I parked at the Bear Mountain State Park parking lot next to the Inn and Mike B gave me a ride to the northern terminus of Section #9 which is at the intersection of Rt. 403 and Rt. 9 about four miles north of the Annesville Circle. This intersection is the location for the Appalachian Trail Pizza/Deli and they have some reserved parking spaces for AT hikers or pick up vehicles (15 minute time limit). This deli has received great reviews from AT Thru-Hikers in a couple of different books. Since I was heading southbound today, I started off into a marshy field which had a two plank wide, raised walkway which seemed a good idea. Except that it is sorely in need of maintenance.
Some of the boards were missing, sometimes I had to balance on one board, and even when there were two “boards”, they were broken or in danger of collapsing when the next hiker attempts to cross. I did not want to hurt myself minutes into the hike so I was very careful using this boardwalk. The trail then heads into the woods and begins a fairly steep uphill climb. I passed various connector trails which intersected with the white blazed AT trail. These side trails are maintained by volunteers from the Hudson Highlands. The AT trail had a series of ups and downs in elevation but the trail was pretty easy to follow. Blazes were also painted on boulders and, in one case in a particularly difficult boulder filled terrain, a large white arrow was painted on a rock so southbounders would know where to turn to continue on the trail.
This was a great navigational aide as it is easy to follow the trail when you can see dirt or compacted areas left by all the hikers, but when the trail stays on top of rocks, it is much harder to keep on the trail. Turns, or continuing straight ahead, are not as obvious. I found a pair of sun glasses right in the middle of the trail so I hung the glasses conspicuously on a thin tree right next to the trail so if the owner returns, the glasses will be visible. I never saw any signage for the Hemlock Springs Campsite. I saw what could have been a campsite area but saw no indication for potable water which was listed in the AT Guide Book and on my AT trail map. There was also supposed to be a trail register to sign as there was no AT shelter along this section. I never saw a box or anything for the register so I did not sign it. As I was beginning the very steep descent off the mountain (boy am I glad I am doing this southbound) I started to see other hikers who were all heading northbound. One woman, in her late 20s, appeared to be a thru-hiker but the rest appeared to be day hikers, possibly turning off the AT to climb up onto Anthony’s Nose which is a popular overlook on the east side of the Bear Mountain Bridge. Everyone heading up was breathing real hard. It is pretty steep. Once I exited the woods by a trailhead kiosk, I walked south on Rt. 9D toward the Bear Mountain Bridge. I crossed 9D near the Bridge and walked across using the pedestrian walkway.
It took a while to get over the bridge. I have driven over this bridge more than a thousand times, but this was the first time walking over it. It is longer than I thought. It was a beautiful day and I took this photo of the bridge (looking westbound). That is Bear Mountain in the background behind the bridge.
After passing the toll booths, the AT turns left to cross the traffic lanes and then left again to enter the north entrance for the Trailside Zoo and Museum. The AT Guide says that as long as the gate is open, just follow the white blazes through the zoo and you will exit out the southern gate before continuing on the trail up to Hessian Lake. The AT was marked well inside the zoo and I got all the way through it. I saw some of the various creatures on display and I saw a bunch of turkey vultures perched in a tree outside of the brown Bear exhibit.
I got to the southern gate which was locked so I could not exit. I retraced my steps back to the open northern gate and then followed the “blue bypass trail” which is marked right near the toll booths. It follows along outside of the stockade fence and then enters a very overgrown, shrubby and thorny bypass trail which I negotiated at the cost of scratches and thorns sticking in may shirt, pants and exposed flesh. This bypass trail reconnected with the white blazed AT just at the exit of the tunnel which goes underneath the road. I climbed over a chain and was now back on the AT, climbed the steps up to Hessian Lake and followed to the exact point where I left off the prior Saturday when I did Section #10. There were hundreds of people already set up for a picnic and fun day at Bear Mountain State Park and I could smell all the various barbecue grills as I walked to my car for the drive home.
This was my first tryout for my new Altra Olympus 2.0 hiking shoes with the extended toe box (what a difference that made on my feet with all the downhill hiking!) and for the use of my Casio altimeter watch as well. Everything went great.
I did 5.8 miles for the Section #9, add one mile for what I owed for Section #10 plus an extra half mile to get back to the blue bypass and I did about 7.3 miles in 3 hrs and 7 minutes. It was a great day to be done before 9:30amas the temps were on the rise. I am glad I got the chance to do the bypass as I was not clear from descriptions in the AT Guide exactly where the trail was routed. Now I know.
I am planning my next section hike.