Monthly Archives: August 2016

Skunk + Bear = One Very Interesting Hike

 

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“I’ll call if I break a leg or get eaten by a bear.”
“Play like a rock.”
“Now?”
“No, if a bear starts eating you.”
I thought for a moment before replying. “Do they have screaming, sobbing rocks, ’cause that’s probably what I’ll be doing if a bear is gnawing my arm off.”
“It would be difficult to just lay there and be eaten alive, huh?”
“Ya think?”
― Darynda Jones

Well folks, without a doubt, today’s adventure will be in The Zen Hiker’s top two or three hikes of all time. After looking at the weather and seeing a forecast for severe storms later in the day, I decided to get out really early to beat the storms as well as the heat. Leaving my house at 4:00 am, I got to the parking lot at the Bear Mt. Inn at about 4:45. Even though it was cooler than previous mornings, the humidity was still oppressive enough where walking across the field to the trail had me sweating.

Now before I get into why this will rank in the top hikes I have ever done, I have tell you that the work that has been done rerouting the AT from the Bear Mt. Inn to the road (about 3/4 of the way up) is phenomenal. At Hessian Lake they have added a section that is almost like a tutorial for people who may be new to hiking. As you walk through this miniature AT, an old stone building stands guard as you make your way towards the rerouted section that leads to Perkins Memorial Tower.

 

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Bizarre encounter #1- I will call it-“Seriously? A skunk?”

As I  walked along the edge of the building, the only sound I could hear was my boots scuffing the ground and the click clack of my hiking poles. Approaching the end of the building, I was getting myself mentally ready for the next two miles that I knew were going to be totally up hill. Without warning, and providing enough of a scare that a string of expletives flew from my lips, a skunk of enormous proportions waddled around the corner. Now if the skunk could have screamed, I am positive that it would have.

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To the right of this beautiful old stone building was were the skunk and I had our brief but memorable encounter.

Instead, unintentionally and without malice, I happened to be so close to Mr. Skunk that I kicked it right in the head, scaring the crap out of me as well as my new friend. Obviously luck was with me because as I took off running in one direction, the skunk took off in the other. When I stopped running, my mind was racing because I thought for sure that I had been sprayed and that at any second the not so pleasant odor of skunk would overwhelm me. For whatever reason, be it the shock of the surprise of literally running into each other or just dumb luck, I had been spared the horror and discomfort of the skunks primary defense system. Heading up the trail, thankfully the only somewhat bad odor that I noticed was me.

The work done by the trail crews is really unbelievable. Carefully manicured, the trail led to stone steps that quickly and steeply zig zagged its way up the side of the mountain.

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The wonderful thing about the trail now is that although the climb is steep, the space between each step is just about perfect and after each climb, the trail levels off for a period to give you a chance to recover.

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One of the things that I wanted to make sure that I captured on this hike was the sun rising from other side of the Hudson. For once, you will be able to see the nose from Bear Mt., instead of the other way around. Something new!

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Anthony’s Nose as seen from Bear Mt.

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Bear Mt. Bridge and Anthony’s Nose

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The morning sky 

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The whole reason for doing this hike was to get to Perkins Memorial Tower. On any weekend day during the summer (and some weekdays as well), this entire area will be filled with people. Cars fill each parking spot, hikers appear and disappear from the myriad of trails that intersect in and around the area of the tower and the level of solitude is zero. I would not recommend this hike if peace and quiet are what you are looking for.

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Perkins Memorial Tower at Bear Mt. Elevation 1284 feet

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Bizarre animal encounter #2 which I will call-“Is he really coming after me?”

