Day 18: Greenwood Lake, NY to Elk Park, NY (15 mi)
My alarm went off this morning (UGH!) and I had a really hard time getting out of a real bed (we slept at an Airbnb to do our resupply yesterday). I was mid nightmare (in my dream I was swimming in a triathlon and the other athletes were pulling on my legs and feet so I couldn’t swim!), and I just felt like I needed more sleep! I knew if I didn’t get up and at it the heat would get the best of me and I would be more miserable later. This whole setting an alarm thing rubbed me the wrong way and I started off on a grumpy foot.
Our hike started with 1 extra mile (not on the AT) - a steep blue blaze (connector trail) climb. It ended up not being as bad as the descent felt at the end of a hard day yesterday, so that’s good.
Today was a slow and hard day all around. I felt like my heart just wasn’t in it. The heat slowed me down so much and I was just struggling with every step. I felt irritable and moody and slogged along.
My body kept overheating and I kept having to take long breaks. My blisters from walking in only sock liners the last few days were starting to really bug me, so I put the wool socks back on over the sock liners, but didn’t lace up the high top part of my shoe in an effort to let the heat out like a regular shoe instead of trapping it in with the high top. This helped, but my feet felt a little unstable and I rolled my ankle like this and fell a few times. I just did not have a very good day.
Thorn bush attacked my foot on a bathroom break!
There was no water today, so luckily some trail angles left gallons of water at the road crossings for the hikers. This was essential! I saw two more bears today and we met two other vegan thru hikers on a particularly rocky scramble.
We knew our goal was the intersection with NY hwy 17, but we didn’t know if we were going to hitch into town, or stealth camp and hope the bears wouldn’t get our bear bags! We decided to camp on the other side of the interstate at mile marker 1385 at the edge of the woods, but close enough to the interstate that perhaps the bears wouldn’t come over here?
Once in the tent I had a full blown melt down, tears and all. My lowest point all hike. Everything hurts. All the time. I’ve been itching nonstop, battling the heat, and I just felt like maybe I couldn’t do it. I was struggling so much with daily heat exhaustion and it wasn’t enjoyable. I absolutely needed to take a zero day to reset and give my body a break. We agreed to take a zero at Bear Mountain Inn, in two days. Doubts were creeping in and hormones were talking for them between sobs. Jamie helped me breathe and gave me some mantras to walk me off the ledge and get some rest.
Day 19: Elk Park, NY to Bear Mountain Inn, NY (19 mi)
I woke up on the early side, barely got any sleep, and started getting ready. I was anxious to get an early start because I knew my good miles, if any, were always before noon. Jamie was later to begin moving, so I got started a little bit before him, knowing he would catch me.
I started the day around 5:50 am. We had a 19 mile day to get to Bear Mountain Inn. We could have made it a shorter day and stopped at West Mountain Shelter where you can see NYC on a clear day and it would only have been a 13 mile day. The problems with the shelter was that it was 0.6 mi off the trail (which now I think my limit is 0.2-0.3 mi off trail after the blue blaze fiasco in Greenwood Lake!) and there was no water, privy or bear box.
Harriman State Park was beautiful with wide open forests and lots of technical climbing parts mixed with easy trail. It was a beautiful and enjoyable morning with the longest and hardest climb being first thing in the morning (which is the best because the temperatures are cooler!).
We got to the infamous Lemon Squeezer which is a section you need to squeeze through between boulders and then take your pack off to climb hand over hand out of it. So far, this has been the most challenging in terms of technicality, although it wasn’t a very long section. We couldn’t really enjoy it too much because the mosquitoes were guarding the area vigilantly and we used up the last of our bug spray!
After one of the road crossings, Jamie saw a cooler with 1 Gatorade left! Yay for trail magic! The sugar from the Gatorade gave me a jolt and I pressed on. I was shocked and worried that it took us 3 hours to hike 5 miles this morning! I think it must be due to the very technical sections that slowed us down.
We met a few more hikers throughout the day, and cooled off in a stream midday for lunch. We had already done 12 miles, so only 7 left for the afternoon but no water stops until the Inn. The Gatorade had made such a difference this morning I knew I needed to regularly add some sugar to my daily nutrition plan to get through the afternoons. My afternoon bonking might be sugar related since our diet is so rich in protein and fats. I drank some coconut water at lunch, soaked my feet in the creek, and I got a second life!
I carried about 3.5 liters again, just in case. We had one steep mile climb to where West Mountain Shelter was, a steep descent, and then the Bear Mountain climb and descent left.
