Stealthing near Buchanan Mountain [mile 1828.7; SOBO 810.3]
It’s weird. The southern part of the states is usually harder than the northern part (with the exception of Katahdin). Going SOBO, this usually reads as the state saying, “Don’t let the border hit you in the ass.”
Today New York hit me in the ass.
Tough day! The most difficult hiking I’ve had to deal with in a while. Twice I had to toss my pack down a rockface then jump down after it. A few times I had to toss my poles up over my head. And the leaves! They’re just getting worse. You can’t tell what’s under them. Is it solid ground, a flat rock, loose scree, a root? Half the time I slide. Once today I fell hard. Hopefully the wind will have cleared the trail a bit by the time I get to Pennsylvania.
The worst part? I can’t find the trail. Last night it rained and I thought the rain would tamp down the leaves on the trail, making a little indentation to show me where to walk. Not so much. What it did was tamp down the leaves everywhere, so the whole ground became uniform. And because there’s so much rock underfoot, my trick of tapping with my pole like a cane hasn’t been helping. I think I spent most of the day approximating the trail—being a few feet to the left, a few feet to the right. Am I still a purist? I hope so! Let’s say yes, I am!
It rained overnight. The worst was the wind, though, which persisted all day and has dropped the temperature significantly. While I was packing up, a friend wandered over from the shelter: Sarah, a section hiker I met at the monastery. She and I have been on the same schedule, but I may have blown it by not making it as far as the shelter tonight.
The day started with a trip through the infamous Lemon Squeezer. The Squeezer itself wasn’t bad (and was very brief), but getting down to it was tough. The SOBOs had the harder job this time. I didn’t take the easy way (of course!), so I found myself looking down a long drop. I couldn’t shimmy to the edge with my pack on; that was the first time I had to unsaddle and let it go down ahead. Looking back NOBO, there were footholds, but they were overhung by the rock above and so not visible coming south.
After that, the trail was rough and rocky all day. There were hills that were fiercely steep, and the leaves made climbing them really difficult. Imagine climbing a wooden ladder where you can’t see whether the rungs are there or if they’re at a good angle for stepping or too rotten to hold your weight. I frequently used a pole to sweep away the leaves, only to find two or three nice intermediate footholds. But I don’t have time to sweep the entire trail.
I leapfrogged with Sarah a bit, which was nice.
The day was blustery! Cold when the wind blew, hot when it stopped… hard to gauge. And water’s most definitely scarce. I used to conservatively assume that the next water source would be dry. Now I have to realistically assume that the next three sources will be dry or disgusting.
But today I ran into not one, but two caches of trail magic water! Both of them saved my day. Thank you, trail angels! The first also had some food, which took care of my other little issue. And the second… OK, don’t laugh. The second also had a first aid station set up, and there was a baggie with some razors and I took one because my legs look like bear legs and it’s been bugging me to death. So I treated myself to a little grooming.
And that was the day. I was desperately trying to get to the next shelter, but this terrain is beating me up. I might take a zero the day after tomorrow just to rest up and heal. I haven’t zeroed since Vermont. I begrudge the time, but everything out here is a tradeoff.
This time next week, I’ll be in Jersey and staring down the throat of Rocksylvania.