Fahenstock State Park to Graymoor Spiritual Life Center = 14.3 miles
Despite the the overnight cold, we wake up to sunlight& clear skies – the first sunlit morning of the trip! Spirits are generally high as we eat breakfast, and hit the trail with renewed enthusiasm despite the cold morning temps.
We stop at the ranger station and they give us distilled water for our Camelbak’s. I grill the ranger on the forecast, and he lets me listen to the weather band. Friday still sounds bad, and Thursday doesn’t sound so hot, but today is Wednesday – we can figure out where we will end up later. Right now, the sun is out and we need to make tracks.
We spend the morning hiking through Fahenstock State Park. Most of the land was purchased from mining interests and donated to the state of NY in 1929. The park covers more than 12,000 acres, and actually had fully functioning communities inside of it during the Civil War era.
Walking through hemlock groves with streams running through them – this is the kind of hiking we have been wishing for. The trail runs along old mining roads, so it remains relatively flat and rock-free, easy hiking and a wonderful respite from the past few days.
Around noon, the terrain started to change from woodland path to more boulder-strewn climbing.
We finally had the lunch stop we had only dreamt about yesterday – sitting in the sun, dry and relaxed. We would need this break as we had about 7 more miles to wrap up that afternoon.
We climbed Denning Hill (elev. 960 ft), where it is rumored on a clear day you can see NYC. We don’t see it, but it is always nice to look back over the terrain you just finished hiking.
The remaining hike to Graymoor consists of an incredible set of rock climbs that takes all our concentration. As the sun starts to make its way down, the temperature again wastes no time in dropping as the wind picks up. It will be another chilly night.
The guidebook says there will be a yellow blazed trail to the Friary, and we jump at any hint of yellow anywhere, as we want to get set up for the night and don’t want to miss the side trail. We needn’t have worried – this sign was tacked to a tree where the trail splits off.
We wandered the grounds and decided that of our two options, the picnic shelter offered the most protection from the wind and was closest to the bathroom/water facilities.
We chatted with two other hikers that were there – I didn’t write their names down, one had started in Harper’s Ferry, the other in Springer. I gave one of them the rest of my string cheese and a package of home-made dehydrated spaghetti with meat sauce. He was hiking with no tent or stove and relying mainly on hostels, shelters, and fellow backpackers to boil water for him, or eating cold meals. We agreed a hot meal would be nice on a 35 degree night like the one we were in for.
As the temps continued to drop, “we” (I may have made an executive decision – I’m not sure, as I was delirious from the cold) decided that tomorrow we would cross the Hudson and go into Harriman-Bear State Park, tour the zoo, and see if it rained on us. The prospect of climbing Bear Mountain in the rain was not appealing, and after a 1,300 foot ascent late in the afternoon, we would face a rainy hike to the West Mountain Shelter, another 3.5 miles.
Young Dave was fairly optimistic that there would be no rain. Given his weather divination skills earlier in the week, I remained unconvinced. Staying in Bear Mountain the following night and ending on a high note sounded like a lot better option than shivering through another night in the rain.
Those that know me, know I have a fairly low tolerance for cold (that is why living in Wisconsin is SO perfect!). So in case you think I am exaggerating, here is Young Dave geared up for the evening. I am fairly certain he is wearing every piece of gear he brought with him.
Normal night time lows for this area are in the mid-40’s, not the low to mid 30’s as we experienced the entire week. I have been asked by numerous people IF I had long johns with me -umm, OF COURSE I did, and I was thankful for them every night!
I will definitely be bringing a zero-degree sleeping bag if I ever think I will be sleeping in these kinds of temps again. The 15 degree bag was perfect only on the first night at Wiley Shelter, when it was 43 degrees. While I think wind and humidity were a factor, my tent – which has a mesh section designed to reduce condensation and provide breathability – worked against me in the low temps.
More info on choosing a sleeping bag -an inexact science, to be sure.
White Tail Deer
Eastern Phoebes-everywhere, always
Seen & Heard
There were probably a ton of warblers, but I can’t tell them apart from songs alone. This was the only positive ID I made.