Dear Herm’s Hiker,
Greetings from Kent, CT! New York has been completed. Whee! At times, it was a very tough section to hike. It started with small rocks and small mountains and progressed to larger rocks and larger mountains. With no switchbacks, some of the climbing was hand over hand up some very large rock formations. But things got much better as I headed north. The last 20+ miles were some of the best hiking to date. It was a nice mix of hills, valley, flats and small mountains. I was finally hiking as I envisioned hiking, not rock stepping or rock hopping.
New York got off to a great start with homemade ice cream (Of course, 2 scoops of chocolate chip cookie dough) at the Bellvale Creamery on top of the mountain above Greenwood Lake. That night at the Wildcat Shelter, there was a large black bear roaming the woods about 50 yards away. That was the only bear sighting in NY. Saw a lot of very big bear tracks in the mud along the trailath with some smaller ones. That meant a mother and cub(s) were in the area. A situation to definitely avoid. The next day was a stop at Lake Tiorati in Harriman State Park to wade in the water and cool off the feet. That night was probably the best night’s sleep that I ever had in a tent. When I reached the William Brien shelter, there were two inflatable mattresses inside. No one wanted to use them so I took one and place it under my tent. Man, oh man, it was like sleeping on a cloud on top of a mountain. I didn’t sleep in the shelter because it was a stone structure with a partial dirt floor that resembled a stable. All that was missing were the barnyard animals. Nice shelters in NY were far and few in between to say the least, although we did spend a night at the RPH Shelter which was one of the best on the trail. It was previously an enclosed structure that was converted into a three side block shelter with bunks. Even better, you could order pizza to be delivered at your shelter doorway. That night I ate a whole pepperoni pizza for dinner. Hey, that’s what happens when you burn thousands of caloreis every day. Walk like a horse; eat like a horse.
The next day we hiked up and over Bear Mountain and crossed the Hudson on the Bear Mountain Bridge. Who should I meet on the bridge? None other than Circuit Rider and Sherlock. Circuit Rider is the minister who I prayed with earlier and met again in New Jersey. As we walked across the bridge about two hundred feet above the Hudson, Cirucit Rider asked if I would like to pray. Of course, I immediately agreed. I don’t think you could find a better place to pray. It was as if we had wings and were flying to heaven. I’m sure the sailboats that passed underneath were wondering what in the heck were those two guys doing on the bridge.
Of course, the highlight of the NY hike was another spiritual moment, a stay at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. Graymoor is a retreat center and headquarters for the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement. Indeed, it is a very spiritual place. Just the kind of refuge for a weary hiker. As I was walking around the grounds, I was introduced to Brother Pius, a retired friar who is the center’s groundskeeper, archivist, and historian. When I told Brother Pius that I was a history buff and fascinated with the history of the center, he told me to hop in his car. And off we went for the grand tour that included all of the chapels, the founder’s tomb, the prayer gardens, and abandoned structure that was to be the national shrine to Saint Anthony. After visiting the chapel that housed the shed that Father Paul, the founder of the order, lived for nearly a year, we were off to the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, the highlight of the tour. Unbelievable! Inside the chapel was an altar that once stood over the site where St. Francis received his stigmata (the wounds of Christ). And above the altar was a statue of St. Francis. The face of the statue was made from one of the two known death masks of St. Francis. One is at Graymoor and the other at Assisi. The face was sad and mournful but also very contemplative. Realistic is an understatement. It was so life-like that I expected Saint Francis to step down the altar. With it’s tall wood pews and stained glass windows (the inside of this small chapel resembled a cathedral), it was kind of spooky having St. Franics peer down at you. Before leaving, Brother Pius asked if I would like to pray with him, and pray we did. The visit at Graymoor was the highlight of the day, the week, and the month.
On Wednesday, I stopped at Fahnestock State Park where I swam in the lake and lounged on the beach. What a great way to spend a few hours on a summer afternoon. They even had a grill at the concession stand. NY has some great state parks! Kudos to the NY state park system and their personnel.
Hope to be out of Connecticut within four days! The prayers and miles arre starting to pile up. Keep the prayers and donations coming! As always, hike in peace and hike with your angels!