July 10 - Rocks, Rocks and more Rocks
The trail goes through the town and then crosses over the Juniata and the Susquehanna Rivers. It the darts into the woods and climbs steeply to 1300 feet from the valley floor of about 300 feet. Once at the top the infamous Pennsylvania rocks began. Now I have analyzed the rock situation. If you are from a region where there are no rocks on your trails and it's hard packed dirt than this would be the most horrific thing ever. If your shoes soles are in rough shape or thin than you will hate the rocks. For me the beginning part of the day I was like this is nothing and it's almost fun. By the end of the day when I was exhausted I was like I hate all rocks. So time of day and level of tiredness also makes a difference. The rocks overall were not too bad so far. I will say by the end of the day my feet were swollen and sore from the sharp rocks. The stretch between the top of the climb and the first shelter was all large boulders and bed rock. Lots of rock hops and scrambles.
I stopped at the shelter and had a snack and Feather and Mayfly were there. I continued on and the trail was flat and rock free. It was actually a nice pleasant walk on top of the ridge. I crossed over PA 225 and came to a parking area where day hikers gave me a bunch of ice cold bottle water from a cooler in their trunk. It was the best trail magic as I was so thirsty. I stopped at table rock view and Mayfly and the dude were there. We chatted for a bit and I moved on. I stopped at the next shelter to sign the log book and I think Mayfly had passed me. I moved on and the rocks started to creep back in. This time they were much smaller and pointy. I started to fade on energy. Finally I began the descent down to PA 325 and water. It was a stretch of 10 miles with no water. I came to the creek and saw Mayfly on the other side in an area that looked like great camping. He had a fire going in the fire ring. I went around the creek and joined him and set up shop. I set up my tent, cooked dinner and watched the fire while mayfly tried fly fishing as there was trout in the creek. I crashed early at about 9. Feather rolled on at about 10pm and the dude is MIA. Last I saw him he was gonna take a nap at table rock. I hope he didn't fall asleep all night as he didn't have a lot of water.
July 11 - I'm Bored
When I rounded the creek to get back on trail I saw Blossom and Mowgli walking just in front of me. We would play leap frog most of the day. Blossom and Mowgli I have seen several times since the Blueridge Parkway. I just recently learned their trail names. The first climb of the day was not nearly has bad as I had anticipated. It was on an old road and it was a gradual ascent where I did not need to take any breaks. When I got to the top I called the Duncannon post office to have my package sent ahead. It was a painless process and I'm excited that it will be waiting for me when I get to Port Clinton.
I followed the ridge descending gradually to Rausch Gap Shelter where I ate lunch. After lunch I had a climb up second mountain when again the trail followed an old road so the climbing wasn't too hard. I descended down the other side and the trail came into a field for about a mile. I then had several road crossings and the trail entered a state park. This state park didn't have a pool or a concession stand. We were spoiled before but the trail did not go through any part of the park that would have that though. The day grew hot and I began dreaming of ice cold Mt Dew. I had one small climb before descending down to PA 72 and crossing under I-81. Right before the road crossing of PA 72 there was a wooden bench with a red cooler on it. I opened it up and it was full of ice, pink lemonade and MT DEW!!! I have died and gone to heaven. I wish there was a way to know who this was from so I could thank them. The Mt Dew gave me the boost to do the climb out of the valley back up to the ridge line which was about a 1000 foot climb. The climb seemed to go fast as I put music on and has the fire power of Mt Dew behind me. I made it up to the top of the ridge line and the only reference point was an abandoned power line and view point in 3 miles and the shelter was 3 miles after that. Well I missed the abandoned power line and view point, apparently it grew in. So after walking for ever I was confused as to where I was. I had no idea how many more miles to the shelter. I sat down to look at the guidebook and assumed I had passed the view point and estimated I only had a little less than 3 miles to go.
Well of coarse after starting walking again the trail became super rocky. Hello Pennsylvania rocks, thanks for waiting till mile 21-24 of the day to be brutal. I was tired, sore and week so it felt horrific but I know they aren't really that bad. If it was the beginning of the day it would be nothing. The boredom part of my day left when I arrived at the cooler of Mt Dew. Before that the trail seemed to appear that I was hiking the same 5 feet over and over again. I finally arrived at the shelter to two faces I haven't seen since Harper's Ferry. They were camped in the campsites and I went down to the shelter as I have no energy left to set up a tent. Only 1 other here in a shelter that sleeps 16. I took the upstairs and he took the bottom. He told me his trail name but it didn't sink in. I made dinner and climbed into my sleeping bag. It's nice to actually have service at night when I'm hunkering down. Usually there is no signal at whatever shelter or campsite I end up at. Tomorrow I'm stoping at the 501 shelter which is only 5 miles. Supposedly there is a solar shower and you can order pizza. I may however walk into town and go eat. It's only 2 miles off trail.