Ok. Now for more fun stuff. As I was returning back to the Inn on the AT, part of the trail goes down a stretch of road. Since it was still early, the only sounds I could hear were the Metro North trains ferrying the sad masses to the city to their jobs. Shortly after coming out of the woods and onto the road, I heard clapping and yelling. My first thought was BEAR! Since the commotion was coming from the direction I was headed, I slowed down and kept my eyes on the woods. No more than a couple of minutes passed when I looked to my left and saw this:

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Granted, this may not have been the biggest bear, but it was a bear nonetheless. Now, in my many years of hiking, I have encountered probably every other type of animal you would expect to see. I have even seen numerous rattlesnakes! But I have never, ever encountered a bear. Not until today. As I snapped the pictures above, I was happy because the bear seemed spooked and was moving away from me. To keep him hopefully heading in a direction away from me, I put my camera away and slowly made my way down the trail. As I did, I noticed my second new friend of the day turn and head directly to where I was walking.

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He found his way up to the road and started following  me. Needless to say, I wasn’t that thrilled to have a bear stalking me. Of course my mind was now racing again with thoughts on what I would do if he actually came after me. Do I lay down and play dead? Do I yell and make noise like the guy I heard just a few minutes ago? (Obviously whatever he did had him moving directly towards me.) Do I run for my life and hope that he isn’t that hungry? I wasn’t really sure. All I knew was I would rather almost step on another rattlesnake instead of deal with this guy! Luck was with me again as the bizarre cat and mouse game only went on for about fifteen minutes before he turned into the woods again and headed towards the tower.

Was I really that nervous when I initially saw the bear? Not really. My trepidation came when I thought that he had decided to turn me into his next meal. Of course as I think about it now, that probably wouldn’t have happened, but at the time, I was picturing myself being seasoned by my furry friend. Time to get some pepper spray.

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Looking north on a hazy morning.

Happy hiking everyone!!!!

 

 

Morning In The Garden

Gardens are a place that can offer a person peace, either by working in them or spending time walking through them. Personally,  I am the type of person who will get more from a garden by walking through it and enjoying what others have done instead of getting down in the dirt. My parents have always been avid gardeners and to walk through their yard is indeed a calming experience. As I made my way through it this morning, I was struck by how brilliant everything was. Enjoy!

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A perfect place to get out of the hot sun.

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The guardian??

Morning

Morning On The Hudson River

The Hudson River is a lively and vibrant hub for commerce and recreation from Albany all of the way down to New York City. On many days you can see tugboats pushing barges that are low in the water up and down the river, often times hearing the low growl of their engines before you actually see them.

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A tugboat pushing a barge south on the Hudson River early in the morning.

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The same barge approaching the Bear Mt. Bridge.

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The barge passing under the bridge as the shadow of Anthony’s Nose looms in the background.

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Morning

Morning In The Hudson Valley

Depending on many factors, mornings in the Hudson Valley of New York can present many different pictures. If you live here, you get a daily reminder on how much can change in regards to the views of familiar landmarks on a day-to-day basis. The Hudson Valley is not only aesthetically pleasing, it is also a historical and cultural wonder as well.

Today, the weather was about as perfect as it can get for an August morning with a 5:45 am temperature of 58 degrees and very low humidity. Located off of Route 9D in Garrison, NY, I passed this field on a farm on my way to Anthony’s Nose (yes, again).

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Looking into the horizon as the sun was rising, I watched a coyote run across the field from left to right into the woods as I was preparing to take this picture.

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A closer view of the farm from the picture above.

 

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A wider view with Castle Rock on the upper right.

You can read more about Castle Rock here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Rock_(Garrison,_New_York)

Morning
 

(Summer) Morning

“It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong.”

-John Cheever

“In summer, the song sings itself.”
~William Carlos Williams

One of the things that I love the most about summer is being able to mow the lawn. Most people dread this weekly chore, but for some reason I have always found a certain comfort in the simple act of walking back and forth with my trusted mower. Strange? Perhaps. But it is a whole lot cheaper than going to a therapist.

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Morning

The Nose in Black and White

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

-John Muir

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
–Aristotle

“Details of the many walks I made along the crest have blurred, now, into a pleasing tapestry of grass and space and sunlight.”
–  Colin Fletcher

Today (8/2/16) I went to Anthony’s Nose again. Since I have written about my travels to the Nose several times, I am finding it more and more difficult to find ways to describe and chronicle just how great this hike is. As you may or may not know, my hikes to the Nose are what I use to get my mind straight. It doesn’t matter that I have traveled from South Mountain Pass to the Nose countless times, the anticipation and eventual hike are always physically demanding but at the same time mentally soothing.

