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  1. #1
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Default Southern New York - Woah!

    Just finished a section hike from Port Clinton, PA to I-87 in New York (southern end of Harriman State Park). From what I'd read I thought the rocks would be worst in PA, then things would get a bit easier in NJ and NY. This turned out to be completely false. The trail in New Jersey was every bit as rocky as in northern PA. Even so, I still managed to get through the state in 5 days, which is about 14 MPD.

    I camped about a mile south of the NJ/NY state line, then woke up to fog and light rain the next morning. From just south of the state line going north for about 4 miles, the trail was surprisingly very difficult, to the point of being downright scary. Lots of scrambling up and down slippery, wet rocks, including climbing using hands and having to sit and slide on my bottom. It kind of reminded me of Dragon's Tooth or some of the boulder scrambles in PA, but those were all fairly short, and this one just kept going and going. It took me about 3 1/2 hours to do those 4 miles.

    Thankfully, the next few miles around NY 17A were easy, and after a couple of hot dogs at the roadside stand I managed to keep going and even did the short but also tough scrambles over Eastern Pinnacles and Cat Rocks. I camped about 2 miles north of Wildcat Shelter, which was only 11 miles for the day but it felt tougher than most of my 15 mile days.

    But I wasn't done yet - the next day I had only 9 miles to my pickup point north of I-87 where my shuttle driver was meeting me at 2 pm. Those were some tough miles! Lots more really steep trail over rocks and scrambling using hands. I started at 7:30, which should have given me more than enough time but I didn't reach my destination until 1:50 and I was pretty tired by that point. If I had been continuing north, I would have needed to get off the trail here for a couple days first.

    I have some questions for those that have hiked southern NY and north of there. 1) My guess is that the AT through Harriman is probably just as tough as what I just finished, but what about the rest of the state? 2) Should I dial back my daily mileage expectations going north from I-87? 3) Why is it that PA gets all the hype in terms of rocks and rugged terrain yet I've heard next to nothing about this even more difficult stretch? 4) In terms of ruggedness, how does this section compare to New Hampshire and Maine? (I know the climbs and descents are longer, but is the physical terrain even more difficult than this section?)
    It's all good in the woods.

  2. #2
    Registered User ChrisMek's Avatar
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    FWIW: I hiked NY SOBO as a section hike in 2017. To your Questions:

    1) My recollection is that north of Bear Mountain is some really nice hiking without a lot a great views. NY is known for its PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs). You will go up a hill just to find that you go right back down and find that there was an easier way around the hill. Frustrating really because there is no payoff at the top.

    2) I would not dial back your mileage, I am a 10 MPD hiker and was able to maintain that throughout NY. I think you are mostly through the worst part if the terrain already. Like i said, north of Bear mountain is nice hiking!

    3) Personally, I thought PA (DWG to Port Clinton) was just rocky, not difficult really. It was flat ridge walking for the most part (except in and out of the Gaps), just very rocky. My ankles and boots were happy that I was done with that section as I was walking into Port Clinton. But overall, I think you are right about the hype of "Rocksylvania". I feel like NJ is just an extension of PA, much of the same really. But the section from High Point to the Pochuck Boardwalks are Great Hiking! So you do get a break for a bit.

    4) I can't help you here. I've only hike from CT/MA state line to Port Clinton PA.
    Trail Name: Gadget
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    NY- 2017
    CT - 2018
    PA, DWG to Pt Clinton - 2019

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    NJ (Again) - 2020

    PA, Pt Clinton to Duncannon - 2021
    PA, Duncannon to Pen-Mar - 2022

  3. #3

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    The park isn't too bad except for the lack of water. However the 18 miles south of the park is a beast and is apply named "agony grind". Not recommended on a hot, muggy summer day.
    If you thought NJ was difficult, don't even bother trying Vermont or NH or Maine. NJ is a cake walk in comparison. BTW, NY/CT/MA are designated sites only camping, so plan accordingly.
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  4. #4

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    Littlerock thanks for the post, brought back some real good memories of some of my favorite sections.
    To keep it straight forward...
    1-I would not alter my daily mileage until Mt Moosilauke in NH...From there on North through the bigelows in ME plan for 10 mile days.

    2- PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA & VT are my favorite states and section to hike, you are in for a fantastic stretch coming up next.

    3- I spent years hiking north toward NH and ME hearing people brag about what they had completed up there and the "You just wait!!!"....."This aint nothin!!" etc really got old. I figured it was hype just like the rocks in PA, the mud in VT and the flies in ME... I was wrong. The difficulty "The Whites & Southern ME" are on a whole different level. LoneWolf will say "Its just Walkin" and to an extend it is....But there are stretches that made me really wonder why I was out there and if I could physically do it. You can do it! Its just a matter of if you want to put in the effort to complete. In the end, the 10 mile a day rule has worked very well for my planning from Moosilauke to the bigelows. I am anticipating ramping back up to 15-20's after I reach the northern end of the Bigelow's.
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  5. #5

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    The closer you get to CT, the rocks are less of an issue. Of course then you start dealing with a few swamp romps where its obvious that they ran the trail down in a swamp as no one else had any use for it. I remember a few stretches one rainy spring day where the footbed was squishy with a wall of poison ivy on each side. At least you can now visit Nuclear Lake since its been declared safe.

