24.3 miles, 1422 overall (Stealth camp short of RPH shelter)
I sleep better in a bed but not as well as expected. I wonder if all these nights in a tent are making me accustomed to my thermarest and sleeping bag. Still, when I get up around 6:30 I feel well-rested. I take a third shower because I can, pack my things, and head across the street to the bagel shop for breakfast. A bagel sandwich and coffee later I am ready to get going. I knock on the door of the owners and by 8:00 I am back where I was picked up. Although the motel was a little pricey, it was far cheaper than the nearby Holiday Inn Express, was just as nice, and the owners were incredibly friendly and accommodating. Overall it was a great stay.
My first half mile today takes me across the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge, a huge suspension span. I take my time getting across, enjoying the scene. On the other side a car stops on the opposite side of the street and the driver rolls down the window and asks if I’m thru-hiking. I reply in the affirmative to which he replies, “Great!” I stand awkwardly for a moment wondering if there will be more to the conversation. After a few seconds he advises me that I have a tough climb ahead. I thank him and head on before the situation becomes more awkward.
The climb is steep but I take it slow and soon I’m at the top. As I continue on I have to negotiate more of New York’s “choose your own adventure” trails. In many places the trail in NY isn’t completely clear. There may be 3 or 4 very close branches in the trail, all of which lead to the same place in 50 feet but one will be harder than the others. There’s no way to tell which branch is the “correct” trail. I wonder what the AT purists think of this, how they decide which way to go, and whether they ever feel the need to backtrack. Although I consider myself mostly a purist I draw the line at backtracking simply because I didn’t walk within a certain number of feet of a particular blaze.
I pass the time listening to an audiobook but not for long. Only a few miles in I hit today’s deli. I see two thru-hikers outside at the picnic tables so I put my stuff down next to them and head in to make my selections. Inside I not only procure a delicious wrap, I also get a soda and I buy some tortillas from the deli since I wasn’t able to find any in town. I eat outside where I spend most of my time while eating listening to Lonestar, a particularly talkative hiker from Texas who started April 7. He is trying to do 25 miles per day so he can get to Maine quickly because he plans to bike home in time to do some marathons this fall. When he hikes on I doubt I’ll see him again.
I stay a while longer talking to the other hiker Rhymocerus and contemplating additional purchases. I end up buying a V8 fusion to get some fruit and vegetable servings and a 24oz Dos Equis to drink tonight with dinner. I’m quite excited about this plan.
Just before I’m ready to leave I turn around to see Tamir walking out of the deli. Last I checked in the trail registers he was about a week ahead of me. We catch up for a minute and I discover he took about a week off to heal up some injuries, get some rest, visit NYC, and see some family. His dad is with him for a day hike today. Pretty soon I’m sure he will be flying by me on the trail again, but this serves as another reminder that you never can tell who you’ll get to run into again on this trail.
I continue on and eventually decide to start listening to my audiobook again. Rhymocerus is a slower hiker than I am and falls behind me as we leave the deli. I make it a few miles before I stop for water and realize I’ve lost my data book. It must have fallen out when I took out my water bottle a couple miles back. This has happened before but I usually hear it fall. With the audiobook on I didn’t hear it this time. How frustrating! I contemplate what to do for a minute and end up leaving my things and hiking back to retrieve it. I thought about waiting for Rhymocerus to arrive and hoping he would notice it and pick it up, but I decide that is too presumptuous. After several minutes of hiking back though I see him and he does indeed have my book, informing me it was about 3 minutes back from where I meet him.
Once I return to my things and get my water I am back in business. A few miles up I reach a road and see a couple cars there with some people and a hiker leaving. I try not to get my hopes up but as I walk up the people seem ready to engage me. Pretty soon I have a soda in my hand and I’m talking to Auggie and David who call themselves the “local color.” They seem to know all the trails nearby and give me some info about what is coming up. They are a funny pair and I’m glad I got to meet them.
I don’t stay for too long because I still have a ways to go to get to my destination today and it is getting late. My original goal was to get to an upcoming lake, but I’ve realized that a lake would have more bugs than an area away from a lake. I rethink my plans and aim for a campground a couple miles past the lake. The trail isn’t too hard and I make good time.
As I crest the mountain just before the campground I see two people eating and enjoying the view. It is Wonder and Fresh who I thought were a couple days ahead now with Dora and Squidword. Apparently Squidword’s parents live in NYC and so they all went into the city for a day off. They just returned today and I’ve caught up to them. I hike the remainder of my miles with them, catching up on what they’ve been up to since the Delaware Water Gap. The campground is only a half mile from where I met them but I don’t see it when we reach that area. It soon becomes clear that I’ve missed it. Luckily there is a stream just a bit further and when we reach it I decide this is camp for the night. The others continue on the next mile to the shelter but I’m content to tent here. I put my beer in the stream to chill while I set up my tent, throw my bear line, and collect water. It is late and I end up cooking and eating in the dark. I enjoy the beer, deciding I will have to do this again when the opportunity presents itself. I’m still able to get to sleep around the same time as usual. I should get some great sleep tonight, but I wonder what tomorrow will bring. It is supposed to rain and if it is a depressing, soaking, all day kind of rain then I’m already considering zeroing in my tent. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow when I wake up on the Appalachian Trail.