Today’s hike was NY Section #11 in the Northbound direction. I parked my car at the Tiorati State Park parking area and Mike B gave me a ride to the Elk Pen parking area off of Arden Valley Road, just slightly east of the overpass over the NYS Thruway (I-87). Technically, this section starts where the AT crosses Rt. 17 just west of the Thruway. I will do this part at the end of my hike when I do NY Section #12 which starts in Bellvale, NY just west of Greenwood Lake, NY.
I started the hike at 5:40am across a field and then into the woods. As soon as I entered the woods I scared two white tailed deer who went bounding away from the trail. Temp was about 69 degrees F and the elevation was a little over 500 ft above sea level. Looking at the AT map, this section would feature multiple climbs up various mountains which are between 1100- 1400 above sea level. Up and down and up and down. After about 40 minutes the hike winds around Island Pond and I crossed a small wooden bridge which was built over the eastern spillway of Island Pond.
No water underneath the small bridge this morning. We had rain last night but it did not actually rain during the hike. However, the periodic gusts of wind dislodged the rain drops from the leaves above so it seemed like a constant, but light rain for all 5.5 miles.
About one hour into the hike I saw white blazes and white AT symbols on rocks which pointed into the bottom of the crevice which is the lead in to the lemon squeezer which is a very tight, but short, path through huge boulders.
I had to take my pack off to shimmy through the tight squeeze. After exiting the lemon squeezer, the white blaze path is marked up very large rocks with ledges. I checked this out first and decided against going over this route as the rain and dirt/slime on the rocks made this a little dicey. Since there was a blue marked bypass which had a wooden sign with the words EASY WAY and an arrow to the left, I decided to choose this route which skirts right around this rock scramble.
I am certain that this is the place where northbound thru hiker New Dave fell. On the other side of this rock scramble area, the blue bypass led me under a large tree and then up a much milder and safer rock scramble where the AT trail joins again.
I continued on doing more ups and downs. Sometimes descending a couple hundred feet, only to then go back up that distance and continue even higher. About an hour and a half into the hike, I came upon some wooden directional signs for the NY Long Path which intersects with the AT. This is about 2.4 miles into the hike. There were signs with information pertaining to the Long Trail distances and separate signs for the AT trail information.
For example, the AT signs listed places of note southbound from that sign (as in the nearest shelter which was Wildcat Shelter- 12.9 miles south) and also informed hikers that it was 1,365 miles south to Springer Mountain, Georgia which is the southern terminus of the AT. The sign for Northbounders informed me that the nearest shelter was Fingerboard Shelter which was just 1.5 miles away- northbound. The sign also noted that Mt. Katahdin, Maine which is the northern terminus of the AT was ONLY 793 miles north.
As I continued walking, always being careful where I stepped, I noticed an orange colored salamander or newt hanging out motionless on the trail.
I took a photo so I could later “google” him to see exactly what type of amphibian he (or she) was. My research concluded that this was an adult red spotted newt. Their habitat is crevasses under debris, stone or logs, and water. That is all I saw during this hike. I bet this is one happy newt.
A little less than one hour later I saw another orange colored newt crossing the trail. Was it the same one I had photographed earlier? Perhaps he knows a short cut for the AT or maybe I was just not moving that quickly. I am not sure.
At 8:18am I arrived at the Fingerboard Shelter which was located about 300 plus yards south of the trail.
This is about 1300 feet above sea level. I actually missed the turn to head to the shelter at first. The wooden signs were so old and weathered and there was no contrasting color paint in the lettering/numbering that I walked right past them. As I was walking across a huge boulder I noticed a white painted arrow and lettering indicating SHELTER. The arrow was pointing back to where I had just walked so I backtracked a short way, saw the directional signs and went to the shelter. I wanted to take a short break, eat my salami and cheese sandwich and drink some fluid. I also wanted to sign the shelter trail register. When I arrived I noticed one hiker was still sleeping inside the shelter and I also noticed two tents set up a short distance away. I decided to be very quiet so as not to disturb anyone and I sat quietly on a large rock while I had my snack. Since the register is usually in a plastic bag inside the shelter somewhere, I did not look for it so I did not sign it. I hiked back up to rejoin the AT and noticed that the end of this section was only 1.1 miles away. I continued a little more of the up and down climbing pattern before starting to descend. Several sections of the trail went through Mountain Laurel bushes but very few flowers were seen as their blooming season had come and gone. The browned remnants of the blossoms were all that was left.
After hiking down a couple hundred more feet in elevation, I passed a huge water tower and knew that I was very near the exit onto Arden Valley Road which marks the northern end of Section # 11. As I approached the two posts with a chain between them I noticed something was perched on top of the right hand post. It was a note which was being held in place by a small rock which served as a paper weight.
The note read as follows:
“Dear Mr. Veteran (blue shirt, orange pack)
My room and I are right down the road if you would still like a ride into town! We would love to help. Please call 704-369-1732, 704-497-9127.”
I wonder when the note was left? I don’t know if any of the persons at the Fingerboard Shelter were the addressee for the note. I did not encounter anyone actually hiking, either direction.
I photographed the note and after turning right, walked the three tenths of a mile down Arden Valley Road to the Tiorati Circle parking area. I filled one Nalgene bottle with water from a spigot which was next to a water fountain near the sentry booth for the parking area. The cold water tasted great. I drank a half a bottle quickly.
My third section hike is in the books. 5.5 miles in three hours and eleven minutes. I have now completed 25.4 miles of the AT.
PS: After calling Bernadette to let her know I was off the trail, I thought the person who left the note might appreciate me calling or leaving a message to indicate the note was still there or whatever. I left a voicemail message for “Abbie’s cell” I told her I passed the note at about 8:51am on 6/28/16 and that perhaps “The Veteran” was one of the hikers at the Fingerboard Shelter. Hopefully she is able to link up with “The Veteran”.
Thinking about which section to do next.