Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fingerboard Shelter camping trip, Harriman State Park

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
4/14/2017 2.6 miles miles

Map: NYNJTC Harriman North
Parking: Tiorati Circle, Seven Lakes Drive
Directions: From the parking area, take the blue blazed Lake Tiorati trail. Turn left onto the AT/Ramapo Dunderberg Trail. Turn left at the sign for the Fingerboard shelter. Reverse route.

Glen and I are avid hikers, but we've hardly ever gone tent camping. We did a guided camping trip in California many years ago, but didn't have to carry a full backpack. I've also done car camping. I've been wanting to do some backpacking so that we could hike sections of the AT that are further from home more efficiently. And so that we could go on some dream trips - such as hiking Sweden coast to coast, and doing the Wonderland trail. I've read that on one's first backpacking trip, you should start out with a 5 mile trip. We started out with a 1.3 mile trip! We wanted something where we could take our older dog Moxie along. Her hiking days are pretty much over, but we figured she would love to do this. We started collecting camping gear a year ago, right around the time I started to have hip pain. So it's taken us a long time to actually decide to go camping. The hip pain is still here but tolerable currently, so I'm tired of holding off. We've been waiting for the weather to warm up. And wanting to choose a day without rain. Start easy. Well, the weather forecast was nice for the day, but chilly at night - dropping down to 39 degrees. I bought a sleeping bag rated for 20 degrees. Surely that would be fine. Or was it rated for 30 degrees? I don't remember. I swear it took us around 4 hours to get everything gathered for our trip. And that's with a list. I had never tried to fit all of that stuff in my pack. Glen had bought a larger pack for backpacking. I hadn't. Surely a 40 liter pack would be sufficient for just an overnight hike. I ended up being able to barely squeeze it all in. Glen carried our tent. I carried our stove & food bag. My pack ended up weighing in at around 19 pounds (including 2 liters of water), Glen's around 24 pounds (including 3 liters of water). It didn't feel to heavy, just the contents took up a lot of volume. We ended up leaving our house around 4 pm.

Our hike to the shelter was fine. Moxie did okay and didn't need any help. She just found the easy way around any obstacles. Hiking was fine. It's what we know how to do.

We arrived at the shelter area and were happy to see only 2 guys setting up a tent near the trail, and a father & 2 kids at the shelter. No crowd :) We walked around and chose a site which we decided was flat enough. Glen felt out of his element. We let the dogs off leash and went about setting up camp. First the tent. That was fine. We practiced once at home before leaving. That was part of the 4 hours to get ready. Blew up our sleeping pads (this makes me feel like I'm going to pass out). Trek and Moxie were very good about hanging out with us. They ran around but followed us wherever we went.

I had read advice that it is good to hang your rope for your bear bag as soon as you get to camp, so that you don't have to worry about doing it after it gets dark. Glen can throw much better than me, so he did it. With the rope hung, we returned to our tent. I asked the family in the shelter where the stream was and they pointed me to more of a puddle at the bottom of a hill. We got a little water and started filtering. Our filter was really, really slow. We have a Sawyer mini. Oh the patience needed for that thing. We didn't bring water bottles for the dogs. Which meant that we'd also need to carry up water for the dogs. One of our many lessons learned. The dogs were very thirsty by the time they got water. We tried feeding them but neither of them were interested in eating. Plus they eat out of their water bowl. Which meant their water bowl had to be hung along with all of their food items. Now I'm thinking they really should have a separate water bowl so that it doesn't need to be hung.

We brought bean/veggie soup for dinner - something we've made several times before for hiking. We brought 1 plastic bowl for eating (Glen used it) and I ate out of a ZipLock freezer bag - a new experience for me. We didn't have a cozy for the freezer bag. Oops. It worked adequately anyways. My spoon was kind of short for freezer bag eating. I've read before that many people get a long handled spoon for this. I was thinking about having evening tea, but I could tell Glen was anxious to get the bear bag hung. It would also mean that we wouldn't have enough water left in the morning. I had a protein bar and then brushed my teeth. Brushing my teeth in the woods just feels wrong! Glen hung the bear bag. He figured he's taller than me, so he can hang it higher (we used the PCT method). Part of our time before our trip was practicing our knots. We finished organizing our tent. It is pretty funny how long it takes for us to do everything since it is our first time. I was a bit concerned about the dogs being warm enough, so I brought 2 sit pads for them to sleep on. The sit pads are really small though. I also brought Trek's pack in the tent as another thing for them to sleep on.

