Saturday, January 7, 2012

Long Path Adventures by Chembrew

My last group backpacking trip was the Catskills Park "Devils Path". This trail overlapped a part of the Long Path (LP) and the portion we hiked was very challenging indeed.  Later, I read up on the Long Path and was surprised to see it began near my home at the George Washington Bridge as it makes the journey all the way up to Altamont, near Albany. It's not a complete path like the Appalachian trail (AT) since it has a number of significant road  walks. It is not a popular thru-hike compared to the AT or Vermont's Long Trail and the trail guide book is currently out of print. I like it mostly because it runs through the most scenic portions of the Palisades, Harriman State Park, the "Gunks", and the Catskill Peaks. These are all my main stomping grounds and I've walk on or crossed over the LP in each of these areas while admiring the scenic beauty. The proximity to northern NJ makes the entire trail a few hours drive for me.  Most trail info and maps came from the excellent NY/NJ trail conference website: . I'm now one of their newest members as I just joined up.

What really pushed me into trying this is the blog from Jacob Aronson as I research into the LP. It gives a stellar account of his continuous thru-hike on the Long Path as a student in college: He includes a ton of photos which gives a good flavor of the trail in the Summer.  He made it seem easy, but I know it's not. Jacob elected to use the recommended AT - Shawangunk Ridge (SR) trail to by-pass the Orange Country Road walks, even though it is a longer overall trail journey.  My plan is to stay on the LP and most likely tour those roads on my bicycle. Another option I am toying with is to do both routes, since AT-ST will be closer to my home, and as I push forward on the later LP parts I will not be able to always drive to a day hike. The last half of the LP will have to become more dedicated as a hike with camping, so I do not make any prediction on when this will get completed.

My story is I'm 48 years old, work full time and a family guy, so a continuous camping thru-hike is not in the cards at this time. I'm not in top shape, but not terribly off for someone my age and history. I've survived cancer and radiation treatments and had both Achilles tendons ruptured and repaired so my legs are weak.  These things were challenging, but that is in the past. Besides enjoying the trail and the moments it presents, my current targets are to improve my leg strength and find a way to rid or control the moderate knee pain I experience during descents. The Devils Path in the Catskills taught me about my real weaknesses. The descents at the end of the day were painful.  The furthest I've ever walked in a day was 9 miles on medium terrain and it left me pretty wasted, so there is obvious room for improvement.  On the plus side, I'm mentally strong and can endure what comes with the trail with good humor. My goal of this adventure is a hike of the Long Path in manageable sections, always starting where I left off and getting in much better shape in the process. The goal of this blog it to record my trail journey so my friends and family can check up on what I'm up to here, but most importantly to record my progress in all respects.  I'll make comments about what I feel or endure, never complaining, but by being honest, it may be interesting to see how weak and slow I begin and hopefully, how strong I finish (and if I finish of course).  In short, this blog is not being written by an athlete or a great story teller, but by a common person who loves being on the trail and wants to make a positive change in my life. I also want to thank my wife Naomi for supporting my trail time and planning that these things entail. And thus the adventure begins....

January 7, 2012
A very mild weekend, 50F.
To be honest, I just decided late to begin this today. With sunny skies, I drive across Bergen county and arrive at the GWB at 11 AM. I filled my backpack with mostly unneeded junk to add weight and get my legs in shape. The beginning is at a park called Fort Lee Historic park and has plenty of parking and gives the southermost access to the Palisades and several nice loops that go up and down the cliffs. I take a picture of the starting point and follow the aqua blazes out of the park.
It goes under the bridge access and up a stairway for bikes and pedestrians to go over the GWB.  I enter the Palisades and take a picture of the Bridge.  It is really huge this close. I walk only a 1000 yards more and see a nervous deer looking back at me from an open edge of a 400 foot cliff.  I keep my distance so as not to startle it more.  I'd prefer not to see this deer attempt to "fly".  My initial goal is to begin hiking the Long Path in loops along the Palisades.  I can cover some miles on the upper cliff and then trek down to the river and loop back.  The views up top are truly outstanding and it's hard to belief this terrain lies so close to the Big Apple. I'm not afraid of heights and stand close, but not too close, to the edge of one cliff and feel the wind rising up the cliffs.

I put on my ipod to kill the never-ending car noise from the highway right next to me on this section. I use my GPS and find a few geocaches along the trail.  Unfortunately, I lost my good polarized sunglasses after digging around for the cache and only noticed them missing after going another mile down the trail.  I ran back to where I know I lost them trailside, but some stranger must have scored them.  First mistake of the day was losing them, but I made another mistake, as I was really sweating from doubling back in a hurry.  I was way overdressed for a warm winter day and should have lost some layers as things warmed up. I felt like I'd barely begun and already hit 2.3 miles into the hike and I'm at the Palisades Ave. interchange. I check my map.  The next opportunity to loop down to the river is too far off to continue as a longer loop. Time to leave the LP for now.  I touch the last marker and mentally note where to begin the thru-hike next time.  I head on down the Dyckman trail towards Englewood boat basin.  I immediately see a rock retaining wall section (designed to stop you from going over the cliff) blasted open by what appeared to be a car crash.  I looked over the edge and saw trees damaged below, so I think a car went over the edge.  I hoped the poor bastard who drove that car lived.
Next, I climb down a series of basalt stairs cut into the bedrock.  What a great hike down along conduits of stone and waterfalls. I recommend this loop to EVERYONE!

Truly an amazing journey so close to home.  Once at the bottom, I stop for a drink of water from my Nalgene container. It slipped from my hand and the entire bottom cracked open and I lost more than half my water in an instant. I had thought these things were impact resistant, but it was older and more brittle. Another mistake, but a good lesson to learn on a relatively short hike. Water is precious and the container needs to be flexible. From here on out I'm bringing my camel-back. I started walking along the river holding the bottle upside down to preserve what was left of my water. The trail is pretty easy, and full of driftwood and debris blown in from the river during storms. I walk along a nice park and eat a snack and see an incredible amount of people enjoying this weather. I drank the last few sips of water and toss the Nalgene into a trash can.  I walk under the bridge and by the boat launch.  Another mile or so the river trail ends up at some houses, and there are granite benches engraved with poetry from well known poets.  The theme is all about the Hudson river.  The path goes up a steep trail towards River road in Fort Lee. The final stretch is defined by a high black chain link fence prior to reentering the park.  The park museum was open and I go inside to wash up.  The day was ending and a service man was taking down the outdoor flags with great respect for flag and country. I thanked him for his service and was proud of our country and those who protect us.  
Trail stats: 6.5 miles looped.  Only 2.3 miles (out of 347 miles) on the LP.  Most importantly I started something and began to get in shape with my weighted pack on the whole time.  Now thinking of what I did right and wrong and planning the next small section.  
Conditioning:  Muscles really sore the next few days, slight leg cramping and minor hamstring pain.

January 14, 2012
Colder today, about 29F and I drive to the Englewood Boat basin to park on the river where I will start and finish my loop.  I learned a few lessons from last week and use my camel-back water bag and leave the sunglasses home. I'm feeling charged up to begin.  I motor right on up the basalt stairway on the Dyckman trail and soon find myself sweating at the top, touching the marker that begins the next LP section.  I went up a bit fast for how steep the trail was.  I really need to watch that as getting soaking wet in freezing weather in the first 15 minutes (a rookie mistake). I shed my warm vest, but I get cold in a minute, so back on it goes, which makes me sweat more.   Once again, ipod tunes for along the parkway, as the constant drone of a highway is a minor downside to an otherwise stellar park.  I cover the trail fast, stopping only to grab a geocache or take in yet another dramatic vista from the cliffs.  I only brought glove liners and the wind is heavier up top, so I feel the cold if I stop, therefore, I do not stop.  The chill air finds little columnar ice crystals on the trail about an inch tall, presumably grown from dew. The scientist in me ponders at the irony of columnar ice sitting directly on top of the columnar basalt that makes up the Palisades.  Is it a special magnetic flux here? I already know this place is special.  I pass Rockefeller lookout and find a really cool cliff soon afterwards with a great view and ground zero for a geocache.  A muggle (a non-geocacher) suddenly walks up behind me as I'm right near the edge looking and I only think to ask him if his intentions are to push me off the cliff (of course I said it with a smile).  He laughed while saying no, so I explained the concept of Geocaching to him since I was essentially caught in the act looking under rocks.  We found it together in a minute and I logged his name in as a newbie to the art of GPS treasure hunting.  Pressing on, the LP goes around Greenbrook sanctuary and eventually hits Huylers trail down to the shoreline path.  I only went 4 miles on the LP and decided I can make it a bigger loop by forging ahead a few miles more to Alpine.  I'm glad I did, because I pass a really cool ruins and abandoned garden that would make a great spot for a picnic with the family in the future.  I finish about 6 miles on the LP and turn down hill to return to the Hudson river.  I initially walk the Hudson Terrace roadway (closed to cars in the winter) on a downhill grade and see many cyclist's huffing up the hill with quite serious faces.  I half expected to see Lance Armstrong in the group because they all had on flashy yellow clothing.  I like cycling, but the slow pace of walking has it's benefits, including finding out how much music I have on my ipod.
I reach a red trail that drops me down to the river.  Once there it is pretty overgrown and a bit desolate.  I was very much alone down there.  The cold and the grey winter were not inspiring and I'm wondering if a 12+ mile loop here was a good call in my shape.  I pass a few overgrown stone tables and stone chairs that looked built in the 1920's when the river swimming was abandoned due to pollution that ruined the Hudson as a local beach area (Imagine that!).  The river smelled OK since it was high tide, but the trash that washed up on the river banks was never ending and a bit depressing.  We really pollute so much with bags and bottles. I like the concept of using your own bags and refillable bottles and recycling everything. It's really not that hard to do.  I felt like I should pick up trash as I walked, but I knew I couldn't make the slightest dent in it solo and kept walking to make sure I made the car before nightfall. I resolved to make one of my easier hikes a trash out walk soon. The trail was filled with drift wood and slow going.  I eventually make it back to the car as light was fading. I was boosted up by cars heater as I was still wet from before. I was very cold on the last leg of the hike as the sun and temperatures dipped. I decided to really watch how I managed my relative dryness it in the future.  I may need more breathable warm clothes. 

