Miles: 1373.4 - 1396.4 (23 miles)
It's a damp morning but water is good first thing, there's even a waterfall to start the day off right. I'm aiming for lower miles today so I can see a small Trailside zoo tomorrow when they are actually open which means I have no real goals today which is exciting.
I climb a bit and then am headed back down the ridge line when it happens, my left foot completely slides out from under me on a slab of damp rock and I slam into the Rock below. My forearm takes the brunt but my whole lower left half hurts and my arm is bleeding. I'm startled and sore but do a quick check and everything moves so I hobble on not wanting to stop and dwell on how very quickly things can go wrong out here.
There are views and magical forest ridge lines. It's so very quiet with just the rustling of the leaves and the crunch of my feet.
The ridge line is full of berries and I shake off my fall trying to distract myself.
As I head down slowly to a highway crossing I look back up. Yup still plenty rocky and hazardous out here, and I'm not even sure that the photo does justice to the steepness or slickness of the rocks.
The trail crosses into Harriman State Park and I start to see more hikers. I try to stop and be friendly but get no response so head back out into the growing heat.
Looking back at "the lemon squeeze" it looks easier than it is. It's surprisingly tight but also just slightly uphill and requires some very graceful bouncing through like a ping pong ball while swatting at mosquitos. There have been a lot more big boulder filled areas which means my upper arms even get the occasional work out.
At the top I enter another magical forest, it's peaceful and wonderful full of grass and a different feeling woods.
I walk a mile with another hiker and with rumors of showers and concessions we head downhill 0.3 miles off trail to Lake Tiorati Beach.
It's full of barbecue smells, blaring music and people are everywhere. The shower is more of a wash the sand off type of thing but I take full advantage. There are no curtains so my clothes get cleaner too, I'm not sure I've been stared at this much in awhile. Hikers seem to be more of a tourist sight than the beach today. I splurge on an ice cream bar from a vending machine and hang out with the hikers that trickle in. I'm a little disappointed and decide it's too much and head back to my quiet woods. The faucets were lovely but hiking sounds better, even if every water source so far has been dry.
More rolling ridge lines before the more dramatic climbs begin.
It's so very beautiful and humid that stopping to take in the views is no challenge at all.
At the top of Black Mountain I get to see the NYC skyline and am in awe of how gorgeous today has been. I talk with another hiker debating staying for just the view but I really need water so I press on.
Heading down to the road I startle a mom and 2 cubs, I still can't get over how many bears I've seen out here (well over 25).
Why is that small blurry sign exciting? Because it says New York City 34 miles, holy cow that's surreal. It takes forever to cross this highway and then thankfully there is actually a stream with water. It's hot and muggy and getting late so I aim for the ridge line hoping I can at least get a breeze.
I pitch my tent on a windy rock ledge overlooking New York right after sunset. I'm still sweaty from the climb, my feet ache and I'm covered in bug bites but I'm so very happy. I'll admit this trail has been a huge mental challenge for me and I've never had more thoughts about just going home than I have this season. But these last few days have been an amazing reminder of why I love being out here. Thanks New Jersey and New York, I owe you.
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