Monday, August 27, 2012

The "I Hate Bugs Post" also known as Conneticut (July 18th-22nd)

Pants and I woke up the next morning with plans to go to Mt. Algo shelter, only 12.4 miles away.  We needed to go into Kent, CT. which was down the road immediately after Mt. Algo.  It was definitely time from some laundry and resupply.  Unfortunately, Kent was a waspy CT town with absolutely nowhere affordable for hikers to stay, so a shower would have to wait for another day.  We would stay right outside town and dip in the morning then hike out.  It looked like it would be an easy 12, with no real tough climbs so we took our time up and over Ten Mile Hill, then set up shop at a beach on Ten Mile River with Rebound, who had caught up to us.  We took a dip in the river, watched a cute otter dive around, tried to dry out our sweaty clothes in the sun and had a leisurely lunch.  We would have stayed longer, but according to the weatherman in our cell phones, a storm was brewing for the afternoon.

The Georgia Boys arrived and they decided they were going to hold up at Ten Mile River Shelter until the storm passed, then night hike the remaining eight miles to Mt. Algo.  Not wanting to do that, Pants and I packed up our stuff and headed out.  Rebound had already took off.  Just as we were heading into a very skinny pine tree forest the wind started to pick up.  We paused to watch the skinny spindly trees bend forward and backward.  They all looked like they were about to fall over, branches started flying off and we picked up our pace as one blew by my arm.  We escaped the forest without getting speared just as the rain kicked in.  The rain lasted a few hours as we continued on our way, slightly regretting not staying at the shelter with the rest.  But other than the crazy wind moment, the worst part of the storm seemed to blow over us.  Overall, we were glad we decided to hike through it instead of sitting around at the shelter.  The only problem was after the rain, it became so humid, and it flushed out all the mosquitoes. You couldn't stand still unless you wanted to be mauled.

If you were to ask me what my least favorite part about this entire experience was/is, it would unquestionably be my forced co-existence with bugs.  I'm not talking about the ants and spiders and the sort that try and crawl on you.  I'm talking the gnats, flies and mosquitoes.  The gnats just swarm around your head like a cloud, try to kamikaze into your eyeballs and mouth.  The horseflies get some sick twisted pleasure from buzzing around your head for miles, just following you.  And when you stop to stand still so you can swat it, IT STOPS TOO so you can't find it, the assholes.  So you think it's gone and start hiking again, and right away, bzzzzzzzzzzzz.  You try to keep calm and swat at him when you think you can get him, but eventually you go insane, scream and run, flailing your arms wildly above your head.  If you happen to be in the woods and you see what at first glance appears to be a lunatic talking to himself while waving his arms above his head, rest assured it is most likely a harmless hiker with a fly problem.  But the mosquitoes, they are the worst.  They are tiny and inconspicuous and take your blood.  We are covered in their bites.  I mean covered.  We are defenseless, even 100% DEET (which is basically smearing your body in poison) doesn't keep them away.  One time while sitting in my tent one morning, I counted 42 mosquitoes on the other side of my mesh trying to get in.  42. That's like half a vampire.  Sometimes when I'm hiking I just think of all the awful things I could do to them.  Like every time one bites me, I get really small and punch it in the face and tear out it's wings.  Elaborate scenes of mosquito torture play out in my head as I hike and swat at them, though I know resistance is futile. 

Anyway........Pants and I excitedly crossed the New York/Connecticut border, flew past Indian Rocks and Thayer Brook, and finally arrived at Mt. Algo Shelter.  I turned my phone on to see if Daystar had made it out of town tonight and found a text from her that she was staying the night.  She was nervous about the storm and hesitant to leave, and apparently St. Andrews church was going to let her, the Honeymooners and Spirit camp in their backyard, and there was room for two more!  We could get out of the bugs and be in town bright and early tomorrow to get our stuff done and get out.  Pants and I hiked the remaining mile to CT 341 then walked east down the road straight into Kent, CT.  Kent, pop. 2,979 was an adorable town full of high priced chocolates, fancy cafes, and gift shops.  All things hikers don't need nor can afford.  Despite its frequent visits by hikers (as it is the first town we come to in CT), they have yet to make it very hiker friendly.  We met DS at the church and she showed us to our 'unit'.  We walked past the sprawling green lawn right next to the church that apparently was off limits to us, and were shown to a small strip of grass between the parking lot and playground, right next to the driveway.  It was silly, but it was home.  I had a pint of Ben and Jerry's for dinner which I ate on one of the church benches, pitched my tent and went to bed.

The next morning we were up at 6am, DS, Spirit and the HH (as they will now be referred too in this publication) were heading straight back to the trail, as they got their errands done yesterday.  Pants and I were hoping to get out by 2pm.  We headed to the laundry mat, which was ran by the devil's daughter - meanest lady on planet earth.  She seemed to despise hikers, despite the fact that we were the reason her business was still afloat. She probably had one sour encounter with a rude or disrespectful hiker and now hated the whole lot of us.  While we did laundry we took turns going to the PO to deal with bounce boxes.  The postal worker was also a total dick, seemed to be a theme in this town.  The grocery store was across the street so we did our resupply as well.  Just as we were packing up a few more hikers showed up and I gave them the heads up about the dragon lady as we walked out the door. 

Pants wandered off on his own while I headed to the library to do computer things.  I signed up for a half hour slot on one of the many open computers (as that was the max time allowed) and plopped myself down.  Exactly one half hour later, the psychotic librarian walked over to inform me that if I wanted to continue using the computer I would need to sign up for another slot.  I slowly looked around the small library taking note of the lack of any other persons besides myself, and accommodatingly got up to write my name down again.  What was with the people in this town?  An hour was about all I could take with that lady so I left, grabbed my pack (which I always leave outside when I go into businesses) and went in search of food.  Maybe the sandwich people were a cheerier bunch.

I was walking down Main St. when a cute old couple asked me if I was thru-hiking.  I chatted with them a bit and they gave me a great recommendation for a panini cafe and gelateria back in the park.  I thanked them, walked to the hidden corner they told me about and was greeted with a small park full of cafes and shops.  I put my pack on a table outside and was immediately approached by an older woman curious if I was hiking.  I talked to her about my journey, and she was so impressed she offered to buy me lunch.  Finally, someone who doesn't hate hikers.  I thanked her as she had to take off and couldn't eat with me, and went back out to settle in with my panini.  A family of five came out of the deli looking for a place to sit, and being I had a five person table to myself I gave it to them and headed over to sit in the shade of a large oak tree.  I'm used to sitting on the ground anyway, plus that kid from that one movie taught me it's always good to pay it forward:).  I ate my lunch while chatting on the phone with my friend Sae, and finally decided it was time to leave. 

