New Jersey & New York

August 19. Zero Day.

After running around yesterday on my feet, trains, buses, subways and the like, I took a slow day today. I slept in at the hotel, packed my bags, and made for the city. I can only take so much time in Jersey. I got myself a thick pastrami sandwich (I disagree with Mitch Hedberg. There is not too much meat on New York sandwiches. Sure, it is like a cow with two crackers on the side. But I like it that way.), went over to Brooklyn to the Subway museum (in an old subway station with old subway cars you can go and walk or sit in. I sat quite a bit.) and then back to the Port Authority to see off my sister on a bus back to Boston. My mother and I went down to the Village for an early dinner and then off to parts unseen in Jersey, about half-way to the trail, to stay with family, cousins Alice, Eric and their children Brian, Kate and Matthew. I hadn’t seen them in ages and they are all much more grown up than I had remembered.

August 20 — 19.8 Miles today, 1297.3 miles from Springer, 877.3 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +970 feet. 
Climbs: 3, Wx: 80s-90, 80%, Shelter: -, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

I was slacking today out of Delaware Water Gap and in to Jersey. It took a while to find a proper grocery store (the Water Gap has nothing) so I was on trail rather late, but managed to make close to 20 miles in about 7 hours. My mother passed me, with honks and flashing lights, as I crossed the Delaware bridge, and I was officially out of Pennsylvania. Thank goodness.

I could have hiked more than I did. The trail was pretty easy going but rather boring. It was warm and humid and I didn’t quite feel up to running the whole day. I got to a meeting point, but instead of picking up a Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Map, we were relying on the internet for directions.

The reason the National Park Service controls the whole area around the Delaware north of I-80 is a dam. At least, that was the plan. They wanted to build a huge dam at the Delaware Water Gap and back water up to Port Jervis, creating power, recreation and flood control. Frankly, a big flood through Trenton and Camden might do more good than harm. The dam looked headed for approval until the environmentalists (those bastards) got caught up in the whole mess, and cost overruns and the like had it permanently scuttled. However, by then the NPS had condemned and taken most of the land around the river, so it is now a primitive area just over an hour from New York City. By the 1950s there were several small vacation properties, and despite their demolition and road closings, many small roads still exist. It is an interesting landscape to explore.

The trail generally sticks to a ridge, with some views, especially at fire towers. Supposedly, there are a lot of bears and rattlesnakes, but I saw none of either. In any case, I arrived at out meeting spot, with spotty cell service, and found out from a ranger, who gave me a map, that the road to the east was closed, but only as it switchbacked down the ridge; it was open to the foot of the hill. Perhaps the NPS didn’t see the point in maintaining a steep, eroding road from nowhere to nowhere, so they closed it. But no one told Google Maps. So my mom and Brian were on a mission to find me. Luckily, I got a call through to them and told them to stop at the gate and wait, and I went charging down the road. They started walking up, and it was literally only a few hundred yards, because I was soon yelling and then talking to them, and we made our way down to the bottom and in to a car and back in to the real Garden State. (Whippany! Parsippany! Hoboken, Rahway and Ho Ho Kus to boot.)

August 21 — 7 Miles today, 1304.3 miles from Springer, 870.3 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -40 feet. 
Climbs: Nil, Wx: 70s, 100%, Shelter: 5, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

This morning I was rather unproductive. At least in hiking. I was about to be thrown in to the wilds of New Jersey (rim shot) and wanted to maximize my indoors time. I could have gone farther, perhaps, but decided to sit on a rock for a while, ponder existence, and then get to a shelter only seven miles on. There were three SOBOs there, one of whom had the same shoes as me, except his were brand new, and mine were from 700 miles south on the trail. The difference in color was stunning.

The shelter had a bear box. Basically, it is a heavy-duty metal box with latches so humans, with our nifty opposable thumbs, can open it, but Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear and Junior can’t. I guess the bears are something to take seriously here. The box went undisturbed during out stay, but I found out later from another hiker that during his stay at the same shelter, they watched a bear sit on top of the box and try, in vain, to pry it open. So there are bears around.

