AT RunVenture Project Segment No. 11

AT Segment #11 April 1-2, 2022 NJ Route 284- NY route 52 miles 1348.9-1437.8


4/11/202215 min read

We left Maryland around 4am. Celia and I were both excited and ready to get on the trail, but first, we needed to drive 4 hours to our starting place. We stopped once for a much needed rest stop and some fuel and then by 8:15am we had arrived at the dirt parking lot on NJ Route 284. I was nervous about leaving my car, as I always am, but made sure to take everything that mattered out at home before the trip.

Celia stood by as changed into my trail gear and finished packing up while shoving Pop Tarts into my mouth. By just after 8:30am on April 1, 2022 we were back on the Appalachian Trail following those white blazes north! Please note that the “Guthook” app and mapping system is now called “Far Out” since I refer to it often.

I intended to hike with Celia for a long time, if not the entire day. I wanted to catch up with my friend and just take it easy. We hiked and jogged through some very easy terrain, flat open trail, roads and then a mile or so of boardwalk. It had already rained once on us, but the sun was back out shining and getting a bit warmer than we expected. We found ourselves stopping for our rain gear, then stopping to take it off, then stopping to change layers.

Somewhere after the boardwalk I began to pull ahead. I reached the stairway to heaven, a long rocky climb, before Celia and took pictures. It was basically a boulder field that traveled upwards with switchbacks. The view running towards this thing was ominous. The climb was long, I was too warm and yet the rain was just starting again. It was clear the rain would come and go all day. I stopped and removed my long sleeve layers and cooled off in just my sports bra for a minute before adding my rain jacket again. I felt much better and finished the climb with ease (the little stop had let my heart rate recover too).

From the top, the view of the Wallkill River was beautiful and I enjoyed it before heading down the mountain to a very smooth section (elevation wise) riddled with rocks. I jogged and hiked following my heart rate and just moving with the trail, enjoying the tiny hail junks bouncing around that came with this round of dark and stormy. And then the sun was out again and it was toasty running along. I saw only a couple hikers on the trail but we exchanged brief conversations as I jogged by.

Next up was Wawayanda Mountain, a solid 1000’climb, steady and hard, but the good kind of hard. Along this climb I chatted with 3 elderly hikers, then were moving well and they shared with me that today was their 11th and final segment of NJ. They’d hike all of the AT in NJ! I thought that was amazing! I thought of my parents and although I’d never say they were hikers, they loved the outdoors and got me out in the woods often. I don’t know that my mother or father could hike the Appalachian Trail now, but I believe they could and my mom is retiring the week after our next segment and I am secretly hoping she finds our project inspiring and wants to get on the trail more.

It felt really good to get to the top of the mountain, where I found the view point and sat to breath and take pictures. I felt very lucky in the moment to be breathing heavily on top of a mountain in the sunshine. From here though the day would be less sun-shiny. Within five minutes of following the ridgeline, which would be most of the rest of the days’ miles of terrain, the sky grew very dark and the wind picked up rapidly. Hail began to fall again.

I laughed out loud as I zipped back up and got my hands back into the gloves attached to my rain jacket. The challenge here was that this ridgeline was all open slab rock face for miles and the rocks were all strangely slippery. It’s hard to explain, but even wet rocks usually have some grip to them and you can judge your movement by how your foot feels when it hits the rock, these rocks though, had no “grippiness” at all! They were slick up, they were slick down. I assumed the type of moss covering them must have been the cause but I didn’t know. I simply knew they were dangerous and required a great deal of caution. I slowed down to accommodate and texted Celia multiple times to warn her to please be careful. I didn’t love that we would be apart on this chunk of the trail. It wouldn’t take much to accidentally take a hard fall. I continued onward, slowly and carefully, with many descents on my butt or utilizing my hands.

Then I crossed the state line. We were officially done with NJ and moving on to NY! Every state line is exciting. I stopped for pictures and then continued on across the rocky slick ridge line. With about a mile left in the day the rocks eased up and some dirt trail resumed. I ran to the parking lot and noted how much lower the miles on my watch were compared to what we had covered. I had just covered 27 miles of the AT, but my watch said 24.66. I felt so well I went back out for another small chunk before calling it a day at 26 miles.