I found Pants napping in front of the "outfitter" (it really was an ice cream shoppe that sold hiking clothes that weren't really hiking clothes, though I was able to locate a fuel canister there) and we started our walk back up the road towards the trail, noticing the Georgia Boys ahead of us doing the same.  We stuck our thumbs out as we walked, even though it was only a mile back to the trailhead, and based on our interactions with the people of this town we doubted we would get a ride, but surprisingly a nice woman stopped, saying she hated seeing hikers have to walk so many off trail miles just to get in and out of town.  We hopped out of her car at the trailhead just as the Georgia Boys reached it.  Bill yelled at us wondering how we managed to get a ride, even though the answer was simple.  I'm a girl.  It's easier to hitch if you're a girl.  Bill and the boys trudged up the trail grumbling about how they needed a woman and wondering if REI might sell them. ....

That afternoon our goal was Silver Hill Campsite, roughly 10 miles away.  We stumbled past Macedonia Brook, up Calebs Peak, where we were introduced to St. Johns Ledges.  These are steep stone steps that would lead us down to the Housatonic River.  I use the term "steps' loosely, as they were actually just a pile of rocks I was expected to maneuver down.  I finally made my way down to River Rd., where I would be rewarded with five miles of flat trail along the Housatonic.  Well, it was flat I will give it that.  I would have rather been on the ledges for five miles.  At first I wondered if this was a joke, if I had walked onto the set of some horror movie.  I have never in my life seen so many gnats.  They were having a convention, a gathering if you will, all the gnats in the world, here at this river.  The sole purpose of existence for a gnat, their goal in life, is to die inside your eyeballs.  I paused once and my body disappeared in a swarm of black.  I screamed (on the inside, I didn't dare open my mouth), put my head down, sunglasses on, earbuds in and hiked. 

We blew past the Steward Hollow Shelter, where I think the Georgia Boys had taken refuge, and made our way to Dawn Hill Rd., where we were given some peace from the bugs.  Now, a word of advice to all those who ever hike this section of the AT:  before you reach Dawn Hill Rd, the trail actually hooks left up a steep hill, THEN crosses Dawn Hill Rd.  Pants and I missed this detail, got to the road at the bottom of the hill and walked around confused and lost for about 30 minutes trying to find the trail.  There was a faint blaze down what appeared to be a driveway.  The owners of the driveway were outside their house putting away kayaks and we inquired if they had any idea of the whereabouts of the AT.  They explained that the trail used to go over here, but it was rerouted to go up the hill back down the way we came, and they hadn't removed the old blazes yet so hikers got confused a lot.  They let us use their hose to fill up water (Silver Hill had a pump that was known to dry up) and we were on our way. 

We made our way up Silver Hill and stumbled upon the campsite around 7pm.  It was a nice spot, had a covered pavilion and a swing.  It was empty except for two young boys out for a weekend.  Pants and I made our dinner by our tents before we were chased inside by the bugs.  PA had rocks, CT has bugs.  Fact.  The next morning we awoke to rain dropping on our tents.  I procrastinated as long as possible before I finally just packed up in the rain.  My goal was to go 15 miles or so and just stealth camp somewhere, but naturally plans change.  I got the mile to CT 4, where a sign informed me that the rocks used to cross Guinea Brook were no longer passable, and that I would either have to ford the book or take the detour road walk.  Not wanting to walk a mile out of my way on a road, I opted to just walk through the brook.  At first I thought the rocks might actually be ok, but they might as well have been covered in ice.  The rain wasn't helping.  I caved, removed my shoes and put on my sandals and waded through the shin deep water.  The cold water felt good running over my feet and it was worth not risking have to hike in wet boots. 

Pants caught up and passed me right after Guinea Brook along with Promethus and Silent John.  The rain really started to pick up and I got dumped on all the way to Pine Swamp Brook Shelter.  At this point in my hiking career I am so used to getting rained on that I don't even put on my rain jacket.  The trail passed through a crack in a boulder similar to the "Lemon Squeezer" in NY, after which I saw an older man, presumably a day hiker, carrying an umbrella.  I considered stopping to watch him attempt to get through that boulder with that giant umbrella, but my hunger won out and I booked it to the shelter so I could eat under a roof.  Or so I thought.  I got there and it looked like the restaurant had been overbooked.  A SoBo section hiker had put his tent up inside the shelter.  Why people do this I never know.  That left Promethus, Craisin, Silent John, two other hikers and myself to squeeze into the remaining space, wet gear and all.  Craisin and I had to cower on the steps to the shelter as we were the last to arrive.  I quickly ate my lunch and headed back out in the rain. 

I was pretty tired of the rain and a bit crabby from lack of a proper break.  I hit Belters Campsite around 5pm and decided this would be my home.  Silent John had the same thought as we quietly set up our tents (he doesn't talk much).  I managed to coax him away from his tent to check out a really cool tree I found while exploring the area.  After the tree he showed me an old rusted car way back in some brush no one would ever find unless they knew to look for it.  He's from CT and had actually camped here before and was familiar with the area.  We made our dinners and I was about to crawl into my tent to do some reading when I heard someone yell "Is that a Tater Tot?" from down the campsite.  Pace and Hungus had caught up!  I was excited since I hadn't seen them since our stay in Jersey.  I told them how spread out we all had gotten.  Jaybird and Lighthouse were way ahead since they didn't go into the city, Pants was seven miles ahead at Limestone Shelter, DS another seven past that at Riga and Gribley was still behind since he had just gotten back on the trail in NY after his time home.  No clue where Cheesewater and Towlie were....We all said goodnight, with plans to do 18 to Sages Ravine the next day, just over the Massachusetts border. 

Unlike Pace and Hungus, I failed at getting up early to start our 18 mile day.  They called to my tent as they passed by and I assured them at the very least I was awake.  I finally started hiking around 9am, and began my easy flat journey to the town of Falls Village.  I had no desire to actually go to the town, but the trail skirts the edge of it and passes by some type of hydro-electric plant (is that a thing?) near the Housatonic. Supposedly there, one would find a vine covered building with an outdoor shower attached.  There was also an outside plug so you could charge your phone. This was my first goal of the day.  Pace and Hungus were trying to book it to Salisbury to meet a family member of some type for lunch so I didn't plan on seeing them for the rest of the day.  My journey to the vine covered building was briefly interrupted by the finding of a lost dog, whose owner I had to wait for, but I eventually made it to my destination. 

