10.1 miles, 1397.7 overall (Bear Mountain, NY)
I know better than to sleep in a shelter, I really do. Of course I didn’t sleep well. The guy in the bunk above me who came in late is a restless sleeper and it seems like I wake up every time he moves. I also wake up periodically because I’m uncomfortable on the wooden plank of a bed. I’m almost thankful in the morning when I notice Scholar getting up and packing because it means I can do the same without being the one who wakes everyone up. I get out of camp around 6:30.
I only have 10 miles to town but since it is Saturday I need to be at the post office by 12 to get my mail drop. I should have plenty of time. The first priority though is water. I had enough to get me through the night and get me started today but I certainly don’t have enough to get me to town. My options are a stream right on the trail or a visitor center with a spigot that is 0.4 off the trail. Because I’m leaving so early and I figure getting water from the stream would take about 20 minutes anyway what with purifying it, I opt for the visitor center and head in that direction at the road crossing.
When I arrive I realize I made a bad choice. The spigot on the wall of the visitor center doesn’t work. It is 7:30 and the center doesn’t open until 8. Since I’ve already made the side trip I decide to wait. That still leaves plenty of time to do the remaining 8 miles to town. At just before 8 the center opens. I take a couple extra minutes to buy some postcards and a soda, then fill up on water with the help of the woman working there who lets me get it from a sink in a back room. Apparently the spigot is broken and hasn’t been fixed yet.
By 8:20 I’m back on the trail, trying to make up some time. I hike up West Mountain where I had planned to stay and pass the shelter side trail. The mountain does provide some good views but I can’t see NYC from it. Down the other side I go, passing Scholar on the way, then up Bear Mountain which also supposedly has views of the city. The trail at this point has stone steps and well-graded slopes indicating I’m getting close to a tourist area. At the top is Perkins Tower, the reason for the tourists, and as I get close to it I see why. In the distance I can finally see the NYC skyline, just visible through the haze. The buildings from this distance look tiny and resemble Legos. I quickly climb the tower hoping for a better view but don’t get one so I head down and take a couple pictures before heading down the mountain. At this point it is past 10 and I’m going to be closer than I want to be to the post office closing time.
On the way down the trail switches from a heavily travelled path over dirt and rocks to a well-constructed stone staircase. A man working nearby informs me that soon the entire trail will be a stone staircase but that the work isn’t completed yet. This trail evidently gets a lot of use from the city-dwellers who come out to enjoy “nature” on the weekends, hence the construction of a more sturdy trail.
The motel that I have a reservation with provides a free shuttle so on the way down I call them, hoping to give them warning that I am close and to find out where they want to pick me up. The woman seems more perplexed by my call than helped and I wonder if I should have bothered. Still, she gives me two locations that I can get picked up from and tells me to call when I get to one. One is at the entrance to the trailside museum and zoo and the other is at the end. Not sure when I will get dropped off tomorrow, I opt for getting through the zoo today while it is open.
I rush through the zoo, looking quickly at some of the signage to determine what is here. Most of the stuff on the signs I already know, so I don’t feel like I’m missing much. Toward the end of the zoo I pass the bear cage, the lowest point on the AT. There is a sign indicating as much and I’m so excited by the sign that I don’t even think to look for the bear in its cage.
On the other side of the zoo I call the motel and ask for a pickup. A few minutes later the woman arrives and whisks me away to the post office. On the way she informs me that her husband likes to pick up and drop off the hikers because he doesn’t trust her driving. This doesn’t put me at ease and I spend the rest of the ride wondering when she’s going to make a turn into oncoming traffic. We get to the post office with plenty of time to spare and my maildrop is there as planned.
Safely at the motel I check in and pay, then head to my room. The motel is a small place with only 4 or 5 rooms but it is very cute and well-maintained. The room is, as far as I can tell, immaculately clean. I take a shower and then start my laundry. While it is running I head across the street to a bagel shop for lunch. I run into Scholar there who has also checked into the motel. She wasn’t planning on coming into town but she has been feeling fatigued and headachey today. We hope it is simply a side effect of 3 days of hot temperatures and nothing more serious. She plans to drink lots of water and rest in her room for the remainder of the day.
Once I’m fed I retrieve my laundry and spend the rest of the afternoon in my room organizing, cleaning, and arranging my food and gear. For dinner I go across the street to a BBQ restaurant. I order a BBQ sandwich with cucumber and tomato salad and an appetizer of potato skins. I also have 2 beers while I am there since they have some local brews on tap. While I am eating the waitress shows that she doesn’t recognize me as a thru-hiker by asking if I need a box. A few minutes after she asks her silly question my plates are clean.
The rest of the evening is spent in luxurious frivolity. I watch an episode of South Park, poke around on my phone, and take another shower because I can. I head to bed early to try to catch up on the sleep I’ve been deprived of lately. I’m not sure what time I’ll get back to the trail tomorrow but it doesn’t matter much as it won’t be hot and I have a short day planned on the Appalachian Trail.