July 12 - Almost Done With Pennsylvania
I pushed off at 9 and had gradual downhill to the 501 shelter which was only 5 miles away. I stopped in and my Eagle and Wallet who were about to head out. This shelter has a solar shower so I took advantage of that. Where the shelter is so close to route 501 you can order pizza. I looked at the menu and realized that they don't do delivery until 4pm. Well so much for that idea. I left the 501 and continued on and the rocks began. Little did I know that this would last for 9 miles. When people talk of the rocks in Pennslyvania this is what they must be talking about. Overall it's not terrible but constant rocks make you slow, start to make your feet sore and the greater chance of rolling your foot.
I stopped for lunch at a viewpoint and rested for about an hour. After lunch was the only real climb I had and it was gradual. On the way up in apparently put my trekking pole on a rattler as at the same time I heard rattling and hissing. I literally jumped out of my skin and boogied forward. I didn't see the snake before, during or after the event. You try and keep your eyes out for them but sometimes you just don't see them. By around 2pm my energy had faded and I kept eating and trying to do everything I could to keep it up. The terrain was flat but the rocks were becoming frustrating in my weak state. I crossed over PA 183 and only had 4 miles to go. I don't remember much of those 4 miles as I felt like a zombie but finally made it to Eagles Nest Shelter by 6:30pm. I made dinner and was in my tent asleep by 7:30. Today I am off to Port Clinton and Hamburg.
July 13 - Beef Jerky
The trail comes out to the Port Clinton train yard and follows side streets taking you close to the post office. It was 11:30 and the post office didn't open until 12:30. I saw badger there who he and his girl Jules I've seen a lot on the trail but couldn't remember their trail names. Jules had gone home to move their stuff to Colorado and get ready for school. Badger and I walked to the peanut shop to buy some sodas and wait on a bench. I called the Microtel to book the room and they told me they were full up argh. Well guess no shower or laundry for me. The post office opened and I went in to get my package from Kirk. Homemade beef jerky wohoo. While outside another hiker told me about the pavilion which lets you camp for free. I headed down there and dropped off my gear. I took my small day pack that I had won at trail days and started to walk into Hamburg hitching along the way with no luck. I guess I didn't look like a hiker. Port Clinton doesn't have much in it. Hamburg the next town over has all the services. It was only 2 miles away so it wasn't too bad. I stopped at WaWa and bought the biggest drink possible as I was so thirsty. I then saw a sign for all you can eat Chinese buffet so I had to go there. Afterward I headed over to the worlds largest Cabella's to buy new liner socks. On the way over I saw snitzel who said he had a ride back to Port Clinton and to meet him at Walmart. After Cabella's I headed to Walmart for resupply. I met up with snitzel who called the guy to pick us up. He was such a nice guy and dropped us off at the pavilion. I organized my food and gear and then headed down to the Port Clinton Hotel for dinner. Finished up at around 9:30 and headed back to the pavilion. There are about 25 of us here tonight. Feather, the dude, blossom, Mowgli,c-sharp, hazel, snitzel, jack rabbit and several other familiar faces who I don't know their trail names. Several guys tented across from the pavilion. I hope the bugs aren't too bad tonight.
July 14 - When will these rocks end?
I thought to myself what could be worse than Pennsylvania rocks. Well wet ones for sure. I hiked 5 miles with several ups and downs after the first big climb and stopped at Windsor Furnace Shelter for a rest and a snack. I met coach there who was trying to get motivated to get moving. With the prospect of all day hiking in rocks it's hard to get up in the morning. After leaving the shelter the real rocks of the day began and would be with me for the next 17 miles.
Another big climb up to Pulpit Rock and then the trail was relatively flat but rocky as hell. I passed the pinnacle which was another view and more rocks. It made it very slow going. The trail finally came out to an old road and followed that for 3 miles. While there were some rocks mostly the terrain was smooth going and have my feet a rest. I descended down to Hawk Mt Road and just east on the road is Eckville Shelter which is manned by a caretaker. The shelter was nice with an separate building which has a flush toilet and shower. C-sharp was there when I arrived and a few others. I ate my lunch rested and jumped in the cold shower just to cool off. Coach, Hazel showed up while I was there and we ended up being a group of about 9. A line of big thunderstorms had passed just to our north but they took the humidity with them so things dried out dramatically. The caretaker for the shelter gave us all ice pops which I hadn't had since I was a kid. After about 45 minutes I got my boots back on and headed back out.
Facing another big climb put music on and pushed on. Though it was drier it was still quite humid in the woods. I reached the top of the ridge and the guidebook showed flat terrain and it was just hard packed dirt. In my head I cheered and then I saw the rocks ahead. Ugh. The next 6 miles would be one of the toughest sections for me on the trail. Big rocks, little rocks, rocks with points so sharp you thought you stepped on a nail. Rocks that moved when you step on them, bedrock, moss covered rocks and all wet. To top things off which has been the case for weeks you have small gnats flying around your face and eyes. Which has happened before but makes more difficult in this situation is when those gnats fly into your eye. Sometimes both at the same time so as your rock hoping on went rocks now your eyes have been forced closed by bugs in them. Argh!! It was a slow 6 miles and it was getting dark. Oh please let's had darkness to this hell. When am I out of Pennsylvania?