I located the building, and the outdoor shower was just as it seems, a shower head attached to the outside of a building.  One could not take a proper shower there unless they were interested in being arrested for indecent exposure.  I met another NoBo, Ducket, who was there making lunch, and another hiker (forgot name) who was in desperate need of water.  Apparently he found a baggie with white powder in it on the trail, assumed it was powdered milk, and added it to his entire water supply (obviously really in the mood for milk).  Turns out it was detergent, and in lieu of milk he was was left with a substantial amount of soap.  Let this be a lesson to him (and anyone else tempted to add strange unlabeled powders they find in the woods to their water).  Don't. 

I left my fellow hikers and headed up Mt. Prospect, attempted to have a late lunch at Giant's Thumb (big thumb looking rock) but was attacked by a gang of moths, so ate quickly and continued on.  The trail was easy all the way down the road to Salisbury.  I stopped at the trail head to drink some fruity drink and eat the rest of my lunch when Pace and Hungus rolled up in their aunts (?) car.  They gave me some snacks they grabbed in town and we headed up to Lion's Head.  Lion's Head was a short but steep rocky climb with a nice view.  I continued past it to make my way to Riga Shelter.  The shelter had a great view, and also a long register entry by Tree Hugger about demons, his thoughts on demons and also a small tale about opening some portal.  It seemed some hikers were starting to go insane.  After Riga, I caught up to Pace and Hungus who had passed me when I dipped into the shelter, and the three of us caught up to Pants at Brassie Brook.  We all started our climb up Bear Mountain (#2 I think).  It was a challenging climb that we all accomplished pretty quickly, and we rewarded ourselves with a whiskey party at the top.  We hung out on the giant rock pile for the better part of an hour, using every new hiker who arrived as an excuse to unscrew the whiskey bottles.

One by one we all made our way into Massachusetts!!!! and down to Sages Ravine campsite, which was gorgeous.  There was a large camping area next to it with a privy and a caretaker.  Pace, Hungus, Pants and I all shared one tent site, since Pace and Hungus hammock, Pants and I could both fit our tents in one space.  We were all excited at the fact that we only had four states left, and that Great Barrington , MA (our next town) had a brewery.  Massachusetts, we have arrived.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting in Some Real Miles: NY (July 10th-17th)

We woke up the morning of our last day in NYC and dove into a flurry of activity.  We were so busy enjoying the city that we forgot to prepare for our hike.  We all ran around to the PO, grocery, RiteAid, etc... trying to get ready and resupply.  Pants left the apartment early to meet his Uncle at Penn Station.  Uncle Tom (UT we dubbed him) was going to be hiking with us for a week. Pants was going to meet him at Penn station, then meet us at Port Authority to catch our 2:30 bus back to Greenwood Lake.  DS and I were naturally running behind.  We sprinted through Port Authority in time to see our bus drive away.  Shrugging our shoulders we went in search of sandwiches, being assured we could catch another one at 3:30.  Looks like Pants and UT were gonna get a head start.

We succeeded in catching our 3:30 bus and arrived in Greenwood lake around 5pm.  We popped into the library for about an hour before heading towards the Village Vista trail, the one mile uphill climb that would lead us back to the AT that neither of us felt like doing.  As I've said before, any miles we hike that are not AT miles and not taking us to Maine piss us off.  After we reached the top, DS hiked another mile before finding a small grassy clearing she was ready to call home.  I was hoping to make it another 3 miles to the shelter, but instead only made it another mile before I ran into Pants and UT.  We all decided to pull up short before the storm came in (seems there is always a storm coming in). Pants was borrowing an alleged two man tent from Daystar that he and his uncle could share - but they are both pretty tall dudes so it looked a bit cozy for them.  The rain came in along with the thunder and lightening.  Normally my tent is like a fallout shelter when it rains, impervious to the elements that be.  But tonight seemed to be the exception.  In our hustle we had set our tents up in a bowl, allowing the water to gather underneath them.  On top of that, it seems repeated use (or maybe the storm was just too intense) was causing the seam seal to 'unseal' since drops of water were falling on my head.  It wasn't long before I felt like I was sleeping in a bathtub with a leaky faucet. 

Thank god the sun has a glorious habit of rising every morning, and I awoke to UT and Pants drying out all of their belongings on a line.  Seemed they fared far worse than me.  Luckily my thick neo-air keeps me somewhat elevated off the bottom of my tent so my sleeping bag wasn't too wet.  Theirs were not so lucky.  I left Pants and UT while they continued to dry out their gear and started my hike to Fingerboard Shelter - 14.3 miles away.  We were planning on doing some light days to ease UT into the AT.  Right after I passed a dried up brook (NY was just as bad as PA in terms of water, dry dry dry), I ran into Squatch, the filmmaker haunting the AT in search of footage, who was currently hiking south.  He was catching me up on all the gossip on the hikers ahead of me (Atlas and Cheeks broke up and Atlas is off the trail oh my! and crap like that) when Babe walked up.  Babe was actually a random  AT hiker I met in a bar in NYC and Squatch made sure to document the surprise reunion on the trail.

Afterward Babe hiked on while I finished chatting with Squatch.  We gave each other the low down on the water situation and went our separate ways.  I hiked up Eastern Pinnacles and took a break on the rocks to dry out my tent and enjoy my coffee with a view.  UT and Pants hiked past me, but I caught back up with them at Cat rocks and the three of us continued to Fitzgerald Falls, minus the falls as they too had dried up.  Bummed, we continued our hike up the rocky ascent of Mombasha High Point.  At this point in our day my heart really started to go out to UT.  NY was proving to be very rocky and difficult.  I think he was expecting a nice stroll through the woods and instead was given hand over head rock walls.  I also realized how accustomed we are to being out of breath.  We'll climb up mountains, be sweaty and out of breath, and climb right down without stopping.  Maine's a long way away and it's not gonna get any closer if we take breaks after every climb.  If you're not sweating you're not doing it right.  Maine was definitely not getting any closer for UT and Pants as they sat down for another break so UT could catch his breath and I pushed on.  This was the main reason I didn't seek out any friend to join me for part of the hike, I could see the stress it caused my friends when they had visitors join them for a weekend or so.  You want to show your loved ones all the trail has to offer, while still making sure they are enjoying themselves.

I climbed down Mombasha, pausing to watch a Great Blue Heron gracefully glide over my head and land ever so elegantly on the pond to my left.  Nature often has a way of stopping you in your tracks and captivating you to a point that you forget what you were doing.  Hiking, right.  I moved on to climb up and over Buchanan Mountain and just when I was wondering if I was ever going to find water that wasn't a stagnant beaver pond I was greeted with trail magic.  Some lovely person, conscious of the drought, had left a bunch of gallons of water for the hikers to fill up from.  In fact, for all of NY the only viable 'water sources' were from trial magic at road crossings (we try not to pull from ponds or any stagnant puddles when possible). Every stream was either dried up or just a trickle.

