I think whale sharks are really cool. They’re the largest fish species, the largest one recorded weighing over 20 tons (Wikipedia, woo!). Like other extremely large animals, it grazes rather than hunts. There is simply no prey that would be worth the energy for something so large to chase down. In the ocean, grazing often takes the form of filter feeding, the large animal essentially swimming, mouth open, through clouds of food organisms and swallowing what it finds. I mention this because moving forward and eating whatever I find is pretty much what I’ve been doing, too. New York makes this incredibly easy by cleverly placing delis and ice cream parlors at nearly every road the trail crosses.
Even more deviously, some of these businesses allow hikers to camp behind the store. How are we to resist? Access to not one, but two meals we don’t have to schlep over the mountains? In addition to clean water and a toilet? It’s barely fair. Granted, carrying food is cheaper, but that stuff gets heavy. I was planning my days between food sources, rather than shelter all through New York.
The weather has been gorgeous as well. It got a bit dry, but that’s easy to adapt to, and it got humid a few times but I didn’t really care. Even if I sweat all day, I can’t get more soaked than if it had rained, and at least the trail stayed dry.
All together, I had a blast. It did get a little weird when I went to cross the Hudson though. The area leading up to the bridge has been set up as a park, and not just a park for the crazies who feel compelled to live out of a backpack for extended periods.
On the approach, I could hear what sounded like a hundred motorcycles joyriding around the mountain, and as I descended, I passed an increasing number of people in bright clothes, no knowledge of trail etiquette, and who didn’t smell like a barnyard (yes, I can smell the clean from a distance). By the time I got to the lake at the bottom, I was walking through a throng of weekenders grilling, swimming and paddling in the lake. It was probably more people than I had seen since setting out, combined. There was even a pool.
It did make a good place to meet some family friends though, allowing them to hand off more food, take me off trail for a new pack, feed me, put me up for the night, and generally treat me like royalty.
It was perfectly timed. The bottom of my pack had been slowly falling out, and my shoes were starting to split, but both were six or seven years old, so I forgive them.
For some reason, there weren’t any outfitters near the trail until Connecticut, so that definitely helped. I guess all the real estate was taken by delis. I had planned a fairly ambitious schedule to get to CT, and mostly managed to keep to it despite not needing to rush.
I got to Kent, CT yesterday, and have been camped behind a clothing store/apartment house maybe one hundred feet from Main Street. The backyard has a portajohn, a hose shower and a shed full of hiker boxes, and didn’t cost a dime. I’ve been shopping, tinkering with my gear and resting from my quick trip through the last half of New York. I hurt, but it’s not the kind of urgent pain I used to have. Plus, I haven’t taken a rest day since Water Gap. It’s duller pain, the kind that sits quietly on the other side of the room, calling me an idiot under it’s breath and waiting for me to come to my senses. I can deal with that. Tomorrow I’m going fling myself at Massachusetts. Because I’m a shark now, remember, and all I do is go forward and eat.
Total Milage: 466.5