Angle to Key West: Nine Years and Nine Days (6/20)

Crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge on AT

The AT in 2013

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.

Maybe both.

6 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Nine Years and Nine Days (6/20)

  1. Nice post. The Bear Mountain Bridge, connecting Bear Mountain and Anthony’s Nose is one of the Hudson River’s most spectacular settings. Glad you were able to experience it both ways!

  2. I’m sure it’s just cooincidence, but you look about nine years older in photo number two.

  3. You were a sweet, courageous youngster then. You have had amazing journeys since. I like the man you have become. I look forward to and hope to enjoy how the next nine years will grow you!

  4. There are so many reasons why you went to see it. Like a great friend, a beautiful piece of art, an engaging book, a magnificent ocean inlet (and the list is endless) they bring out something that is good in all of us. Reminds us of the gift of life we have and the hope the future promises. The AT is one of your great friends and teachers. Like I said, you went up there for a lot of reasons but foremost I think was to say thank you and honor it for what it did for you.

  5. I’m impressed that you could reach into your archives from your kayak and find a photo of your crossing 9 years ago — good filing system!

  6. I had a similar sentiment when I biked the c&o towpath, along the potomac. Finding those white blazes by Harpers Ferry & pedaling the same path I’d walked brought back a flood of memories. I staged a photo with one of the few pieces of gear that did the whole trail with me & I still had 11 years later – a nalgene bottle, sitting on a post with a while blaze, bike leaning against the post, potomac in the background.

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