I continued up East Mombasha (I had to put my poles away for that one and use my hands), up and over Arden Mountain and was about to tackle Island Pond Mountain when I started to wonder if I was getting too far ahead of UT and Pants.  I had just done a really rocky section that took me all afternoon, and I hadn't seen DS yet that day as well.  The plan was to go to Fingerboard, but I don't think anyone was expecting the trail to be this rocky.  It was around 6:30 as I pulled into a random flat spot and texted DS.  Her, Pants and UT had just climbed East Mombasha and UT was pretty spent.  They were going to cowboy camp on the rocks, about 6 miles back from where I was.  I decided to set up shop and have an early night as well.  They got about 8 miles that day, we were definitely going to have to adjust our mileage plans for this week.

The next morning I slept in to give them some time to catch up and started my short climb past the 'Lemon Squeezer' (it is how it sounds, picture Chris Farley singing "fat pack in a little crack") and up Island Pond Mt.  I got maybe 100 yards before something caught the corner of my eye.  The trail was curving around Island Pond before the climb, but down the hill to my right was a smooth rock, bathing in the sun right over the clear blue lake.  I walked down there to check it out and immediately kicked myself for not walking a little further last night to camp here instead.  The rock was the perfect height to jump in the lake, or you could take the gentle sandy slope to the right and ease yourself in the water.  Someone had also at tied up a rope hammock between two of the rocks so it hung right over the water but was still accessible by land.  It was perfect.

I decided I would set up shop here and wait for DS, Pants and UT.  I spent the day laying in the sun, swimming and greeting other hikers as they passed by my temporary home.  Around 2:30, as I was chatting up a SoBo named Dave, DS finally appeared and jumped right in.  Pants and UT finally got there around 4:30 and called it a day.  I had accidentally taken a zero in the woods, well a nero as I did walk like .4 up the tiny hill....The next morning Pants and UT were ready to go hiking just as I was waking up.  UT had gotten his fill of the AT (and a lot of respect for his nephew for what he goes through everyday) and had made plans to get picked up at the road nine miles away and take the bus to visit Pant's cousin in CT for the remainder of the week.  They were gonna join us on Sunday for a short day hike before he flew back to Chicago.

Meanwhile Daystar and I hiked a quick four miles to Lake Tioriti where there are showers, vending machines and a beach.  The showers were too gross even for someone who hadn't showered in a few days, not to mention the chains you pull to turn on the water were broken so I couldn't even reach the lever.  But the vending machine ice cream sandwich was pleasant enough, which I enjoyed while chatting with the Honeymoon Hikers and Spirit (this is Spirit's 5th attempt at a thru-hike, every time she starts over at Springer.  This attempt is her last as we are not letting her quit).  We finally pulled ourselves away from the beach as we still had some mountains to climb. We headed up and over Black Mt. which provided views back to NYC and then played leap frog over Palisades Parkway, a busy 4-lane divided highway that was not very pedestrian friendly.  We passed Beechy Bottom Brook which, no surprise, wasn't flowing.  Luckily we had gotten water from some trail magic at Seven Lakes Dr., because it didn't look like we would be getting water for another 15 miles.  We climbed up and over West Mountain, and than began the fun part. 

Gribley, who had already done this section to get ahead of us while he was in Ohio, left a mini scavenger hunt for us.  The first night out of NYC we had all received a text, guiding us to a location on Bear Mountain.  We were instructed to go halfway up Bear, find three trees growing closely together with two large boulders in front.  Under one of the boulders would be further instructions.  We started our climb up Bear and when the AT split left from Perkins Memorial Drive (an abandoned mountain road) we followed his directions to the random tree.  Under the boulder were detailed instructions for a secret slackpack!  Now where we stood on the mountain, the trail banked left up some stone stairs, presumably up and over Bear Mountain.  The abandoned road we were on curved around the mountain.  Gribley had discovered one could walk the short distance down the road and it would meet back up with the AT coming down the north side of the mountain.  We could stash our packs in some bush and weightlessly glide up and over Bear.  Genius:)

Daystar and I waited for Pants so we could share Gribley's surprise, and we collectively decided to wait until morning to go over Bear as it was already 6pm.  We camped right on that abandoned road, and when morning hit, we hid our packs grabbing nothing but our water bottles and cameras, and started our easy climb over Bear (sidebar: there are about five different Bear Mountains on the AT.  The top of this Bear was crowded as it is a very popular state park in NY, and it was a Saturday, and yes there is a road on the north side for the tourists). We climbed the Perkins Memorial Tower which had views of NYC and a collection of tiles dispersing various facts about the history of the park, enjoyed some Gatorade from the vending machine and started our gleeful descent back down to our packs.

Our plan was to make it a short day to the Graymoor, a monastery near the trail that lets hikers camp in their ball field, which apparently had a pavilion and outdoor shower.  This way we could take our time through the rest of the park.  We picked up our packs and continued our climb down Bear.  We were vomited right out onto Bear Mt. Recreation Area near Hessian Lake.  It was crowded and awful.  People and children were oozing everywhere, families out grilling for the weekend and so forth.  Pants and I went to get hot dogs which cost us our first born, decided not to sell our souls for the insanely over priced Bud Light and sat back down to try and enjoy the lake.  We quickly realized we were way too overwhelmed and decided to move on.  We migrated to the concession/bathroom area (which the trail actually goes through) to fill up our water in the restroom sink.  The water was a disgusting murky brown, due to the pipes, but I was assured safe to drink.  But after drinking clear spring water for months I couldn't bring myself to do it. 

We dumped the brown goo and continued down the trail which weaved through the park. I paused to yell at a boy who was throwing rocks at ducks, at which point DS and Pants thought it was best to quickly remove me from an area so infested with children.  We quickly started walking to the Trailside Museum and Zoo.  Oddly the AT runs straight through a zoo.  A tiny, depressing zoo.  DS and I are not the biggest fans of zoos, and this one was a showcase of all the types of plants and wildlife one would find in the Appalachian Mountains.  So basically what we see everyday, except in cages.  After the seeing the wolf pacing in his 10ft cell we couldn't take anymore and decided to get the hell out of the park.  We flew past the bear cage (which is the lowest point on the AT), ignored most of the other cages and finally emerged on the bridge, after which the trail led us back into the woods (if you are wondering how we know where the trail is when it goes through towns/parks etc., they painted blazes on random things like signs and telephone poles and sometimes even the sidewalk.  Sometimes it takes a minute, but when the trail forces us into civilization, we just have to locate a blaze and play connect the dots).

