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Hiking/Backpacking/Camping/Tentless hiking trip in Northeast


Dear Wounded Knee,

My name is Hal. I am trying to plan a hiking trip for this coming Memorial Day weekend. The tentative plan is to drive out early afternoon on Sunday; hike out to a nice spot; spend the night; and spend the next day hiking, hanging and sightseeing. The caveat is that we do not want to use tents; we want to be as close as we can to the wilderness experience. It will be a take what you can carry deal. Everybody will bring a sleeping bag and pillow and we will sleep on the forest floor.

I was hoping for some feedback on this plan:

1) First, is it even feasible?
2)If so, where should we do it? I have been wanting to head up to Harriman for a long time. Do you think that Harriman is a good place for this adventure?
3) Can you recommend rigorous/difficult trails for a long day of hiking and sight-seeing?
4) What is the policy on fires? Are ground fires allowed at all? Are fire rings available? Is there any way to relax around a fire under the wilderness sky?

I really hope I do not come off as rude with my barrage of questions. I am just really excited!


What you propose is nice ideal, but you should be aware of a number of potential problems:

1. The regulations of most state parks in NY and NJ require that you camp at designated sites, usually in or near a shelter. Lots of folks "stealth camp" away from the designated sites -- I have done so myself on a number of occasions -- but doing so is a violation of park rules. If you choose to stealth camp, find a previously used site large enough for your group.
2. Regardless of predictions, weather is changeable, so even if you start the night without a tent or tarp, you may need one before the night is over. So make sure that everyone has back-up shelter.
3. Biting insects can make your night pretty miserable if you're not under some kind of netting. Camping away from low or wet areas can partially reduce this problem, and if it's a cool night, the insects won't be particularly active.
4. Even after the hottest days, the ground stays cool and in some places damp. Everyone should carry a waterproof groundcloth and a sleeping pad.

As for possible locations and trails: How many miles/hours do you want to hike before setting up camp? "A long day of hiking and sight-seeing" means different things to different people. A long day for me means 20+ miles, but for your group may mean only 7 or 8 miles. Also, how large is your group? If it's much more than 5 or 6 folks, then I strongly recommend camping near a shelter. And if it's more than ten, then you should break it up into multiple groups and go to different places.

Fires are generally pretty restricted. There are no permanent fire rings, but nearly all of the shelters have fireplaces of some sort, and the various stealth sites usually have temporary fire rings as well.

So, give me a bit more information, and maybe we can come up with something for you and your group.


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Wounded Knee


I can advise on anything having to do with hiking and backpacking skills and equipment, including map and compass and orienteering skills. I cannot advise on the use of GPS devices. I cannot advise on car camping or group camping (10 or more people). My primary geographic expertise is in the US Northeast, but I know how to find information on hiking and backpacking just about anywhere.


I've been hiking and backpacking for about 45 years, including section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. I have hiked extensively in the New York Metropolitan Area, as well as various other areas from Georgia north, including upstate New York, New England, and Eastern Canada.

New York Walk Book, 7th Ed.
New Jersey Walk Book, 2nd Ed.

Not applicable to this area of expertise.

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