After leaving Mohonk Mountain House on Wednesday 12/21/16 I returned to section hiking on the Appalachian Trail in New York State. I was accompanied by Michael and Joel Ballezza and by Aaron Baker who are the best hiking companions anyone could ever want. I had not been on the AT since 8/9/16 when I left halfway through completing Section 7.
Since this was my first AT hiking since my cancer diagnosis, the Oncoligist cleared me for shorter hikes. I chose New York Section #2 which is a 6.9 mile section from the NY/CT state border to the Appalachian Trail Railroad Station on Rt. 22 just north of Pawling, New York. We were able to park one car off of Hoyt Road on the northern end of the section and the second car we parked in the parking area off Rt. 22 near the train station. We started hiking at 11am in a southbound direction on a mostly clear day with temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s. It was wonderful to be outside and breathing so much fresh air.
There was about one – two inches of snow still on the trail after a recent snow storm but the footing was pretty good. We noticed some recent human footprints in the snow as well as deer hoof prints. I guess the snakes and bears were hybernating for the winter.
After a couple of road crossings and a moderately steep uphill hike, we took a short break at the Wiley Shelter which is easily seen right next to the trail.
On the short path to the shelter, hikers pass a wooden box labeled as the Dover Plains Little Free Library. Hikers are urged to take a book or leave a book in this trail-side library. This is a wonderful convenience to provide for hikers and I have never seen it in any other of the sections I have hiked.
This shelter is the typical three-sided structure but with a partial fourth wall. It had a good fireplace, a picnic table and a nearby privy. There were cooking pots/pans hanging on the right side of the outside of the shelter.
I found the trail journal on the right hand inside of the shelter and turned to the last entry in the book. Apparently a couple whose names were Violet and Hops had just hiked this part of the trail the day before (12/20/16) and mentioned about finding some beer which they consumed. They did not know if someone had left the beer as Trail Magic or had just left the beer by accident. Nonetheless, the couple enjoyed the refreshment.
I then wrote a trail entry for our group, using my trail name, Condor 3, and after I shed one layer of clothing and changed hats, we headed southbound up a gradual ascent to between 800-1,000 feet above sea level(ASL). We passed some intersecting side trail markers (red and yellow) which take hikers in a southwesterly direction toward Quaker Lake. We stayed on the AT and headed for the Hammersly Ridge in the Pawling Nature Reserve which tops out a little over 1,000 feet ASL. Aaron Baker, who is on holiday break from his studies at Michigan State University, took the lead up this part of the trail.
We then descended about 500 feet in about one and a half miles. We walked atop several sections of puncheon boardwalk which were covered with patches of ice and snow. We had to be careful on some of the steeper sections of the descent due to a few slick areas but we all stayed on our feet.
The trail then entered an easement through a dairy farm. The path was well-marked with white blazed posts. After walking for a while we came to what appeared to be an electric fence and the AT volunteers had erected a wooden A frame ladder so hikers could climb over the fence without doing any damage to the farmer’s fence, and, more importantly, without getting shocked. We climbed over two such ladders and then were joking that maybe there was no electricity flowing in the wires. I did not test that theory out with my metal trekking pole.
As we crossed a small hill in the farm field we looked to our left and saw many, large dairy cows in the field. The cows seemed used to passing hikers and did not pay much attention to us. But they were very large and I quickened my pace to make it over the third and last of the A frame ladders which was over the fence next to Hurd Corners Road.
We only had a short walk through another field and we reached our parking area at Rt. 22. While Mike B and Aaron went to fetch our other vehicle from Hoyt Road, Joel got a coffee and I got a raspberry lemonade from Roseann’s Kitchen food truck parked nearby. Roseann herself served us. We reached out to Mike and Aaron to see if they wanted anything.
There is a sign commemorating the AT in the grass median strip between the parking area and the southbound lanes of Rt. 22 just opposite of the food truck.
Mike and Aaron returned with the cars and we headed home. It was fantastic to be back on the trail. Hopefully, if the weather cooperates, we may be able to get another hike done during Christmas weekend.
I have now done 68.3 miles of the AT (59.2 miles in NY and 9.1 miles in NJ).
Have a wonderful holiday.