Unique experiences – The Trek


Day 67

The rain fell around 9 p.m. and flowed heavily for most of the night. We are very ok with that since New York needs it badly. This is also our first time dealing with a wet tent in a long time, but luckily within 4 miles of our hike we came to some rocky ledges that allowed us to spread it out and the tent dried out rapidly.

The terrain was similar with hills and many level crossings. We saw more water caches and are grateful to the trail angels for continuing for the SOBOs.

The day seemed to melt away as we clocked up the miles. We made it to our campsite for the night, but first we did something a hiker never tries to do…we hiked another 1.5 miles before we stopped at the campsite. Our reason for doing this? You guessed it… FOOD. Just half a mile ahead on the trail was Deli #3. We walked the half mile and had a nice hot dinner, charged our phones and stocked up on cold drinks. The best part is that we still have to walk past the grocery store tomorrow morning and can have a hot breakfast.

We went back half a mile on the trail and then hiked another half mile off the trail to camp in a unique area. Graymoor Spiritual Center allows hikers to camp on their property, especially the baseball field. The center is a ministry of Franciscan friars with many chapels and buildings on the property. They allow hikers to camp on site since 1970.

We walked to the ball diamond and were happy to see picnic tables, a cold shower stall and a sink. We pitched our tent in the middle of the field, Eric’s favorite position in baseball.

We were happy that the night was much, much cooler with a pleasant temperature. The humidity of the last few weeks seems to have broken. We enjoyed listening to the bell tower chimes and watching the starry night.

Day 68

This morning we had a quick cup of coffee, packed our bags and started walking around the spiritual center of Graymoor. We enjoyed seeing the different architectures of the multiple stone chapels, sculptures and outdoor spaces. We walked past a votive candle and lit a candle in memory of Eric’s mother. We also took the time to think of her as she was so influential and supportive of our hike.

We went down the road (again) for breakfast sandwiches, coffee and a mini restock. Unfortunately, this will be our last grocery store in New York, but we pass several other delicatessens in New Jersey. While eating breakfast, we met another SOBO, Field Medic, who plans to attend Navy Medical School. We enjoyed chatting with him about our experiences. We’re far enough down the trail to meet some of the same people hiking south. It was an interesting time to hear some familiar names as the SOBO trip isn’t the most social as it’s easy to get lost when someone is going into town or hiking for a longer or shorter day. It was nice to hear that some of the SOBOs we had been friends with are still on the trail.

Once full and replenished, we continued our trek south. The trail crossed the Hudson River and then literally through the Trailside Zoo. Unfortunately the zoo animals were not present as they are under construction but since the AT runs through the zoo they left a door open for us. Although not the fun lunch break we were hoping for, we did get ice cream sandwiches from a vending machine.

The trail then passes Hessian Lake and climbs Bear Mountain, the highest peak in the AT in New York. Hessian Lake had a large recreation area which we could imagine many mid century families would come to enjoy, the vibe was very Mrs. Maiselesque. The climb up Bear Mountain was well graded with lots of rock steps. The heat was present but the humidity was much more bearable.

We enjoyed having a long lunch at the top and got to see the New York skyline in the distance. We climbed the tower and read some of the history of the land reserve. We were happy that such efforts were made to keep the wilderness.

The trail kept meandering over the many unnecessary ups and downs with minimal views. The downside to the easier terrain is that you don’t always get those stunning views like you do up north. We then followed a frustratingly long drive to avoid a junction on the Palisade Parkway. We considered continuing on the trail but decided against it in case it was impassable and we had to backtrack. We later found out from another SOBO that most hikers didn’t take the reroute due to the frustration he felt (ugh). You would think that if the trail maintainers go to great lengths to re-route that they might re-trace the trail (the AT relies heavily on markers/markings along the trail). This turned out to be a misconception. We often stopped and wondered if we were still on the trail. Glad we had the FarOut app to guide us as it has GPS location to keep us on track.

Once redirected to the AT, we were happy to see another cache of water. We have been so grateful and lucky to have such consistent trail angels because water sources have been so scarce. At the top of Black Mountain, we were rewarded with excellent views of the New York skyline. A few miles from where we had planned to camp, this view was too good to pass up. We set up camp at the top and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and watched the skyline light up.

There was also enough cell service for Eric to participate in his fantasy football draft in a league with some high school friends. He was in his happy place drafting on top of a mountain with the city shimmering in the distance. These unique experiences really make AT so special.

PS. ESPN pitched him to win their league!

Day 69

We enjoyed our morning coffee at the top of Black Mountain looking out at the New York skyline. Field Medic passed us and said he was camping about 100 yards south. He too couldn’t pass up the sight.

Once on the trail, we hiked to Lake Tiorati which provided a nice spot for a second breakfast and a place to charge phones and stock up on water. Hayley contacted her parents to finalize plans for Sunday.

Feeling rested, we set off to continue hiking south. Shortly after, the trail crosses the Lemon Squeezer, which is a tight pass through two large boulders. We wonder why it had to be on the AT as there is a much easier way to go over the rocks only 20 feet away.

New York PUDs continue. The next stage was “agony grind”, one of the steepest sections in New York, but we climbed it quickly. One of the benefits of being 2 months into the trail is that the “agony” pales in comparison to the early days. We continued and had verdant views of the surrounding countryside.

We had planned to camp on Mombasha High Point but the spots weren’t great. Also, not much of a view compared to Black Mountain the night before, so we continued south and found a flat spot just off the trail to set up camp. The good thing about being in the Mid-Atlantic is that camping is much easier to find. We are able to change our camping plans in no time here.

Day 70

We slept very well and woke up much later than expected at 8am. No need to rush though, we start our two days of essential minimum hiking: a nero today and a zero tomorrow. Our last zero was 11 days ago in Upper Goose, MA and our last nero was growing a month ago in Hanover, NH.

We left camp at 9:30am and enjoyed the view from Cat Rocks. The terrain was a little rocky at times but otherwise well leveled. Around 11:30am we finished our hike for the day at a crossroads and hiked the .1 Bellvale Creamery. With a bit of time to spare before they opened, we started charging our phones at a designated hiking station and figuring out the best way to get to the drive-in. Oh, did we forget to mention that we are camping at a multi-screen drive-in tonight! Again, we can’t stress enough how fun and unique this trail is.

We were first in line for ice cream, we had salted caramel and blueberry loop. An hour later we returned for the banana split. The ice cream was as delicious as advertised. It has over 200 years of history as a dairy farm and they are recognized as some of the best in the world according to Trip Advisor.

We took a tour of Bellvale Creamery and set up camp at the back of Warwick Drive-In. We enjoyed the ciders, pizzas and live music at Pennings Farm which is conveniently located down the street from the drive-in.

We picked up more snacks from a nearby grocery store and headed back to the drive-thru. When we got back to our tent, a handful of other hikers had settled in. We saw Soups and Sparrow who jumped on us earlier today. 8 p.m. arrived and the movies began! We picked up our portable radio and picked out three movies at 8 and then another 3 at 9:30. We ended up watching Spiderman and Bullet Train.

We connected with the manager as we entered the drive-in and he said that in 2022 alone hikers from 49 states and 14 countries were camping at the drive-in. It’s one of the reasons we love the trail, it brings so many people together. There’s no better place to grab a Nero or Zero than at the Warwick drive-in.

We enjoyed these last days in New York which offered us unique experiences. We are excited to continue our Mid-Atlantic journey!

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