AT 2017: Day 104, Vernon to Campsite at Mile 1369.1

Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own

As I described Melissa’s trail magic generosity yesterday, I tried to express how special it was. I have not had an experience like that before, and it was a little difficult for me to know how to accept it.

I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening to others, where a stranger offers a clean bed, a hot meal and a chance to clean up and relax without expecting anything in return, but I didn’t anticipate it would happen to me.

Why should it happen to me, I’ve wondered? I don’t need help. Besides. all I'm doing is walking. True, I’m walking a long distance, which is sometimes difficult, but it’s just walking. And I'm doing this by choice.

DateSunday, July 23, 2017
WeatherHot and humid, brief sprinkles
Trail ConditionsSteep, challenging climbs and rock scrambles
Today's Miles12.2
Trip Miles1369.1

I also tried yesterday to explain why I thought trail angels are so generous. They help us because they want us to be successful. I’m sure there are many reasons why they wish for that and are willing to provide assistance.

Some have done a hike like this themselves. Some have a family member who has done a long hike. For them, trail magic is a way to give back.

For others, though, I think they simply want to help because they like to help others. They are genuinely kind and thoughtful. Trail angels are special members of the hiking community, even if they aren’t hikers. They share in the successes and difficulties of hikers.

Melissa is that way and I felt honored to receive her help.

I need to learn better how to accept the kindness of others when it is offered.

After a lovely breakfast of egg, cheese and bacon sandwiches, and waffles, Melissa drove us back to the trail.

We thanked her as profusely as we could, then were on our way at 8:45 a.m.

The walk went through a field for a short distance before entering the forest and beginning a rocky, steep climb up Wawayanda Mountain.

This section of the trail is sometimes called Stairway to Heaven. That name seemed a little too lofty to accurately describe the difficult ascent.

Heaven wasn’t the first place that came to mind as I made the climb.

Heat and humidity had already begun to make the day a challenge. Hiking with a full pack loaded with four days worth of food didn’t help.

I reached the top of the climb after a sweaty 30 minutes. From there I could see the boardwalk and other parts of the trail I had walked yesterday. On a clear day I might have been able to see the monument at High Point State Park, about 20 trail miles away, but the hazy sky prevented that.

The trail continued over short but sometimes challenging ups and downs, and passed a large beaver pond called Kazmar Pond. Along the way, clouds were becoming thicker, but it was hard to tell if any rain would come from them.

Closing in on the state line and New York, the trail became more rocky. There were now spots that required me to scramble up and over large boulders.

The state line was identified with painted markings on one of the boulders. As I stepped over the line I entered the ninth state of this hike.

After navigating up another rock scramble I reached an outcropping called Prospect Rock. A U.S. flag was flying there, mounted on a pole made from a tree.

Some people say they have seen the Manhattan skyline from here, but the clouds were so thick and low that was not possible today.

The time was now 4 p.m. and I had about 10.5 miles to go to reach Wildcat Shelter, which is where Stick and I planned to stop. It would be difficult to get there before dark, but if the trail wasn’t too difficult and I pushed hard, maybe it would be doable.

Then a light rain began to fall. The farther I walked, the more I realized the trail was not getting easier. If anything, it was more difficult. Getting to the shelter before dark was not going to be doable.

Now I had a choice to make. Do I push on and hike in the dark? Or do I look for a spot to camp?

Pride made me want to keep going. I didn’t want to stop short if Stick was going to go to the shelter.

On the other hand, I didn’t feel a need to keep up with him. This had been a tiring day. I purposefully stopped at a couple spots along the way to keep from overheating and to update social media. That stretched out the day and put distance between Stick and me.

When I came upon a spot where some other hikers were camped, I decided to look for a spot for me. There was plenty of room nearby, so I stopped and set up my tent.

Dinner was by a campfire, shared with Cheese, Care Bear and She Wolf.

I sent Stick a text message to let him know I had stopped short of our intended stop.

In his reply he said the trail got easier for a stretch of about 3.5 miles, but the last .7 miles before the shelter were tough. He arrived there at 8:45, which was probably about 20 or 30 minutes before I would have gotten there.

There’s an expression that hikers often say as a reminder to not let others influence their hiking decisions too much. “Hike your own hike,” they say.

Today was a day I needed to hike at my own speed and take care of myself.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own
And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home
Sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone
Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own

From “Eyes of the World” by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.