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GoldenBear

The definition of insanity

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A saying FALSELY attributed to (at various times) a scientist of the 1900s, a humorist of the 1800s, a writer of the 1700s, and an Asian ethicist; states (something like) "Insanity is defined as trying the same experiment a second time and expecting a different result." It is with that saying in mind that I tried my second true backpacking adventure this last week. I'm glad to say I did a LOT things differently this time and (surprise!) I got a different result.

No problem getting from Philly to the NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal, and no problem taking the Short Line Bus up to Fort Montgomery.
Why there? Bear Mountain Inn had no vacancies -- so I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express about 1.5 miles north. Plenty of delis and convenience stores along this walk, as well as a couple of restaurants. The bus driver asked where I wanted to be dropped off, which made for a short walk to the motel.
The HIE is business-oriented lodging, so don't expect cheap rates. It does have free wi-fi, computer access, and hot breakfast buffet starting at 6 am; which makes a great place to splurge for a night. My room also happened to have a fridge and a micro-wave, but these aren't in every room.
Spent the late afternoon and evening visiting Fort Montgomery State Historic Site, crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge, checking out the Lake Hessian area, and seeing a snake on the Trail.

The free AYCE breakfast, along with ice in my water container, made for a good start to the day. And I needed both. Lake Hessian is at an elevation of 220 feet, the top of Bear Mountain (Perkins Tower) is at 1340 feet, and this climb is done in 1.8 miles. The work done to make these hundreds of steps is EXCELLENT, making the climb a matter of knee strength instead of balance.
The online map of Bear Mountain State Park trails
http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/at...inTrailMap.pdf
shows toilets at Perkins Tower, so I felt confident that meant water faucets. As I got closer to the top, my water bottle long since empty, my main source of strength was "At least I'll get water once I make the top." Should have read the trail guide book stating, quite clearly, "No water available at the summit." The toilets in this map, alas, are porta-johns; so I had to pay the high vending prices for sodas. Since the heat index was predicted to hit over 100 F today, I'm glad I did this in the morning.
Walked down (again, on excellent steps) to Seven Lakes Drive (610 feet) and then had to cross a fast flowing brook. The official blaze said to turn right, but someone had added an alternate blaze to the left with the note "Bridge Out. Cross Here." Neither crossing was particularly easy, and I considered just wading in my sandals. But I did make it across, right where the bridge used to be -- it's now about twenty feet further downstream. At least I had no problem finding water to filter to re-fill my water container!
The Trail then begins it climb to the top of West Mountain (about 1280 feet) where it meets the blue-blazed Tip-Thorne Trail. Saw two adult turkeys and about a dozen chicks as I to to the top. This climb, in the afternoon of a day with heat index near 100, left me with less than eight ounces of water as I began the trek to West Mountain Shelter (WMS), for which the trail guide book says, "No water available." As I walked the 0.6 mile trail to WMS, a kind soul asked, "Would you like some blueberries?" as he showed his son how to enjoy this fruit, just now ripening in the wild. "What I really need is water!" (I was NOT Yogi-ing, just stating a fact), after which he kindly gave me another four ounces from his bottle. Five minutes later I found a puddle flowing with all the water I really needed for that night and the next morning -- HALLELUJAH! Despite a warning not to drink the water even AFTER it had been filtered, I was not going to try to survive on eight ounces for the next ten hours or so.

Shared the camping area with a women (never even caught her trail name) with a lot of experience about the area, as she said she comes to this shelter a lot. Upon seeing her setting up tinder to boil a cup of water, I offered my alcohol pop-can stove as an alternative -- less than five minutes later she had her noodles. In a result that still puzzles me, I had no hunger or appetite for food, so I just skipped a hot meal. However, I found that Fizzies (yes, you CAN still buy these!) do make for a pleasant way to enjoy flavored, carbonated water in the wild.
I wanted to know if I needed a bear bag that night (not a lot of useful trees if these WERE necessary, so I was hoping I didn't need one), so I figured the experience of my fellow camper would help. So how do I start the conversation to ask about this? "This is going to sound a hundred times than I intend it, but 'You come here often?'" She said bears weren't a problem, so I just "mouse-bagged" my food, which was all wrapped in metal foil anyway.

