Saturday, June 30, 2012

On Through New Jersey and the Heat

We slept really well last night. I know the heat really took it out of me, and it seemed to really slow the guys down as well. There was no chance of rain in the forecast, so we didn't put the fly on the tent. It's much cooler that way. It's nice when we can leave off the fly, and just lie down looking up at the stars, moon, and trees.
Keith had already spotted a good place for us to take a break from today's heat - a tavern that backed up to Kittatinny Lake. We were told it is hiker friendly, and you can eat and drink out back and soak your feet at the lake. Sounded perfect!
We headed that way. The trail was still rocky, but it was steadily improving as we put Pennsylvania behind us. We still had hot weather, but today at least there was a nice breeze.
At one point we ran into two older hikers who had hiked the AT in1973. They were fun to visit with, and invited us to come to the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association annual meeting in October in West Virginia. They were writing down everyone's trail names in a little book. We also met a couple who was counting butterflies. They do it once a year for the North American Butterfly Society. The lady was paranoid about getting ticks on her. She kept saying, "I don't want to get atticked!"
As we hiked, we ran into some Boy Scouts and other dayhikers. We met a hiker we had not met before named Easy Rider.
It was just a hot day, and the trail kept leaving the shade of the woods to go out on to overlooks, which were beautiful, but we were getting cooked! The miles were going very slowly, and the guys were anxious to reach Gyp's Tavern and the lake. Each time we would ask someone coming from that direction how close we were, we were never as close as we thought - quite discouraging.
We finally did reach the road though, and found the tavern, just as described- backing up to a beautiful lake. Easy rider, Mr. Fabulous, and Catnap were already there at a picnic table. We all ordered burgers, fries, and cold drinks, and decided we would hang out here til it cooled off. We only have 3 more miles til our campsite.
So, it's now about 5:30, and we are about to head out. The sky has clouded over - thank goodness! So it shouldn't be as hot. We will have to put the fly on today, because of a chance of rain, but the low is 65, so we should sleep well.
- Steady and F100

Friday, June 29, 2012

New Jersey!

We hiked down Main Street of Delaware Gap, PA this morning, and right back into the same Delaware Water Gap Diner that we had eaten lunch and supper at yesterday. It was so good both times, we figured breakfast would be awesome also. Luckily, we were right! After we ate, Keith played one of those arcade games where the claw grabs the stuffed toys, and he won a Wallace stuffed animal (as in Wallace and Grommett). I put him on the back of my pack, and his trail name is now Rearview.

We told our waitress bye for the final time, headed down Main once again, and within a mile had crossed the bridge over the Delaware River and entered New Jersey, our 8th state out of the 14 we will end up hiking through! While on the bridge, the water was so clear, we watched a loon swim under the water for a very long way.
Just after the bridge we caught up to a family that was doing a month-long section of the AT. Their names were Peach, Moses, and their 11-year old son, Bear Bait. They also were hiking with the cutest dachshund named Moxie. They had been doing the trail in sections since Bear Bait was 5. Each summer they spend a month hiking it.
It was SO nice to actually get to hike and visit with another female! The next two hours FLEW by! I hadn't realized how much I was missing just getting to chat with another girl. Unfortunately, this was their last day on the trail. They were going home today. I wish we had met them earlier!