In order to give you all a little bit of a different perspective of the hike to the Nose, all of the pictures that I took today are in black and white. I will admit that I do have a preference for B & W photos, so I look forward to seeing what you think.

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South Mt. pass at the start and end of the hike.

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The AT headed up to the Nose

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The view off of the AT into the woods.

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More climbing as you make your way up.

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Just to the right on the road is Camp Smith, a National Guard training facility. It is clearly marked as being “Off Limits.” You will be arrested if you are caught trespassing!!!!!

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On your return from the Nose this will be your final climb of the hike.

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One of the things that I really have not mentioned in any of my posts is that there is a viewpoint almost at the Nose where you have this incredible view looking north on the Hudson River.

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Although you can’t see it, West Point is located on the left side of the picture.

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Sugar Loaf Mountain (another excellent hike)

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A wider view taken from the same spot as the first picture.

Five minutes away from this viewpoint is Anthony’s Nose. Here are some pictures taken of Bear Mt., Iona Island, The Torne and the Bear Mt. Bridge.

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The Bear Mt. Bridge is obviously to the right with Bear Mt. to the left of the bridge and the playing fields are all of the way on the left of the picture. 

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The Torne

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A hat without a head.

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Looking south towards NYC

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A final view of Bear Mt.

So another excellent hike to the Nose ends. I hope that you enjoy the pictures, as different as they may be.

Happy hiking!!!!!!

 

 

 

Shared Journeys-What We Know And What We Think We Know

The man had been on the trail for several days without seeing a single soul. He carried the weight of his pack on his shoulders like he did the rest of his life, and at this point, his entire being ached. It wasn’t the pain that he sometimes felt after a day hike, or even after living on the trail for a couple of days. This was a pain that was now etched deep into his being. Each step became more  difficult and as he climbed and crested each hill, while thoughts of home swirled in his head making him homesick.

He did, however, enjoy the solitude.

His journey had begun innocently enough. While he loved his home, which happened to be a small log cabin that sat unobtrusively deep in  the suburban woods of New York, he knew that some time away would do him some good. For years, his life seemed to resemble a mouse on one of those exercise wheels that you see in the pet store. Climbing on the wheel every day, he always hoped for change, but it never came. The wheel just kept turning and turning, never, ever changing.  He thought about this often.

He did, however, enjoy the routine.

Getting up each morning, he would let his dog out, safe in the knowledge that he could make his rounds, mark his territory and return unscathed. Once his trusted companion returned and ate, he would sit and plan his escape until he had to leave for work at a job that he had been at for a very long time. This went on year after year after year.

He did, however, enjoy planning for what he believed would be a great escape.

When he moved out of the town where his two children had grown up, he thought for sure that he would be more grounded as he got older. But the itch to get out found him, consumed him and shook him to his core.

He did, however, enjoy thinking about his children.

Back on the trail he stopped for a water break and was thankful for the rest. The long days of up and down all day were starting to take a toll on him and he actually relished the down time.  As he cooked his lunch, his mind began to wander and the aches began to fade.  At this point he thought that it might be nice to actually see someone, even if just for some conversation.  After devouring his lunch, he spent the next ten minutes putting everything back in his pack, filling his water bottles and retying his boots.

He did, however, enjoy the feeling of getting back on the trail.

As he slowly started hiking again, his thoughts wandered and he allowed himself to think about the here and now. Anxiety set into him with a vengeance as he thought about his life and the direction that he thought it should have gone. He could now see that the path he had been on and was still on was the correct one. The one that he was traveling would allow him to reach his destination. Seeing what he had, why did he think it was necessary to escape? What was driving him to stay on the trail day after day? What was left?

And with that, knowing that his journey could now end, he headed home.

Shared Journeys