5/12/2009 - 9:00 PM - Brink Road Shelter - 24.5 mi today - 1308.3 mi total
Got up at 6:30 and had breakfast. Had to wait around for the post office to open at 8:30, so I killed time by packing my bag and going to the bakery for my second breakfast. Also bought a small Fruit of the Forrest pie to bring with me on the trail. Sent home my tent and a couple odds and ends at the post office as I will be using the tent that Easy Goin' lent me for the rest of the trip. The switch will save me about 3 pounds of weight! Hit the trail at 9:30. Crossed the Delaware River along I-80 and entered New Jersey, my 8th state (check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xttA6rZqO0). Pretty walk in the morning, though it is still rocky. Almost stepped on another snake, but luckily it wasn't a rattler. Took a break at Sunfish Pond which is a beautiful glacial lake. Had some nice views throughout the day. New Jersey certainly makes a great first impression. Ate lunch on a little bridge near the Mohican Outdoor Center. Easy Goin' showed up just as I was packing up so we walked together in the afternoon. Climbed a fire tower and had more nice views off of Rattlesnake Mountain. I enjoyed walking with Easy Goin' as we are both at the same stage in life. We are the same age and have both just graduated from college and are trying to figure out the next step. After having walked alone for a while, it was a good change to have someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of (Harley never really gives me any good feedback!). Reached the shelter at 7:30 and met three section hikers from Baton Rouge. Pumped water and had dinner in the dark. Food has to be stored in bear boxes here in New Jersey as it is estimated that there is one bear per square mile in this area. Wonder if we will see one. Decided to save my pie for breakfast, so I made sure the bear box was closed properly. There is no way that I will let a bear steal my pie.
5/13/2009 - 10:30 PM - "The Outhouse" Hostel - 26.7 mi today - 1335.0 mi total
Our shelter mates started moving at 5;30 AM. Harley was pissed. He gave me a look as if to say "Are you kidding me?!" Needless to say he is not a morning dog. Ate my pie for breakfast and it was delicious. Best trail breakfast by far. Hit the trail at 7AM and got to Culvers Gap at 8:15 AM. Called "the outhouse" hostel in Unionville to try to organize slackpaking (Thru-hiking lingo for "hiking without your backpack"). Unfortunately, they didn't have anyone available to drive out to pick up our packs. Easy Goin' and I were disappointed because we had been looking forward to it all night. We stopped in at Joe To Go coffee which is a notoriously un-hiker-friendly place. Joe seemed to be in a grumpy mood, but he gave Easy Goin' a bagel without complaint. I didn't order anything as I have a large food bag. Hiked a bit more and then climbed another fire tower for a great view. I am pleasantly surprised at how beautiful New Jersey is. Ate lunch at the pavilion on Sunrise Mountain with more beautiful views. Met Half Measure and White Hat at the High Point State Park headquarters. They are to Brits hiking from Harpers Ferry to Katahdin. Also answered a bunch of questions from a true New Yorker. This guy drove up in a station wagon that was filled to the brim with stuff and had bikes strapped to the top. His car was riding really low and he asked us the usual set of questions ("how do you get food?" "the dog hikes too?" "You hiked here from Georgia?!!") in a thick New York accent. Its funny to think that he brought a car load of junk with him on his vacation and Easy Goin and are able to carry all of our possesions on our back. To each his own. Solid hike from there, but thankfully we have emerged from the rocks of New Jersey (or so I thought!) and are now in the low land swamp area. Reached Unionville at 7 and was picked up by Butch who drove us to "The Outhouse." The three rules of the Outhouse are (1) when you are here, you are home so treat it as such (2) jiggle the handle on the upstairs toilet and (3) the only dishes that you wash are the ones in your backpack. Very hiker friendly. It is the house of the former Mayor of Unionville who allows hiker to sleep in his basement and really makes you feel at home. We met Dick "the Mayor" on his way out to Damascus, VA for Trail Days (the annual AT hiker festival). Very funny guy. Also met two hikers resuming an '08 thru-hike (TLC and Piece of Work). Took a shower, did the laundry, and ate dinner. Harley was tired so he had dinner in bed (check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXOcSyXU79k) Sat around chatting for a while. Hoping to slackpack tomorrow. Looking forward to a cooked breakfast. Great day on the trail.
