FROGS, BOGS & CAIRNS, OH MY!

On Friday 7/15/2016 I decided to do two other section hikes along the Appalachian Trail. I did NJ Section #1, which is a 9.1 mile hike from Vernon, NJ to the NY/NJ State line, followed by NY Section #13, which is a 5.9 mile section from the NY/NJ State line to Rt. 17A in Bellvale, NY. I planned to do these sections in the northbound direction. I had reviewed the topographic maps and although there were a couple of climbs, it appeared not to be so much of the roller coaster up and down climbing of prior section hikes. I forgot two things. My map reading skills may need some improvement and hiking on the ridge line of mountains is not always easy.

I started the morning with a huge bowl of delicious, homemade granola from my sister-in-law Priscilla. Mike Ballezza again graciously met me at the Rt. 17A parking area where I left my van before he drove me to where the AT crosses Rt. 94 in Vernon, NJ. The size of the lot is small and is somewhat hidden by trees such that both Mike and I went right past it.

He dropped me off at 6:10am as I hoped to try to avoid the heat and humidity as it was expected to get up into high 80s/low 90s later. I started into the woods and felt like the equivalent of a Coast Guard ice breaking ship, except I was breaking all of the cobwebs that were across the trail. The first part of this hike climbs from about 500 above sea level to the top of Waywayanda Mountain which is 1340 asl. This elevation occurs in a little over one mile. AT literature describe this part as the “Stairway to Heaven”. I agree with the first part of the description but the destination I thought of was a bit further south. Along the way I met “Ernie” who lives about ten minutes away in NJ. He said he hikes part of this section about once a week. He was making a good pace so I let him pass going uphill. He now had the cobweb duty. Ernie explained that he walks to a certain point, turns around, retraces his route back before going to work. I later chatted with him when he was resting at his turnaround point by a small bridge. He has section hiked parts of the AT in NJ, NY, and Vermont. After our brief chat, I continued heading north. Back on cobweb duty. I tried using my trekking poles to be the bow of my ship.

Along the trail someone had put a smiley face on one of the white blazes. It was right across the trail from a black mailbox that contained a trail register. I signed the book and continued onward.

I photographed what has to be one of the largest rock cairns in the world. I was use to the small ones comprised of four or five small stones perched to help with navigation along trails in Utah during my May adventure. The trails through gigantic canyons were marked with the smallest of cairns. We commented when it looked like the cairn builder in Utah had put more energy into building an elaborate cairn with maybe ten stones. How many stones do you think are in this cairn that I photographed on Friday?

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Trail maintainers work to clear trees that have fallen across the trail. The usual method is to just chainsaw a four foot section out of the tree in order to clear the path. One chainsaw artist showed some uniqueness by doing some carving in the fallen tree. It was just a small step over the artwork.

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About 1 hr and 40 minutes into the hike I came to the Barrett Road crossing where I saw a cooler containing trail magic from the mother of a thru hiker named Timewarp.

As I proceeded along the trail I started noticing small, dark brown colored frogs, possibly tree frogs, and later larger, more greenish in color frogs as I went past some small streams. The boggy areas were lined with Puncheon which are bog bridges meant to elevate the hiker above the areas which may flood periodically. There has not been much rain lately so some of these areas had some damp, slightly muddy soil but not standing water. I encountered four or five different areas of Puncheon during this hike.

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I have heard that on different sections of the AT in NJ there are places which experience flooding of two or three feet. The Puncheon walkways there are a couple feet off the ground.

Although I had sprayed some bug spray on my arms and around my neck before starting out, by the time I reached Iron Mountain Bridge, a distance of 4.2 miles, my sweat had washed away most of the spray. Some mosquitoes were successful in their quest to be pests.

I reached the Waywayanda Shelter around 8:40am. The shelter is about 300 feet along a well marked, blue blazed side trail. There was a hand painted shelter sign and higher up on a tree was a picture sign showing the image of a shelter. I tried taking a photo of the picture sign but it was too high and in deep shadow so the photo did not come out well. I guess these type of signs were put there for really tall persons who could not read.

I went to the shelter and noticed that there was one tent set up with some hikers waking up and there was a male hiker packing up his sleeping bag which he used inside the shelter during the night. The shelter looked in good condition. I signed the trail register book, had a sandwich and then used the privy before heading back north. The privy is a composting type privy. There was a Tractor Supply Company bale of sawdust with a metal cup to scoop the sawdust. There was no water supply at this shelter area but according to the hiker in the shelter, there was water a couple tenths of a mile away at a state park office.

As I crossed Warwick Turnpike I came upon another Trail Magic container. This was supplied by Sandy and Bill of the Living Word Church of AT Hikers Ministry. They are the parents of “Karma” who is currently thru hiking the AT. I helped myself to one bottle of water. Despite having packed three 32 ounce Nalgene bottles of fluid, I thought it prudent to bring some more fluid with me. The Trail Angels are very much appreciated, even by Section hikers like myself.

