Twig Adventures

AT Day 42: Bear Mountain NY

Saturday September 4th, 2021, 0600-1800
Canopus Creek to stream past Bear Mountain, SOBO AT mm 791.7
22.3 miles
5364 gain, 5433 loss

It was another fun and action-packed day in New York. A lovely and quiet morning greeted us, filled with the gentle and soothing hoots of great horned owls. It was easy to forget that we were so close to major cities. My shoes and socks had dried some and my feet were feeling a lot better, so I was loathe to get them wet again when we came to our first water crossing 5 minutes in. I decided to try my luck using my camp shoes…maybe I could prolong the dry shoes all day. My bet paid off…there were no more wet-feet crossings so I enjoyed dry and pain-free feet all day.

Well almost, an ingrown toenail had been giving me trouble and today I discovered that it was slightly infected. I did a little surgery to drain the infection and slathered on neosporin. Good as new….or shortly I’d need to amputate it, not sure yet. The one sure thing was that I needed to try to keep it dry, or the infection would certainly continue to get worse.

The morning miles went by quickly because we were once again aiming for a deli that was on trail. We got there mid-morning, so I ordered a sub to have half for brunch and the other half for dinner. Stellar inhaled 2 breakfast sandwiches in the 30 minutes before I arrived and also packed a whole sub for dinner… a good example of the differences in our calorie consumption. As I tell everyone that marvels over his giant legs, there’s a cost to such muscle mass. It’s good that he can walk so much faster, because he needs the extra time to eat at the delis.

At the base of Bear Mountain, with only 1403 miles left!

The middle if the day wasn’t too remarkable except that we started seeing lots of day hikers around Anthony’s Nose, a hill on the east side of the Hudson. Labor day weekend and perfect weather had brought out the masses. We didn’t bother with the side trail to the top, as we figured we’d have great views from the top of Bear Mountain, the prominent feature on the west side of the Hudson.

In a fashion reminiscent of the Bridge of the Gods (Columbia River) on the PCT, we crossed a huge suspension bridge across the Hudson. This bridge at least had a sidewalk and was a pleasure to walk. This is the lowest elevation along the AT, at just 124 feet above sea level.

At the other side was a small zoo that houses injured ambassador animals that are native to the states. I gazed at a lot of sad looking animals in small enclosures, especially the birds and the black bears. What a juxtaposition, to see these wild creatures behind bars, me being the one living free in the wild. So sad. May they be free to roam in another life.

The only bear I’ve seen on this hike so far.

We stopped to buy some overpriced ice cream at the vending machines, then broke out into a scene of Labor Day madness around Bear Mountain rec area and lake. There were hundreds of BBQs and can you believe it, we didn’t manage to yogi even one beer or hot dog! It was absolute torture to walk past, smelling the smells and seeing all the goodies roasting. It was like witnessing 100 trail magic tents but not one of them for hikers. There was a concession selling expensive hamburgers and hotdogs, but given the crowds, I declined.

It must have been an act of desperation that I was looking forward to climbing Bear Mountain, just to escape the picnic area. There were a few park rangers at the trailhead, patiently answering questions about the hiking trails in the area. I marched up to them to jokingly ask where I could hike. Knowing that I was an AT hiker by my appearance, they laughed and replied casually, “I think you know.” We continued past a great display that showed the various types of trail building techniques and construction, including bog bridges, puncheon, steps, split rock, etc. I found it to be a fantastic display but was probably the only one that gave it a glance all day. Most don’t care, or rather understand, until they’ve actually stepped up to do trail maintenance themselves… then you start to see trails in a whole new light.

I caught up to the guys just as all the steps to the top began. I had a good playlist going and was feeling energetic, so I flew past, mentioning that this was a lot like the Grand Canyon. Of course Stellar clued in to my challenge, having been the target of my first step challenge while hiking the Arizona Trail. Up we went, parting the waters of days hikers out for an easy stroll. I don’t even know how long or high the climb was but I do know it only took me about 4 songs on my playlist, so pretty fast. Still, the stairs seemed endless and I was happy for the top, a little out of breath and having sweated just a bit. According to the Bear Mountain State Park website, there are over 1000 stone steps to the summit.

Stellar couldn’t be shaken on such a sort climb but at least I managed to turn him into a sweat bucket. Picky arrived a little later, having no clue about the race to the top and probably all the better for it. It was fun and made the climb go by quickly. Probably the most fun was seeing the look on people’s faces as we dashed by with our packs…they might have been making faces from our smell too, hard to say.

New York City lies just behind our shoulders

There were tons of people at the top, because of course there’s a road they can drive up. Also, there was a large memorial tower but it was closed. The views from the rocks were great and we could clearly make out the Manhattan skyline. We lingered for awhile, enjoying the buzz and nice weather. Finally we moved on, eager to find some water and a camp for the night. There was a shelter in a few miles but we figured it would be packed during the holiday weekend. So we settled for some stealth sites near a stream. I was worried about our close proximity to some roads and turns out, I was right to worry. To be continued…

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