Denning’s Point, NY – June 20, 2013
Nine years and nine days ago I followed the Appalachian Trail’s white blazes across the Bear Mountain Bridge. It didn’t seem like much then, just a footnote in my journal, a few sentences and nothing more.
“The Hudson River came as a pleasant surprise with a magnificent crossing on a giant suspension bridge,” I wrote. “There is something amazing about crossing a huge construct on foot. It slows it down and allows you to enjoy the immenseness of it. The huge spiraling coils, sheets of metal bolted together, it’s neat to see it and realize you just spent five minutes crossing a man-made bridge.”
It looks bigger from the water, stretching from one side of the river to the other, each end guarded by giant mountains. Cables pull in long, tight arcs. Steel braces as thick as telephone poles crisscross the frame. Cars rumble across 150 feet above my head.
And it means more now.
I leave the boat hanging off a dock and walk. The uphill climb from the river eats at my legs. They burn a hundred steps in, but I refused to slow down. The Appalachian Trail is there somewhere, waiting in the trees, snaking through the Bear Mountain Zoo and across the river. It isn’t enough for me to know it crosses on that bridge, I need to see a white blaze, to run my hands over the paint, to pay homage to an old friend.
I found it on a path next to the zoo–vertical dashes of white paint, one after another. Turn right and they’ll lead you all the way to Maine. Left and you’ll end up in Georgia. I stood there looking at the trail wondering why I needed to see it, to feel it under my feet again.
Maybe I climbed up to those white blazes to look down at the river, at the yellow boat waiting on the dock, to remember how naive I was, how I never imagined I’d be down on the water paddling north. Or maybe I climbed up to those white blazes to look down at the river, at the yellow boat waiting on the dock, to remember how naive I am, how I can’t imagine where I will be nine years and nine days from now.