Trail Journal

Date: September 2 2000
Trail Day: 94
Miles Today: 26
Location: Pine Swamp Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 685
ECT Mile: 1377

It rained quite heavily last night. I got my sleeping bag slightly wet, quite good considering the heavy rain. There was a lot of thunder and lightning. I waited for it to stop raining and got out of the tarp and started to get it down. It started to rain again and I got soaked.

Continued the climb down Race mountain. I met Waterfall near Sager Ravine. She is a pretty south bound thru-hiker from Louisiana. She has a slight southern drawl. Her real name is Nina Baxley. She was extremely active in about 8 months ago and she had also transcribed a '99 thru- hiker's journal. I knew she was originally planning on a north bound hike but then switched to a south bound hike.

I hiked with her to the junction of Under mountain trail. She was going to blue blaze Bear mountain via this trail. I tried to talk her into climbing Bear mountain (white blaze). She almost agreed but then a north bounder came by the blue blaze and said it was much easier. He had heard from a south bounder that the climb up Bear mountain was steep with climbing bars and stuff. Waterfall then changed her mind and decided to blue blaze. I took a photo of her before we seperated.

The climb up Bear mountain was steep in places but very short. In fact, I had to ask the people already up there if it was indeed the peak - it was so short. There were also no metal bars. I don't know what the north bounder was talking about. I am sure Waterfall could have done this easily. I got a photo of me at the peak. Absolutely no views because of the fog. I was also in Connecticut now, my seventh state.

The climb down Bear mountain was gradual. I made good time on this. some places were rocky but otherwise the trails have a lot of dirt on them - good for friction. We had no such thing in New Hampshire and Maine.

The trail then skirted the town of Salisbury and climbed Wetawa mountain. I met a group of guys doing a day hike to the falls on the Housatonic river. All of them seemed to be in good shape. I got to a place called "The Thumb". It is a vertical rock looking like a thumb. Time for another photo. Also met an older gentleman who had worked for the embassy in Madras, India. He knew several phrases in Tamil. For Americans they say, "The world ends at their borders", indicating their lack of interest and knowledge of foreign cultures and countries. I have found this to be true in general. However I have met a lot of people who not only knew about India but had actually been there and worked there in some instances. I was having Indian food in Thistle Hill shelter about 2 weeks ago and a scout looks at me and says, "Palak Paneer" - the name of the dish I was eating. I was extremely surprised. Bivouac Jack the hiker I met about 5 days ago was married to a Nepali - not Indian, but close enough. He knew several phrases in Hindi.

The trail then climbed down and ran along the Housatonic River. Portions of it were very good, others bad. Also a lot of cutting in and out of roads - easy to lose the trail.

The trail then climbed Sharon mountain. The mosquitoes were very bad, so I had to put on my T-shirt and spray poison (DEET) on me. Got to the Pine Swamp shelter - 26 miles. Cooked and ate rice with tuna - came out good. All I have now is a handfull of cookie crumbs to last me the 17 miles to Kent where I resupply. I also want to do laundry and take a shower there. Also, try and get maps for the NY/NJ section. I should be out of Connecticut tomorrow - small state.

Date: September 3 2000
Trail Day: 95
Miles Today: 18
Location: Mt. Algo Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 703
ECT Mile: 1395

Today's hike had about a 6 mile section along the Housatonic river. There were several local people running and hiking the trail. I also saw and passed a couple whom I saw again on the road to Kent at the trail head. They had done a loop and gave me a ride into Kent. The climb to Caleb's peak turned out to be surprisingly difficult - almost a throw back to Maine with sections where you had to pull yourself up holding rocks.

On one of the lookouts, just before the trail dropped to Kent, I saw a cairn with notes to Crash. This was the place he died. I took a photograph of the cairn. It was sad. Its strange how you are touched by someone you've never met.

Went to the pizza and place in Kent. Had beer and 2 ft of sub. The food and beer was excellent but it cost me an arm. Did laundry and tried to call Kumar, Suriyan and Vivek, No luck anywhere. Got groceries for a day. I've heard there are many Deli's in New York and I will get food there. Met Mama Hotpants there. Looks like there are a few south bounders in Kent.

Continued to Mt. Algo Lean-to. PlayFoot was there. He is doing a section hike. We had a long discussion about hiking, books and philosophy. It was quite interesting. He gave me a glow light. It's extremely light but quite effective. I had been looking to buy one for a while.

Date: September 4 2000
Trail Day: 96
Miles Today: 21
Location: Telephone Pioneers Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 724
ECT Mile: 1416

Happy birthday Kumar. Talked to the groups from Princeton and Playfoot for a while and took off. Tuition at Princeton is 30K a year ! Playfoot gave me a flashlight that weighs about 0.1 ounce. I had seen such lights before and was looking to buy one. Thanks Playfoot.

Continued the climb up the mountain. Passed another group of Princeton students. The trail entered New York state for a mile or so and went back to Connecticut.

Then there was a walk along the Housatonic river. This will be the last one. There is some white water here. Saw 2 large St. Bernard's. Also met Walkie-Talkie and a lady. He did the trail in '97. He asked me a lot of questions on the IAT portion of the hike. IAT has now become fairly well known and I can easily see it being completed several years down the line. There were a lot of people doing day hikes because of the long weekend. It was nice talking to Walkie-Talkie.

