Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail, or AT, is a long distance hiking trail that runs about 2,100 miles-ish from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Kathadin in Maine. The distance changes frequently because they re-route the trail. Every year hundreds of people attempt a thru-hike of the trail, starting at one end they hike the whole thing continuously. It takes about 6 months. Other people hike the whole thing in sections. They come out for a week or two or long, at a time and hike until they have to go back to work or back to real life. When Benton McKaye dreamed up the trail, he imagined it more to be a place where people could "dip in" and hike a little here, a little there. He hadn't been thinking of people backpacking and hiking the whole thing!

I have been experiencing the trail the way Benton McKaye had in mind! I have hiked a solid section of the AT in northern VA, but I hike the AT as a day hike - hike in a few miles and then back out. A few weeks ago when Dad and I were looking for a hike near Gorham and we finally fell back on the AT it was like meeting and old friend! The white blazes are the same in New Hampshire as they are in Virginia! I noticed the same thing when I was hiking in the Green Mountains on Sunday. I was thinking how cool it was the everywhere I went the AT was right there and I could just get out and hike! Once you are on the trail you don't really need a map, it almost always well blazed!

I was looking at the map and I realized that I could take US7 south through the Berkshires and then down to Danbury, CT and avoid the interstate in both Massachusetts and Conneticut! I've driven both the MA turnpike and 84 through Hartford and neither is much fun. US7 had to be better! And, the AT crossed US7, I could hike along the way!

I had to head west across Massachusetts to pick up US7 and in doing so I crossed the AT for the first time of the day! I'd planned to hike here and luckily there was a large parking area just off the trail! I wanted to hike to Upper Goose Pond because I'd heard of it through AT books and such, but it was going to be too far for a quickie hike while I'm driving. I ended up walking about 2 miles in, and 2 miles out, for a 4 mile round trip hike. I made MapMyRide work for this time so that was good! The hike started out with crossing over I90, the Mass Turnpike. It was neat standing on the overpass watching the big trucks zoom under me! One the way out I saw two thru-hikers trying to get the truck drivers to honk! On the way back a truck driver honked at me without me even trying to get his attention! The rest of the hike was nice, it was a typical woods - moss, rocks, leaves, mud - lots and lots of mud! Once I got back to the van it was off to my next hiking spot - Mohawk Mt. in Conneticut.

I don't have actual maps of the AT in this area, I'm using google maps and an old 2009 paper atlas with the trail marked on it to locate trail crossings. There's a good chance the trail has been re-routed since the map was made! Once I crossed over into Conneticut I knew that my trail crossing was going to be right after CT4. I didn't think there were any others so I was surprised when I saw a thru-hiker (once you know what you are looking for you can spot them a mile away!) sitting on a bridge under a white blaze and then I saw the parking area. I pulled in to check the map, it wasn't where I wanted to hike so I kept driving. When I got to the spot where I wanted to hike I couldn't find the trail. I drove past where I thought it should be, turned around and drove back, even drove down another road, but I couldn't find the AT! Ugh.

When I consulted the map again I realized that my trail hunting had lead me off route in a way that it would be easier to go around than turn around and retrace my steps. This detour was going to lead me right into Litchfield, CT and right down memory lane! When we lived in North Tarrytown, NY I went to summer camp at YMCA Camp Mohawk in Litchfield! While I don't remember anything about the town, I knew camp was nearby! I google mapped how to get there but didn't drove down there - it was even further off route and it seemed stalker-ish since I knew kids were there!

Soon I was back on US7, by now it had joined up with US202 and US6. I had decided I was going to take the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson this time. The AT also uses the Bear Mountain Bridge to get over the Hudson so I was going to be driving on the AT! Using US7 instead of the interstate had been a great plan, I will definitely do that again. The Bear Mountain Bridge, I'm not so sure of.

First there was driving US202 in Northern Westchester County! It was twisty, turning, with stop lights and sharp turns. It took forever. Then when I finally got to Peekskill, I really had to pay attention. New York has several parkways and they only allow passagenger cars because of low underpasses - some as low as 6-8 feet! Trying go over the Bear Mountain Bridge involved threading a needle between three of these parkways. Everyone else on the road knew where they were going and wanted to get there quickly so I knew if I got in the wrong lane I'd be stuck! Then there was the narrow twisty road leading to the bridge. The speed limit was excessive for the road and I encountered large dump trucks coming the other way! Roxy and I handled it fine, but it was more thrill than we needed! After the bridge was a traffic circle. I stayed on 202 because I knew I didn't want the Palisades Parkway. That was wrong. I had to turn around and backtrack. I did want the Palisades because it was also US6 right there. By the next traffic circle I got lucky and took the correct road into Harriman State Park, my destination for the night.

The park is huge and the campground was nowhere near where I'd entered! Finally I wound my way through the park and located the campground! It's a very nice park - lots of lakes and the AT runs right through it! The campground is far away from the AT though, so I'll have to save that for tomorrow, I passed right through it on my way in, but I was anxious to get to the campground and get a site since I didn't have reservations. The campground is nowhere near full, there are maybe 10-15 sites occupied, out of over 100! It's quiet and peaceful!

After dinner I rode my bike around the roads near the campground and went over to the beach day use area. There were a lot of people over there and it wasn't anywhere near full - the parking lot, picnic area and beach area were huge!!!! Here it was obvious that were close to NYC, it looked like the United Nations and no one spoke English! The one alarming thing was that there was a NYState Parks Police Mobile Command Unit in the parking lot. It looked deserted, but why do they need that so prominently displayed? Hmmm... I bet weekends get a bit crazy!

After my bike ride (prob about 8 miles, not sure though because MapMyRide quit on me again...I took a picture again, I think the app pauses when I take a picture, even if it's closed) I had some Ben and Jerry's - at a store today I picked up Liz Lemon Greek Yogurt and Salted Caramel Core - both are good but there's not enough lemon and too much caramel!

When I was a kid we came up to Bear Mountain several times, I'd like to get back over there and explore but I think it's going to be too far, too confusing to get there. I'm going to go back to the AT, maybe I can walk! Coming to Bear a Mountain as a kid could have been my first exposure to the trail, I can't remember!


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