|Hiking flat boulder slabs on the Appalachian Trail in Harriman State Park|
|Heath Aster (Aster pilosus)|
I parked at a small parking lot on Arden Valley Road off of Route 17 in New York, clearly marked by a large park service sign for Harriman State Park. I planned on a 26 mile round trip, with a night's stay at West Mountain Shelter. I pulled my trekking poles from the trunk, stashed my car keys, and hoisted my surprisingly weighted pack. While thru-hiking through here, I remembered being alarmed by how even the fast flowing Fitzgerald Falls just a little ways south had turned bone dry because it was late in the summer and a dry year at that. Well, it has been drier than dry ever since I returned home from my trek on the MST, so I made sure to be fully prepared for a possibly dry hike with 4 liters of water. The rest of my weight was food. You see, the beauty of going out for just an overnight, is that you can pack all kinds of delicious heavy foods you wouldn't dare bring on an extended hike: a can of dolmas saturated in olive oil, an instant meal of already hydrated saag paneer, a couple fresh peaches, aged cheddar cheese and sesame seed bagels. Already thinking about what I would eat first, I hopped on the AT going north, that being a slender corridor through a field of tall grasses and wildflowers, some of which can be seen above and below.
|Speariment (Mentha spicata)|
|Black Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) seedlings - these youngin's had some of the most wintergreen flavor I have ever tasted from a Black Birch|
|Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)|
(nynjctbotany.org) and reaches 126 feet at its greatest depths.
|Island Pond through the trees|
|The spores of Hay Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)|
Hiking another mile, I reached the infamous Lemon Squeezer. This is a jumble of boulders larger than houses that happen to have been pushed together just so thousands of years ago to create the perfect hiker's obstacle course. Don't try and get through here with a pack too wide, or else you may get wedged until these rocks are forced to shift again!
|Entrance to the Lemon Squeezer|
|Clawing my way through the narrowest portion of the Lemon Squeezer|
|The AT headed north toward Fingerboard Shelter over smooth rock slabs|
|Signs of the industry once in these hills - iron ore mining - do any of my historian friends want to chime in on what this may be?|
|Walking cliffside along the AT, with a view of the Hudson River in the distance.|
|Crossing the Palisades Parkway, notice the sign "NYC 34 miles"|
|En route to West Mountain Shelter with late day views of the Catskill Mountain Range|
In my last mile however, I still noticed now ripe autumn berries of Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) as well as the Violet (Viola spp.) leaves I now would pass up being that they are so late in the season. I also couldn't ignore the purple hue of the Sedge grasses, the yellowing of the Beech leaves and the strokes of deep red on the Blueberry bushes. Although the day had been hot, it would be a cool night atop the mountain with the coming of autumn just around the bend.
|Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)|
|West Mountain Shelter - 0.6 miles off the AT but well worth the hike|
|Night time view from West Mountain Shelter with the moon high in the sky|
|The view from West Mountain Shelter|
I awoke at sunrise and upon exiting my tent, was greeted by a buck in velvet, as shocked to see me as I was too see him. I had coffee and a bagel and gazed at the clouds slowly lifting from the water below and the sky brightening and then began my 13 miles back to Arden Valley Road. I was back to my car by noon. I had began my trip the day before at noon as well, I'd say that was a splendid 24 hour escape.