We were in the woods for about five miles before the trail crossed US9.  At this point in my day I was really missing the backcountry of the south, when we never crossed busy highways.  But I was also missing hot sandwiches, and this road crossing had a deli on it so we made our way over.  Soon the picnic tables out front were full of packs and people.  Eventually most of us made our way over to Graymoor, another two miles down the AT and .4 off the trail.  We were expecting a quiet night in the back of a monastery with plenty of time to read and journal.  We arrived at the yard and immediately noticed the large gathering of Ecuadorians.  At first I thought there was a birthday party going on, they had pulled all the picnic tables together, decorated the pavilion and had loud Latin dance music blaring on a PA system of some sort.  I walked over to the Honeymooners, who were standing by the "shower," and they filled me in. Apparently they had all come down from NYC to spend the weekend worshipping.  Fair enough.  It looked like we hit the tail end of the festivities and that people were packing up.  DS, Pants and I went to set up our tents on the opposite side of the field where all the other hikers seemed to be making their homes, and went to get in line for the solar shower (any time you read solar shower anywhere, translate 'hose nailed to a wall.' It will be cold). But these days it was so hot out a cold shower was welcome.

It was a pretty relaxing night chatting with other hikers and the folks staying out here to worship.  Around 9pm as most of the hikers were making their way to their tents, I was sitting chatting with DS at her tent, when we heard a bunch of chanting.  We turned our heads, and only lord knows where they came from but about 50 Ecuadorians dressed in all white carrying candles began a slow procession up the road.  Every hiker stopped what they were doing, rapt in a confused awe and slightly nervous about what we were about to be a part of.  After the procession the real party began.  Now most of the hikers thought surely this can't go on past midnight, but I have partied with an Ecuadorian or two in my days and I knew right then I would not be getting any sleep that night.  The singing the praying the worshipping the singing the praying the singing all began in a nonstop cycle.  All of course blared over the loudspeaker.  Not until 5:30am did the all night Ecuadorian Catholic Festival wrap up.  Not a single hiker got a wink of sleep that night, I assume neither did any of the Catholics, but as they drove away to their beds in their Shakira blaring SUV's, we packed up our tents to hike 20 miles.  There was no one to be upset with.  The monastery opened this space to everyone.  We only wished the monks might have put up a sign, something along the likes of "Welcome hikers, you will be joined tonight by the entire Ecuadorian population of NYC." I might have camped elsewhere is all I'm saying. 

DS and I took off by 7am, ready to just get this day going.  I had intentions of getting a few miles and napping somewhere in the woods.  We had plans to meet UT and Pant's cousin, Hank, at Dennytown Rd. at 2pm, only eight miles away, plenty of time.  But once I got some Beyonce grooving in my earbuds I just decided to push to the road (dance music is great to hike to, just don't try to dance while hiking, take it from me, it's treacherous).  Pants and I got there early, but luckily so did UT and Hank.  We sat in the grass with the Honeymooners and Spirit and waited for DS to arrive.  She got their shortly after we did, we all ate lunch and then threw our packs in UT's car, invited the Honeymooners and Spirit to do the same, and we all set off pack-free for the RPH shelter, some ten miles away.  The shelter was near a road so UT was going to meet us there and drop off our packs.  We cruised past Sunken Mine Rd, past Canopus Lake and up some random hill whose name escapes me.  We sat down to have a snack with a new hiker friend, Falls, when we started to feel a storm approaching.  We thought it unwise to be sitting on a rocky exposed outcropping and started hiking.  The second I stood up it started pouring.  I mean POURING.  God must have been really sad that day cuz that was the worst rain we had ever hiked in.  The trail became a river as I trudged  though shin deep, pine needle infested water.  Hank picked an unfortunate ten miles to join his cousin for a hike. 

We still had five miles to hike to get to the shelter where all our belongings sat (nice and dry thankfully, couldn't say the same for us).  We were moving pretty fast when all the sudden Pants and I came upon DS and Hank standing under a tree.  They pointed out the exposed ridgeline ahead and voiced their very valid apprehension at crossing it, considering the lightning was right above us.  Not a good time to be the tallest thing on a mountain.  We stood there hoping the lightening would pass quickly.  After about five minutes we all started to get a bit cold.  Well, if the options are freeze to death or get struck by lightning, I'm gonna go with the lightning, at least that might result in a cool scar.  We made the decision and in a single file line, sprinted across the wet rocks while trying to duck, because that will deter the lightning of course (insert sarcastic font here).

The four of us eventually made our way to RPH around 4:45.  RPH is an enclosed shelter so we were excited to get to it and out of the storm.  There were also some trail maintainers there who were cooking burgers for the hikers.  UT arrived a bit after us with our dry packs and we quickly changed and sat to enjoy a burger and some beers (courtesy of UT).  We bid farewell to UT and Hank as they drove off and we settled in for the night, attempting to ignore the extremely crabby shelter caretaker.  He had his tools and stuff everywhere since this shelter was also hosting the maintainers over the weekend as they worked on a section of the trail.  He got mad at us for being in the way, obviously forgetting that the point of the shelters was for hikers.  Even when I do stay at shelters I still usually tent as I have a hard time sleeping in them, and this night was no exception.  Everytime someone moves you hear crinkling and swishing since all of our hiking gear is made of lightweight noisy fabric.  So for the 2nd night in a row I 'awoke' after getting no sleep.

The bright side was that the night before, one of the trail maintainers wives, Amy, told all the hikers we were welcome to come to her house to shower and do laundry if we wish.  She lived two miles up the trail on the Hosner Mt. Rd crossing.  So early the next morning, DS, Pants, the Honeymooners, Spirit and I all climbed up and over Hosner Mt. pumped for the free shower that lay on the other side.  Pants and I arrived at Amy's last, a bit unsure we were at the correct house, until we saw DS's trekking poles in the yard.  We knocked on the door and were let in by Tumbler (of the Honeymooners) who seemed to have made herself at home.  Amy was upstairs brewing coffee and cooking up waffles for everyone.  Pants and I started our laundry and I hopped in the shower.  We spent the morning enjoying delicious waffles, talking to Amy about the trail (her husband is a former thru-hiker) and comparing favorite animals with her two kids.  It is people like her who restore my faith in humanity.  Very few people are simply willing to take in complete strangers and give them something as simple as a shower and a waffle.  And this is what I love about the trail culture, we aren't strangers, we are hikers.  And though there is a difference (although slight) between a long distance backpacker and a homeless person, our ability to continue with our journey is very much dependent on the kindness of others.  People need to help people more.  It is that simple.  I will never again drive by a hitchhiker in need of a ride for I have been that hitchhiker, or walk by a lost traveler in need of directions for I have been that lost traveler, and anytime I can sprinkle random acts of kindness on someone just needing a little help I will.  It's amazing how something as simple as a shower and waffle can make someone's day.