Trail stats:  6 miles on the LP and 12.5 miles total for the day in the loop.  A personal milestone! Reflecting on this, it took over 5 hours, so I'm really slow on average at about 2 miles / hour including some BS time looking for GEO caches.  I leave thinking about how to cover more ground on the LP.   I'll never finish at this rate because half my journey is in the wrong direction looping back to my car. 
Conditioning: Tight legs, hamstring issue went away, but left calf had a muscle spasm a few days later and was very painful all week and required ice/heat in cycles for a few days.  (I have a long way to go)

January 22, 2012
West Mountain Shelter
IT SNOWED! Went hiking in the fresh cold snow (20F) at the Anthony Wayne rest area in Harriman with some friends (Mauro, Rich and Pete). So no Long Path today. I drove and did some huge donuts in the snow with my 4wd since the giant parking lot was nearly empty. It was fun for me, but I don't know if the passengers were so happy with my off-road stylings. It was a brisk morning and the sun glissened off the virgin snow as we started! It was very uplifting. I only brought my glove liners so I found my hands a bit numb as the trekking poles took away heat, but they eventually warmed up during a strenuous ascent. We did about a 6 mile loop and found ourselved sliding up and down some pretty tricky rocks. We met some gung-ho Korean trekker at West Mountain shelter where we stopped for lunch. We were happy to see he had a fire going. I searched out a big log for the fire to add to the cause. We cruised back along the AT and a few other side trails to the car. It was pretty exhausting since the snow impeded progress, but what a beautiful journey overall. The views of the snow covered hills and Hudson river were outstanding and burned into my memory. Can't wait for the Long Path to take me back into Harriman. 

My trail mates Mauro, Pete and Rich
Trail Stats: No forward progress on the LP today (but who cares as it was great otherwise ).  
Conditioning: minor tightness in the calves and quads. 

[Footnote on West mountain shelter:  I felt I owed this shelter something from the past. I was caught in a wicked electrical storm here a few years back with my buddy Scott.  We rode out two terrible cells without cover on the Timp trail, both of us thankful to make the shelter alive right in the middle of a third cell. Lightening was pummeling us in deafening madness.  We were soaked as if we just emerged from a lake in our clothes and boots. We laughed it off as we stripped and wrung-out (and hung out) and hoped no one else found us in this sorry state of survival.  I recalled looking in every crevice for a match to no avail as someone did leave dry wood and tinder in the fireplace to warm up and dry our gear. It made me appreciate the fact that it took extra effort for someone to leave the shelter stocked with wood ready to burn and that I should also bring things to leave in the shelters for survival of others and myself.  It's no joke when these things happen and I was naive and originally unprepared.  My pack now always has survival gear, tarps, first aid kit and rations to ride out an emergency. That wet afternoon back then was the biggest lesson I ever learned on the trail and hope it remains so.]
January 29, 2012
I emailed Jacob Aronson and mentioned how much I enjoyed his LP blog. He suggested I check bus schedules wherever possible to get a return ride and avoid the loops if possible to make time.  I looked up the schedule for the bus that runs down Rt 9W and it stops in Nyack, Piermont and near the Alpine entrance to the Palisades.  I decided to make the attempt from Alpine to Nyack in one day if possible to stretch my horizons.  No stopping (except for getting food), no geocaching,  no sitting down and no pausing for taking photos. I thought it would be about 12 miles as the crow flies, but was running busy all week and never actually got to look at the maps to know for sure how far the trail would encompass.  I got a late start due to working a great party the night before as DJ and made the trail at 10:45. It was a warm 40F.  I barely begin walking when I took off layers and stayed cooler.  I thought I learned something from the last few weeks.  I motored at a fast pace and realized I forgot my ipod (which is minor), but more importantly, I forgot my trail map.  I'll stay content with "my head voice", but I was a bit miffed at myself for leaving the map home, because my plan was to use it on the trail and determine my progress and figure the best options to catch a bus back.  Once out, the vistas were great, it was sunny and mild and the birds pretended it was spring time.  The descent after the Womens federation monument was pretty steep, but trail angels of the past cut steps to make it easy going. I saw the shore access trail, but instead climbed up another daunting set of steps to move forward on the LP. I recalled the stateline store had a bookstore and food, so when I arrived there, I asked about a longpath map or book to only learn it is out of print! So I bought a bagel with cream cheese and left in a hurry to eat it on the trail.  Nothing like melting cream cheese on a hot bagel. I passed the "high security" state line fence and entered NY state for what will be my home on the rest of this journey.  The path eventually took me out of the Palisades park and deposited me on Rt 9W near a Columbia University Observatory.  Next, down through a swamp that dumped me onto a road walk for a mile along 9W.  It made me think how much walking a busy road stunk and that I should mountain bike any portion with significant road walks in Orange county.  I entered Tallman State forest which was a series of dikes and swamps. A local I met told me it was originally an oil tank storage area that was never completed due to towns people fighting it.  The park became more scenic as the miles wore on and eventually I could see the Piermont pier and the Sparkill marshes below on the river.  The final descent into Piermont was really tough, but my knees surprisingly felt good for coming this far.  I'm concerned about this because I suffer from "descent-itis", which is my way of saying my knees can hurt really bad on steep descents. [I've been told this most likely due to "I.T. band" pain and I hope to find a way to improve this condition by proper training and stretching as time goes on.]
I entered Piermont with dogs barking and kids playing and kinda felt out of place with a backpack and trekking poles.  I found the bus stop, look at the schedule and realized I missed the bus by two minutes and the next one was in an hour.  I felt good and decided to keep walking on to Nyack.  I really didn't have any idea of what was ahead, but I could see the Tappen Zee bridge, so it couldn't be that far, could it?  I bought some Pizza in Piermont and immediate began ascending a steep path up and out of town.  It followed roads and stuff and seemed to be going in the wrong direction a times.  I was walking over a half hour more and felt wasn't one foot closer to Nyack. I walked on, now past Rockland cemetery and wound my way up (and up) near the LP summit of Mt Nebo.  I coped a river view and was barely past north Piermont after leaving the town almost an hour earlier.  My mood dropped as I realized how much I underestimated this section.  It was not a bee-line to Nyack as the Long Path was before on the Palisades where it previously held a near perfect northern route.  My mood improved near the summit and I gained strength, but was now completely soaked with sweat from the effort of a long climb. I walked for several more hours in good spirits, through Tackamack Park and the Clausland Mountains and saw an old artillary range with cool tunnels.  I was once there before with my family and also once in my 20's armed with flashlights.  Way back then, we went under ground there the length of the long tunnels.  I felt great being back there even if I had no intention of tunnel traveling with the rats.  I was getting tired and eventually summited another mountain and I felt recharged being on top.  I was now north of the Tappen Zee and realized Nyack was further north than the bridge.  The city and river were still pretty far away from my spot. It was after 4PM and I had less than an hour of daylight and at least 3 more miles to go, including the road walk to the bus stop. I was completely out of water as well. I sucked it up and descended, now with painful knees and repeated motivational words to keep my spirits high.  I could do this!  Up and over a couple more ridgelines and I finally came to Bradley Hill Rd and Nyack College.  The LP headed back over another ridge to route 59, but I decided to exit the LP there and walk down into Nyack.  My trail legs were at the maximum limit for me.  It was about a 2 mile walk into town as I made a few wrong turns in the process of gathering my bearings, and I was relieved to end up at the bus stop down the hill.  I was completely out of water for over an hour, so I stopped in a market and bought a protein shake to begin recovery.  The bus arrived 30 minutes later and I was shivering by the time it arrived as I was completely soaked from perspiration.  It was in the high 30's and I was becoming slightly hypothermic, but not enough to be concerned.  I made the bus and it was warm and wonderful.  I was so happy to be on it and happy about how far I went in one day. I took nothing for granted at that moment. I thought about what the ironmen racers actually do and it amazes me to think how fit they have to be to do what they do. My trek must seem pretty lame in comparison. The bus driver was kind and stopped right on Rt 9W to let me off by Exit 2 on the Palisades.  It was pitch dark and I used my headlamp to go the final 1/2 mile to my car, again shivering from being wet in the cold but really happy with today's progress. 
Trail Stats:   14 miles on the LP, 16.5 miles total including the non-LP road walks.  I think I'm now about 22 miles total LP covered and getting some trail legs.  Next weekend skiing for three days in Killington, so getting fit will have it's benefits already on the slopes. 
Conditioning:  Super tight legs and some muscle spasms in all areas during the week.  Recovery was pretty good by Thursday and skiing was way better than ever because I had more power in my legs than previous years.

