With a long day planned, and hot temperatures forecast, I wanted to get going as early as possible. I got up just before 5, with really not very much sleep — the bugs were pretty awful — and left the shelter around 6:15. I was shooting for before 6, but that was close enough.
I continued the climb up Pochuck Mountain, which was steep, but not terribly rocky. This was relatively easy trail; it would almost be fun if it hadn't already been so hot.
After coming down the north side of the mountain, the trail went over boardwalk through swamps surrounding the Pochuck Creek for about a mile and a half. There was very nice scenery, but the lack of tree cover and the already-hot temperatures made for an unpleasant experience. Still, though, I was able to make good time on the flat boardwalk.
I took my first break after six miles, stopping in the middle of the woods. As I was preparing to leave, another hiker passed, saying there was trail magic up ahead past the next shelter, with Gatorade and beer. Awesome!
As I approached the next mountain to climb, Wawayanda Mountain, I received a message from Beast. Yesterday, he summited Katahdin successfully, but the mountain took its toll, "shredding" his heels in a way that'd take months to recover. Unfortunately, that means he's off the trail for good now.
There was a time when I couldn't imagine summiting Katahdin without Beast. His decision to flip to Maine of course made that impossible, but he'd still be on the trail somewhere and I'd run into him eventually. Now though, he's gone from the trail.
The news gave me a burst of energy and purpose: I was going to finish this hike, and tell Katahdin off for Beast once I got there. Only 833 miles to go...
Wawayanda Mountain has a steep climb, known as the "stairway to heaven". In the heat, it was an exhausting climb, and I was sweating profusely once I got to the top, in a manner almost reminiscent of Beast.
At the first road on the other side of the mountain, Barrett Rd, was trail magic, cold sodas in a cooler courtesy of thru-hiker Timewarp's mom. (Thanks for the sodas, Timewarp's mom!)
A couple of miles later, I reached the side trail for Wawayanda shelter, and had a choice to make: stop here, or forge on to the next shelter, 12 miles ahead. There was nowhere to stop (at least according to the guidebook) between there, but I've done 20 mile days before, so that wasn't an issue. The only concern was the note in the guidebook, "Despite the unimposing profile, rocks, abrupt ups and downs make this section challenging".
I decided to push on. Worst case, I could bail out in the town of Greenwood Lake, a few miles short of the shelter.
I took my second break shortly past the shelter at the Warwick Turnpike trailhead, where there was trail magic of cold water and snacks, courtesy of Sandy and Bill of the Living Word Church AT Hiker Ministry (and also parents of a current thru-hiker). (Thanks, Sandy and Bill!)
Another mile or so down the trail, at Longhouse Dr, was the trail magic I had been told about this morning, courtesy of Andrea. While the beer was all gone, there was still water, soda, and Gatorade. I refilled my water and drank a probably excessive amount of Gatorade, and continued on. (Thanks, Andrea!) And, just up the hill a little further was more trail magic of sodas and snacks, but it was empty by the time I got there.
I took my third break at a campsite just short of the New York border, and began to explore contingency plans for staying in Greenwood Lake. A side-trail branches off from the AT that provides the shortest route into town, and is two miles before the road crossing (and four before the shelter that was my goal). This proved harder than it should have been. Of the hotels listed in my guide that didn't have exorbitant prices, they were either full, did not answer their phone, or went straight to voicemail. I figured I'd press on and figure out later.
New Jersey ended with rock ledges, and the NJ-NY border was painted on a rock. That makes eight states completed; only six to go.
New York started as New Jersey ended: miles of rock scrambles and ledges, some challenging to navigate, and it took forever to make progress through this section. Eventually, around 6:45, I made it to the Village Vista Trail into Greenwood Lake, and took a snack break while I continued to try and find a hotel, to no avail.
Frustrated, because I was tired and wanted to stop for the day, I continued on, down the next two miles of very nice and slightly downhill trail to stop at the NY 17A trailhead. (I considered taking the side trail to town, but didn't want to risk the trail being steel and rocky, or the town really being completely unavailable; at least from a major road, I had options in other neighboring towns.)
I reached the trailhead around 8 pm, and continued a more exhaustive search of hotels. Finally, I found the New Continental, in Greenwood Lake, which was expensive, but not exorbitantly so, and at this point, it was much better than hiking on.
I called the local taxi company and tried to get a taxi. The dispatcher told me there were none available. I asked about waiting, and they said it'd be a long wait. Then they asked me where I was and where I needed to go, and after I told the dispatcher, they said they might have someone driving past there, and that they'd call me back.
A few minutes later, the dispatcher calls back, saying the driver is on the way, and right then, while I'm still on the phone, the taxi driver pulls into the trailhead's parking area. I have never had a taxi show up that fast before.
I got to the hotel, got checked in, and got a shower quickly enough to just barely make it into the hotel's restaurant before they closed seating.
Apparently, this hotel doesn't see many thru-hikers; I seem to have become a minor celebrity, and two waitstaff came up to me while I was waiting and during the meal to ask questions.
This was a long, and now much more expensive than I planned, day, but I still did over 20 miles, so there's that, at least.
Tomorrow's plan: a slightly longer than originally planned day to the planned destination, the Fingerboard Shelter.