I think we’re almost there…
Friday, May 2nd 2014
AT Segment Hike 3 – Perkins Tower (Bear Mountain State Park, NY) to Tiorati Circle (Harriman State Park, NY)
Today we hiked segment 3 of the Appalachian Trail, Perkins Tower in Bear Mountain State Park (NY) to Tiorati Circle in Harriman State Park (NY).
We parked one car at Perkins Tower and then drove to our start point at Tiorati Circle. We started the hike better off than we did last time, finding the trail without much issue, although we got a late start. We were highly optimistic and confident looking at the trek ahead.
The trail started off easy enough. The terrain was somewhat consistent and we were very energetic as we walked along step by step. As we meandered through the slow ascending and descending along slow-changing gradients, the hike was pretty uneventful. My nose started to run and I was constantly sniffing. I could hear my grandmother saying, “Go blow your nose!”
About an hour in, we started to descend amongst a somewhat rocky terrain, but nothing noteworthy. However, what was noteworthy were the gnats. As we increasingly began to perspire, those ‘little fuckers’ (as Terri called them) started to get on our nerves. We stopped to spray some bug spray on ourselves, which seemed to help a little bit, but as we went along the gnats came back and started flying into our eyes and ears. Russ and I ignored them for the most part, however Terri was having a miserable time with them flying into her ears. She walked along the path covering her ears like a child trying not to listen to their parents telling them what to do. It was the funniest thing, we should have taken a picture. We teased Terri as we went along, however I did experience some discomfort when the little fuckers decided to fly into my mouth. There were a couple of times that I exclaimed, “I just ate a bug!” just like Goldie Hawn in the movie ‘Overboard’ (http://youtu.be/AYv4dH0w16A).
We encountered the William Brien Memorial Shelter, an Appalachian Trail Shelter that I found quite awesome, however Terri and Russ (who I now call the shelter snobs) said they would not want to stay in. I’ll tell you what, if I’m tired and it’s raining, I’m sleeping in that shelter and I will be very thankful for it!
Almost halfway into the hike the terrain started to become more challenging. Not only was the path rocky and sometimes unstable under your feet (there were quite a few scrambles), we spend almost a good hour descending from almost 1200 ft to 612 ft. The downhill decline started to take its toll on my knee and Russ’s Achilles tendon. For the next two hours we ascended back up to 1200 feet only to go back down again to 598 ft encountering various jump-ups and more scrambles (basically steep and rocky sections of trail).
The vistas were incredible. The peace we felt with wind whispering through our hair and the sight of birds flowing on the air currents is indescribable. Just us and nature, almost undisturbed save the trail and the few remnants of camp fire pits. All of this made the next hour and a half worth it.
After hours of complaining about my nose running and making all the disgusting sucking sounds that accompany someone refusing to do something about the situation, and after hours of Terri and Russ trying to get me to do it, I succumbed and performed my first snot-rocket! It was not pretty, nor was it graceful (as if there is any grace to shooting a snot-rocket), however I did it. I did it that one time and a few times thereafter, although the subsequent attempts were secretly done.
Upon our last (unbeknownst to us) high vista, we could see the tower (Perkins Tower). We could also see that the sun was still high enough in the sky where we still felt comfortable with being able to finish before dark. At this point, we descended again into the valley between where we were standing perched atop the hill and the ‘mountain’ that pushed the tower up into the sky. I said, “I think we’re almost there, probably another 30-40 minutes”. Those were the words where I’d repeat over and over again and probably would have eaten were it not being so tired and now in pain. My knee ached terribly at this point, event the slightest downhill step produced a grimace on my face and a clenching of my teeth. Russ also complained of terrible pain in his Achilles with each passing footstep. We walked on for what seemed like eternity until we reached what we thought was the final stretch. That too seemed never-ending, especially since now the sun was eager to meet the horizon.
We encountered the stairs. Terri called them the ‘stairway to heaven’, I called them the ‘Stairs of Cirith Ungol’. For those of you who are not LOTR fans (that’s Lord of the Rings), those are a set of extremely steep stairs cut into the mountain leading away from Minas Morgul. (if you care to learn more about that you can visit http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Minas_Morgul and http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Cirith_Ungol. Yes, I’m a nerd.)
I think my liking of the stairs to the stairs of Cirith Ungol were more fitting for what we had to endure. It was about 300 ft of sheer quad-burning, glute-tweaking, hamstring-throbbing, and calf-torturing step after step, up and up. When we finally reached the end of the real-life stair master, my GPS indicated that the tower (How fitting is that? Again another LOTR reference and parallel) was just a short distance away, however it also indicated that we were not on the ‘trail’ but must have been on a switchback. My knee at this point, was becoming unbearable to walk on. I was ready to bushwhack through making my own cut through, but Terri said that I can’t do that. I labored on.
It was now getting dark, more dark that we were comfortable with. Terri had an increasing amount of anxiety about getting locked in the park by the park rangers closing the gate before we returned. I swear at this point, if she was moving any faster, she would have been running. As I fought tears back, Terri and Russ assured me that they were familiar with the path we were on and we were only 5 minutes away. So, I struggled to keep up as we walked on and on (more than 5 minutes). It was dark enough that any more light lost would result in not being able to see the path, however we did it! We made it to the parking lot and the car! It was an absolute miracle! We were greeted by a park officer patrolling the lot to make sure everyone was out before he closed the gate.
We returned back to Tiorati Circle to pick up the other car and we headed home. As we reached the Tricoli residence, we all breathed a sigh of relief as we hobbled out of the cars and into the house. What a day!
Lesson learned: leave earlier, plan for the unexpected.