where we’ve been // days 117-125

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Day 117: Maureen’s house to Mashipacong Shelter // 14.4 miles. We left the magnificent comfort of the lake house very reluctantly. I could have used another day (or three or four) to rest, but so it goes. After four miles of hiking we crossed a deli and stopped for sandwiches. We sat there awhile, debating calling Maureen and just going back there for another rest day. It was really tempting, but we rallied and pressed on. Our planned camping site was nonexistent and the listed water was muddy and smelly, so we hiked extra miles to the shelter. I was deeply irritated by this, especially since the water there was .6 off trail (1.2 extra miles to get water??) and also, of course, because I didn’t want to hike anymore. BUT when we got there we found former hikers Cookie and Marshmallow set up at the picnic table with trail magic! They had sodas and snacks and cooked us a pasta dinner. The local rangers had even stashed a water jug in the bear box, so we didn’t have to fetch water!

Day 118: Mashipacong to Unionville, NY // 15.4 miles. Cookie and Marshmallow camped out with us and cooked breakfast in the morning: pancakes and eggs, cereal and coffee. We ate until we felt sick and got another late start. We met our first couple of south bounders in High Point State Park and it was fun to chat with them a bit. In the afternoon we made it in to Unionville. There was a mail fiasco where my shoes had been delivered somewhere 30 miles away. Eric was on the phone for awhile trying to sort that out while I did the resupply shopping in a sparse convenience store. Finally a UPS worker overheard the conversation and said he would deliver the shoes to us at a road crossing tomorrow, on his day off. Oh thank god. When you need new shoes, you really need new shoes. We ate wings at the local bar and met a sketchy character who said he was a hiker that we’d been warned about by several people, but he left us alone. The town let us camp in their park. After we set up the tents we played basketball a little bit, even though we were tired. It was fun to do something other than hike.

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A beautiful sight. I rarely see this much flat ground.

Day 119: Unionville to Wawayanda Shelter // 15.7 miles. We didn’t sleep well due to all the loud trucks inexplicably roaring around all night and the bright security lights in the park. I was feeling really sick with a cold as we left in the morning. Some nice Jehovah’s Witnesses gave us a ride back to the trail, the three of us squeezed in their trunk. The driver asked Eric where we were headed, meaning, where did we want him to drop us off, and Eric replied, “To Maine!” The women gave us some of the pamphlets they were going to hand out door to door, but the driver took them back from us when they weren’t looking, thankfully. We walked along a beautiful nature preserve, Walkill, and through a swamp on a long boardwalk. We stopped at a deli for drinks and ice cream at lunch, then climbed Wawayanda mountain serenaded by a band playing an outdoor show below. The shelter was full of mosquitos, so we got in our tents really early.

Day 120: Wawayanda Shelter to John and Susan’s house (West Mombasha road at mile 1375) // 17.1 miles. We crossed into New York in the morning and began a section with a warning in the guidebook: “Despite the un imposing profile, rocks, abrupt ups and downs make this section challenging”. AWOL wasn’t kidding. We climbed a ladder bolted into a rock face at one point, and of course it was hot. The trend in NY seems to be to put the AT over the top of giant rock piles and directly over the summit of every little bump, but to always have a little blue-blazed “cheater trail” that skirts the obstacle right below you, taunting you. It’s pretty annoying. Right before camp we came across a cooler full of water jugs and a card offering food, showers, and beds, for free, nearby. Animal called. Suddenly, instead of crawling into my sleeping bag, sticky with sweat and swatting bugs, we were at John and Susan’s house feasting on chicken tikka masala with a couple of southbounders and wearing borrowed clothes while they did our laundry.

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We thought Eric and John’s dog had similar beards going on.
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The AT isn’t going that way, obviously.