It was dark by 8 pm. We ended up just trying to go to bed. No staying up reading or visiting the campfire the family had at the shelter. Another pair of campers arrived and camped above us. We still felt like we had reasonable privacy. We bought a 3 person tent. Both of us have wide/long sleeping pads. That means the only free space in the tent was lengthwise next to my sleeping pad. Moxie happily settled on the tent floor next to me. Trek didn't know what to do. He was walking over the bottom of my pad, walking over Moxie, pacing in the tiny area. I was waiting for the sound of his toenails popping my sleeping pad. He eventually lay down at my feet, but didn't stay there for long. He moved around lots at night. I barely slept all night. My sleeping pad is an insulated one and my sleeping bag should have been warm enough. I started out with a long sleeve shirt and long underwear bottoms. I got cold so I put on my down jacket. Then I put on my hiking pants over my long underwear. Then a second pair of socks. Then my raincoat. Then my fleece hat and gloves. At one point I was comfortable but it didn't last. I was wide awake. I got up 3 times to pee. The first time I used my headlamp. I had read that you are supposed to use a red light at night so as to not disturb other campers. Well, I couldn't find the red light on my headlamp. I've used my headlamp plenty before, but never had a need for the red light. And trying to figure it out in the dark was not happening. I wanted to make sure the dogs didn't come out with me, so I rushed trying to zipper up the tent. The zipper got caught. And stuck. I fumbled my way into the brush to pee. The brush/leaves are very noisy. I wondered if I'd be waking up the hikers camped above us. Then I looked up and saw the stars. Which made me happy. Back to the tent, and cold again. Glen wore ear plugs. I did not. I was concerned about the dogs barking in the middle of the night. I had no idea how they would react to camping in the woods. I brought bark collars just in case, but didn't have them wear them. Moxie did alert twice in the night. No barking - but her head went up and her eyes were alert because she heard something. Then I went out twice more to pee. Each time I had to do an acrobatic maneuver to get out of the tent with the stuck zipper. Again lots of noise fumbling around. I didn't bother with a headlamp because the moon was so bright. We bought Nemo Tensor sleeping pads. There are lighter weight pads, but they are known for being noisy. I'm a very light sleeper, so I knew having a quiet sleeping pad was important. I do move around a lot when sleeping - switching between lying on my back and lying on my side. Every time I moved it was noisy. Ack. I need to notice if its the pad slipping on the tent surface or just from me moving on it. I would do much better with ear plugs. I knew I wouldn't freeze, but I was miserably cold all night long. Moxie had no issue with the cold. Trek ended up partway on my sleeping pad. He didn't seem bothered by the cold either. Glen told me later that he had to put on a fleece, hat, neck warmer and gloves, but he was comfortable at night. My jacket doesn't have a hood - and I think a hood would have helped a lot. I think I might have slept one or two hours before I was woken up by birds chirping.

I was feeling pretty miserable. I tripped and fell twice walking around the area the day before - getting water and looking for a tree for our bear bag hang. Lots of leaves covering rocks when you get off the trail. So I have a couple of big bruises. We brought inflatable pillows that we used at night(a luxury item). I hated mine. Inflated all the way it felt too hard/big. Partially deflated - it just felt like it made "waves" too much. And then it would slip off my pad. I ended up trying to put it inside my sleeping bag. My neck was really sore when I got up. Then my shoulders and back were sore. I don't know if it was from falling yesterday, from carrying a heavy pack (for just 1.3 miles), or from the sleeping pad. I ached all over. I was dehydrated and had a headache. I tried twice to get the bear bag down by myself while Glen was getting up. I couldn't get the thing down. We didn't pack a knife. I was thinking we might have to cut the rope to get it down. I couldn't release the clove hitch from the stick no matter what I tried. Glen went and had no problem getting it down. I need to have him show me at home what he did. The bear bag line was cutting into my hand too much and I just couldn't get the rope loose around the stick. We had enough water for oatmeal but not for my coffee. So back down to the stream to collect more water to filter for coffee. Neither of the dogs was interested in eating in the morning. Moxie overdid it running around yesterday. I had to help her get up in the morning :(   It took us 2 hours to eat and pack up. I had been thinking about spending some time in the morning collecting & packing out trash we saw in the area, but I was just too exhausted. We hiked back to the car and headed home. Once home, the first thing I did was go to bed for a 2 hour nap! I was exhausted all day, and ended up going to bed at 8 pm.