We noticed an immediate difference in the trail in Jersey. I'd like to say ALL of the rocks disappeared, but that was not the case. It was, however, much better. We passed two groups of teenagers who were spending two weeks backpacking with Outward Bound. It had gotten pretty hot by the time we saw them. They had just spent a week canoeing, and they were wishing they were back on the river.
As we hiked, we were treated to some really beautiful views of the Delaware Water Gap valley- probably some of the prettiest views since Virginia! At one point, we scared an animal in the brush, and while I did not see it, Swamprat saw a flash of black fur, and was sure it was a bear! We also passed an old fire tower at one point, and I climbed to the top and took in the incredible view.
It got hotter as the day went on, and about 2:00 we ended up taking a break by a stream. There was just enough water to be able to lay the back of my legs completely in the water. This felt quite divine! I was laying on a slightly sloping rock, and so then reversed directions, laying upside down on the slant, put my Crocs under my neck, and lay there with my head in the water. It was just that hot out, and this was one terrific way to cool off. Keith thought I was nuts. I was so hot,I really didn't care too much what anyone thought at this point. The only other folks who might see me were hot hikers, and I knew they'd understand.
Swamprat and I convinced Keith to hike .3 of a mile up a gravel road to the Mohican Outdoor Center, operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club, and we sat in the breeze in the shade of their porch and drank cold Cokes and ate Fudgsicles. After a nice break to cool off, and visiting one last time with Peach, Moses and Bear Bait, we hiked on further. Along the way we met a hiker from England named Chez 11, and another young guy named Quicksilver. He was from the Raleigh area. Chez 11 was wearing long pants and a long sleeved black shirt. In the heat, I do not know how he stood it. We also ran into Catnap again, and learned that he had been to the doctor and received good news from the doctor- his Lyme disease was under control, so he was continuing his hike north.
We also met another hiker as we hiked named Mr. Fabulous. He was another guy in his mid-twenties.
We passed several ponds today, one being Sunfish Pond, which is the most southern glacier-formed pond in this country. We passed another one that had a huge beaver den right in the middle, and the trail had actually been totally submerged due to some recent beaver activity, and the trail had to be rerouted.
We finally found a nice level campsite, but it was a bit later than usual, due to the late start, and the midday icecream break. I told Keith that every day it's over 90 degrees, we should sit in the shade and have coke and ice cream between 2:0 and 5:00. Usually after that, the sun has gotten low enough for the hiking to get more pleasant. Of course, if we could time that break with Coke and Fudgsicles everyday, that would be okay too!

- Steady and F100

Thursday, June 28, 2012

To be continued . . . Soon!

I just want to let everyone know I have not stopped blogging about our trip, but have definitely gotten behind. Due to lack of computer access (the iPhone keyboard is so tedious!), internet access, AND the fact that the Pennsylvania rocks have me worn out at the end of everyday, it may be a few days before I get caught up. So sorry for the delay. Steady is tired!!!

In the morning, we will cross the Delaware River and enter New Jersey!!
- Steady and F100

Delaware Water Gap - goodbye PA!

Today we are hiking into the final stretch of PA, and although we know the rocks won't stop at the border, we are ready to put the rocks behind us! It has been exhausting hiking here. We really do have to give the local hikers a lot of credit!

As we got closer, we saw some wonderful views and started getting glimpses of the Delaware River - really pretty! Once again, I was dragging, and got a little more help from Pandora Radio, and before we knew it, we were walking into town. Secrets and Shenanigans were already there, and steered us to the Pocono Inn for a room. The guys caught a bus to the store for resupply while I hit the laundry. I walked up to the outfitter for more trekking pole tips, which we all needed, but they had decided to close early that day, so I headed up to the ice cream place Instead and had something I'd never had before - affogato - which was vanilla ice cream with espresso poured over it. Yum!

We ended up eating lunch, supper and breakfast the next day at the local diner. It was soooo good!

- Steady and F100

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wind Gap, PA - not a great first impression

I was so worn out from the climb out of Lehigh Gap yesterday, that I actually did not take too many pictures on the trail today. It was still great weather, nice and breezy, and we decided to hike to the town of Wind Gap, PA, and go eat at Arby's. I think we all felt a bit beat up from the climb yesterday. I know I went to bed sore.

We only saw one hiker all day - an older lady (65-ish?) who was hiking alone. I was so tired at

one point, that I decided to do something I have not done yet - I pulled out my ear phones and plugged into Pandora Radio. The music helped! Just when I thought I wanted to sit down and not move anymore today, I found myself dancing down the trail. Okay - it was the Dixie Chicks - please don't judge me. It was just the boost I needed.

We hit the road to Wind Gap, and started to hitch a ride. A car went by, and the driver, a lovely young woman, yelled out the window - "Get a ----ing car!". Well, I hope she wasn't the president of the local Welcome Wagon Organization for Wind Gap. We ended up getting a ride from a nice man at the house we were standing next to. He said he sees the hikers come into town all of the time and likes to help. On the way out, we got a ride from a nice Eagle Scout who said he hated to see hikers who needed a ride and no one would stop and give them one. Thank goodness for nice people!

- Steady and F100

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Our Own Personal Fear Factor

We knew that this day might be a little hairy. Keith and I had seen videos of the Lehigh Gap from some folks who thru-hiked last year.

To begin with, the trail was very rocky. We passed over something called the Knife's Edge, which lived up to its name, and then Bear's Rock. Once again, the weather was unusually cool though, so that sure helped us out.