I also left my unused Martz Bus ticket at the shelter. When I boarded, they didn’t take it from me, and it’s good for three months. So I had three choices: destroy it or give it back to them (and ask for nothing in return), give it back to them and ask for a refund (as was stipulated on the ticket) or leave it at a shelter for others. The final option was the best trail karma, so I taped it to the outside of the log with a note telling anyone who wanted a one-way trip to the city to take it.

August 22 — 24.9 Miles today, 1329.2 miles from Springer, 845.4 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -650 feet. 
Climbs: 4, Wx: 70s-80s, 100%, Shelter: 5, Dinner: 5, Overall: +.

We were all up early after a cool, pleasant night’s sleep, and for me it was a mere three miles to several stores on US 209. I made it there by around 8:30 and went to Joe to Go, where I ordered a bagel (not that good, although this is pretty far from the Bagel Capital of the country, if not the world — Montreal also has a claim) and then asked if I could use the bathroom. “We don’t have a bathroom,” I was told. In fact, upon inquiry I found that no one along the road there had bathrooms. Lovely.

But, was I going to let some stingy fellow in Jersey deny me flush toilets? Nosireebob. So I went to the gas station. Now, in New Jersey, there is always an attendant outside the gas station, because in Jersey you are not allowed to pump your own gas (in Oregon, too). Seriously. When I led the Outing Club to the Bighorns a couple years ago, a friend and New Jerseyite, was very, very excited to pump gas when we needed petrol. The rest of us thought she was nuts. “Really? I can pump it? Wow! That’s so exciting!”

So, I asked the attendant if he had a restroom. After months of privies, a gas station toilet seems like the Ritz. “It’s broken.” Likely story. I at least got an explanation at the outdoors store (fishing and boating mainly, god forbid they should carry backpacking supplies seeing as they are all of a hundred yards from the Trail). “We can’t have all of you coming through; our septic system can’t handle it. Hogwash. Every year 350 northbounders and 100 southbounders complete the trail, and there is attrition, but by this point, 1300 and 900 miles in, respectively, most of the hikers who are going to drop out have. So you have, giving this fellow a big benefit of the doubt, 750 hikers coming through each year. Or about two per day. Spread out over several businesses. The septic systems can’t handle it? Bunk.

Exacerbated, I went in to the bar, which, for some reason, was open at 9:00. Okee dokee. “Bathrooms are for customers only,” read a sign prominently on the door. Wow. They really can’t stand the fact that several hundred prospective, if somewhat dirty, customers are coming through each year. Would it kill them to cater to these hikers? The woman at the bar was ever-so-slighly warmer than the rest of the folks here. I ordered French Fries (They were listed as “Freedom Fries,” and I made a point to enunciate the “French.”) and made for the restroom. When I got back, Fox News was blaring.

“What’s in the news?” I asked, wondering what kind of skewed response I would get from someone watching that bunk. This is one of the red corners of Jersey.

“No news is good news,” she replied. I gave a puzzled look, and she continued “today is the day the Muslims say the world is going to end, so as long as it doesn’t, that’s good news.”

Wow, I thought. She’s nuts, and she believes this sillyness. “Uh, I think a lot of religions say there are a lot of days which will be the ‘end of the world,'” I told her, “so I don’t think we should get too worked up about this one.”

Then an ad break ended and a Fox promo came on. “Hugo Chavez visits China,” the dialogue said over a picture of the Venezuelan leader in China. “Is this the beginning of a plot against America? Find out, today at four!”

I ate my french, er, freedom fries and moved on out. It was time to get back to the real world.

Culvers Gap, the location of these unfriendly businesses, is the only main road crossing of the Kitatinny Ridge in New Jersey, and after a short climb I was back on rather flat ground, and making decent time. There was another fire tower, and a pavilion where I ate lunch, and a rather uneventful bit of trail to High Point, which is the highest point in the state. Like Massachusetts, New Jersey has a large, phallic “war memorial” on top of High Point, which the trail eschews.