  6. #6

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    The section you describes starts after Wawayanda shelter, NJ, through the NJ-NY state line all the way to RT17, NY. It's endless boulder scrambling and frustrating PUDs which ends with the infamous Agony Grind (going north, you descended it, which is worse, IMHO, than climb it). Some love it, most hate it. Rest of NJ trail is actually pleasant to hike on.

  7. #7
    I plan, therefore I am Strategic's Avatar
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    You won't find the same conditions north of NY17 that you did south of it. Harriman is mostly fairly good trail with little in the way of difficult rocks and only one real scramble (the famous Lemon Squeezer) that is very short and really fun. You will spend a good deal of time either with PUDs or on flat, open mountaintops (Fingerboard Mt., Black Mt., and West Mt. especially) but there won't be any need to dial back your mileage.
    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
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  8. #8
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone! Good to know that the rest of NY, CT, and MA aren't like that. I bet even the part of NY I hiked would have been more fun if the rocks hadn't been wet. There was just enough rain to keep the rocks slick the whole time, and I spent a lot of time going very slowly, worried I was going to slip and fall.

    Slo-Go'en, I didn't think NJ was difficult, it just wasn't any easier than PA like I'd imagined, except for those relatively short swamp/boardwalk sections people mentioned. Honestly, PA wasn't really that bad either except for those short sections of boulder scrambling. Specifically, I was asking about how those first 18 miles of NY compare to NH and ME in terms of the amount of rock scrambling. If it's going to be a lot of rock scrambling like in southern NY I'm really going to have to dial back my mileage expectations on that part of the trail (e.g., 8 MPD). Also I'm pretty sure the designated sites only camping is just CT and MA, not NY.
    It's all good in the woods.

  9. #9

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    For disclosure, I never hiked (yet) north of Hanover, NH. But common knowledge among hikers is, in the Whites, you cut by half your daily mileage.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    Thanks everyone! Good to know that the rest of NY, CT, and MA aren't like that. I bet even the part of NY I hiked would have been more fun if the rocks hadn't been wet. There was just enough rain to keep the rocks slick the whole time, and I spent a lot of time going very slowly, worried I was going to slip and fall.

    Slo-Go'en, I didn't think NJ was difficult, it just wasn't any easier than PA like I'd imagined, except for those relatively short swamp/boardwalk sections people mentioned. Honestly, PA wasn't really that bad either except for those short sections of boulder scrambling. Specifically, I was asking about how those first 18 miles of NY compare to NH and ME in terms of the amount of rock scrambling. If it's going to be a lot of rock scrambling like in southern NY I'm really going to have to dial back my mileage expectations on that part of the trail (e.g., 8 MPD). Also I'm pretty sure the designated sites only camping is just CT and MA, not NY.
    :Need to knowBe sure to study your guidebook and maps carefully while planning hikes in New York. The trail ascends numerous, steep rocky areas that often provide excellent views but require scrambling and can be hazardous when wet. Shelters are far apart and camping is limited to designated sites; water sources are also far apart. Campfires are prohibited except in designated fire rings.

    I may also add for NH and ME that if my hiking schedule matched up with storms for the day I either did not hike or I chose a section that did not have very much elevation to it (choices are slim and I typically just had to sit the day out.)
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
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  11. #11
    Registered User tagg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    Thanks everyone! Good to know that the rest of NY, CT, and MA aren't like that. I bet even the part of NY I hiked would have been more fun if the rocks hadn't been wet. There was just enough rain to keep the rocks slick the whole time, and I spent a lot of time going very slowly, worried I was going to slip and fall.
    I did NJ and NY about a month ago, and I spent a lot of time in NY thinking, "Man, this would SUCK if it was raining" for that very reason.
    -tagg

  12. #12

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    Yeah....HATED southern NY. From Brady Rd to 17A I did nothing but gripe and moan over the constant rock climbs and sadistic nature of the trail creators. Poor Rain Man; he bore the brunt of my displeasure for not warning me what I was up against LOL!
    Here are the posts I made on FB while venturing through the worst of NY:

    "In New York hikers look longingly at the beautiful, easy trail. The one right next to the AT."



    "I think I know why this section of New York is so hard on the knees.
    It must be from dropping down on them so often to pray for balance."



    "Welcome to New York. Here we go again."




