Being a naturalist is a lifelong journey. There is always something new to learn and understand. It is never finished and never boring.
It's doable! Read about a trip from the Metro North AT stop on the Harlem Line to the Metro North station at Garrison, and the trail in between.
Our last day on the trail was a beautiful day and a really nice hike, mostly pretty easy but with a couple of difficult rock-scrambling bits. We had a somewhat light breakfast and started out at the stepping stones across the inlet of Little Dam Lake, then climbed to a viewpoint on Buchanan Mountain. Then came a steep section with jumbled rocks and several small, dried-up streams to cross, another viewpoint, and a section along the edge of an escarpment with treetops at eye level. Then more jumbled rocks on another steep section, crossing a paved road and crossing a swampy field on puncheon.
We got a nice early start and somehow ended up thinking of doing a much longer distance again. I was a little skeptical and we ended up changing our destination both for the day and for the trip as a whole the next day. We started by hiking the third of a mile back to the AT. This section was one of the earliest parts of the AT to be completed, although parts of it have been relocated since then. The trail starts with a steep descent, but soon proceeds to high points on a series of mountains ranging from 1180 to 1300 feet.
We got up later than we planned and got a later start, but Top Kid set a brisk pace since we were headed for swimming. The hike was only about 4.2 miles and not terribly difficult. It was also not too hot and I realized that some of the difficulty I felt on previous days was probably due as much to the heat as to pack weight. It might be wise to plan future trips more in the spring and fall than in August.
We woke to a beautiful day. First we spread out a few damp things to dry on the rocks in the sun and took in the amazing view, with mist rising from the hills below and the city skyline in the distance. We had a big breakfast and the kids and I went down to the AT a bit ahead where there is a stream and pumped to fill all our water. (The West Mountain shelter is on a side trail about half a mile from the AT itself.) We saw deer on the way.
The third day was our biggest hike—both the longest at 9 miles, and some of the hardest, including climbing Bear Mountain and West Mountain. The kids again did great, although at times I wondered if I'd be able to make it.
We began with switchbacks through a steep section over "Anthony's Nose," crossed a dirt road, and descended steeply again. Next we had to follow Route 9D to and across the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson. We enjoyed the views over the river and chatted with some of the bridge maintenance crew who were working.
We woke to a beautiful day, but had to sort out the stuff we'd hung to dry, move it into the sun and wait for some of it to finish drying out so we didn't get an early start. Luckily we had a relatively short day of hiking planned, so that wasn't a problem. It was also nice to have running water available for breakfast and to fill all our bottles.
Here we are at the trailhead on Dennytown Road in Clarence Fahnestock State Park.
We finished up our week on the Appalachian Trail yesterday. We hiked from Dennytown Road in Clarence Fahnestock State Park to Fitzgerald Falls near Monroe, NY—about 44 miles—over a week from Wednesday to Tuesday. I'll be blogging the trip in more detail over the next several days.
This picture of the four of us was taken by a man from Stuttgart, who said he had seen a program about the AT on German television!
I'm alternately excited and a little nervous about our upcoming family backpacking trip. This will be Top Kid's first time; Tree Kid did a Trek week at Ten Mile River Scout camps, the Tarpmaster is experienced, and he and I did some bits of the Appalachian Trail together before we had kids. The excitement is about spending time in nature and with my family and introducing my boys to a new experience. The nerves are in case anything doesn't go well or anyone doesn't have fun. Will the food be enough/too heavy? Will the weather be reasonable? (We don't expect perfection!)