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!! 

13-14: wildcat, tuxedo motel, west mountain 

Day 13: wildcat Shelter to tuxedo motel (NY17)
Sometimes it’s wonderful sleeping in the woods. The crickets and frogs put you to sleep. There may be a light rain on your tent or the tin roof of the shelter, drowning out most of the noise. 
Sometimes it’s less fun. Bugs flying into your tent walls. Shelter-mates snoring. Feet throbbing. A cold draft through your sleeping bag or a rock under your hip. A precarious slant on the ground that dumps your head off your pillow, or a slant to the entire shelter that moves half of your pad slowly closer to the person next to you. 
Last night was a not great night for sleeping in the woods. F-Stop has a small dog who decided to hop out of her hammock in the night, then periodically stood up to shake himself, jingling his collar. I was somewhere between cold and sweaty. My heels never stopped hurting. I took a Benadryl to pass out but I still woke up several times. 
When I heard the rain start at 4:30am, I knew it was going to be a rough day. 

I stayed in bed, half asleep, until 5:30. It was still raining, and would likely rain until 8pm. FD and I hadn’t quite decided on a destination. The shelter at 14 miles (a good distance in NY with all the rock scrambles) has a really aggressive bear, according to hiker reports. It’s been stealing food and standing up to intimidate hikers, sometimes blocking the path to the shelter. 

The next shelter was in 19.5 miles. We’d had reports from the Wiz that the trail was really terrible and difficult until the 14 miles Shelter (fingerboard shelter) and improved after that. But still…that’s a long day. We halfheartedly talked about maybe tenting somewhere 3 miles before or after Fingerboard, but there was nothing marked on the guides, so it was a total guess if there even was anything. 

We set out in the rain, deciding to figure it out later. 
The trail started off ok, with some rock stairs and some dirt trail. 

We stopped for a break at 4.5 miles. I have a new snack- peanut butter with nestle morsels. 

The rain didn’t let up. If it wasn’t outright raining, the wind was blowing, shaking fat drops from trees. My socks were soaked; I could feel new blisters popping as I walked (when my socks get wet I get lots of blisters. When they pop I feel a sharp, hot pain). 
We made a few rough climbs. There were huge rock scrambles and ridgeline walks. This is ok in good weather (still scary for me! I hate heights!!) but gets dangerous in wet weather. FD slipped. 

FYI, we went straight up those rocks in that picture. Tiny foot holds, no real path. We went back down similar rock faces. 

We made a decision to get off trail at NY17. There was a motel 2.5 miles down the road. We could shower, do laundry, dry ourselves off, and ice our knees and feet. 
In the last 3 miles we had to hike, we found trail magic left by Skyking (we met him…somewhere) and a lost baby deer, crying for its mom. 

For anyone looking to do this section- it took us forever and the descent down to NY17 was rough. 

We eventually got a hitch into town. I showered and we dropped off our laundry and we ordered Chinese. 

I’ve been icing everything I can since we got here. 

And now, clean, dry, and fed, I’m ready for bed. We’ve mapped out the next few days, so I have some sort of plan of attack. 
I feel good about this decision. 
Miles: 10

MVP: ice on my knees

LVP: rocks. And knees. Again. 
Day 14: tuxedo motel to west mountain shelter
Waking up in the hotel was glorious. The room had been silent all night. I woke up slowly and stretched out in my bed. My feet were tight, but nothing hurt too bad. It’s rare that a morning doesn’t begin with hiker hobble anyways. 

We didn’t rush to leave. It was raining but it looked like it would slack off by 9, so we enjoyed the morning. 

We walked down to the gas station for breakfast and called a taxi. Hitching is illegal in New York. 

We had a bit of a climb, but in general, the trail got much better. 

We did go through the lemon squeezer today. I fit through with my pack on, but FD had to take his off. 

We had to throw them up in order to get up this little rock scramble though. 
The trail got nicer. 

We enjoyed a break and I drank a cherry Coke I’d packed out. 

The sun even came out for a bit. 

Lots of water today, which meant lots of stream crossings. I’ll take it, though, if it means I never have to repeat the 4 miles from hell that we walked in PA. 

We stopped for lunch at a shelter (William Brian memorial) with Discount and Guinness. This shelter is built into a rock. 

Saw a little baby snake. 

Climbed up Black Mountain. 

And then down to cross palisades, a super busy road. 