Day 121: John and Susan’s to Palisades Parkway visitor center // 16.7 miles. In the morning John made us French toast and offered to pick us up at the end of the day and let us stay at his house again. He also dosed me with cough syrup (the cold I’d gotten a few days back was still hanging around in my chest). We were so glad we took him up on that, because it was a rough day. The forest was beautiful and we saw lovely lakes and views, but NY trail goes up and down every rock it can find. We did the “lemon squeezer”, a narrow slot between two big boulders. At the end of the day, it was back “home” for showers and burgers and John even indulged us in a little HGTV.

Day 122: Palisades Pkwy to Graymoor Spiritual Life Center // 14.4 miles. Lots of steep climbing today. We could also feel how close we were to NY City. We came down Bear Mountain and suddenly found crowds of people at the lake. The trail wound through many picnic areas with grills as it followed the lake, and it was like a multicultural world festival of amazing food that wasn’t for me. Rrrreally hard to walk past. The trail went through a little zoo and we passed the low point of the trail at the bear pen. It was the lowest elevation, but also low in that is was kind of lame to put the bears that are supposed to be living here into a cage in a zoo about the animals that live there. We crossed the massive Bear Mountain Bridge. In the heat of the day we climbed away from the valley and made it to the trail side gas station where we planned to get more food. We hadn’t seen many thru-hikers for days, but while we sat there no less than eleven different hikers came out of the woods. We were amazed. It had felt very empty and peaceful, and unfortunately these hikers were mostly of the partying variety. Sure enough they started stocking up on beer. We suspected they were heading to the same place as we were, so we ate our sandwiches quickly and took off. We went just a little further to a Franciscan monastery that lets hikers camp on their ball field. It started to rain so we took to our tents as the partiers rolled in. They stayed up being loud until midnight but I was so tired it didn’t keep me up.

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Headphones are often code for: it was a little hard to smile for this picture. So are umbrellas.

Day 123: Graymoor to Shenandoah Tenting Area // 17.5 miles. More up and down. I listened to my audiobook most of the day because mentally I was totally burnt out and every time I tried to hike in silence I just didn’t want to be present. So I escaped into the Game of Thrones world. I’d been sick for several days, hiking in the heat over hard trail, and I just felt done. We stopped at a lakeside concessions stand in the afternoon for Gatorade. On our way from there it rained. The trail was a river, my feet soaked. I was pretty mad, and when we got to camp I just got in the tent and lay there. Eric did all the chores and cooked dinner, which I couldn’t eat. Went to sleep as soon as possible. Definitely the worst I’ve felt about the trip.

Day 124: Shenandoah to Poughquag, NY // 13.6 miles. I felt better in the morning. We got an early start and hiked hard with no breaks. It was town day. The scenery continued to be beautiful and the trail was a bit gentler, thankfully. We hiked with a really fast guy for a little bit who had done the trail before, and told us about all that lay ahead. It was good to get my interest up again since I was feeling so burnt out. We passed a cool beaver pond, then came out on the road to town. It’s a little town, not necessarily trail-aware, and we were having a hard time getting a hitch. Finally a local bus came along with a pickup truck behind it. We meant to hitch the pickup, but started joking around about hitching the bus. Suddenly it pulled over and opened the doors! We couldn’t believe it. The bus was off duty and the driver was on her way back to the station, but she took us down the road. She still made us pay the fare, which was kind of weird, and she didn’t seem to want to talk to us, but no complaints! Best hitch yet. Once showered, we ordered mountains of Chinese food and bought all our food for the zero day so that we wouldn’t have to leave bed of we didn’t want to the next day.

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You just never know who will pick you up.

Day 125: Zero in Poughquag. So far I’ve only left bed to fetch food from ten steps away. It’s Animal’s birthday, and a hiker he knew from the start of the trail, Jay, came over with a fruit tart to celebrate. Our motel room is pretty bad. It reeks of cigarettes, and when we asked for a non-smoking room the owner told us hikers can’t stay in the clean rooms because we are dirty. So that’s nice. It is true we smell, but it is a smell that goes away and doesn’t have any cancer stuff associated with it. Anyway, we’re really excited to cross into Connecticut tomorrow and start the last section of this journey: New England. I’ve never been there. Right now I’m hoping it’s all lakes and blueberries and cool weather!

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