Thursday, June 21, 2012

New York- The Open Road, A.T. Thruhike 2012

     Waking up in my lone campsite, I rose, packed and ate my breakfast quickly. I was excited and anticipating the interesting trail ahead.
     After passing over Black Mountain, I crossed over a four lane highway, and then climbed Bear Mountain.
     Bear Mountain was fairly tall with many steps. In fact, they are working on creating more steps on the northern slope, due to the heavy traffic this area gets. It still amazes me how much volunteer work goes into this trail.
     The mountaintop opened up to expansive views, and I could even make out NYC in the hazy blue skyline. There was a stone monumental tower, which I walked to the top of. Many people were here, and one can even drive to the top.
     The descent was long, and I came out near a lake, by a park. It was strange being around so many people, after being in the woods so much. I felt a little out of place. I even caught a few people snapping my picture, probably amused at the novelty of a thruhiker in their presence. I don't blame anyone; I was always fascinated by the concept prior to this trip.
     The trail at this point actually passes through a small zoo. Thruhikers are allowed free admission as they are walking the trail. The zoo was interesting, and its focus is on plants and animals that are native to the area. When I entered, workers were introducing an orphaned coyote cub to the current adult coyote residents. It was an interesting sight.
     There is a Walt Whitman statue in the center of the zoo. It was very inspiring, and felt very relevant to my journey! There was a passage carved in stone:
"The Song of the Open RoadAfoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?"

     I passed the lowest point in the trail elevation-wise, which happened to be just in front of the bear den area. It gave me a strange feeling, Seeing these bears in captivity. To me, the bears I have been so lucky to witness along the trail have signified just how wild and free it was in this wilderness. To see them in captivity now before me disposed the significance I had felt.
     After the zoo, I went into the town of Fort Montgomery to retrieve a package at the post office, containing food my brother graciously mailed me to aid in my journey. I then crossed the Hudson River via Bear Mountain Bridge. When Earl Schaffer, the first thruhiker, crossed this bridge he was required to pay a nickel. It is now free to cross for those on foot.
Hudson River
     The trail reentered the forest, and I then took a side trail to Anthony's Nose. The trail once passed over this feature, but they closed the area during the second World War due to its proximity to the city, and a military base. It normally offers views of the city in the skyline, but had become to hazy by the late afternoon to offer much views.
     I arrived at Peekskill, NY and stopped in at a small convenience store for a snack. I met a hiking couple here, known as the Lion Killers. we sat down to eat, when a former thruhiker pulled up beside us, introducing himself as Bud Heavy.
     Bud Heavy had hiked last year, and told us of how the experience was life changing. He insisted he needed to offer us some form of support, but we didn't need a ride anywhere, and didn't need anything from the store, so he gave us a little money. He insisted, because he had received so much love from people on the trail, and was compelled to "give back". He was a very cool and generous person. He plans on attempting the Pacific Crest Trail next year, and I am sure he will succeed.
     I camped that night in a field provided by a monastery. It was a large gathering of thruhikers, and I was happy to see some of the friends I have made, but haven't seen in a while. The camaraderie on the trail amongst hikers is amazing.
     The next day I hiked over some small mountains. It began to rain by the afternoon, and I equipped some rain gear and continued along. I camped that night at the Morgan Stewart Shelter with a few other hikers, Q...Man, Jackrabbit and WhiteWater.
     The next day, I hiked past Nuclear Lake, called so because it was the site of a nuclear fuels processing facility. they say it is safe now... i still chose to pass through with a quick pace.
     I crossed train tracks, arriving at the official "Appalachian Trail Train Stop". A hiker could theoretically take the train into the city from here on weekends! It was a nice spot for a quick break.
A.T. Train Stop

     The road just passed the tracks had a little pizza stand, where i enjoyed a slice (or 3) of NY pizza, my last chance to do so. It was an early celebration, because I was just a few miles from the state border.
     I also hit up the garden center there. The owners are very hiker friendly, and they provided me with a free shower. I don't pass up free showers often, because they are easily one of the most pleasant experiences along the trail. They also gave me some good, clean water before I pressed on.

Garden Center

     I crossed Hoyt Road, and officially entered Connecticut. I walked just a few more miles, and stopped at Ten Mile River Shelter. I was accompanied by White Water.

     I sat at the shelter, and ate a special dinner given to me by my brother, for crossing the border. I then relaxed in my sleeping bag, and looked out into the field before me; I was blown away by an unbelievable display. Before me was the most dazzling firefly display I have ever witnessed before in my life. I cannot express to you how I feel in these moments. I can only try to describe it: It feels, at times, like I am truly alive for the first time.
     So, I had hiked since Georgia, and now stood in New England. I am doing this.... living this, and I appreciate every minute more than any words can express. I am Walking Home.

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