I phoned Ingrid, the owner of the Lake Lodging motel, (although we definitely thought we were staying in a hostel) and she came and picked me up. I showered and utilized the fan in the room to dry out my socks, clothing and hopefully shoes for the following day. Naked in my towel I hid under the covers and posted to social media.

Celia finished within a half an hour and arrived as well. I walked over to Dunkin Donuts, less than excited to put my running clothes and soggy shoes back on, to get us coffee for the AM and then dinner and breakfast for myself. I was hungry and felt I could have ordered a bunch more but I walked out balancing two sourdough breakfast sandwiches, 2 orders of bagel bites and 2 large coffees. Immediately upon getting back to the room I ate one of the sandwiches and both orders of the bagel bites. I was still hungry, but much like being out the trail even if I was in civilization, I packed up the other sandwich and placed it in the refrigerator (obviously not like being on the trail, haha). Soon, though, I felt good, the hunger had subsided.

We had a bit too much time to hang out, we chatted with some movie on in the background, chatted with our kids and got ready to sleep.

The following morning we woke up and started to get ready, but we had opted again for a late start to avoid unnecessary freezing on this segment so Celia did her mobility routine and I, well, I don’t know what I did but we used the extra time and then Keila and Kevin arrived! We were excited to have support and friends on the trail for the next two days. Keila and I knew one another from 2 prior races, one where I paced her and then the other where she and Kevin came and paced me. I was excited for Celia to meet Keila, I figured they’d be a great match pace wise and personality.

We were on trail in no time hiking together. By the time we got to the first road crossing though, I had begun to pull ahead of Keila and Celia. I waited at the road for them and we began the next section together too. We enjoyed a waterfall together but then again, my hiking pace pulled me ahead more and more, and soon I allowed myself to run. Kevin ran in towards us on this segment. Kevin and I enjoyed a little over a mile together and then, I again waited at the car and this time I was already more than 20 minutes ahead. I shared my concerns with Kevin, just that if they had too much fun today and went too easy, they’d still be out hiking until 9-10pm. He was a bit concerned as well. He had imagined a 6pm-ish finish, as had I. They arrived smiling though and we were glad to see them both having fun.

The next segment if I recall was rocky, it divided us immediately. I hiked/jogged at my pace and Celia and Keila hiked at theirs. I arrived at the next road crossing and found the car locked. Quickly I discerned that Kevin had run in, but likely made an easy error and ran North. I had enough food and water so I too continued North and ran into Kevin within a few minutes. Here he let me know that due to road closures, it would be 8.5 miles until I saw him again. I confirmed I had enough food and water and took off down the trail.

That 8.5 miles would be the toughest of the day. It was rocky and Arden Mountain was a descent climb with gorgeous views. I loved recognizing the roads and things from growing up in CT and traveling around. The view was vast but most notable was Interstate 87, not a gorgeous view on its own but something about being on trail so far above the road, well that felt pretty awesome. From there a long rocky descent led me into Harriman State Park. Somewhere in this section I met “Wooded Nib” a hiker who had through-hiked the AT 3 years ago. We chatted about her hike and her next adventures all while she walked her cat on the rocks. I love meeting and talking with people so this was a highlight!

I have a children’s book at home about the Appalachian Trail, one I invested in last year in part to support a new author and in part to have something on-level to show my children what the heck their mom is doing! I was showing my kids where I’d be this weekend and the photo was a colorful picture of the “Lemon Squeezer” so naturally, I had been hoping I would get to see this section. I did, it was fun to “squeeze” through the rock and recognize the many hikers who had before me. I felt lucky to be thin and with a small pack, it was a small space! Then, directly after you pass through the lemon squeezer you come to a rock wall about 7’ high with a marker on it. There was a way around of course, but fairly far out of the way so scaling up this wall was fairly comical, again, I was imagining hikers with full packs and felt very impressed.

I finished the climb snacking on icicles hanging near the top wondering how silly I must look in a sports bra running around the growing number of day hikers I passed in long sleeve outfits. It was on a climb somewhere in Harriman State Park that I passed a group of hikers and one of the guys said, “How are moving that quickly?” I answered back laughing as walked with effort, “I am an ultra runner- this is my running pace- this is what “ultra-runners” call “running”” and they laughed but also thought that was pretty cool. The forest was lush with pine needles and views. It could not have been a better day for a long trail run.