5/14/2009 - 8:45 PM - "The Outhouse" Hostel - 17.3 mi today - 1352.3 mi total
Got up at 6:30 today. Harley had breakfast in bed as usual. I made the mistake of feeding him in bed one day and now he expects it every morning. I went upstairs for breakfast and Bill treated us to scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes. Yum! Packed my food and water and hopped in the car with TLC, Piece of Work, Easy Goin' and Butch. Hit the trail at 8:00 17 miles North of Unionville. Nice to have a light pack, but wierd to be walking South. Harley was very happy about slackpacking and he was high tailing down the trail all day long. Saw Itchy, One Shoe, and Endor at the road. They are planning to drop into New York City, so hopefully I will see them soon. Nice walking, but the rocks haven't ended yet! Descent from Wawayanda Mountain was steep and rocky. Rained a little bit which made for slick conditions. Got to Route 94 and visited Heaven Hill Farm Market where I got a milkshake, muffin, and split a dozen donuts with Easy Goin'. Yum! From there it was a flat board walk over a swamp. Saw a lot of birds as we meandered along the boardwalk. Had lunch at Pochuck Mountain Shelter. Easy 5 mile walk from there to Unionville. Passed through a wildlife refuge and had a long road walk. Got to town at 4 with plenty of time to shower and check Harley for ticks. Grizzly Adams, Chert, Wally, and Pacman arrived around 6. Great to see them again. We got caught up on all the trail news. There are four other section hikers here tonight (including the three from Baton Rouge). Good thing it was pasta night as it is tough to feed ten hungry hikers. Butch and Bill gave Wally and Pacman a hard time about their British accents. It was a hilarious dinner. Afterwards, we watched a video of Paul Potts, which I guess is a sort of tradition at the Outhouse. Pretty inspiring story. Now just getting ready for bed. The guys are watching Into the Wild. Wierd to be able to watch tv. Officially cross from New Jersey into New York tomorrow.
5/15/2009 - 8:50 PM - Wildcat Shelter - 11.7 mi today - 1364.0 mi total
Got up at 6:30 for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, and toast today. The two ladies from Baton Rouge were up early again today. Harley was pissed. Had to wait for Easy Goin' to pick up his mail drop from the post office, so we didn't get to the trailhead until 9AM. Said goodbye to the Brits and Californians as I likely won't see them again due to my upcoming week off the trail. Had a lot of bouldering today. Took Harley's pack off a couple times so he could safely navigate a couple spots. He nearly took a couple tumbles. I fell over twice and bashed up my elbow and scraped my hand. The boulders were pretty wet and slick. Crossed the New Jersey/New York border (check out the videos here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nggdG7pB-Sg and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGgig4qLdvc). I am officially in state number 9. Glad to be in my home state. Had some nice views of Greenwood Lake as we walked along a ridgeline. Got to 17A and took a short walk to Bellvale Creamery for a milkshake and lunch. Easy Goin' pushed on as he was trying to do a 26 mile day. I took my time as I had planned on just going to the first shelter. Stopped at Wildcat Shelter for the night and found a March 2009 copy of Backpacker Magazine. I read it cover to cover and then cooked dinner. Three section hikers showed up as I was cleaning up. Nice conversation and they gave me some food. Tomorrow is my last full day of hiking before my week off. Looking forward to a break, but don't want to get too comfortable back in society. I still have a lot of ground to cover.
5/16/2009 - 8:30 PM - William Brien Memorial Shelter - 19.6 mi today - 1383.6 mi total
Woke up at 6 and had breakfast. Reread some of Backpacker Magazine while I waited for Harley to finish his breakfast. Hit the trail at 7:30 and made a conscious decision to not look at my watch and take it slow today. I have a bad habit of counting down the miles throughout the day. I want to shake that way of thinking and instead enjoy the scenery as it comes. It's very easy to get wrapped up in pace, mileages, or time and forget that this is a walk in the woods, not a race. Climbed up Fitzgerald Falls and got some pictures. Someone had used pebbles to write "WHY?" on a boulder along the trail. I had to think about that for a while. It's a question that thru-hikers deal with a lot, especially when the going gets tough. I settled on an answer ("Why not?") and continued on. Good food for thought. Had a couple snack breaks. Humid and cloudy all day, but no rain. Met "Paddy-O" on the way down Agony Grind and scored some major trail magic. He showed me to his truck where he set up a propane grill and cooked me some calzones. I also had a bagel, cookies, chocolate milk, soda, and a "trail bomb" (essentially an Irish Car Bomb). He really made my day. He had everything set up in his truck bed and has been doing trail magic for the last nine years. The trail community is certainly something special. Floated along in the afternoon. Conquered the "Lemon Squeezer" which was quite fun. Stopped in at Fingerboard Shelter and met a guy from West Point who had just finished his finals. Walked .3 miles down Arden Valley Road to get water from a spigot and scored a ride back to the trail from the mother of a thru-hiker ("Big Goose"). I have really lucked out with the trail magic today. Maybe it is an early birthday present from the trail. Got to the shelter at 6:30 and met a bunch of weekenders from Connecticut. Had a fire going which drove away the flies. Called Mom to double check the arrangements. Planning to meet her at Graymoor tomorrow.
