InProgress has left the trail due to a health issue. I have mixed feelings about continuing on the trail without her. I really enjoy hiking with my wife and I am not so sure how it’s going to be for me hiking solo.
I guess I’m going to find out soon. As I write this we are twenty minutes away from starting our drive to the airport. I have a nervous stomach this morning; it’s uncomfortable but I am able to endure without much disruption.
I’m sick of TV and air conditioning and elevators and the food on the breakfast bar. I need to be released back into my natural environment.
After a stressful morning driving to and back from LaGuardia I am back on the trail. The rental car agent dropped me right back by the trailside zoo so I didn’t have to hike any extra miles in the heat to get back going.
I crossed the Hudson bridge on a well protected pedestrian walk equipped with call boxes. Several times as I was walking along I heard one of the suspension cables twang and I wanted to just curl up against the concrete. My fear of heights is in rare form today.
After a short roadwalk I followed the trail as it began an ascent of a bit over 550 feet. Then a couple of hundred feet up I stopped following the trail and sat down on rock for a good long while to rest. I was close to collapsing after only that short period. The heat, humidity and heavy pack really have my number. My pack is a bit heavier than before InProgress left the trail due to taking on some things she was carrying but it’s mostly groceries that are the burden. I can eat for a week probably with these supplies.
After recuperating I strike out again and shortly after reach a rough service road with a broken trail kiosk nearby. It contains a ledger that was full a month ago and several empty water bottles. Trail magic from long ago or lazy hikers? I cannot find the trail. I cast about left and right but there are no blazes. I follow the road uphill to the right; it is blue-blazed. This must be Camp Smith trail. I go back and try a faint trail behind the kiosk. It falters after a bit and fades to nothing. I look around in the woods but no, the trail is not just right over there. I go back to the road. I spot a Southbounder blaze. This is a useful trick – if you can’t find the blazes going your way, look for the ones going in the opposite direction. Only problem is that this one seems to be saying that I should go in the direction I tried first, to the right. OK, whatever. I follow that direction for ten minutes and don’t find a single white blaze. Grrr. I consider screaming at the sky and dismiss it as wasteful. I go back to the intersection and try the only way I have not thoroughly explored – left turn. After the first curve I am rewarded with a series of white blazes. Thus the adventure continues.
I make my way to the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a friary that allows hikers to spend the night at the pavilion on their ball field. I am the only hiker when I arrive. While I am in the shower (cold) Candypants and another hiker arrive. By the time I am in bed there are a dozen hikers present including Rusty and Toast who I have not seen since Grayson Highlands.
All of my gear fits in the tent with room to spare. I sleep poorly and wake several times through the night. I leave at 5:30 in the morning without having breakfast and eat jerky while hiking. There is a heat wave. The temp is expected to hit 100.
The bugs are out worse than I have seen since Jersey. First mosquitoes then gnats and finally a joint task force assaults me. I miss more than one blaze because of the obscuring wall of flying insect bodies in front of my face. I give up waving them away and only take swings at the actual biters. My left shoulder is composed of insect ambrosia and has a bullseye on it apparently. I have killed a dozen flies, gnats and mosquitoes in two square inches on my left shoulder and zero anywhere else.
I’m hiking between Sunken Mine Rd and Hwy 301 when I realize that if I don’t stop and take a break immediately I’m going to collapse. It’s only been an hour since I started back after lunch and that was an extended break of 45 minutes. A breeze has been ruffling the treetops and this has helped me fool myself into overdoing things. I sit on a shady boulder and rest.
I pass a faded hand painted 911 memorial and lounge on a rock enjoying the breeze and longing for my hiking partner. This moment should be shared.
I end my day at the Shenandoah campsite. It is abandoned when I arrive except for a groundhog who is eating crabapples. He scurries away and I set up my tent. I am alone until nearly dark. I am in my liner bag dozing when Occupy arrives with his dog, a lively shepherd named Helga. I sleepily explain the water pump operation to him without getting up then roll over. I hear the pump squeak and water splash before sleep takes me.