I left NYC and the city life behind me and stepped back on the Appalachian Trail and was met with new trials from heat to parasitic bugs. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
After Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York were beautiful with vistas, rock scrambles, and bears. Check it out!
I woke up in Lian’s apartment in New York City. We said our goodbyes as he went to work and I set about packing my things. I planned on making the 11:15am bus back to Bear Mountain but my plans quickly changed when I got a message from Sticks.
Sticks is a British hiker I met and hiked with in Virginia. I hadn’t seen him in at least a month so it was a pleasant surprise when he told me he was in the city. We made plans to meet up and I decided I’d take the later bus back to the trail.
I had a horrible time at the post office trying to mail my bounce box to a trail town. The post office workers in NYC did not understand how general delivery worked and gave me a hard time with the existing labels on my box. I hadn’t had a problem at any of the other post offices on the trail since they were used to thru-hikers mailing things.
I met Sticks at a Chick-fil-A and ate lunch in Central Park. We walked around for a few hours catching up. He was off to the UK since his visa was up; he had never planned on finishing the trail. He’ll be traveling to New Zealand in a few months on a work visa and I’m likely heading there as well after this trek (I’ll keep blogging about my adventures!). The Te Araroa is New Zealand’s version of the AT and we both seem to have hiking fever now. We talked about teaming up and trying to publicize our hike if we ever do make it to the Te Araroa. He’s a fun guy and I hope our paths cross again.
I headed back to Lian’s and grabbed my backpack. I hadn’t worn it in four days but it wasn’t that heavy. I hadn’t gone overboard on the food resupply. At the Port Authority bus station, I took the 2:45pm bus back to Bear Mountain, NY, where I had left the trail five days earlier.
It was a beautiful, hot afternoon as I set off on the trail. The AT runs through a small zoo at Bear Mountain where they rehabilitate wild animals before releasing them again. I arrived just after the zoo closed. There was a blue-blaze trail that went around the zoo but I’m trying to hike the AT as a purist and not skip any sections. I had three options: 1) I could camp nearby and wait until the morning when the zoo reopens, 2) take the bypass trail around the zoo and forever know I skipped a small section of actual trail, or 3) break into the zoo.
With a clear conscience of my AT purist status but perhaps some shaky morals, I continued onwards to the Bear Mountain Bridge. It was a beautiful suspension bridge crossing the Hudson River. I somehow ended up crossing the bridge on the wrong side and realized I had missed a small section of the AT where it crossed the road before the bridge. I figured if I went to all the trouble at the zoo trying to maintain my purist status, I better stay consistent. I crossed the bridge back to the place where I missed the trail crossing the road and walked across the bridge a third time, but on the correct side. Sheesh, karma.
The trail returned to the woods after the river. My body was taking its time getting used to hiking again. My knees were rusty and I felt sluggish. I hoped my trail legs would return soon. I passed a SOBO hiker couple. I guess I’ll start running into them more and more in the coming weeks.
An hour before sunset I arrived at a gas station with a grill and had a sandwich for dinner. From there I walked less than a mile down the trail to a spur that led to a Christian spiritual center. They allow hikers to camp on their rec field. It was after sunset so I was surprised to discover I was the only hiker there. I set up my tent inside the covered pavilion without my rain fly. It was hot enough to go without a tent but buggy enough to need the protection! It might have taken a few hours and some minor hiccups to shift back into trail mode but it felt good to be back on the AT. And I now know I can climb a fence with a fully loaded pack.
Day’s Mileage: 7.3
Total Miles Hiked: 1,420.1
Remaining Miles: 779.6
It was 7am when I woke up, later than I thought. The sky was bright but it was overcast most of the day. It was a pretty uneventful morning except for lots of biting mosquitos. The permethrin spray I used is only good for your clothes and I didn’t have any bug spray for my exposed skin.
The trail in New York wound up and down some very small ridges with rocks, nothing too strenuous but it was still enough to make me sweat. There were lots of old stone walls from another time.
For lunch I went 0.2 miles off the trail to a lake with a beach in some state park. It started to mist so my lunch plan didn’t work as well as I had hoped but it was a nice view save for the landscape crew with their edgers and chain saws. There was a recent tornado so the bathrooms and running water were shut off. I couldn’t catch a break!
The mist eventually stopped as I hiked on. I think a tropical storm or hurricane down south was sending some wet weather my way. The forecast showed a 50% chance of rain everyday for a week but after the next day, temperatures in the 60s with lows in the high 40s! I prefer the cold, like my heart. Just kidding…that’s the Lyme disease talking…kidding.
Speaking of Lyme disease, I have noticed this weird bug bite that has been getting larger on my thigh over the past few days. The hypochondriac in me fears it could be a tick bite or worse: a brown recluse spider.
About twenty miles in, I stopped at the RPH Shelter. There were several flip-flop hikers there. Two of them were Hansel and Gretel, two women in their 70s who I’d last seen back at the grill at the Blue Mountain Ski Resort. It was good catching up with them and they had a family friend or something visiting who had brought McDonalds and the fixings for a picnic. I indulged in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Coke, honey crisp apple, and a Gatorade. They gave me another apple for breakfast and two fresh hard boiled eggs from their friend’s farm. I didn’t know chicken eggs could be teal! I thanked them and continued on.