5/17/2009 - 9:00 PM - Peekskill Inn - 15.3 mi today - 1398.9 mi total
Thunderstorms overnight. Found out that the shelter was leaky. I didn't care though because I knew that I would be in a motel tonight and would be able to dry everything out. Got up at 6 and hit the trail by 7:15. Cloudy but no rain today. Luckily I miised rush hour at the Palisades Parkway. I have heard horror stories of hikers who have had to wait 20 minutes to cross that road. Highlight of the day was Bear Mountain. Climbed the observation tower with Harley, but didn't have much of a view of New York City due to the weather. Had a snack break, and all of a sudden a large group showed up and started doing a Taekwondo class on top of the mountain. Not what you expect in the middle of the woods. Steep descent from there to the Hudson River. Walked around the Trailside Zoo as Harley wasn't allowed in. Crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River (check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXlss5WVZFs) and passed the lowest point on the trail (124 feet). Pretty hilly walk from there to Graymoor where I met Mum at 2:30. Harley and I were happy to see her. Harley instantly fell asleep on his bed while I checked him for ticks. He's a spoiled dog. Drove to Peekskill and found a motel. Showered up and went to the store to get lunch food for tomorrow. Had dinner at a little Mexican restaurant with live music. Ate a quesadilla appetizer, combo platter, half of Mum's conbo platter , and a fried banana for desert. Went back to the hotel and had some milk and cookies. Now to bed.
5/18/2009 - 9:00 PM - Peekskill Inn - 11.8 mi today - 1410.7 mi total
Got up at 6 and let the dog out. Had breakfast at the hotel. Really enjoyed orange juice in the morning. Packed our bags and drove to Clarence Fahnestock State Park to drop off the car. Got a taxi back from there to Graymoor. Hit the trail around 9. Started with an easy downhill, but it didn't stay that way for long. Was quite hilly throughout the day without many views. Passed by a number of rockwalls that date back to the Revolutionary War. We passed through one area that looked as though it might have been a large army camp. Met up with Grizzly, Chert, Wally and Pacman. Glad that Mum got to meet them too. Had a variety of terrain today, including a boardwalk over a swamp and some rocky climbs and descents. It was a gourmet day as we had hummus, bread, cheese, and of course summer sausage. After lunch was a very pretty walk as we crossed a stream leading to a waterfall and then climbed a rocky hill that had a massive tree groing with huge roots descending down the rock face (check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVRaVvfTi5E). I also found a white blaze on a piece of bark on the ground next to the trail. I kept it as a memento. I've been looking for one of those for 1400 miles and finally found one. Very exciting. Got back to the car at 4:30 and found that the Fearless Four had left me a message. Harley had a whole bag of snacks as I had accidentally left them in the car this morning. He was giving me a lot of nasty looks about that today. From there we drove to the top of Bear Mountain so Mum could check out the view of the Hudson. It was a beautiful clear day, so we had a great view of New York City. Both of us were stiff getting out of the car. Afterwards we went back to the hotel to shower and got pizza from a local Italian place. Also stopped by the supermarket to pick up milk and cookies which we will deposit on the trail tomorrow for the Fearless Four (little bit of trail magic). Had some Oreos myself and now am going to bed.
Welcome to my trail blog for my 2009 Appalachian Trail Hike! Here you can find all of my journal entries of my 2178.3 mile journey from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. You can see my picture slideshow to the right, as well as a recap of my hike mile by mile and gear list. Download the ebook about my hike on iTunes. I hope you find my quest inspiring. Thanks for visiting and Happy Trails!