February 12, 2012
I couldn't wait to get back on the trail. My legs were feeling good after all the walking and skiing over the past month, so I figured todays section should be easier on me.  I arranged to go hiking today with Scott, a long time friend and occasional trekker. Today actually feels like winter, with wind gusts adding a wind chill to a brisk 24F with clear skies. We both avoided taking jackets as neither of us felt the cold in our bones during our meet up. We decided to be a little cold rather than too hot from all the ups and downs we would cover on this one. I learned from the prior weeks to under-dress in the core area when hiking. I also reminded myself this is not recommended for hiking back country in the event of a problem.  We leave his house in Mahwah with two vehicles for thru-hiking a 9 mile section from Nyack to Congers. We found parking at the route 304 - 9W intersection, but had to first travel down rt 304 a 1/4 mile and then make a right and another right onto a road bordering Tilcon quarry that dead ended back in front of the intersection behind a guard rail. This was Long Clove road, but the access is not straightforward and I later learned the road was technically closed to traffic. We used the second car to get to the Nyack trail head and I had Scott drop me off at  Bradley Hill Rd and I ran over the last ridge segment I missed last week.  He picked me up as I exited the woods and we proceeded to park at the McDonalds, after receiving permission from the manager. I left with a breakfast sandwich and hot coffee, which kept my bare hands toasty for about a mile since I was too lazy to take my pack off to grab glove liners. We road walked and went into the woods, past some apartment buildings and I found a small animals skull.  I pocketed it and we soon walked by a cemetery with a herd of deer. I saw more deer than I could count. In fact, we saw over 20 deer on today's journey.  We wound past civilization frequently on a road walk and the LP at this point wasn't very interesting until it turned up the final ascent to Hook mountain. 
Hook Mountain Summit - Tappen Zee and Piermont in distance

 We were presented with stellar panoramic views of Tappen-Zee, Upper Nyack, Piermont, the Sparkill marshes and Tallman state park in the distance. It made me feel really good to see how far I went since the last time I walked past those points.  We chatted with a local (Dave who was holding and dog Xena a Bichon Frise) as we were taking in the view. He answered our questions about upper Nyack. It looked like a gem of a community from that vantage point and is tucked away just under Hook mountain.
Hook mt sign  kiosk zoom in

Hook mt sign  kiosk about ice harvesting
The next ridge held another surprise from the top of a former quarry site. I imagine if the wind was right, one could base jump or hang glide off this cliff as it was so high and sheer. We saw turkey vultures roosting on the cliff and there were a few hawks (or possibly even eagles) flying on the 20 knot breeze. I could see a park (Nyack Beach Parking area #2) with a grassy picnic area a few hundred feet directly below us and it looked like a really nice hidden area to bring the family and eat, especially after a hike or bike in the area. 
"Exploded" tree trunk
The remainder of the path was a good number of ups and downs, staying on the ridge line for the most part. They were not very steep and it was fairly easy to make good time. In spite of this, my knees complained during some of the descents, but I've found ways to stretch and "high step it" in real time to work through the problem. I happily finished the last descent pain-free. We took many pictures of trees, roots, Palisades rock, golden grass and even green lichen along the way and it was really great having a traveling companion to share the trail with and admire the little things. Scott was happy to take pictures and I hope to receive the photos to add the here. The trail conditions were great and it was obvious dedicated maintenance had been conducted here. 
Hook Mountain stone wall ruins

Scott in front of Palisades Columns

Scott on Green Lichen Slope
My final descent was a farewell to the Hudson River. It was my virtual companion since I started at the GWB, and I realized the LP mostly turned inland from here on out, except for High Tor. Maybe I will still get some occasional views of it here and there from later high points, like from the Catskills, but it will not be the same. I came to realize how much I enjoyed it only when I lost it briefly last time from Piermont to Nyack and my mood dropped as a consequence. The best part of the journey to date was the constant Hudson River.

I recalled on day one, poems were engraved in the benches near the GWB, so I made up a little poem in my head to capture the sentiment:   

 "Farewell O' river of grey, reflecting the wintry sky,
      We now turn west and leave your winding way."
LP Trail marker
We returned to the car and followed the aqua blazes along the road for about a mile as it wound around the quarry. We scouted for a parking area near the next trail head as it turns up to High Tor. The logistics of a thru hike section is a always a factor and I hope friends (like Scott) continue to join me for these hikes as their company on the trail, and on the shuttles between, is always most welcomed.

Trail Stats:   10 miles on LP today.
Conditioning:  General leg tightness but better recovery as the week progressed.

[footnote - I emailed Jakob Franke last week to alert him to my blog and progress. Jakob serves as the LP maintenance "chief" south of Catskills. My hope is to connect with others doing a similar sectional thru-hike can meet up for various compatible sections and we can assist each other on the trail logistics.  He mentioned a few people just made it to Rockland lake last week, so that puts us about in the same area at this point.  If they hiked this weekend, they are probably ahead of me and I wish them well.]

February 19, 2012
44 F & Sunny! Amazing weather this winter keeps this adventure stuck in high gear!
During the week prior, I had this great idea to park my car at Call Hollow Rd. on the border of Harriman State park and ride my rickety 24 year old mountain bike about 9 miles on roads to the Tilcon quarry area entrance to the LP. I figured it's best to have the car at the end in case I'm tired or the bike breaks. Then at least the bike ride is done and I don't risk my way of getting back. Also, a crappy bike is less likely to get stolen sitting isolated at a trail head area. I grabbed the bike, filled two flat tires and tossed it right into the back of my car. At 10:30 I parked at the Letchworth Cemetery parking on Call Hollow Rd. and I quickly learned sometime I really should have checked prior...the bikes chain was fused and not functional due to a years of rust from a wet storage shed. Arrrgh...I was stuck, but this hike depended on me biking a significant distance. I turned the bike upside down and explored possibilities. I needed to work the problem so I opened my pack and looked for "survival options". I found a knife, gloves and a chap-stick and used all three to lube the chains, bend it, and scrap it into moving. It was still pretty bad, as every two pedal turns worked and the third skipped the entire gear derailer system and broke all pressure on the drive train. Worse yet, both plastic shifters broke when I flipped the bike upside down to fix it. To make matters worse, I'm stuck in high gear. Sigh! I pedal mostly downhill, and fight my way up the small hills by Letchworth village. This area is so bizarre, it is like a large scale movie set of a spooky abandoned insane asylum. The bike problems wouldn't allow me to pedal up any hill over a a slight incline so I'm forced to hop off frequently and walked my bike up each hill. I fought off a bit of negative thinking - like I'm a real fool to think I can make it all the way to the Hudson river with this bike. I sucked it up and resolved to work harder and eventually got to Rt 202 walking the bike up on foot. That hill was cake compared to the next leg.  I needed to go up over the Central Highway mountain pass between High Tor and Little Tor mountains. No problem, my schedule was off anyway, so I just resolved to walk it the mile up and over the hill. I walked up the entire mountain, and was rewarded by a speed trial as I flew down the other side. That rocked! I turn hard left and work my way down South Mountain Ave. I eventually made the trail head fully soaked from the effort of fighting for every foot of forward progress when I wasn't coasting downhill. The last house had a garbage can next to the mailbox and I stopped next to it and hopped off the bike and left it leaning on the garbage pile. I walked away without looking back. That bike owed me nothing. It wasn't worth fixing. It was stupid heavy. Maybe someone would garbage pick it and recycled the steel. I left thinking how funny it was just getting to the trail head today. It was tough. But it was only a setback in time and leg strength, but one I knew I could overcome as the day progressed.

I entered the trail after the Tilcon quarry around noon and went consistently up hill and pushed on to the summit of High Tor. This was a really fun climb and rocky near the top and landed a truly amazing 360 degree vista of the Hudson river valley and beyond. I realized I said goodbye to the Hudson a little early last week as it was omni-present from this vantage point.

High Tor, Haverstraw and Hat Head
[footnote: I thought the steel tower bracket remnants pinned to the summit rock would be a good fixture for a flag pole (with old glory of course) that every member of the town of Haverstraw would see every day if it were there. I hope someone local would read this blog and be inspired to put  up a flag here.]

The next leg was an easy walk in the park to the Central Highway pass and parking area. I regained time by trail running, I hoped the running wouldn't tire me out later but it felt good at the moment, even in my heavy Merrell winter boots. I made the parking area on the pass in super time.  I suddenly found myself surrounded by about a dozen guys bounding out of their cars with guns as they hit the trail. Fortunately, they only had Airsoft paint ball guns and while they entered the park clean, I knew they would leave covered in paint. I'm sure they had an incredible time playing and was vicariously happy for them doing something cool like that.

I entered South Mountain park on the LP ridge trail which was nicer than High Tor state park, except for the High Tor summit of course. It had a slight arboreal forest feel to it.  After a few miles, I descended into Mt. Ivy by an extinct quarry and slugged out a road walk under the Palisades Parkway. The trail soon paralleled the Parkway and it was a recharge zone for me since it was easy, but not much to look at. I took a picture of the Long Path North Sign as it crossed a power line right of way. It meant a lot to me at this point to see this sign.  I was a part of this Path now. 
The swampy area was next and while it is a geographically required part of LP passage, it was not that enjoyable. Still, I mentally thanked the people who somehow found a way through this region to navigate this section. It wasn't ideal from a hiking standpoint but I knew it would connect the Palisades to Harriman State Park. Next, I began an ascent, as I passed McMansions on Cheesecote mountain that seemed completely out of place here and I spent time thinking the developer had to be "evil" to have done this to the mountain. The climb here was technically easy at only about 450 feet vertical, but really hard for me at this point as I had no trail legs left. The flawed bike journey and the prior long walk with trail running hit the wall at this point. There were also a few blow downs and I volunteered (to myself of course) to assist if anyone wants me to come back here to assist in trail work. I passed a few abandoned cars at the end of this stretch and traveled down a carriage road to Cheesecote pond and entered the final offroad section leading to Letchworth Village Cemetery. 4 wheeler trails cut everywhere. I crossed a power line and emerged into the cemetery. The graves were marked with numbered plaques and some formal grave stones. I felt bad most of these souls who died in the asylum never had their names listed on the metal headstones. This was a "one flew over the cuckoo nest" kind of place. I walked to the cemetery entrance and a large plaque said "Those who shall not be forgotten" and it listed the names of all these "forgotten" people. This memorial must have provided some closure for the families involved. 


