Tuesday, July 07, 2009

William Brien Shelter to Graymoor Monastery

Tuesday, 7/7

AT Miles = 15.3 / 1398.9
Other Miles = 0.4 / 48.4
Total Miles = 15.7 / 1447.3

Whew! An eventful day!

Early this morning I had to cross the Palisades Parkway during morning rush hour. This was like a game of live-action Frogger, only without the reset button. At the time I thought that was going to be the highlight -- or lowlight -- of the day.

A few hours later I made it to the summit of Bear Mountain. A motorcyclist asked me if I had hiked all the way from the bottom. I said "I hiked all the way from Georgia." This lead to a conversation which I really enjoyed. He is a just retired cop from New Jersey and we talked about his many cross-country motorcycle trips and his plans to ride to Alaska. We also talked about hiking and bicycle touring. When it came time to leave he told me he was also a pastor -- which I had figured since he had a well-thumbed bible sitting next to him as we talked -- and he asked if he could pray for me, which I happily agreed to. Many of you know I am not at all religious, but it always touches me when people who believe in God's power are moved to try to share that power with me.

After leaving the summit of Bear Mountain I made my way down to the bottom where the AT goes through the Bear Mountain Zoo. This is a sad little zoo with desultory animals stuck in tiny little cages. I took no pictures as it was nothing to celebrate.

After the zoo, I crossed the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge. This seems like a huge milestone to me. It was fun walking across the bridge and being able to look up and down the river at my leisure. The Hudson is a huge river here, but I remember hiking in the Adirondaks and stepping across the highest head-water of the Hudson, which is a little brook draining a swampy area just below the summit of Mount Marcy.

As I was crossing the Hudson I noticed storm clouds building in from the west, and once I was on the east side of the river I had to stop and put the rain cover on my pack as a few raindrops were falling. Soon I was back in the woods and climbing the side of a mountain, when I heard thunder to the west. A few minutes later it sounded like a freight train was coming through the woods behind me, and I was hit by a wall of wind. The trees bent over, all the leaves turned inside out, and leaves and bits of branches -- most small but a few rather big -- were flying through the air and hitting me. I wasn't sure what to do so I found the fattest, sturdiest looking tree I could and stood in its lee. My thinking was that the tree would hopefully stop any large branches from hitting me directly.

Well, it was all over in ten minutes or so, but it felt like an eternity while it was going on. When I heard sirens going off in the valley below it only added to my anxiety. Once the worst was over I felt an incredible elation. Living removed from the comforts of home sometimes subjects you to discomfort, but it also exposes you to euphoric moments. I have been smiling all afternoon since.

So right now I am sitting in the pavilion at the ball field of the Graymoor Monastery. There is a shower, though it is cold, a sink with running water, electricity, picnic tables, and a porta-john across the field. Since it is a ball field I wasn't sure how I was going to set up my hammock, but I solved that dilemma by setting it up between the steel uprights of the soccer goal. It turned out to be the perfect size for my hammock.

"Home is where I hang my food bag"

Allen Freeman

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