Day 89. I won’t sugarcoat my blog entry, today’s hike was far from easy. It started out great, with a long restful night into a late casual morning at our serene campsite by the creek. But then we started walking, and the evil AT Gods laughed at us while we made our way North again.
I should take part of the blame for today’s low moral, as I thought our stop was 4 miles earlier than it really was, and Happy was not too thrilled to learn this news when he thought we were done. But the real blame goes to the NY AT trail maintenance crew for creating a rocky boulder path for us to traverse INSTEAD of walking along the beautiful Canopus Lake below. Or to Mother Nature, for sending a tornado through the trail last week that decimating every tree in its path, creating many strenuous and frustrating detours.
This was a bad day for hikers who are not used to these tests of will, and I dare say Happy was ready to book a plane ticket home by the time we finally finished. There was a “happy” ending though, as we made it to Clarence Fahnestock State Park in time to get a hot dinner from the concession stand. And, the weather looks clear all night for camping in a big field again.
Speaking of field, I am trying something new tonight. When I backpacked in Alaska a couple years ago, I only brought a tarp for a tent and slept on the ground. I knew trees would be hard to come by in the Denali National Park mountains, and it was very doable and comfortable. Since there is minimal wind and no rain expected, I decided to do the same tonight using my hammock tarp. With a couple hiking poles and stakes, it is very roomy. I’ll let you know tomorrow if it was a failure.
Speaking of failure, my dad would say it is a word that describes today perfectly. Our hot meal and campsite is nice, but it far from makes up for his day of pain and torment. In fact, he’ll take it from here …
Herein lies the official and verified memoirs of Tom Neiman on his Day 3 (my Day 89)…
(From Happy): First off, before I continue with today’s adventure, I need to take one last parting shot at the previous day’s shelter experience. I was so inspired by the evening’s events, that I decided to lead the rest of the hikers in a conga dance to the portapotty. Needless to say, it was an experience worthy of a picture … but no one would let me take it. So ends my “spiritual awakening”.
Now on to today. I can’t say how invigorated I feel after carrying my backpack for several days now. In fact, I felt so invigorated last night, that I went to bed at 5pm. Are you familiar with bio feedback? It involves being able to assess and communicate with your body and it’s status at various moments. Well, mine stopped communicating before the end of today, and all I heard were gross expletives to describe the state of affairs.
After a brief respite of 16 hours of sleep last night (true, 16 hours!), my one thought when I woke up was, “what part of my body is not suffering pain and anguish?” I did a quick bio scan, only to discover that the bottom of my left earlobe was the only body part still willing to communicate with me … and even it was angry.
Let me digress for a moment, I forgot to mention an all important fact for hiking the Appalachian Trail. We utilize some state-of-the-art equipment out here. One of these specialty gear items is a plastic recyclable Smart Water bottle, used for holding our drinking water. Unfortunately, Smart Water bottles also require smart backpackers, because before you can drink from them, you have to figure out how to pull off a small plastic locking tab. Mike finally found me desperately chewing off the top of the bottle, since I was unaware of this engineering requirement. My experience with that lends me to believe we will find dozens of fellow backpackers dead on the ground, as they could never figure out how to detach the water bottle top.
Now, as for today. Mike has already informed you that there was a “slight” discrepancy in the distance required for today’s hike. It was not a casual 4.5 mile jaunt in the wilderness, as it turned out to be an 8 mile “do or die” forced march to our final destination: Lake Bataan (known to the visiting public as Canopus Lake). Yes, it was a reincarnation of the Bataan Death March from World War II in the Philippines.
Now, I can appreciate a challenging hike. But, the pathway took us up a series of rocky cliffs for the duration of the day. I thought that this was enough to discourage any mortal … but no, it got worse. The closer we got to “Lake Bataan”, the more fallen trees were strewn across our path. I appreciated the fact that Mike showed me how easy it was to step over these countless fallen trees. Unfortunately though, all 5 foot 3 and 3/4 inches of me did not even match the height of Mike’s inseam. I was reduced to crawling under the trees, or if I was lucky, I could barrel roll over the tops of them (with assistance).
As we grew closer to the Cafe Acorn (the concession stand at the state park), visions of grilled salmon or a wagu steak danced in my head. We made it to the “cafe” shortly before they closed, and I found myself enjoying the delicacies of a Chicken McNugget covered in melted cheese on a bun. An epicurean experience I will NEVER forget.
Have I forgot to mention? The storm knocked out all water from the park, and my dreams of having at least a heavenly hot shower were quickly dashed, bringing me to tears and ultimate despair. I can’t stand smelling like a garbage can for one more day.
I can’t begin to tell you how much fun I’m having.
Hello Neimans (Sharkbait and Happy)
- Start Mile: 1417.5
- Start Time: 10:30
- End Mile: 1425.1
- End Time: 14:10
- Miles Hiked: 7.6
- Miles to Go: 765.8
- Lodging: Clarence Fahnestock State Park