Memorial to the previously forgotten dead

Spooky cemetery with numbered graves
In a blink of an eye from there I was in my car at Call Hollow and was soon heading home. I was honestly about as tired as I cared to get on this adventure, but happy I pushed through the bike issue and stayed the course. I reflected that the bike idea worked in theory. I think a new bike will fix that issue and as always, it pays to know your gear well prior to hitting the trail.  I'm totally psyched I made it to the Harriman border. I now completed about 42 miles in five sessions (counting my poor Day 1 start), but am humbled by over 300 more miles to go, including the Catskill peaks.  Here is a screen shot of what I covered to date:

Trail Stats:  9.3 miles on LP, 2-3 miles uphill road walks with bike, 6 miles biking with defective gear/chain.
Conditioning: Tight the next day, but no spasms or cramps and full recovery by Tuesday with no tightness. Good progress.
February 26, 2012
With my friends Fred and Scott, we left a car at Lake Skannatati and preceded to the trail head on Call Hollow Road. Another gorgeous winter day, 34F and sunny and not a cloud in the sky since a minor winter storm blew by over the previous few days. There was minor snow on the ground and slightly more at the higher elevations, but never enough to require anything but trail boots.  The hike began with a fun balance beam “tree” walk to cross Horse Chock brook since the bridge was long washed out, presumably from hurricane Irene.

Fred and Scott in a boulder field
With Fred in Harriman - Rock and Water
Luckily, a tree fell across the stream right where the bridge was and made for a great replacement.  We walked steadily uphill and admired the nice forest around us.  We knew today’s hike would be easy in terms of mileage and the trail challenge so we planned on a slow pace to enjoy the hike and maybe take some ridiculous photos on the trail if so inspired.  We crossed the first 1000 foot elevation on the LP and were rewarded with a mountain laurel forest for most of the remaining hike. We noted the laurel appeared at exactly 1000 feet for the remainder of the day.  We had our Garmin GPS and noted the mountain laurel would disappear anytime we went below 1000 feet.  It was pretty accurate as a foliage “altimeter“ in this region and we discussed the sensitivity of climate on plants habitat.  Blueberry plants were also very abundant here in this modest elevation range.  I recall feasting on perfect blueberries in this region in July and early August.  Whether or not your trail guide book says not to eat such fruit on the trail, I think that advice is pretty much nonsense if you use common sense and know what fruit you are eating.  Typically I only eat berry fruits like blueberry, raspberry, mulberry and blackberry that are common on the trail.  I’ve also seen cherry, crab-apple and grapes, but usually pass on them in the wild. We soon made the Bill Hill shelter and sat down on the nearby rocks to snack and enjoy the view. Manhattan was looming in the distance, we saw the nuclear plant on the way up and I again could see the Hudson River, Haverstraw and High Tor. The shelter was occupied by a large Asian group having a cook out and talking only in their native language.  It was nice to see so many people out enjoying the day and trails. The next half of the trail was mostly in the mountain laurels, and it made for a very enjoyable walk.  It passed through some boulder fields, a swampy pond (that was really pleasant in the winter but possibly fetid in the summer) and some tall pines before arriving at lake. Scott took a picture of me “planking” under the pines with my backpack on as my ridiculous picture activity of the day.  [Footnote: My daughter saw this pic and commented to me I was not doing it right..."the arms should be backwards along the sides" for a proper planking shot.  OK then, I was doing a "superman".]
It was really nice to slow down and enjoy the surroundings and hear the laughter in the woods.  This is the magic of Harriman state park.  Everyone agree it was a great hike.

Swamp in a mild Winter

My Comfy Merrills
Trail Stats: 5.8 miles on the LP.
Conditioning:  No issues, I could have doubled it, no problem. I went up most climbs on my toes as I had reserve energy in my calves.  No soreness the next day.  I plan on hitting the gym again this week.  I’ve mainly stayed out of the gym since I started this thru hike since I was usually too sore during the week to push my legs any further.   Nice to see that situation change on a short hike.  In general, I’ve also noticed I have less back pain at work and have been sleeping more soundly.  I feel like I’m carrying less stress as I’ve burned it out on the trail. 

March 4, 2012
With Mauro and Fred, we met up and ate breakfast at Mt Ivy diner with "cousin" Jason and his daughter Alexis as pregame to a 10 mile hike. Jason lives in Haverstraw and was willing to drop me at the trail head on Seven lakes drive so I could leave my car at the end on RT 6.  We ended up taking two cars from Jersey last minute, so while we didn't need the shuttle from Jason, we were very happy he was still able to join us for a meal. We left for Rt. 6 and dropped car 1 at the Long Path parking area and shuttled to Lake Skannatati with Car 2.  It was about 40F with mixed sun and clouds. Another great winter day. The trail wound past the lake and through several small ridges, always full of rock.  We enjoyed looking at the large boulders and trees and stayed around 1000 - 1200 feet.  The trail was very rocky and typical for Harriman.  We walked near the summit of Hogencamp mountain and saw past evidence of mining operations and forest fires.  We entered a wooded area with a large number of blow downs and it was really neat to see the diverse habitats here.  This fed into the area called "Times square" an intersection of 3 trails and a woods road.  A large rock was painted with "TIMES SQUARE" and the ASB trail identification, which we decided were now the letters "ASS" since someone must have selectively scratched the paint off with humor in mind.  My friends wanted me to pose in front of those letters for a for a laughable photo. haha, I passed on it. We passed a swamp (Dismal swamp I think) next to Surebridge mountain and we decided a winter hike here was preferable to a summer hike when skeeters, black flies and no-see-ums would otherwise prevail. We hit the AT intersection and found signs posting destinations and mileage and took a few photos.  [51.8 miles done, Only 291.6 miles to go (sigh!). For the next six hikes or so, this is where Jacob Aronson's and my blog will be completely different because he elected to follow the AT from here for about 80 miles to Highpoint NJ and the Shawangunk RidgeTrail until it reconnects to the LP. I will be staying on the LP the entire time]. We were randomly joined there by a group of Jersey guys, one of whom worked on the GWB and knew one of Mauros friends and we found out he had recently hiked every trail in Harriman over a 3.5 year period. That is a real achievement.  [I should take a highlighter to my map of Harriman and keep track of which trail sections I have walked here.  I would like to think I've walked over half of them, but I doubt it, since there are so many here.]  We stopped by "Codpiece" shelter, a cold metal structure that wasn't to inviting in the winter.  
Long Path - AT junction. 
We pushed on and made Arden Valley road and saw three people enjoying a lunch break.  We joked about being lost and looking for "New Jersey" and begged for food. They laughed and asked if we were thru-hiking.  YES- we were.  This was the group Jakob Franke mentioned earlier and we met up here.  Awesome! Chris, Jane and Andrea.  Chris said he read this blog, which of course really made my day. He also does trail maintenance with Jakob. He promised to write me, perhaps we can do a few sections together.  I was happy and honored to meet them. 

Jane, Chris, Andrea (on rock), Mauro and Fred after meeting fellow thru-hikers!!! 
Holding up Hippo Rock - (sorry. but I think it looks more like a dog)
The next section was rocky, followed by easy ridge walks.  We passed Hippo Rock.  We soon made our way up Stockbridge mountain and the GPS indicated 1380 feet.  We later hit Stockbridge shelter area and took the time to eat lunch and enjoy the views there.  It was a bit colder and cloudy so after 20 minutes, we became chilled enough to hit the trail.  For dessert, Fred brought a sleeve of Fig Newtons, they were great and I decided to add them to my trail food list.  We were fully recharged and were soon laughing and singing (poorly) to made-up trail lyrics to stupid songs to pass the miles. Really good times, and funny in the moment. The trail went downhill, passed some lowlands, became easy on a woods road and soon hit Rt 6.  This was a real dangerous crossing as cars were flying by in heavy volume and we waited a long time for traffic to ease before crossing.  We found the car and as we left we saw the other thru-hikers queing up, about to cross rt 6. We zoomed away and honked and waved.  I hope to see them again on the trail and to share ride logistics. We all seem to walk about the same gentle pace, so it would be a good fit.

Trail Stats: My GPS said 9.8 miles on the LP, the trail conference map indicates 10.2 miles.
The hike details and map are found here:

Conditioning:  No issues beyond slight soreness on my right heel, most likely due to the rocky trail giving it a good old fashioned pounding.  I had plenty of reserve and could have gone a few extra miles, but it was nice stopping and feeling good on a 10 mile finish.  I think the next leg will be more challenging at 11 miles and far more ups and downs I think.  I've never hiked that northern section of Harriman before and look forward to it.

