(133) Friday, August 1, 9:00PM
Today was tough. Today was REAL TOUGH !! This morning I struggled through what I consider to be the toughest ten mile stretch so far. The exertion level required to complete this section was over the top. I started my hike at 7:20 and barely covered ten mile by noon. The trail never covered a flat spot. I was up and down mountains all morning, and afternoon. Most of this morning's climbs were rock scrambles, requiring careful consideration for where each hand and foot was placed, so as to not fall off the mountain. This applied to the descents as well as the ascents. I don't think I was able to stretch my legs into a full walking stride at all this morning.
I had a planned stop for noon to take my boots and socks off to let my burning feet cool. What a perfect time for trail magic. There was a section hiker / trail angel offering sodas, water, fruit and candy. I thoroughly enjoyed my Pepsi, orange, and Reese's cup. And it was a real relief to be able to top off my water bottles. Water is still very unreliable along the trail during this very dry summer.
The trail this afternoon was a little less demanding, but still plenty challenging. I got to enjoy a great vista of NYC just 34 miles South late in the day. My day was so long that I actually cooked dinner at six and then hiked another 2.5 miles until dark. I did all of these to make the Saturday morning mail call at the post office. I still have nearly eight miles to do in the morning. I'll be up early again to climb two more tough mountains; the last one being Bear Mountain.
I am pooped. It's hard to believe that it's already August. I now have less than 800 miles remaining.
22 Miles Today, 1372.2 MTD
(134) Saturday, August 2, 5:00PM
Today started out pretty well. I got my earliest start yet when I hit the Trail at 6:30 AM. I knew I still had some tough miles ahead of me, and my body was still very tired from the past two long days. I covered the distance and was off of the Trail at 10:00AM at Bear Mountain. This is when a short string of bad luck began.
I had imagined a very restful weekend of down time in a nice clean and comfortable hotel room. Fort Montgomery, however is a small hamlet right down the road from West Point; and this weekend is plebe parents weekend. The last room available to me was a cheap room in an old inn with a shared bath, no a/c, no phone, and no TV. On top of that the inn didn't take any credit cards, and I only had ten dollars in cash left. The market across the street had a little ATM inside, but it was out of order. The post office would give me a money order only if I gave them cash. And everyone confirmed that there were no banks in the area with business hours on Saturday from which I could get a cash advance against my credit card. I began my quest on foot to find CASH. I was more worried than usual due to my experience in DWG when the ATM there wouldn't give me any money. I feared that my card might be defective.
My luck changed a mile down the road when an ATM machine gave me $50, the maximum withdrawal per transaction. I made two transactions and let them get me for each transaction service charge. I then hitched a ride a couple miles down the road into Highland Falls to do my laundry. I found a credit union there with an ATM that gave me all the money I wanted, which made me feel much better. I met a trail angel at the laundromat and he offered to drive me back to the inn. Larry is a 55 year old college librarian; and he soon padded his offer by inviting me home for lunch. We made sandwiches and ate carrots and grapes while talking on a very personal level for an hour or so. He then returned me to the inn where I could finally pay for my room.
I decided somewhere in there that I was going to hike tomorrow. There just isn't enough comfort to keep me here for another day; and with my early arrival today, I feel almost like I got a whole day off. So I need to line up someone to handle my mail tomorrow morning so that it gets mailed on Monday. I'll eventually get my day off somewhere in "spoil me" comfort.
Right now I'm sitting in a dumpy little restaurant near the inn with a beautiful view of the Hudson River, and I just finished eating an incredible steak of halibut. It was truly a tasty piece of fish.
So I really only had about an hour or so of panic this morning before I finally secured a room and accessed some cash. The whole time I was trying to devise a backup plan for each failed endeavor. I never gave up and I always had hope. Thank God I'm a positive thinker. Well then, back on the trail tomorrow and next stop CT.
6.7 Miles Today, 1378.9 MTD
(135) Sunday, August 3, 9:00PM
I hiked today, and I felt very good. I really thought I needed more rest, but the early arrival in town yesterday gave me just enough down time. It was a very humid day today for hiking, but the trail was much calmer than it had been of late. It almost even rained on me today. Lots of afternoon thunder and some wet leaves were the only evidence that rain was in the area, yet it never rained on me. At least things cooled down a bit. It's still awfully damp out tonight.
I ran into three familiar hikers last night after finishing my dinner. They were in the bar next door getting totally hammered. It was Lone Wolf from Cincy, Flip and Briar (both from Indy). Briar is 63 and he was slamming beers with the best of them. I joined them for a beer, but thought better of the path they were on and made an early getaway. I had already had several beers with dinner and knew that I was near my limit. Instead I picked up a pint of Hershey's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and returned to my hot boarding room to get bloated.
