A few hours in, the rain let up and a beautifully cool and breezy day took it's place. I crossed into New York and walked the rocky ridges until I came to a road crossing for the town of Greenwood Lake. I have friends from this town who no longer live there, but I had to stop none the less. It was getting late in the day so I popped into a pizza place for a couple slices. New York pizza is something not to pass up if you have a choice. Then I went next door to a gas station for a coffee and started walking back towards the trail. Before heading back into the woods I made one more stop at an ice cream shop right next to the trail head a got a very large and amazing vanilla milkshake. With my belly full I waddled a few more miles to the nearest shelter and set up my tent.
The next morning was still cool and breezy and made for pretty easy hiking. I entered into Harriman State Park where as a teenager I had a backpacking adventure with two on my friends. It was March and the first warm streak we had after a cold winter. Feeling stir crazy my friends Mike, Gabe and I hastily through together a two day trip into Harriman. We left Mike's 1985 red Chevy Cavalier at the trail head and set off on the trail. Mike and I had just bought new Gregory external frame backpacks because we were dreaming of one day hiking the Appalachian Trail. We stuffed them with every useless dodad we could think to bring. The packs easily had to weigh close to 50 pounds. Gabe on the other hand had a small little backpack that couldn't possibly hold enough gear. The three of us climbed up and down the peaks of the park, high fiving when we made to a spectacular overlook. When darkness fell we set up our tent and Mike and I scoffed when Gabe pulled out what looked like a little sleeping bag. We unfurled our big heavy rectangular flannel sleeping bags and we all crawled into my three person tent. As we slept the temperature plummeted. Gabe didn't notice because he was snuggled in his nice warm down sleeping bag. Mike and I shivered all night because out sleeping bags were meant to keep us warm in 80 degree heat. We woke up to frozen water bottles and chattering teeth. Mike and I threw on our jeans and started a fire, Gabe woke up well rested and ready to start the day. The hike back to the car was very quick to say the least, but a good lesson was learned about preparedness.
My travels through the park this time was not filled with the possibility of freezing to death, but it was still fun. I stopped at a lake a short distance off the trail and utilized the ice cream vending machine there because that is just what you are supposed to do. As the the day drew to a close I met my father at a rest stop where the trail crosses a major highway. I spent the night and resupplied to be back on the trail the next day.
Morning came and again I said farewell to my pops. I started back where I left off and was headed uphill. During the steep climb I saw this frolicking critter who looked like he was just happy to be alive.
Next I climbed Bear Mountain which is heavily visited by tourists from nearby New York City. The trail though was recently worked on and was a pleasure to walk. At the bottom of the mountain the trail actually goes directly through a zoo. It was a bit strange to be walking amoungst throngs of children while I was carrying my backpack and sweating like a yeti in summer. After exiting the zoo I crossed the Hudson River on Bear Mountain bridge and then again climbed up another mountain that I am sure has a name, but I sure don't remember it. The trail wound up and down and over several roads. At one road crossing there was a gas station on the corner that had a huge selection of semi-fresh food. So I had two slices of heated up pizza to eat for dinner. It was late in the day when I finished my dinner and only two miles away was a place called Greymore Spiritual Center run by Franciscan monks that allowed hikers to stay in field on their property. The place was really nice and I met up with several other thru hikers there. We chatted away until dark and then all turned in.
The next day I was up and moving by six o'clock, unfortunately though it wasn't north. I hiked back to the gas station with a few others and had a nice breakfast of coffee and an egg sandwich. Well fed I set off. It wan't long into the day when I stopped at a road crossing to grab a bite to eat. I sat on a rock and was digging into my granola when a car drove up and the lady inside started chatting me up. It started with the usual questions "Where did you start from?", "Where are you going?", "How long have you been out?", "How can one person be so fabulously handsome?". Okay that last one I made up, but she asked me what I did for a living and when I told her I was a horse trainer she lit up. She said she used to ride and has a horse and it is at a big beautiful farm. Then she asked me if I wanted to go see it. Of course I did.
I got into the car the idling car, she tried to restart it, then put it in gear and off we went. She drove me all over a place called Glynwood farm which is big into sustainable farming. We got out of the car and looked at the giant pigs and their little piglets. Then we got into the idling car, she tried to restart it, then put it in gear and off we went. She took me to an amazing horse barn that was so posh I felt like I was dirtier than the manure pile. She turned off the car and we walked through the stables and she told me stories of when she used to ride as young girl in Germany. We got back into the car, she started it, tried to put it in gear, then tried to restart, then put it in gear and off we went. It was really a cool experience and one I would probably never have had if it wasn't for being an AT hiker. The kind lady dropped me back off on the trail and made me promise I would send her a post card when I was done. I said goodbye, she tried to restart the idling car, put it in gear and then away she drove.
As soon as I started hiking again the heat of the day became oppressive. It was well into the nineties and it made any kind of exertion miserable. Luckily for me though I found a side trail that went to a lake that had a concession stand. So I sat down and ate a hamburger and ice cream. I met two other thru hikers there and we all jumped into the lake after eating. There was plenty of day left so we set off walking again before long. I kept pace with the other hikers who were around my age and we talked the rest of the day away. When it started to get late we looked at our guide books and found there was a deli just down a cross road that allowed hikers to stay behind the store. I ended the day with more pizza in my belly. New York is amazing!
I had coffee and an egg sandwich in the morning and set off with a smile on my face. I can't remember the last time I had a meal out of my food bag. The heat started early and it wan't long before I was drenched and looking for an excuse to stop and rest. It came in a place to swim called Nuclear Lake. What could possibly be wrong with swimming in a place with that name. I sat on a submerged rock and cooled my body down with several other hikers. A little turtle poked it's head out of the surface of the water and we joked that it probably had a human body and only a little tiny turtle head, ya know, because it was Nuclear Lake.
I started hiking again with a glow about me, but it didn't help with the heat at all. The miles came very slowly and with great effort. I crossed railroad tracks that had service directly from the Appalachian Trail into New York City, I had something else on my mind. Just past the tracks was another road crossing with a deli a short distance away. So I set off down the road, cooking in the sun, until I came to the little store. I ate a nice ham and cheese and more ice cream. I unsuccessfully arranged a pick up from my father to get out of the heat so I found a place to sit in the shade until the temperature dropped some. Then I hiked a little further to a shelter for the night, I spent the night sweating instead of sleeping.
I was up and moving before the sun rose just to try to make life a little more bearable. The forecast was calling for another day of temperatures in the upper nineties. Thankfully there was only one major climb that I tackled early and then it was relatively easy terrain. I made it the thirteen miles to the spot I was meeting my father for a pick up by ten o'clock.
Tomorrow I head back out on the trail and for the next couple days I can only expect the same weather. Ugg.