Finally I see the sign for Allentown Hiking Club Shelter. I collapse on the steps to the shelter and take my boots off. I can feel my feet throbbing as my heart is beating. The shelter only has two people at it Bonnie and Clyde. C/sharp arrives shortly thereafter feeling the same way as me both physically and mentally. That makes me feel better that it's not just me. I make a quick dinner after setting up my tent and crash fairly quickly. I hope the worst is over but probably not there is still 42 miles left in this state.
July 15 - Salvation
I woke up this morning at 7:30 this morning struggling to get up. The last two days I have been so exhausted and having a hard time getting up and out of bed. Finally after some efforts I got up and packed and headed out on trail at about 8:30. There were only 4 of us at the shelter last night. C-sharp was at the shelter last night but moved on right before I crashed for another 4 miles and was shooting for Blue Mt Bed and Breakfast as they let hikers camp in back. Bonnie and Clyde were also there and are south bounders who started in Vermont. There was another person in the shelter who must of arrived after I went to bed and was still asleep in the morning.
The morning terrain of the trail was relatively flat following and old road. After 4 miles I reached PA 309 and the Blue Mt. B+B where I was able to fill up on water out back. They are nice enough to let hikers fill up on water when passing thru. I rested for a bit and got back on trail. The black gnats were especially bad this morning and normally I just ignore them, but after having several fly into my eyes and get stuck under the eye lids and then swallowing a few abs coughing to death I put my bug neat on over my head. After leaving 309 the rocks were back in force and I climbed up to the knife edge.
The knife edge was a bunch of large boulders smushed together to create a thin line you could rock hope across. It was really neat and interesting but hard to maneuver with a heavy pack hoping from rock to rock it did however provide fantastic views of the valley belo. After making it through the knife edge you walk to Bear Rocks which was more or less a cliff with great views. I took lots of pictures and continued on. The rocks continued as well with smaller boulders. After another few miles of small boulders I reached snd climbed up over Bake Oven Knob, or as my brain called it easy bake oven. After the kids toy. On my way down from the climb with more rock hoping I came across "Thru hikers girlfriend" as she called herself. Her boyfriend was hiking the PCT and she was out trying to bring some trail magic but waited to late in the day and everyone had already left the shelter. She told me she left ice cold waters in a mini cooler at the shelter. Yay was I excited as it was hot and luke warm water doesn't do it quite like ice cold. I stopped at the shelter and drank two bottles of water and moved on.
The plan for me was to get to Palmerton for the night. There were 3 towns close to one another yet none had any motels or hotels. Bert's steakhouse said in the guidebook to inquire about stay so that was were I was headed. After 10 miles of rocks straight I came to Salvation. The rocks went away and I was in a field and meadow which had a forest fire several years ago and was growing back. The trail was flat and had great views into the valley.
I began the climb down to PA 873. It was steep in sections but overall not to bad. It was getting hotter and more humid as I further descended into the valley. I reached 873, crossed the road and crossed Lehigh River via the 873 bridge. The trail them reached and interesection where you walk down one side of the road cross at the traffic light and then walk back the way you came. The road was 4 lanes of traffic and too busy just to cross. The trail followed the road for about 300 feet and then darted up into the woods. I came across a cooler right before a parking area and was like "is it empty?". No it was full of ice cold soda. Wohooo perfect after cooking on the bridge when I crossed the bridge in the hot sun. While I drank my soda I called Bert's to see if they had space before I trucked the 1.5 miles to town. They told me it was 10 bucks for a cot in back of the building and it included a shower. I said perfect. I took the side trail from the AT and got to Bert's at about 5:30. I checked in and got my towel. They had converted an old garage into a makeshift hostel. They also had built a shower in the alleyway. It was all sort of makeshift and the average person would have been this is sketchy but for a thru hiker 8 days without a real shower this was Salvation. I showered first thing and the had dinner at Bert's which was more of a diner then steakhouse. They do have two sides of the restaurant and the steakhouse side was fairly empty. The diner side was packed so that is where I ended up. After dinner I walked the town and got an iced coffee and ice cream. I made phone calls to the family and then headed back to crash. Tomorrow morning I have the climb up and out of Palmerton which the trail goes through the Palmerton Superfund Site which was from zinc smelting from 1898-1980. The 9 miles of ridge is deforested. Should be an interesting climb as it looks like a cliff from the valley. For now sleep.
