Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Section 4: 11.35 Miles

Long Path Section 7 at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in New York

This Monday I embarked on my very first solo Long Path hike.  Mike was at home being an awesome husband and patching the hole in the hallway ceiling, seeding the lawn and being otherwise productive.  I decided I needed to go 'galavanting' through the countryside instead of helping.  I decided to skip the main section in Harriman since it's a perfect overnight and take the section to the north.

At 10am, I have parked my car at the north end of Harriman Park, unloaded my bike, and am starting the the (unfortunate) bike half of my inevitable 'bike and hike'.  The first section of biking was uneventful - maybe even pleasant.  The weather was beautiful, the morning's chill still keeping me cool.  As I biked further, the road started to look more freeway-esque and busier.  The cars seem to be flying by me faster and faster as it transitioned from park road to full blown highway - with nowhere to get off the freaking road.  Becoming increasingly worried about either dying or getting arrested for biking on a highway, I pull off into a small parking area.  My two options are keep going to the road I need to get to by taking an EXIT (now I'm actually on a highway) or turn around and biking uphill back the way I came going the wrong way because now there's a 5 foot tall median separating the lanes.  I chose option 1.  Luckily I did not die (I did get honked at twice) and I arrived at the road to the trailhead and the rest of my ride was pretty uneventful.  After stashing my bike in the woods and locking it to a tree, I walked .2 miles to the trailhead.

I saw two blazes on a guardrail, so I climbed over it and found myself at a river with no way to cross and no further blazes.  It looked like the trail should be here on the map, but it wasn't.  I walked back out the road, followed blazes to the train tressel, but turned around again because the map says it starts on this side.  Long story short, the map was not updated with the new route which caused me to wander around for 10 minutes wondering if my hike was lost before it started.

View from under the train tressel

After a very round about, very overgrown path that lead back under the train tressel, it promptly deposits you on a long woods road.  The road runs between a small brook and a set of train tracks and was very picturesque with wild flowers and mud.  Lots of mud.  It was like walking a squishy tightrope between the tire tracks.  Nonetheless it was quiet and serene.  It gave me some time to work on my macrophotography.  

Some wildflowers.  Not sure what kind.

At the end of the woods road, I was spit out onto a road.  And the road proceeded to chew me for the next 5 miles.  So. Much. Road walking. It actually wasn't so bad for the most part because the roads were quiet and it was easy to keep up a quick pace.  At end of the road section, it continues onto an abandoned road through a rarely traveled section of Harriman.  It was really interesting to see where the very faded double yellow line fell, and how the road is slowly being retaken by nature.

Abandoned road through Harriman.  It got narrower as it went along.

Finally I enter the woods. On a trail.  Like a real hike.  This is where the chaos started.  Remember my previous entry about how I hate being lost?  Well this section was the worst blazed portion I have hiked so far.  Plus, because it was so infrequently traveled, it was less of a trail and more of a 'Where's Waldo' of finding blazes and following them randomly through the woods.  It was a nightmare.  The constant fear of being lost was exhausting.  I wandered off the trail twice and thought I did at least 5 times that many.  About 3/4s of the way through I arrived at what the guidebook said was a seasonal stream that could be crossed on rocks.  Unfortunately because of the recent rain, this was not the case.  Not exactly a raging river, but I couldn't figure out a way to get across it with dry feet.  I tried upriver, down river, upriver again and finally after wasting 10 minutes trying to pussyfoot my way through it, I resolved to use the patented one-in-one-out method.  One shoe comes off and the other one stays on.  Shod foot walks on rocks, the other in the water.  Worked pretty well, and I continued on my way.  Next river I crossed, I wasn't so lucky.  Foot slipped off the rock and I ended up shin-deep in water. Squish-thump-squish-thump for the next mile or two.  

My not-so-raging river.

