NY Section #12 is a 12 mile section between the AT crossing of Route 17 north of Southfields, NY and the AT crossing of Route 17A in Bellvale, NY.
After meeting me around 6am at the parking area off Rt. 17A in Bellvale where I left my van, Mike B graciously again dropped me off in the Elk Pen parking area off Arden Valley Road so I could do the approximate 4/10ths of a mile which I owed from the southern terminus of Section #11 (which I did on 6/28/16) before I started Section #12. It was a beautifully sunny day with the temp at 61 degrees F. As we drove into the short driveway to the parking area we noticed some cars parked along the driveway. A Jeep was definitely stuck in a ditch along the east side of the driveway. There were many open parking spaces in the lot so I could not understand why someone would be parking, or poorly attempt to park, on the edge of the driveway. The answer for this mystery was waiting for me along the hike.
At 6:20am I walked the short distance west on Arden Valley Road, 550 ft above sea level (ASL), crossed over the NYS Thruway and a railroad before crossing Rt. 17 and entering the woods. The trail turns right immediately and there I saw some water bottles as part of trail magic left for hikers and I saw a note, really an invitation, taped nearby for hikers to read. “Celebrate the Holiday-Arden Valley Road parking lot, Across 17 and down the trail. Don’t hitch! Come relax. See you soon and Three Bears (sic), July 2nd only. PS: Have bees (or beer- I could not be sure on the handwriting). I think the Jeep parking mystery case can be closed now. Alcohol may have been a contributing factor.
The early part of this hike proceeds up a stretch described by the New York/New Jersey AT Guide as the steep 500 foot climb of “Agony Grind”.This elevation change occurs in less than half a mile. Continuing upward the trail intersects with the blue blazed Indian Hill Loop from the Sterling Forest State Park. What caught my eye is that on the ground were two hiking shoes positioned on some rocks next to a sign with the letters scrawled on it “PD EXT”. I have no idea of the significance of this directional marker.
About twenty feet south on the AT was a trail register box where I signed the register as usual with name, date, time and direction. I also thanked the trail caretakers for the water.
I summited Arden Mountain, 1180 ASL. I began a fairly steep descent, crossed over Orange Turnpike and then reentered the woods only to see a thru hiker sitting on some chairs with his dog. There were additional Trail Magic water jugs left. I chatted with trail name “Jello”, I never did get his real name. He is from the eastern Massachusetts area or Rhode Island and said he was hiking northbound but said he had been hiking for 800 miles. Either I misheard his direction or number of miles because they don’t jive with the maps and mileage charts. He seemed nice enough though. I asked him about his dog. Her name is Maggie and her trail name is “Peanut Butter”. He said he had brought her all the way from Georgia. I asked him about the Smoky Mountains which has a no dog policy and he said I did what I had to do. He said he could not afford $500 worth of doggie daycare for the six months he would be away. Before wishing him well I offered up one of the two salami and provolone sandwiches which I had packed earlier. He ate the sandwich so quickly I think you would need a high speed camera to capture the action fully.
Along the way I saw my first “Trail Magic 1st Aid” trail box.
It had an assortment of first aid supplies and a bible on the right and, on the underside of the lid, hikers had written a bunch of different messages. One message was in the practical realm-“Please share provisions with fellow travelers”. Another-“God is all around-Breathe in the Gift of Life”. There was a trail register here as well but I wanted to get going. It was 8am and I did not feel I had racked up much of the 12 miles yet.
I saw an Appalachian National Scenic Trail Marker ( 282-NY-19) which apparently were placed by surveyor contractors to help mark the trail and to help survey the properties around the trail so the wilderness can be protected. I later saw another one and photographed that as well (283-NY-22) for research. As long as noone tampers with the markers, they are supposed to be oriented such that the middle arrow points north.