By the time we reached the Lehigh River, the wind was blowing harder than we would have preferred, especially when we saw what we had to climb over! It was a steep, rocky mountain, and there really was no trail - just rock climbing at this point. When we crossed the ridge, the wind was blowing so hard, you really had to pay attention to which way you leaned.

Once over the worst of it, we actually had a treat - the trail followed an old dirt road for a couple of miles. This was real relief to our feet after the pounding on rocks all morning. Near supper, we realized if we headed a mile up a road, we could have a burger and ice cream, and we all felt like we deserved a reward. It was definitely the scariest thing we'd done yet.

- Steady and F100

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Little Rain and Lots of Rocks

This morning, we woke up to the sound of rain on the tent - a sound we really haven't heard too often on this trip. We checked the weather app on our phones, and the radar showed it blowing over by mid-morning, so we took it easy, and stayed put til 10, when blue skies finally made an appearance.

In the tent next to us was two young guys who were just there camping for the night, and during the night one of them began snoring really loudly. This doesn't really keep us awake anymore, but his tent mate was getting very frustrated with being kept awake, and we could hear him saying, "Dude, wake up! You're keeping me awake!" The snoring continued. Again, he made a frustrated plea - the snoring continued. Finally you could hear him throw something at the snorer, like maybe a pillow. This happened about 3 more times before the snoring finally stopped. We couldn't help but laugh - all of this at 4 in the morning.

When we finally left the Eckville Shelter, not only had the rain stopped, but the weather had turned MUCH cooler and breezier. Hurray! We knew that we had a rocky day ahead of us though. It wasn't long before we found the rocks. Mainly they slow us down, and wear us out quicker. We stopped at an overlook for a lunch break. It was a nice overlook, but I have to admit the view was so similar to the view from Pinnacle, that I did not take a picture of it.
We hiked on, and soon reached a huge line of large rocks along the ridge line, with a sign that said, "Balanced Rocks," with an arrow pointing that way. I was quite ready to take my pack off, even if only for a few minutes, and said I was going to go check it out and see if it was picture-worthy. I only climbed over about a dozen large rocks, and was following the blue blazes to the Balanced Rocks, when I spotted a brown snake sunning itself. I stopped and looked around me, and saw nothing but large rocks in the sun in all directions,, and pictured snakes on every one of them. I decided that I really wasn't so interested in the Balanced Rocks after all, and headed back to where I left the guys.

We hiked on, and went through difficult rock fields for quite a while. At one point, we met a group of Boy Scouts on a hike, and just as they got to us, two of them fell down on the rocks. No one was hurt badly, but it was a reminder that the rocks were pretty slick from the morning rain.

We reached a shelter that we were planning on taking a break at, and there was a group of four men there who were drying out some of their clothes. They had gotten caught in the rain. They all had kids who went to the same school, except two of them, who used to work together. They were all from the Lehigh Valley, and were very familiar with the trail, so we enjoyed visiting with them and getting details of what lay ahead. They had questions about doing a thru-hike. One of them even offered his own trail magic- home grown blueberries from his own farm. They were sweet and juicy! One of the guys used to work for Runner's World Magazine, so of course, Keith and I thought that was extremely cool! We really enjoyed their company, and we could have sat there and visited for hours, but we had such a late start to the day, that we were already behind on where we should be.

We headed on north, and hit a really nice stretch of easy trail that lasted for 5 or 6 miles. We reached a road, and knew there was a restaurant there, but also knew it was closed on Mondays. We were due for a break though, and decided we would take it on their front porch (it was a B & B), hoping that just maybe they had changed the days that they were closed on. No such luck. We sat there and watched the traffic stream by, and then set out on our final section of the day. We decided to cut it a bit short, because the last section would take us over the Knifes Edge and Bear Rocks, and the names did not imply something we really wanted to get to when we were tired and hungry, and possibly running out of light. Also, it was up on the ridge, and none of us knew if there would be a place to camp in the next five miles. We found a sign that pointed us downhill to a campsite, and decided to end the day there.
We put up the tent, and for the first time in weeks, I was able to pull out my base layer to sleep in. We're getting back into the 50's tonight!

Camped at Tripoli Camp, mile 1239.9

- Steady and F100

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Best Views in PA

We woke up really early, around 5:30. I had trouble getting to sleep because the AC unit in our room kept making a funny noise. Then, at 2 in the morning a lot of people were really noisy in the hall. On top of that, we had a mattress that was kind of soft and slouchy, but had huge pillows, so I felt like I was bent like a banana all night. We are all starting to notice that we sleep much better in our tents. It guess it's just what we've become used to. And at least in the woods you can usually count on peace and quiet.

