Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pochuck Boardwalk - LP Bypass on the AT

March 3, 2013
Pochuck Suspension Bridge
Have you ever had a day that you feel like you made all the right decisions?  I woke up really late and looked in the mirror at my profile and said holy crap, please get out and do something!  Stagnant is an adjective for something that never moves and I'll admit I've done less exercise in the last month than a slug. My first good decision of the day was to go on a hike and get motivated and back in the game. Over the past month, I only did a few days of skiing at Killington on Superbowl weekend and that was it. Unfortunately Mauro broke his leg on that trip after hitting a tree in such a way that it required surgical intervention.  He was more fortunate in his decision to don a helmet that day as he would have possibly otherwise risked pulling a "Sonny Bono". The serious thing is, we wake up each day and never really know the consequences of all the little decisions we make until fate intervenes.
Today was a warm winter day, sunny and about 30 F, and I drove solo to Rt 94 in Vernon to pick up the AT near Pinwheel Vista where I last left off. I headed west towards Pochuck and beyond. I crossed a field of grazing cows and had to step over the manure patties. It reminded me of my time in Texas, except here it was still cold and they didn't stink. My plan was to walk as far as my legs could take me as long as I left an equal portion of daylight to walk back the same distance. Some trips can be about a hard push to the next mile marker, but today, I was basically a laid back mindless idiot walking with tunes cranked up in my ears.  I needed to escape a bit as I've been seriously overworked of late. I ended up here closer to home because Chris wasn't available to shuttle the next leg on the  LP way up at Mine Kill near Blenheim NY.  He informed me he would instead be leading a trail crew building a bridge across the Horsechock creek in Harriman ( LP near rt 202 by Letchworth cemetery).  People like Chris are so involved in volunteering for the trail system that it is sometimes best to first look up their crew schedule on the NY-NJ trail conference website before calling them to check availability for an actual hike. The mile long Pochuck boardwalk and suspension bridge on the AT is a stellar example of how trail crew volunteers and lots of monetary support from private and public sources led to the building of a real outdoor treasure in NJ. This boardwalk is pretty remote, so I would bet most New Jerseyans know nothing about it.  Go ahead and ask anyone on the Seaside Heights boardwalk if they ever heard of the Pochuck Boardwalk.  Pochuck? WTF? This quiet elevated wooden walkway crosses a wetland valley in a way the doesn't seem out of place. It allows one to see nature in all seasons (as it's technically still winter now) and it is well built to last a lifetime.  There are streams and wildlife and birds (and even more birds), even in winter. Most importantly, I managed to hike this wet section of the New Jersey AT and stay completely dry.  I really couldn't imagine crossing this section without the boardwalk.
Pochuck Suspension Bridge
Pochuck Boardwalk
Pochuck Suspension Bridge

I walked on with my ipod in shuffle mode and somehow each tune seemed to magically fit the pace and the mood of the current section. I eventually crossed the boardwalk and went up Pochuck mountain. I caught up with two hikers, Greg and Martin and a dog called Seamus (pronounce Shay-mus).  Seamus was a chocolate lab who I think was genetically designed for the trail.  I learned he was born on St Patricks day and his actual birthday is celebrated by millions of Irish drinkers like me. I'll be sure to toast Seamus in a few shorts weeks with some Jamesons or the like. That quiet Lab covered double to triple the distance we walked by flaring out left or right over a hundred yards and keeping perfect pace with us the whole time.
Greg and Martin

Pochuck Vista - Looking to Highpoint
I ended up walking and talking with these two hikers for a considerable distance and its always nice to meet laid back people on the trails. There is a magic to experiencing the world at a slow paced two to three miles per hour. We walked on and I passed my halfway mark and I kept walking on in good company on a pretty easy trail. The descent down the higher Pochuck mountain was steep and icy.  The snow was not melted in this area.  Trekking poles would have helped here. We eventually crossed the full expanse of the three foothills called Pochuck mountain and ended up on a vista (similar to the Pinwheel vista) facing High Point and the Shawangunk Ridge Trail (SRT). This time, we were many miles closer to the point and it could be seen as a prominent feature on the horizon beyond the Wallkill Valley.  We descended the last bit to where their car was parked.  My new found companions graciously agreed to take me all the way back to my car about 8 miles away and I was in good spirits since their kindness meant I didn't have to power walk almost eight miles in a return trip into the darkness of the night.  My decision to keep walking with them was correct, and their decision to trust me and take me back to my car was a kindness I hope to repay someday. It's about a day + walk now to Highpoint where I will leave the AT and head North on the SRT trail to reconnect up with the LP in Wurtsboro.  Hopefully next weekend I can reconnect up North on the Long Path with Chris and continue the main journey.
Trail Stats: About 8 miles (guessing) on the AT (the LP by pass)

No comments:

Post a Comment