And finally up west mountain to the shelter. It was crowded with a bunch of older men out hiking (flip floppers I think) but they made room for us. We’re watching the lights come on in NYC from bed right now. Pretty sweet deal, if you can climb mountains. 

Miles: 13.1

MVP: this view!

LVP: raindrops from trees. And puddles!

9-12: tent site, Gren Anderson, Jim Murray, tentsite, Wildcat 

Day 9: tent site to Gren Anderson Shelter 
It was the best sleep of my life. I woke up at 5:30 to the sunrise and the millions of birds. I laid in my tent for a few minutes, enjoying the sensation of slowly waking up with the world. 

And then I went and got the food down from the bear hang. 
Moss and FD and I ate breakfast in our tents (FD is very slow at waking up, so her needs time to eat and make coffee and lay perfectly still with his eyes open). 
I packed up first, so then I played with Disco until FD was ready. 

We had some great trail

And some good views 

But the real excitement was going 15 miles to Branchville, NJ to Gyp’s Tavern. 

Once we got there, it was incredible. A nice biker bar right on a lake, with lawn chairs for relaxing in the sun. I got a Coke 

And ordered food

And settled in for a spell. 

The tavern is VERY hiker friendly. The offer water refills and charging plugs as soon as you walk in. The food was delicious too (chicken fingers with hot sauce and ranch on the side; a giant basket of fries with old bay seasoning). 
We stayed there for quite a while. It was only 3 more miles to the shelter, so we didn’t feel rushed. 
But when it was finally time to leave…moss, FD, Sarah, and I split a six pack of beer. We each carried our cans (1 each for me and Sarah, two for the guys). 
FD and I got to the shelter first, after a quick climb up the fire tower. 

We settled in and cracked those beers, still cold from our packs. 

And then FD and I did our night’s writing and then drifted off to sleep. 

Miles: 18

MVP: chicken fingers

LVP: rocks 
Day 10: Gren Anderson to Secret Shelter
We had all discussed doing a 13 today, on account of the rain that was supposed to start at noon. But when I woke up and saw that the night’s storm never happened…well, I decided to do an 18 instead. 

I told FD he said that sounded ok to him, as long as the weather held. Sarah wasn’t able on account of her injury, and moss was undecided. I set off around 7:30, knowing FD would catch up. 

Here is a dead tree with new flowering branches coming out of it. Never underestimate nature. 

I climbed to the top of Sunrise Mountain, but didn’t have much of a view. I sat and called my mom. 

I headed back down. The trail was pretty ok, but the water sources were all a little…yucky. 

I stopped for a second breakfast. 

And then there were more rocks. 

And more great trail. 

My feet were hurting pretty bad at this point. Only 7.5 miles in and I could feel the throbbing in my feet, the bruising pain on my heel. I sat down and propped my feet up. 

And this is how FD found me. We hiked on together. 

When we got to High Point State Park HQ, we popped in. This park will give hikers a free Pepsi if they sign the register. We did. 

I also took advantage of the carpet to do a bit of stretching. My lower back has been sort of seizing up, and I needed to try and stretch that out. 
I am constantly surprised and humbled by the hospitality and generosity I find on the trail. 
We said goodbye, and set off on our last 6.5 miles. 

We stopped in at High Point Shelter to snack. I tripped and fell and went down hard. I ate until it didn’t hurt anymore (jk it still hurts). 

And then off on the last 5 miles. 
There were some beautiful pasture walks that soaked our feet and gave me new, exciting blisters. And there were sheep. 

We were both hurting pretty badly. One last break and then off on the home stretch. The trail was gorgeous with only a few short (but steep) climbs between High Point Shelter and the Secret Shelter. 
And then we arrived! The cabin was actually pretty full, so we decided to sleep on the porch of a different outbuilding. The sun is slowly disappearing while FD and I write, with birds still busy in the trees around us. Two donkeys wander around, eating grass, and tomorrow I’ll turn 31. 

Life is really quite perfect. Besides my aching feet 🙂

Miles: 18.4

MVP: stretching 

LVP: rocks 
Day 11: Secret Shelter to Tentsite 
There’s something so peaceful about waking up to the birds. They’re so loud when there are no other noises. I woke up on the porch of a locked cabin (the actual shelter was full of damp hikers– no thanks) to the first fingers of dawn and a chorus of a million birds. 

It was only 2ish miles from the shelter to Unionville. A lot of that was on a boardwalk in a swamp, but some of it was up very steep (but short) hills. 

