Day 86. And we’re off! After a very nice and restful time with my in-laws, we picked up my dad this afternoon at the airport and headed to Bear Mountain. An adventure with Tom Neiman (trail name “Happy”) always has its stories, and we barely got to the Bear Mountain Inn before they started piling up. As many of his hiking partners can attest, it’s always an adventure when you are on adventure with Happy, and I am loving it. For those readers who don’t know my dad (he says, “you’re lucky), let me fill you in on the kind of person he is, as it will help explain the stories you’ll hear over the next couple weeks:
- Recent retiree, spending 40+ years in adult, youth, and outdoor education. Not sure what to do with all his free time, but getting used to it.
- Like me, a passionate hiker and backpacker, but has never hiked the AT until now
- Can be a bit scatterbrained or forgetful, but it’s part of his loveable charm
- A natural storyteller, and even more, a great story generator
- Like his trail name, he is happy all day every day, and it is infectious to all around him
- Most of all, he lives to laugh and loves to live
As you can probably tell, my dad and I are very similar souls … and the time together is already piling up with jokes and stories. When we got to the hotel, we started going through gear, helping to compare what he thinks he needs vs. what I know he doesn’t. It took some convincing, but I was able to slowly convert him to a lighter way of camping for this trip, and we are both impressed how light his pack is … although full disclosure, this is after sending a box of unnecessary gear home today. Mainly extra shirt, socks, jacket, tissues, and several thousand plastic bags he can live 2 weeks without.
As we continued to sift through gear, he donned his new hiking shirt and bandanna … both orange … took one look at us and yelled, “Hey, we’re twins! They should call us the Minnesota Twins!” So, of course, we now will. We had another good laugh as we compared our filled packs side by side (pic below). Even with the upgrades and hotel room cleansing, neither of us can figure out how his setup only weighs 5 pounds more than mine. On looks alone, his external frame pack should weigh as a much as a pregnant hippopotamus.
Side note, Happy would like to note for you that when you see him in future photos, you may just see a giant backpack with 2 legs. Rest assured, he is there even though you can’t see him. 🙂
After organizing and reorganizing and reorganizing the reorganized organizing … we finally felt good to go. With the remaining daylight, we toured the hotel, park grounds. This place is beautiful and worthy of every New Yorker’s visit. As a hiker, you get to experience the best of it, as the AT walks along the edge of the gorgeous Hessian Lake, then cuts right through the tiny zoo. The zoo has little exhibits and educational anecdotes on the area along the way, making for a fun stroll to take slow. It was a nice prep-walk for Happy, and since it was extremely hot, we decided to end it with a father-son ice cream break. I think I can get used to this.
Tomorrow we hit the trail in earnest, crossing the Hudson River and diving into the green tunnel. Given how hot it is expected to be, some tree shade will be welcome. Today was a scorcher!
Hello Neimans (Sharkbait and Happy)
- Start Mile: 1404.0
- Start Time: 00:00
- End Mile: 1404.4
- End Time: 00:00
- Miles Hiked: 00.0
- Miles to Go: 786.9
- Lodging: Bear Mountain Inn