Day 91: Morgan Stewart Shelter

Day 91. Another positive day on the trail with Happy. After last night’s comfort living , we got up early today and visited the Smoke Haus Deli next to the motel for breakfast. I love NY style delis, they are just such a comfort for me. Sandwiches are great, salads are great, pickles and snacks are great … I wish every state did deli as well as NY. It’s something we never really ever got right back home in Minnesota. Hiking along the trail in NY, it’s nice to have these periodically along the way. We picked up some bagels, salamis, pickles and coleslaw for lunch and chatted with the very nice and friendly staff while we waited for our Lyft ride. I can’t say enough great things about this place (and Mr. G’s Deli next door as well)!

After our quick breakfast, we loaded up our packs and hopped in the cab back to the trail. It was another sunny day today, but not as hot as yesterday, so a very manageable hike. And Happy’s smiley attitude after a shower and laundry was contagious. We had a great day! The terrain had its trials and tribulations at times, but it wouldn’t be a hike along the AT without any!

We met a few new faces today, and some familiar ones as well along the way. We got to the Morgan Stewart Shelter early, so rewarded ourselves with a quick catnap. Around 5pm we roused for dinner and chatted with the 4 others camping here with us. Happy told everyone his (now favorite) story from Graymoor Spiritual Life Center a few days ago, and all had a good laugh. No one more so than Happy, which is usually the case. 🙂

Tomorrow will be another longer day, as we are going all the way to Pawling to get our resupply boxes, a motel, and dinner with my wife’s aunt and uncle. They have been promising me some trail angel’ness while in NY, and I’m excited to see them again.

Side note, I have a new backpack waiting for me at the post office as well. After trying everything to alleviate some bad spinal pain from my ULA the last 3 weeks, I’m finally throwing in the towel. I very much wanted it to work, but the shoulder straps put far too much pressure on my back and they cannot he adjusted further to remedy it. I think I perhaps am in-between sizes and have too much weight for the OHM 2.0 to fit me well. I grabbed an Osprey Exos from the REI anniversary sale last weekend that should be waiting for me. I’m frustrated with how my entire backpack situation has evolved during this thruhike and wish I simply started with a ZPack model from the beginning. Ugh, oh well.

The weather app on my phone keeps changing by the hour. First it was raining all day tomorrow, then not at all, then overnight, and now just a smidge in the morning. I’m not sure what to expect, but since we are ending in Pawling, I’m not going to worry about it too much. If it’s bad the rest of the weekend (also hard to nail down), we’ll make do. I’d like to end our time together on a good note, but I can only control so many things out here, and weather darn-well ain’t one of them!

Regardless, the trip in whole is going well and Happy is great company day in and day out. I’ll admit to getting a little tired of hearing the same jokes every day, but he’s been my father for 37 years and I’ve learned to expect that. I may go so far as to say I even love him for it, but not to his face … it would only encourage him more! He’s oddly quiet in his update today, but when you have a good day, it’s nice to just enjoy it sometimes …

Herein lies the official and verified memoirs of Tom Neiman on his Day 5 (my Day 91):

I’m Happy again. It was decent hiking for the second day in a row, as Mike pointed out. Both Mike and I managed to salvage part of last night’s dinner for lunch today as well (I highly recommend Plated if you happen to be vacationing in Fishkill anytime soon). Good food, good service, good time, good beer. No other anecdotes needed, it was another great day!

p.s. I just read Mike’s closing statements above, don’t be surprised if his hammock catches fire tonight.

Hello Neimans (Sharkbait and Happy)

  • Start Mile: 1430.1
  • Start Time: 09:15
  • End Mile: 1439.1
  • End Time: 14:20
  • Miles Hiked: 9.0
  • Miles to Go: 751.8
  • Lodging: Morgan Stewart Shelter

Day 86: Bear Mountain State Park

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

Day 53: Campbell Shelter

Day 53. It was all worth it. Yesterday’s long day and late night setup the most amazing views today for McAfee Knob. The weather forecast updated today, showing rain as early as 9am tomorrow, meaning anything other than seeing this today would have failed. I am very content as I sit here watching the sun set over the Knob.

When we arrived, we met 4 funny day hikers who were up here trying (and succeeding) to build a small fire on the cliff. We had a nice photo shoot while chatting with them, and learned one of them recently finished a section hike from Damascus to Pearisburg (the section I just finished). It was a great fun group to enjoy this milestone with, and it was a perfect afternoon in general.

But McAfee Knob wasn’t the only great view today. It is one of 3 elite views on the AT that day-hikers call the triple crown of Virginia: McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth, and Tinker Cliffs. We did the first 2 today and will get the 3rd tomorrow on our way into Daleville. Here’s a photo from Dragon’s Tooth…

Between the two views, we took a quick side trip into the town of Catawba for a one-day resupply. Remy and I were both out of food and needed one more day before Daleville (where I have a box waiting). After a short shopping trip at the gas station grocery, we were offered a lift to a famous restaurant in town called The Home Place. This restaurant is one of a kind! We had an incredible lunch there of all-you-can-eat family-style southern home cooking. Two monstrous plates each of fried chicken, roast beef, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, green beans, sliced apples, beans and biscuits. YUM! And at only $15 a person, such a treat! Climbing back up the mountain again was rough after that meal, but it was a small price to pay for such great food.

I did feel bad though. This was clearly THE place to go in the area for everyone after church. The place was PACKED with families weating their Sunday best … and we were two dirty smelly hikers in the corner. We looked very out of place, but the staff didn’t mind and were very sweet. It’s a popular stop for thruhikers … perhaps not as much so on a Sunday though. Oh well.

After watching the sunset at McAfee Knob, Remy and I hiked a quick 0.7 miles to Campbell Shelter and setup camp in the dark for the 2nd straight night. I’m getting pretty good at it, though it typically means a late morning. Oh well, tomorrow is only 16 miles, so nothing to worry about.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start Mile: 695.6
  • Start Time: 09:30
  • End Mile: 713.8
  • End Time: 20:20
  • Miles Hiked: 18.2
  • Miles to Go: 1477.1
  • Lodging: Campbell Shelter