Wiley Shelter to Morgan Stewart Shelter = 16.3 miles

Dawn brought showers and overcast skies in the low-50’s. Refreshed from almost 8 hours of sleep, we dutifully put on our rain gear and headed back to the trail.

We had beautiful, easy hiking all morning – a flat, wide trail through woodlands, meadows and farms.

Within the first few miles of hiking, we skirted several trails that led into the Pawling Nature Preserve, which is a 1,071 acre Nature Conservancy reserve. This portion of the hike wound through red maple swamps, with a few groves of hemlocks thrown in for good measure. Around every corner were small streams and waterfalls that looked too perfect to have occurred naturally.

Once we got closer to NY 22, we started crossing fields and farms. We burned 7.5 miles before lunch.

We had to climb over several of these stiles, which helped us cross over portions of electrified fence.

A part of the trail crosses a grazing pasture for cattle, which is where this old water tower is located. The water tower was constructed in 1920 by a local dairy and is still in use, after some refurbishing in the 80’s.

Puncheons like these make for easy walking, too. Each section of the trail is maintained by volunteers, in this state, from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. If any of these puncheons need repair, volunteers hike out onto the trail to do the work.

You can’t imagine the chorus of Red-Winged Blackbirds we heard while crossing Swamp River. The Great Swamp, as it is called, extends across 4800 acres and filters drinking water for millions of people in Dutchess and Westchester Counties.

After lunch, we had two climbs to get out of the way. First, we passed the Dover Oak, which is a white oak considered the oldest on the Appalachian Trail. With a girth of over 20 feet, the tree is thought to be around 350 years old.

The first climb was West Mountain (elevation 1,205 ft)

At the top, we walked through hemlocks until we reached Nuclear Lake, the site of an old plutonium processing facility that was closed in 1972. The sun was definitely making an appearance now.

Our last climb of the day was Depot Hill (elevation 1,265 ft.). The late in the day climb took the last of our remaining energy, again, and the 2 miles to the shelter felt like 10.

Once we reached Morgan Stewart Shelter, we hurried to gather water, do laundry, and eat dinner. The temperature was dropping noticeably, and the wind was picking up steam. The shelter was very clean so we opted to sleep inside to save time and energy. By the time 9 pm rolled around, it was easily in the low 30’s with wind gusts of 20-25 mph – blowing right into the shelter.

The Quote of the Day is courtesy of Young Dave:

“Those last few miles…they were like the last few miles of a marathon.”

AMEN!!

WILDLIFE

click any of the names below for more information, including bird songs

Seen:

Eastern Phoebes-everywhere!

Mallards

Red Winged Blackbirds

Alder Flycatcher

Heard:

White throated Sparrow – would know this song anywhere

Pileated Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

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