Appalachian Trail – October 11th, 2013
I spent time preparing for rain again last night, and not a single drop fell. Of course, I prefer dry weather, but the flip side to all this great hiking, with no moisture falling, is that the water is becoming scarier. This means I have to carry more water between resupplies. This requires a bit of planning and results in a heavier pack.
I carried two liters today. This was a first on this hike. My routine usually consists of taking a liter and stopping at a water source every three hours to drink a liter. The one I carry is just for backup. I’ve also noticed that with less water comes poor quality. I’ve even come across hand pumps with notices announcing the presence of chloroform bacteria. So far, I’ve avoided drinking from these sources, which makes me smile as I mentally compare them to the cow troughs of New Mexico that I frequented out west. I feel that chloroform bacteria was the least of my worries from the CDT sources in New Mexico.
Today was another pleasant walk in the woods. NY gets a lot of bad press from other hikers. I’ve seen blog entries with complaints about the shelters, privies, trails, etc. I’m pleased to say that I’ve had no real complaints so far. I personally like NY. I would classify this more as an “ornery” section. There are some lovely views and some challenging little climbs. The rocks can be abrupt and steep, but they come in pockets – like little islands of sudden effort. As a south bounder, I smile and recall southern Maine.
Around lunchtime, I arrived at Route 9 and looked across the busy road to see the “Appalachian” convenience store. It ended up being a thru-hikers dream convenience store. It was hectic, and I made a big loop before finding a small empty table near the front to settle in, and leave my pack, while I ordered a large pizza.
Seated at a table next to me was an older northbound hiker named Nami. We had the “hiker bond” and immediately began chatting, the standard questions – where we had started, where we were from, etc. Surprisingly, he was from SC, my birth state. He had started the trail in June and was making his way North.
Midst of conversation, and rather abruptly, a local contractor squeezed into our small table and began rattling off hiking questions. I was taken aback, but Jim proved gregarious and sociable, and we all settled into an hour-long conversation. At the same time, I polished off my large pizza and mumbled responses between mouthfuls of heaven.
My next destination for the day was Bear Mountain zoo. I had heard from other hikers that the animals in this zoo were once injured, and the zoo was their refuge. Upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice clean zoo with all the animals in what appeared to be good health.
I arrived at feeding time and stopped to watch zookeepers giving a black bear treats through the fence as she stood on her hind legs reaching through the chain link. She was a very pretty large chocolate bear. Her companion appeared agitated and paced back and forth, ignoring the keepers and looking off into the trees past the fence. I felt sorry for him. I empathized, he looked as if he did not like being caged.
I headed on through the park and the booths set up for Oktoberfest and started climbing the steps leading to the summit of Bear Mountain. The mountain is a step-building marvel, making the climb much easier. Maine and NH could have used a few of Bear Mountain’s Trail Maintainers.
There were still quite a few people at the top at 5:30 PM, so I was hopeful the two towers might be open, but unfortunately, it was locked. I was disappointed, as I needed water for the evening. Instead, I headed to the vending machines and got tea and water for dinner. This was the first time on the trail that I would have to pay for water.
I began the climb down the mountain. Dusk was approaching, and I needed to get at least a mile away from the popular summit and parking area before camping for the night. I was less than an hour outside of NYC and tried to camp as remotely as possible when this close to large metropolitan areas, especially New York City.
Shortly before dark, I spotted a tall ridge of dark rock about 30 yards off the trail to my right. I headed over to take a look, and as I walked around the end of the ridge, I realized there was another ridge of rock, both ridges about 8 feet tall, immediately behind the first ridge. I was pleased to see that between these two ridges was about 20 feet of leaf-covered, flat ground. I was out of sight of the trail and had the perfect camping site for the evening.
I rarely hike after the sun goes down. I love the views, scenery, and wildlife, which does not include waist-high eyes glowing at me through the dark. I have night hiked on rare occasions when necessary, but only to make needed miles or because I could find nowhere to set up the tarp. Tonight was no exception.
I settled in to munch on a Peanut Butter and Jelly tortilla and sip on some fine Dasani-filtered liquid. There was no comparison – mountain springs were nectar compared to this plastic-flavored, tepid, municipal tap water.