Kevin appeared and we did the last couple miles together and an extra 0.3 to the parking lot, but I was hangry and out of everything, that section took me an hour longer than I would have expected. Once at his car I devoured pop tarts, coffee, water, and Epic bar and Skratch bar I stole from Celia’s supply. I hadn’t packed enough apparently. Once I’d done that, I was feeling a lot better and ready to take on more miles. Kevin hiked back up to the trail with me and then hiked South toward Keila and Celia and I ran North.

I took the next section hard, I ran as much as I could trying to shave time off the day’s slow pace. I ran steadily and hiked hard up West Mountain, it was fun! I did roll my right ankle, hard. It hurt and scared me a good bit. After a few minutes though it seemed to function just fine. It was a little more loose making it prone to more ankle rolls. I tried to be very conscientious about my foot placement.

I made very good time and beat Kevin to the next lot, so again I opted to keep going. I figured I’d just finish before I saw him but he kept talking about the “tower” which was not registering for me. I knew I was hiking Bear mountain and we texted back and forth, still I was not getting it. I stopped for the views and to appreciate finally climbing this mountain (I’d been wanting to visit and climb Bear Mountain since 2010). Then, the trail turned to crushed gravel and there was the Tower and the parking lot, now the texts made sense, haha.

I didn’t really need anything and standing still I could feel my ankle tightening up. From this lot to the end of my day was 3.3 miles but we chatted for a moment as Celia and Keila were hours behind me at this point. We made a plan to meet in 3 miles and get dinner and then hopefully come back here to the tower to meet them. I took off running hard, it was a wide open downhill path and sunset was only just beginning. I arrived at Bear Mountain Inn and ran around the pond and down the steps to the zoo and arrived at the gate to see the zoo was only open from 10-4 daily. I wasn’t sure what the work around was, and headed back up to run 0.2 on the side of the road. I read Far Out as I jogged and I should have taken the blue trail, which I didn’t see. The road though, took me to a lot with blue blazes and they led me back to the white blazes across the Hudson River via the bridge.

I met Kevin and we found a pizza place. My eyes were bigger than my stomach but I was excited to have leftovers. I ordered a veggie panini, a slice of pepperoni and a piece of chocolate cake. I ate the pizza, and half the sandwich and then picked at the cake. Soon we were headed back up to the Tower parking lot where it was very dark now and we waited a while but the police came, as we expected, and closed down the park. We, and the other few cars, all left.

Kevin took me to the hotel and we checked in. I showered immediately and prepared things for the morning. It was now 9pm and Celia and Keila were just leaving the Tower parking lot. I talked with my husband and rested until Kevin arrived with Celia and Keila at the hotel around 10:30pm.

We didn’t really go to sleep until 12am but we still needed to be up around 4:30am to get ahead of the rain the next day. Celia was hesitant to commit to the early start but she knew it’d be for the best. Keila, had put in some serious training miles and elevation and planned to sleep in and meet us at the first available parking lot about 14 miles into the day.

Sunday morning went smoothly, Kevin, Celia and I woke up early and Keila slept through us moving around and microwaving our breakfasts. We were dressed and ready to go within about 15 minutes. We packed up and headed to the trailhead. Kevin dropped us off and Celia and prepped for the steep climb up Anthony’s Nose.

I made the “mistake” of letting Celia take some of my Up Time tablets since we had no coffee and I drank a Trader Joe’s cream and coffee instant stick. Celia was feeling good and my 40 something milligrams of caffeine was not cutting it at 5am! I was dying on the climb as my body adjusted to being awake. Celia hiked happily as my heart pounded in my ears. I am joking, but only slightly. It was a very short climb, only about 0.6 miles and I felt fine once I was moving, but there was a substantial difference in the well-caffeinated vs the under-caffeinated parties.

Anyways, our “coffee hour” was amazing and made better by crossing Route 9 and stopping in the Appalachian Market for a real cup of coffee and I grabbed a bag of watermelon Sour Patch Kids to celebrate the stop. I hiked Dunning Hill with sugar cookie coffee in hand as I chatted with Celia about anything and everything. We enjoyed our sunrise photo and hiked strong in the sunshine. We were grateful to watch 8am and then 9am roll past without the impending rain. Almost 13 miles in for the day and we were ready to see Kevin and Keila for more coffee, camaraderie and for the mental checkpoint.

