New Jersey proved to me infinitely better than Pennsylvania. It really is the Garden State! And even better, I ran into old and new friends. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
In my latest video I get to endure the joys of Pennsylvania including lots of rocks and rain!
I left the shelter in a drizzle. I had my waterproof socks on, rain pants and jacket. Overall it was a pretty blah day of hiking. In six short miles I was in the town of Delaware Water Gap, PA. This was the last stop in Pennsylvania.
Just off the trail was the Church of the Mountain hiker hostel. It’s run by the Presbyterian Church of which it shares the building. I was glad to get out of the rain and dry off. By the end of the day, the hostel was full of hikers: Mush, Prof, Lifesaver, and some others. Everyone was a NOBO which was so strange to find so many of us all together. The stench of our wet socks hung out to dry was so bad it almost smelled good…like a stinky cheese.
I had lunch at a nearby bakery that offered a hot dog and slice of apple pie for $3. I also had a cinnamon roll and chicken pot pie. I went to a gas station where I was nearly accosted for shoplifting simply because I was a hiker and ultimately didn’t buy anything. I crossed the street and patronized a more welcoming gas station. Cheez-Its in hand, I returned to the hostel to decompress.
At the cafe I had met Taz, a NOBO who started in mid-April. To put this in perspective, I started February 28th. Taz had managed to hike what I’ve hiked in a little less than half the time it’s taken me! He says he hikes about 40 miles a day and has taken only one zero day! Back at the hostel everyone was enamored by his tales. We all thought we were the front of the pack. It’s crazy to imagine hiking that fast and that many miles per day. I was thinking I need to slow down and enjoy it more now that I’m halfway. I can’t imagine how different his experience must be! As they say, hike your own hike.
I ate dinner at the Sycamore Grill where they had a half-price appetizer special. I had an arugula, tomato, and burrata salad which was amazing and some mushroom polenta thing followed by chicken tenders and fries and washed down with three beers.
I chatted up another NOBO hiker at the restaurant named Freebird who was around my age. It’s interesting to see the differences in hiker ages and how they hike in terms of miles per day and how often they go into town. Tomorrow, the young 20s hikers—Mush, Lifesaver, Prof, Flash, and Gandalf—will hike farther than me and I’ll most likely never see them again. I have plans to slow down and enjoy the next states more and take a long weekend off in Manhattan!
Day’s Mileage: 6.4
Total Miles Hiked: 1,303.5
Remaining Miles: 896.2
I stopped at the bakery for a breakfast of mac and cheese pot pie, a donut, and a cinnamon roll. I ate with Mush, Gandalf, and Toasty Toes. Afterward I hit the trail and left Delaware Water Gap as well as Pennsylvania behind. I crossed into New Jersey, my eighth state on the AT. Seven states to go!
New Jersey proved to be much less rocky than PA. Hopefully the rocks and rain were behind me! Most of the day I was on a ridge looking over a wooded valley. It was much more rural without any road noise in the distance.
The weather was nice and it never got too hot. I made the decision to hike over a third of a mile out of the way to the Mohican Outdoors Center for a bite to eat. It was a lodge with cabins for rent. I ate a roast beef sandwich. They had left out homemade cookies they wanted to get rid of—I ate ten of them. Gotta do my part.
There were nice views in the afternoon sun. The rain from the day before had many ponds and lakes overflowing across the trail. I saw many frogs on the trail along with the millipedes. Another snake startled me as it sunned itself on the trail before slithering away when I approached.
I summited Rattlesnake Mountain at sunset and set up my tent nearby. It wasn’t a campsite; I had to squeeze in my tent between all the rocks but I made it work. I don’t think I was supposed to be camping up there but it was so damn beautiful. I ate dinner overlooking the forest below and watched the colors on the horizon slowly fade to darkness. A waxing crescent moon rose as a bright Venus set. I hoped my little stealth camping spot wouldn’t be frequented by any bears.
Day’s Mileage: 22.6
Total Miles Hiked: 1,326.1
Remaining Miles: 873.6
The sun was shining but my tent fly was soaked. Apparently the morning dew was extra wet. I packed up and enjoyed the view from Rattlesnake Mountain. Fog hung in the valley below.
It was a quick hike six miles to Culvers Gap. Here I was picked up by Michaela, a good friend of mine from my days on Mackinac Island. Her family lives not far from the trail in New Jersey. We went to a diner for breakfast and then a supermarket for me to resupply. Next we headed to Dairy Queen and then a cider mill. It was the perfect day off: day drinking, catching up, relaxing.
At her house I set my tent out to dry, showered, and did some laundry. Michaela laughed her ass off when she saw how small my tent is. She sent a video of me setting up my tent to her friends and they asked her if she was taking in a homeless person.
Her mom made a fantastic feast of potatoes, ribs, steak, wings, salad, and more. It was delicious. Dinner with Michaela and her family was great fun and they were so hospitable. And best of all, it felt good to sleep in a real bed.
