Hello, Dear Readers! Are you still with me? It’s been over a month since my last post and I’m here to bring you up to date. I’m still hiking and loving every step of it. As of today, I’m more than halfway down the trail, having just crossed into my ninth state (Maryland, 1125 miles). The weather has been pristine and the changing colors have been beautiful. I want to keep things in order so I’m going to start where I left off, way back at the Massachusetts-Connecticut border, and include New York and New Jersey, as well.
CT, NY and NJ make up 213 total miles of the AT’s 2189. I love these states. The trail here is gentle and rolling, interrupted occasionally with some rock scrambles. The forests are young, with trees whose broad leaves are now turning and falling every day. Although the weather is still mild, the constant raining of gold is a reminder that colder days are imminent. I hike assertively because that’s my style and I enjoy it, but it also serves to keep me ahead of winter as long as possible.
The AT makes quick work of Connecticut. There are only 51 trail miles in this state. It’s well maintained and leads the hiker into, or near, a few quintessential New England towns, such as Falls Village, Kent and Salisbury.
One day while hiking in the vicinity of Kent, I met a trail maintainer. He was knowledgeable and clearly dedicated to, and enthusiastic about, his work. Throughout the day, I passed him a few more times as he was working on different sections of the trail. During our final conversation, he asked me if he could do anything for me, get me anything. At first I declined, not wanting to put him out and also because I really didn’t need anything. But he insisted and I decided a Diet Coke sounded pretty good. No, wait, orange juice would be better. He seemed satisfied with this choice and his mission and told me where he would leave my request. The next morning, hanging on a tree branch, was the soda, the juice and a banana, along with a note. Things like this happen often for hikers, and it is always such a cherished and appreciated act.
“Good luck with your hike.”
For southbounders there is no clear sign to welcome us into New York. (There is a sign for northbounders stating they are now entering Connecticut.) We just walk right in and continue on. Whadja expect? A parade? Fuhgeddaboudit.
I love New York. I love the city, the small towns and the sections where the AT passes through it in 90 awesome miles. The trail crosses this stop where hikers can board a train and go into the city. I’ve crossed this section three times but only have pictures from 2015 and 1998.
1998 with Gretel.
One of the highlights of the AT in New York is walking across the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge. I find the Hudson majestic and fascinating. I would love to explore the Hudson River Valley more in the future. These pictures show the trail as it is going northbound. A few days earlier, I had to take a taxi from a place on the trail about 15 miles north of here to a hotel in Ft. Montgomery so I could do my online lessons. I don’t skip miles, so after my lessons were completed, I hiked north to where I got the taxi, then hitchhiked back (south) to this spot.
After my hitch back to the bridge, I continued through the Bear Mountain Zoo and over Bear Mountain. It’s a long uphill walk, made easier by the stone steps that have been installed in the last few years.
The trail goes right through the zoo, which is rather small. (There is an alternate route for hikers when the zoo is closed.) A highlight within the zoo, at least for me, is the statue of the poet Walt Whitman. He is the author of “Song of the Open Road” for which my blog is named. Leaves of Grass is his collection of poems, on which he spent years working.
The Man, Walt Whitman.
I met Soynuts again on Bear Mountain and we spent the next few days hiking together. Another popular feature of the trail in New York is the Lemon Squeezer. This is a cut in a jumble of rocks where the hiker has to oochie their way through.
This is how you oochie your way through the Lemon Squeezer.
And so it went. Over and under, hill and dale. And me falling in love again and again with this trail. It led me to the tops of craggy precipices where I could see the New York City skyline, and down into cozy nooks protected by overhanging rocks which have provided shelter for people and animals for ages. I walked and walked, always beckoned forward, until the day I stepped, just like that, into New Jersey.
When you think of New Jersey, you probably don’t think of towering, swaying trees. Lush beauty surrounded by quiet solitude. I didn’t until I hiked this section of trail for the first time, and then I understood. People don’t get Jersey. Maybe they’ve never been on the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey. The AT claims 72 miles of trail in NJ and I love every beautiful bit of it, even if it was rather rainy when I walked through this time.
And then the trail descends easily and gracefully for several miles toward Pennsylvania. No heroics or grand entrances. Just a smooth transition into another amazing state.
Actually, there is a bit of an entrance because the trail crosses the Delaware River on this loud and chaotic bridge. But that’s not Jersey’s fault.
This is the Delaware Water Gap.