Past high point, the trail descends off of the ridge and begins to cross a series of ridges and valleys sculpted partially by glaciers, so there are several long, flat sections. In one of these, a local fellow who thru-hiked long ago has built a small cabin, complete with a shower and the world’s smallest hot water heater (you get about six minutes), but it is running water nonetheless. It was quite nice. Except for the local donkey population. Just beyond the shelter is a field where a pair of donkeys graze. Well, they seem to do more than graze. In fact, they seem quite interested in each other. And all I could think of was Lewis Black desscribing halftime of the Superbowl in 2002, when ‘N’Sync and Aerosmith played together and he decided he’d “rather be seeing — donkeys fucking … it’s not like I sit in my New York apartment and pine to see livestock go at it. But when you’ve got ‘N’Sync and Aerosmith, you know what I say? I say bring on the burros. And if you are going to have donkeys fucking on television, make sure there’s a musical soundtrack, because if you have donkeys fucking and it’s quiet, that’s perverted. There’s a fine line. Don’t cross it.” We had no soundtrack, except for that provided by the rather excited donkeys.

August 23 — 28.8 Miles (MARATHON), 1358 miles from Springer, 816.6 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: 450 feet. 
Climbs: 3,3, Wx: 80s, 90%, Shelter: -, Dinner: -, Overall: 4.

I made an early start out of the shelter, after finding out that the other fellow there needed to take a bus ride in to the City from DWG. Great! Go to Brinks Road Shelter (he planned to stay there anyway) and you’ll find a free ticket. He was excited, and I felt good, that my ticket would be put to use, twice.

As I walked out of the shelter, a man was walking in. He looked, uh, desheveled. That’s putting it nicely. He didn’t have a pack, per se, but two pack straps and bunch of compartments made out of Tyvek and fastened with duct tape. Maybe it was lighter, who knows. I talked to him and he asked where the shelter was — it was 7:30 but he had camped in the woods somewhere, which was probably good. He stunk, and he wasn’t wearing any shoes. He looked like he was nuts.

“I have one question,” I asked after telling him to continue down the road to find the shelter. “Why aren’t you wearing any shoes?”

“I haven’t worn any shoes since I got out of the marines in ’72.”

Okay then. He’d hiked 800 miles without shoes. He seemed to be one of these people who was still caught up in the Vietnam War 35 years later. Major PTSD. The funny thing is that he is raising money to help current troops go through a PTSD program when the come back from abroad (here is his website) — a noble cause indeed. But I think he might need to go through the program himself.

I knew that about twelve miles in to the hike there was a small store just off the trail, and I was excited to get there. It was a very interesting bit of trail. It went though some farmland, across a long bit of bog bridging, then down a suburban street (seriously), across the Walkill River, and then around an old sod farm which has been turned in to a wildlife refuge. If it had been hot and humid it would have been miserable, but at 9:00 with temperatures in the upper 60s it was actually quite nice. It also crossed a mile-long marsh on an elevated walkway, which made for some really easy walking (and really expensive trail work), but since it was in the suburbs, there were quite a few people out jogging and walking their dogs. Except for these areas, the trail was rather dry, with most of the “streams” mentioned creekbeds with a nasty trickle of water, if anything.

I crossed my first hill and took a bit of a break at the store, for a bit of resupply (nuts, cheese) and some fresh veggies for lunch, as well as a proper toilet. While there, I talked to a guy called John for a while and he offered me a ride and a place to sleep from the next major road crossing, fifteen miles on. I told him I might be through late but that I’d give a call (cell reception, in this area, does not seem to be a major issue). So, off I strode, up and down some more hills along the New York-New Jersey Border, before I turned north in to New York State, where the trail follows the top of a ridge, complete with twelve foot scrambles up and down bedrock. Seriously, why do they have to put the blazing up and over every little bump?

The high areas with views do have a great view of Manhattan, although I didn’t get a good picture (I should have spent more time trying). Across a couple more ridges, you could see everything in Downtown and Midtown over about 30 stores, many more buildings on the Upper West Side, and even a bit of the City through a ridge where, all of a sudden, instead of trees there was a row of buildings glistening in the late sunlight. It is really amazing that this trail passes within what seems like a stone’s throw of one of the largest cities in the world. I felt like I could reach out and touch the Empire State Building. Well, not really. But we were close.

