First things first; let's see that bear video I mentioned a couple updates ago. I was camped at the Brinks Road Shelter in New Jersey with Dingo and Hungry Horse. Initially some raccoons had ripped open the bait bag (they're too light to trigger the device) allowing the bear to get a few free meals. As you'll see, his luck didn't last.
I am happy to report that the notorious rocks of Pennsylvania gradually fade away by the time the trail gets to New York. That sounds a lot worse than it is; I was only in New Jersey for about 3 days. I laugh to myself a bit when a New Yorker warns me about rocky trail ahead. There were times in PA when my feet didn't touch dirt for days. You know how the Eskimos supposedly have something like 47 words for "snow?" Same thing with the rocks in PA. There's gravel, but there's gravel of all sizes. The kind you find in a driveway is nice, but sometimes the gravel is comprised of pieces the size of baseballs. There's rubble and there are boulders. Vast fields of tumbled rock as big as cars and couches, a white blaze is visible at the other end and it's up to you to puzzle your way to it. You'll encounter what I call icebergs, ankle-high triangles which belong to a much bulkier obstacle, the majority of which lies buried. Even worse are the shark fins, jagged blades which sometimes run parallel to each other creating perfect foot-sized grooves. They either stab you or trap you; they never help you. But the absolute worst are the miles upon miles where the trail is simply a ribbon of densely packed, oddly shaped pyramids. Every step requires that you first solve a diabolical riddle: "Is it better to stab my heel on that small peak, or to roll my ankle in the spaces between?"
I'm only a few days into New York and I'm really enjoying it. The people have been exceptionally friendly. I've had more people recognize me as a hiker and offer me rides and/or food than any other state so far. The water sources have been pretty dry because it's the middle of summer, so local trail clubs have been leaving dozens of gallons of spring water at road crossings. The terrain is finally becoming more mountainous again. I have been catching glimpses of the horizon ahead (and behind) - an aspect of trail life I have missed since before Virginia.
A lot of things have happened over the last week or so which have changed my perspective on the hike. Two days ago, I arrived at a shelter which has a view of the New York City skyline. For some reason, seeing the city in the distance made it really hit home just how far we've walked. For the past three months, this has seemed like some kind of hiking dream which would never end. I sometimes feel like I'm just going to walk forever. Now, the end feels near. Mile 1,400 is significant because it's approximately the 2/3 point. We northbounders have been running into southbounders more often and they all look like they're just getting started, because they are. I'm now looking at the miles which remain (785) as well as the miles behind. Seeing those numbers dwindle naturally leads to obsessive calculations such as possible finish dates, miles per week predictions and so on. "Just a few weeks left," I think. And then I look at elevation profiles for New Hampshire and once again it feels like this will never end.