After we left Amy's, DS, Pants and I continued up the trail.  We stopped into a small market a bit off the trail to get enough food to get us to Kent, CT.  We only had about ten miles on the day when we decided to call it quits at Morgan Stewart Shelter.  The next morning DS was up and at it by 7am, just when Pants and I were waking up.  She was determined to do a 20, while Pants and I had no such aspirations.  The two of us took our time over to Nuclear Lake, where we took a long break and made a hot lunch.  It was a quiet, breezy day and we didn't notice anyone pass us during our two hour lunch.  The trail curved around Nuclear Lake and up and over West Mountain.  We skipped Telephone Pioneers Shelter and continued on to County Rd 20, where we were told we could get water from the spigot at the purple house on the right....random... but we'll take it.  Afterwards we began a grueling field walk.  It was now the heat of the day, and for two and a half miles we were completely exposed to the sun in a stupid cow field.  I would like to formally inform the ATC that I am not trying to walk through any more cow fields.  We have had a lot of challenges in terms of the weather out here, and everyone has their own personal enemy.  Daystar fears the cold like a vampire fears the sun.  I've seen her walking around in a down jacket when I've got shorts and a tank on.  For me though, it's the heat. It sucks my soul dry.  I grew up in North Dakota and live in Minnesota.  I'm not suppose to be walking around in this shit.  I 'll never survive global warming.

The second we got to shade I laid down on the ground ready to die and fertilize the earth.  I didn't die though, eventually cooled down, got my act together and made my way to the Appalachian Trail Railroad station.  If we hadn't wanted to be in NYC on Gribley's bday, we would have simply hiked here, there is a train that stops literally on the AT and takes you into NYC.  Across from the station (which was simply a platform) was a landscaping and gardening center.  This wonderful little business lets hikers use their shower and also lets them tent on the property.  We had plans to go another six miles to Wiley Shelter so we passed on the tenting but I gratefully hopped in the shower.  A cold shower cooled my body temp. down, but it sucked that I had to put my smelly clothes right back on.  We made dinner on their porch with Rebound, who was planning on staying.  We heard later from him, and a few others who decided to tent, that the spots were right near a busy road that kept them up all night, so I'm glad we decided to move on.  We waited out most of the heat and then started our six mile field walk to Wiley.

Even though it was pretty flat, I was thoroughly exhausted from the heat so I set up my tent and crashed immediately after getting water.  There was a pump at this shelter, which had run dry of course.  We found a trickle of a stream we were able to pipe with a leaf and pull water from, though it took about 15 minutes.  I couldn't wait until we were farther north where water wasn't such a problem.  You eventually get to a point where you really start to miss the convienence of a faucet.  When I get home I'm just going to sit in the kitchen and hang out with the faucet.  Water at my command whenever I want, such a beautiful thing.  I started to drift off to sleep, happy we were the only ones here so I could dream about faucets undisturbed, when I heard the strangest bird.  Well we eventually agreed it was a bird, it sounded like some type of wounded pig in need of assistance.  I am fairly accustomed to all the various noises the woods have to offer at this point, and I hadn't heard this one yet.  Making a mental note to ask Jaybird about it later (he's a bird guy), I rolled over, ignoring the screeching pig bird, hoping it was native only to NY, for tomorrow we would be crossing the border into Connecticut, one state closer to Big-K!!   

Getting in Some Urban Miles: NYC July 6th-9th

The entire bus ride to NYC, we prepared ourselves for the culture shock that was inevitable upon arriving in Times Square at 11pm on a Friday night.  We were literally going from the woods (4 months!) to the opposite of the woods.  True, we often dip into towns to resupply, but we are talking towns with a population of max 4,000 here.  Daystar and I were somewhat prepared, she used to live here and I have been here a number of times.  We warned Pants and Gribley that it was going to be chaos when we walked out the door.  Considering it was already 11pm, we had just done a 19 mile sprint through the mountains, hadn't showered and were still wearing our hiking clothes, we opted not to go out that night.  We got in a cab to head over to the Upper West Side after saying goodbye to Cheesewater, Towlie and Slugger who were heading over to Brooklyn.  Daystar and Pants went to pick up pizza and beer while Gribley and I popped into a market to get some breakfast foods and toiletries we don't usually carry (shampoo, soap...basically all the toiletries) so we could shower like normal people all weekend (at this point we consider jumping in a river a shower).

We were soon at the doorstop of Ashley and Jim's apartment.  Ashley is a friend of Daystar's from when she lived here. She and her BF Jim had two apartments, the 2nd one they rented out to a friend who sells antique violins.  He only stays there when he is in the city about once a month, so Ashley offered it up to us for the weekend, as long as we were careful with the violins.  So we had our own apartment (full of violins and oddly placed chairs), which was perfect.  That way we weren't trying to cram four smelly hikers in someones already too small NYC apartment.  That first night we hung out with Ashley and Jim, answering all their questions about the trail.  Around 1am we were all fading fast - we had hiked 19 miles that day and 1am was waaaaay past hiker midnight which is 9pm.  In fact it's way past regular midnight.  We went up to 'our place', took showers and crashed.

The next morning I went down to Joe's coffee to get coffee obviously, and walked over to Central Park to wait for everyone to get mobilized.  We wandered around the UWS for a bit (tried to find a place that sells mustache wax for the boys) but since it was hot as hell out we decided to go to a movie we had all been wanting to see - Moonrise Kingdom.  It's about boyscouts (which Pants and Gribley both were), hilarious and oddly applicable to our current life.  I would definitely recommend it.  We then popped into Magnolia's for a birthday cupcake for Gribley (banana pudding for me at the recommendation of my expert source Aneessa), then headed to SoHo to go, where else, REI.  If there is an outfitter in the vicinity we will find it, and be in it. 

