Timp

The climb up the back of the Timp was another rockfall, but more intense than the first. I had to look for at least 15 minutes for the next blaze up that wall, as it was mostly rocks! I did a good deal of rock climbing up to the summit ledges of the Timp where I took a break and took in the views across the pass to West Mountain, and Bear Mountain in the distance behind it. The shelter on West Mountain was visible as was the Perkins Memorial Tower on Bear. To the south I could also see sweeping views of the Hudson and the small towns along it as well the city in the distance.

Linus on the Timp

Linus on the Timp

I had now left the red trail for the blue-blazed Timp-Torne trail through a ridge line covered in Goldenrod to reach the summit, and I would stay on this until the shelter and until the A.T. the next morning. At the summit there were some day hikers who snapped a photo of me on an outcropping. On the way down the timp I had epic views north of the Bear Mountain bridge, Bear Mountain, Anthony’s nose, and beyond to the Hudson Highlands and West Point.  That was a treat. The descent was rocky and steep but I made it to the pass and it is here that I received my first leg cramp. I’ve read both that these are and are not caused by dehydration but just to be sure I chugged a bunch of water and took a break.  It was also here that my GPS track stopped because I guess my watch wasn’t as fully charged as I had thought. While I was still tracking with my AllTtrails app on my phone, I knew it was only a matter of time until my watch would shut off entirely. I hadn’t brought the watch charger and so the watch was out of commission within a few hours. Had I not had my phone I’d be relying on my horizon tricks to tell the time.

My new Casio Pro Trek watch

My new Casio Pro Trek watch

While not the end of the world, after this and several dropped tracks on recent hikes, I’d come to the end of the relationship with the watch. A great idea as a product with a very robust feature set, online dev community and overall a durable piece of equipment. But one that at the very least should have a backup battery for the timekeeping function. This could be much more of a concern on a longer hike. I don’t need to devices to worry about charging. I would return it when I got back for a watch that did not rely on USB power and stick to my phone and phone charger for that purpose. REI gave me full credit back for the Suunto, and I provided my feedback and experience with the watch. The salesman who helped me find a new watch was wearing the Suunto Core and knew just what I meant. I decided on the latest Casio Pro-Trek. It has an altimeter, compass, barometer, moon phases and tidal data, a tough water-resistant case to a good depth, and an easy back-light button. It’s also an atomic watch so you can rely on the time. And it was $175 less. I will miss many of the Suunto’s features but I need a watch that I can depend on being there for me when I need it. The Pro-Trek also solar charges so I don’t have to worry about battery life for a very long time.

Bear Mountain Bridge from the Timp

Bear Mountain Bridge from the Timp

The final push up to the shelter started with about a half mile of a scree-laden path, until a steep, tough climb up many rocky ledges to the shelter. My poles were basically useless on this and many other parts of the hike and I think at one point on that last ascent when confronted with the last wall of rock ahead of me uttered, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” But I heard voices ahead and luckily it wasn’t one of those tricks of the wind and another mile to go. The shelter appeared before me and though completely spent, I had worked hard, climbed three summits and about 1,600 ft of vertical in under 5 miles today, with another 300 on day two to make about 1,900 overall. Even my “Best Hikes Near New York City” book described it as a “Butt-Kicker.” Correctamundo!

West Mountain Shelter

West Mountain Shelter

It was a stunning shelter view. I perused all the tent sites and found one near the shelter with its own fire ring. I set up my tent, and unpacked and had some wine. My tent rainfly has two zippers so you can roll up the whole side or, as I imagined, create an awning using extra guy lines and your trekking poles. This worked out perfectly!  I hadn’t tried it yet when I set up the tent the day before to gear check and I was super excited to have an awning. I even used a tautline hitch on the guyline.

My tent with improvised "awning"

My tent with improvised “awning”

I hung my bear bag, using the PCT method and a clove hitch, and then went to chat with some of the other hikers at the site. There was a family from the Philly area with their two kids, 2 couples that were thru-hiking, and 2 solo section hikers with their dogs. I always like when there are dogs there because I feel safer about bears and other critters not coming into camp. We shared stories and took in the views. I retreated to my site to make a small fire. Originally I wasn’t planning to but everyone else had gathered fire wood and had one going so it inspired me. I made one just big enough to enjoy my dinner by, and then as it fizzled out I went to enjoy the sunset and view of the city with the other hikers before bed.

Sunset at West Mountain shelter

Sunset at West Mountain shelter

Most of the other hikers chose to keep the rainfly off, and I was thinking about it too but I was so pleased with my ingenuity and I know how quickly weather can change. I didn’t want it to happen when I was asleep. I kept the awning open though and had a beautiful view of the brightly shining moon over the ridge, as the crickets sung me to sleep. No owls though. What gives? I thought it was supposed to rain and starting around 9am so I was planning on getting going early.

First climb on day 2 to West Mountain summit

First climb on day 2 to West Mountain summit

I had an unexpected charlie horse in the middle of the night trying to get into my summer bag so once the pain subsided I opted to use it as a blanket and sleep in my liner which worked fine. I also have a high R-value on my new BA Air core sleeping pad so I was plenty warm even with the fly up. This was definitely a lack of potassium. I was up at 630 with the sunrise anyway. I hadn’t gotten that much sleep because there’s a CSX train down along the river which was passing through blowing its horn about every 30 minutes. I love trains. But this did not help me sleep. That’s one of the few downsides of camping here, well that and the water. And if you ask others, no privy. As I only had about a liter left and had a fancier feast in mind when I reached the lot, I packed up, had my cliff bar, and headed out by 730 am after taking in the view one last time.

A.T. Junction, West Mountain

A.T. Junction, West Mountain

It was about .5 to the A.T. along the ridge and while it was mostly easy and flat there were a few scrambles, but more endless views to match. There was another campsite atop the actual peak of West Mountain that had an equal view and large fire ring. While there was no shelter or privy or water supply here either, it was quite a nice spot, and one I’d camp at if we didn’t want to make the trip to the shelter when coming through here on the section.  The junction of the A.T and TImp-Torne trail had its own incredible view westward. From here the two continue along side each other for a mile or two northbound while just the A.T. heads south, and this was my route. It was a steep and often rocky descent, and I was glad I was not heading up it. About a mile later as I reached the bottom at the bike path crossing, there was a stream, of course. The water was reliable and clean but I had no need unless I decided to head up Black Mountain, which I didn’t. I probably had time but as I said the road crossing was perilous.  I headed back to my car, happy to have a lighter pack and a successful adventure.

Final view, north from A.T

Final view, north from A.T

I visited the bookstore on the way out, grabbed a coffee and a gatorade and farther up the route home I stopped at Dunkin Donuts and got an egg and cheese and a banana (to help the potassium shortage). I remember a thru-hiker on one of our last sections farther up the trail saying Harriman was one of his favorite spots on his hike so far. I can see why.  A great adventure, and I learned some valuable lessons about what I was capable of, and to listen to my body when it tells me I need more water or rest. And that I am still a boy scout! I took a ton of pictures and videos, and am looking into a nicer digital camera to improve my photography. Recommendations welcome. I don’t need a million pixels, or to spend $1,000 but I would like something with higher resolution and more features, while still being durable.

I am planning a day hike tomorrow somewhere closer to get my trail fix, and Fielden Stream and I are planning when we will hit the trail again soon for the next section hike now that she has the green light from the doctor.

— Linus