In any case, I got to the ice cream shop where the trail crosses the next road after dark, and while downing a quart of ice cream decided to call this fellow and take him up on his offer. I was kind of [and here comes a phrase that only people under 25 will really understand] sketched out by the circumstances; the guy seemed perfectly nice, and I finally convinced myself he was not going to kill me. And he didn’t. He lives in a nice house and let me sleep on the porch. What was weird was that he sort of provided the in-between trail magic experience. He did more than just give me a Coke, but some people get all excited and prepare a bed and tell you to take a shower and raid their fridge. I didn’t need the fridge, but a shower would have been nice. Still, the timing was right, and I’d gotten pretty used to civilization.

August 24 — 16.4 Miles today, 1374.4 miles from Springer, 800 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: 210 feet. 
Climbs: 4,4, Wx: 70s, 10%, R, Shelter: 4, Dinner: 4, Overall: 3.

It rained, ever-so-lightly, overnight, and I had to roll under the eaves to stay dry. Perhaps because of the rain, John decided to offer me breakfast in the morning, which was very good. So his trail-magic-ness goes up a notch. As I read his “IMPEACH BUSH” New York Times ad prominently displayed on the refrigerator he looked at me and said “you aren’t for Georgie, are you?”

“Oh of course not,” I replied. Was he glad to hear that. If we’d hit it off as well the night before, I’d have probably had a shower and bed inside. No matter. He seemed impressed at how well I kept up-to-date on various political issues, as if he’d encountered one too many apathetic young people. And I was glad to be in a place where there were sensible people with anti-Bush propaganda all over their houses.

After breakfast he took me to the trail, I bid him farewell, and set off towards the Hudson. This part of New York, west of the river, does not get it’s due when people mention hard parts of the trail, but it is kind of like Pennsylvania, Jr. It is grinding, with few views or interesting features, but a lot of annoying climbs, descents and rocks. And I didn’t feel “it,” either. All of the water along the trail was going or gone, so I was glad for the trail magic water, which was left out at most of the road crossings in gallon jugs.

At one point, I passed by a couple guys and struck up a conversation. It turns out one of them, Pigpen, was another Northbounder. Wow! The first one I’d met. I was making up time on NOBOs in Virginia, but with time off in New York and D.C. I hadn’t made up any time recently. But this was a real NOBO, albeit a slow NOBO. I said my hellos and plodded on. (I have no idea if he finished or flipped.)

The trail descends out of the suburbs and in to Harriman State Park, which is a large tract set aside many years ago and which is home to some of the earliest trail specifically constructed as the Appalachian Trail. Actually, the suburbs had somewhat subsided, as a large area had been “rescued” from development a few years ago and set aside as forest, but Harriman and Bear Mountain State Park next to it provide one of the earliest conservation measures, dating back to the early 1900s.

After the noise of the Thruway subsided, I realized that the vegetation was unlike anything along the rest of the trail. It was almost like a savannah — with sparsely-spaced trees growing up in a thin canopy, interspersed with more normal oak-dominated forest. The grassy areas are on thin soils which at times gave way to exposed bedrock, so it all must be the work of the glaciers. There was also a climb through the aptly-named lemon squeezer, where the trail goes between two granite slabs and becomes narrower, very gradually, before I finally got stuck, and had to back up and hoist myself and out of it, poles thrown ahead in desperation. It was a challenge, albeit an annoying one. The walking was much more strenuous than the elevation profile suggested, and I reached a shelter built on the bedrock and settled in for the night. My shelter-mate was an Israeli taking a post-army month on the Trail. It was fun to see the reaction when I wished a “lila-tov” before turning in for the night.

August 25 — 20.5 Miles today, 1394.9 miles from Springer, 779.7 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -780 feet. 
Climbs: 4,4,4,4, Wx: 70s, 10%, RF, Shelter: 4, Dinner: +, Overall: 4.

