I’ve been in full go mode since Trail Days. Wake up at 5:30 a.m., leave at 6:15 a.m., hike 10 miles, eat lunch, hike 10 miles, settle in, eat, sleep. Repeat. And I really enjoyed constantly pushing myself that way day in and day out. Hiking like this is the physical and mental challenge I didn’t know I needed until I started doing it.
But sometimes – not very often but occasionally – something intervenes to make the day a little more interesting. Like, for example, a few weeks ago when my hiking partner and I decided on a whim to go to New York.
9:30 a.m. (June 26)
Beast and I went to Pawling, NY on Sunday morning.
We did the usual things in town – ate food, restocked, strolled by an outlet outside of a random business, etc.
11:30 a.m. (June 26)
As we headed down Main Street on our way out, an approaching man let us know that he would be happy to drive us anywhere we needed in town. Turns out Josh was a 2021 AT SOBO who stopped in Pawling on his hike and fell in love with a local bartender. He finished his hike, settled there and married her.
We graciously accepted his offer and requested a return to the trail.
12:20 p.m. (June 26)
Only about 2.5 miles later we walked on something interesting and unexpected. Sitting next to a set of train tracks was a platform with a bench on it. Above the bench was a sign – Southeast, White Plains and New York.
“Should we?” I asked.
We checked the timetable, realized a train would be there in two hours and discovered that it only ran on Sundays. It was Sunday so we quickly decided, yes, we should.
2:35 p.m. (June 26)
Appalachian Trail -> Southeast -> Grand Central
4:45 p.m. (June 26)
I had never been to New York before and didn’t know what to expect when getting off the train. Grand Central Station was bustling – families in matching clothes touring the city on vacation; youth draped in rainbow flags celebrating Pride; businessmen and women on mission; the children were running around, then us, staring at the high ceilings still surprised that we were actually there. We took the #6 subway to Lafayette Street and walked up the street level.
I had heard of the magic of New York before and always thought it was one of those things that can only be felt. He is. There is… something… energy. It is difficult to explain. We got a few things from REI and moved on.
PS You’d think two smelly hikers with backpacks would attract attention while inside NYC REI, right? Maybe someone would ask what we were doing or where we were from? Maybe someone knows that AT hikers have tags on their backpacks? No. No one stands out in NYC.
7:15 p.m. (June 26)
Our hosts for the night – Beastie’s friends Simi and Quincy – were incredibly accommodating. We hid our gear in a corner of their Kip’s Bay apartment and did our best to stink the place up as little as possible. Their 700 square foot apartment included a hot shower, sofa with cushions and a beautiful view of the New York skyline with the Empire State Building in the center – more than enough to make us happy .
8:30 p.m. (June 26)
They served us a delicious meal of chicken fajitas, white rice and black beans. Food! More friends came over to say hello and the next few hours were spent answering questions on the trails.
I made a quick phone call to Katie and passed out on their couch.
8:00 a.m. (June 27)
It’s hard to get motivated to move on city days. It’s even harder on city days. We finally mustered up the courage and headed to a bagel shop.
9:00 a.m. (June 27)
We ate, said goodbye, and headed to Times Square for the obligatory “hiker takes NYC” photo.
9:40 a.m. (June 27)
The chances of catching the 8:00 train, we both knew, were a pipe dream from the start. The chances of taking the 10:00 train, we both knew, were now impossible. Might as well enjoy the city a little longer.
We strolled through Central Park, trying to remember the dozens of TV scenes and movies that were filmed there. We smelled garbage. We felt bad for some of the horses because they were dragging a carriage full of people who, unlike us, aren’t big fans of foot travel. We walked past Beastie’s future office. We smelled more trash. We paid $8 for a coffee. We met another friend. We smelled more trash. We headed to Grand Central.
11:50 a.m. (June 27)
We boarded the train.
Grand Central -> Southeast -> Pawling
1:45 p.m. (June 27)
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