Stairway to Heaven

October 7, 2017

This morning we crossed from New York into New Jersey!  We have now completed 12 of the 14 states which host the Appalachian Trail.  Only two more states to go!

About lunch time, we arrived at the top of Wawayanda Mountain.  We had encountered no hikers all morning, hiking through quiet forest.  At the top of the mountain, a family was eating lunch.  Jay and I decided to take our noon meal a little further, to a viewpoint.  When we arrived at the turn-off to the view, through the trees we could hear a sizeable group of people laughing and talking.  We decided not to crowd in on the party, and went on.  Suddenly, the trail narrowed and dived over a rock ledge.  We looked over the edge to see a whole stream of people coming up the mountainside!  Unbeknownst to us, we had arrived at the Stairway to Heaven, an extremely popular day hike for New Jersey locals.  A quiet lunch was definitely out of the question.  We cheerfully opened our food bags on the rocky ledge, and prepared to enjoy the living torrent of humanity ascending the mountain.


We talked to many people as we ate lunch, then continued to talk as we descended the trail.  Most of the hikers we met did not notice our packs, and assumed that we were day hikers like themselves.  “How much further?” was a common question.  But since we had ascended the opposite side of the mountain, we had no idea of the length of this stone staircase!

“You’ve got a bit of a ways to go,” I told one questing hiker.  She laughed, and continued.  But I thought of my answer, and realized it was a typical southernism.  In the south, distance often is described in rather general terms.  “A right far piece” is much longer than “a good ways”, which in turn is farther than “a bit”, with “spitting distance” being quite close.

The trail was so narrow, we often had to take turns as we descended, stepping off the trail to let ascending hikers pass.  By the time we reached the bottom, we had probably seen over 200 people!

About halfway down, Jay mused, “If we’re descending the Stairway to Heaven, where do you think we will end up?”

Where did we end?  In Pochuck Swamp, with Pochuck Suspension Bridge crossing Pochuck River.    The bridge is an amazing bit of engineering, a huge suspension bridge set down in the middle of the swamp, just for crossing the river by foot!  A large trail crew had torn up much of the boardwalk before the bridge.  But it has been so dry lately, it was easy to walk beside that section of the boards.  It was a truly lovely three miles, with long walkways winding past fall flowers, cattails gone to seed, rushes above our heads.  I kind of hated for it to end!  It was a beautiful section of New Jersey, like nothing else on the whole Appalachian Trail.


Day Hikers – by Jay

September 27, 2017

Since Labor Day, we have only seen other hikers when the AT coincides with popular day hikes.  Interactions with day hikers can be confusing.  Many of these people, especially near big cities like New York, have never heard of the AT.  They assume we are doing the same hike that they are.  Misunderstandings result….

As we approached Fort Montgomery, New York, we stashed our packs behind a tree and took a short side trip (0.6 miles) up to Anthony’s Nose.  After a day of solitude, we were surprised to find several day hikers enjoying the spectacular view of the Hudson River Valley.

The view from Anthony’s Nose, a local landmark.

On our way back down to the AT, we caught up with two ladies who were stopped in the trail.  Their clean appearance and small packs indicated that they were day hikers.

One of them asked Sarah “Are you sure this is the way you came?”

Sarah, certain we were returning on the correct path, began enthusiastically pointing out trees and other features that she remembered from our ascent.

The day hikers were not convinced.  “I don’t remember any of this!” one exclaimed.

We all continued walking.  Sarah, warming to her new game, identified progressively more obscure land marks: “Oh look!  There’s that purple flower….and I remember that fallen branch!” but the day hikers were no longer listening.

Their steps became increasingly tentative.  I reminded Sarah that the way we had come might not be the way they had come.  Upon over-hearing this, the ladies stopped, turned around, and took their first good look at us.  Their expressions clouded as they took in our dirty socks, odd-looking bug pants, sweat stained shirts, and disheveled hair.  We had no back packs.  We were not credible looking.

One hiker asked “We came from our car, at the trail head. Where did you come from?”

I couldn’t resist.  “Maine” I quipped.

As I tried to explain that we were hiking the AT, one threw up her arms in exasperation.  “I think we’ll try the other way.”

I could only imagine what they were thinking as they made a wide arc around us and hurried back towards the view point.