As I'm putting on my shoe, I see my worst fear. The bane of all hikers.  A big, fat, tick.  Right on my calf.  This is the first time I have ever been bitten by a tick.  My mind suddenly becomes a blur of tick heads being stuck in my leg lyme disease and I can't think of the best way to get the damn thing out of my leg.  I pull out my phone - no internet.  I tried to call Mike - no reception.  Finally I realize I need to just nut up and pull the damn thing out but I don't have tweezers.  Scissors from my first aid kit had to suffice and I'm 99% sure there isn't any tick left in my leg.  

Other than being arduous and pretty boring, the rest of the hike wasn't too bad.  The farther into Harriman I got, the better blazed it was.  I saw a lizard, which surprised me because I didn't know they lived in this area.  At the top of Long Mountain, I found the memorial to Raymond Torrey.  His "Long Brown Path" column was instrumental in increasing awareness of the Appalachian Trail, the Long Path, and hiking in general.  It also was a beautiful view point and a great way to end the hike.  

Plus I apparently avoided a rattler that was near the side of the trail.  I was sad I didn't get to see it, but knowing me I would have stepped on it so maybe it was for the best. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Section 3: 6.85 Miles

Long Path Section 4 at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near New York, New York

This trip was a bit shorter than the previous two outings.  This was by design because (thank the sweet lords of backpacking) the next trip is through Harriman State Park so we can finally do some camping.  After Harriman, we go through another no-camping section before we finally get to a section that goes in and out of some DEC land which means longer trips.

Tilcon Quarry in Haverstraw

We started our trip by crossing Rt. 9 and heading up a closed road into the Haverstraw Quarry's industrial roads leading past lots of fenced off areas housing the quarry, and all the equipment that runs it.  About a mile in, Mike decided that he was done with the dog-on-leash rule because Riley is god-awful at walking on a leash.  He normally stays around you off-leash pretty well though.  He really wanted to investigate the equipment and kept running under the security-monitored fences...whoops.  

Mike annoyed at the dog.

Upon finally entering the woods on a trail instead of a road, we passed through a wetland with a raised trail passing through the middle.  It was nice to be out of the muck.  We passed a sign guiding down a side path to High Tor Vineyards, but opted out since they probably don't love dogs there.  A relatively steep climb leads us up to High Tor.  This is by far the most stunning view yet.  The peak is completely bald, with footings left from a now removed airplane beacon.  It overlooks the Hudson River and the town of Haverstraw.  It was absolutely stunning.   The overlook was also a communication point with New York during the Revolutionary War.  It's always a little haunting to think that there was a war being faught in this very spot 250 or so years ago.  

Haverstraw looks like such a cute little town from here.

The shortness of the trail allowed me to try out some new shoes, which was nice.  I wore the New Balance MT10 Minimus Trail Running shoes that I got on Steepandcheap.  I wore them sans socks, and they were very comfortable.  I did get a hot spot on one heel, mainly because debris tends to find its way in through the mesh.  Still good shoes for a shorter walk, would dry very quickly, and weigh about as much as Crocs do.

The dogs feet held up better than they have in the past, since hiking with him is like hiking with a 10 year old that just at 17 pixie sticks and an entire bottle of adderall.  He does not look where he's going, runs everywhere, and has no concern for his own well being.  This makes him moderately embarrassing and annoying on a hike, and it also means he often rubs the bottoms of his paws raw from skidding on rock.  We are debating getting him booties, but we'll see how he does.

Overall - very pretty hike with two amazing overlooks and apparently access to wine.  What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


So this blog is called By Land and in the Sea...I've done a lot of by land, so I needed to throw a little 'In the Sea' in to balance it out.

Mazeophobia - the fear of being lost.

I would never say I have a phobia.  There is nothing that I'm so afraid of that it alters my day to day life.  I would, however, say I have a higher alarm response to being lost than most people.  If I'm hiking and I feel like I haven't seen a blaze in a while, I get that overwhelming feeling of dread, even if the next one is actually 7 ft away hidden by a bush.  There is no time, however, where I feel more uncomfortable with the concept of being lost than when I dive.  The prospect of being underwater unable to figure out where I am, and even worse, unable to talk to the person I'm with about it, freaks me out immensely.