Gribley treated himself to a new pack (welcome to Team Osprey buddy!) and the three of us surprised him with a new Z-lite (for those of you currently sleeping in beds, Z-lite is an awesome sleeping pad we all carry, except I actually use my blow up neo-air for sleeping and my Z-lite for chillin).  We then made our way to Mexican Radio to begin the b-day celebration.  After a few margaritas and some guac we stumbled our way to the Hell's Kitchen area for Mr. Fab's party.  He worked at this bar called Reunion Surf Bar, a small lower level bar that only played dance music from the 90's and was decorated with various surf paraphernalia.  It was awesome.  We continued our liquid diet as I time traveled to the next morning....when I woke up, the space previously occupied by my brain was now being rented out to a very active sledgehammer and my mouth tasted like bad decisions.  I managed to make my way to the corner with DS to grab breakfast sandwiches for everyone and copious amounts of coffee for me. 

Once we finally got our lives together we set out for our day.  The plan was to have a slow (very slow, no sudden movements) stroll through the park to the UES and the Met.  I couldn't have been happier spending my Sunday afternoon meandering through this magnificent museum, introducing my friends to some of my favorite artists.  We left the Met, headed back to the apartment for a quick siesta before meeting Daystar's friend Melissa and her boyfriend for dinner at some restaurant that I never knew the name of to begin with.  We were all completely exhausted after dinner and headed back to the apartment to pass out immediately.

We all got up decently early on Monday morning.  Gribley was headed back out to the trail, he was getting off the AT for a few days to go to a family reunion and wedding in Ohio, so he wanted to try and get a bit ahead of us now so he wasn't so far behind us when he got back on.  We bid him farewell, then Pants and I took off for Staten Island while Daystar went to visit her sister.  Now why were Pants and I going to Staten Island you ask? Well, my Depo shot was due, and the SI Planned Parenthood was the only location I could get in at.  The ferry also gives tourists excellent views of the Statue of Liberty without having to pay the price, which Pants had never seen, so we set off for a Staten Island adventure.  We made it to the ferry in one piece (only one 'lost' moment when we realized we were going the wrong way on the subway) and were herded like cattle onto the big orange boat. Once we landed and everyone made the loop to get back on, we continued up the street and found my destination with ease.  Not being interested in sitting in the tiny waiting room with a bunch of soon to be teen dads, Pants found a bar down the street and was off to mingle with the locals.  I finally emerged, hours later, and joined him for a beer.  When we finally decided that we had spent far too much time in Staten Island we headed back to catch the 2pm ferry.

We got back to the city and took the subway BACK to the REI so Pants could get a new pack as well.  Apparently you can take the hiker out of the woods but you can't stop him from going to REI eight million times.  We finally made it back to the UWS where I had just enough time to find my way to Columbia to meet my friend Kyle.  DS was out meeting other friends for dinner so we left Pants to his own devices.  I was planning on meeting Kyle at the gates to Columbia at 5pm and got there about 15 minutes early, so I took a quick stroll around campus.  It really is a gorgeous school, Kyle is the Assistant Director for Event Planning there (or some impressive title similar to that) and truly is one of my favorite people.  He moved out to NYC not long after we graduated so I hadn't seen him in awhile and was getting really excited.  I realized he was going to be the first person from my 'real life' I was going to see and for the first time it felt really strange to be out of the woods.  I squealed when I saw him, gave him a big hug and we headed down the street to an adorable wine bar for a pitcher of sangria. 

An hour later we grabbed the bus to go across the park to the UES to meet our friend Aneessa for dinner  (also a UofM grad and my lil sis at AXO).  She had just gotten engaged, and also just completed the NYC triathlon the day before.  She didn't even look a wee bit exhausted as we headed out the door of her apartment in search of food.  She is such a motivated individual and I am so proud of everything she has accomplished since school.  We landed at a small but delicious Mexican restaurant and I had such a great night catching up with these old friends.  It was all the sudden as if I had never been hiking the AT, I started feeling at home in NYC and I also started missing my friends and family dearly.  Aneessa walked us back to the bus stop where we all said our goodbyes.  Kyle got on the train back to Jersey and I on the bus back across the park to my temporary home.  I loved my visit to NYC, and could definitely see myself living there.  But I was getting way too comfortable so it was time to get back into the woods.  New York the city was spectacular, but I still had to hike across New York the state (plus five more states) As John Muir said, "The mountains are calling and I must go..."

Apparently this is the only picture I took in here you go

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fist Pumpin Through Jersey June 30th-July 6th

Just kidding I never fist pumped.  I did, however, wake up the next morning after my two days of hell feeling refreshed and rested.  I had eight miles to get out of Pennsylvania, and I was ready to leave.  Daystar was hiking by 6:30am to make it to the PO - the rest of us took our time.  Pants, Gribley and Lighthouse caught up to us and told us that Towlie, Cheesewater and Slugger weren't too far behind.  We had a lazy morning then tackled the 6 mile trek to Delaware Water Gap (not in Delaware).  Though I had some oatmeal for breakfast, the fact that I didn't have dinner the night before left me starving still.  I had pie on the brain.  I blew past everyone and burst onto the Main St. of DWG excited to eat.  I picked up  DS who had stopped at the church hostel to shower after getting her package, and we headed to the bakery.  This adorable little bakery was totally overwhelming for a starving hiker.  There were so many different pies and delicious treats, I walked away with an entire chocolate pie, a basket of cookies, hot dog and breakfast sandwich.  We sat outside on the picnic tables and waited for Lighthouse, who also wanted to browse the goods.  The three of us sat around this place for a good hour and a half before we finally decided to head back to the center of town and meet everyone.  We happened upon DWG during it's 100th(?) anniversary festival, so the streets were lined with vendors and there were people milling about all over.  If I hadn't had the Jersey plan I would have loved to spend the day here.

Daystar and I at the bakery!
We popped back in at the church hostel so DS could grab her pack, said farewell to Onespeed who was staying there, and headed to the park.  We were all still waiting on Pants and Gribley to get down the mountain (they had apparently gotten a little lost) so DS and I went on a little date at the retro ice cream parlor across the street.  The boys finally made an appearance in the middle of our mint chocolate milkshake.  We gathered up the rest of the troops (we were a troop - Pace, Hungus, Towlie, Cheezewater, Slugger, Jaybird, Lighthouse, Pants, Gribley, Daystar and myself) and hiked the remaining two miles out of wretched PA and into Jersey!  The first two miles of Jersey involved walking on roads and highways, and our first step into Jersey was on the I-80 bridge over the Delaware River.  The 11 of us were a bit of a sight to the cars whizzing past - packs on, dirty and sweating, it probably looked like the homeless uniting and mobilizing.  We could have cared less as we were so excited to get out of PA.  Pace and Hungus's friend Sideshow and Hungus's sister met us around the Kittatinny Visitors Center, where we were whisked away to the Hungus Hidaway.

Crossing into Jersy!

