On Tuesday, 8/9/16, just two days after having done the one mile Hudson River Swim with my sister Ellyn to benefit the River Pool at Beacon, my plan was to do my first overnight on the trail. I would start at the Appalachian Deli-Grill-Pizza place at the intersection of Rt. 9 and Rt. 403 in Garrison, New York. This is the northern most NY section where I had left off. My sub goal for this hike was to experiment with carrying more equipment needed for overnights and to make adjustments in weight and positioning of the gear on my pack. I had scoped out three, free tent sites reserved for AT hikers at the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park. As long as I could handle the approximate 13 miles of hiking plus a little more to enter the tent area, I could stay at the tent site. It was going to be a very hot and humid day so I wanted to start early. Bernadette volunteered to assist me with drop off and pick up and took these photos at the start at 6:33am. The deli is the background is mentioned frequently in data books and AT books as a place to get really good food in the NY section of the AT. I entered the woods hoping that I would call Bernadette for pick up sometime on the next day after having completed about four sections of the AT. That was my plan. The Hiker Gods had a different idea in mind.
I started heading northbound on NY Section 8 which is a five mile section ending at Canopus Hill Road. About a half a mile into the woods, after crossing one road, I came to the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. As I walked onto the property I got a very peaceful feeling. It is well known to the AT hiker community as the Friars permit hikers to stay for free in a ball field on the property. Hikers have access to using a cold shower and can refill their water bottles as well. There was a sign to greet the hikers and I followed the blue blazed directions past a field with a pavilion tent on it. Although I turned around at this point, just a little further was the ball field and there were some hikers in tents there. I did not want to make any noise as it was very early in the morning. I would later meet briefly at least one northbound hiker (as he passed me) who had slept at the center.
As I was retracing my steps to continue north away from the Graymoor site, I photographed a memorial cross which was dedicated on July 13, 2002 by the Ironworkers of Local 40 of the City of New York in memory of the lives lost on September 11, 2001 and the tireless efforts of all trade unions, the Fire Department of NY, the NY Police Department, the Port Authority Police Department, NY Army Guard, and all volunteers who helped at the World Trade Center site. I figure that the re-bar fastened onto the wooden cross must have been removed from the site by the ironworkers.
I hiked across a small puncheon walkway over a slightly boggy area.
I then began a series of small ups and downs as I hiked through the woods. I recently read a book concerning the AT entitled Hike It Forward by David Rough who described these in two ways: Mindless Ups and Downs (ie. MUDS) and Pointless Ups and Downs (PUDS). Despite the fairly small elevation changes, the rocks and roots were constant. My trekking poles saved me from tripping and falling at least five times. There were many places on the trail which seemed to have no dirt on them. It was just a twisted coagulation of roots and rocks. Some of the rocks were gigantic in size and the roots were massive in thickness. The roots wrapped around the boulders to tell all hikers or trail maintenance volunteers that “no-one will ever be able to remove these boulders from my grasp!”
I passed a female thru hiker who was stealth camping with her tent in a small grassy clearing about fifty feet off the trail. I said hi and she answered back. She was having some breakfast. I continued onward and climbed about 500 feet up to Denning Hill which is only about 900 feet above sea level.
Around 8:35am, after a small descent down to the intersection of Old Albany Rd and Chapman Road, I noticed a thin Samsung battery right next to a rock at the trail entrance back into the woods. It must have fallen off of a hikers electronic device so I positioned it better on a rock in case someone retraced their steps to find it. The stealth camping female hiker passed me just before I headed back into the woods.
I climbed a short distance over Canopus Hill and stopped to rest a while at a nearby Brook. I filtered some water to drink and, while I was eating a snack, a couple of male NOBO (northbound) hikers walked by. I continued hiking down to where the AT crosses Canopus Hill Road. It was 9:35am. This is the northern end of NY Section 8 so I had completed another section. I continued northbound to begin Section 7 which is a 7.4 mile section ending at the AT crossing of NY Route 301 at the southern end of Canopus Lake which is part of the Fahnestock State Park mentioned above.
Section 7 featured more rocks and roots and I went through openings in several stone walls which must have formed property or field borders at some point in the past. The unique thing about these stone walls was their thickness. These walls were four feet or more in thickness and two-three feet high so I could only wonder how much labor it took to collect the field stones and boulders and then to arrange them into boundary walls. I guess the workers picked up the stones before the roots grabbed them for keeps. I recall as a teenager having seen how much work my Dad exerted to build stone walls which were small in comparison to these stone fortresses on this section of the AT.
After crossing South Highland Road, I began another climb up to the Catfish Loop Trail intersection which is just shy of 1,000 feet above sea level. It is a red blazed side trail. A mother and her teenage son approached me as they were walking southbound for a day hike. They were not carrying any packs, just a water bottle each. They let me proceed over a couple of boulders first while they waited off to the side to let me pass. I appreciated that courtesy as I was starting to not feel very good. The temperature had quickly risen to 90 plus degrees and the humidity was getting very thick. My energy was being depleted quickly.
After speaking with Bernadette, I decided that I would continue on to the AT crossing of Dennytown Road where there is a field next to a parking lot. I would call Bernadette after I had assessed my physical condition at that point.
An elderly SOBO hiker passed me and it looked like the heat and humidity were getting to him as well. I asked him about how much time had passed since he crossed Dennytown Road and he said about five to ten minutes. My spirits picked up significantly when I saw the well placed sign for Dennytown Road.
I arrived at the grassy field next to the parking area which has a small outbuilding with a working spigot which dispenses potable water. This is diagonally across from the currently not maintained Dennytown camping sites which are part of the state park.
After getting some water for my Nalgene bottle, I passed a kiosk which had a message written on a paper plate. I guess “Thumper” wanted to tell “Bear Crew and Trash Family” that they were missed already. Tell the truth, did you get a mental picture of what Bear Crew and Trash Family look like?
I took off my pack and rested in the shade along with three other NOBO hikers. They had all started at Springer Mountain in Georgia. I decided to call Bernadette for a pick up at 12:35pm one day early and I gave some sandwiches (provolone and salami with yellow mustard) and some extra snacks from my pack to the three thru hikers who appreciated the generosity.
While waiting for Bernadette, I took these photos of signs on Dennytown Road which face SOBO hikers as they enter the woods where I had just exited.
I will have to pick up my section hiking at this point in the near future. I still felt bad a few days later, so I went to get checked out at the doctor. They found that I have an infection in my right lung so I have to rest a while until the antibiotics hopefully knock out the problem. I will use this recovery time to weigh the various items I plan to carry in order to reduce weight as much as possible in preparation for my first overnight. I am looking forward to continuing my AT hikes soon.
I have now completed 61.4 miles of the AT ( 52.3 in NY and 9.1 in NJ).