15-18: graymoor, RPH, Morgan Stewart, CT

Day 15: west mountain to graymoor friary 
A dang whippoorwill stayed up all night crying out. And Cocoa got up at 5am, along with the rest of the dudes in the shelter. FD and I pretended to sleep until they all left, around 7am. We took our time getting around. 


We believe there are two types of hikers: Sip Sip and Zip Zip. I am a zip zip. Sar tec, gonzo, FD…all of them are sipsips. I like to get up and get going in the morning (generally). I don’t cook, my routine is polished, and I pack quickly. I can be on trail in less than 30 minutes if I want to be. Sipsips like to take their time in the mornings. Either can be a fast or slow hiker, it’s just the people who prefer to get started right away vs the people who need to ease into the mornings. 


We hadn’t even got back on to the trail when we had our first wildlife encounter. The shelter is .5 off the AT, and we looked up and saw a stick in the trail. And then we realized it was a rat snake. We clacked our poles until he slithered off into the bushes. 


The trail was nice and smooth with only a few quick rock climbs. Nothing too crazy. 


We quickly made it to the Bear Mountain climb. It was lovely and clearly used by day hikers– steep bits mixed with flat bits and lots of stairs. 


And also there were day hikers EVERYWHERE. Don’t go here on a weekend. 
But at the top we got…you guessed it. Cokes. 


The climb down was even more crowded. At the bottom they had all these signs about trail maintenance. It was pretty neat. 


What a bunch of nerds. 

We then walked around a lake with people EVERYWHERE grilling food. It was torture. 


So we stopped at a concessions stand and bought lunch. We’re actually getting kind of tired of town food. 
Next was the saddest zoo ever, the trailside zoo. The trail literally goes through a zoo. A sad zoo. 


Here is the captive cousin of the snake we saw earlier. 


Here are sad bears below bear mountain. 


And then we crossed the Hudson! Being in public spaces like this you often feel like you’re kind of an attraction too. It’s weird. In the pictures below, you can see the mountain were about to climb up. It’s the big mountain behind the bridge (not actually that big). 


The climb up towards Anthony’s Nose was…rough. Also packed with day hikers, perhaps the stone stairs get easier without your entire life on your back. I dunno. 


We took a long “socks off” break at a tentsite. I may have dozed off. I’m honestly not sure. 


And in short order we were at the Appalachian Market. A few quick snacks (dinner didn’t appeal — too hot) and we were back for the last .5 to the graymoor friary. This friary has allowed hikers to tent and camp here since the 70s. I’m set up on a picnic table under a pavilion next to a ball field. The evening was spent with some dudes assembling a soccer goal for a game that will evidently take place at 7am. Hooray! 


That’s actually good, because we’re hiking 18 miles tomorrow. That’s the next listed campsite on the guide. 


Oh also I took another shower today. In the outdoor, unheated shower next to the pavilion. It was…brisk. But I feel cleaner! 
Miles: 13.1

MVP: switchbacks 

LVP: feet. 
*****  
Day 16: graymoor to RPH shelter 
We heard these strange sounds last night. Like little isolated raindrops. I kept hearing it all day while hiking, too. Was I going crazy? Can I now hear trees growing or the forest decaying?


As it turns out, it’s the sound of caterpillars munching. Those bag worms are EVERYWHERE. they’re constantly falling on you and appearing in random places and getting their dumb silk all over your face. And now I can hear them eating. Ugh. Nature. 


Here’s the thing about New York: it looks freaking easy. “Oh, just a few quick climbs today, nothing over 500ft of elevation change!” 
But in reality, you’re climbing and descending ALL DAY. It’s exhausting. And those climbs are short but steep! You’re winded and your legs are burning and then the next thing you know you’re going right back down, knees straining, and you haven’t even seen anything cool at the top. PUDs. Pointless Ups and Downs. 
So the day was unremarkable, from a photographic standpoint. Hardly any views, nothing really interesting. 


We did get to take a side trail to a beach concession area. We met up with Discount, Guinness, and Nutz there. We had a nice time eating and chatting and cooling off our feet. 

When we left, a woman yelled out, “are you thru-hikers?” She gave us each a little fruit leather treat from a local Brooklyn company. Delicious. 

We had 4 miles to go. We had originally planned on stopping at a tent site, but with a threat of rain, we decided to go to a shelter just 1.3 down the trail. 


It was rough going, honestly. But we made it to RPH where several NOBOs and a new section hiker were already set up. We decided to tent, and that’s when Guinness and Discount walked up. 


