May 31, 2018
Destination: Graymoor Spiritual Life Center Today's Miles: 13.10
Start Location: West Mountain Shelter Trip Miles: 1411.20
Today was a day of logistics and adulting. I woke up at 5 wanting to walk about 20 miles, but knowing I wouldn’t.
I needed to resupply and I knew I would do that, and eat a bunch of food, at the Appalachian Market right off the trail on route 9. I also needed to get squared away with new tent poles somehow. Here’s how it all went....
I hiked out early and, while it was supposed to rain, fortunately it hadn’t started yet. I hiked back up the 0.5 mile rocky side trail from the shelter and over the ridge, descending down to the road where I would climb Bear Mountain. There were some nice views from the ridge of the Hudson and a distant pond on the other side of the mountain.
The climb up Bear Mountain was “sculpted.” It was definitely not the more naturally rugged terrain typical of the trail. It started out as a road and then moved to largely smooth path. It was a trail for the masses. On the climb up I didn’t see that many people though. At the top of the mountain I got lured in by a building with a Pringles vending machine and a trash bin. I emptied out all of my trash and bought some sour cream and onion Pringles. A police officer drove by as I was stuffing the Pringles into my mouth, crumbs stuck in my beard. I could definitely see someone calling the cops on me at this stage, but it was just a normal patrol. I went over to the tower at Bear Mountain summit and climbed to the top. There was a stone tower to summit, and inside there were lots of informational plaques on the area, the bridge, etc.
I climbed down and decided to hike on and try and find a decent cell signal. I needed to call REI about my tent poles. On my way down the road back to the AT, I heard someone say “hey hiker trash!” It was a group of Americorps workers who were there to do trail maintenance. They were hikers too and one had previously thru hiked the AT. She gave me a bag of chips and the guy gave me a banana. It was so nice of them! In case you’re wondering, “hiker trash” is not an insult. It’s basically just the hiker way of life. We embrace it, and so it’s kind of a thing people say because of the camaraderie. They call me hiker trash because they know what it’s like to eat, or want to eat, food they find in the dirt on the trail, or because they know what it’s like to look for outlets outside a gas station, etc etc. Anyway, it was really nice of them to give me snacks, and it made me feel good. I hiked to a spot where I had a better signal and phoned REI. I sat on hold for a while and Traveler, Honey, Moon, and Candyman (A different, older, Candyman) passed by. I finally got on with a customer service rep and explained that the cord inside the poles had broken. They basically told me that they don’t replace parts and that I should contact Big Agnes. Way to go on the customer service REI! They weren’t helpful at all and left me feeling a bit exposed because I bought the tent specifically for the trail and from them, not Big Agnes. REI used to have much better service than this. I don’t think I’ve even had the tent 6 months.... Anyway, I called Big Agnes and they said they would sell me a new shock cord that I could replace. They viewed my shock cord breaking as “normal wear and tear and didn’t cover it under warranty. So, I ended up paying $17.50 to get that shipped to someplace I can probably be in 5 days in CT. Hopefully it won’t be too hard to fix myself. I wasn’t super happy there wasn’t a better solution, but it was what it was.
In between the REI call and the Big Agnes call, I walked down to the Bear Mountain lodge picnic area to use their facilities and buy an ice cream bar from a machine. After I finished the Big Agnes call, I met a section hiker named Jingle Butt. She was on day one of her hike - pretty exciting!
The trail passes right through a zoo. Apparently it is a rehab zoo, but it did feel a little depressing. I did not spend any time looking at the animals there. I don’t really like zoos, even though I like seeing animals. I like seeing them in the wild! They had a bear and it was literally laying in a hammock with buzzards around it. I’ll say no more.
I ran back into Jingle Butt and we helped each other take pictures as we crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. I liked this bridge better than the one over the Delaware because it shook less and there were fewer cars. On the other side of the bridge I hiked back into the woods and up a steep climb before leveling out. I saw a few deer and a garter snake along the way, as well as chatted with a few local hikers.
Shortly after I arrived at the Appalachian Market. It’s basically a shell gas station with a deli attached, but they stock hiker foods like rice and pasta sides, ramen, etc., and also have a deli with a big menu! Traveler and that crew was outside eating, as well as No Excuse. I walked in and handled my resupply, then ordered a breakfast burrito and a side of fries. It was amazing! I then got a milkshake and a coffee and ordered a BLT to pack out.
Clothesline, Fifty and Cheddar showed up, as well as two guys who have been hiking with No Excuse: Chimney and Big Push. Clothesline was meeting a relative to go into town because he accidentally dropped his phone off the bridge into the Hudson! I decided to hike out to A place nearby called the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. They have a hiker pavilion there and I needed a dry place to sit (it was raining) to try and jimmy rig my tent poles together. No Excuse hiked out with me, and Corky tagged close behind.
The center was big, but after a .4 mile walk we came to the hiker pavilion. It was really nice and had electrical outlets, two porta potties, and a water source. I decided to sleep there for the night since the rain was picking up. I did manage to field repair my tent poles. I guess I’ll see if it lasts! Trailfish, Happy Feet, Stumbles and Candyman (the original, young Candyman I had met what seemed like eons ago in the days of snow) all showed up at the shelter. We have a full house for sure!
I was grateful today for the Americorps trail magic, the beautiful views, the support of my wife to keep me from jumping off a ledge dealing with REI and Big Agnes, and having this awesome free pavilion so close to the market. It was a day full of hidden and obvious blessings.
#1 - Gretchen, I definitely am not at the head of the pack! There are lots of hikers ahead of me. I’m around some hikers now who are much faster than me, but have taken time off the trail for various reasons. I pretty much walk at the same pace every day. My key is I get up early and walk long days. I like to be hiking by 6am if I can. I also love to do a “12 by 12,” Hiking 12 Miles by noon. If I do that the afternoon is easier when it’s hotter out.