We learned a LOT from this trip. It felt like so much went wrong, but we learned so much. Next time will be easier. Next time, we'll probably also go without dogs, or with only 1 dog. And I'll wait until it gets warmer. After we got home, I tried feeding the dogs again, but no luck. I wanted to give Moxie some Metacam as well as her usual Proin. Moxie wouldn't even take her meds. Shortly after getting home, she vomited up a huge amount of deer poop. On the bright side, this happened in our house, not in the tent!

Fingerboard Shelter loop, Harriman State Park

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
4/9/2017 8 miles ?

Map: NYNJTC Harriman North
Parking: Seven Lakes Drive, Tiorati Circle
Directions: Follow the blue blazed Lake Tiorati trail. Turn left onto the Ramapo Dunderberg trail. Turn left onto the Hurst Trail to the Fingerboard shelter. Return back to the Ramapo Dunderberg trail. Turn left onto the Ramapo Dunderberg trail. Turn right onto Arden Surebridge trail at Times Square. Turn right onto the AT. Pass the Lemon Squeezer. Pass Greenwood Mine. Merge back onto the Ramapo Dunderberg Trail/AT. Pass the Fingerboard shelter turn off. Turn right onto the Lake Tiorati trail and take back to the parking area.

It was still too cold for our first backpacking trip with Moxie, so we did another scouting trip for routes for her. We decided to see if we could find a Moxie friendly route to the Fingerboard shelter. We decided that yes, she could do the short 1.3 mile hike there without too much difficulty. We only saw a couple of people camping there, but then again it was a Sunday night, so it would be less busy than a Friday or Saturday night. We read that there were an abundant number of campsites there. Once we did a quick checkout of the shelter area, we continued on to extend our hike. We left Trek at home again to continue his recovery from his foot injury. Again we missed some turns because we didn't have him to point out intersections to us. It wasn't a big deal, as we just changed our route. We actually helped out two groups who didn't know where they were (one of the groups didn't have a map).

Iron mine

Lemon Squeezer

Bald Rocks Shelter loop, version #3, Harriman State Park

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
4/8/2017 ? miles ?

Map: NYNJTC Harriman North
Parking: Kanawauke Road at White Bar trail
Directions: Cross the street from the parking area. Take the white blazed White Bar trail. Turn right onto the yellow blazed Dunning trail to the Bald Rocks shelter...
This was our third scouting trip to find a Moxie friendly route to Bald Rocks shelter. We decided this route would be okay for her. I was kind of horrified to see the number of people camping. We passed by the shelter at 3:30 pm, and there were already more than a dozen tents set up. Most tents were very close together. This was my idea of hell. If I'm going camping, I don't want to be on top of other hikers. There were over a dozen bear bags hung, which seemed odd, because it was so early in the day. And the bear bags were very close to the tents. No one seemed to bother with hanging them 200 feet away. We were wondering if it was some sort of group outing. We continued on. We didn't have Trek with us today, because he had a foot wound and needed to heal. We managed to miss turns multiple times on our trip - probably because he was not with us. He is awesome about pointing out trail intersections. We never got lost per se, but we didn't take our original intended route. We passed the shelter again on our way back. There were even more people now. We also saw a couple of park rangers on an ATV. I was surprised they could get to the shelter using an ATV. We saw a couple tented away from the crowd that the rangers were talking to. I'm wondering if they were made to move closer to the crowd (stealth camping is not allowed in Harriman). So yes, this would be a nice place to go camping for an older dog, but not my kind of place if there are always this many people there.

Bald Rocks Shelter with bushwhack, Harriman

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
4/2/2017 ? miles ?

