Story (Pine Swamp)

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A Beginner Hiker’s Impression
By Elizabeth Tom

The level B 5-mile hike to Pine Swamp at Harriman State Park took place on a nice sunny day with 70 degree temperature and low humidity with a group of more than 20 people led by Yet Chang. I, along with 2 other Manhattanites, Richard Wong and Mei Mei Li, got a ride to the site from Terry Lou. I think Richard, who’s quite tall, just barely fitted into Terry’s nice compact red car.

After arriving there, we hung out by the pretty lake while waiting for the others to arrive. In the meantime, everyone took advantage of the natural outdoor restroom facilities, which by the way, I have still not yet gotten accustomed to, even though this is my third hike with the club.

After Yet had briefed us on the walk, we started our hike at 10:40AM. I got discouraged, when at the beginning of the walk, we had to climb a very steep hill (well, at least to me, it was very steep), but I think others thought so also. Fortunately, that was the only steep hill we had to climb until much later. We continued hiking and after a point we had to stop, as a number of hikers were still a bit behind (probably because of that initial steep hill). After everyone was together again, we continued on. We passed Times Square without stopping, which was unlike my first hike to Times Square, in which everyone lingered around for a long time.

Because the ground was mostly rocky throughout the trail, I found myself looking down most of the time and concentrating on where I stepped, as it had been with my other 2 hikes, lest I should trip and fall flat on my face. Of course, that meant I couldn’t really enjoy my surroundings, since my head was always pointed towards the ground, but I occasionally looked up from time to time to see if there were any worthwhile photo opportunities.

Even though the temperature reached close to 80 degrees by noon, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t really feel hot, as the tall trees high above us provided much shade, along with the low humidity in our favor.

Just before we all had lunch, we had to hike up the next really steep narrow hill called Lemon Squeeze. I suppose it’s called by that name because only one person can fit snugly into it while climbing up. I wouldn’t know since I cheated and went around the opposite side to avoid climbing it. By the way, I was not the only hiker who chose this path. Anyway, I walked over in time to see Grace Tsai and Terry finish climbing the Squeeze. After they noticed that I had never climbed Lemon Squeeze, they insisted that I should come back down and climb it. I told them no way, but to placate them, I went down to where Terry was standing after she had just climbed it and posed for a picture with her. So when people look at the photo, everyone would think I had climbed it too.

After 1½ hours of hiking, everyone broke into groups for lunch at 12:10PM. I chose to eat by the shade while chatting with Simon Chan and another hiker. After gobbling my lunch, I went over to where some other hikers were eating further up. I noticed that Pepe, Mingo Lee’s dog, was quite attracted to Richard. It seems Richard had made the mistake of feeding him something and now Pepe was ever so hopeful that he would be rewarded with a treat again.

In the meantime, Pepe’s owner, Mingo, was lazily relaxing in a supine position, with his head resting on this really huge backpack he had been carrying all this time. The backpack looked really heavy. I asked him if was going on a multi-day camping trip right after this short hike. All he said was that the load would get lighter. I didn’t understand what he meant until sometime later in the hike.

So we proceeded to hike after our nice break, but not before I had everyone pose for a group photo. As we were hiking, a fellow hiker and I try to keep pace with Mingo, who appeared to be a very experienced hiker and who obviously was way ahead of everyone, even with the heavy load on his shoulders. Perhaps he was trying to outpace his dog, which seemed to have boundless energy. After hiking for a while, we stopped to wait for the others to catch up.

After a water break, we proceeded on. I noticed that Su Rwei and Terry were quite experienced using their hiking poles, I think they would definitely make good cross-country skiers. I was impressed with one particular hiker, Man Kwan Chang, who was extremely light and nimble on his feet, wearing what I believe to be a pair of cloth shoes and carrying just a small fanny pack. He appeared to me to be almost gliding across the trail, walking so effortless with a bounce in his steps among the rocky ground, while I, in my hiking boots, was trudging along and tripping slightly over the rocks from time to time. There was one elderly lady on our hike who was doing very well and kept pace with everyone else with her walking stick in tow. When I asked her how she felt, she said she felt fine and she didn’t appear tired at all. I can only hope that I can be as fit as her when I am older.

In the meantime, we came upon a trail marker, which Su pointed out as being blue. However, Richard and I definitely thought the trail marker looked green. I would be totally confused and lost if I had to hike the trail by myself, as colors are not necessarily what they appear to be. I was probably the only one in the group that didn’t even bother to look at the map during the hike, as my sense of direction leaves little to be desired anyway.

By this point, someone had told me that Mingo had a watermelon inside his backpack and as is the custom when he joins a hike, he brings along a watermelon to share with all his fellow hikers. Wow, what a nice guy! I couldn’t believe he was lugging this heavy baby all this time. Now, I understood what he meant when he said that his load would get lighter. In the meantime, Mingo was scouting a place ahead of us to unload his ware. When we caught up with him, he was settling down with the huge round watermelon on the mat and we all watched in anticipation as he proceeded to cut it. How mouth-watering it looked and tasted. After the juicy treat, which everyone appreciated wholeheartedly, we were on our way again.

We ended our hike 5 hours after we started. It sure was a good workout for me and Yet and Elisa Yan were very good leader and co-leader. I have to say that on each of my hikes so far, I have met some very nice fellow hikers.

I was surprised to find that today’s level B hike had been much easier in terms of difficulty than my other two level A hikes. This trail was pleasant in that it was mostly flat, unlike my other 2 hikes, which contained multiple steep gradations and more rocky surfaces. As a matter of fact, the leader of my previous level A hike admitted that the hike should have been rated a B, whereas, I thought it should have been rated a C, with its steep, rocky, long hills. Well, so much for its rating system.

Anyway, I had enjoyed my hike and I had a pleasant, quiet ride back with my fellow passengers. And thanks, Terry, for dropping me off close to my doorstep.


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