Two weeks on an erratic work schedule gave me a few 16-hour days and absolute mental exhaustion. It concluded with an overnight shift at the tail end of a streak of rainy days. As I drove home that morning at 7:30 AM, I found myself fighting the urge to pass right by my house and head into the mountains. However, hiking would be rough on -8 hours of sleep, or in a suit, or on a completely empty stomach, so on and so forth.
I shuffled into my apartment and set my alarms to 10:00 AM before falling into bed. My hope was to wake up by that time, feeling great, and get a nice, long hike in. When my eyes opened it was shortly after noon. The edges of my blackout curtains were illuminated by rays of the high sunlight as I hopped to my feet. How I slept through five different alarms, I don't know.
With a later start than I had anticipated, I quickly ran through a few of my options. It didn't take long before I settled on North Point in Storm King State Park. As far as a payoff to distance ratio goes, it is hard to compete with the stunning view from this location and my last two recent trips there were under hazy, overcast skies.
Quickly, I dressed and grabbed my gear. As soon as I stepped outside I was ecstatic with the brightness of the day and the flowing white clouds which danced overhead. I was less ecstatic though with the sheer, brutal humidity of the air I had stepped into. Nevertheless, I had almost began to forget what it was like to be outdoors without being rained on, so I happily accepted that it would be muggy.
There was no traffic to speak of on the familiar ride up the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Passing through Fort Montgomery, I could spot a number of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers moving along or halting to read a map as I drove by. I was tempted to stop and offer a ride or a snack and if it were any earlier I might have. I arrived at the parking area on Route 9W at almost 2:00 PM.
With only a short window before I would be burdened with rush hour traffic, I knew it would be best to hike quickly on this short trail and enjoy as much time as I could at the summit. With my pack and camera secured, I immediately took off into a full sprint down the rocks on the white-blazed Bobcat Trail and descended into the forest. With sunlight slicing vividly through the trees, the landscape was quite different than on previous visits. Things felt more alive.
I ran until I reached the small tributary that I have never seen as anything more than a trickle. Today though, after all the rain we'd had, the trickle had become a small flowing stream. A number of butterflies fluttered near the glistening rocks along the edge of the water as I hopped over the wet patch.
Taking off again and picking up my pace, I arrived at the stone steps installed in the hillside within minutes. The stairs mark the start of the blue-blazed Howell Trail which travels steeply towards the North Point summit. As soon as I stepped off the stone and onto the narrow, rocky dirt path, I entirely lost tree cover and it naturally felt much warmer than in the shade.
To my left, views of Butter Hill and Storm King Mountain slowly began to rise from behind the horizon. A few trees were scattered ahead. I recently brought a friend here for his first hike. When we got this far, he remarked "I feel like I'm in Zelda." Though the last time I played a Zelda game was on a NES, I perfectly understood the wonder and imagination he was embracing.
A little more steady climbing eventually brought the prominent boulder that sits nearly at the center of the summit into view. Beyond, the Hudson River, alive with activity, cut between Storm King Mountain and Breakneck Ridge. The blue sky above was simply amazing as slowly rolling clouds passed above.
I tossed my bags up and climbed onto the large stone. My shirt was soaked in sweat after my run through the woods and I welcomed the beads dripping from my brow. After the long week I had just wrapped up, the great weather and absolute beauty of the landscape could not be spoiled by some perspiration. And it beats being soaked by rain.
The stress and exhaustion of the week completely melted away and I felt inspired, refreshed, and full of great ideas. I was amazed with how quickly the healing powers of nature kicked in and revived my mind and body. Admittedly, all week I had felt slightly off from being knocked out of my routine; within minutes, I felt as though I was back at 100%.
I took a lot of photos as the shifting of the clouds cast dark shadows that would glide along the tops of the hills, bringing unique shots with every passing moment. I placed one of my cameras at the edge of the rock to record the scene for a time lapse to be created later.
A number of turkey buzzards flew above as trains passed, whistles blowing, on the tracks below. A number of vessels traveled to and fro on the water. All the while I sat on that rock, my head pivoting to absorb the sights. I attempted deep breathing, but it was difficult due to the high humidity.
Here on this rock, I lost track of time until my camera beeped and shut off, marking 30 minutes of video. I had to head back now if I had any hope of avoiding the road being cluttered on my way home. I jumped off onto the ground and paced around for a bit before I leaped back into a sprint toward my car.
My run back was even more strenuous than my run to the summit. Within minutes, I was emerging from the forest, back at the parking lot. I had made great time and enjoyed the beautiful day, albeit for a short period of time.
When I originally started hiking consistently, I rejected returning to the same location twice for quite awhile. I always felt it was more important to see somewhere new as opposed to seeing something again for a second time. However, lately I have become more comfortable with revisiting some of the sights my eyes have already seen as they always surprise me with something new.