Originally posted on allwomanalltrails.com you can find the article here
For months now, I had my eye on finishing hiking the Appalachian Trail in New York. I had begun the journey last July when I found my love for backpacking and section hiked from New Jersey into New York.
Then I returned in November hiking SOBO (southbound) from Kent, Connecticut to Dennytown Road.
I was anxiously awaiting the three day weekend I was granted from work due to Memorial Day. The plan was to hike SOBO from Dennytown Road to Elk Pen (34.1 miles). This time I even recruited someone to come with me. A woman I met snowshoeing back in early March. This woman, Claudine, was from Massachusetts and was willing to make the trek down to NY to join me. This duo backpacking trip quickly turned into a quadruplet.
Claudine had invited a lady from the New York area, who had never backpacked before and could not put her backpack on her back by herself… She also invited a Russian gentleman, who had some experience hiking, but it was like hiking with a child and he could not do much himself but walk.
- Day 1 Saturday: Dennytown- Hemlock Campsites 12.5 miles
- Day 2 Sunday: Hemlock Campsites- West Mountain Shelter 12.5 AT miles plus 1
- Day 3 Monday- West Mountain Shelter- Elk Pen 9.5ish miles
Before experiencing the group dynamics, I set off early Saturday morning to the trailhead where I met the group. We took some photos and headed to the trail.
Having planned the trip, I was one the in lead. Never really having planned a group trip before I kept the speed of the group but even that was too much? I was told within the first 15 minutes, “stop and smell the roses.” I wasn’t even going that fast… Although I didn’t screen everyone for this trip, I think it’s important to be mindful that everyone has their own intentions when coming on a trip and if you are leading a trip make yours clear. Mine was to finish the state of New York.
Hiking along that day, I was excited to encounter famous people on the trail. AKA people who have been documenting their thru-hikes on social media. I met the Purple People, who are two members of a band hiking with all purple gear, and Turkish who is vlogging his trip. I also met two flip-floppers, Squatch and Old Ranger, who I informed I’d see them again when I start my 6-week trek.
Once we got to the trailside deli, I grabbed a Powerade and got scolded for trying to scoop my own water ice… In my defense, the blue raspberry bucket of water ice was sitting on top of the case with scooper and cups. I saw some already made in the freezer but this one was softer and I figured I’d save them some plastic. An employee walked over and said, “What are you doing? You can’t do that.” Unfortunately, a thru-hiker witnessed the whole thing and we laughed about it outside. I’m sure that would have landed me a new trail name.
At this point, we had to make a decision. The lady who had never backpacked before was struggling and a day hiker named Jonathan met us on the trail and was parked near the deli. He offered to drive her around, so she could hike the quarter mile to camp. She graciously accepted his ride. (YES!) The rest of us set out to hike the last 3.5 miles to camp.
It was a pretty nice ridge walk until we encountered someone strange. I was a little ahead of my hiking buddies when this man comes walking down the trail in jeans carrying nothing. *Ding-ding* Red flags were already waving inside my head as it was pretty hot and he had no water.
“Hi, how’s it going? Are you a day hiker?” said the man. I wasn’t about to tell this guy I was sleeping out in the woods. He couldn’t yet see my friends who were down the hill a bit.
“Oh, yeah. Day hiker,” I replied. At this point, Claudine and Yuri joined me. He asked them the same question but this time Claudine told him we were camping out… darn! This man started randomly telling us he planned to hike 7 miles, he used to weigh 300lbs, how much he lost, and if we could take his picture. When he pulled out his phone, Claudine saw he had photos of naked women … He quickly tried to close it out and shut off his phone. We told him we had to go and get to camp before dark… Thank goodness I wasn’t alone.
We couldn’t stop talking about what happened and I couldn’t stop looking back to make sure he wasn’t coming with us.
As we were approaching the camp, there was a bunch of kids with bright yellow shirts on about 20 people. Once I got close enough, their shirts read SED B.A.C. It appeared we would be sharing camp with them. We later found out they were a boy scout like group but had religious affiliations. Our other friend who had gotten a ride was attempting to set up camp but her husband was with her. She had called him and asked if he could come to pick her up. Sorry, not sorry. I was thankful she decided to go home because the next day was going to be even harder but I also hoped she wasn’t deterred from ever backpacking again.
Thankfully with Yuri, I was able to hang my bear bag (considering getting a bear can at this point). Yet, I couldn’t help but laugh at the amount of food Claudine and Yuri packed and they even gave some back to our friend who was leaving… 3lbs of cheese, 2 big kielbasa sausages, oranges and apples, sourdough bread. At least we went to bed with full bellies and the beautiful sound of the boys singing worship songs around the fire, and listening to them explain how their reasons for being out there had changed from the beginning of the trip the end.