Bear Mountain Bridge, Hudson River

WANTED: Full or part time support person for the duration of Don’s Brother’s thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. Interested applicants should have valid driver’s license and be at least 25 years of age. Applicant should be able to navigate paved roads and/or highways where the AT crosses. GPS skills are a must. Vehicle must be provided by the applicant. A car is fine; however, van, SUV, or RV is preferred. The length of support may range from one day to eight weeks beginning Monday, July 1 from Fort Montgomery, NY to late August at Mt. Katahdin. Don’s Brother would prefer a trail angel or angels; however, compensation may be offered to highly qualified individual. Any interested person should send a private email to donsbrother4@gmail.com

Today was the best I’ve felt in the last five. The reason can be stated in one simple word: slackpack. With only a light pack containing food and water, I not only stayed vertical, but regained some much needed confidence concerning the balance issue. I even managed some rock skipping over water and didn’t seem to mind as much the boulders at higher elevations. Plus it was much easier to pull myself up the rock scrambles wearing a light pack. So despite the continued heat and humidity, I knocked out 19.8 miles while hiking alone all day. Even though the hike took almost eleven hours, I wasn’t totally exhausted at its conclusion. I could have probably gone at least a half mile more…maybe.

So if I could just find a support person(s) that would make it possible to slackpack every day, I would be good to go. After all, Molar Man has Sweet Tooth, Steady has Spirit (and an RV) and as far as I know, Chin Music’s wife is on the trail to help him awhile. Boo Boo’s wife was also with him earlier, and I’m sure there are others. Since my wife has obligations back in Georgia, I’m soliciting, no, make that begging, for help. Once again you can email me at donsbrother4@gmail.com

And now back to the regularly scheduled program; I mean back to the hike. I started the walk up Arden Valley Rd. in Harriman State Park at 7:20. With the sun already beaming down, I was sweating profusely after the nearly 800 foot climb up Island Pond Mountain. Along the way I had to pass through the infamous Lemon Squeezer, a narrow stone passage that requires a sideways navigation. Since I was slack packing, I kept my pack on; however, it did scrap the sides of the rock occasionally. After the Squeezer, a rock climb and scramble followed. With the lighter pack I was able to handle the challenging section without too much difficulty.

As the morning progressed I met several day hikers and some southbound sectioners. I talked with one group from Jersey that had a bird watcher with binoculars in its party. I took a pic of Erin and her dog Riley after I told her about Don and his love of dogs. Around noon I took almost a half hour break for lunch at the William Brien Memorial Shelter. It was one of the most run down I’ve seen on the entire trail. While eating, I chatted with a father and son, Howard and Jordan who had just begun their hike today. I would see others throughout the afternoon, but stop to talk with none.

The trail today actually offered up a good deal of variety. As I’ve already stated, boulder climbs and rock scrambles were prominent. Occasionally, a gentle trail allowed for some faster walking. There were also sections with foliage bordering on both sides. Like yesterday, I almost stepped on another deer. This one just looked at me as I snapped her picture. The trail also offered up several spectacular views. Even though clouds rolled in, in the afternoon, visibility remained fairly good. I paused for a few minutes atop Black Mountain to chat with thru hiker Cocoon, a young man who is taking his time to really observe nature and to write some poetry. He was the only thru hiker I would see all day. There were also beautiful views from West Mountain. On Black and West the trail stays on the ridge for quite some time, with the views in the distance.

Eventually I made my way to Bear Mountain. The ascent is different from when I section hiked here in 2005. A rock staircase provides an easy route for much of the climb. Easy for most, that is. I fell off near the bottom, but I didn’t fall. At the apex of Bear stands Perkins Tower, from where a view of NYC is visible on a clear day. By the time I reached the top, the sky was overcast. The descent also consisted of hundreds of rock steps. I wondered how long this project took. At the crest scores of people strolled or lounged around the area. Even more were busy at a variety of activities in the park or by the lake at the bottom of the mountain.

The AT follows a path around the lake for awhile and then goes through the Bear Mountain Zoo. The bear cage in the zoo is the lowest point on the entire trail at 166 feet. Unfortunately the zoo closes at 4:30, so I had to walk back up to the park and out via a road since the blue blazed trail was closed for work as well. John, a park employee and retired NYC fireman from Brooklyn, left his post to walk me to where I needed to go to get out of the park. When I told him I had gotten a ride with another retired NYC fireman in Greenwood Lake, he said he knew Gene who was a good friend of John’s brother. Small world, we agreed. Since the white blazes weren’t available today, I’m glad I got to walk through the zoo on my section hike.

So tonight I’m back at the Bear Mountain Bridge Motel. I’m planning another slackpack for tomorrow to Dennytown Rd. It’s pricey, but I need to do what I need to do to get this hike done. The hike was again fun today. The trail offered variety and I was fairly comfortable, considering the weather. No day is going to be easy; however, if I can maintain that positive attitude, and maybe get a little support, Maine is within sight. Not really, but it will be soon if I just keep putting in the miles on the Appalachian Trail.

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