I spent Friday through Sunday morning backpacking in Harriman State Park in New Jersey. Friday night I took a 6:00 bus from downtown, across the Hudson River and into NJ where I met my friend Jay who drove us to Harriman. Our hike in to the Dutch Doctor Shelter was dark and the cool air was really comfortable for hiking. We hiked 2.5 miles by the light of our head lamps over gentle grades of boulder strewn trails. We arrived at Dutch Doctor Shelter around 9:00 where we met up with Mike, who would join us for the weekend. I made a lazy dinner of pepper jack cheese and pepperoni and we all sat around talking and listening to Thievery Corporation. The temperature was down around the mid 50's and made for extremely comfortable sleeping.
Saturday morning I woke up around 7:00, well rested, and brewed a cup of joe. I sipped my coffee while sitting on the edge of the shelter watching the sun rise slowly above the horizon. Rays of sunlight warmed my legs and pelted the eastern sides of trees in the woods before me. It was a beautiful morning. We packed up and set off west along the Tuxedo Mountain Ivy Trail to Claudius Smith Den. This trail took us over Tuxedo Mountain (1040') to the den which is actually a pretty large cave. I crawled up and through the cave stopping inside to enjoy the cool darkness and sound echoing around inside. I down-climbed a simple route on the the backside of the cave and was pretty stoked about the whole thing. I think caves are really neat.
Pushing on past Claudius Smith Den, we turned south down the Blue Disk Trail. This trail was pretty awesome as well because it splits and gives you two options: the "elbow brusher" or the "easy route". We all took the elbow brusher and enjoyed squeezing through narrow crevices and along harry ledges. This trail was mostly down hill. At one point we stopped for a break and I noticed a big hornets nest hanging high in the branches above. It was the size of a basketball. Sitting on some rocks we all snacked, drank water and talked about the beautiful weather and excellent trail conditions. We all enjoyed the sight of a giant tree growing from a ledge on the side of an equally large boulder.
A mile or so later we were hiking along the Kakiat Trail which routed us across Spring Brook. Hurricane Irene had caused so much flooding that the bridge across Spring Brook was destroyed. Remnants of the bridge were interesting... concrete pillars with re-bar and broken strands of cable sprouting up out of them. Across the brook, a log the size of a telephone pole held anchored to the pillar. The other end of the log was swept downstream by the current. We followed the brook until we found a spot to rock hop across about a quarter mile downstream.
After another mile and a half or so, we came across Stony Brook which is a boulder strewn river with several small waterfalls (10') and deep refreshing pools. We all filtered water from this brook and I climbed around taking pictures. The roar of the water filled the air and a canopy of very tall trees let light filter down through gaps in the leave cover high above. It was beautiful.
We hiked a couple more miles to the top of Diamond Mountain where we set up camp. The tents went up quickly and we all went about collecting firewood for the evening. It was about 4:00 at this time and cloud cover had me wondering if it was going to rain or not. The weather forecast had called for good weather but I had a feeling I was going to get wet. As luck would have it, the clouds blew by and the stars came out. Dinner was a freeze dried meal of spaghetti (Again, I have to say Mountain House meals are great). We all made meals around the fire and talked while Bob Dylan played from an iPhone. The three of us shared food and stories and kept the fire blazing for a few hours before calling it a day.
Sunday morning I woke up around 6:45. The sun was just creeping over the rocks in front of my tent highlighting the green moss on the ground just outside of my tent. I stared through the screen at my boots and water bottle I left outside overnight. Moments later I was outside stretching, rubbing my eyes and picking up sticks for the fire. The coals from last night's fire were still hot and the fire came back to life with a few hand fulls of kindling. I wasn't too hungry but I ate a breakfast bar with my coffee and then cooked up some bacon for the three of us. We broke camp by 9:00 and hiked the last 4 miles out to the cars. Great trip!