Hiking, hiking and hiking. Done with PA and quickly moving back towards the mountains and true wilderness. Don't get me wrong though Jersey and NY were surprisingly much nicer than I expected. CT was a little less than expected but entering MA I knew that this hike was going to start getting back to increased climbs and true wilderness.
As I mentioned in my last blog my body has been slowly getting to a better place. The feet have bounced back nicely and other than some minimal aches and pains that come with the territory Im happy to say I feel pretty damn good. When the body feels good the mind feels better and the combination is coming at just the right time.
Early on Jersey had some of those same pesky PA rocks but slowly but surely they decreased as I moved further through the state. Jersey also had some pretty great views. You don't typically think of Jersey when you think of the great outdoors but the Jersey I saw was anything but the dirty jers legend. Black bears also made their presence known. Surprisingly NJ is the most populated black bear state of all 14 AT states hiked. Proving true to this fact I saw one each day I was in the state making my total to 14 black bears in all on my hike.
Jersey also had a beautiful wildlife preserve and some great ponds which had some of those mystical rock sculptures I've come across throughout the hike. Jersey was a start to some easier hiking needed to give my body a break and recovery time as I approached New England. As I mention often, feeling myself bounce back is something I truly appreciate knowing that things will soon enough become physically challenging again. The better condition Im in the better chance I give myself to be successful through the long grueling finish.
New York had a rough start as I crossed the border early evening on top of a small mountain. It was difficult to find a place to camp and I was tired which had me irritated. To make matters worst, the mosquitos were at their worst. When I finally found a small area to set up tent they were swarming me from all directions. This is one of those moments I ask myself why the hell Im doing this. With bites all over I jumped into my tent as quickly as I could, skipped dinner, popped an Advil PM and tried to sleep this night away from me as quickly as possible.
As I awoke I did so with a "it's a new day" attitude. I learned soon after this was truly the case. NY started off with some beautiful views. The weather was ideal and even the bugs were cutting me some slack. This part of NY the AT went through turned out to be another stretch of beauty, Serene wilderness and breathtaking views but it certainly did keep me on my toes. There were many times I would turn a corner and find rock climbs followed by steep down hills. Always the reminder to never get too comfortable. It put a fear in me having to wonder and I was gonna have to confront another portion of trail so similar to the dreaded PA?
That never was the case. NY's wilderness offered more and more beauty as I made my way through it. The climbs were minimal but at the top of the small mountains were some beautiful views of woods, farms and small towns. Though not far from New York City I felt deep in the untouched wilderness I've experienced throughout my hike.
One my favorite moments of this journey came on West Mountain. I made camp for the night on the peak and as the sun went down the bright lights of Manhattan shined in the distance. I could make out the many tall buildings and it was a full circle moment for me. Not so long ago I was a bar manager in that great city living the nightlife large. To think now I'm going through so many life changes as I make this trek it was an eye opener for me to see how far I've come since my days in New York which now I observed from a distance of a tent.
My push continued as I was energized to hit Connecticut. Being a New England boy put an extra pep in my step to get there. On a beautiful day for hiking I pushed out of camp early. Through the woods and across great farmland it wasn't long until I hit the border. Seeing the sign that said "The Gateway to New England" gave me goose bumps. It was a beautiful feeling. Not only was I in New England but only 66 miles stood between me and Massachusetts!
CT somehow knew I was in a rush to push through quickly so it did everything in its power to make it difficult for me. Whether high temps, insane bug attacks, crazy thunder lightening storms or out of the way trail detours, it just didn't want to make it easy to get through its portion of the AT. I can't say it wasn't beautiful but I never really found it to be a state I will rave about when this journey over.
There are 2 memories that will come out of CT. The first is meeting with an old hiking friend Crispy. We walked the detour together and caught up on how far we have come walking this white blaze. We ended our day finding the best campsite I've had to date. We came across some beautiful waterfalls which we camped next to. With an incredible sunset it was one of those perfect trail moments.
The second memory was the intense last day of hiking to get into MA. I made my way across Bear mountain with lightening crackling and thunder rumbling. It was pouring and the wind was blowing in my face. It just felt like CT didn't want to let me go but this state just didn't know me and my persistence and determination. I was getting to MA dammit!!!
After 2 hours of hiking in a storm I finally saw the small sign marking the border. Before I snapped a photo I had a moment where I patted the tree it stood on and leaned my head against it. I thanked the trail for letting me reach this moment. Though only for a brief moment I was home. 4 months earlier I left this state on a Amtrak train wondering where this journey would take me and if I would even walk back into this state. Now I stood here 1506 miles later having hiked every white blaze along the way. Just as when I stood looking at NYC I reflected and thought the same, "Boy how far I have come."
I made camp soon after crossing into MA and well as far as MA goes she will get her very own and deserving blog soon enough. Right now I lay in my tent preparing to wake early and hike over Mount Greylock and into Vermont. This is my last night sleeping in my home state until I'm done. How sweet it's been....
I wanna end this by mentioning the love I have for so many I get to meet on trail pushing towards the same goal I have of reaching Katahdin. I've hiked with a lot. The last 700 miles or so it's always been around a group or as we call it on trail our bubble (those who left around the same date). Great friends who know how to support and lift spirits when needed. Little Giant, Wallet, Woo, Buddy 2 Sticks, Blackout, The Choir Boys, Atlas, Little Bear, Yeti, Lavitacus, and on and on have all been friends I've shared the trail with but one stands out more than the most, Dora the Explorer. My little sister who's been hiking with me for the better part of 800 miles. In the "real" world who knows if we would ever have the friendship we share out here but out here we have pushed and carried each other so far and without each other this hike would have been much more difficult than its been thus far.
When we were in NY on the 24th of July which is my birthday Dora made the day as special as it could be being so far away from my friends and family. Spending the day at a lake beach she along with others showered me with ice cream, funny gifts and other treats. She even carried my pack for a bit. Its never easy being out here on trail. Being so far from loved ones at all times can break you down a bit but I'm lucky. I have my trail family and I have my little sister Dora....
I'm feeling great. I'm feeling motivated. God Lord as of tomorrow I have just 3 states to go. The mountains are back. The climbs are more intense by the day. Nothing I can do but push on with determination. As my paw says, "Keep on trucking" and well as I say.......
Hike the good hike ya'll
As always much love...
Jesse AKA The Boston "Mule"