July 16 - Wind Gap
The temperature in Palmerton at 8:30 in the morning was already 83 with a dew point of 71 I knew it was going to be a hot day. I also knew the first water source was not for ten miles so I had all 3 of my Nalgeen bottles full. I made it back to the AT at roughly 9:30 and started my climb up and out of the gap. This hill is part of the Palmerton Superfund site from zinc smelting between 1898 and 1983. The trail at the top has been rerouted to help repopulate trees as the whole ridge had been deforested. The climb up was very difficult with the beginning part of the climb similar to climbing 10 flights of stairs. Then you have to climb up rock cliffs. It was difficult with smitty, a trekking pole and having basically a 4 year old strapped to your back. The poles I had up toss up and then use my hands and feet to climb up each section. Finally reaching the side of the ridge the trail follows at an angle to the ridge line going over loose boulders of varying sizes for about a mile. Now physically this was easier but now you have loose boulders with greater chance of rolling an ankle.
Finally reaching the top of the ridge line the trail is relatively flat with small sections of boulders or rocks jutting out of the trail. Though with the deforested ridge there were small birches and shrubs leaving me in the full sun for 5 miles. It was hot but I knew water was going to be and issue. The reroute of the trail was nice as it took you to the edge of the ridge and with small shrubs and grass you could see the whole valley. The trail finally after 5 miles darted back into a wooded area but this is where the rocks started up again. Will it ever end. I descended down to little gap road and proceed with a rock climb on the other side back up to the ridge line. The trail then became flat but instead of large boulders to hope from one to one the trail was now littered with small pieces of bedrock and pointy rocks sticking up on the trail at all angles. You had no choice but to step on them as there was not enough space between the boulders to step in dirt.
This lasted for 15 miles with no breaks or if there was it was maybe 20 feet. Point after point poking the bottom of my boots. My insoles and tread are good but repetitive jabbing and my feet were starting to become sore. I came to the first spring at 9.6 miles in. This was were I was going to refill water. Small hand written note said spring dry. Gosh that's not good as the next water was the shelter but the guidebook said unreliable spring.
I pushed on and passed eagle taking a nap on the side of the trail after what appeared him having his lunch. I was down to my last Nalgene of water and had 3/4 of it left when it got to smith gap road. This is where I met cupcake and her guy burrito. They were getting picked up by burritos sister for dinner and maybe an overnight at a hotel. She was up for a wedding and normally lives in North Carolina. They gave me the rest of their filtered water which filled up one Nalgene and I was back up 1.75 full. It was 3 miles to shelter and about 8 to wind gap. I pushed on stepping on pyramid after pyramid. Ow ow oweweewwwe.
I arrived at the side trail for the shelter at about 4:30. It was .20 to the shelter and .20 to the water. The first and second water was dry but the third was 1.3 downhill was reliable. There were two girls and wallet at the shelter. They said another couple had gone to look for the third water. I thought to myself I'm gonna put that 1.3 to get me closer to wind gap. I signed the log and said goodbye to everyone. I moved on with only 4.6 from the shelter to the gap. I was down to my last Nalgene of water. I proceeded to trip three times with the little rocks sticking up like mini walls just the right size to catch your foot if you don't lift it high enough. The third trip I almost face planted my entire front side on the jagged rocks. I have no idea how I recovered with the weight of my pack making the trip even worse. I had about one mouthful of water left when I started to descend into the gap. I could tell I didn't drink enough water today as I was rationing it. I had walked almost 20 miles with no refill on water. I also had walked in the hot sun for many miles which is something that's normal. Yes we are outside but generally with the tree cover you have filtered sunshine and lots of shade. So with the added abundance of sun I think it caused me to feel a little blah.
When I reached the gap there was a hand written note informing hikers that the springs north of here were dry and to get water in town. I began the walk in which was a total of 2.5 miles. I tried hitching but no luck. I think now that I'm in the northeast I'm going to have a harder time hitching. I walked about a mile and came to a turkey hill gas station. I could see c-sharp, blue and sailor in front sitting and charging their phones. Their sentiments about water and rocks were the same as me.
I went inside and bought a gallon of water and a Gatorade and a Mountain Dew. The three of them packed up and moved on as they had been in town for about 5 hours. After finishing my drinks I continued on further into them arriving at McDonald's. Good place to load up on food and to fill up on water as I drank most of the gallon already. While eating dinner my feet were throbbing and overall I felt gross. I decided I would just stay in town and soak my feet and keep rehydrating so I could start the day off with full water. I called both motels in town and they were full. Argh!!!! I guess this means walking the 2.5 miles back to the trailhead and into the woods.
I headed back the way I came and stopped at the gas station to buy another Gatorade. It was dark at this point and I put my head lamp on to to continue walking out of town. I got to the gap and began the climb up which luckily was not too rocky but steep. The whole way I was looking for anywhere to camp but no luck. I reached the top of the ridge and the rocks began almost worse than the other side. Small jagged little pyramids sticking up. Walking over this is so much harder in the dark and almost more painful. After two miles of walking and seeing no campsites I finally see two headlamps. As I approached they said who is it. As soon as I heard the voice I knew it was c-sharp. I asked is there room and do you mind if I crash here. Blue, sailor, sea sharp and jack rabbit were there. I hadn't seen Jack rabbit since North Carolina and was surprised I caught up to him. He's a fast hiker and apparently has been lazy the last two weeks or so. I set up my tent and basically crashed after the gang offered me a shot or two fireball. What a long tough day. The one positive is New Jersey is only 15 miles away.