    Ironically, before I tackled this section, I'd hiked from Mombasha Rd. to Elk Pen with a friend and my son. As we approached Rt 17 and Harriman, I looked at the map and saw Agony Grind. I turned to my friend and said, "Was that Agony Grind?" She shrugged. We hadn't noticed any particular grind and certainly no agony. Go figure.
    Last edited by Teacher & Snacktime; 10-29-2020 at 11:19.
    ...the maddest of all is to see life as it is, and not as it should be. Cervantes

  13. #13
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    Maybe I'm alone in enjoying every mile of trail I hiked, difficult yes for sure, but I'm out for the challenge and the rock scrambles and everything else that comes with it. I never looked at the trail for a minute like "this part sucks" or "why does the trail go through here" but that's just me (even in the rain for days). CT isn't a rockless cake walk either so don't think that. I did some trail magic last year (hiked up a mountain with a pack full of ice, cold soda and some snacks) and a lot of the thru hikers were surprised how tough CT had been so far and I remember thinking "wow, I thought that was just me slacking in CT on my thru hike"

    I'm about 10 mpd myself, including zero days, I actually averaged just under 10 on my thru hike and didn't think anyone else was that slow! ... anyway when I hit the Whites I was happy with anything over 5, probably averaged 6-8 from there halfway through Maine. The saying really is true that when you hit the Whites you've completed about 80% of trail but only about 20% of the effort.
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  14. #14
    Registered User gbolt's Avatar
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    Like Lazy Lightning, I never gave the Trail much thought. It is what it is and just keep one foot in front of the other, looking for the view or moment that makes the day worth it. My worst moment on the trail was after the Lemon Squeeze (nothing to it) trying to scale a poorly constructed 7ft Wall. Got scared after this, with all the talk of “The Whites”! Actually, the trail wasn’t the issue as much as the weather. I loved NJ and the Rest of NY and would have enjoyed CT and Mass. more if not for Heat wave, followed by bugs. Vermont turned out to be my favorite “Hiking” portion of the trail. NH and Maine did follow that 80/20 philosophy and was a challenge that provided great reward! Keep the Faith and a Keep Hiking!
    "gbolt" on the Trail

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    We are here to help one another along life's journey. Keep the Faith!

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  15. #15

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    East of I-87 is where you have all NY highlights: West Mountain shelter with best view of Manhattan skyline, Perkins tower (closed now) on Bear mountain, the zoo, the crossing of the Hudson, the famous Appalachian Trail deli, Shenandoah Mountain, RPH shelter, Dover oak and probably a couple more that I forgot.

  16. #16

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    Beyond the Thruway (I-87) there are some steep ups and downs such as West Mountain and Bear Mountain until the Hudson River. East of the Hudson, the trail is noticeably easier. That is not to say "flat," but the ups and downs aren't as difficult as Harriman park and Agony Grind.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    ....From just south of the state line going north for about 4 miles, the trail was surprisingly very difficult, to the point of being downright scary. Lots of scrambling up and down slippery, wet rocks, including climbing using hands and having to sit and slide on my bottom.
    That's one of my favorite sections in the NJ/NY section of the trail. I've backpacked through and returned to day hike it quite a few times, only once in wet conditions. The rocks are tricky when wet and it's worth slowing down a bit in a few steep parts to avoid a slip or a possible injury.

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    3) Why is it that PA gets all the hype in terms of rocks and rugged terrain yet I've heard next to nothing about this even more difficult stretch?
    The PA rocks that give the state a bad reputation are mostly smaller pointed rocks that can be difficult to walk on. The area you're talking about has mostly larger boulder-sized rocks, the kind you see a lot of in Maine. Scrambling over rocks, not worrying about ankle busting rocks.

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    4) In terms of ruggedness, how does this section compare to New Hampshire and Maine? (I know the climbs and descents are longer, but is the physical terrain even more difficult than this section?)
    I agree with Slo-go'en that New Jersey--and even New York--are cakewalks compared to the trail further north. Those PUD's (pointless ups and downs) people are talking about aren't really that hard, just kind of tiring and no view at the top.
    I haven't hiked the Whites in NH yet, but I've hiked in Vermont and quite a bit in Maine.

    The physical terrain of NJ/NY doesn't even compare to the ruggedness of Maine terrain. It's a whole different thing.

    I was recently hiking The Owl, a mountain next to Katahdin--the trail juts off from the AT (and Hunt Trail) in Baxter State Park. Weather forecast was a clear day with no chance of rain, and I was later hiking in an hour-and-a-half downpour, which meant wet boulder scrambling. I think there are lots of unpredictable weather days like that in the far northern section of the AT.

  18. #18

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    Teacher & Snacktime:

    Thanks--I love your photos! I hiked the rocks in that top photo just after sunrise and heard a Barred Owl calling when the sky just looked magical. Special moment, indeed...
    I really love boulder scrambling and rocks, so those sections of the trail draw me in. Everyone has their own favorite parts and parts they've struggled to get through...

  19. #19

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    Years ago, I hiked that section southbound during a brutal heat wave. I remember having a little trouble staying on trail over those rocks. At one point, there was a ladder descent down an outcropping, and when I got to the bottom, a vulture was sitting there, looking at me expectantly. "Sorry, ain't dead yet," I told it.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiptoe View Post
    Years ago, I hiked that section southbound during a brutal heat wave. I remember having a little trouble staying on trail over those rocks. At one point, there was a ladder descent down an outcropping, and when I got to the bottom, a vulture was sitting there, looking at me expectantly. "Sorry, ain't dead yet," I told it.
    I section hiked NJ and NY NOBO and still recall in NY not far past Greenwood Lake where the vultures were waiting for me at the top of a rock scramble. My reaction was the same as yours.

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