With our spirits and celebratory orange balloons held high for our final organized hike of 2013, we set out on the ascent of Cat Rocks in the beautiful Harlem Valley near Pawling, NY. Note: no balloons were released or left behind in the wilderness; anyone thinking about letting balloons go to see them rise into the sky should read this and then please not do so.
After a quick group hug of the Dover oak, the largest tree on the Appalachian Trail,we began our climb. We enjoyed perfect hiking weather as we renewed old friendships and made new ones along the three and half mile walk.
Our group included both veteran thru-hikers and those who had never set foot on a trail before. But once the hike began, all distinctions dropped away and we were just a group of people who enjoying being outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle for a few hours, trying to do good things for our own mental health and for that of others.
After the after pulse-raising ascent to Cat Rocks, our HIKE for Mental Health hikers paused to rest from the climb, to sharing in the soothing farmland views across the Harlem Valley, and to reflect on the successful 2013 hiking season.
2013 saw new records for the number of HIKE for Mental Health hikes, hikers, sponsors, and funds raised for mental health research and trail preservation. (Stay tuned for the final tally in a few weeks.)
This hike was co-sponsored by the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community, and co-chair Stancy Duhamel thanked the hikers and HIKE for Mental Health for the good work.
After relaxing in the warmth of the noon sun for a while, we descended from the Cat Rocks ledges, trekked across centuries-old farmland, and completed our hike across the Great Swamp boardwalk, which opened just a year ago.
We still have a few thru-hikers out on the AT, but the Cat Rocks & Great Swamp hike was our last organized hike of 2013. Many thanks for our hikers, their sponsors, our volunteers, our partners, and all of our supporters and followers who helped to spread the word.
We Can Make a Difference
One in four American families is affected by a major mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and post traumatic stress disorder, to name a few. The stigma surrounding mental illnesses remains strong as too many people still go untreated and suffer in silence. But together we can and are making a difference. Scientific research is increasing our knowledge about the inner workings of the brain and its linkage to our emotions every day, leading to new treatments and to better understanding. And every time we hike and wear our HIKE for Mental Health orange, we proclaim together that those suffering mental illnesses are not be hidden away in dark rooms, that they are not alone, and that people do care.
Gallery of Photos
Many thanks to staff photographers Donna Chapman and Martin Hunley.