July 17 - Delaware Water Gap and into New Jersey
I got on trail at 8:30 and instantly was cursing the rocks. I think I have slightly bruised my feet from the repeated onslaught. I traversed 5 miles and came to wolf rocks which were an outcrop of rocks along a small cliff line. Basically rock hoping similar to what I had three days ago. There was an ok view. The trail then descended down to fox gap where I was able to fill up on water that an angel left trail side. I continued on stopping at Kirkridge shelter for lunch. The rest of the gang from last night showed up one by one. I rested for about 45 minutes and pushed on with several small ups and downs passing over a gravel road, several power lines and a gas pipe line.
The trail then followed and old road which finally gave relief from the PA rocks. The road lead you to the summit of Mt Minsi and then I had a long descent into the town of Delaware Water Gap. The trail lead right into town before turning and heading towards I-80 and the bridge. There was a hostel at the mountain church so I started heading that way when I bumped into Jackrabbit. We both walked over to the hostel and dropped off our packs. I was able to take a shower and to soak my throbbing feet.
After the shower I headed to the diner for dinner and then back to the hostel to pack up and head out. Jeff's parents are meeting me for dinner tomorrow night so I wanted to get some miles in before tomorrow. It was only 14 miles to the water gap so I wanted to get some more in under my belt. I took off around 6:45 from the hostel and headed down the street toward the interstate. The trail crosses over the bridge next to the highway on a sidewalk with a Jersey barrier between you and the traffic zooming by.
Several people honked and waved out their sunroofs and I waved back. I must of been a curiosity factor as people were slowing down to look at me waking and taking pictures of the Jersey sign. Traffic got a bit backed up behind me. Whoops!! I crossed the bridge passed the Kittattiny visitor center and the trail went into the woods. I had 3.4 miles to walk to the backpacker campsite. In New Jersey you can only camp in designated sites. The trail was an easy grade with great footing. About 1 mile the PA rocks returned. Nooooooooooooooooo I thought we were done with this. They lasted all the way to the campsite and my feet instantly started to throb. I hope they are not that much further tomorrow. Everyone said they were done at the state line. The campsite was in a grassy open setting with views to the west. I got an epic sunset for my first night in Jersey. Let's see what tomorrow brings.
July 18 - Meeting the inlaws
I woke up at the backpackers campsite around 7:30. I packed up my gear and got on trail by 9 o'clock. I knew the day was going to be hot and humid. The temperature was already 80 at 9 o'clock in the morning. The trail had a steady descent down to Sunfish Pond. The trail went all around the pond and the Pennsylvania rocks returned. Gosh I thought I was done with these.
After looping around the pond the trail began an ascent up Kittattiny Mt. Once on the summit of the mountain there were 360° view. The trail then began a descent to camp road. Once across the gravel road the trail began an ascent. I met another thru hiker Who started June 1. He told me he was hiking 30 mile days. At this point the temperature was close to 90° and it was hot. My plan for the day was to reach US 206. Jeff's parents and brother were down in Pennsylvania and we're going to pick me up for dinner. The plan was to meet around 5pm.
The trail followed the ridge line for several miles. There were great views down into the valley. The trail descended again to a paved road and passed a swamp before climbing again back up to the ridge line. Once on top of the ridge there was a flat stretch for about 4 miles which made the walking fantastic. My friend Garret texted me to let me know that there was a severe thunderstorm about 40 miles to my west and was bearing down on me. I descended down to another road where there was a spring .10 east. I was just about out of water and filled up. On my way back to the trail you could hear the thunder in the distance and the storm was on its way. I put my pack cover on and my gaitors and continued on walking. The storm hit and boy did it poor. It felt good to cool off but then it became a flood in the trail. Made walking a bit of a challenge. Thankfully the worst of the storm went to my south. The rain stopped but the flooded trail continued.
The trail had descended slightly at this point but climb up a cliff like structure with hand holding and climbing. With wet rocks it was a challenge but I was thankful it still want pouring. At the top I sat on a rock and took off each boot and poured the water out from them and rung out my socks. I continued on and dark clouds were on the western sky. Oh boy round 2. This time the storm hit me head on with high winds, heavy rain and thunder and lightening all around. Luckily I was on an old road following the ridge line. I was kinda under cover but not on the open ridge like I was between storms. Phew. Flooded trail became a river and I just sloshed right through it. Finally the storm passed and again I sat and took my boots off pouring out water and then ringing out my socks.
