Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Agony Grind and Agonizing Humidity -LP Bypass

August 5, 2012
After a relaxing Jersey shore vacation week, I wanted to pick up the LP trail at Peekamoose mt, but unfortunately, it couldn't get scheduled it in with Chris.  The next few weeks are also tied up for me, so it will be a while till I can get back up to the Catskills.  My fallback plan is to hike the Appalachian (AT) link via highpoint to the SRT, which is the Long Path  "bypass" preferred by the few thru-hikers to avoid the Orange county road walk.  As mentioned earlier in the blog, I had wanted to hike both sections anyway, so it is a perfect local alternative to the Catskills.  Jeff Rogg met me at the AT on NY County Rd 5 and we shuttled back over to Elk Pen in Harriman to start the day hike. [footnote -  I completed the hike from the LP-AT junction back to Elk Pen with Mauro in Dec '11, so that first little section was already checked off my list.]
We crossed Rt 17 and headed up a section of the AT called “Agony Grind”.  I found it relatively easy, so the section name is a bit overblown.  The thing I noticed instead was the stifling 100% humidity that made everything that much harder.  I was drenched in sweat from the first ascent and there would be no relief from it today.  The wind was light and occasional on the summits, so any breeze felt like a gift from above. 

The AT has a completely different feel to it than the LP.  The trail was nicely worn from the heavy foot traffic this trail experiences.  At every flat, peaceful area we passed, there was inevitably a neatly arranged primitive fire ring and typically a rustic log bench for a make-shift seating area.  One would not have to worry about where to spend a night in this section when reaching a shelter was not possible. We passed several AT thru-hikers on their way to Maine going in the opposite direction.  Also a pair of hikers doing the NY section only for about a week. What a great experience they are having. We wondered how many miles a day they were able to go in this heat and humidity. They were all in great shape and seem to be weathering it better than us, even with their heavy packs on.  Water was their biggest concern since most streams were dried up or stagnant at this time.  The trail Angels were evident in this section and we passed many empty water jugs, a few partially empty and some full ones in a cooler.  In fact a guy was loading new ones into the cooler at West Mombasha Rd. as we passed by.  I took the time to thank him, even though I didn’t need any water.

Jeff, with Sterling Forest in the backdrop
A green caterpillar
A tree arch
The weather forecast said rain after 1PM and like clockwork the rain began then and it felt good.  It stopped after 10 minutes and it wasn't really enough to even begin to cool me down.  In fact, we finished the hike completely soaked to the core from sweat and not from the rain.  I do tip my hat to the thru-hikers enduring the August heat and humidity (and heavy rains when they come).  The heat saps an incredible amount of energy and is a big factor in anyone considering a long August hike.  I was curious and weighed myself when i got home and found I lost a few pounds during the day even though I drank over 2 liters of fluids. So I didn't really maintain hydration even if I thought I was doing a good job on the trail. I think only rest periods can allow for that under such conditions.  The next time, I’ll bring electrolyte tabs for a better recovery since I lost a huge ration of salt in the process as well.  I actually craved salty corn chips and ate them up later like a pig.  It’s an unusual feeling to eat salty junk food without guilt. 

A really good website for the local New York AT trails exists at: http://www.cnyhiking.com/ATinNewYork.htm

Elk Pen - West Mombasha Rd on AT

West Mombasha Rd to County Rd 5 on AT
Overall this was a really nice section to hike, and challenging enough for most hikers looking for a bunch of fairly steep, but relatively short, ups and downs to train on.  My legs (and knees) felt great afterwards and I could have gone a few more miles in that department, but I'll have to admit that Jeff and I were both happy to get out of the heat and head to our homes for the comfort of a cool pool and AC.  

Trail Stats: 0 on the LP, 8 miles on the AT bypass.

Link to Next section on the LP (AT-SRT) Bypass

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