I woke up early out of habit and started to pack all my stuff before getting some bagels from a deli across the street, I missed New York.
Then, I sat waiting for the bus to take me back to New York with the owner of the motel. We spoke about what we did before I hiked and he retired. It seems he was a funeral director for 25 years, most of those years in the city.
He was talking about the aftermath of September 11 he was in charge of numerous funerals for firefighters. The amount of respect there was for the fallen was so incredible that whenever a body was moved, wether from the rubble, a hospital or towards the cemetery, the hearse was always accompanied by police escort.
The bus came and he wished me luck and then I was on my way to Maria.
There was an odd feeling being back in the city. So many people walking about and probably seeing more people in a single hour then I have the whole trip combined. I also had a horrible thought as I walked the streets. Every town I’ve been to so far sees me with my beard and hair, the clothes and the pain filled walk and immediately knows I’m a thru-hiker but in New York I look like another hipster pretending to be unique by dressing and looking exactly like everyone else.
I got back to the apartment before Maria got out of work so I started on chores so I would have time with her later.
I rewashed my clothes and showered again and gathered everything that needed to go back to REI, as well as uploaded my pictures and blogs for the past few days.
When the time came to finally see Maria we met at an amazing Indian restaurant in our old neighborhood of Astoria called Seva. The food is soooo good.
We kissed and hugged and stared at one another as we ate our Tikka Masala entrées. Afterwards, we walked back home holding hands, arms wrapped around one another and occasionally stopping to kiss.
Sadly, she wasn’t able to take off from work the next day so that’s when I headed out to REI to take care of my gear. I had a number of things to take back that I just never used, the snow baskets, ice spikes and pole tips I had sent back a few days in to my hike along with the new shoes that were tearing my feet.
Luckily, REI has the most amazing return policy and even though I bought those shoes about 6 months ago and they clearly had some wear to them (between the trail and break in period they had almost 100 miles on them) they still took them back no problem. I then purchase another pair of Vasque boots, the same ones that carried me the first 1300 miles. I also bought a hat to help block some sun from my face, a new lighter tent since the mesh on the other one was starting to fray, a new pair of pants, new pair of Smartfeet insoles and a mosquito net for my face (I just can’t deal with the bugs flying into my eyes and ear canals anymore.). I spent a ridiculous amount of money but hey what can you do.
Afterwards, I had a couple of hours before Maria got out of work so I went to visit our friends Arturo and Saurabh who live close to us. The 3 of us talked about our trips (they just came back from a road trip around Spain) and had a good time eating and drinking for a bit before I returned home to see Maria.
The two of us didn’t do anything but hang around the apartment and eat food and drink beer and just be with one another and it was awesome. We turned our phones off, laid in bed holding each other and talked, made each other laugh and just enjoyed being together.
Eventually though, the time came where I had to say goodbye and leave. It’s always difficult, especially when you have no idea when you’ll see one another again but the trip is almost 2/3 of the way done so hopefully it won’t be too much longer.
I boarded the bus back to Bear Mountain in the middle of a rain storm and then started hiking north once again.
The rain was pretty light for the whole hike luckily. I did finally see a bear, although it was in a cage at a small zoo that the path goes through. The bear cage is also the lowest point on the AT at 120′ above sea level. Right after that it was time to cross the Hudson River.
Near the end was a gas station with a full deli and pizza place and I had a nice New York hero. After that it was only a half mile to the Graymoor Spiritual Center.
The center has a ballfield where they allow hikers to camp and there’s a shower, garbage, privy and outlets. There’s a pavilion where a bunch of hikers were huddled together and I joined them.
Not long after I got in, the rain picked up and soaked the ground. I was grateful to have a roof over my head and not have to set up my new tent for the first time in the rain. I wanted to hike a bit further but thought better of it, brand new boots that aren’t broken in and the new tent with the weather, a shorter day is the better way to go. I’ll go longer tomorrow, there’s no rush.
We are Maria and Jason. Two crazy 30 somethings from New York City who decided to trade in our metro cards for a young-at-heart cargo van. Retired from being a phone company's service vehicle, Houdini, is has transformed into our home on wheels and is taking us all the way to the southern most tip of South America.
Follow along on our adventures.
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