It wasn't modesty that made me not stay in the shelter with her, but the simple fact that I can't sleep in them, for various reasons. THIS Tuesday I slept a LOT better than two weeks ago (see previous blog entry).

I awoke to a sunrise view of the Hudson Valley, all the way to the skyscrapers of New York City, 35 miles away. This page
http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/memb...863-GoldenBear
has these photos and others I've taken over the last three weeks. It's one of the things I live for as I hike! The extra walking to WMS is worth EVERY step.

Had no trouble finding water along the trail, long before I reached Beechy Bottom Brook -- my original plan for water when I thought I go almost twelve hours with less than eight ounces of water. Ate some wild blueberries, found a pair of lost sunglasses, almost fell when my pole slipped while going down some rocks -- in other words, a typical day. The hour or so of drizzle was actually a pleasant event, as I making extra effort to keep my shirt and hat soaked to ward off the heat.
Enjoyed an hour or so of dinner (I was FINALLY hungry!) at Tiorati Rec Area, which is free to pedestrians and features grills, tables, faucets, showers (free), and vending machines. Another kind soul gave me the hamburger he was about to throw out, so I enjoyed a far better meal than I expected.
While leaving there I made my ONE stupid mistake of this hike. Five minutes into my walk I started to smell the denatured alcohol I use in my can stove. "My fuel bottle is leaking!" I thought, but it was little simpler than that. I'd forgotten to tighten the lid! Alcohol, fortunately, evaporates rapidly and leaves no odor on fabric it gets into, so all I had to do was wipe up the ounces that had spilled. I also made certain no matches were anywhere near that pocket soaked with flammable liquid.
Made it to Fingerboard Shelter with plenty of light to spare, meeting a NOBO whose trail name is "Wicca Witch." His trail journal entry showed he was having a worse day than I was. If anyone is interested, his shoulder injury is recovering, and he still plans to complete his thru-hike. And, can you believe it -- he's from Center City Philadelphia!

Got a late start the next morning, figuring I didn't need to hurry to get down the mountain. Problem is, it's not uniformly down-hill, with many parts that could use some real trail work (and, yes, I'll be the first to admit I have never volunteered for doing that, so I won't complain -- just note the fact). Despite my only real stop being for water at Island Pond, I missed the first NJ Transit Train at Harriman by less than fifteen minutes -- meaning the next train wouldn't be for two hours. No water, no restroom, no working vending machine at this train stop; just a place to sit in the shade and recover from a walk I'm in no shape to have done.
While on the train back to Philly, a helpful conductor made it possible for me to make a better connection than I had originally paid for, explaining exactly what I had to do. Made the ten minute connection at Secaucus with about nine minutes to spare, but was too afraid of dawdling that I didn't grab a soda there. Figured that Trenton HAD to have working vending machines -- which they don't, at least not on the platform where one transfers to a Septa train back to Philly. By the time I got to 30th Street Train Station, I decided I was so close to home I'd just wait till then to grab my soda.
Loving wife Cheryl picked me up, following by a 64-ounce soda at the convenience store -- drank it all down in less than an hour.
As much as I love ending a day on the trail, with the satisfaction of knowing I can survive with just the stuff I carry on my back, I like ending days with Cheryl even more.

LESSONS LEARNED from last hike:
-always put the rain cover on your tent (well, duh!!).
-carry a flashlight (which, except for ONE NIGHT, I have never needed).
-get rid of stuff you don't use (I'm still finding stuff I can leave at home).
-no problem carrying hiking poles on trains. I will NEVER leave home without them!
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