I slept in until around 8:00; when I feel lousy I like to sleep as long as I can as it usually cures whatever my ills may be. It was quite foggy out and started raining, lightly, while I ate breakfast. Instead of the southern, warm rain, this was a northern, fall rain, so I wasn’t complaining. Yet. Plus, the last time I had really hiked in the rain, save for a few minutes in Pennsylvania, and half an hour north of Roanoke, was the hike in to Pearisburg, more than 700 miles back. I’d had pretty good weather, and we need some rain to make the streams start running again.

About a mile north of the shelter, I turned off on a road to go to Tiorati Circle, at first just to get water. They also have a “comfort station,” which seems to be state park talk for “bathroom.” As if “restroom” wasn’t a polite enough euphamism. If I become the head of state parks, all of the comfort stations are being labeled as “crappers.” Not only is it a room for rest, it is a station for comfort. Give me a break. In any case, I used the “comfort station,” which had just been cleaned, and then made for the soda and candy machines. Which were in a covered pavilion, which was especially good because the skies opened as I sat there. I called home, got a weather forecast, and found out the thunder and heavy rain was moving through. I was hungry, so I made a box of cous cous, added cheese and TVP and had a 1000 calorie mid-morning snack. With my metabolism going at 4000-8000 calories a day, I need all I can get.

I finally left, in somewhat less-heavy rain, and the walk soon yielded trail magic (orange soda, which begat belches) and I moved on, trying to get to the Bear Mountain zoo, which was listed in the guidebooks as closing at 5:00. The trail goes through the zoo, but if you get there after hours, the official trail becomes Route 7 around the zoo. As I went, the trail became easier, and I figured I could make it there by 5:00. The main obstacle was actually crossing the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

I’d heard about the Palisades from a few people, which was described as the scariest crossing on the Trail. The problem was, no one was calling it what it was (“The somethingorother Turnpike” and such) so I didn’t get too worked up. But all of the sudden, I walked out of the woods and saw two lanes of traffic zipping along, left to right, at about 70 miles per hour. And a blaze on the other side. Most of the roads the Trail crosses at-grade are lazy, two-lane affairs out in the country. This was a major commuter thoroughfare! The southbound side, in the afternoon, was not too scary, so I found a break and made a mad dash across the screaming traffic. Then, I signed the register in the middle of the road. The New York New Jersey Trail Conference puts up a lot of registers along the trail, many in sort of random points. This one is especially interesting, because I am convinced that it will one day capture someone’s last thoughts, before they are mowed down by an SUV coming over the hill.

Most of the comments in the log were to the extent of “BUILD A BLEEDIN’ BRIDGE YOU IDIOTS! SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET KILLED!” Frankly, I am amazed no one has been. There are no trucks on the Palisades, but it is still a death trap. One day there will be a bridge, and I think, cynically but probably realistically, that it will be named in memory of whoever is the first person to die crossing the road. Or maybe in memory of the people who die in a pile-up when someone slams on their brakes to stop for a hiker.

With these pleasant, if somewhat morbid, thoughts echoing in my mind, I went to cross northbound, rush hour traffic. When I got there I eyed a break in the traffic, albeit a small one. Still, I looked over the hill to the right and saw a steady parade of speeding traffic coming up from the City. If I didn’t go now I might not get a chance until next Purim. So I took a deep breath and made a mad dash for the other side. And made it. Barely. This REALLY needs to have a bridge. It’s insane, and someone is going to be killed.

That challenge over, all I had to do was climb up Bear Mountain, running most of it, especially on the road going up the mountain. The rain had lifted but the views, spectacular on a nice day, were less than stellar. I’ll go back one day and drive or bike or walk back up — it’s a nice spot. Then it was a bomb down the other side, where I ran past a group of kids who were running down an old ski jump which once crossed the trail. As I sauntered by they were all very proud of having run down the mountain, although I bragged I had done it faster. One of them, standing near a counselor next to an eight-foot vertical drop on the ski jump, said something like “I’m Superman.”

As the counselor reached towards him, I mumbled “can you fly?” It probably wasn’t prudent, and the counselor was able to restrain him before we found out.

