In the Fingerboard Shelter (AT SOBO mi 801.0), walked 15.6 miles today plus about one to get water off-trail
Ate a bagel with schmear from a spot across he street from the hotel, then the owner Doug drove me back to the trail around 9. Was disappointed to find that, at that hour, the Trailside Museum and Zoo next to the bridge, featuring the lowest point on the official AT, was closed, so I walked along the official alternate route in what amounted to a ditch next to the highway then eventually started the climb up Bear Mountain. Chatted with some knowledgeable locals on the way up, made it to the top by 10 and had the run of the place ... Was in the observation tower all by myself and could see, wayyy off as a speck on the horizon, the NYC skyline, which must be invisible on a cloudy or even a generally humid day. Met my dad in the parking lot soon after and we drove to nearby Peekskill for groceries and lunch ... I found a Caribbean place on Yelp that said it was open, and I was excited to try Caribbean food for the first time (spicy stewed goat's head!) but they were closed and we ended up with overwhelmingly sized, underwhelmingly flavored pizza from a cheap Italian joint next door.
After he dropped me back off, the area around the mountaintop was considerably more crowded with people. Not ten minutes after I mentioned to my dad that I hadn't had a conversation in awhile with someone who had no idea whatsoever about the existence of the trail and thru-hiking, I casually mentioned to an orthodox Jewish family who asked me for directions that the path they were on went all the way to Georgia, and we had a rollicking discussion about the AT, and hiking in general, from there. Escaped the Bear Mountain crowds after a mile or so and had things pretty much to myself after that; the trail was, as promised by many people lately, pretty challenging south of Bear Mountain but it also led to easily the most expansive views I've seen so far on this section, and in fact they're probably some of the best between Maryland and Vermont on the whole AT.
Got to my initial goal, a shelter that would've put me at 10 miles for the day, around 5 but there was no one about and the register indicated a SOBO leaving about 10 minutes before I'd gotten there, so I decided to push on to the next shelter five miles further in hopes of finally having a social life on the trail. Got here and got more society than I'd bargained for: the SOBO, who is a Swiss guy named K-9 (although it used to be, and absolutely still ought to be, Hikin' Burger, a bastardization of his real last name of Eichenberger); two med students from New York on a bike/hike tour; and a man named Paddy O, who claims to have provided trail magic to over 2,000 thru-hikers in the past few years. He was not without provisions today either ... Ended up drinking root beer and eating donuts for dinner on account of him. He moved on to camp by himself after an hour of talking at the four of us almost nonstop, and I called it a night myself shortly thereafter. More pokey trail ahead, so probably only another 15 miles tomorrow.
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