July 19th 2018
Elk Park – Hemlock Springs Campsite (mile 1407.1)
21.7 miles
Total miles: 1427.3

Last night the air felt damp and sure enough it was condensation central. I got woken up by a drop of water splashing on my face. My sleeping bag was a little damp and it was chilly in the night. I was warm enough in my sleep clothes and sleeping bag but I was a little worried about having sent home anything warm I had. There was a chill in the air this morning but as soon as I felt the sun I knew it wasn’t going to last long. 


I packed up quickly, I wanted to get moving and get warm. There were a few deer chilling in the field next to us. Professor got a ride to Walmart yesterday and he picked me up a Gatorade, there have been very few days recently where I have gone without a Gatorade. I sent off around 7:10am with Peaches and it took about 3 minutes for me to start sweating and I was rolling up my sleeves and undoing my zip. The trail was so pretty this morning with the sun streaming through the grasses. It’s been a while since we have seen grass.


The first obstacle of the day was the Lemon Squeeze. A jagged rock you have to squeeze through. We thought it was the hole in the rock, which we could just walk through very easily, then we found out it was a different bit that was considerably narrower. Peaches went through first. And the challenge is to do it without taking off your backpack. She took her water bottles out but got through ok with her pack scraping on the sides. I went through without my pack touching the sides. It was awkward, but it wasn’t difficult. 


Next was a bit of rock climbing. The trail goes straight up and over a wall of rock. Again, not that difficult to get up, if you spend a bit of time finding the right hand holds. We did it without any problems and without having to take the ‘easy’ route. 


The trail was full of ups and downs today, not a great deal of flat. I found myself out in front for a little bit and I came across a load of blueberry bushes. I stopped to eat a lot of blueberries! The others caught up and we walked along together for a while. We listened to some music and chatted and then we found a note on the trail saying there was a broken hive on the trail. Bryce went through first and didn’t get stung. Then Shred went through and started yelling and running and I thought he was being over dramatic, then I went through and I got stung straight away on the ankle and it hurt so much. I was yelling and running and Peaches though I was joking around and she went through and did exactly the same thing. I got stung once. So did Peaches and Shred got 2, one on each leg. 


The sting lasted for ages but eventually went away and didn’t cause any more problems. It was a little red and swollen for a while. We hiked on and I fell behind. I was so hungry but I didn’t want to get further behind so I put my whole bag of crisps in my thrupack. It worked so well. I was munching on them and I caught up to Shred who was munching on blueberries. So I ate more blueberries. We found some really good bushes and we would walk 5 steps and stop and eat. It took us a long time to get anywhere. Then I fell over. My toe flap caught on a rock and I fell forward, scraping the sole of my shoe down my leg and heading face first for a tree. luckily I saved myself with my hands before my face connected to the tree. The thing I was most worried about was losing my crisps. But I was fine, just a few cuts on my leg. Eventually we caught up to peaches and stopped for some lunch, and Bryce and Jukebox caught up to us. 


We saw the New York City skyline which was so cool and looked unreal…


We carried on and I was hiking with Shred again when my toe flap caught on another rock and I took another tumble. I was fine again but this time I had scrapes down my other leg. It all felt like it was happening is slow motion. We stopped by a stream to fill up our water and I washed my legs which was a mistake because it made them sting a lot. 


The others were wanting to get to the zoo before it closed at 4. I knew I wouldn’t make it by then and I didn’t have any desire to go to a zoo anyway so they went on ahead and I hiked at my own pace. I’m finding the group situation difficult sometimes. I have that feeling of being in a race and sometimes I don’t slow down to do the things I want to do because I’m worried about falling behind. I also want to be making my own decisions not just following along with other people, but on the flip side I’m enjoying the company. I toss around the idea of moving on backward and forwards. I’m totally conflicted. 

The trail gets steep and there are a whole bunch of stone staircases today. It makes it slightly easier to get up the hills. Slightly easier. Not easy.

The rest of the day was a series of steep up and downs and views and rocks and mountains and trees. The trail then comes to an old road which is nice to walk on, then the trail turns off to the left, up the hill and it’s a long series of rock steps up to Bear Mountain. If you carry on along that old road for 0.3 miles it rejoins the AT, or you hike 2.8 miles on the AT to get to the same point. I fully recommend cutting it off and just walking 0.3 miles. The climb to Bear mountain is not worth it. It is swarming in day trippers who have driven up there. The views aren’t even that wonderful. You will not miss anything by bypassing it. The only good thing is that the trail is a smooth gravel road basically. It’s not a road but in trail terms it’s a highway of trails. 


