May 29, 2018
Destination: Stealth Campsite at Fitzgerald Falls Today's Miles: 16.80
Start Location: Stealth Campsite at Mile 1360.2 Trip Miles: 1377
Today was pretty amazing. It’s hard to know where to start, so let me begin in the middle.
You know, the logical place to start. By noon I had walked just shy of 13 miles and I was napping on the ground just outside of Bellvale Farm Creamery. It was hot out and I needed a rest. I had a full belly from the hot dog stand just down the street off the trail, and the ice cream I had eaten inside. Choo Choo and I had hiked off the trail together to the hotdog stand, but there wasn’t any shade there and the creamery had a water spigot. I was out of water and we both needed it, so we decided to do things in reverse and eat ice cream and come back for hot dogs. The creamery was awesome! It had a nice view and a pavilion in the shade with a picnic table. It had a hiker phone charging station, and a water spigot with cold potable water. And man, did it have ice cream! I got a banana split and it was huge. I got two scoops of a flavor called The Great White Way (white chocolate with dark chocolate chunks and raspberry sauce) and a scoop of cookie dough, and topped it with hot fudge, edible cookie dough, whipped cream, cherries, and gummy bears. It was so good my eyes rolled around in my head like marbles loose on the floor. I wanted more ice cream, but we still had to hit the hot dog stand, so we walked there and got the special - two dogs, a bag of chips, and a soda for $5.50. I got kraut on one dog and cheese on the other. We carried them back to the creamery and I destroyed mine pretty quickly. By the time I got to the chips, I was pretty full and getting sleepy. I managed to finish the chips, but I needed a nap and the pavilion was so clean and inviting. By then, Dude was there and Choo Choo was shipping out, so I decided to nap. Meanwhile, tourists from New York were walking into the shop and doing their thing. We must have been quite the sight, the Dude sitting by his pack and me asleep on the ground, our shoes off.... The Creamery is amazing though - so hiker friendly! When I woke up from my nap, I realized I didn’t have room for more ice cream. It was close to 90 degrees out and I didn’t want to ralph on the trail, so instead I got a birch beer. I’m a big root beer fan these days and I had been wanting to try birch beer. I was glad I did, but I will probably stick with root beer in the future. I handled some logistics with CNOC to have them mail me a new water reservoir. Mine developed a pinhole leak in NJ and CNOC was awesome and agreed to mail me a new one. I absolutely love that product so I was excited about their excellent customer service. I realized I had been at the creamery for a little over 3 hours!!! I don’t know how long I slept, but I needed to get hiking. I was about to have another exciting trail “first,” on the heels of one I had this morning, which I commemorated by adding gummy bears to my banana split....
I woke up early this morning because I wanted to get some miles in. I wanted to hike a lot before it got blazing hot, I wanted to try to get to a hot dog stand and creamery off the trail by about noon, and I wanted to hike between 20 and 23 miles. I accomplished the first two goals. I quietly packed up my gear and headed out of camp after eating. I was hiking at 6:18am. After about 2.5 miles I stopped at the Wawayanda shelter, the last one in New Jersey, to use the privy. The New Jersey privies have been the absolute best on the trail. They are clean and have hand sanitizer. I had to get one last use.... When I exited, who was leaving the shelter and coming towards me but Choo Choo! I hadn’t seen him since Damascus, when Gillian sent him on his way with a bag of her homemade cookies. We chatted for a bit to catch up and then I organized my things while he went to the ranger station to get some water.
I hiked on down past the ranger station and across the road. Even Choo Choo told me he saw that big bear yesterday. EVERYONE ELSE SAW IT!!! Except Dude and I. I started walking up a small hill, and when I came over the other side I saw and heard motion. I looked up and there it was. Finally! A BEAR! It immediately took off and ran down the hill from me, but I got to watch it run for a few seconds. It was quite fast, like a dog. It was a smaller sized bear. Apparently it didn’t want to stick around and cuddle, so I guess it wasn’t the teddy variety. It will probably be exiled by the other bears for letting me see it. I was so excited! A bear on the trail! I do hope I see more, but if not at least that box is checked.
I left New Jersey with a spring in my step and hit the New York State line. I really liked the trail in New Jersey. I loved the different scenery with the wetlands and bogs. There was a lot of great wildlife as well, including BEARS! As I entered New York, I did so on a rocky ridge line with great views, and passed over Prospect Rock, the highest point on the AT in New York. Spoiler alert - it’s not that high at 1400 feet or so....
New York starts off with a bang! The hiking was technical, traversing a large stretch of rocky ridge line with some use of hands to pull oneself up rocks, and some minor bouldering required. I loved it! We finally had some technical climbs again, and it really felt like hiking - struggling to get to the reward of views. I could see Greenwood Lake, and the weather, while hot, was clear and sunny for the views.
Choo Choo caught up and during this stretch of trail we hiked separately, but sometimes together at points. I then pulled away and, on my way down towards the road crossing for the creamery, I met a couple who told me I should get a flavor called The Great White Way there. As I type this I’m dying for a waffle cone to shove in my face! Choo Choo caught up to me as I hit the road crossing and we walked in together.
Fast forward through the creamery events and my nap, while I had hiked just under 13 miles by noon, it was now almost 3:30 and I needed to get moving. I knew I wouldn’t make a 20 mile day, so I decided to hike to Fitzgerald Falls 4 miles away and see how I was feeling. I lathered yo with sunscreen and headed out into the blazing afternoon sun.
After about a quarter mile of hiking, I heard and saw something to my right. A snake! At first I thought it was cooking up to strike at something. I then realized I was right, and that something was me! I also realized that it was shaking its rattle trying to get me to leave. A RATTLESNAKE!! I had been kind of wanting to see one, but more just wanting someone else to show one to me.... This fellow was one agitated snake. He kept shaking that rattle, watching me and coiling back to strike. I started to get my camera out and walk around to get a photo, but he did not like that at all and starting darting his head back like he was going to strike, so I backed away and moved on. I have heard that they can strike prey as far away as 3x their body length. I wasn’t going to risk that! It was a very cool experience though!
A bear AND a snake! How could this day get any better? How about a camp site at a waterfall? I ended up camping st beautiful Fitzgerald falls. I had a water source there and it was quite pretty. This gave me time to relax and soak my feet in the creek there, which I did. So, today was basically awesome! I’m excited to be in New York and blown away by my luck today. The trail provides, yet again! I’m grateful for all of these things, and most grateful that I will wake up and hike again tomorrow.