Friday afternoon, after Fr. Jim Mulloy finished his classes at Salesian HS, he and I took off for an overnite hiking and camping trip in Harriman State Park. Our destination was a very short section of the Appalachian Trail running southwest from Arden Valley Rd., more or less parallel to Seven Lakes Drive and Lake Tiorati, but way up on the ridge of Fingerboard Mt.
We picked ourselves a dreary, drizzly day for this hike, as you can see in the photo above, which I took about halfway between Arden Valley Rd. and the Fingerboard shelter (named for the mountain, obviously), where we planned to spend the nite. You may be able to make out 2 trail blazes on the skinny tree in the middle of the picture: one for the AT and one for Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, which runs along with the AT for this particular mile.
The AT, as many folks know, runs for over 2,200 miles from northern Georgia to central Maine. The RD is much more local, running from Tuxedo Park, just outside Harriman SP on the west, to Jones Point on the Hudson (under the Dunderberg, or Thunder Mt.), a stretch of perhaps 20 miles.
A 45-minute hike brought the shelter into view, very welcome for 3 reasons: 1st, to get out of the drizzle; 2nd, to reassure us that we hadn't bypassed it accidentally (neither of us had been on this trail since October 2004); 3rd, the sooner we got there--and this was about 4 o'clock--the better our odds of being first there, as in "first come, first served," which is the rule on the state park shelters.
The shelter is 350 feet off the AT-RD where a 3rd trail, the Hurst Trail, ends. The photo above shows 2 signs, the lower one with a bunch of AT distances marked on it, and the other gives distances to the shelter, to a spring (.1 mile), and to Seven Lakes Dr. and Lake Tiorati (.5 mile) on the Hurst.
Fingerboard is a cozy little shelter, about 20 feet wide with a solid platform, enuf nails for hanging gear, and 2 inside fireplaces. Here you can see a water bag and poncho, jacket, hat, pants hanging to dry. Someone very thoughtfully left a little stack of dry kindling wood by one fireplace.
We waited till about 6:30 to fix our suppers of freeze-dried backpacking meals. Fr. Jim had chili, and I had honey mustard chicken. I made the better choice, judging from his remarks later. He also had hot tea, while I drank Crystal Lite. And I got a nice fire going with that kindling wood and other wood that I'd rounded up. (As usual, Fr. Jim fetched water and I fetched wood.)
About an hour after Fr. Jim and I arrived at the shelter, another hiker came along. We invited him to join us. Sometimes people will be glad to do that, and sometimes they'll prefer their own privacy (or be unsure whether to trust you). This fellow, named Andy from Vermont, accepted our hospitality and spent the nite. He and Fr. Jim talked a lot about hiking, particularly in New England, where Fr. Jim has lots of experience and I none.
As I said above, the AT and RD run along together for about a mile. On the ridge above Fingerboard shelter they go their separate ways, as you can see in this photo. The red dot in the circle tells the RD hiker to go on straight (continuing southwest), and the AT tells one to bear right (due west).
In the morning (Saturday) we had a little bit of sun. Andy left at the crack of dawn to go about his own pursuits. Fr. Jim and I got up between 6:30 and 7:00, ate breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail at 8:15. With the sun out, or at least without drizzle and mist, we could make out Lake Tiorati far below (about 300 feet elevation and a half-mile hike). You can see it in the picture below, and on the tree behind Fr. Jim you can easily make out the blazes for the AT (6" white rectangle) and the RD (red dot in white circle).
We got back to the school community's minivan at Lake Tiorati at 9:00 and were home a little after 10:00 a.m. Too bad we didn't have more time just to hang out at Fingerboard!