Despite wanting to take it easy after New York City, I had a package waiting for me a few days away and I needed to pick it up before the post office’s weekend closure. Speaking of packages, I forgot to mention in NYC my friends Jen and Seth sent me some surprise gifts. They sent me giant, bio degradable baby wipes that I did end up using at the end of my day to wipe all the sweat and dirt off myself. They also sent a young adults book about Crazy Horse (my trail name) and a tick remover. The latter hopefully won’t come in handy but I have been sure to check myself each night.
About five miles later I came to a road. It was about sunset but there was a pizza place a half mile away. I walked there only to find they were closed an hour earlier than what the internet told me. I guess that makes it a wasted bonus mile.
As it grew dark I walked into the woods to look for a place to camp. The northern states have not had many campsites compared to the south. I ended up finding a flat spot underneath some tall trees and an old stone wall. I set up my tent in the dark and didn’t feel hungry. I made myself eat something before bed. I’d at least have an apple and two eggs for breakfast. I went to sleep as it started to sprinkle.
Day’s Mileage: 24.5
Total Miles Hiked: 1,444.6
Remaining Miles: 755.1
It was the first day of June which meant…well I don’t know what it meant but everyone seems to comment when the months change. On the trail, time is mostly irrelevant. I usually don’t know the day of the week or the date offhand. I can’t even remember how many days I’ve been on the trail if it comes up in conversation.
Anyway, it was humid as all hell when I woke up. My tent was dry since the trees above shaded me from any sprinkling rain at night. My clothes were damp from the humidity.
I set off and it sprinkled a bit. The high was 84 and I was constantly sweating. My clothes never had a chance to dry off as I poured more sweat onto them. I had to be more vigilant about water sources. I’m a binge drinker on the trail…and off the trail…kidding. So I like to take big gulps and drink half a liter and then not drink for an hour. I had to amend my strategy in the heat.
Halfway through the day I crossed train tracks that go to NYC. There is a small stop that picks hikers up on the weekends and takes them to the city. I already had too much fun in NYC so I continued on to the Native Lands garden center nearby. They are hiker friendly and I was able to charge my phone and fill up my water bottles. I ate lunch in their gazebo.
The sun was out for the rest of the afternoon making the heat unbearable. The forest was abuzz with critters. Chipmunks darted around. Caterpillars and other bugs dropped from the trees onto me while I constantly walked through spiderwebs. Orange salamanders and millipedes crawled about. A giant frog popped out of a trap door in the trail and rolled right in front of me. It was a zoo! It was just like Jurassic Park except the mosquitoes were not preserved in amber, unfortunately. I killed as many as I could but I’m sure I contracted West Nile virus seven times over and every other disease they carry!
I stopped at a shelter for a break. I wanted to sleep so badly; the heat exhausted me. But I had four miles to go so I pressed on. Soon I crossed the border into Connecticut but I would double back into New York tomorrow before officially leaving that state behind.
Before my day ended I climbed Ten Mile Hill which was a steep climb of over 500 feet. It wasn’t that big compared to other mountains I’ve climbed but the heat and dehydration made it tiring. Of course at the top I immediately descended before arriving at Ten Mile Shelter.
Pritch, a very talkative middle-aged man was here with another hiker. I hadn’t seen him in some time but my trip to NYC put me behind him. There was a lively river nearby that he told me was quite refreshing. I decided to go for a dip and wash the sweat and dirt away.
The river was perfect. The water was clear and the temperature not too cold. I could only describe it as refreshing and exactly what I needed. Of course being from the Midwest, I’m partial to cool, fresh water.
As I was drying off from my splash in the river, I felt a bite on my leg and noticed a large tick. I grabbed my tick remover and pulled the sucker out. I wasn’t able to snap a photo but took a video instead, so stay tuned!
With the humidity and a slight chance of rain, I didn’t want to tent. The morning dew alone would soak the tent. It was just the three of us in the shelter but the bugs were crazy. I decided to pitch my tent in the shelter to stay dry and bug free. It seemed silly but as we went to sleep, the other two hikers remarked about the bugs biting them and the mice scurrying around. They also found a tick and a carpenter ant in their belongings. I had no regrets about sleeping in my tent inside the shelter. It was so hot, the low was only 67ºF and I slept on top of my sleeping bag. A loud thunderstorm rolled through around midnight.
Day’s Mileage: 23.9
Total Miles Hiked: 1,468.5
Remaining Miles: 731.2
Daily Average: 15.6
I have officially hiked two-thirds of the Appalachian Trail!
People have asked if I will shave, trim, or cut my hair and beard. I started the trail clean shaven with a very short haircut so my plan is to let it grow wild. I have been taking daily pictures so I can timelapse as a video at the end.
Brad Paisley and I both share a love for water.