[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Stories

Ok, here's a short one.

                    KENT, CONN. TO NY 17

   I parked the car next to the trailhead and headed up the embankment toward
Mt. Algo Lean-to. After
about 10 miles, I swore I would never try doing double digit miles on the
first day out again. While
cursing myself out loud on the last few 100 feet to the Webatuck Shelter,
someone heard me and
replied, "Hello?". I was angry that I was not in good enough physical
condition and then a little
embarrassed at sounding like a lunatic to the occupants of the shelter. At
the lean-to were two
brothers, Jim and Frank Spignola. They looked more like hunters than hikers.
One had a hunting
knife and the other a machete, and both were wearing camouflage clothing.
Just by being friendly to
them they seemed to take a liking to me and we end up in the same shelter for
four consecutive
nights. Despite looking and acting like rednecks, they were really decent
   After reaching the Telephone Pioneers Lean-to nearly two hours ahead of
them, Jim starts calling
me "Rambo New Hampshire." They really were clueless about backpacking, much
to my amusement.
What they needed was a female or a sixty year old thru hiker to join us at a
lean-to after a twenty plus
mile day to tone down their macho attitude. My guess was that they were in
their late twenties and last
went hiking and camping when they were in the Boy Scouts. Frank has been in
the Army, and talked
like he was on patrol.
   There was a nice open view from the shelter of the fields the Trail passes
through to the north and
Jim kept looking out and saying, "I see a hiker," jokingly.
   I took it easy the following day and waited for Jim and Frank at the Route
55 while eating lunch.
Frank wanted to walk the mile and a half down the road to the store for some
beer and asked me if he
could get me anything. I said no but he pressed me after I took his tent to
lighten his load, so I asked
for a couple of oranges. Jim and I hiked to the Morgan Stewart Shelter and
waited for Frank.
   When I heard Frank singing, I went down the trail to meet him and relieve
him of his pack. It was
heavy. He had two 6 packs, three oranges, a dozen hot dogs and a newspaper. I
enjoyed three beers
and a few hot dogs while watching the fire that evening and saved the oranges
for breakfast.
   Mid-day, I again waited for the boys at a store a half a mile off the
Trail. I sat there for an hour
devouring fig newtons, milk, and orange juice. I think I could have carried a
twenty pound pack the
way I had been able to re-supply through this section. Growing tired of
waiting, I went to the Ralph's
Peak Hikers Cabin only to find it locked so I made myself at home in the
garage. It had a picnic table,
chairs, bicycles, and mattresses in it. A couple stopped in after completing
a day hike from car to car,
parked at both ends. They had a cooler and offered me anything in it but I
settled for an ice cold grape
soda. Coincidentally they had a daughter attending the same college I
graduated from.
   Frank and Jim came storming in with two more 6 packs of beer and ready to
party. An hour later a
Beamer pulls up and two gentlemen greeted us and asked if there was anything
we needed at the
store. This was getting totally ridiculous. My family and friends think I'm
out in the woods roughing it
and I was out having a traveling picnic.
  When things quieted down Jim and Frank pitched their tent on the lawn and I
set up in the garage
as no one showed up to open the cabin. I got their addresses so I could send
them some pictures
because they were not carrying a camera. They were surprised when I told them
I was planning on
hiking 18.5 miles by 4:00 PM and insisted that I wake them before leaving.
  At 5:30 am I said so long to the guys and they reached their arms out of
the their tent to shake my
hand. Shown a little respect, Jim and Frank could be better people than most
would give them credit
for. I went without a break until noon and put 13 miles behind me. The object
of the day was dinner at
Graymoor Monastery which was not available after 5 PM. I hoped to take full
advantage of this unique
accommodation on the Trail.
   When I reached the pavement on the road to the Monastery, I put on running
shoes to help my
aching feet. As I was about to open a door to a building with an Information
sign out front, I saw a
woman on a phone and listened to her say,  "We have a hiker." Before I could
get a word out upon
entering, she said, "Father Sculptured will be with you in a moment, have a
seat." I couldn't believe