The first climb up to West Mountain shelter and down was very tough. I was bonking on the descent and needed to take a break at the bottom. The whole time we were climbing we heard thunder. However, it was totally sunny and there was no wind, so it felt fake. There was a road crossing with more trail angel water at the bottom and I poured water on my head. I went to make myself a nuun but couldn’t find the last tablet I’d been saving for this exact moment. I did find a sip left in the 5 hour energy bottle Greg and Bette gave us back in PA and downed it. I also got my poles out for the first time in days and Jamie showed me how to use the wrist straps as leverage. I knew Bear Mountain wouldn’t be very technical, so my poles could be very useful. They also help take some of the weight off of my feet.
Bear Mountain is a tourist destination for NYC residents. It is only 50 minutes away from Manhattan and can be very crowded on weekends and holidays. Welp - we just so happened to be hitting it on the 4th of July, and expected hoards.
The climb itself was easy terrain, gradual and with switchbacks or rock stairs. Two miles up and two miles down. I used the mantras Jamie gave me from last night “I am good enough. I am beautiful. I am strong.”
Jamie said he was suffering and needed to plug into headphones and charge on solo. I nodded him ahead. Just as I begin actually climbing, the thunder started to change. It became more real and wind and cloud coverage entered the stage. Maybe a real storm is actually coming! The temps started to drop and the wind picked up. I had Beyoncé to jam out to and I started to feel GREAT! It was the best I’ve felt this whole hike! I was literally on cloud 9, high with excitement and surging with energy. The temps must have dropped about 20 degrees and I felt like a brand new person. I ran up the two miles and down the next two miles of Bear Mountain. Pure euphoria was surging throughout my body. My new pole technique had me flying! The storm and cooler temperatures (and maybe the sip of 5 hour energy + my tunes) had me grooving and thriving. YES! THIS IS IT!
We had the entire mountain to ourselves and thanks to the 5 hours of thunder, people had plenty of time to pack up and leave.
I caught up to Jamie who was sitting on a bench about halfway up the climb and waved for him to come on. We ran together to the summit trying to beat the storm. On the overlook you could see the storm rolling in over the Hudson River. We got to the summit feeling better than ever.
Jamie was starving so I gave him a GoMacro bar. We quickly started our descent, running, and then about halfway down it began to POUR! Rivers were gushing down the rock stairs and our shoes were FILLED with water, feet sloshing with each step. Didn’t matter, it was fun and thrilling! Plus, we had a hotel room to get to!
I stopped to put on my pack cover, Jamie didn’t, and we cruised down to the inn. The lightning was striking very nearby and the inn lost internet. We arrived at the front desk sopping wet. I was in a sports bra and shorts, with the wettest feet of all time. Jamie was getting hangry and stumbled to the cafeteria while I dealt with check in.
My original reservation from two days ago had us staying in a cottage, 0.5 mile walk from here because the inn was sold out for the 4th of July. I asked them if there was a shuttle that could take us because I couldn’t fathom walking more. They didn’t have a shuttle, but the manager began to take pity on me and said “let me see what we can do for you so you can just stay here.” 15 minutes later, he had us booked at the cheapest rate possible and in the penthouse suite because the people that had that room checked out early and didn’t end up staying for their reservation that night. Another instance of trail magic! We had a his and hers bathroom and a full suite! We washed our clothes, and hung all our wet stuff in our respective bathrooms and turned the heaters on to dry out our stuff.
We ate dinner in the restaurant, watched the most recent Handmaid’s Tale episode and crashed early in our plush king size bed.
Day 20: Zero day at Bear Mountain Inn
Today was super relaxing. Slept in until 7:30 (felt like noon!). Went to the continental breakfast and ate a bowl of fruit, oatmeal with peanut butter and a bagel with peanut butter!
Came back to our luxurious room and took another shower. Packed up some of my things and went 10 feet down the hall to the spa to get a life changing 90 minute myofascial release massage.
I caught up on the phone with the Camino family segment (‘rents and Jamie Suz) and they are battling deer ticks and rain on their Spain venture. It was so nice to catch up with them and not be huffing and puffing and trying not to get lost or trip on a rock.
We then ate some lunch, penne pasta with veggies, and then came back to the room to catch up on my writing. I have found it so hard to keep up the discipline of writing when I’ve had so many hard days lately. It’s important to me and I really like doing it, but haven’t been able to make the time for it. I’m just so grateful to be off my feet all day today!
Day 21: Bear Mountain Inn to Canopus Lake Beach (21.5 miles)
Today started off a bit later than we wanted, but not too bad. On trail by 7:25 am. It was brutally hot and humid right off the bat. At 6:30 am when I checked the weather it was “feels like 94 degrees!” The hottest part of the day was this morning and the humidity just hung out making it hot and sticky.
