In this Iconic Locations episode, we've got a tight squeeze for you: the Lemon Squeezer. Learn about this claustrophobic-inducing spot in the oldest section of the AT.
MILLS KELLY: Welcome to The Green Tunnel, a podcast on the history of the Appalachian Trail.
KELLY: Imagine for a minute that you and a friend have decided to go for an overnight trip on the Appalachian Trail. You live in New York City, so the closest section of the trail is in Harriman State Park, just a quick hour’s drive north.
KELLY: The two of you drive to the parking lot on Arden Valley Road near the park boundary and start hiking north on the AT. Just about the time you really hit your hiking rhythm, you come around a bend in the trail and stop. There in front of you, the trail seems to vanish into what looks like a kind of a cave.
KELLY: Welcome to the Lemon Squeezer, the oldest of all the iconic locations along the Appalachian Trail. The Lemon Squeezer is located on the original section of the trail, which makes it the original iconic location that hikers can visit. It’s also very old geologically. Very, very old.
MOE LEMIRE: So, the Lemon Squeezer is a rock formation. It’s a bedrock formation, which is partially carved by water. And it is it’s a very skinny and almost looks like a rock crack that the trail goes through. And you have to shimmy your way up through these two very large bedrock pieces.
KELLY: That’s Moe Lemire, a member of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. And former thru hiker who is responsible for the Appalachian Trail in Southern New York,
LEMIRE: A lot of people have to take their pack off to do so. And it kind of slightly goes uphill. And it’s about between the two rock masses, it’s about less than three feet wide. And so a lot of people have to walk kind of sideways and shimmy their way up it. And it’s a it’s kind of one of those spots that you get to it and you’re like, “Oh, this looks fun.”
KELLY: If you can bring yourself to squeeze through the crack between the rocks, you’ll hit a rock scramble, where it takes some concentration to get to the top.
LEMIRE: Sort of like you have to do hand over foot type of rock climbing. And it’s about I would say ten feet tall from the bottom to the top and sort of get to put your foot in this spot, grab that rock and pull yourself up.
KELLY: Shortly after Benton MacKaye proposed to trail in 1921, volunteers in New York began planning where to route to trail north of New York City. The location they chose was between Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River and the village of Arden. And in 1923, the trail section they created which included the Lemon Squeezer, opened to the public. But as a hiker, you’d be hard pressed to know that.
LEMIRE: it would be really cool to have some sort of small plaque or something to indicate the first section of the AT that was built started here and just so people that are in the area know that. In Maine where the last section of the trail was finished, they have like a monument set in a rock that says the last section of the AT was built here on Sugarloaf Mountain. We don’t have that in Harriman for the first section.
KELLY: These days, many hikers are a bit more risk averse than they were in the earliest days of the trail. So, the New York- New Jersey Trail Conference has created an alternative route for those who want a little less of a challenge or who find squeezing sideways between two huge boulders to be anxiety producing.
LEMIRE: There is what we call a Blue Blaze trail that goes around this particular spot, because a lot of people rock climbing is not their favorite thing and from a safety perspective, you know, a family with kids or stuff we put a little bypass trail to go around that particular rock scramble.
KELLY: If you’ve hiked a lot on the Appalachian Trail, you know that there are other places where the trail scouts routed the trail through some spots that might also induce a bit of claustrophobia, but none of them are quite as long or quite as tight as the Lemon Squeezer. And none of them was first.
KELLY: That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more of these short segments in between our main episodes. And don’t forget to share your photos in the Lemon Squeezer and tag us on your socials.
KELLY: The Green Tunnel is a podcast of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Today’s episode was produced by me. Abby Mullen is our Executive Producer and she also did the audio production for this episode. A special thanks to Moe Lanier, who you can read more about on our website: greentunnel.rrchnm.org.
KELLY: Be sure to follow our show on your favorite podcast platform. Episode Four of the podcast will be appearing soon and you won’t want to miss it. If you want to receive our newsletter, please sign up on our website using the “Become a Member” link. In addition to the newsletter, we’ll send you some really cool Green Tunnel swag.
KELLY: Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you again soon.
Moe Lemire is a volunteer with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and a former thru hiker. He overseers the Appalachian Trail in New York from the Hudson River to the New Jersey state line. He is also the liaison between the Club and the Appalachian Trail Conference and the National Park Service.