When I was packing my food bag last night, I noticed that I didn't get home with my cereal (love it when that happens, especially when you're on foot!) so first thing, I jumped in the shower, and then walked as fast as I could over to Walmart. It was about a 15 minute walk, but luckily, I had to pass McDonalds - yay! I checked in the hotel lobby on the way down, and their breakfast was totally gluten-based, so I grabbed a quick scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash browns as I went by McDonalds. After grabbing what I needed, I headed back to the hotel, finished packing up my food bag, and we headed down to the lobby to try and find a ride to the trail.

I had struck up a nice conversation with an 80 year old man as I ate at McDonalds, and he would have been happy to take us, but didn't have room.

As we sat in the lobby, we saw GQ comedown to eat. None of us knew that he was still on the trail! Turns out that he and his brother had actually quit and gone home for 10 days, but regretted the decision and came back. It was nice to get caught up with them.

An nice, older man came over and started asking if we were thru-hikers. He was a big fan of the AT, and had seen the Barefoot Sisters speak recently, and had read their books. He told us about a new AT movie that he was about to see. When we mentioned we needed a ride, he jumped at the opportunity to take us. His name was Bill Dean. He asked us our trail names and where we were from. He said we could call him Pennsylvania Bill. He was just the nicest man, and we wished we could have spent more time with him.

He took us to the trail, and we had a really long, hard climb before we got back up on the ridge. We would hit two really nice overlooks today - Pulpit and the Pinnacle. This stretch was known as the nicest views in Pennsylvania, and so as we went, we saw more and more dayhikers. It didn't hurt that the weather was pretty pleasant.

We finally reached the Pulpit, and there was a wonderful view of farmland down below. The fields were laid out like a patchwork quilt. There is a place about 2 miles from here called Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and so there are a lot of bird watchers here also. There are thousands of raptors that migrate through here each year.

We hiked on and soon reached the Pinnacle, which was the best view - once again of beautiful farmland.

We hiked on and hit some easy trail, actually an old dirt road, and visited quite a bit with dayhikers along the way. Once they find out we are thru-hikers, they usually have many questions. We met another hiker headed in the opposite direction, and it turned out that he was from Russia, and had read "A Walk in the Woods," and dreamed of hiking the AT. He moved to the US 4 years ago to work in Philadelphia, and was hiking it a little at a time.

We eventually reached the Eckville Shelter, which is another shelter with a caretaker next door. This one also had a shower, which was awesome - not heated, but still awesome!

I immediately tried out the shower, which actually had a shower head this time. We ended up pitching our tent in the "tent area," where there were 2 section hikers and one thru-hiker camped also. GQ and Maxus were in the shelter, with two other section hikers. We all sat and visited until bed time around a picnic table by the house. We met a thru-hiker from Sugarland, Texas named Fiber 1.

The guys all eventually called in some pizza and had it delivered. The caretaker came out and gave us Freeze Pops for dessert. I felt like I was five again.

Camped at mile 1226.5
- Steady and F100

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shadow and Spider Return!

We got up early, with a spring in our step for two reasons - this was resupply day which means town food, and we

also were expecting to be picked up by our hiking buddies , Shadow and Spider, who had e-mailed us to see where we were, so they could find us on their day off - totally sweet!
The trail ended with a very long, steep downhill, and at times I was afraid I'd slide down, it was so steep. When we reached the bottom, there was Shadow and Spider on the tailgate of their truck, parked by the Reading Railroad tracks, with a cooler of cold coked and Snickers! The best trail magic ever!
While we visited and downed some Cokes, other hikers came through and also had a drink - Catnap, who just got back on the trail after suffering from Lyme disease - and Pony Love, who received his name in the Grayson Highlands, because he loved the ponies so much!
Shadow ended up taking us to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, where we totally enjoyed the food, then to Walmart to resupply, and then to the Microtel, which is the only hotel in Hamburg, PA, home of the largest Cabela's on the east coast. We pretty much spent the rest of the day getting laundry and repacking done, so we would be ready to move on in the morning. We told Shadow and Spider goodbye, but sure do miss them. It was the best surprise ever for them to come back and help us out!

- Steady and F100