It finally became dry enough to take my phone out and I had a text from Jeff's dad asking how far out I was. I was about 4 miles and they said they were on their way from Pennsylvania. I kept on trucking. I had three mini climbs one bring rattlesnake mountain. So three ascents and three descents. Almost like a mini Rollercoaster. By the third climb I was running out of steam. The in-laws texted that they were in town and we're just looking for the trail head. I continued on and then another text from Jeff's brother Doug that they found the trailhead and he was starting up.
Finally after about 20 minutes I see Doug in the distance. Yay!! Wohooo! We walked together the mile downhill to the car were mom and dad were waiting. I was so excited as I haven't seen these guys in three months. I was pretty exhausted, sore feet and hungry. I took off my wet boots and socks and put on my sandals. We all got in the car and drove down the street to a diner. I proceeded to order everything under the sun. We ate, talked and laughed. I actually couldn't finish everything so I took it with me to go. We drove back to the road crossing of the trail and I walked up the AT with Jeff's dad to a parking area where I met Doug and mom who drove the car there. I found a good tent site, set up the tent threw my gear in. Doug helped me hang my food bag and I said my goodbyes as another thunderstorm was rolling in. They headed back to the Catskills and I laid in the tent watching the light show and passed out. I think I did 23 miles today.
July 19 - Cathy and Jill Come To Visit
I started off again around 11:30 and had 9 miles to go to High Point Headquarters. The trail for the next 5 miles followed the ridge with several small ups and downs. I passed many ledges which offered nice views into the valley. The last 4 miles were like a mini Rollercoaster as there were many ups and downs. Each up though had a nice view. My timing was off and the last two miles took me much longer than I anticipated so I didn't reach the headquarters till 2:45. I did have my phone snd was able to message Cathy to keep her up to date on my progress. It's hard on the trail to estimate timing sometimes.
I arrived and met Cathy and Jill. We drove to the Hampton Inn and checked. Cathy got me my own room which was wonderful. The hotel was doing a free dinner buffet for guests that night so we had dinner there. We went to Walmart so I could resupply. Then bought some angry orchard and went back to the hotel and swam. We all crashed about 10pm. Tomorrow is my birthday and this is my last night at 38.
July 20 - Happy Birthday To Me!!!
We packed into the car and headed to High Point. I had them take a picture in front of the high point sign for my go-fund me campaign I'm running for the Catskill Center for the Catskill Park as part of my hike. The New York-New Jersey trail conference is going to promote it as I'm in New Jersey and soon to be in New York and I'm a member and volunteer of the club. We took a bunch of selfies the three of us and I said my goodbyes and headed back on trail.
There was a steady climb up to more rock ledges which offered great views and the trail arrived at an elevated platform which gave you 360 degree view of the monument and the valley below. I continued on and took the side trail up to the High Point monument. Great views from the top. Pete Jeff's dad texted me and we decided to meet at Gemmer Road where the AT crosses. The trail had a steady downward and went through nice woods and then fields and then woods again. I would have never guessed New Jersey was so beautiful. It's actually becoming one of my favorite sections on the trail from the bridge to high point.
I continued along passing one paved and 2 gravel roads. I stopped at High Point Shelter for a privy run along the way. I arrived at Gemmer road crossing and only had to wait about ten minutes when Pete and Doug pulled up. They brought with them roast beef sub, Starbucks, 2 bottles of Mountain Dew, Funyuns, twizzlers and a doughnut. Wow now that's what I call lunch!!! We sat and all ate lunch. Doug then suited up with his boots and we slacked packed a few roads over where Pete parked the car and walked in until he met us. The trail was well laid out and had great maintenance to it. I'm loving this section as well. We all walked back to the car and picked the next jump.
Doug and I went on and Pete drove to the next pick up location. This part of the trail was great. Woods, then field, road crossing, then woods, field, old railroad bed, bird sanctuary The Wahkill which the trail walks around it like a square. We saw blue Herron, geese and even a coyote which I thought was someone's dog at first. We met up with Pete on the other side of the wetland area. We walked back towards the car and came across a cooler. Yay trail magic on my birthday. Cold soda and cold beer!!! One soda for now and one beer for tonight. We reached the car and I said my goodbyes. I headed into the woods. Only had a .50 mile climb up Pochuck mountain to shelter. When I arrived I saw Badger who I hadn't seen since Port Clinton. I set up my tent and chatted with him while I drank my beer. Got in my tent and am crashing. While writing this the coyotes are chirping up a storm behind me up the hill. So neat to listen to them talk.
July 21 - Danielle and the Girls
I woke up at Pochuck Mt Shelter at around 6:30. I didn't want to get out of bed. I finally got up and packed and on trail after a mega big cup of coffee. I hit the trail at 7:30 and my first big climb was up the rest of Pochuck Mt. The climbing was steady and the trail laid out well do it was easy climbing. I descended down and crossed a gravel road and then county road 565 and then county road 517. I have to say New Jersey has been beautiful and it's one of my favorite sections of the trail thus far. I also have to say since coming into New Jersey trail Angels have been leaving us water at every road crossing. It's been amazing and so helpful because nothing is flowing.