I saw the same three hikers this morning when I went to the deli for a breakfast sandwich. They were one sorry looking lot, nursing their hangovers on the curb in the hot morning sun. Each one of them overdid it. I was not the least bit surprised to hear that they all planned to hike a mere six miles out of town today. I just can't imagine climbing a mountain with a hangover.
I connected with Matt Pine's father this morning on the phone and made arrangements to stay with him next week. I will finally get a planned zero-mile day. Hopefully the next seven days will go smoothly before reaching Ed Pine's crossroad.
14.6 Miles Today, 1393.5 MTD
(136) Monday, August 4, 8:00PM
I am sitting in my wet tent right now in the pouring rain. If I had three more minutes before the rain, then my tent would be much drier now. I used my towels to dry out the inside as much as possible. I could be sleeping with five other hikers in the shelter I am next to, but I opted for my tent instead. I have really come to love my tent routine. So much that I haven't used a shelter since the Shenandoahs.
The rain threatened all day with the occasional short-lived drizzle, but it only recently really let lose. The overcast skies thickened the air with moisture, but kept the temperature down in the seventies all day. I got off the Trail four miles short of this campsite to have dinner at a nearby pizzeria. It can be argued that if I hadn't stopped for dinner, then I could have set my tent up before the rain. It would also have meant that I would be cooking in the rain. My situation is now really quite improved. I got out of my wet clothes and am nibbling on some cookies that I bought at dinner while I make this log entry. And I find the sound of rain on my tent fly very soothing.
The trail was much less rocky today and thus my feet seem to be doing quite well. I still feel robbed of my restful weekend; and am much looking forward to taking off next Monday while staying with Ed Pine. That's still a whole week away!!
I find that these last couple weeks of hiking have been rich with deep thoughts. These thoughts however, are much too raw and involved for a brief forum like this log. I really hope I finally follow through with plans to do some serious writing when I return.
19.5 Miles Today, 1413 MTD
(137) Tuesday, August 5, 8:30PM
My last night in NY; I'll be in CT first thing in the morning. Today's hike went pretty well considering that it was nearly 10:00 before I began walking. I was taking advantage of some early morning sunshine to dry out some things that were wet from the night before. The trail was pretty easy today except for some stretches that had far too many low overhanging limbs. I could have been crawling the trail and I still would have been banging against these branches. The skies were partly sunny with continued moderate temperatures.
I rushed into camp tonight afraid of a repeat of last night's wet tent experience. It was drizzling and dark when I set up my tent, and I really rushed to keep everything dry. It was all for naught, because the rain passed by to the North. I could hear some tremendous thunder in the distance, but it missed us. The skies are now clear and cool. I might have trouble keeping warm tonight. I pick up my long underwear tomorrow in Kent; pretty good timing. We'll probably still have plenty more hot weather though.
I forgot to mention yesterday that I stopped for a lunch break at the RPH (Ralph's Peak Hikers) Shelter. There was a register left there by Bill Irwin, the blind author of "Blind Courage." It was nice to be able to let him know how much I enjoyed his book.
The shelter I'm camped near tonight has a very enthusiastic caretaker. I suspect that this fairly geeky guy doesn't have much of a life, but us hikers sure benefit from it. He apparently checks in on the shelter at least daily. He offered to drive any of us into nearby Wingdale if we wanted. Since another hiker was interested and I was finished with dinner, I went along in pursuit of a cup of coffee. I also picked up a muffin for breakfast and chipped in on a pound of Oreo's with the other hiker. So once again I am enjoying cookies while making my log entry.
The other hiker is Brad from the Channel Islands in Europe. He is my first truly authentic South-bounder. He started on Katahdin on June 18 and has hiked South uninterrupted.
I'll be in a Kent motel room tomorrow night. Kent is considered "yuppieville" by many hikers, so everything is a bit expensive. The room I reserved in the only motel in town was $68 with the hiker discount. I was glad to get two people to agree to share it with me today. They are Sunrise, Calvin & Hobbes (Calvin's stuffed tiger). This husband and wife team come from Iowa and I camped near them last night too. So tomorrow I truly enter New England and complete the first two-thirds of the journey.
16.2 Miles Today, 1429.2 MTD
(138) Wednesday, August 6, 10:00PM
I'm in a bed in a Kent, CT motel room that I am sharing with Sunrise and Calvin. I am celebrating the completion of the first two thirds of my journey. The weather today was beautiful with some challenging trail. It was an extra special day since I finally caught up with Capetown Jenny. She didn't know that I was catching up with her, so she was pleasantly surprised. We hadn't seen each other since Georgia.
I'll be through CT and into MA on Saturday already as the states continue to slip by, but I still have about 720 miles to go to Katahdin. I'll continue to take them one day at a time, since that is the manner that has seen me this far.
I arrived here in Kent at just after 1:00 so it has been a very relaxing day. And I plan a fairly low mileage day tomorrow which means that I can sleep in and dawdle around town a bit in the morning. It's all the next best thing to taking a full day off.
12.7 Miles Today, 1441.9 MTD