Day 75 – Slack Packing #4

Start Milepost: 1356.9 Time: 07:41072717 - River
End Milepost: 1372.0 Time: 13:15
Miles hiked: 15.1
Miles to go: 817.8
Weather: cloudy, rain
Temps: 50’s°, High 70’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: Anton’s On the Lake
Map: Click on map pin

Last night Matt, the owner and operator of Anton’s on the Lake, agreed to take me to the trailhead between 08:00 and 08:30 this morning. When my eyes widened he countered with 07:00 if he got up early. He did get up early and knocked on my door to let me know he was ready. I grabbed the last of my Pop Tart from the China plate (points for style), swallowed the last of my hot chocolate, grabbed my gear and met him at his vehicle.

On the way to the trailhead I learned that he had moved to Lake Greenwood shortly after 9/11. He had run a cell phone store less than a block from the Trade Center. He could not get back to the store for over a year. Nice fellow.

When he dropped me off forty minutes later I told him I would call between six and seven hours from then to let him know I was close to the highway 17A trailhead. He smiled and offered that it would take a little longer – it was a tough mountain to cross. I smiled.

Off I went and climbed the Stairway to Heaven. I climbed step after step after step with long stretches of switchbacks with no view to be had. Regardless of the climb, I was enjoying the day with a lightened pack in cool temperatures and low humidity.

After reaching the top and hiking the ridge line for a while I found a view of the lake below – and failed to take a picture because I entered into a conversation with a young couple who had hiked up with their two pit bulls. The dogs were as friendly as their owners. Honestly.

Not long after leaving them I encountered an Australian couple celebrating the wife’s birthday on the NJ-NY border. 072717 State LineThere was even a helium birthday balloon! He took my photo on the spot but without the signpost visible

Later still I ran into Grill who I had met yesterday. I said hello and moved on – my daily objective is to get off the trail! He caught up with me later when I was being extra cautious on a long series of slab rock with lichen adhering to the surfaces. Nothing like a black eye to remind one to be safe. He soon moved ahead and I figured at his pace I’d seen the last of him. Not so. I found him halted behind a scrap of paper that read: Two rattlesnakes. Sure enough, four feet in front of us and wound together were two rattlers enjoying the sun. I took a quick photo and moved around them to continue hiking. At that same moment a light drizzle began and the snakes slithered off to find a dry spot.072717 - Snake 4

When I let Grill take the lead off the slabs he remarked that I was keeping a pretty fast pace even if I was slack packing. I countered that it was he that was setting the pace! Then with only four miles to my stopping point, he tried to separate us by picking up the pace.  He had great technique for downhills that I matched only by virtue of an empty pack. He had great technique for gradual inclines that I matched with my steady cycling experience of gritting out hills. He moved with the speed of a youngster that I matched knowing he smoked and I could grind him down. And as I predicted with but a quarter mile of trail left to my trailhead, he pulled off to the side of the trail. I asked if he was taking a cigarette break? No, he replied, he was getting a bagel out. I thanked him for pulling me along. We had moved at greater than 3 MPH.

Upon arriving at the trailhead I called Matt for a ride and was told he’d pick me up in twenty minutes. He also remarked that I really was as good as I hinted with the estimated finish time. I said I did it with an empty pack.

I used the time before the expected pickup – and more – to write this blog. Then with rain beginning to fall and me starting to chill I called again. I got a ride from one of his employees much to my delight – only to learn I could have been waiting just fifty yards from the second best ice cream place in NY.

So the hiking day is in the books and I am going to put my feet up for a while and contemplate the next two days of hiking that will lead up to a rest day. Yahoo!

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