I walked around Little Dam Lake, walked across some stepping stones in a nearby creek, crossed East Mombasha Road as I steadily climbed again up onto Buchanan Mountain, 1142 ASL. Began a short descent, maybe two hundred feet across West Mombasha Road before heading back up to the top of Mombasha High Point, 1280 ASL. The books I have read concerning the AT, particularly the Pennsylvania sections, describe Pennsylvania as Rocksylvania. I have not discovered the PA sections as yet but this hike rarely involved walking on smooth, leaf covered paths. Even the somewhat level portions had thousands of rock “icebergs” where I could not even fit my shoe between the rocks and ended up walking from one rock point to the next. Many sections involved strenuous rock scrambles up gigantic sized boulders.
It was 10:06am, not quite four hours into the hike when I came upon a raised plank walkway. What a relief for my feet and legs to have just a short respite from the rocks.
This is the first section hike where a bunch of northbound thru hikers passed in the opposite direction. I did not really have a chance to speak to them as either they were heading uphill as I descended or vice versa. I saw three other hikers who brought dogs along with them. I made the determination that these were thru hikers based upon the size of their packs and their physical appearance. As opposed to one fortyish age lady who was carrying a cell phone and talking while northbound. She had no pack, no bottle of water, nada. She must have come in from one of the nearby roads for a short hike.
An elderly female thru hiker (probably in late 60s) stopped me and asked if there was more of the rock scrambling northbound in the direction she was heading. I told her that this would be a pattern for several of the next sections. She seemed very concerned but if she had started in Georgia, she is one amazing hiker. I warned her of the rock scramble after the Lemon Squeezer and showed her the photos of the bypass easy way to get around the very difficult scramble. She appreciated the advice and continued off northbound.
One female northbound hiker was carrying a hula hoop lashed to her backpack. Now that is a surprising sight I know. She carried that hula hoop since Georgia? Well, about three minutes later, a second female northbound hiker comes by and she has a hula hoop too. Incredible. I inquired briefly in passing if she was on the same hula hoop team as the prior girl and she said she was.
I continued a pretty steep descent to Fitzgerald Falls which did not have much more than a trickle of water coming down the face of the falls.
I scrambled down the rocks and rock steps adjacent to the Falls, took a quick photo and followed the white blazes away southbound. Only problem is, I did not make a sharp enough right hand turn after the blaze and did a little “sightseeing” of the power company’s right of way on a hillside where I heard and saw some teenagers driving quads on various paths up and down hillsides. I doubled back and picked up the hard right turn I should have made and, after climbing another 300 feet, came to the Shelter sign posted on the trail. I turned right and walked the short distance to the Wildcat Shelter, 1066 ASL. The guides said there was a spring nearby and I wanted to test out my water filtering system. Noone was inside the shelter. Very sparse shelter. Did not even have bunks in it. I signed the trail register, drank some more fluid, and then noticed a tent a short way down the hillside. I walked down and tentatively called over to the tent. A female answered and I asked if she knew where the spring was. She directed me and after using my filtering system, I hiked back up to the trail, turned right and kept heading south.
I figured I was only about 2.1 miles from the Rt. 17A road crossing in Bellvale. It was about 1:02pm so I had been hiking almost 7 hours. This part of the hike stays up above 1,000 ASL and treats hikers to some mega boulder and rock scrambling as well as you cross the Eastern Pinnacles which is about 1204 ASL. I passed two northbound thru hikers and we helped each other negotiate the turns as the blazes were not on trees any longer. They seemed to be on top of boulders just out of sight of a person standing.
I did the last 1.3 miles, only losing about fifty feet in elevation, and reached the parking area at 2:22pm. I did 12.4 miles in 8 hrs and 2 minutes. I have now done 37.4 miles of the AT (NY Sections 9, 10, 11 & 12).
I did not want to forget that after returning to my car, I drove the two tenths of a mile west on Rt. 17A to the Bellvale Farms Creamery where I enjoyed a waffle cone with a very delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Am thinking of my next section hike.
Also, I am considering ideas on the best way to post the text and photos at same time. Should decide on the best way later this week. Enjoy your July 4th.