Now in reality, this is a stupid fear.  Even if you come up far away from the boat, you just wave your arms around until they see you and they'll come pick you up.  Every boat captain ever tells you this.  You learn it in your dive classes.  But apparently primal-instinct-Irene still has not gotten that message.

Our most recent dive trip was to Key West and we had an amazing time.  We dove several deep wrecks and a bunch of shallow reefs.  In a wreck dive, navigation is easy - stay at the wreck, come back up the anchor line you went down on.  Done.  Reef diving is easier because it's so shallow that you can occasionally just pop your head up to check out where your boat is, align your compass and then continue on your merry way.

This dive was neither.  It was a wreck that had broken into pieces and was loosely grouped in a pretty big area.  It was also a deeper dive (60 or so feet) which meant no popping up to check on the boat. (Once you go that deep you have to do a 'safety stop' which means spending 5 or so mins at 15 to 20 feet to avoid decompression sickness)  As the dive master on the boat was giving the directions - which direction to swim and how long, etc  - Mike and I are both listening (so I thought) and getting our equipment ready.  Giant stride in and we descend the anchor line to the bow.  So far so good.

Here's the piece we descended down to - last piece of the boat we saw.

Mike swims away in a confident manor, so I follow and off we go.  For a while, we still see other divers from our boat, but gradually they fade away and finally I start to get the feeling.  The 'I don't know where the hell I am or where the boat is' feeling.  I look at the compass and we're swimming west.  We were supposed to go south.  We've been swimming for 8367 minutes in the wrong direction (actually like 7 but who's counting).  My stomach is in my throat and I'm starting to weigh the pros and cons of vomiting into my regulator.  

Finally, I grab Mike's fin to get his attention and we have the most frantic game of charades ever played.  We start swimming in another (still wrong) direction, hoping to locate some other people from the boat, or at least some piece of the wreck.  When you're not near a reef, the bottom of the ocean just looks like an endless sea of sand with the occasional debris pile.  It's like somehow being lost in the desert and at risk of drowning at the same time.  

The only exciting sea life we saw on the rest of the dive.

By this time, we'd tried at least 6 directions and hadn't seen anyone.  We'd had 3 charades rematches and I'd screamed into my regulator twice.  We were low on air and had no other option other than to just come up where we were.  So now, not only am I having the 'I'm lost' freakout, I'm also having the 'I'm going to look like a dumb tourist' freakout.  I hate looking like I don't really know how to dive competently, mostly because it's partially true.  We only go once a year, so I'm in a constant state of trying to remember how to not die while doing it.  So now I'm dumb blond diver.  Great. 

We're floating in open water during our safety stop and suddenly I see movement.  Glory hallelujah it's another diver! I grab mike and start swimming towards them.  I  see the bow line from the boat and the rope going to ladder.  I remember thinking that the weight that holds it in place looked a little different but in my elation at not looking like a lost moron I didn't even think about it.  I reached the ladder and luckily Mike was behind me since I bolted away and left him at the safety stop (Rule No. 1 - Dont leave your buddy (oops)).  I grab the arm reaching out to help me onto the boat and look up at - a complete stranger.  No wonder the weight looked different - I am on the wrong fucking boat.   

Luckily this apparently happens more than you'd think.  There are multiple tie out point at one dive site and people come up the wrong line.  We actually had to do some sort of hostage exchange because 4 of their divers came up to our boat.  And in the end, the dive crew didn't even make me feel like an idiot which was a bonus.  I also learned that Mike has no fear of being lost and his listening skills need work.  

I couldn't post this without a shout out to Lost Reef Adventures in Key West.  We dove with them all week and they didn't once make me feel dumb even though I repeatedly did really dumb things - including wrapping a tattoo in saran wrap for every dive and once forgetting to attach my BCD to my air tank and almost drowning (not really).  But those stories of stupidity are for another day.