Once I crossed county road 517 I entered into the infamous boardwalks that I've heard so much about and they held up to my expectations. Wow!! It was hot in the sun but still so pretty. So many turtles,birds and other wildlife. Crossed over a suspension footbridge and back into the woods. The trail was relatively flat wandering through the forest. It abruptly reached a fence stile and into a field. Literally once climbing over the stile I was in a field surrounded by cows grazing. They all looked up at me with a WTF look on their faces. I think I startled them. Ha ha on you cows.
I crossed the path and reached the crossing for NJ 94. This is where Heaven Hill Farm is. I walked the .10 to the farm and had a Caesar wrap and ice cream. I rested for 45 minutes as the day was starting to get hot. I got a text from my best friends wife Danielle that she was on her way down from Massachusetts with her two girls to give me support. I feel so loved. We planned to meet up at around 2.
I pushed on hiking up Wawayanda Mt. and boy was it a climb. It was a 1000 foot gain in less than a mile climbing up boulders and ledges and many many stairs. They call this part the stairway to heaven. It was a really neat walk but hot so not as enjoyable as it would be in the fall. At the top a side trail takes you to Pinwheels vista which gives you fantastic views into the valley. I moved on descending the other side. I passed by wawayanda shelter and made it to Warwick turnpike and Danielle was waiting. Wohoo!! She had cold water and cold drinks. She took me to the post office to get my package and then to get food.
We got back to the trail head where she slack packed me for 9 miles. Miss calculating how long it would take I was walking in the woods in the dark with my iPhone light on. When she picked me up at 8:30 at the trailhead on 17a she said I booked a suite at the Hampton Inn. OMG your the best I said. There was a whirlpool tub in the room and a jacuzzi and indoor pool. We went thru Wendy's drive thru and headed to the hotel. We ate, watched some tv and went to the pool. Danielle you rock and are such a great person for doing this.
July 22 - Hazy, Hot and Humid
I headed into the woods and it was already super hot at 10am in the shade. The climbing again resembled a mini Rollercoaster with steep ups and down along rock ledges and rock climbs and scrambles. Some nice views up top but I didn't stay long on the exposed rock ledges. I went up eastern pinnacles, cat rocks and then to Fitzgerald falls which was bone dry so no falls. I slowly went up Mombasha high point in the full sun for much of the time. I was sweating heavily and drinking lots of water. At some points during the day I had to toss my trekking pole and Smitty up over my head and use my hands to climb. It was really interesting but in the heat not so much. I descended down to East Mambasha road and Danielle was waiting. I had trail magic too. Wohoo. I repacked my bag and took the big bag and put it back on. Ugh.
Josh from the trail conference was going to pick me up and Danielle was going to take the girls to the city. I headed back out into the woods and it was even hotter. It was slow going and I drank lots and lots of water. Up down, up down, up down. It continued and the terrain was tough. Neat and really pretty but tough in the heat. I finally got a text from Josh saying he was leaving work and we agreed to meet at route 17 right at Harriman State Park. I took off my bag and sat resting against my packs.
After about 15 minutes in the distance I heard a horn honking continuously. It got louder and louder and I was like ok someone's horn got stuck on. No it was Josh driving up route 17 honking all the way to let me know he was coming. We headed to his house and him and his wife made me the best tacos ever. We talked for hours about my adventures and settled down for the night at 10. Josh thru hiked in 2001 so it was nice to exchange stories. Tomorrow is supposed to be a high of 96.
July 23 - New York City
I woke up at the Howard's to a fantastic breakfast cooked up by Josh. I had sausage, eggs, bagels, coffee yum yum yum. Melissa drove me back to the trail at around 10 am. Danielle was still down with the kids and was going to met us to slack pack me again. I have been so spoiled through this section of trail. However it's been a blessing to have the support in this stretch. It's been so hot I wish I could slack pack all my friends. I did put the word out to leave water near trail heads in New York so hopefully it gets out there. I have seen lots of water at road crossings so it was nice to see. I said goodbye to Melissa and packed my mini pack. Danielle was going to meet me 5.1 miles away.
With the heat it was slow going but so much easier with a lighter pack. I immediately crossed over
I-87 and headed into Harriman State Park. I had 4 ups and downs which were steep. I went through the lemon squeezer which was a set of rocks close together where you squeeze through. Thank god I didn't have my big pack as it would be very challenging. After the lemon squeeze the trail went up a rock which require some climbing. It was the first time on the AT where I was like I don't think I can't do this. There was an easy bypass but I was like I can't skip a piece of the trail. I studied the rock. If I put my hand here and put my foot here and pull up while putting my foot on a tree. It worked except for right foot slipping I pulled myself up. Yay! That was a toughy. I stopped at fingerboard shelter for a rest and moved on.
