I heart NY. And NJ, and CT, and soon, probably MA too.
The trail has become rewarding, sometimes hourly, with not only more ups and downs that include views and a variety of vegetation, but also with the small strangenesses that crop up when one has spent enough time in the woods. Is there a critical mass of hours, after which it is not uncommon to notice the uncommon? We’re nearing the 1500 mile mark; we’ve been out for three months. That’s a lot of hours in which to encounter:
A five-striped skink, scurrying under the beams of the Hudson River bridge just below the toll-free suicide hotline call box.
A milk snake lying stuffed and immobile in the middle of the Trail with its jaws clamped halfway up the body of an unfortunate grey frog, digesting.
Trail volunteer humor: an electrical outlet or light switch screwed to a shelter wall, a toilet flush lever installed over the privy (yes, I “flushed”), and this gem… five hundred channels:
…which, that evening, were all tuned to a cluster of fireflies sparkling over a wet field.
A couple of beavers gnawing and dragging sticks through the waters of Nuclear Lake, site of a former nuclear plant, given a clean bill of health by the EPA, thus, we hope, a safe place to camp for a night… or to build a beaver home.
A deer who startles and bolts as we approach, revealing a newborn, licked-clean fawn lying on the ground, just as she fell from her mother, motionless, blinking only rarely, her legs splayed. She looks as though she’s not going to make it. Her mother stands at ten paces looking back, unwilling to give up yet.
Eight turkey vultures in a dead tree, with wings stretched out to their full span into the breeze, regal and fearsome, like creatures on a totem pole.
A millipede that seems to be very slowly pooping out a dot of orange goo.
And, most unexpected perhaps, a view of the New York City skyline… from our sleeping bags, in a shelter.
All evening we watched a thunderstorm with golden lightning bolts pan over the city and the Hudson River valley, warm and dry under the decrepit roof of the old lean-to. It was magic.
P.S. Post Tropical Storm Andrea dumped two inches or more of water on us all day yesterday and last night, but couldn’t keep us from hiking… or sleeping.