Pounded

Bear Mountain Bridge Motel, N.Y., AT NOBO mile 1399.7, Friday May 16, 2014 — Everybody complains about Pennsylvania. The reason may be that the worst of the PA rocks occur in the final 2 1/2 days in the state and the resulting misery leaves a lasting impression.

What almost nobody mentions is that NJ and NY are substantially different, but in many ways offer even more challenging hiking.

The NJ/NY rocks grow progressively larger and the talus piles require more and hand-over-hand up-climbing as the trail progresses. Trekking poles get stowed. It’s grunt work just to make headway.

The corollary to these vertical ups is steep, jarring down-hills that eat knees and quads – not to mention the back pockets of your hiking pants – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add a bit of rain to this recipe of slick rock and left over leaf litter and down you go – sometimes more than once.

So it was yesterday. Three days worth of hard landings lit up the damaged nerves in my right foot for the first time since this hike began.

Early readers of this blog will recall my concerns that an old, but severe injury to my right ankle and foot might make this hike hell on earth. Until the past day or so I’ve experienced no issues thanks to special orthotics and targeted physical conditioning.

Now we’re dealing with phantom signals that suggest bone on bone pain. The pain is real, but the fact is not. This is a purely neurological issue so Ibuprofen doesn’t help. The best Rx is Rest until the damaged nerves calm.

Swayed’s knees and feet were barking too, so after a tasty lunch in the 3-star Bear Mountain Inn, we called a 10-mile NERO for yesterday and a zero today. We’re back at it in the morning.

The good news is that the Bus rolled into the motel around mid-morning, so the Gang of Three is back in business!

A couple of notes: Yesterday we hiked over Bear Mountain featuring some of the most exquisite rock steps, retaining walls and trail engineering I’ve ever seen. I texted Bus (the engineer) to be sure and void his bladder before hiking this part of the trail for fear that he’d wet his pants. It’s that good!

When we were on Bear Mountain it was pouring rain, so unfortunately no pics. We did say a final goodbye to Maglev who we encountered in the Perkins Memorial Tower on the summit.

Our motel is vintage 1920, featuring only six units. Its market is primarily hikers and people visiting nearby West Point.

There’s another similar “hostel” motel just outside Fontana Village, Tenn called the Hike Inn. The economic model is similar in both cases, as is the vintage charm. The owners are all wonderful folks.

My foot is feeling much better after 24 hours. I’ll be ready to rock and roll in the morning.

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Highlight Reel

Wildcat Shelter, NY, AT NOBO 1370.0, Tuesday May 13, 2014 — We said farewell to the Bus this morning after breakfast. Bus had what hikers call a drop box (CARE Package) to pick up in a nearby town and would not be able to make it to our location by nightfall.

As we reminisced, Bus reminded me of the morning we were awakened by a very bold little humming bird.

I was sleeping, deeply buried under the sandman’s handiwork at about 0515 when a certain sound punched through to alert my subconscious control center.

Imagine the noisiest bumble bee you’ve ever heard – on steroids; without a muffler. It sounded like a B-17 on short final, dicing the air into drumming little sound bites that tumbled into my ear like tiny Energizer Bunnies pounding away.

If I hadn’t already been prone, I would have ducked to get out of the way.

Bus said the little hummer landed briefly on my boot, which was about six inches from my head, then flew away to a nearby crab apple tree which was in bloom. By then, we were all fully awake and alert. The air raid alarm had sounded.

Bus underscored that moments like that are why we’re all out here. Here’s hoping I see Bus again. I have a wedding in Atlanta July 12, meaning I probably won’t be quite finished before then. I may be able to link up and finish with him if that happens.

When we crossed permanently into NY around 11 a.m. this morning, a pointed concern punched my red alert button.

What if the bears in New York could smell the Red Sox cheers on my breath? What would happen then? What would they do?

“This is not good,” I worried! I spent the remainder of the day looking right and left.

But you know, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they are New York bears, not New York Yankees. I hope I’m okay unless the odd bear is a Yankee fan.

Right after the border we passed the highest point on the AT in NY. You could even see West Point in the Hudson Valley vista.

The rest of the day was a rock scramble that was good practice for New Hampshire and Maine. We closed at an ice cream store where I drank, count ’em, two coconut milkshakes and a vanilla cream soda.

I’ll admit that the last two miles to the shelter were agony. Good night all 🙂

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