I met Danielle at Arden road and she took me with the girls to get lunch. After lunch I got dropped back off. I said goodbye and took some pictures with the girls. They headed out and back to Massachusetts. I am so thankful for them coming down and finding me and slack packing me for two days. I headed back into the woods and had 7.9 miles to go. The trail went up and down some more hills. I stopped at William Brien Memorial Shelter for a rest. I moved on and had to cross the Pallidades Parkway which was the most terrifying part of the AT to date. You cross two lanes then two lanes again. I stopped at the rest area in the medium to fill up on water. The crossed the two lanes of the parkway and headed up west mt. Black mountain right before the parkway had views of New York City skyline. The climb up west mt. was intense but pretty. I took the .60 side trail to the shelter and set up my tent with views of the city. I sat on a rock as dusk descended and watched the city lights come on. It was really pretty. Later on as I laid in my tent there were fireworks in the valley in front of the city and lightening going across.
July 24 - Bear Mountain and the Hudson River
Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail".
I walked the .60 miles back to the AT and followed the ridge of West Mt to views of bear mountain. I descended down and across a road to begin the ascent of Bear Mt. The New York New Jersey Trail Conference had done a lot of work on the AT in Bear Mt putting in many stone steps to help prevent erosion. The stonework was beautiful as I began my ascent. At one point the AT followed the old auto road up the mountain that has been abandoned. It then branched off and began climbing via more stone steps. I reached several rock ledges with views south to West Mt. The trail crossed more rock ledges as it wound its way up to the summit. On top of Bear Mt there is a tower that gives great panoramic views.
On the south side of the tower I met up with Lourdes and her husband and two other hikers. She brought me a turkey sub, fruit and angry orchard. Wohoooooo talk about a mini party on the summit. We sat and ate and talked about my adventures. After about an hour we all walked down from Bear Mt together to the parking area. I reloaded up on water the Lourdes had in the car and thanked and hugged her. It so wonderful to have all this support as I head north.
After I parted ways Jeff and Doug were on their way to meet up with me. Cell service was spotty so we had a hard time communicating. The last text I received they said the parking lot for Bear Mt was full after I told them I was standing at the inn. I continued walking north but they had parked and walked to the inn. However our texts to one another were not going through. Finally Jeff was able to call and he said stay where you are and I will walk to you.
At this point I was in the Bear Mt zoo and the trail walks right through the zoo. I sat on a bench and Jeff found me. Doug drove the car from the parking area and went over the Hudson River via the Bear Mt bridge (video) and parked where the AT goes back into the woods. He walked towards us while Jeff and I walked over the bridge. I passed the lowest point on the AT. It was a super hot day at this point.
We reached Doug's car and I swapped to my mini pack so I could slack pack while Jeff walked with me. Jeff and I walked up Anthony's nose while Doug moved the car ahead and walked in to meet us. Jeff and I walked up to the ridge and then took a side trail out to Anthony's nose which gave views of the bridge and the Hudson River.
We headed back and meet up with Doug and walked back to the car. I decided to head home for the night and take a zero. I wanted to see family, the dogs and the two cats. I also wanted to head to LL Bean to swap out my pack which was definitely worn.
We headed to the Catskills and had a BBQ at Jeff's parents house. Seeing the cats and Sandy was pretty emotional as it had been almost 4 months away. Dinner was fantastic and it was nice to relax. Monday's forecast was for heat index to be near 100 and severe thunderstorms so it was probably a good day to take a zero.
Some updates on my trail family and familiar names you all know. Luigi and her clan have entered Pennsylvania and reached the 1/2 point and did the half gallon challenge recently. They are about to get into the heavy rock zone. The royal couple last I heard were in Branchville New Jersey at a pub. Dragon Head is currently only 3 miles behind me so I hope to catch up with him tomorrow. Gasket is back on trail after going home for 4th of July and is in Penn at Eckville shelter. Ompi is still at home in southwest Florida still figuring out health issues with his partner. Otter is also at home in Aiken SC doing physical therapy for his knee and back. I'm hoping to have more familiar faces catch up to me soon.
July 25 - Home to the Catskills
Don't worry as I am writing this I'm in the car on my way back to the trail.
The kitties snuggled with me and it was really nice. I got up and got picked up by the in-laws and we headed to the Catskill Center to visit people. We sent out the word I would be there at 10am. After spending sometime at the center we headed to lunch in Margaretville. Lunch was good I ended up with a cheesesteak and mozzarella sticks. After lunch we headed back to my house and the in-laws dropped me off at home.
I relaxed for a few hours and then Doug, Jeff and I headed to Albany NY to LL Bean so I could swap out my pack as it had some wear and tear. LL bean was great and swapped it out no problem. New pack, new color. We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and I loaded up on calories. Went to bed relatively early as I wanted a good nights sleep before heading back to the trail. I got off at mile 1405.6 which is Manitou Road. Dragon head stayed in town last night so I hope to catch up to him today.
Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal
You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail
Storm is also working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!
Read all of Storm's posts on Adventures in the Outdoors.
For more information about the Appalachian Trail