Parking: Kanawauke Road at White Bar Trail
Directions: Cross street from parking area. Take white blazed White Bar trail. Turn right onto the white blazed Nurian Trail. Turn left onto the Ramapo Dunderberg Trail. Take to Bald Rocks Shelter on the right. Continue on the Ramapo Dunderberg trail. Turn left on the Lichen trail. Turn left on the Arden Surebridge trail. Turn left on Island Pond Road. Turn left on Arden Surebridge trail. This is where we encountered bad flooding. We bushwhacked around it. Get back onto the Island Pond trail and follow it back to the White Bar trail. Take the White Bar trail back to the parking area.

We have been interested in doing a mini backpacking trip in Harriman with both dogs. So we've been looking into possible routes that would be okay for Moxie. I like the area of the Bald Rocks shelter, so we chose a route to get there. We decided this route was too challenging for her. It's our second research trip :) We had a nice snow-free hike. Some things did not go as planned. We met a hiker who warned us that the trail ahead was flooded with knee deep water. We were not concerned. We figured we could easily go around it. Or that maybe he took a different route than us. Then we came across the flooded trail. A bunch of people were stopped trying to decide what to do. And no, you couldn't just walk around it. There was swamp on both sides. And yes, it was knee deep. People were rolling up their pants, taking off their shoes. It was around 500 feet of knee deep water. I was up for going through it, but Glen wasn't. Glen wanted to find a way around. If we wanted to backtrack and take a trailed route around the flooding, we'd need to add an extra 3 miles on to our trip. So, Glen decided to bushwhack. That was challenging as there was swamp to bushwhack around and then a wide fast moving stream. Eventually we made it away from the swamp and used our compass to help navigate back to the trail.

Looking for a way around the flooding

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Silvermine Lake Loop, Harriman State Park, NY

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
3/25/2017 3.9 miles

Map: Northern Harriman Bear Mount Trails (map 119), NYNJTC
Parking: Silvermine Lake, Seven Lakes Drive
Directions: Take the yellow blazed Menomine Trail following the edge of Silvermine Lake. Just past the Letterock shelter, turn left onto the white blazed Appalachian Trail. Follow it for .95 miles and turn left onto the unmarked Silvermine Road (woods road). Follow this to the end where it hits Seven Lake Drive. Turn left and follow Seven Lakes Drive back to the parking area.

We were eager to get out after 3 weeks of not hiking. These past 2 weeks I've had a painful hip, even with no hiking. The first week I have no idea what triggered it. The second week it was triggered by sitting on the floor grooming Moxie. I've finished 8 weeks of PT, and am taking a break for now since there has been no improvement. My PT recommended trying a cortisone shot again given by a different doctor, to see if this time I get a better result. I spoke to my surgeon's nurse, and he agreed it was worth a try. I'm waiting for the approval, and then will schedule this one at their hospital in the city. If the cortisone shot helps, they feel that I'll be able to go further in PT. Stronger muscles hopefully leads to less pain. I talked to my PT about surgery, and he was the first person who explained to me why having surgery at "your age" is not always ideal. He was saying any time you have surgery on a joint, especially if there is already some arthritis already in the joint, you increase the chance of causing more arthritis sooner. This means that there is more risk for needing a hip replacement earlier. And I'm way too young for that. This will be something I'll need to discuss with the surgeon next time I meet with him.

I didn't go hiking last weekend because of all of the snow we got. I figured I'd need snowshoes, and I have a feeling snowshoeing would aggravate my hip more, so we took the weekend off from hiking. The weather was iffy today, so we did a short hike in Harriman. Although the snow is melting nicely in our yard, it hasn't melted in Harriman yet. We didn't bother with microspikes, but saw others wearing them. There was still a lot of slushy snow on the trail. I usually don't like hiking near Silvermine Lake, but it's nicer in the winter. Being a lake with a large parking area, it tends to attract too many people. The area right near the lake is usually very trash filled. Today was not bad. We picked up an empty water bottle we found. Near the end, there were a couple of nice spots near the lake that everyone finds nice - thus broken glass all around. Otherwise no trash on the trails. The trail near the lake is wet, no matter what time of year you go. Since I'm interested in doing some camping this year, we were wondering what the area near Letterrock Shelter was like. It didn't really look like a good tenting area. We did see a large group of people who were camping in the shelter and had a nice fire going outside. I'm looking forward to doing some camping this year.

Lake at start of the hike

Woods Road

Demoing his waterproof boots