Harriman State Park (NY) Backpacking review [North]

Solitude/privacy: 4.5 (weekend trip in the summer… you figure it out)
Environment & Nature: 4
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: NA
Accessibility: 5

Finally, backpacking!

Just this one trip made me realize how unprepared and unfit i am to haul a heavy bag through thick bush, rocks, and dirt.  The plan was to tackle an 18 mile trail over the period of two days in Harriman State Park.  The reality was 4-6 miles (some in a circle trying to find the path) over the period of 10 hours.  But, this is good!  This trip taught me many things.

Light gear is

an essential tool for when backpacking.  The only 2 things I can honestly say that slowed me down; 1. my backpack 2. my hiking boots.  The bag is too big, too bulky, and plainly not built for my posture. My boots kept digging into my toes downhill.  Other than that, everything else seemed to be the right tools. I had my: Suisee Sport Lightweight Mummy sleeping bag, Hennesy Hammock (with a rain tarp), long sleeve & pants, 3 liters of water (to split between me and the dog), a can of soup for me, and dry food for the dog.

The boots (those damn bastards) made my toes commit suicide.  I would have been better off wearing my flip-flops instead.

The trails were fantastic!

They are well maintained by the park, but the path colors on the other hand are faded and hard to see.  I’ve gone off trail a few times mainly because it was hard for me to spot and follow them.  I don’t expect them to be on every single tree glowing in neon lights… just refreshed with paint so it’s easy to spot them in wide openings where it seems the trail can go 5 different directions.

Nature, oh the nature…

This park has everything you’d expect from Northeast: hills, flats, lakes, streams, and rivers.  Not much of mountains, well, you do some climbing but the view doesn’t pay off.  The mountain streams, on the other hand, were a refreshing break for my butchered toes.  After a few miles, i found a beautiful quiet spot where a small stream curves, allowing me to just sit on a rock, dip my feet in and relax.  And to make this moment even more perfect, bushes upon bushes of wild blueberries around me, just begging me to eat them.  Yum!

I think I killed the dog…

I feel like a proper introduction at this point is needed.

This is Dusty

(I did not pick the name!)

Dusty is Karens’ (my lovely girlfriend of over 3 years) mother’s dog.  He is just a bit over 1 year old adopted mutt.  He seems to have some Lab in him, maybe some Pointer, and Greyhound.  The Greyhound would explain the lack of energy this mutt has.  He is like a cheetah: runs very fast but for a short period of time, after which he persists to just lay down and chill for the next 5-6 hours. NOT a perfect hiking dog.  He is very sweet and loving but kind of dumb, than again, he’s still a puppy, maybe he’ll get smarter.

So this a**hole,

oh…. this a**hole, not only almost gave a me a heart attack and forced me to run down a steep hill that could of ended in me cracking my head, he also gave me a chance to lose my bag (which contained pretty much everything: water, food, clothing, phone, etc) and the trail it was on.  As soon as we started hiking, instead of taking his leash off, i kind of wrapped it around his neck and left the handle loop hanging for a quick grab.  When we entered the forest, he spotted a deer and I grabbed him…. luckily.  This should have been a large neon sign spelling out TROUBLE for the rest of trip.  As we hike along, I tend to spot large wildlife right away and grab him before he jumps after them or even acknowledge their existence.  Unfortunately, i slipped and didn’t grab him in time when a deer appeared out of nowhere about 10 feet away from us.  Him, being a playful idiot, darted after the deer and me, being a caring idiot, dropped my bag & ran after him, fearing the worst.  I did not catch up.  Dustys’ whiny playful bark slowly faded away as I’m stuck on top of a steep hill not knowing what to do next.

My first instinct was

not a proper response to this situation.  I found myself alone in the forest with nothing else except a multi tool on my belt, a granola bar in the pocket, and with no trail i was following to be found.  About 5-10 minutes after I stopped chasing Dusty, he strolled back to me (which made me very happy, yet wonder why?).  This dog doesn’t really know any commands (don’t blame me, I’m not the owner), so “stay” or “come here” to him are the same as Marshian to us.

So why did he come back?  Dogs nature in general is to stick to his/her owner/guardian/friend, so when they run pretty far away, they usually come back. Yet that’s not why he came back.  He slowly strolled back to me and the only thing I could think of was how bad of a kick did he receive from that damn deer, and how ta fuck am I going to get him back to Brooklyn…. alive.  Fortunately this wasn’t the case!  He just simply ran out of energy and the deer got away… I assume.  Not only did he ran out of energy but he also pulled a few muscles and ended up limping for the rest of the trip.  After the exciting hour of chasing the dog that was chasing the deer, and searching for the bag and the trail, I stumbled upon a couple that were passing by and they helped us get back on the track.

As dawn slowly approached, and Dusty barely walked, I decided to stop for the night at one of the designated areas near the Lake Skannatati where I was allowed to make fire.  I knew we were about 5 minutes away from a parking lot but not the one we parked in.  I set up camp, fed him and myself, and watched how the sky turns black.

The night was… well…

When I was young, I used to be afraid of the dark.  I got over that fear probably when I turned 10 or 11, and never again have I gotten the fear of the dark.  Nor did I get scared during this night BUT something just creeped the hell out of me.  I have no idea what it was.  Everything seemed perfect; lake, hills, beautiful forest, and me, stuck in the middle of it, alone with the dog.  Yet, I felt empty and got an urge to go home.  So I left.

As soon as the sun set down and darkness fell, I folded the hammock into my bag, took the dog and bounced.  A flashlight on my head facing the ground in front of me and a flashlight in my hand searching for the faded trail signs.  The last thing i wanted was to make this 5 minute hike back to civilization into an all night crusade.  As we approached the parking lot, a happy adventure with my crippled toes and what looked like a dying dog began.  Luckily, on tarmac and unluckily no-one that passed by had even flinched to stop and offer me a lift… even with my “international” give me a lift sign.  Oh well.

About 40 minutes later, Lola had emerged from the darkness as we strolled on.  Lola is my 2001 Mitsubishi Galant.  With 157k when I got her, she already took me so many places!  Longest so far, New Orleans (2 day drive one way)…. but that’s for a different post.

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