June 12, 2017 – Five miles of New Jersey trail brought Beaker and 1st Sgt. into a new state, New York, but the continued rocks and the 90+ degree temperatures made the hike difficult. June 13th brought the same terrain and heat. Part of Beaker’s journal reveals the dangers of the Appalachian Trail, “Today was one of the toughest I’ve experienced out here in quite awhile. We are into our third day of heat in the 90+ degree range. That kind of heat just seems to sap all the energy right out of you. As soon as we started hiking, 1st Sgt and I were drenched in sweat…. We spent our second day scrambling up and down over big rocks, sometimes slowing down to a crawl as we negotiated climbs or steep descents. …..these ascents made for dangerous hiking. A young college aged hiker we know named Snooze took a nasty tumble off a particularly tricky climb. His backpack took the brunt of the impact; however, he still ended up with scrapes and a fairly ugly puncture wound on his right calf. Passing hikers helped his sister Sauce patch him up, so by the time we saw them he was doing pretty well. I did insist on examining and cleaning the wound when we got to the shelter tonight. Everyone in the shelter gathered around to watch the show. They were all pretty amazed when I pulled out a set of nitrile gloves. I also told him he needs to get the wound checked when we get to town tomorrow.
The third day of hiking the NY path led the hikers over Bear Mountain and down the other side to the Trailside Zoo, the lowest point on the AT. The next day, June 15, Beaker and 1st Sgt. hiked across the Hudson River via the Bear Mountain Bridge as part of their 20-mile hike ending at Clarence Farhnestock State Park, where thru-hikers get one free night of camping. June 16th was a cooler day in the 60s with a soft breeze that ended with a rain shower about ½ mile from the shelter. Beaker and 1st Sgt. arrived at Morgan Stewart Shelter without being too wet.
June 17 was the last full day in New York and the path directed Beaker and 1st Sgt. past three great landmarks on the AT: Nuclear Lake (there was a plutonium research facility located here from the 1950s to the 1970s. They experienced an explosion that contaminated the lake and surrounding shoreline. It was remediated years ago and the facility is long gone. What’s left is a beautiful lake, teeming with fish, geese, and beaver.), Dover Oak (the tallest oak on the Appalachian Trail – 114 feet tall, 20 feet think, and about 300 years old), and the train station at Pawling, New York (this functioning train station is designed for NYC folks to catch a ride to the woods and enjoy the beauty of the canopy).
By the end of the day on June 18th, New York was in the books and Connecticut was under foot. Beaker hiked two 19+ mile days followed by a Nero-day of 4 miles to arrive at Salisbury, CT. His feet were extremely tender and even though he is an EMT, he needed to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. Parts of his journal record it best, June 20 – I believe that days of wet feet and staying at less than reputable hotels may have led to vesicular athlete’s foot. It’s not quite like the common athlete’s foot between your toes. It tends to occur under the thick skin on the soles of your feet. I also think the constant moisture and sweaty socks may have led a secondary bacterial infection. As a result, my feet are very sore and swollen…. The doctor…. did a thorough history and exam and most of all confirmed my diagnosis. He suggested I take several days off to rest my feet. However, having treated thru hikers in the past, he knew that wasn’t happening. He then gave me antibiotics and antifungals and suggested I change out my socks as often as possible.
Beaker and 1st Sgt. took a much needed zero-day in Salisbury to give some rest and healing time for their feet. They hiked a modest 12.7 miles on June 22, but left Connecticut and entered the marvelous state of Massachusetts. They hiked over Bear Mountain (in Connecticut), Mount Race with its incredible view from the ledges, and Mount Everett, which only seems like Mount Everest. The feet felt 1000 times better according to Beaker, who demonstrates such a positive attitude.
June 23 involved a 19.6 mile hike and a real test for the feet. Beaker records at the end of the day, “We are tired and our feet are also tired; but, our feet are actually doing better. Talking to other thru hikers, it appears that all our bodies are beginning to break down. Luckily, only 650 miles to Katahdin and I hear it’s all downhill!” I appreciate his attitude and sense of humor, two keys to completing a thru-hikes.