March 11, 2011
During the week, the other thru-hikers I met on the trail last time emailed me to combine efforts for today.  Because of late night events, combined with a daylight saving time hour loss the night before, we met up at 10AM. Chris and Andrea were up at the top of Estrada road near the barricade locking up a set of bikes for the later intermediate road portion.  They had a great plan and it made full sense to cover 3.8 miles on roads here, but still under human power of course, which to us met the spirit of the LP thru-hike for the non-continuous portion.  The other thru-hiker, Jane, decided to walk the road part today.  She parked at a country club along the lower road portion and Chris and Andrea picked her up as I made my way to the trail ending in my car.  I parked along a dirt lot on Rt. 32 and Evans Drive.  There were a good number of cars and hikers already there leaving towards Mt Schunemunk, which I think of as “Skunk-a-munk”.  We then shuttle to Rt 6 Long path parking area to begin our hike.  The day was warming rapidly and the ascent steepened.  In what seemed like moments, I found myself on top of a mountain.  Chris is a respected trail builder and noted the ascent could use a trail crew to cut steps and protect against erosion. 
From Long mt summit - view of Bear Mt.
Torrey Memorial on Long Mountain
The top area was rocky and sparkling in the sun, with views of Bear Mt., Perkins tower, and the Popolopen-Torne area.  I could not see the actual Hudson River, but Turkey Hill Lake was shining just below us.  This first part is a moderately easy hike to bring a family for a picnic and there is plenty of parking.  The Torrey memorial is inscribed into the bedrock and we posed for photos.  I shed my sweatshirt as the snivel index (i.e. thermometer) passed well above 50F, making it like a warm spring day, even though it is still winter.  The descent was fun and challenging and we crossed a few streams and entered the border area to West Point Military Academy.  Along this area, we saw (and heard)a Indigo Bunting songbird (a striking Indigo Blue male) and saw his lesser colored female following his every tweet.  It was my first sighting of this species and I think I should carry my birding field book on these day hikes now that the season is changing.
West Point Boundary Sign
We forged up a long leafy grade and found evidence of MRE (meals ready to eat) trash littering the knoll top of Howell Mountain , presumably left by careless cadets on the park side of their boundary.  [I thought to myself, “Hey, we stay out of your area, at least keep from polluting ours”].  After a brief descent, we passed a bubbling stream and ascended Brooks Mt.  in a long push to the top that required a well earned respite.  I was lying on the ground and the turkey vultures flew right over to check out if I was a large meal.   Lake Massawippa was right below us and Rt. 6 noise was evident here.  We descend briefly and eventually crossed route 293, which didn’t have many cars on it.  We climbed again and reconnected with the Academy boundary and pondered over the purpose some half yellow and half red can lid boundary markers.  The trail was really underused in this section and one had to carefully note the trail markers. We stayed on the boundary for the entire crossing of Blackcap Mountain.  Unfortunately, the trail stays well away from the summit because it resides on the USMA land.  It’s a real shame the long Path isn’t allowed to cross here because most of the later road section could be avoided with access to the summit and slopes below. Chris seems very practical about it and pointed out there may be unexploded training ordinance up there for all we know.  We took a break just before reaching Rt. 6 and saw a large broken Hornets nest sitting right on the trail.  It didn’t survive the fall storms, which is good news for us and other hikers as a live nest like that can otherwise ruin ones day.  We come out on Rt 6 and walked along the wood next to the road or on the road shoulder until the top of Estrada Road, where this road section is peacefully abandoned behind a barricade. 
Hillbilly Trail Marker

In a short while you see the full lowlands of the Central Valley spread out below this mountain. It was amazing to see all the cars in the Woodbury commons parking lots from here.  I’m thankful there are so many shoppers out there to keep the trails nearly empty on Sunday’s.  The bikes were waiting for us at the next barricade and we switched over to biking.  Jane kept walking and disappeared downhill during the transition time. 

Andrea and Chris arrving at the locked up bikes.

Central Valley and Woodbury
Commons in the distance
My Huffy was a few sizes too small as it is my wife’s bike (recall I abandoned my bike a few hikes earlier).  I zoomed downhill and passed Jane at the bottom and wished her well as I passed.  We finished up biking at a natural gas pipeline just after a train trestle and parked the bikes. The horrid smell of gas odor (mercaptans) pervasively was leaking out of the piping there, indicating a minor gas leak on the fittings.  I would have been a lot for a house, but I guess it’s a normal amount for a high pressure regional gas pipeline. 
Gas Pipeline walk
Andrea led on, setting a fast pace on foot along the pipeline and Woodbury Creek right of way and covered almost 2 miles in record time to finish strong . We saw the road, but first had to pass under the decrepit Metro-North steel trestle bridge that is rusting away to broken bits and the cement support crumbling.  I was shocked to learn from them this is still in active use.  In an economy where so many people are out of work, why not put people to work and rebuild a valuable asset like this?  I’m no engineer, but I think any twit could tell this bridge has moved away from being certified as a safe structure.  The final effort was up a small hillock to along the NY thruway before dropping down to Rt. 32 as we passed a rural junk pile.  Chris suggested a trail bridge over the Woodbury creek would avoid the Thruway walk.  It was a good idea that needs funding.  I’m glad I joined the Trail conference and at least donated a little to the cause of such projects.  My time spent with Chris on the trail was very educational in terms of what is done for building and maintaining trails. He volunteers a few days a week for the trail conference projects and I appreciate that immensely.   We soon found my car, zoomed off to pick up the bikes at the gas line point and shuttled Chris and Andrea back to their car. The day ended at a warm 60F and it was another stunning day in general. 
The LP along the Rt6 grass with cars ripping by.
Brief road walks...a necessary evil!
[Footnote – Now that we are leaving Rockland County and entering Orange County (OC), I think the bike option should be mentioned as a pleasant open ended debate concerning this trail. I've come to learn some folks support the bike option on the roads, while others may eschew it, believing there is clearly a pure art and effort required to hiking the whole trail to earn the thru-hike badge. I don't know if this is true or not regarding the badge thing, but I completely respect both views. Long road walks are not for everyone, nor do I think it should be an imposed requirement for a thru-hike since this trail is clearly not continuous throughout. A prime exception to this would be if a person wanted to set a record of some kind or compare their time to another.  Lastly, and most importantly to me, I feel it is far more dangerous walking the roads alone as you increase your time there about four fold and therefore increase the odds of getting popped by a car or being harassed by a nut job as you are more vulnerable in that position. When walking the roads, I prefer going in the on-coming direction so I can always see them coming. I'm cautious now because I've had a car run me off the road and a high speed motorcycle buzz me close (for laughs?) on several of my long my bike trips so I am aware that bad or deviant drivers are out there. I must admit both incidents occurred in NJ and we're all crazy there. For those prefering to walk it all, outstanding, you have my real admiration! For others planning the trip, the trail conference recommends the other route on the AT and SRT  for camping and thru-hiking to avoid the road sections.  I'm actually still contemplating doing that section as well before I pass the connecting SRT -LP point in Wurtsboro. I guess this would be the dual LP option: hike and bike OC as appropriate and then go back and thru-hike the AT-SRT route before continuing forward from that point. Let see, hmm, that would be real cool and add another 80 miles to the total.  Well I'm not even near Wurtsboro yet, so plenty of time to mull it over. To be continued...]
Trail Stats. 11.1 miles (7.8 miles on foot, 3.3miles on bike)
Conditioning:  I’m finally in good hiking shape for a day trip. Nothing to report beyond the fact that my feet were still slightly sore from the hard pounding they took last week on the rocky Harriman trails.
March 17, 2012

Top O’ the morning on Saint Patrick’s day and the thru hikers [Chris, Andrea, Jane, and John (me)] are again teaming up to conquer a 7 mile section of the LP.  The goal is Schunemunk Mountain in the northern Hudson Highlands on what is yet again another stellar (winter?) day, forecast to be sunny and hit 70F.   Chris drops Andrea and Jane at the trail head for a staggered start and I‘m heading to Hil-Mar lodge with car 2.  Chris is on time and shuttles me back to Rt 32 in Woodbury to the trail head at the rusty trestle bridge for the Metro-North line.  I take a picture of the Long path sign marking the entrance and we zip along the railroad bed that forms the initial trail through an active quarry area.  Chris said the owner is hiker friendly, but hasn’t yet given permission for a marked trail on the property.  That would be very generous and most appreciated if they ever did that, because it would avoid the rail bed walk along this Metro-North property which is a bit dodgy due to speeding trains sharing the trail with us.  Only one train passed just before we hit the railroad and we didn’t see another one while on the bed. 

Central Valley from Knob summit

Chris on High Knob summit
The trail entered the woods and ascends slightly but increases steadily.  We had to immediately jettison the outer layers as the heat was rising fast. In about 20 minutes we were heading up more steeply and soon caught up to the other two hikers about 100 feet below the summit of High Knob. The trail winds up a steep rock scramble and the path narrowed and became sheer rock at the summit.  The views were almost 360 degrees at about 1600 feet elevation and this section is a good quick hike even if one doesn’t want to go further.  The quarry system is in full view below as is the NY Thruway and Woodbury commons area.   
Black pines on summit
Quarry view from High Knob
Looking North on High Knob - NY Thruway
Chris and I picked up a half dozen littered water bottles that others “kindly” left behind for us to clean up so I could live up to my promise to trash “out” while on a hike. After the high knob, the trail was rocky and passed through a narrow edge. This area can be disconcerting if one is afraid of heights or hiking with small kids. It went down into a mini valley before rising to the first of two long ridges forming the main mountain.  As  we crossed up to the ridge we saw evidence of large active fire ant mounds.  We soon crossed the Jessup trail and the Highlands trail.  Part of the southern Highlands trail section is closed here due to a park (Gonzaga) being under construction.  This could affect anyone taking a loop trail in that direction.  The terrain is a pinkish conglomerate rock with hard quartz.  This geology here is very different from the Palisades and even Harriman.  
Highlands Section Trail Closure notice
Jessup Highlands Trail, with
erratic conglomerate rocks

Talus slope - Chris and Jane up there if you look close.
I also think this picture looks like Zep's
Houses of the Holy cover in a way
We exited the first ridge down a super steep face full of rocky talus and boulders.  It was slick and dangerous and reminded me of the Devils path on Sugarloaf Mountain. It was by far the most challenging section I’ve crossed since leaving from the George Washington Bridge. I would be surprised to hit something even harder before entering the Catskills. 

