Day 89: Fingerboard to Graymoor Spiritual Center

Trip Start Mar 15, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2010

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Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, June 11, 2010

"Just spent 20 min fighting the Mosquitos to write an entry and then the phone crashed.
Passed 800 to go.
Lowest pt of trail 124 ft
Crossed hudson
Goodbye to Willard
Deer and fawns
20 mi staying at monks retreat place.
Sorry I don't have the patience to redo more than those bullet points.

That was the description of this day on the trail, but since returning I've recreated the day's events below:

Woke up in the mid morning to beautiful rays of sunshine.  That is refreshing!  Willard's sleeping in habits are really rubbing off on me, since we've been literally hiking together of late.  Our immediate situation now is one of no water.  We passed many "suspect" streams yesterday, the scummy kinds of creeks that smell bad, are barely moving, and almost have an oil sheen to them.  I'd rather go thirsty than get sick.  So, no water for breakfast means eating trail mix.  I guess it could be worse.  A doe and 2 fawns visit our shelter site while we pack up.  That's a first for me, hadn't ever seen fawns in the wild before.  They were fun to watch.

A couple miles down the trail there is an option to detour a quarter mile or so downhill to a camping area with water.  After consulting the map, its clear this might be the last decent spot for the morning and since I'm already becoming dehydrated I take the safe bet.  The water is delicious and doesn't even require iodine!

Willard isn't such a wuss and pushes on without watering up.  I catch back up to him at the William Brien Shelter which is said to have a resident Rattlesnake.  No trace of it but the shelter was a really old one built with stone and almost a part of the rocky hillside.  Quick snack break and then its time to keep on moving.

The rock wall that borders the shelter is also the trail, which means a 100 ft rock scramble straight up.  Good way to get back to it!  Once up on the ridge again at Black Mtn, finally what I've been waiting for: a view of Metropolis. city that never sleeps, the big apple, NYC!  Only a mere 35 miles from here it is faintly visible through the haze on the horizon.  You can make out the Empire State building as well as the downtown and midtown skyscrapers.  Amazing to be out hiking and surrounded by wilderness, while looking at New York. 

A lot of hikers take a break at this time and head into the city for a break from the trail, but I'm still looking to make good time and since I just visited the city in January, I don't feel the need.  The bottom of the mtn brings me to the Palisades Interstate.  This is a bit dodgy, since unlike all the other freeway crossings that have pedestrian bridges, the trail just ends at the road.  So you stand at the side and wait for an opening while cars going 70-80 mph blow by.  Yikes.  After a couple minutes a safe gap comes along and I sprint across.  Back in the woods its time to hike up Bear Mtn.  This is the highest point on the AT in NY and also an extremely heavily used section of the trail.

Trail crews are busy rerouting the trail to limit impacts and their work is impressive.  The summit of the mountain again gives views of NYC but it is overrun with tourists, student groups on a field trip and there is a noticeable lack of bears.  The descent down newly refurbished trail is wonderful.  The crew here has really put in some major effort, perhaps the best engineered trail thus far.

At the base of the mountain is the Bear Mountain Zoo, this small facility hosts (imprisons) examples of all the native animals you could expect to see on the Appalachian Trail.  It's quite sad to see all the animals totally stressed out and caged, when you'd enjoyed seeing them wild and free up in the mountains.  Particularly disturbing is watching the pair of coyotes run in circles around their 50X50 enclosure.  The AT reaches its lowest pt of 124 ft here.  Pop quiz, where is the highest point?

The trail leaves the zoo and then follows the Bear Mtn Bridge across the Hudson River.  At this point Willard takes off to spend a few days with his family in NYC.  We bid farewell and wish each other good luck for the rest of the trip.

Across the bridge is a nice 500 ft climb up into the forest.  I have become so accustomed to the woods that brief forays into busy areas cause me way too much stress.  The trail through the Bear Mtn area must be the most crowded section.

A few more miles brings me to a gas station with ridiculous prices, which conveniently are not labeled.  So I have to keep asking the price.  Crazy New York.  I buy a sandwich, drink, and chips and head up the hill to the Graymoor Spiritual Center.  This monastic retreat allows hikers to stay at their pavilion just off the trail.  Its dry and quiet AND has an outlet!  So I put on some relaxing tunes and enjoy eating my sandwich and watching the sky dim into blackness.

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