I went in the little photo museum tower at the top but realised I had no concentration skills and went down very quickly. There was a slight detour that went on the road and then I followed a well maintained trail down to the lake. I met a southbounder who asked me what the trail was like ahead. He enquiried about the stone steps. Are there any more steps, he asked. Yeah loads I said. Oh well that’s nothing compared to what you’ve got coming up, was his reply. Ok. Well an interesting statement to make given you don’t really know what’s ahead of you but there you go.

I got to the lake and it was heaving with people. So many different types of people. Too many people. It was a situation I wanted to get out of as soon as possible. The others said they went to the concession stand so I met them there. They arrived about 15 minutes before I did. I hate feeling like everyone is waiting for me. 


I tried to order a slice of pizza but there were all out. I didn’t really want anything else so I made do with a soda and then with Shred I tried to work the ice cream machine. There as a really annoying child there pointing at a picture and saying he wanted ‘that one’. I heard the machine start to whirr and my ice cream drop into the slot. I saw the kid put his hand in and make a grab for my ice cream but I was too quick. I got my hand in there and grabbed it before he got the chance. I figured it was better than snatching it out of his hands, right?! I was not in the mood for kids today. As Shred tried to get his ice cream the kid started up again. I told him he had to go and find his mother and ask her if he could have an ice cream. Where was this child’s mother? She eventually came and dragged him away which he was not happy about. 

The tiny flies were so annoying. And the park was filthy. There was trash everywhere. People are gross. I filled up my water bottles in preparation for a dry camp. The water tasted disgusting. People were saying it tasted metallic but I though it tasted like dirt. We had no other options. 

Bryce and Jukebox had gone to the swimming pool which was next to the zoo so Peaches Shred and I walked over there to find them. While we were waiting I got another ice cream. We didn’t know this but Jukebox was meeting a friend of hers there and she spotted we were hikers and introduced herself. She said they would be having a picnic in the park and we were welcome to join her. Ok we thought, why not. So we walked back on ourselves and back to the picnic tables by the lake. 

What I didn’t realise was that joining them for a picnic meant watching them eat their food. I wasn’t in the mood for chit chat with someone I didn’t know and would never see again so I refilled my water bottles from a water fountain in the lodge which I though would taste better but it tasted absolutely gross still. And I went to use the bathroom. I had a wee and then I sat for a while to see if I could get rid of anything else. I couldn’t and there was so much commotion going on outside the stall I was in, a lot of foreign people all talking over each other. When I came out of the stall I could see that an elderly woman had shit herself and her family were cleaning her up right in the middle of the bathroom. 

I never want to get old. 

I decided to keep hiking, it was not 6pm and with three more miles and an uphill I didn’t want to be getting to camp late. Shred said he would hike out with me and after some faffing around we left at 6:20pm. We walked across the Hudson River on a large bridge. It was entertaining to see all the people in their cars and what they were doing. 2 people, out of many people, waved and gave us the thumbs up. The large majority of people were on their mobile phones. Heads down not looking where there were going. Scary stuff. You’re definitely safer in the woods. 


I was dreading the climb. It looked super steep on the elevation profile and I managed to trick my brain into thinking it was going to be the worst climb ever. It wasn’t. I had Shred to chat to and it was mostly rock stairs. 

Professor and Pony Boy were already at the camp site and we found out they both road walked around the bee hive. We were wondering what had happened to Professor as no one had seen him since we left camp this morning. Pony Boy tried to go around the hive and he got stung 11 time. I can’t imagine it. One sting was painful enough. We rallied around and gave him stuff to help, cream and medicines. My sting has gone right down now and it hardly notices it’s there. 

There are a bunch of mosquitoes at camp and they seem attracted to the open wounds on my legs. Gross. They also managed to bite me through my socks multiple times and my ankles are on fire with itchyness. We sat around until I could stand the bugs no more. 

I have barely drunk any of that gross water. I used Shreds water flavouring to try and mask the taste but it only masked it and the after twang was still there. So I’m really dehydrated. I’ve had to put lip balm on tonight to fool my body. It’s much different to last night, it’s not cold at all and it’s too hot to have my sleeping bag near me. Feels like 25°c apparently. 

There are some people camped near us with a couple of dogs. I always feel that dogs keep the bears away. Or at least a good warning system. Pony Boy camped near to where we saw the bear yesterday and he said he heard bear activity all night. 

It’s now 11:20pm and I’m so tired. 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 72