We descended down from Canopus Hill and then began ascending again when we popped out to South Highland road. The coffees were just the right amount cooled off when we got to Kevin and Keila so that I was able to chug the 16oz of caffeine loaded with cream while I ate some Pop Tarts. It was a solid snack.

I’d been having so much fun hiking with Celia and when I saw Keila ready to go with us I really wanted to hike with her more. I started off with Celia and Keila and then within a minute or two, the rain began to fall. We stopped and climbed into our rain gear, sealed our phones into a dry bag and then we started hiking again. I started to pull ahead almost immediately just hiking. None of us were talking now since our ears were covered from our rain jackets and the sound of rain made communication harder. I tried for a few minutes to wait, to stay within talking range and then it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to stay at their pace so I took off running.

The section was about 6 miles long until we’d see Kevin. I ran strong and was making great time while managing to stay very warm. I was moving carefully over rocks and roots that looked slick. The trail was, overall, much more runnable today than it was the prior day but it took a lot more caution in the rain.

When I arrived to NY Route 301 Kevin commented on how poorly I’d “stayed with” the other ladies. I knew it! I was feeling great though and didn’t need anything but to top off on some water. I was in and out quickly and let him know I was planning on pushing the pace for fun.

The next section was short, only 4.5ish miles with a solid climb up Shenandoah Mountain. I stopped at the top for a gray and wet photo. I made great time on the section and I was starving, despite eating quite a bit. (The 3rd day on the trail is no joke, the calorie deficit begins to build.) I took mental notes for our 15 days segment in July and I went to work stuffing my face. I devoured the second half of my panini trying to eat as fast as I could. Standing still in the rain made it very obvious just how wet and cold it actually was. I needed to keep running to stay comfortable. I choked down the thick bread and gulped some water to help and then I rushed back into the rain. I was quite chilled already. The stop was brief but my hands were throbbing. I made more mental notes of just how wet everything was despite being “dry”. My rain gear was amazing! I felt warm and dry, but of course I was damp with sweat on the inside and soaked on the outside. I felt immense gratitude that we were not attempting any outdoor camping or shelter stays in this kind of weather.

The next section began downhill and was very runnable. I allowed my effort to move into a tempo pace and pushed myself, only walking briefly for recovery. I climbed Hosner Mountain and hiked as hard as I could. At one point there was a fallen tree across the trail but it had two trunks and you passed in between. I splayed out on the lower trunk dry from the trunk above me blocking the rain and wished momentarily that anyone was there with me to laugh at my brief resting spot. Once my heart rate had dropped I climbed out of my supine comfort and continued up the mountain.

Once the elevation profile had settled down, the rocks began. Ridgeline “running” of sharp wet rocks, it was fun but not runnable at all. I hiked consistently and jogged every inch of runnable dirt, I was very much in the “zone”. (Those are the moments I run for.) I hustled down to the car at the road crossing and chatted with Kevin. I only had 1.6 more miles and one more big climb. I told him I’d be there in 20-30 minutes and I took off. As I jogged away, I heard Kevin shout, “I’ll race you there” like there was any way in hell his 5 minute drive could take longer than my on-trail travel. Nonetheless, that was the fire I needed to push even harder.

I climbed the last climb harder than I’ve tried in any race, I laughed out loud as my lungs burned and legs ached. I literally couldn’t help but take in the comedy of my soaking wet, lonely self pushing my limits on this random mountain in NY. I began to talk to the trail. I was grateful, happy and thrilled that I could be on the trail, physically, mentally, financially, and supported not only at home to have time but also to have Kevin and Keila. I finished at the lot and jogged a bit more to make my 100 mile week on Strava, another silly but fun goal. Then I was happy to settle into a heated seat while tearing off my wet layers and eating my leftover cold french fries and finally digging into my Sour Patch watermelons.

Celia and Keila finished a little while later and Celia’s friend Al and his son had just arrived. Al would be driving us back to my car. We hugged Kevin and Keila and thanked them for everything and then climbed into Al’s car and began our trip back to my place in Maryland.

We had a great weekend, fairly reasonable miles with decent weather and great company. It was a great morale boost for Celia and I to finish wanting more!

Huge thank you to Kevin and Keila on this segment! You guys made this so much more fun- not to mention making the logistics seamless. Thank you Al for driving us and taking those hours out of your weekend for us!