With my miniature park squared away for the season I figured it was high time to invade someone else’s park, the State of New York perhaps? Unbeknownst to most New York City residents, the rest of the state is actually quite beautiful, filled with my favorite native species, animals galore, and plenty of things to smash and burn.
My pal Jonah did some searching, map purchasing and plotted a path starting at his mother’s house leading up and back over the great granite domes of… (cue the bagpipes)
The Harriman Highlands
Never mind that the temperature at night was to dip to a balmy 27 degrees, we had some camping and hiking to do. We laughed in the face of the cold as we packed up whiskey, long underwear and well over 10,000 calories in the form of pork products and cheese. Jeremiah Johnson did this shit in his sleep. Beards, partial beards or none at all, we would last for one lousy night. Even if it killed us.
Just for practice, we spent the night before drinking strange booze from Jonah’s parent’s liquor cabinet and carefully observing the local wildlife. In this case, Jonah’s dogs who like to sit on each other.
We filled the car with as much gear as we could muster and as many dudes as would fit and hit the road after enjoying some mother-prepared eggs, the best kind there is.
It was cold. I decided that dressing like a bizarro Spider Man cyclist/homeless person was the best plan. Everyone else looked pretty normal. Like I give a care.
Hiking in the woods in the fall is the jam. The smell of crisp fall air is a very close second to the burning tire smell of Brooklyn. Falling into the trance-like rhythm of our own footsteps and labored breathing we trooped for a few hours mostly going up or down, rarely just plain level. We clamored over massive granite boulders that looked kinda like moonscapes, but with bonsai trees. We paused occasionally to survey the endless views. And then went down. Then up again.
We trooped through huge wooded areas with almost no underbrush, forests with a carpet of orange leaves and nothing else for blocks and blocks. To think of all the artisenal cheese shops and overpriced second-hand clothing stores you could fit in this place. It boggles the mind.
We reached our remote destination, a three-walled shelter on the Appalachian Trail and found it to be completely infested by Boy Scouts, crawling all over it, making fart noises and whittling sticks (basically exactly what we had planned to do).
We moved on up the ridge, to the very highest point around and set up camp there, enjoying exactly one Miller High Life tallboy each, which we carefully crushed to be packed out the following day. Cause that’s how we roll.
After securing fire wood Jonah saw fit to just plain beat on a tree, because burning trees wasn’t enough.
James openly mocked this tree for having a giant deformity on it. Real nice.
Andrew fawned over the lush green moss on the rocks.
I got some rest in a concrete somethingorrather that quite honestly would’ve made a great sub-irrigated planter. We were proving to be great stewards of the park, basically living off the fat of the land.
We spent the night cooking awesome shit over an open fire; jalapeno and cheese sausages, sauteed onions and garlic and foil-wrapped potatoes, washed down with various types of whiskey from flasks.
By the end of the night we were sufficiently warm even as the temperature dropped ominously. I decided it was bedtime well after my condition fooled me into thinking sitting in the woodpile was actually comfortable.
I remember waking up just before dawn and thinking “it’s significantly colder.” It was kinda like waking up in a freezer. I got out of the tent, literally swept frost off our bags of food and got the fire going.
Bacon, biscuits and cheesy eggs cooked in bacon fat took the chill off. Jonah pulled out this magical contraption that made us espresso. Why? Cause we’re New Yorkers you dummy. Shown here in actual size.
Aside from hiking for three hours in a giant circle we escaped the woods with just under 20 minutes of daylight and showed the Harriman Highlands a thing or two in the process. I think.
When we got back to the car a guy at the trail head said, “the first meal back is always the best.” My two donuts and medium “regular” from Dunkies were exactly what he was talking about.