The second ridge section was mostly a rocky walk through private property sporting evidence of deer hunting stands and ATV trails used by the landowners and hunters.  I respect hunters and hunting as a sport and a personal choice, but I know others may be bothered here by the visible display of hunting blinds directly facing the trail. I would not recommend anyone hike here during hunting season.  You could be shot which would ruin both the hunt and the hike.

Hunters trailside Blind
Private Land - We can pass through
We came upon a group of about 20 hikers from the ATC club having lunch on the ridge. The views and sounds beaming across the ridge were interesting.  One could hear the frogs in a cacophony of happiness as they emerge from the slime of the Barton swamp below under a reddish conglomerate rock cliff face.  We went a bit further and took out break on a scenic ridge that held views of the Hudson River, Newburgh-Beacon bridge, Storm King Mountain and the greater Wallkill River Valley.  The next scenic point revealed misty distant views of High point, Sterling forest, New Paltz and (in the farthest distance) the Catskills.  I was amazed that I could actually see the Catskills from here. 

Greater Wallkill valley
The trail began a steep and steady 1200 foot descent down a path that really could have benefitted from switch backs and it immediately wreaked havoc on my left knee.  I was flying down the trail too fast and needed to regroup and alleviate the pain.  I stopped and stretched my back and legs and found I could return to the hike without too much pain.  We soon hit the scenic Hil-Mar property line and a nice woods area before exiting the trail by a house and the lodge.  I had good reserve energy, but my feet were pretty sore at the end and “barking” at me.  This trail in general was rocky and quite tough on the feet for the relative distance travelled.  The next section will be a bike ride of about 13 miles as the trail is completely on the roads.  I will probably be off the trail for a few weeks due to family obligations, so I will have time to rest my feet as I look forward to returning to scenic Orange County.  Maybe I can fit in the bike ride if I can find a few hours, but it's not the priority at the moment.
Trail Stats: 7 miles

Conditioning: Good legs and cardio, but sore feet during and after that diminishes the experience .  I think I need more comfortable trail shoes, because my formerly “Comfy” Merrells are not cutting it on the rocky trails. Chris is a pro hiker and he had on Adidas trail shoes and special inserts (I forgot the name of).  I'll have to look into them more.  The I.T. band knee pain is a really weird thing for me to understand. I’m starting to think the pain may be more related to posture and tightness in my back. Maybe it’s not an injury if simple, but thorough stretching can drop the pain from a level of about eight to below a level three in a minute or two. I guess this shows how important stretching, balance and back alignment is to reducing trail pain.

April 7, 2012 - Biking Orange County (Part 1)
After a two week hiatus from the LP, I was itching to get back on the trail. It is a Saturday morning with striking blue skies and warming up from the low 40's.  I pumped up the tires of my street bike and picked up Fred for a ride across Orange County NY.  I park at Hil-Mar hiking parking area and we unload the bikes.  Fred can't find his helmet and asks if I loaded it when I put his bike in the back of the SUV.  ", sorry I didn't."  Fred was uncomfortable doing a long ride without a helmet, so I gave him mine to use and I went with a backwards baseball hat as my headgear.  I think it was a good decision, because I'm pretty steady on long rides and Fred doesn't get out as much on road bikes.  The trail starts on the road, but goes through a private woods drive and over a small hill.   The descent on the back side was not ideal for a street bike, so we went really slow and careful to avoid the small rocks that could pop a high pressure street tire. The road we met was newly paved and enjoyable.  We soon were on Rt 94 and in heavier traffic.  I missed the turn off on Tuthill Rd., and it was only the first time this day of many that we had to stop, backtrack and/or get our bearings by following the markers, map or trail notes (which I printed all out).  Note:  The pdf map from version 5 [ ] is a very different course than currently marked on the road in this section.  You must refer to the updated text description of major changes if you are planning to ride or walk the current LP.  Even with planning, this section highlighted the importance of researching the path ahead of time because the old version goes south under Tomahawk lake and the new version goes around the lake above it to the North. The next hill climb up Goshen Rd was challenging and Purgatory Rd (about 600 feet elevation) was the opposite of it's namesake  as it had some beautiful rolling hills, farms and scenic views of Schunemunk ridge and Wurtsboro in the distance. Jumping ahead, we crossed the Wallkill river and soon went under Rt 84 as we approached our destination at Rt 211 after a walk across a cut through and hidden drive.  My research the night before showed a BBQ joint was just down the road on 211 and we set off to it.  I figured a pulled pork sandwich and a refill of water would hit the spot since I passed on breakfast today. Unfortunately, it was noon and the doors were locked and we disappointedly noted it was not open today until 1PM.  I'll just have to try it again next time we are here after the next sections ride or hike.  
We were cruising back slowly on Stony Ford Rd, and Fred was concerned about something on the bike slowing him down due to drag and we were chit chatting about it.  All of a sudden Fred bumps my back tire and I just kept from crashing since I'm locked into my pedals and and it threw my balance off.  I instinctively look back over my shoulder and see Fred almost upside down bouncing off his head and shoulder as he cartwheels down a brief slope on the grassy road side.  I unclip both my pedals in an abrupt twist out as I'm now also heading off the sloped road edge, but safety managed to hop off the bike at the last second. A passing pickup truck saw Fred's ungainly crash and a young male driver immediately offers help.  Fred stands up, bloodied leg, knee and hands and says he's ok. We thank the dude for stopping and he takes off. Fred's jacket shows exactly where his shoulder hit the dirt and we determine his bike is fine to ride.  He said he crashed because he was looking down at the tires for what was rubbing.  This is kind of like texting and driving.  [Don't do it....] We had no first aid gear and he uses his tee shirt to soak up the blood which is now running down his leg.  In hind sight, we should have seen what the driver had in his truck before sending him away.  Fred gets back on bike and we ride on laughing it off.  I previously saw a nice Cafe at the corner of Rt. 207 and Stony Ford Rd. and we plan on regrouping there so Fred can "lick his wounds".  The Cafe had a generous selection of large Band-aids and wet paper towels, along with a killer selection of fresh roasted coffee, muffins, sandwiches, gelato and desserts.  The food was really good and there is indoor and outdoor seating (the outdoor area is currently under construction and looks to be finished in a week or so). I highly encourage fellow LP hikers to give them business (especially after they helped us with first aid supplies). With the wind on our backs we pushed back to Hil-Mar lodged and covered about 40 miles total on the bikes as we went out a little further on the way back over Mt Lodge rd. and south of Hil-Mar on Clove rd. 
Fred: "Skin in the game"
Fred finished a bit banged up but happy!
I named this blog "Long Path Adventures", and I think Fred can attest to the adventure part today! The crash was minor and I'm very happy with the decision I made to give the him my helmet for the ride since he was the less experienced rider.  

Trail stats:  17.55 miles.

