Thanks to Mike B who dropped me off at the AT crossing on Arden Valley Road which is about 3/10 of a mile west of the Tiorati Lake circle in the Harriman State park. I wanted to do this as my first section hike on the Appalachian Trail. I headed northbound so I could finish at the Bear Mountain State Park where my van was waiting for me. I also wanted to do some tests with my new pack and check the weight of the pack with most of the stuff I will need when I do some overnight camping.
The first couple of miles was easy walking through mountain laurel encased trails. Tremendous amounts of blooming bushes.
I took a photo for Bernadette to confirm the flower identification. I passed a buck with felt covered antlers as I crossed Seven Lakes Drive before starting some rolling hills on way toward the William Brien shelter which was about four miles into the hike.
Noone was at the shelter. I signed the trail register which was inside a plastic bag on the top right bunk. As I was drinking some of my fruit punch gatorade out of a nalgene bottle, a father and son hiking pair started up the steep hike north of the shelter. There was no picnic table at this shelter. The hike proceeds over Black Mountain about 1200 feet in elevation. I reached the Palisades Interstate Parkway, a little over six miles into the hike, at 9:23am. In the northbound direction, I first had to cross the two southbound lanes. No pedestrian bridge. I had to wait for a gap in the 70 mile per hour speeding vehicular traffic in order to run across to get to the wooded median which separates the southbound from the northbound lanes. While in the median, I stopped to sign the trail register which is located in a wooden box with a rubber flap to keep out the rain.
The book was filled up so I signed on the back- same as before- the date and time, my name, direction of travel. I will have to let the NJ/NY trail group know to put in a new book. Then it was time to run the gauntlet of the two north bound lanes of the PIP. It took a few minutes to find the safe gap in traffic.
About three tenths of a mile east of the PIP I photographed this trail sign. Foot travel only, bikes prohibited. Kind of funny if you saw some of the rock scrambles and the boulder steps placed in the sides of the mountains. It was hard enough getting up on foot with two trekking poles.
Next climbing occurred on West Mountain where the steepness was increasing in difficulty. Passed a couple of scenic overlooks. I passed some intersecting trails including one which lead to the West Mountain shelter. This is located 6/10 mile off the trail in the opposite direction of my travel. I did not detour to see this shelter. I passed a group of six other day hikers who probably accessed the AT via some side trails.
As I made my way north, I crossed Seven Lakes drive which is about nine miles into this section. A mile later I crossed Perkins Drive which is the road used by vehicular traffic to get to the Perkins Observatory on the top of Bear Mountain. AT hikers don’t use the car road and begin a winding series of switchbacks with some rock scrambles during the trip up to the top of Bear Mountain. There were a couple of other college age type hikers who indicated which way to go when a was unsure of the white blaze for the AT. By following their advice I ended up wasting energy for twenty minutes and I had to back trap before reacquiring the AT trail. Lesson learned. I should have trusted my instincts and not asked for advice. The climbing got increasingly steeper but I reached the 1300 ft summit where I saw what I thought was a mirage at first. Vending machines where I got a cold diet coke. I was savinv half of my last nalgene bottle for the two mile descent to the Bear Mountain Inn. As I started down I noticed someone had left an iced cupcake at the base of a wooden post bearing the white AT blaze. A bit of trail magic. I left it for someone else.
As I descended I noticed two things. One- this side of Bear Mountain had many hand placed stones, secured by pea gravel, to form the steps. I did not count them, but I have read there are 700 steps. I think that number is correct. My newly acquired Black Diamond Z trekking poles helped with this descent. The second thing I noticed were how many persons were walking up as I went down. Now I know I am old, but it took me around an hour to descend. I saw many persons walking up without as much as one bottle of water. It was 90 degrees out by this time. I don’t know if they made it up but, even if they did, then they have to get back down. I was glad to be descending as my engine was getting low on power.
I emerged from the trees near the beach area at the southwestern corner of Hessian Lake. It took me 8 hours and 24 minutes to finish my hike. I walked around the Bear Mountain Inn to my van.
My original plan was to do the last mile through the Bear Mountain zoo and end at the toll booth for the Bear Mountain bridge which is the terminus of this section. I did not want to have to come back the other mile to get to my car so I will add this part to the start of my next hike which will be on NY section #9. This way I won’t be skipping any parts.
Overall, I learned a lot and am looking forward to my next section hike.
Thanks to Bernadette for supporting my interest in section hiking the AT.
PS: I experimented with different mixtures of fluids in three 32 ounce Nalgene bottles. The best was putting two 12 ounce Gatorade fruit punch drinks and adding water to fill up the bottle. This watered down the Gatorade just right for my taste.