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I hiked across Long House Road which is 6.9 miles into the trail and then shortly after walked across a bridge which I presumes spans the Long House Creek which is about 8 miles from the start. Halfway across the bridge a sign was screwed onto the railings. The sign indicated that this bridge was constructed in 2011 as the Eagle Scout Project of Thomas Tracey of Troop 86 in Bloomingdale. I forgot to take an overall shot of the bridge so you could appreciate the amount of building material that had to be portaged in to do this project. This Eagle Scout did a great service for the hikers and for the NJ/NY Trail Conservancy.

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When I saw on my right the yellow side trail blazes and blob of yellow paint, which marked the Ernest Walter trail, I knew I was getting close to the NJ/NY state line. By the way, this trail leads down to a small parking area adjacent to the parking lot for the Greenwood Lake Marina located on Rt. 210. I originally scouted this area to see if I wanted to just hike one section instead of two.

At 10:50am, I reached the top of a rock outcropping to see the often photographed, hand painted NJ/NY state line marking in white paint. Next to it is an AT survey marker, #301-NY-13. I photographed that marker and attempted to photograph me laying on my back next to the NY/NJ boundary line. Below is the best that I could do. It took me four hours and forty minutes to hike the 9.1 miles but I had now completed my first section of NJ.

While I rested a while, a northbound thru hiker named Clovis arrived. I welcomed him to the Empire State. He asked me to use his phone to take his photo as he kneeled at the state line as well. We talked briefly and I continued north. He said “I’ll see you on the trail”. I wished him the best of luck as he had started at Springer Mountain, Georgia and had racked up about 1365 miles of hiking.

The hiking now seemed to be more ridge line hiking along the spine of the Bellvale Mountain. In about twenty minutes I arrived at Prospect Rock which is 1433 asl. It is the highest point on the AT in New York State. I took a photo of an American flag that was erected on a wooden pole with guy wires and rocks to help secure it.

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I crossed Furnace Brook among doing many, many rock scrambles over gigantic boulders along the ridge line. Even though the elevation change was not great, the frequency and the scrambling difficulty was very challenging. Also, walking along the ridge line, I did not have the benefit of the shade which I enjoyed while walking in the woods. My pace was definitely slowing and I heard a northbound hiker coming up behind me. It was the same hiker who slept inside the Waywayanda shelter. Although now, he was dressed in a kilt. He passed me by and I was within ear shot of him for a bit. He helped me find the trail route which had a tricky turn. One particularly steep section of rock scrambling is called the “Ladder”. The first part of the scramble is using both hands and feet but eventually you run out of hand or foot holds. So the trail maintainers drilled holes into the rock and affixed rebar rungs so that hikers could climb the steepest part to the top. Most of the rungs are horizontal like a regular ladder but the last rung is actually turned sideways at the top. This is 10.8 miles into the hike.

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The kilt hiker went up the ladder just before me and then he was gone. I continued the ridge line hiking for miles and during that time Clovis approached and passed by. He asked about what was at the end of this section and I explained it to him. He was considering staying at a motel and I explained where my van was parked. I told him that if he needed a ride, I would drive him to a motel after I got done. He thanked me and said he would do the research on his options. I told him about the Bellvale Farm Creamery on Rt. 17A.

Around noon I stopped to take a photo from the ridge top as I look south east toward Greenwood Lake. Even though I was tired, I felt lucky to be able to enjoy such a wonderful view.

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After another hour and a half of hiking, I passed the blue blazed Village Vista side trail. This trail leads about nine tenths of a mile down to a park field in Greenwood Lake. Hikers are permitted to tent camp in the corner of the field for free. I had traveled 12.9 miles and knew that I had only 2.1 miles left.

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I started to be careful about consumption of my last Nalgene fluid bottle to make sure that I had some fluids at 20-30 minute intervals for the last couple of miles. While cruising along I noticed a black snake hanging out at the base of a tree. He did not seem to mind me photographing him so I did.

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As I walked through a Power Line clearing, I knew I only had four tenths of a mile to go. My pace quickened as I could now hear the sound of vehicle traffic on Rt. 17A. I walked through a couple of openings in stone walls that I presumed marked property lines as the stone walls were in wooded areas. I arrived back at my car at 2:17pm. I did 15 miles in 8 hours and 7 minutes.

I did not see thru hiker Clovis near my car so I drove to the Creamery to at least fill up one bottle of cold water from the spigot for my ride home. The cold water tasted great. As I was getting ready to leave, I saw Clovis walking into the lot. He had decided to keep walking northbound to Southfields, NY so he did not need a ride. I showed him where to fill up his water bottles and I gave him three snack bars to help him along the next section of the hike. I had just done that 12.1 mile section last week and there are some challenging ups and downs. I wished him the best of luck.

I have now completed 52.4 miles of the AT. I have done 43.3 miles in NY and 9.1 in NJ. I learn something new each time and am looking forward to my next hike. I will start with sections in NY farther northbound where I left off near the Appalachian Trail Pizza Deli in Putnam County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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