8/3 Bear Mountain (21)

August 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

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What a day!  It was raining this morning and we laid in our smelly sleeping bags miserably until we heard Kitchen Sink saying in his Jersey-ese, “You smell that?  Smells like eggs and bacon!”  We laughed and packed up quickly after that, then headed down to the road to meet Hedley.  He had the best breakfast sandwiches ready for us and the whole thing felt a little surreal to wake up to hot food like that.  We were well fortified to hike in the rain and we headed out with Kitchen Sink on a mission. 

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The terrain was pretty rough still, and included a lot of guessing and rock climbing again, but we eventually got through to the ‘Lemon Squeezer’ which looks like this:

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And is about as ridiculous as it looks. 

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New York’s idea of a bridge.

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The delicious water the state’s rivers provide for us.

Kitchen Sink really struggled to get his huge bag up that tiny crack, but not as much as the four guys we saw had to struggle to move a log up it.  We eventually caught them half a mile later and got to ask them what they were doing carrying a giant log through the woods.  They were all humongous and covered in tattoos and simply told us “We all like to come out and carry dis log.  She’s been wid us for years; we call her Sheila.  We also got 40 pounds of bricks in our bags.”  Meanwhile, Kitchen Sink caught up to us and immediately asked “So where’re you cops at?”  To which they all exchanged glances and then answered “uh, we’re Jersey cops.”  At this point, we had already overspent our credulity limit on other parts of the Jersey/New York area and didn’t have any ability left to believe what we were seeing, so we just hiked on. 

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New York produces world class hurdle jumpers by running them on their section of the AT.

The terrain got worse and our speed dropped to a crawl as we beat ourselves against the steep slippery rocks.  We got to the haven of Fingerboard Shelter and spent an hour and a half moping and making lunch.  Kitchen Sink fortunately kept us in pretty high spirits, but he was hurting pretty bad himself with his feet covered in blisters and his back pretty worn from the huge pack. 

Eventually we headed on and said goodbye for now, and then we entered a new stage of evolution for New York’s trails. 

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All of a sudden, everything was nicely graded and actually cleared of blowdowns.  We were able to get over Bear Mountain after all today. 

The trailwork going up and down Bear Mountain was easily the best that we have seen on the AT outside of the elaborate boardwalks in Jersey. 

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There were thousands of carefully set stone steps that must have taken years to complete.  The climb up and down was not only cut to be as gradual as possible but also as scenic as possible, and it felt like we had earned the beautiful terrain after our struggle through the Southern parts of NY. 

The top was beautiful and we could see the lights of the city in the distance, juxtaposing our experience in the woods with this huge mecca of civilization. 

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It was overwhelming and beautiful.  We made it down the steps to Bear Mountain Inn as dark set in and called for a ride from the motel in town.  We finally broke down after 10 days without laundry and decided we needed to get clean or we would be dealing with skin problems on the trail.  The owner of the motel picked us up and was very quiet on the drive to the motel.  He even seemed a little irritated, which we attributed to him just being a New Yorker.  When we got inside to sign for the room, however, he finally broke down and told us “you guys really smell” which we were controlled enough to not laugh at, but only barely.  We explained that we couldn’t help it and we were planning to get clean as soon as possible and asked where the nearest laundry was.  It was across the street, he said, but then his wife came out and offered to do our laundry for us, which might be the kindest and most selfless thing I’ve ever heard.  We warned her about the smell but she was very nice and helped us out.  It was pretty satisfying to finally get clean after our long days.  We felt human again when we woke up.