Breakfast was calling, so we booked it straight to Hitler’s General Store. 

A cherry Dr Pepper, a chocolate donut, a bacon egg and cheese sandwich, and a hash brown later, I was feeling pretty good about 31. 

We did a short term resupply, and FD bought my lunch: a turkey sub to pack out. 

We stopped over at the park gazebo to repack our food. You take everything out of bulky containers and put it in ziplock bags. 

We caught two deer in the cemetery on our way out of town. Unionville is a very hiker friendly town. Would recommend. 

We had some beautiful pastures to walk through (and get our socks good and wet).  

We had a gorgeous flat walk around a wetlands. We sat on a bench for a bit, then carried on our conversation as we strolled around the preserve. 

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but having a good hiking partner can make such a huge difference in your day. Hiking alone is important too, but spending so much time with a person, really getting to know them, feel close to them, build a friendship as you struggle physically along the trail… well, that’s truly special. FD has been a True friend to me in the short time I’ve known him. 

He helps with the rock scrambles. 

He’s fun at lunch. 

And you both celebrate when you get to the mile long boardwalk. Which SOUNDS great in theory, but in reality, it just meant pounding your feet on wood for way too long. 

The boardwalk ends with some random little dirt paths, not too bad. And then your cross a road with Heaven Hill Farms. 

We stopped in. They had flowers and fresh produce and then…homemade ice cream and cokes. 

It was a great little stop. 

Of course then came stairway to heaven. It starts out ok. 

But do you see that huge mountain in the distance? You go up it. On giant rock stairs. We got to the view (a quick blue blaze) and then pressed on, trying to get to the shelter. 

Buuuuuut we found a little tentsite first, so we stopped about 3 miles early. FD was worried about getting in to the shelter too late. I wasn’t sure why. 
Until we set up our tents and he pulled out a bottle of wine he’d bought at Heaven Hill and carried all the way up that mountain, just for my birthday!! 

We had an incredible birthday dinner together. 

FD French-Dipped the cheese dip can. 

And then we tucked ourselves into our tents as I said goodbye to my birthday. 

All in all, 31 is looking great. I have amazing friends and family. I do and see incredible things. I laugh a lot, I cry when I need to, and so far, no ones told me I’m screwing it all up. It seems like I’m doing pretty well. 

Miles: 15.2

MVP: birthday food!

LVP: knees. And rocks. 
Day 12: tent site to WildCat Shelter
I stretched slowly in my tent. My heels had throbbed into the night, and I’d been a little restless from the pain. 

 I packed up first. FD enjoys his mornings. I like to get started. We sometimes hike separately in the mornings. FD will catch up to me when he’s awake. It’s a good system. 
This morning, my goal was to get 4 miles down trail to a state park HQ to wash out some clothes. 

The trail there was actually pretty nice. 

The water was brown when I rinsed out my shirt. I washed undies and a pair of socks and even my hair with the bathroom antibacterial foaming soap. 

I finished up and got back on trail. I passed some trail magic and a funny way to leave something for a fellow hiker. 

My hair dried well. 

There were more rocks. I ran into FD but hiked on as he wanted a break (I’d been sitting for a while). Most of the rocks here were ridgeline rocks; these are giant sloping slabs that aren’t that hard to walk on, but if you’re scared of heights like I am, then it’s downright terrifying. 

FD and I met up again just before the NY border. We crossed it together. 

The trail was… interesting. Up and down and across and then HEYO a rebar ladder. 

And then a giant rattlesnake rattled at me. I screamed. 

We finally got to the blue blaze to take us into Greenwood Lake. The guidebook said it was steep. 

It was. 
As soon as we got into town we changed into crocs. 

We hit up Murphys for lunch. I also had a side salad with great blue cheese. 

A CVS resupply and a bookstore for reading material, and it was back on trail. 

The last 2 miles to the shelter were actually pretty nice. Some ridgeline walks, but there were bad weather bypasses too. I took one. My knees are shot. 

And now the shelter! The tentsites are all full. Kim and Mix are here (two older hikers we met in DWG), and Fresh, a NOBO we met in DWG but have seen a few times now. F-Stop and her dog are also here. 

Rain tomorrow. A problem bear at the most convenient shelter means we’ll likely have to do big miles. Ugh. 
Miles: 15.8?

MVP: salad

LVP: knees. And rocks. 

Trip total: 156.6