I have a friend named Liam. I met him on my first hike with Shorewalkers, an 18 mile hike up the Long Path, starting with a walk over the George Washington Bridge and ending in Piermont, NY.  He and I hit it off, as we both tend to hike at a fast pace, and we, along with 3 others, quickly left most of the group behind (neither of us was a leader on this hike).

Liam knew the trail, and I can hear him, as he explained the “blazes”, “stay on the turquoise.”  Well, we figured we were so ahead of the group, that we’d stop for a beer in Piermont.  Imagine our surprise, as we rounded the corner, to see the rest of the group sitting in the restaurant in the outdoor seating area!  The “turquoise” was the longest path through the woods, the others hiked about two miles shorter and were wondering where we were!

Liam’s an accomplished hiker.  He’s a member of the 35/3500 club, 35 peaks over 3500 feet in NY, and also the winter 35/3500.  He’s a hike leader with Shorewalkers, and several other hiking clubs.   I love listening to his stories about the Adirondacks and the Catskills.

It was always great having him on my hikes. He’d have no problem “sweeping,” hanging out with the slower hikers, and offering tips to anyone who asked–wool socks, year round, no blisters, or “cut the excess off the straps on your pack, every ounce counts!”

With all of his serious hiking experience, Liam liked to come on the day long Shorewalkers hikes–as long as they were in the woods. We did the Croton Aqueduct and Rockefeller Preserve, the old West Point Foundry and Mount Taurus, and he’d show up on other smaller hikes, disappear for a while, and show up off a siding as he explored the areas around the path we were taking.

Liam turned up in the city in February, when we attended the benefit concert for Cy Adler, the founder of Shorewalkers, who passed at 93 the previous October. We had a great time that night, rockin’ to the Stella Blues Band, and catching up with hike leaders from the many organizations that came to pay tribute.

Liam came on a hike I held earlier this year, but I lost track of him with the large group I was leading.  Later on, I found out that he wasn’t feeling well, and had dropped out. Within a few weeks, I heard that he had surgery for cancer, he was as weak as a kitten, but he couldn’t wait to get back out in the woods. We kept in touch through email, but as things usually go, promises to visit fell by the wayside, with “I’m leading hikes these weeks” (me) and “I’m not feeling up to it” (Liam).

Liam passed away last week, and I hope the Trail to Heaven is a great hike for him.

Donations may be given in Liam’s name to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, 600 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430.

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