From there, I sprinted down under 9W and along the path to the zoo. Out of breath, wet and tired, I found a locked gate. Park open 9:00 – 4:30. I was pissed. The main exhibit people talk about are the bears, and people who haven’t seen a dozen bears already get excited. Well, I was angry. I started yelling to no one (as there was no one around): “Well, I don’t care! I’ve seen thirteen wild bears. No flippin’ cages. So I don’t need to see your bears, damnit. I’ve seen plenty, stupid zoo!” I may have added some four letter words for effect, too.

I then went back to the road, around on the “alternate route” and across the very cool Bear Mountain Bridge. It is a beautiful suspension bridge, and even the toll booths are designed so as to not look like boxes and with a slab roof. I really strode across it, taking lots of pictures, looking down at the river at sea level, only about 150 feet below (the low spot of the trail — and the only time you cross or otherwise see salty or brackish water unless you get an ocean view off of Washington), watched the trains zoom up and down along the river (which must be a really beautiful ride, skirting the banks of the Hudson and darting in and out of tunnels) and finally made it to the other side.

From there, it was a rather easy walk to the Graymoor Friary; the trail east of the Hudson is easier than the trail to the west. Near the Friar’s softball field is a covered pavilion which is used as an impromptu shelter where there is a gap of more than 30 miles between official shelters. I had a bit of trouble finding it, but it was dark and foggy; they have blue blazes painted on the road. In the past, the Friary allowed hikers to stay inside the friary, but hikers abused their generosity, so now the pavilion is the official hiker residence. No matter, it was dry. And had I been there earlier, I would have been able to order take-out and had it delivered. Oh, well.

August 26 — 18.9 Miles today, 1413.8 miles from Springer, 760.8 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -160 feet. 
Climbs: 4, Wx: 60s-70, RF, 0%, Shelter: -, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

I didn’t sleep terribly well in the Friar’s baseball pavilion, and awoke with three guys, one of whom was a Canadian. I picked up the accent quite quickly — he’s from Nova Scotia but now lives in the Yukon, eh? It was raining out and we all discussed the weather for a bit before two of us finally decided to set out. The thing was that it was really barely raining out and a rather pleasant day for hiking. The Canuck turned left, going south, I turned right, going north, and I plodded along, trying my best not to get soaking wet.

It really wasn’t that hard. It sprinkled a bit, causing me to put on my rain coat, and then it stopped raining, and I got hot and took it off, and then I took off my raincoat, and it started raining. Around noon I passed another northbounder, Pokey (so named because she said that her nearly-noon start was “not abnormal”) , and then saw again later in the day. I had taken a food break in the morning, and took another break later on as my toenail was really bothering me. I sat down, took out the nail clippers, and pulled out a jagged bit of toenail. After appropriate swearing, bleeding and redressing of the wound, I was able to jump back on the trail, and, lo and behold, it felt better. I passed Pokey at a nice little waterfall, where we asked a local trail maintainer why the hell there wasn’t a (expletive) bridge over the Palisades. The same refrain: “Someone is going to get killed. Then they’ll build a bridge.” I love NY.

My parents were on their way from Rochester, having just dropped my sister off at college, and were coming down the Thruway to meet me. I told them three places to meet, and could have hoofed it to the second one, but settled on stopping at the first since there was a shelter there to sit in and wait. I met another northbounder, who started a month before me, but had to work one week a month to keep his health insurance. Thus, we are going about the same speed, and may hike together for a bit since we plan to make the same shelter tomorrow. We ordered pizza to the shelter (seriously, how cool is that?) although I only had a little since I was about to go to eat with my parents.

They came around 9:00 and picked me up after a bit of trying to find me, and then we went to a really lousy (but cheap) motel in Danbury, Connecticut (note: Wellesley Inns suck), took a shower, and went to a Bertuccis where I proceeded to eat more food. Then it was time for bed (I was ready to fall in to bed, too) and while I didn’t sleep like a baby, I didn’t sleep horribly, either. I also heard from James, who was very happy to come out to Western Mass and pick me up for the Red Sox game next week (my sister couldn’t use her free tickets, shucks), calling three minutes after I sent him an email, and three minutes after he got back from climbing Mount Rainier.

