Day 36: 400 mile edition 

Our sleeping bag bed sharing strategy worked out really well. Finally got some good sleep, although still not enough to feel rested. I woke up naturally at 535. WHY. I don’t know why I start with a sleep report every time, but I don’t have plans to change that. They don’t serve breakfast until 745 at Stony Point, so I grabbed my phone from the window sill and was a zombie for a little while. I eventually got up and packed what gear I could. I was starving by 630, so I ate a cliff bar with peanut butter, which helped the gnawing empty feeling. 
We all went over to breakfast together, and I felt cranky about the damp cold weather. WHEN WILL IT STAY WARM. The advantage to cooler weather is that you can’t smell me from a mile away when I don’t take a shower for 8 days. But I’m tired of being wet and cold. Anyway, I surveyed the options at the cafeteria and I found Greek yogurt at the end of the bar. I had literally just whined about yogurt to my former partner via text. I loaded up a bowl with granola, sunflower seeds, cranberries, a soft verging on furry banana, and YOGURT. It was so good. I also had a bit of corned beef hash and a mini muffin. And then, after crossing the bear mountain bridge (and hitting 400 miles crossing route 9)…

I had to climb up this hill: 

Too much foooood. The ascent up from route 9 was brutal with a full stomach. The trail was much more forgiving the rest of the day with a few exceptions. There was a bit of ridge walking, but I spent a lot of the day at lower elevations. This meant swampier footing (in the form of giant mud pits or thick layers of dead sodden leaves) and lower light. It felt like dusk nearly all afternoon. 
I caught up with treebeard on one of the short steep climbs shortly after route 9. He looked peaked and winded. We whined about overeating at breakfast and feeling ragged around the edges. My legs were doing their job well, but there was little spring in my joints or air in my lungs today. The toe situation I mentioned yesterday was approaching full blister as of last night. Treebeard let me borrow some tape because I’m out, but I could feel a slight stinging sensation on the underside of my second toe for much of the day. It’s only my second blister in 400 miles, and I still got through the miles I had planned so I can’t complain too much about it. My toes are puffy, but I’m guessing they will stop being angry with a little time off. 
Around 1230, I came to the road crossing that led me to the Appalachian deli. I had forgotten all about this potential food source, so I think I went in a little too excited. I bought a beef and cheese quesadilla wrap, chips, and a plain seltzer. The “half order” was enough to feed 3 people. I felt frivolous afterwards because I definitely had enough food in my bag to not spend money on a heavy deli sandwich. Need to get a better handle on the “treats” because there are so many opportunities for them that they’re becoming habit and not the exception. I’m not trying to be ascetic about it; I’ve only budgeted for exceptions. 
Chainsaw was drinking a beer at the outside when I crossed into the deli parking lot. We have plans to stay at the same stealth site tonight, which I feel good about because I’m still not keen on stealth camping alone. It turns out he’s 42 and he has a 23 year old son and an 18 year old daughter. He just retired from a 24 year navy career. I thought he was like 32 at most and a bum-around single dude. So many assumptions. JD was also at the deli, and he happily helped me finish my quesadilla. Treebeard showed up about 20 minutes after me and gave a queasy glance at my food. He drank a ginger ale and did not buy anything. Poor guy looked miserable. Several deli customers came up to talk to us. The usual questions and jokes and incredulity over the insane thing we are doing. I forget how crazy we must look until I’m surrounded by non hikers. 
We all set off from the deli together. JD had plans to stop at graymoor spiritual center to catch a cab to the train. He’s visiting his daughter in NYC for a couple of days. Treebeard decided to cut his day short, so chainsaw and I said goodbye to them at the intersection for graymoor. I feel sad about the disbanding of my new group of friends. This compounded with sadness/loneliness that started at the beginning of my morning made for an extra soggy walk throughout the day. Thankfully the woods were pretty empty today, so no one witnessed my ugly cry face. 
Chainsaw and I hiked at our own paces for the next 7 miles. My energy level felt better after lunch. I decided to take a break from myself and listened to music for most of the afternoon. On one of the short climbs, I heard the clacking of poles coming towards. I was imagining what kind of hiker approached when I saw chainsaw appear around the corner. He saw me and said “oh shit! am I going the wrong way!?” I said, “well did you intend to go south??” We had a good laugh over his mistake. He apparently got turned around at what was an objectively confusing intersection at the top of the ridge. Between the two of us, it took some time to find the right path because there wasn’t a blaze indicating to turn left. Chainsaw hikes faster than me, with the exception of uphill, so he pulled away not long after we course corrected. 

Because of the lower elevation, today was relatively unremarkable in terms of viewpoints. I busied myself with flowers and patterns around me when I wasn’t being a mile covering space cadet. 

Chainsaw l set up camp at a great little spot next to a stream. We sat and talked for awhile, which is when I found out he has a family. Then I filtered water and made myself the strange but edible chipotle mac & cheese Lipton side. I set up my tent while the food “cooked.” As I blew up my sleeping pad inside my tent,I heard a woman’s voice. It turned out to be leche with chupa leche nestled in a crossover cloth carrier. She peeked into my tent and said hello. Then I watched chupa leche while leche helped her partner set up their elaborate hammock. Look at this cuteness.

As it turns out, the family is also heading to NYC for a couple of days. So many people taking breaks. Chainsaw and I talked to them for a bit, and then I professed my need to be antisocial (aka write) and retired to my tent. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Again. I’ve decided that instead of camping out tomorrow night and heading into Brooklyn the middle Thursday, I’m going to catch a train after I get in my miles for tomorrow to sneak in some extra social time. Mmm soggy hiker stench on the metro north train. 

About twenty minutes ago, as I was editing yesterday’s entry, I heard the noise of a motor coming towards our camp. At first, I thought it was a truck coming up the semi-functional looking woods road just below the campsite. Then I saw a headlight coming from the hill off to my left. 5 dirt bikes rumbled by and one of the men said “evening folks” as he rode by. Chainsaw and I laughed from our tents. He had seen a track that he guessed was a dirt bike earlier, and the gaggle of riders confirmed his theory. Now I’m going to go to sleep to the sound of the stream rushing behind me, a bard owl calling in the distance and the occasional protest from chupa leche. 

Mile 1402.9 to mile 1416.4 (13.5) 

Total miles: 413.2
Creature feature: the woods were pretty still today. the only notable animal I saw was a man in his early 30s walking slowly down the path in a red plaid jacket and jeans with a Starbucks to go mug. Something about his pace creeped me out and made me even more aware that I’m basically hiking alone again. 

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