April 15, 2012 - Biking Orange County (Part 2 to the Shawangunk Ridge at Wurtsboro)
I wrote Chris and Andrea during the week to see if they were getting back on the LP trail after they spent several weeks on other adventures.  They hadn't biked section 9 yet, but they decided to work with me on section 10:  Route 211 to Shawangunk Ridge Trail  The first part is hiking about 4 miles through Highlands state park and the rest is about another 13 miles of biking the "bucolic" rolling hills in Orange county.  The logistics is pretty simple: meet at the end of the park at Tamms rd parking area, put all bikes in the back of my locked SUV, and shuttle back to Rt 211 - hidden drive in their car.  The parking area there was unclear, but we elected to park in the trailer home area nearest the trail.  The path entered a swampy field and soon changed into hardwood forest.  We ascended a small ridge and the park was mostly carriage paths suitable for horses and mountain bikes. There was evidence of past farming and the journey was easy overall.  The parks highlight was passing through an active beaver pond.
It's amazing to see how many large trees those big chompers are able to cut through.  They can lay waste to all the trees around a pond. However, it is a park and that is their natural behavior, so while they seem destructive, I feel we need to allow it and let them flourish there.  I've been all over NJ, NY and PA and I've seen many wild ponds with beavers, so I know for a fact they have made a remarkable comeback. The last bit of the park was farmers fields gone back to the wild and many horses are ridden here by owners who bring them to the main parking lot in trailers.
We soon exited the park and regrouped at the car with our bikes and don clothing that had high visibility.  It can never hurt to be seen by speeding cars, but it can really hurt not to be seen. Andrea wanted to go at her own pace, so Chris and I moved ahead at a good pace for me.  Chris is a strong rider, but patient and never left me behind.  He was the navigator and made all the right turns, except for one, that should have been a left turn.  Suffice it to say we went down a long big hill before realizing the error as no trail blazes were evident.  He checked the maps and confirmed it was a mile detour to get back. So off we went, up the big hill (sigh!) then back on course.  A few miles ahead we caught back up to Andrea who chuckled at our navigational screw up. Several bridges were still out after Irene, but it doesn't really effect bikes as long as you are will to dismount and walk a bit.  
The last section is best described by me as a two mile hell hill to the top where it gets close to meeting up with the Shawangunk ridge trail (SRT). It is technically a pair of sequential roads (Pantelop Rd and Crane Rd.). If you are an in-shape bike guy, this would be considered sweet training.  If instead, like me, you stayed up the night before playing three full sets of guitar in a band, accompanied with drinks and late night cigars, you now enter into a twilight zone of pain and humiliation.  I made it to the end somehow, but I went through over a liter of water on the hill since my breathing and heart rate were maxed out and yes I was also dehydrated.   The last bit of this section is an uphill walk on a gravel path to the SRT, but we turned back to go home since it made no sense to that walk today.  We met Andrea back on the last section of hell hill. She was determined to get up the hill by walking the bike up.  I admire her determination to finish.  Chris and I shoot down the hill as we planned on picking up Andrea and her bike later in my car as she will only ride about half way back to Bullville.  The hell hill took it's toll on me, my legs are cramping, (another sign of dehydration) but otherwise after the glide down the two miles, I feel better and am able to recover on the ride. We make it back to the car without issue and shuttle to pick up Andrea who is easy to spot in her neon orange safety vest.  A nice young man saw us loading the bike up and randomly offered up three Yoohoo drinks.  I accepted and it tasted great after this ride.  We shuttled back to Rt 211 and then went down to Brian's backyard BBQ for that pulled pork sandwich I missed last week.  It was really good, but their ribs could have used another hour in the smoker.  A band was playing in the background and the Dales pale ale flowed on tap.  Only one for me (thank you), since I had to drive.  The ride home is getting longer and it makes me realize I've covered about 100 miles since I started.  I'm more than 1/3 done on the LP and it will be harder to get out here logistically with the real physical distance involve.  I think next week I will pick up the AT  closer to home and hike up Agony grind toward High point NJ and regroup my thoughts on how to proceed by backpacking with over nights.
Trail Stats:  4 miles LP  hiking, 13 miles biking LP, 15 miles return and detour biking.
Conditioning:  Simply tired - no aches or pains.  Part 2 biking was much harder to cover than part 1 and it took many more hours to cover the entire section. The "hell hill" was the most physically challenging part of LP so far. Hopefully, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
May 6, 2012.  Wurtsboro to Sam's point
55F morning 68F afternoon
Chris Mauro Andrea at SRT-LP junction
SRT - LP Junction Rock
After riding across Orange county by bike a few weeks ago, even the last difficult hill climb to the ridge seemed easier in retrospect and the passing time only renewed my desire to continue. I was looking forward to hiking on the Shawangunk ridge - Long Path (section 11 on the older map) from Wurtsboro to Sam's point, a 14.3 mile trek with rolling scenic views. Mauro, Chris and Andrea met up around 9am with Andrea getting a head-start to complete a missed 3/4 mile walk on the previous section while the rest of us shuttled the cars. Andrea was planning a shorter 10 mile route so we put car# 1 on the easy to locate Rt.52 scenic overlook and we parked car #2 on Shawanga Lodge rd. at the beginning of the hike.  Once parked, we saw a large red fox bolt across the road and tear up the hill towards the ridge top in a wild and noisy romp. I was pretty floored at how fast that critter could rip uphill. We applied the required bug spray and set off  following the blazed path, a darker blue DEC blaze. We soon find Andrea near the ridge top expecting us. We next took a picture at the junction of the SRT and LP. This location is significant to those bypassing the OC road sections and electing to walk the AT and SRT as this is where they rejoin the LP on their thru-hike. 

Wurtsboro "Country" Airport
Wurtsboro airport is in view below us to the west, and we soon see a glider being towed aloft by a small plane. The plane eventually returned and just skimmed over the trees on the ridge in a steep dive and landed perpendicular to the runway and the ridge on a small side strip in a bush plane maneuver.  It was really impressive flying skills. The path here is narrow, a bit underused, and threads between scrub pines, white marble rock and blueberry bushes.  Next, we watched the glider return and gracefully land after a last minute turn over more trees and swamp land north of the longer strip. Again, impressive flying since the pilot does this with no power to recover from any possible navigational miscalculations. We descend slightly and pass through a quiet hardwood section with running water (seasonal?) and what seemed like a possible camp location for thruhikers. I'll add the gps coordinates soon.  We climb out of this section and observe evidence of a past forest fire. 
Burned Trees in Tick Central

Mauro and I pause near the summit for the others to catch up the last bit. We all take a standing break for water and take a moment to catch our breath.  The prior calm situation abruptly changes as we all find we are covered in ticks. That sounds like an exaggeration but it is not. We collectively remove over a dozen of these little creepers and most were the larger wood ticks, but about 1 in 10 were deer ticks. After tucking pants in socks Andrea quickly bolts up the hill, followed by Chris and then Mauro. This section was literally seething in ticks. None of us had ever seen anything like it. They were getting on us every few feet at this point. I dug out 100% deet from my pack and applied it liberally to my pants. Maybe this mild winter had other consequences like a scourge of ticks surviving or whatever.  I had on somewhat baggie cotton pants, ankle tied army surplus camo style in my typical  no fashion-sense attire.  Andrea would later point out in humor that ticks, but not chicks, dig me. I probably pulled off 30 to 50 ticks during the full 8 hour hike in a never ending battle. I also found about 6 more of them later, under my clothes, on my socks, emerging from any seam as we watched in relative disgust. None imbedded in my skin. I think deet may prevents the actual bite, but is otherwise not a deterrent since ticks get on clothing by brushing up against us. Camouflage  cotton was the worst possible choice in this respect since i also had real trouble seeing them.  Time to look the part of a hiker and buy some tick repellant pants this week. We came across a couple from Warwick NY (Rebecca and Rich ...I think were their names - see photo) and we stopped for lunch at a scenic point after a long hill climb. 
Rebecca and Rich

We warned them about the ticks we experienced and Rich replied that he was hospitalized once for Lymes disease.  They recommended LL Bean tick repellent garments, while indicating via body language that was what they had on including the socks tucked over the lower trouser cuffs.  The conversation soon turned to Warwick, Wineries, Wino's, Real Estate, Black dirt, the AT, hostels, and B&B's retirement dreams.  Basically, a really nice break with the only other hikers we saw on the LP that day.  The gunk rock changed to conglomerate and we saw some outstanding views of the Catskills, Sam's Point and pillars of balanced gunk rock. 

Jack Hennessey Memorial on the LP trail.

LP Sign by Fergenson Rd.
We descended the ridge and soon made the yellow trail that allowed Andrea to exit at the 10 mile mark and get the car.  We next the walked the length of old Rt 52 in a downhill grade that past several old stone road foundations, some badly damaged by storms like Irene. We past an abandoned hunting camp and eventually emerged onto the current Rt 52 to cross over and enter Sam's Point preserve at a low point of about 580 feet elevation. 

Natural Cave Shelter
The forest here was green and wet, a gully stream was on the left side and the boulders there were scoured clean from storms.  We walked up a steep grade and I had to stretch to keep pain from creeping into my knees.  A barking dog came closer and we soon realized we were being tracked up the trail by a large pitbull, viciously barking as he came closer.  He was about 20 feet from us and we yelled GO HOME.  We walked on, but he narrowed the gap to 15 feet and so on.  We were stopped now, pinned by a nasty dog and Chris waved his poles in the air and shouted and stepped towards it, but the animal became agitated and more aggressive.  I watch the dog whisperer occasionally and knew that was not a good idea here.  The dog kept looking back, as if expecting reinforcements, so we figured an owner was on the way up.  I took a picture of the killer Kujo pitbull, but it didn't come out in the low light as he had a dark menacing coat.  Eventually we heard the owner calling, but the dog ignored it and kept barking at us.  Chris again shouted at the dog and this time it ran to the owner.  I love animals, but I would have protected myself if that dog came any closer.  I have trouble believing that dog was allowed off the leash in a state-park without a muzzle. We wondered if maybe he followed us in from one of two houses across from the entrance of the park. Ive heard stories of dog packs coming across hikers. I hope that never happens to me, one was bad enough ,thank you.
The remainder of this super long hill was a mixed blessing of cascading falls, pinewood, hardwood, food, hydration, rest, sweat, pain, dehydration and endurance. It was the toughest push yet for me on foot ever, but I was happy to crest the ridge at about 2100 feet right in step with my trail buds Mauro and Chris. Their presence helped me finish strong.  No one complained, but our lack of talking near the end said it all in terms of being pretty spent. We located an equally tired and patient Andrea, who had to wait longer than expected since the hill took about twice as long as expected. We flicked off a few more ticks and shuttled on home.

Sam Point Trail Head - Finished
Trail stats: 14.3 miles
Conditioning: Tired but finished strong. Some knee pain. Recovered fully next day, but so hungry I ate everything in sight. Another real benefit of a full day hiking. No diets!
Footnote: I wore Aasic running shoes today that helped in terms of being light weight and comfortable, but I found them really slick on wet rocks and will find a similar weight shoe with more traction as my next trail test for footware.

May 19, 2012 - The last of the Gunks

Morning meet-up with Chris and Andrea on Berme Rd. We find ourselves on the north side of the Gunks and just south of the Lundy Estate portion of the southern Catskills. The road here has little parking so we just did our best to pull off most of the road.  Rondout creek is right there as well and flows next to an over grown canal area and former mule towpath.  We are here because Chris advised me the Longpath is being rerouted here on June 2nd and I find the trees where we are parked are already blazed with the LP aqua.  It is a prime opportunity to hike the new route and also cut off some additional road walk.  One thing I have come to learn is this trail is under constant revision and you just need to go with the flow.  I post the image of the new route section here, kindly forwarded to me by Chris (via Jakob).

We shuttle back to Sam’s Point, pay the $10 fee (thank you Andrea) and walk up the magical cinder path to Sam’s point.  It is adorned with looming white gunk rock and the point itself highly impressive.  We didn’t climb to the final height since the LP gives a perfect vantage point over the entire Wallkill valley.  We could easily see Highpoint NJ, and made out the fleck of the tower there on the horizon.  The Taconics were in the distant east and the SRT ridge traceable back to Highpoint.  It was a stunning day, not a cloud in the sky and it made you feel like every decision leading up to getting up early and walking here all those previous days were all correct decisions.  I gave a loud yeeeooowwww shout to listen to the echo and feel the moment before turning away from the precipice.  (Sorry, I tend to get extra loud when excited).