Day’s Mileage: 6.1
Total Miles Hiked: 1,332.2
Remaining Miles: 867.5
Michaela and I had an early breakfast at a diner and then it was a sad farewell as she dropped me off at the trail. It was drizzling rain as I hiked off. The terrain wasn’t too difficult.
I climbed a fire tower to get a nice view of the area. Later I stopped at a pavilion atop the ridge for a break. Next thing I knew, Transformer and Mumbles walked up. I hadn’t seen the latter in over a month at least when I was hiking with Jon the Baptist. The three of us hiked the rest of the day together.
We passed High Point, the highest point in New Jersey. Eventually we arrived at Unionville, NY (we were hiking along the border of NJ and NY). It was Transformer’s birthday so we had dinner at Wits End Tavern and tried a drink called Angry Balls. It’s a mix of Angry Orchard hard cider and Fireball whiskey. It wasn’t that bad.
We walked through town to a park where they let hikers camp. We set up our tents and met up with Toasty Toes and Gandalf before we all returned to the bar for another few rounds. Eventually we staggered to our tents at the late hour of 10pm. We were pretty buzzed.
Day’s Mileage: 22.8
Total Miles Hiked: 1,355.0
Remaining Miles: 844.7
I woke up at 6am and didn’t want to move for hours. Eventually I got going and packed up. Transformer, Mumbles, and I headed to the General Store for resupply. I had a breakfast sandwich before we set off at 9am, a late start.
The terrain was extremely flat for most of our day. We passed a large wetland area and crossed many swamps from all the recent rain. Eventually we came to a boardwalk that was very picturesque and we enjoined a break from the regular trail.
For lunch we stopped at Heaven Hill Farms and I had a pint of ice cream, four donuts, and a huge slice of watermelon. Afterward we had to climb a steep, 900-foot ascent called Stairway to Heaven.
Oh top of the ridge we followed the trail out of New Jersey and into New York. Eight states down, six to go! Overall New Jersey was a nice and mostly easy state. No crazy rocks like Pennsylvania and better weather, too!
An Englishman, an Aussie, and a Yank (as Mumbles described us), hiked into the evening. I’ve really enjoyed hiking with Transformer and Mumbles. We joke around and get along well.
There was a stream we stopped at to get water but it had a yellow hue to it. I filtered it and treated it with chemical drops just to be safe. We were hoping for a good view of the sunset at Prospect Rock, the highest point on the AT in the state of New York, but were getting eaten by bugs. There weren’t a lot of places to camp so we found a wooded area to squeeze our tents into. I hoped a bear wouldn’t make a visit in the night.
Day’s Mileage: 21.6
Total Miles Hiked: 1,376.6
Remaining Miles: 823.1
I got a good night’s rest for once. This was a good thing because I had a sore throat the last day and was feeling a bit better. Us three guys packed up and were on the trail by 7:30am. It was going to be a hot day so the earlier we started the better.
After five miles Transformer left us to hitch into town for a resupply trip. Mumbles and I walked down the road to a hot dog stand that wasn’t open yet. The funny thing was that the owner was there, he just didn’t feel like making us hot dogs until the actual opening time. Further down was an ice cream parlor that wouldn’t open until noon but they had a water spigot for hikers. We relaxed here for a bit before returning to the hot dog stand once it had opened. I had two dogs, chips, a drink, and probably 300 calories in condiments.
Transformer met back up with us and we continued our hike. The early break for hot dogs threw us off our game. We hadn’t really hiked far enough to have deserved such a long break.
The day became exhausting. We passed a waterfall before hiking a series of steep ascents and descents. It was like the ‘roller coaster’ section in Virginia only now we were in New York. Up and down we climbed over huge rocks. We were not happy hikers but we tried to make the best of it. We felt as though our bodies had softened from all the flat terrain and now we weren’t used to hills…or the heat. It was nearly 80 degrees and we were sweating and dehydrated more than likely.
Nevertheless it was a pretty day; several good views were had. We also hiked through a section known as the Lemon Squeezer. The trail passed between two huge rocks and it was so narrow I had to take my pack off to fit through!
We continued hiking upwards and eventually made it to Fingerboard Shelter. The three of us camped out because the bugs were so bad. There’s no way I was going to sleep in a shelter. I needed the protection of my tent to keep the bugs away! I was lazy and didn’t hang my food despite the warning in my guidebook that there was a problem bear last year. Life on the edge.
Day’s Mileage: 21.6
Total Miles Hiked: 1,398.2
Remaining Miles: 801.5
Whenever I run into Transformer, he always yells out my trail name, Crazy Horse, but only the first part. So I always hear, “Craaaaazzzyyy!” when he spots me after having been apart for days or weeks. Naturally my head goes to this classic Patsy Cline song.