the service I was getting and was wondering if there was a halo over my head.
   Father Sculptured arrived and took me on a tour of the Monastery and
explained its history. It was
all very interesting but I needed badly to get off of my feet and kept
leaning on things for support. At
the end of the tour, he brought me to a room that was to be mine for the
night and showed me the
bathroom and shower. After a shower, I met him in the dinning room for a
cafeteria style meal. Some
of the Monks there wore the robes one typically associates with Monks
although they are not required
except for Mass and special occasions. The people cooking and serving dinner
were homeless,
earning their food and shelter.
   Back in my room after dinner, I read the material given to me by the
receptionist. Besides some
basic rules, it explained the Monastery's use as a retreat and provided an
envelope for hiker
donations. I was impressed that no one ever asked me for a donation. The
paying guests on retreat
were generally there seeking God's help with direction in their lives, not
unlike many on the
Appalachian Trail.
   After breakfast which was served the same as dinner I dropped off my
envelope, and walked down
the Trail in a different frame of mind.  After 2000 years of waging war on
each other, the church tells
us we should try to love one another. Perhaps toleration would be a more
realistic goal.
  I paid my 10 cent toll to cross the Hudson River and entered the zoo,
feeling rather like one of the
animals. Following the white blazes past large groups of school children,
then masses of people,
most Hispanic, around a lake, was an unusual hiking experience. With boom
boxes blaring, most
people were dancing. Like racing for a bathroom you've needed for the past
hour, I continued on up
Bear Mt. Three quarters of the way up, I sat down content to be alone and
realizing fatigue. I got two
quarts of water from the fountain at the top of the mountain but still
struggled up West Mt. From there
I could see the Manhattan skyline. What a strange contrast it was to sit in a
lean-to alone, looking at
one of the most crowded pieces of real estate in the world.
  It was a pleasant surprise when Tim, a northbound hiker all the way from
Harpers Ferry, arrived. He
told me to leave early to beat traffic on the Palisade Parkway and about
being attacked by a bird. I
took his advice and left early but still found the high speed traffic
required a well-timed run across two
 At Tiarati Circle I decided to cook lunch and take advantage of the picnic
table and tap water. I also
carried a gallon of water the remaining mile to Fingerboard Shelter, knowing
there was no water
source there. In the register there, I found gang racial slurs and was hoping
that no one would show
up from the local area. No one did.
   On the following morning, I soon met the bird that Tim mentioned. After
some warning sounds, it
swooped down, passing close enough to make me duck. On the second pass from
behind it hit me in
the head. I couldn't believe it and yelled a few expletives. Walking fast and
weaving through trees, it
hit me again. The next time, I kept waving my walking stick just above me and
it hit the bird hard,
knocking me off balance. I looked around the ground expecting to see it.
Glancing up, I saw it staring
at me from a low branch not 10 feet from me. It tilted its head from side to
side like birds do when
they seem puzzled. I think I surprised it more or less by fighting back. I
bet it attacked many hikers
passing by here and never got hit back. The next few passes it made were not
within 3 feet of my
head and then it stopped. My best guess was that it was a mother hawk that
had a nest on the Trail.
Of all the animals I've come across in the woods, I've never been attacked as
aggressively as by this
   As I passed the Lemon Squeeze, I realized I had no real plan to get back
to my car in Kent. It
worked out fine to take a bus from Southfield on route 17 into Grand Central
Station and from there to
Kent. The scene at the Station made me confused and paranoid. It was like
landing on a different
planet. How else can I explain sharing a campfire and food with strangers on
one day while ignoring a
man face down on the pavement on another? I believe it is a numbers problem.
Over population is the
root problem of every world issue today, but its control is so scary on moral
and ethical grounds that
no one dares face it (except maybe China). What's wrong with the economy?
Humans are a cheap
and endless resource. Rather than depress myself with this, I'll dig out my
books and maps and plan
my next escape, I mean backpacking trip.