The next section was a trek along a leading eastern edge of a plateau on top of Sam’s point preserve on the Ice Caves trail.  The ice caves are an interested cut in the rock that cold air drops into and can’t escape.  Ice stays behind much of the warmer months, hence the name of the caves.  It was a mild winter so we elect to pass on a detour to the caves and not be a tourist in this instance.  The trail itself wound through Blueberry and the Dwarf pine.  It was a true pine barren up here and it was an unusually botanical garden in it’s own right.  The path was narrow, rocky and slow going since you brushed up on vegetation on either side.  The pine emitted vast plumes of yellow pollen almost like a smoke bomb if they were disturbed. 

Mountain Orchid

Edible Fiddlehead

The next trail section was the Verkeerder Kill Falls trail.  As we were walking we suddenly came across two Asian men hunched over (off trail) harvesting some type of fern shoots and possibly filling their backpacks with them.  I asked them what they were doing in a friendly manner, and one said “oh, just picking these to see if I can get them to grow in my Garden”, I knew he was lying because they were cutting the shoot and no gardener worth their salt would cut a plant in this way if he could otherwise easily dig up a root or Rhizome.  I think they knew this was a protected area and no one should be harvesting any plants here and we watched them nearly run away from us since they were "busted".  I saw a wild Orchid in bloom nearby that looked similar, so I’m not sure if they were ferns or Orchid stems they were picking.  Chris later suggested it was a fern and I’m leaning that way.  [Note: a google search indicated they were harvesting fiddlehead ferns.  A tasty snack when cooked and listed in several field guides as survival foods.]
Falls and cliff from the top
We soon reached the falls and took a food break.  It was more like a rain forest by the falls, which resided on private land.  The area upstream showed signed of prior use, but it was slowly returning to the wild since less people seem to hike here now than in the old days (before reality TV or whatever keeps most people out of nature).  The water below was a rusty color from the pine tannins.
We moved on and reached the Red highpoint trail and left the former LP section for the new LP section.  I felt like we were cheating or something since the Red section wasn’t blazed LP yet.

I decided to follow Chris’s lead because the trail maintainers were supposed to be blazing the new LP coming from the other direction and I would get to meet them.  We walked the 2.9 miles on the highpoint trail and came to a summit, aka the "highpoint".  It was a special place. The Catskills were looming large and the oscillating sweep of the Devils path could be seen as it dropped near Devils Tombstone notch.   We were standing on white rocks, surrounded by pines and we saw an unusual tree that Chris found and neither of us had ever seen it before.  My camera phone battery went dead at this point and unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo of it.  The leaves looked like small jade tree leaves and they were shiny and resinous. The branches jutted out almost horizontal and had about 6” between set of branches.

Highpoint trail soon was blazed with the LP markers and a note saying this trail would be officially open on June 2.  It soon merged into the Berrypickers trail (Blue) for about two miles to the smiley carriageway, about 7.4 miles from our start.  Andrea was a bit down on the overall length we were travelling because she didn’t “sign-up” for such a long hike.  It was really hot (in the high 80’s) and we went through water much faster than in the past and they were completely out of water at this point. I gave them the rest of mine, about 12 ounces.  I was pretty well hydrated and could tolerate the remaining three miles downhill without drinking.  I had water cached in the car anyway.  As I was walking alone quietly, ahead of the other two on the carriage path, I froze suddenly as every hair on my arms stood on end.  There was a loud grunting noise of a large animal exhaling in the bush just off the trail within a few yards of me.  It was a bear and I spooked it and it gave me a warning.  Fortunately it charged away downhill in a noisy retreat.  I walked on another minute and was approaching the “mine hole trail” junction  when I again heard a noise coming from that area.  I gave out the Bear Grylls approved “Yo Bear” shout, and was surprised to be greeted by a human reply.  It was Andy and John, the vanguard of the trail maintainers carrying heavy tools up to the Smiley carriageway to release some standing water by breaking the berms.  Andrea had just unsuccessfully "mucked" through that section and was acutely aware of the water issue.  We thanked them for the service and soon came upon Jakob and a few others with LP aqua blue paint.  After a brief “hello”, we moved on down the slopes.  It was a three mile hill.  I was in good spirits because my knees never complained and I even ran down bit after the LP split off from the white mine hole trail.[]  The car was still there, happily unmolested and unticketed, and I immediately gulped down a water bottle.  Chris and Andrea showed up shortly thereafter and we shuttled back to Sam’s point.  Once there we reviewed the next section.  It was a road section to the trail entrance in the Catskills.  The next reroute in the fall will avoid that and go through the Lundy estate into the Catskills in the Sundown wild forest.  I may try to get the proposed map again and follow that path instead of the road section.  It looked like I would only have to bush wack a one mile ridge walk to do it at most.  I'd also bet an unmarked trail is already there as Google satellite images seem to show an outline of a trail.  Either way, I'll be off for a few weeks with family and friends on other adventures, so I'll have time to figure it out.
Trail Stats:  Estimate 10 - 11 miles.
Conditioning: No issues at all for once!  I forgot to say I did again use my running shoes.  I simply learned to walk differently on slick rocks and slow up and avoid problems.
June 2, 2012
My drive today to the southern Catskills took me past the very “hip” New Paltz and over the Gunks on the pass through Minnewaska State park on Rt 44/55. It was very scenic and gave a great view of the Catskills. I took some pictures at the scenic lookout, but unfortunately they were wiped out by accident as I erased my phone’s SD card.  While I can’t show you what I saw, I do recommend everyone drive to and hike this park’s ridge line to see it in person.  Chris and I planned on meeting up to ride our bikes up to the trail section on Sundown Wild forest from our last stopping point on Berme Rd.  There was a 10AM grand opening of the Mine Hole Trail that connects the LP a bit closer to the Catskills. It was presented by some heavy hitters in the trail conference and was about a mile from our start point and made for easy off road parking to unload bikes.
Chris, me and someone from the trail conference.
 (name please? anyone?)
Ed Goodell Talks about the NY/NJ trail Conference
After it ended, Jakob was there and I asked him for an electronic version of the long path relocation map since I heard one existed.  [If you go to the end of this entry, the image will be there as Jakob later sent it!].  This map gives an idea of the actual section we are biking and how it differs from what is currently on-line at the trail conference.  I expect they will update their website soon, but the facts simply are the trail here is different than published on-line and this blog captures the real time changes.  Feel free to contact me for the high resolution version. Andrea took some great pictures of the event and sent me some and will hopefully get a few published in the conferences Trail Walker conference newsletter.
Jakob shows relocations on Sam's Point to Berme Rd.
Mine Hole Trail ribbon cutting
The newly blazed road section connects from Berme Rd through the former Lundy estate in Vernooy Kill state forest and we will bike the 10-11 miles, mostly uphill on gentle grades, to get to the first trail section within the "blue line" of the Catskills in Sundown Wild Forest nears Riggsville NY. Andrea decided at the last moment to hike the road walk.  Chris and I set off on bikes and we soon crossed Rondout creek on a rustic steel bridge that survived Irene. The elevation is only about 250 feet above sea level here.  Our finish line will be at about 1250 feet, so only about 100 ft/mile elevation to deal with, ignoring the actual up and downs that occur. From there we entered Lundy estate and began climbing.  I managed my energy by going at a consistent pace, and taking every opportunity to rest after each hill climb by not pedaling too hard when the grade was gentle.  This kept my breathing in check and basically life was good.   Lundy was a paved road but very course and patched up.  It improved in the next section, Rogue Harbor Rd., which was unpaved, but consisted of nice packed cinders. It also was flatter and gave us a chance to recover from the first set of climbs.  We hit Cherrytown road and it turned uphill again and we down shifted again. On and on we climbed, but never through a section that was too unforgiving. It was strange, but every time I needed a brief flat section or a slight decline to recover, it was there. The scenery was farms, woods, horses, cattle, streams, ponds and road. A few houses were in disrepair and others were quite respectable, basically typical back country stuff. We soon made it to our destination as the trail dived into the woods along a snowmobile path.  After a brief rest we turned around and went zooming down the mountain stopping once to collect some keys from Andrea so Chris could pick her up later. We crossed the town of Kerhonkson near the river and we saw about a hundred motorcyclists in leather and black clothes hanging at a bar.  We wondered how many of them could do what we did today under their own pedal power.   We soon split up on Berme rd since Chris's car was there near the river and my car was a mile uphill by the trail event at the Ukrainian church center where the Mine Hole event was held.  I was really dreading this last hill climb as I was tired.  As I went up it, I surprised myself with some reserves.  This is the thing about doing rides and hikes every week or two, it's not a high enough level of activity to feel like you are training like an  athlete, but it does lead to some surprising extra energy when you really need it.   After Chris picked up Andrea, we met back at the junction of Rt 209 and RT 44/55 at a BBQ hut that smoked a mean beef brisket and pulled pork.  Good lunch and recommended cheap meal for about $10.As an aside, the small town of Kerhonkson was known for formerly holding the record for the large garden gnome.
"Worlds largest"
Garden Gnome
Trail stats:  Biked LP 10 road miles and about 22 miles total round trip.
Conditioning:  No issues, just a hilly bike ride that pushes you hard.
Footnote: Next section enters Catskills forest trails for hiking to Peekamoose rd. It will not be that hard or that long a section and is a good warm up for tougher things to come.  I may stick close to home for a few weeks until I can find some people to shuttle with in that section.
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