Day 115 – June 30 – 20.4 miles – Island Pond Campsite to Hemlock Springs Campsite
A half mile into the day, we came to the Lemon Squeezer. The Lemon squeezer is a well know part of the AT that involves squeezing through a rock crevice. Both Stoat and I had been there before, but is was fun doing it again with people who had never been there.
Zeus made a video of the event.
We came to the area where the Long Path Crosses the AT. (The long path is a 357 mile trail that goes from the George Washington bridge to Albany NY. ) The sign at the intersection had an overabundance of information.
The trail today had a lot of ups and downs. There weren’t many big climbs, but there were tons of small ones. The elevation profile in the guidebook did not convey how tough this section was. Over the 20.4 miles we hiked, we experienced about 9500 feet of elevation change. Technically there were about 2 miles where the trail was flat. So it was more like 9500 feet over 18.4 miles… but I digress.
Stoat and I had hiked in the area before, so we knew what we were in for. I think that helped our mental game quite a bit. We told Zeus and Flashfire this section was going to be tough, but I don’t think it helped them much.
In between the ups and downs I took a few pictures.
After one of the bigger climbs of the day, we saw our first glimpse on the Hudson River. Even though Stoat and I have seen the Hudson hundreds of times, this time felt a little different. We had started our walk in Georgia and now we were looking at the Hudson River. It didn’t seem real.
When we pointed out the river to Flashfire she said,” Is that the one the plane landed on?” Yes it was. Her question surprised me a little. I had forgotten about that whole thing, but to her, that was what the Hudson was most known for.
When we first saw the Hudson it was around 11:00 it was already hot and humid out. It was hard to conserve our water, but with another 9 miles to the next water source, we were forced to.
We came to a spot where the trail crossed the Palisades Parkway. The Palisades Parkway is a 4 lane highway with a speed limit of 55 MPH. To us, the speed limit might as well been 100 MPH.
One of the things that happens to a lot of Thru Hikers is that we lose the ability to tell how fast a car was moving. After spending months traveling at around 3 MPH it became impossible to comprehend a faster speed. We must have looked like squirrels on the side on the road. Do we go now? No. How About….Now? Yes! No turn Back!
After crossing the Palisades Parkway we went up another climb. From the top we could see Bear Mountain. Stoat and I had driven on a road to the top of Bear Mountain, but we had never hiked up it. While we were looking forward to hiking it, that was not the reason we were glad to see it. At the top of Bear Mountain were vending machines that, hopefully, had nice cold beverages.
At the base of bear mountain we took a short break. We wanted to cool off before the 600 foot climb to the top of Bear Mountain. Flashfire said she was mentally and physically exhausted, and looked it. There wasn’t much we could do for her other than to remind her about the ice cold soda waiting at the top for her.
On the way up to the top of Bear Mt. we got to a point where we thought there should be a mile marker. We didn’t see one so we made our own.
We stopped and took a picture. We were happy about crossing the 1400 mile mark, but we were also very hot and thirsty.
A minute or two later we passed someone else’s 1400 mile marker. We took a picture and kept going. That part of the trail was in direct sunlight so we didn’t linger.
When we got close to the top we saw something wonderful. There, through a patch a trees, we saw…. The vending machines!
All of us bought at least two drinks and stood there enjoying the cold refreshment.
At the very top of the mountain was an observation tower.
We went up to the top and took a look around. On a clear day New York city can be seen from there.
Flashfire decided to lounge inside to tower. Taking full advantage of the cooler air inside the stone tower.
When we started to go down the mountain I saw Stoat stumble, and then fall directly onto a boulder. I let out a gasp. It looked bad. Really bad. Both of his feet somehow got trapped under the boulder and gravity took over. Both his knees impacted hard as he landed.
Stoat just laid there for a second. I asked if he was OK and he said he didn’t know. He turned over and elevated his legs to reduce any potential swelling. There was blood running down his legs from cuts on his shins and knees, and he was visibly shaken up from the fall. We told him to just stay where he was for a little bit and try to relax.
After a few minutes he felt well enough to stand up. A few minutes after that he said he was good to go. It had been a really close call.
On the way down the mountain we had several nice views of the Hudson River.
The trail going down the other side of Bear Mt. consisted of hundreds of steps.
Once we were at the bottom of the steps, we came to an old building called The Bear Mountain Inn.
The Inn had a shop in it that sold ice cream. We got ice cream and ate at one of the picnic tables nearby. Near the picnic tables was a small lake that had a paved walk way around it. There were paddle boats available for rental and there were a lot of families out for the day. After eating ice cream we decided to get some coffee and relax for a bit.
At around 4:45 we decided to get moving again. The trail was about to bring us right through the middle of a zoo which was also the lowest point on the AT. We were looking forward to seeing the zoo for a while. We were very disappointed when we got to the zoos entrance and found out that it had closed at 4:30. What kind of zoo closes at 4:30 on a Friday? Apparently that one.
There was a trail that bypassed the zoo, but it was not nearly as interesting. Plus, as we found out, it was chock full of poison ivy.
After going through the zoo bypass trail, we got to cross the Bear Mt. bridge.
It was windy on the bridge, and it felt great. What wasn’t so great, were the storm clouds off in the distance. We could see lightning in those clouds from time to time. Not the best time to be on a big metal bridge.
After we crossed the bridge we were faced with another climb. At 527 feet it wasn’t the biggest climb of the day, but it sure was the steepest. I’m not sure if Stoat and I said anything to each other, but we both started charging up the hill. It was the end of a tough day and we shouldn’t have that much energy. But there we were, flying up the hill, and smiling about it.
Unbeknownst to us, the last climb was the last straw for Flashfire. She was cooked. Well, almost the last straw. Even though she was mentally and physically exhausted she kept on slogging up the hill. Zeus kept an eye on her and made sure he didn’t get too far ahead of her.
When she and Zeus got to the campsite Stoat and I were already set up, but they still escaped the storm that came through a few minutes after they got there. Well Zeus still got soaked, but I think he was in the middle of getting water, or something, when the storm came through.
She later told us that the Tramily helped her get through the day. She said she wasn’t sure if she would have kept going if she wasn’t hiking with us. I don’t think she gave herself enough credit.
After the storm came through, the humidity went down and the sun came out. Hopefully Flashfire saw that as a good sign.