It was about a 45 minute drive back to Hungus and Pace's house, which was pretty centrally located from the AT.  Their house was wonderfully awesome.  Hungus hiked the trail back in 2007 and is hiking again this year with his girlfriend Pace.  The best way to describe them is that they are geninuly good people who live life right.  They had about an acre of land that was beautifully landscaped and a seperate little building where Hungus has an avid hobby of brewing beer (which was delicious).  That night Hungus had organized a party to see his family and friends.  It was so nice to get a glimpse into a fellow hikers life - to get insight into how a trailmate exsists outside the woods seems a rare thing so I'm glad I got this opportunity.  Much drinking (Lighthouse did his first kegstand), disc golf and questionable dancing was had before we all claimed various pass out corners in the house (Slugger went with the bathroom floor).

The next day was a planned zero.  Pace and Hungus went to a family BBQ and trustingly gave us run of the house.  We mostly relaxed and watched movies and took turns cuddling with their awesome cat Moxie, but Jaybird got busy in the kitchen making a giant pile of food for everyone.  Though we were all a bit groggy from the night before, it was so nice to be in a warm home with good food and good friends.  We had three days of slackpacking lined up.  Sideshow was going to be shuttling us back and forth from the strail so we could get in NJ miles while still staying at the house.

Now I know some of you Jersey Shore fans may find this shocking, but the part of northern NJ we were hiking through was gorgeous and fist pump free.  The terrain was easy, the weather was perfect and the views were great.  We got a late start Monday for our first day of slackpacking. As it turns out, it is hard to get 11 people mobilzed in a house with only one bathroom.  We finally got out of the house, but then had to go to the grocery store to get lunches for everyone.  We finally got hiking at 11:30ish and pretty much stuck together until Sunfish Pond.  Here we took a break by a small outcropping full of random rock sculptures hikers had created over the years.  There was a lot of camping around the pond and I would have liked to stay if I wasn't slacking.

The entire family
It was smooth sailing to the Catfish lookout tower, which we climbed and had a beer at the top (when you're not carrying gear you have room for things like beer, and looked it even rhymed).  That first day we finished our 16 mile slackpack at Blue Mountain Lakes Rd. and headed home to a delicious chicken alrefredo dinner Jaybird had conjured up (Hungus's mom had stocked the kitchen to maximum capicity so the theme of the week was 'eat everything you see').  Tuesday and Wednesday were similar, easy hiking (16-18 miles) and coming home to good meals.  Tuesday night Hungus took us to an AYCE sushi buffet, which I had been craving for four months.  We all devoured our raw fish in a happy silence, as slackpacking did not detract from our hiker appetites.

Wednesday was the 4th, we were hoping to get in a little over 18 miles before going home to BBQ.  The terrain was pleasant as we blew past Mashipacong and Rutherford Shelters and entered High Point State Park.  This is where the highest point in NJ lives (they got clever with the name). We paused there to collect our free soda's they hand out to thru hikers, and to watch Secrets create the perfect 4th of July outfit (white underwear with a flag tucked in the front).  We decided to skip the beach and the crowds and continue our stroll to a quiet spot in the woods to have a few beers.  We finished our 4th of July hike, got picked up at NJ 284 near Unionville and went back to Casa de Hungus for a feast.  We had salmon, steak, pulled pork, and of course, some homebrew.  Everyone was actually pretty tired, despite our weightless week of hiking.  Trying to bathe, feed and cart around 11 people in one house is exhausting, but totally worth it.  I'm happy I got to spend some non-trail time with trial friends, and experience the beauty of NJ with people who are from there and truly proud of it.  Not only did Jersey's trail, weather and people agree with me, but it also gave me my closest and largest bear encounter!  On the first day of the slackpack a giant beast of a bear sauntered out onto the trail right in front of me.  I froze and held my breath but it never took notice of me and went about its day.

Thursday we dedicated to getting the house cleaned up, and running everyone around to the grocery/Walmart etc. for resupply for our return to the woods.  We were all going to hike out Thursday night minus Pace and Hungus, who were taking the weekend off to go to Phish.  The rest of us got dropped off at around 5pm at NJ284, where we left off the day before, to do an easy four mile hike to Pochuck Mountain Shelter.  At this point everyone was branching off to carry out various agendas, but most of us had plans to hike 35 miles in a day and a half to NY17, hitch 5 miles to a train station in Tuxedo, NY and catch the noon train to NYC!  Towlie and Cheesewater are from Long Island so they wanted to see friends and family with Slugger along for the ride.  DS used to live in NYC so she wanted to see some friends, as did I, and Pants and Gribley had never been and were excited to go.  Plus it was Gribley's birthday on Saturday, and what better way to celebrate than being in the Big Apple.  Lighthouse and Jaybird were skipping the city and continuing on to Massachusetts.  With the exception of those two, the rest of us were thrilled for our 'vacations' (at this point we no longer consider this trip a vacation, hiking is our job, which we enjoy, but any deviation from it is a vacation).

Friday was looking pretty horrendous, we had 25 miles to do, which included climbs over Pochuck Mountain, Wawayanda Mountain and a rocky four mile ridge past Prospect Rock.  I was the first to reach the top of Wawayanda Mountain and I was exhausted!  This trail was tough and we still had a long way to go.  Our goal was to make Saturday as short as possible so we had time to hitch in and catch the train.  I was no longer happy with this plan of exhausting ourselves. I whipped out the old iPhone and started searching alternate ways to get to NYC from this mountain top I sat on, that didn't involve a death march to the train station. 

Well, 11 miles from where I sat was the Village Vista trail, a one mile blue blaze that plopped you out in the town of Greenwood Lake, NY.  There one could catch an 8:20pm bus to Port Authority.  We could be in NYC that night!  I had spoken to Peach and Overdrive, and this was their plan as well.  As soon as the rest of the troops got up the mountain, I shared with them my new agenda, and it was agreed upon to go into NYC that night.  The next 11 miles felt like a sprint.  The trail was rocky and tough.  We blew past the NJ/NY state line (thanks Jersey!) and flew in silent determination to the Village Vista trail.  The one mile down to the town literally was a sprint, as we got to the bus stop with four minutes to spare. 

We loaded onto the bus smelly, sweaty and dirty from our 19 mile trek that day, but couldn't be more pumped to be heading into the city.  We had plans to drink good coffee, eat good food and go to a party Saturday night that Mr. Fabulous (fellow hiker from NYC) was throwing.  I was also excited to see some of my favorites as well - Annessa and Kyle, who I hadn't seen in quite some time.  Exhausted from our scramble down the mountain, I sat back and relaxed until my arrival in the Big Apple!