August 27 — 16.6 Miles today, 1430.4 miles from Springer, 744.2 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +550 feet. 
Climbs: 3,4, Wx: 50s-60s, RF, 0%, Shelter: 4, Dinner: -, Overall: 3.

I woke up around 8:00 in the really crummy Wellesley Inn, gorged at the continental breakfast, and made for the trail. On the way we hit a heavy shower and I told my dad there was no way I was hiking in that, but it had passed by the time we got to the shelter. I decided that Woodstock must have left already, so I didn’t go to the RPH (it stands for Ralph’s Peak Hiker, which makes no sense) shelter to see if he was there. It turned out he was; and if I had gone there he would have gotten to slack, and I would have had hiking company. I scooted along at a good clip carrying a small day pack, and made ten miles in three hours before meeting my parents for the first time, over easy terrain with great trail maintenance in places. After crossing I-84, I only have four more Interstates to go. My mom came along and joined me for what we thought would be a mile, although it turned out to be two. And during that time, it started raining. Again, it was not a nice, warm rain, but a cold, windy, chilling rain. It was unpleasantly cold. By the time we met my dad, we were more than happy to get in a car and go find food in Pawling.

We hung around in town for a while, trying to dry my stuff in the car, and getting chais and coffees and other warm drinks, before I finally decided to hike four more miles to the next shelter. I’d get wet, but the worst of the rain had moved off, and the other option was to find a motel, pay more money, and the try to hitch out in the morning. I was already wet, so I didn’t mind too much. I did swap my fleece vest with my dad’s fleece jacket; it was time to get sleeves beyond my rain jacket.

The four miles to the shelter were pretty easy, and the rain let up, although I didn’t really enjoy it. I was more than happy to sit down and eat dinner, and go to sleep.

August 28 — 21.4 Miles today, 1451.8 miles from Springer, 722.8 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -245 feet. 
Climbs: 4,4,3, Wx: 70s-80, 20%, Shelter: 1, Dinner: +, Overall: 4.

I actually started hiking with semi-dry feet, but they were soon wet by the plants. Which was a bummer, since the sky was nice and blue. I grabbed water at a house near the impressively large Dover Oak and then made for the Appalachian Trail train station on Metro-North’s Harlem Line. At this point, the city is 66 miles away by train, but there is still regular commuter service (at least from nearby towns, the train only stops at the Trail on weekends) to Grand Central, extending all the way to Wassaic, 82 miles from Midtown and most of the way up Connecticut towards Massachusetts. The train operates as a shuttle service here, one engine and three cars bouncing between the end of electric service and Wassaic, every two hours in each direction. When I got to the station I saw the train coming, waited as it zoomed past, and then sat at the station (with a nice bench) for a few minutes, before I continued on.

There was seriously sweet trail magic near the Connecticut border: coke, bread, honey, jam, chips, popcorn, and the New York Times Magazine. I spent an hour getting caught up. Woodstock showed up while I was immersed in the NYT Mag and I joined him after he took from the trail cache the requisite amount of food.

In Connecticut, the trail pretty much just follows the Housatonic River, jumping up and down on and off of ridges in several places. We got to a shelter around 5:00, but kept on moving crossing a major tributary and then heading up a ridge towards the next shelter. He went on ahead as I slowed down, and we both arrived in the dark at Mount Algo. There were already other hikers there (a couple of SOBOS and a sectioner), as well as a local, who seemed nice, having brought food and beer for the hikers. I was still in the “I have way too much food and it weighs too much I gotta eat it all” phase (The other is the “oh no I don’t have enough food I have to start rationing!” phase, and there is no middle ground. It just works that way. One minute you have way too much food, the next, not nearly enough. It changes with one cracker.) so I graciously declined his offer. He was kind of weird; he had an opinion on everything, but seemed to deliver Discovery Channel soundbites. Everything sounded exceptional, but there was no real basis he gave to back any of it up. In any case, we bashed Fox News (nothing wrong with that) and Wal-Mart and went to bed late.