I started my period this morning (dang it!). Wish it had come YESTERDAY while I was laying around a hotel doing nothing!) but alas, here we are. Aleve took the edge off, but the lack of air flow in the stale humid morning just about made me pass out. One foot in front of the other.
We got to the trail side zoo (which is a local zoo for rehabilitated animals) and it didn’t open until 10:00 am. We had to take the blue blaze bypass trail since the AT goes through the zoo! I was moving pretty slowly and we hadn’t even gone a mile!
We crossed the Hudson River, which is a big milestone on the trail and also the lowest point geographically on the trail. There was a little breeze on the bridge and I savored every moment of it. Even the cars that passed us on the bridge made some wind and I was grateful for it.
After the bridge we popped back into the woods and had a super steep climb. With an elevated heart rate from climbing in hot humid air combined with dysmenorrhea, I was moving super slowly. The way my hip belt pressed on my contracting uterus was the most uncomfortable feeling in the world!
Once the trail flattened out at the top of the climb, the weather changed and a little rain storm blew in. Enough to cool me off, bring cooler temps, bring a breeze through the woods, but not soak my feet or pack. It was perfect! I started to move again.
The last few days Jamie has been living inside a musical in his head and he has spent a lot of his time making up tunes and narrating our time in song form. It’s been pretty funny!
We made it 6.7 miles to the Appalachian Market, a convenient store “plus” and I got a banana and some Gatorade and drank my morning soylent smoothie. Jamie got sour patch kids, pringles and a cold brew coffee. We sat at a high top table and enjoyed a longish break and let the rain die down some.
Just when we started feeling cold, we left and began to climb. We climbed for a WHILE. I was sort of dragging. My cramps were still hurting me, but as I began to descend toward a road the pain stabilized and I was moving a little better.
I got to the road and noticed Jamie’s pack was on the ground. I looked over and saw him with some people at a vehicle. I yelled over “hey!” and the people yelled back “hi!”
Then, around the corner a woman approached me and said “hi.” It took me WAAAY too long to register that this woman was KATIE! Jamie’s sister Katie and her fiancée Brad were visiting Brad’s Mom on Long Island and came out to surprise us with a HUGE vegan picnic feast with avocado, guac, hummus and veggies, roasted veggies, raspberries, cold kombucha, and even SEAWEED snacks! Literally the most amount of fresh food I’ve seen in weeks. I was stunned and overwhelmed and just so taken aback by the surprise! They had been following us on our tracker and figured out a road intersection to meet us at! We took a much needed break with them and enjoyed our gourmet trailside lunch buffet. The weather was now much more mild and not raining so they joined us walking for about a mile with their new pup Jango.
This surprise visit really lifted my spirits and carried me so far today. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and talking about it to Jamie. It truly totally surprised both of us and it was so nice to interact with familiar faces!
We made it to a road crossing with a stone hut and a spigot. We stopped for our afternoon smoothies and took a little break and took off our shoes to let our feet dry some. Jamie noticed an odd rash on his feet and ankles and thinks it might be from his socks. There is also some on his tummy and a little patch on his thigh. It doesn’t itch, so we took pictures, he washed it, and put a little steroid cream on the patch on his thigh to see if that helped calm it down.
It was 5:00 pm and we still had another 6 miles plus to hike to get to a designated camping area. We were in a state park and there were signs everywhere about camping in the designated spot, so we pressed on. The last two miles were tough for me. Cramps were back and I was just feeling done. I took the hip belt off completely and just carried my pack on my shoulders using the sternum strap. I put my poles away at the stone hut break spot, but regretted it. There was a lot of steep ups and downs and I think I’m getting better at using my poles so I will try to use them more.
Finally we got to the camping field by Canopus Lake Beach, and I began to make dinner while Jamie went and got water from the spigot at the beach area. I had to immediately change out of my wet clothes because (drum roll please!) the temperature was dropping! Like down into the 60s! It is 67 degrees on and I have long underwear and two long sleeve shirts on and my buff on my head! It is supposed to dip down to 54 tonight! Wow!
We had a homemade ramen concoction for dinner and it was delicious! We got into our tent later than normal because we didn’t get to camp until about 7:30 pm. We decided not to bear bag tonight because there is an open dumpster and trash cans all around and we are very near a highway. Hope the rodents don’t take an interest in our food!
We are excited to maybe “sleep in” a little since we aren’t trying to beat the heat tomorrow! The high tomorrow is 75 degrees! I think I’ll wear pants! Yippee!