Some more miles of bushes and forests and I was in New york - my eighth state - Wow ! The land has been changing quite a bit. The roots and rocks are disappearing and the vegetation in valleys is becoming extremely thick.

Met another group of about 10 day hikers. Surprisingly, all of them were fit. They asked about my hike and the children listened wide eyed. It was cool.

Got to the Appalachian Trail Station. Trains run from here to New York and several other places. You can get here, walk 20 feet and be on the trail - very unusual. Got food at a nearby deli. I drank the beer in a brown paper bag.

It was getting quite cold. I have had no summer this year. Walked another 3 miles to the shelter. There was no one. This is the first time this is happening. In Potaywadjo shelter no one was there but one couple was tented. Even I had tented due to the mosquitoes. In Stony Brook shelter I slept by myself but there was another guy tented, again due to mosquitoes. Cube shelter is no longer a real shelter. I think I will be having the shelter to myself more and more. Saw no north bounders today.

Date: September 5 2000
Trail Day: 97
Miles Today: 20
Location: Top of Shenandoah Mtn.
Section Mile: AT 744
ECT Mile: 1436

Writing this from the top of Shenandoah Mountain. I don't know if this is the summit but sure seems like it. I will be sleeping on top here - going to be my first. The view is spectacular - not the breath taking of the Whites but beautiful in its own way. The sun has set and a half moon is out. Its pinkish where the sun has set and bluish on the other side of the horizon. Overhead is a sky of dark blue, grey and orange almost all mixed together. Another horizon shows long streaks of clouds. Its almost all forest and hills looking from here. Civilization shows itself not blatantly and vulgarly as it normally does but more as a hint that it exists. You can see the electric lines stretch into the distance. In one corner there is a cluster of town lights, quite subdued. There is a flicker of light every once in a while from the towers here and there. And you can hear faintly but not see the turnpike. It is somewhat cold and windy. I am in my thermal underwear. It is very beautiful and serene. It cannot be captured by photographs, paintings or words.

Last night I did have the shelter all to myself - no late arrivals. I have started the "no map" section and so dont know what to expect - sometimes its a climb, somtimes a lake. About 10 road crossings today. Had lunch at a Deli on Rt 52. I did not know if it was to the left or right and ended up doing an extra 2 mile roadwalk. Food was good and I could not finish it. This was a surprise.

Because I had no maps I missed a shelter. Usually, I know where the side trail is, if the shelter is not on the trail itself. Today I started looking for it after I was about a mile past it. All in all a fairly easy, lethargic day of hiking. Saw only 2 hikers to the end - no one else. The north bounder run is over. School's started and there are only a few south bounders. So the trail is actually starting to get a little lonely. I am also avoiding a lot of towns and hiker places due to a philosophical problem that I will write about some time down the line. Now, time to eat a sub and watch the stars.

Date: September 6 2000
Trail Day: 98
Miles Today: 19
Location: Near Hemlock Springs Camp
Section Mile: AT 763
ECT Mile: 1455

The moon set quickly last night. I watched the stars quite a bit. Lots of planes over the area - probably going into or out of N. York city. Another day of numerous road crossings. Got to Rte 9. There's supposed to be a convenience store here which is now closed. Walked further to a place called Stadium. Its a sport bar. I was very low on cash and luckily the place had an ATM. Withdrew some money and had lunch. Turned out quite expensive.

Got back to the trail and hiked 3 miles or so and decided to stop. There's still day light left but I dont feel like hiking. I've also got a slight headache. This area is crawling with deer. They are quite unafraid and curious. I took a photo of one that was close by.

Date: September 7 2000
Trail Day: 99
Miles Today: 4
Location: Highland Falls
Section Mile: AT 767
ECT Mile: 1459

I was totally out of food. So I started walking to the nearest town. On the way I just decided to stay there. Did laundry, showered and ate a lot.

Date: September 8 2000
Trail Day: 100
Miles Today: 15
Location: Near Lemon Squeeze
Section Mile: AT 782
ECT Mile: 1474

My hundredth day on the trail ! At this point I have completed about a third of the AT and the ECT (Cap Gaspe to Key West). I thought of taking a O day today. I called the front desk at the motel but they told me they were all sold out due to a football game nearby. So I decided to continue hiking. Mailed a set of journal entries to Suriyan, had breakfast and bought groceries for 3 days. Originally I had planned on carrying almost no food and to buy it at the different road crossings. That, I found is highly unpredictable as many of the stores are now out of business. I got a ride quickly. Highland Falls is the biggest town I have seen so far in my hike. For some reason most people don't look at you while talking. They avoid eye contact and seem to have the life sucked out of them. We are missing something big and important in our modern culture.

Today's hike started out harder than one would expect considering the terrain before this. It was up or down almost constantly. Progress was slow. Bear mountain had a decent view. You can faintly see New York city.

The trail later on started running ridges and my speed picked up. Met Whiskey Tim. His dog was so tired that she curled up and went to sleep during our conversation. He is a section hiker and has completed about 1600 miles. His father, in his 80's is sick. I hope he gets better.

I was hoping to make it to the Lemon Squeezer but could not. I am less than half a mile from it though. It is a pair of large rocks between which the trail runs. Its a tight fit, hence the name.

Cooking rice with onion gravy and sardines. Stove working OK, mosquitoes killing me.

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