New York State, the holy land of trail side delis and lakeside oases. Another state that took me by complete surprise in its beauty and grandeur. Nobody warned me that the state was covered in rocks though, took a toll on the feet for sure.
I hit New York just as a heat wave seemed to be tearing through the area because boy was it hot. We spent a lot of our time lounging by some sort of water source to get out of the heat. Luckily, New York was not in short supply of recreational lakes that were easily accessible by the trail. One lake that stands out in particular is Lake Tiorati. It was very popular for a Sunday morning with families already having their tailgates set up when we got there. We must have been in a ritzy part of New York because some sort of expensive sports car was driving by ever 5 minutes or so. We spent most of the day swimming in the lake and taking advantage of the free showers. Another highlight from New York was Harriman State Park. The trail through the park weaved around lakes and underneath massive trees with very little underbrush. It was like walking through a grassland but with cathedral like trees. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures because my devices ran out of battery.
Being in New York also gave me the chance to visit family and friends. I was easily able to take a train in from a town right on trail into Grand Central in New York. I can't put into words how strange it was to go from seeing typically under 50 people a day to being immediately surrounded by thousands. It was a bit overwhelming, but it was really good to see my sister Colleen and my friend Mandy. The trip into New York was a nice change of pace, but I had to get back to the trail. On the way back, the train dropped me off right on the trail and I ran into Horse and Chesepeake whom I hadn't seen in almost a month! It was really really good to see them. They embody the spirit of the Appalachian Trail and their energy is very contagious.
For all that is holy in this world why did nobody warn me about the insane amount of mosquitoes that overpopulate this state!? I ended up doing two 25 mile days to outrun these swarms of tiny flying vampires and to catch up to my "Traimily" who had gotten a few days ahead of me while I was in New York City. Connecticut was a very brief stay and only took me two days to get through so there isn't too much to say in terms of life changing trail events. Although, it was pretty different being by myself again and not knowing any of the faces when I reached the shelter at night. It was very reminiscent of being back in Georgia again and just starting out.
Apparently, the mosquitoes didn't get the memo that they weren't supposed to cross the border with me. Seriously, it may be a bit of a stretch but New England may have worse mosquitoes than Louisiana. Also, I was able to catch up to my group at the first campsite past the border. Which was great because my body was definitely starting to feel the burden of the high milage days, but the payoff was worth it. It was good to be back in good company.
Massachusetts, in true Appalachian Trail fashion, blew me away. It is pretty amazing how quickly the scenery changes from just crossing a borderline. Tall mountains and grand vistas finally started to make a comeback into our trail lives along with clear and serene ponds. I made sure to stop in at Upper Goose Pond which is a shelter with a caretaker situated right on a pond. The caretaker cooked the hikers up a pancake breakfast in the morning and allowed us to take some canoes out onto the pond. The canoes were all in use and the water was perfect so I opted to swim out to the tiny island in the middle of the pond. We spent most of the morning lounging on the sunny rocks without a care in the world.
The climbs in Massachusetts reintroduced us to what a mountain really is. The past few hundred miles the trail has been relatively easy on us in terms of steep climbs, but that is all in the past now. The climb up to Mt. Greylock (the highest point in Massachusetts) was pretty intense and seemed to be neverending, but I was able to reach the summit with my lungs in mostly working order. The sun gods afforded us a perfectly clear day and the views from the summit were worth every step it took to get to that point. However, I always find it weird when we get to these seemingly out of reach places only to find the trail crossing a parking lot a hundred yards from the summit and droves of people strolling up a nicely paved path to a view that took me 5 months to reach.