Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Following my footsteps - LP Bypass

LINK TO PREVIOUS LP-BYPASS SECTION: County Rd 5 to Upper Greenwood Lake
Winter on the AT.  Retracing my tracks
1/1/13  Happy New Year everyone!  I had hoped to do some more hiking up north over the holidays, but a few feet of snow dumped on the area north of Windham NY so I made the call to postpone things until better trekking conditions prevailed.  The snow was not my main concern as I’ve wanted to try snow shoeing this season and would have just bought a pair before going back upstate.  The issue was, the next leg was along a roadside, and I didn’t really want to be pinned into a road with high snow banks that wouldn’t allow me access to the shoulder.  I’ve already experienced the past thrill of diving into a snow bank to avoid being run over by a speeding and thoughtless driver (and that was right here in my own town in front of my house). 

Barrett Rd. Vernon NJ
Snow was deeper than I expected
I elected instead to return to the Appalachian Trail starting on Brady Rd. near upper Greenwood Lake.  This is the LP bypass route I mentioned a few times previously and is my local destination.   I arrived and found no parking area so I put the Jeep in four wheel drive and made my own space in the snow bank on the side of the road.  It was about 30F and a slight wind. The obvious depth of snow here told me my decision to avoid driving upstate to even deeper snow was the right call.  The trail was unbroken snow about a foot deep.  No one had hiked here in the short week since the snow fell.  I sank down 6 inches on every step and with each landing broke though some crusty under layer that jarred my knees. I hesitated committing to go on and thought it through in my head.   This would clearly be a pain in the ass (P.I.T.A.) to walk through all day.   I regretted not bringing (or buying) snow shoes prior.  The snow by my house was so low in comparison that it lulled me into believing the snow would not be so deep here in Sussex County.   Still, I ultimately convinced myself I didn’t need them - I was full of energy and enthusiasm to hike.  I plowed into the woods with my decision firm.  My plan was to hike the woods that crossed over Warwick Turnpike into Wawayanda Park and then cross the park to Barrett Rd.  This hike is only about 4 miles but I needed to turn around and retrace my step back to my car for another 4 miles.  The hiking was pretty difficult, but the terrain was easy compared to the Catskills. I found the progress of cutting the snow trail to be very slow going but my planned distance was perfect for a short winter day.  I stopped by the AT shelter on the trip back (called the Wawayanda Hilton) and took a nice rest there and greedily ate my lunch.  It was a sturdy structure with a privy nearby, a picnic table and a metal bear box to place your food into while you sleep.  The shelter was warmer than the outside, but it is not warm with the open front and holes in the floor between the beams.  I noted there is no fire is allowed here (ever), so I would choose a different shelter for a nightly camp over in cold weather (if possible).  I soon chilled out and had to move on to warm back up.

I trudged slowly back to the car and the round trip took over four hours.  I was very cold, soaking wet and surprising quite tired from the snowy effort.  I made a few New Year’s resolutions during my trip to get better gear.  One is to buy proper gaiters and pants that are more snow worthy than my soaked through cotton camo pants I usually hike in.  The second is to invest in snow shoes.  The difficulty of pushing forward in moderately deep snow for the eight miles without snow shoes resulted in more knee pain than I have ever experienced before, so it’s time to gear up.  I now look back and say it was a good outing in that I learned a lot and got decent exercise, but I learned enough to know I would never do it the same way again.

The map for this area is at:

Trail Stats: 4 miles more on LP-AT bypass.  8 miles hiking (round trip)

Footnote: 1/03/13  - its 2 days later and I must admit how sore my calves are still. Walking in snow and sinking with every step is called making a "posthole" or "postholing".    I made my share of postholes in one day. For those wanting pain, its really great "training", for all the others - Trust me - a true lesson learned. use snowshoes! 


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