Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yellow, White or Blue, the Blazes are Always True - Part One

As the Trail's End Festival drew close, so did my anticipation.  Lisa started her week long vacation early on Wednesday morning of the 16th of September.  It was time to travel, hike and enjoy some time in the woods.

The truck was packed and ready to go and we hit the road around 10 am.  Our first stop on the itinerary was Bear Mountain New York.  My tentative plan was to hike about 7 miles or so to the second shelter area south of the mountain spend the night, then head back the way we came the next day and finish up back at the truck on the third morning.  That wouldn't happen.

When we arrived at the Perkins Memorial Observatory at the top of the mountain, it was around 1:40 pm or so.  We had eaten a quick breakfast before leaving, but nothing since, so we explored the tower a bit, then ate a little from our food bags.  It was a pretty cool place that you could tell has been around awhile form the pictures in the observatory.  We could see the New York City skyline from the top of the mountain.  Nice.

Perkins Memorial Observatory on Bear Mountain, taken from West Mountain
We grabbed our gear and headed out.  Since we were at the top of the mountain, it was all down hill to start with.  The day felt hot and the thermometer said high 70's, but the humidity would take its toll on us soon enough.  The first two miles were easy.  Descending the mountain on some very nicely built stone steps and coming out at views a couple of times that were large flat rock faces.  After about two miles, we were down and had crossed the two roads that we had driven up a little while ago.  

Lisa arriving at view up on West Mtn
Hudson River
Next quest was to climb up West Mountain.  The climb was only about 565 feet, but it still kicked our asses.  It was rather warm and humid and we realized we should have been fueling and hydrating on the four hour drive, so we bonked pretty much at the top of the mountain.  We did get a nice view back at Bear Mountain and could see the Hudson River, but it was starting to be time for plan B.

We continued on a bit and Lisa asked my why I picked the hardest trail to get back on to, but I had no answer.  The trail is the trail.  You take it as it is, it doesn't offer any apologies or explanations as to its ruggedness.  It just is.

Plan B turned out to be this.  We finish the days hike at the West Mountain Shelter area (which is .6 off trail, with unreliable water), but first we would need some water.  If we were going to potentially dry camp, we needed enough water to cook dinner and hike the beginning of the next day.  We would have to go down hill for the water.  

Water sources notoriously dry up each year, starting in August (sometimes July) and going into the fall quite a ways.  This wasn't anything new to me, but it is always a challenge when you hike in September.

We decided to stash our packs and take our bottles down the trail to a listed water source.  Both the AT Guide and Guthooks app showed water down the hill.  If we had to walk all the way to the Palisades Parkway and find the Rest Stop, we would.

We headed down and it went pretty steeply down, pretty quickly.  At the first possible source the grade became a little easier, but the water source was dry as a bone.  We dropped our trekking poles and continued on.  We came to the next source near a bike path and it too was dry.  I was ready to go further to Beechy Bottom Brook, when we came on a flowing piece of water that came from under the bike path (old road).

We filled up and started back, both being several pounds heavier now.  It wasn't easy getting back up the mountain, but we eventually accomplished that mini quest and got back to our packs.

Wiped out, out of shape Hiker
We started down the blue blaze to the shelter and found a nice place to hang our hammocks just about .1 down the trail.  We set up and started dinner as the sun moved towards the horizon and the sky caught on fire.

I had no appetite, but tried to eat some Ramen.  I only was able to eat a little, before I zipped it up and put it in my food bag.  Maybe I would eat it in the morning.

The sun went down and we both went to our hammocks.  I spent the night flexing my feet and legs as dehydration cramps ran rampant through my body.  Lesson #352 re-learned once again.  You should always hydrate, every chance you get. 

My Entry for the day.  

AT Trip 2015-1
1.  Date: 9/16/15
2.  Day 1
3.  Morning temp: high 70s
4.  Weather: hot, sunny
5.  Time start: 14:19 
6. Time stop and miles: 18:15 - 5.2 or so.
7.  End point: West Mtn Shelter trail
8.  Events: water run
We left M.D. at 10 and arrived Bear Mtn around 1:40. After looking around (could see NY City) we headed out. Going down Bear Mtn was easy but West Mtn kicked our ass. We altered the plan to staying at West mtn shelter which is .6 off the trail but needed water first. We stashed the packs and headed 1/2 mile or so down hill. After finding a running stream we had to head back up. It kicked our ass once again. We found some nice trees a little ways down the blue blaze and set up camp. I couldn't finish my dinner. Weak but no appetite. Darkness fell. I hung the food and crawled into my hammock. Lisa crawled in about 10 min before me. A hard day for this out of trail shape hiker. 

Sunset at hammock camp
We arose with the dawn the next morning and started breaking camp.  I was able to finish my hardly touched dinner for breakfast and the cold noodles were surprisingly tasty.  

We packed up and headed back the way we came.  Plan B now meant get back to the truck, drive another four hours or so and stage ourselves closer to Maine so we could arrive at a respectable hour for the Festival.

The hike back was fine. (as it always is when you know a vehicle or shower or food are at the end of it) and we made our way back down West Mountain in preparation of climbing back up Bear Mountain.

We took a little break before starting on the steps that climb up Bear Mountain.  

Once we got up to one of the views of West Mountain, we saw the blue blaze that I had spotted at the start of our trek yesterday that said AT Shortcut.  Guthook confirmed that it cut off about .7 of the wandering AT and since we had already walked that part of the trial, it was an easy choice to finish faster but steeper.  

Looking back at West Mountain.  The mountain that kicked our ass.
We got back to the truck, got some power aide from the gedunks and hit the road.  Yellow Blazing our way to Maine.  

Tomorrow: We arrive in Maine

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