Thursday, August 10, 2017 (Day 99)
There was much magic today. Water caches and snacks and more water and first aid cabinets affixed to tree trunks.
There was black electric tape in the first-aid cabinet. I decided to try to tape up my shoes. I also pocketed some Triple A batteries, tampons, and aspirin.
…the shoe-tape worked wonders, at first. It was not long before it lost its grip and was added to my Ziploc of trash.
I successfully made my way through “Lemon Squeeze”, a notoriously narrow corridor between two boulders, without removing my pack.
I then came to a sign with a blue arrow and the words “Easy Way”.
I scoffed. What fun is there in that? I confidently approached the normal route of the AT. I paced in front of the large smooth-surfaced stones that guarded the trail, trying to find the best way to pass. I started at the far right. I could not maintain proper footing. I moved to the far left, tried to pull myself up, but could not manage. I paced once more. This has been done before, which means I can do it. I then thought to remove my pack. I heaved it overhead, then stood on my tip-toes and scooched it forward to make room for myself. I then pulled myself up by stubby tree branches, swung myself around and between the two trunks, and crawled on to the surface above. Success!
Next, it was time to climb: Black Mountain, West Mountain, and Bear Mountain.
I enjoyed these climbs as night fell. I relished in the cool breeze as I gazed out at the lights of New York City, below. The orange moon, half hidden by billowing clouds, peering down from above.
Then, as I was making the somewhat rocky ascent up West Mountain, a snake! It spotted me first. It was not small, but not exceptionally large, either. I thought to scare it out of my path of travel. I banged a trekking pole on a stone near it, expecting it to slither off. I was so very wrong. It, in fact, did quite the opposite. It darted toward me, aggressively. Shocked, I took two steps back. Still, it hurried towards me. I have never been chased by a snake before. At this point, I was frightened. I turned and moved from it as quickly as I could, cutting below the trail into trees and brush. I then made a large half-circle down and around and back up, to reconnect with the trail at a safe distance from the snake. When I looked back down, it had turned to face me. It sat there staring. Brave little thing. I continued on, glancing quickly behind once or twice.
As I ascended Bear Mountain, I could make out the dark curves of the mountains that stood in the distance. Soft, mysterious pockets of hazy blue-grey light shone upward from the valleys between each slope. The large, undulating formations were backlit by a night-sky petal pink with moonlight.
I was greeted by a wide-eyed deer as I reached the summit.
Bear Mountain is popular. It has road access, a parking lot, observation tower and toilets and vending machines. It was past 3 am, however, so all was silent. I plugged in my external battery pack behind the vending machine and spread out my mat nearby, on a patch of dirt beneath a tree. There I would sleep, for a couple of hours at least.