June 14. Woke up in my tent. Unfortunatley I had set it up on uneven ground and I was sliding down the hill all night. I was pretty tired still but figured it was light out and time to get moving. I packed up and hit the trail by 6:30. It was another tough morning dealing with the rocks and ups and downs. I made it up to a lookout point where if I looked far out to the east I could see the skyline of New York City. It was pretty hazy, but I could see it! Later I climbed Bear Mountain and went up in a big lookout tower and got some great views of the mountains and the NYC skyline again. Down the hill from there was Fort Montgomery and the AT Trailside Museum and Zoo. The guide book said AT Thru-Hikers got free admission to the zoo, which was good considering the trail goes right through it! I headed down the mountain and envisioned the scernaro. The hikers get free admission, I would walk up to the ticket line, they would see my pack and smell me and move me over to the special thru-hiker line. I would be let in a special hiker side door where I would enter a woods-like setting. All the while a guide outside the bear cage would be saying to the audience, “Now watch the thru-hiker in his natural habitat. See how he tried to scramble up the large rocks and boulders? See how he eats candy bars and drinks from the stream? See how he goes to the bathroom behind the tree? No! Don’t watch that part. Now watch carefully has he runs in circles as the bear chases him around the cage. This hiker didn’t bring his bear spray because it was too ‘heavy’! Ha! Funny hiker!” And that would be how I would get my free admission! It didn’t do down like that though. I came down off the mountain and into a recreation area. I walked through a tunnel and directly into the zoo. I don’t know for sure but it seemed like everyone had free admission…not just smelly hikers. The zoo was nice. I saw bears, coyotes, snakes and frogs, and all of the other animals I have seen on the trail. The only animals they didn’t have were deer…not sure why they got skipped. All morning I had been hoping for some good zoo food, but unfortunately there were no vendors. In front of the bear pen I hit the lowest spot on the AT, 120 feet above sea level. I passed through the zoo and walked over the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. Another 5 miles brought me to a busy intersection with a gas station and some great food and soda. I ordered a hamburger, fries, and a vanilla Coke and plugged my phone in to charge and sat at a picnic table outside. I talked to a local guy for a bit and after asking me lots of questions about the trail he said “You inspired me…it is 3:45 and I don’t want to work any longer today…I think I will just go home now and spend the night grilling out with my family. Work can wait, you only have one life to live and I’m gonna live it!” So he took off and I went back in for a salad and orange juice. I stayed there for a good hour and a half and then took off down the trail. I didn’t know how far I would go, New York had the rules about camping in designated spots only and I didn’t want a ticket. A mile later I hit a church retreat park that allows hikers to camp for free. It was either this or another 9 miles to a 1 mile side trail to a state park. It was only 5 PM but I had hiked 22 miles so I stopped and relaxed for the night. I set up my tent in a wide open field and got off my feet to rest. I figured we’d take another stab at getting up early tomorrow and putting in a nig mileage day. We will see if the trail cooperates!
I may have forgotten to mention that when Amy came to visit I traded out some gear. My Fly Creek tent (2 pounds 9 ounces) was replaced with a ZPacks Hexamid tent, 1 pound. My shoes that made it 1,300 miles were replaced with Brooks trail runners. These were lighter and breathable. The other shoes had GoreTex but when they got really soaked they stayed wet for a long time. I like the trail runners now, they get wet easily but they dry quickly and don’t beat up my feet so bad! I also sent home a few other items, including my second pair of underwear. I only have one pair now, and since my running shorts have a built in liner I am not even wearing that pair of underwear! We will have to see if I hang onto them as well or if I ditch them for the extra weight.