So the four of us ordered a pizza and enjoyed our dinner together. And now I’m listening to caterpillars eat while I’m in my tent. 


All in all, a hard day. But still good 🙂
Miles: 18.9

MVP: Sunkist

LVP: feet. Knees. Back. I’m 31 and totally falling apart. 
*****
Day 17: RPH to Morgan Stewart Shelter
When I woke up to a dreary morning, I smiled. It may be cloudy, but it wasn’t raining. And that meant I’d been right and all of those NOBOs had been wrong. A good start. 


It was a short day. I had 25 miles left. FD just needed to get to Pawling. So, once the rain DID start, we decided to reward ourselves with a short day. Only 9 miles to Morgan Stewart. 


We stopped off at a deli and sat there for 2 hours or so. The deli was incredibly nice. Free water, charging around the side, and a great breakfast. We packed out food for dinner, too. 


That’s also when we said goodbye to Discount and Guinness. They were pressing on in order to make it to Kent by Guinness’s birthday. 


While we sat, an older man stopped to chat. He was so nice and friendly and was familiar with the trail in this area, so we got a blow by blow of what was up ahead. 
We left, FD eating his banana nut muffin that had been toasted with butter. He was in love. 


The trail was pretty nice, just as that man promised. We got to the shelter early, but cocoa had beaten us. Carbo came in, and then Nutz. We napped and ate and massaged our feet. It was good. 


Miles: 9

MVP: deli guy

LVP: rain I guess. Or my poor right foot. 
*****
Day 18: Morgan Stewart to Dutchess Motor Lodge (Wingdale, NY)
I woke up around 5. I slowly ate a small breakfast, unwilling to actually get out of my sleeping bag, despite having decided to get an early start today. 


I did, eventually. It was painfully cold and my feet hurt pretty bad. And on top of that, once I got packed up, I had to say goodbye to FD. He only had 3 or 4 miles today, so he was taking a SipSip morning. I, however, had 18, so it was a ZipZip for me. 


I was on trail by 6:30am. 


Almost immediately I stepped on what I thought was a rock but turns out it was just a pile of leaves that quickly sank down into water. My foot was soaked. 


I walked by Nuclear Lake, the site of a plutonium incident in the 1970s

Just a hiker (soon to be at a nuclear plant) walking by Nuclear lake. 

I stopped in at Telephone Pioneers Shelter for lunch, but nothing I had left sounded good, so I just stretched and dried out my feet and grabbed my only snickers to eat while I walked. 


Next up was Dover Oak, the largest Oak Tree on the AT. Or oldest. Or something. 


The trail today was really pretty nice. Flat and dirt for the most part, it was challenging because the dirt turned in to mud. 


But my feet were still hurting, so I took a break at the Great Swamp boardwalk. 


I crossed the AT railroad tracks. 


Headed in to some pastures. 


Battled some mud. 


I’d been thinking all day that this was the first section where I was really ready to be done. I wanted off trail. It’s not ever been like that for me. But as the miles went by, and the pain in my feet…well, that only got worse, actually. But as I got closer to the end, I was inexplicably sad. I reared up listening to a podcast about Whole Foods, for goodness sake. I was clearly emotional. 
And maybe I wasn’t quite ready to leave after all. I was definitely ready to be dry for a bit, but I don’t know. 


So I made it to the Connecticut state line. I finished Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. 


I hitched to Wingdale and got a truly crappy motel room for the night, hoping I could improve my smell situation before the next day. 
I texted my friends Nikki and Catherine. I basically started out this trip as if I’d never hiked before. That’s how out of shape I was. Pennsylvania made it even worse, with the rocks beating up my feet. The tendinitis I’d been nursing since I broke my toe got worse. My shoes started falling apart, and likely didn’t have enough support left when I started. 


So going back to baseline, when last year I’d been doing 25 and 30 miles…well, that was frustrating. 

I did a lot of thinking about next month, too. I’d planned on hiking the Benton Mackaye trail, but…I don’t know. 

First of all, I need to find an apartment ASAP. And I got an opportunity to go help for a week at the summer camp where I used to work. And I’d like to see my family and feel truly prepared to move when July rolls around. 

So, for now, my June plans are…no hiking. We’ll see how it all works out. 

Miles: 19?


Trip total: 238.4


MVP: west mountain view, birthday


LVP: ROCKS. And feet. And knees. 



Until next time, my friends. I love you all!! 

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