Location: Unnamed Shelter South of Ft. Montgomery
I slept until 9:45am. I would have slept later, but we had to check out of the Bear Mountain Bridge Motel by 11:00am. I took a hot shower when I first woke up. I miss daily hot showers. I ate a couple bacon, egg, and cheese bagels at the bakery across the street and then bought a few snacks for the trail at the Mobil gas station. Everything was overpriced. I paid my share of the room when I found Cold Feet and Bears in the parking lot of the motel. They had been late getting out of the room and the motel owner was angrily cleaning the room, changing the sheets, throwing dirty towels out the door, and vacuuming frantically. We decided not to ask him for a ride back to the trailhead so we began walking back to the trailhead.
On the way, we met Bonefish, Not Bad, and Druid coming into town. They needed to go to the post office and wanted town food. I learned when they learned that Bears was leaving the trail for a few days. Bears had mentioned a break, but I didn’t know it was final until that group conversations. Bears plans to be picked up by his aunt and uncle tonight and he will skip 110 miles of trail and take five days rest to think about his commitment to the trail and hopefully add a few pounds to his bony figure.
We left the three incoming SOBOs at the gas station and continued down the sidewalk. Bears and I stopped at the actual Fort Montgomery to look around the remains and read the plaques. Bears didn’t move far from the entrance to the fort but I traced all of the sidewalks. From the grand battery overlooking the Hudson River, I could picture the naval battles of the Revolutionary War: British and American schooners, 32-pound cannons firing from the hillside, ships exchanging volleys, and ships sinking or catching fire. The fort had more plaques and markers than I had time to read.
Bears walked with Cold Feet and me through the Bear Mountain Zoo. The AT passes through the zoo and is at its lowest point for 2000 miles in front of the bear cage. The zoo displays injured animals native to Harriman-Bear Mountain State Park. We spend a couple hours looking at birds, rodents, cats, and other animals that we probably won’t see in the wild. I saw my first bears today, but they were in captivity. I had seen one from the car in Maine with mom, but it hardly counts as an encounter. In the pen was a mother with her two cinnamon colored cubs. An old man at the exhibit was feeding the bears acorns. Soon several young girls joined despite their mothers standing in front of the ‘Don’t feed the bears’ sign. They all threw acorns to the bears, sometimes I thought they might be throwing them at the bears. No one was there to prevent it. The bears got frantic and active. They no longer lazily rested on rocks but now ran around their cage. I didn’t try to stop the acorn throwing, but I did move on and out the other end of the zoo.
I said goodbye to Bears, but not for the last time. He’ll meet me in Delaware Water Gap. Cold Feet and I continued on the trail and I lost her as we climbed Bear Mountain in a cold rain. The climb up Bear Mountain was not as difficult as I had expected. The rain made the rocks slick. At the top, I encountered many people who had many questions about my trip. One thought that my trekking poles were fishing rods. All of the usual questions were asked, and the inquiries took much of my time. Several of the men were in wheelchairs, so I figured I owed them more time than others to give them an idea of my journey. I left Bear Mountain summit at nearly 5:00pm to hike the last six miles to the shelter. I barely made the shelter by dark. Cold Feet didn’t make the shelter. I suppose she is camping somewhere between the Palisades road crossing and the lean-to.