Walken’

Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Archive for New Jersey

Wetlands

Day 117

Location: Wawayanda Shelter, NJ

Miles hiked today: 16.9

Miles from Springer: 1,350

Miles to Katahdin: 826.2

Elevation: 1,200′

The Mayor cooked breakfast for every hiker who stayed at his house last night, 22 in all. We filled his dining room table in shifts. What a great guy! I was going to ask him about his Rough Riders banner hanging in his office, but forgot all about it.

After taking in the service at the local Presbyterian Church and eating a huge deli sandwich, it was pretty late before I left town. Today proved to be the last day in New Jersey, if only I could make some decent mileage.

I passed a really cool wildlife preserve, which was a former sod farm and is now a huge wetlands preserve. The trail takes you all the way around it on three sides, and there are plenty of birds of all types to see. One of my favorite birds is a Blue Heron, which I saw a few of in the wetlands.

Just after the wetlands, I took my first fall since way back in Tennessee. My shoes got really torn up coming over all of the rocks of Pennsylvania, and the tread on them has worn completely smooth. I was hoping to get a new pair in Delaware Water Gap, but they did not carry the right brands and I was not willing to spend money on new shoes that may not work out. So, here I am almost through New Jersey and there has not been a town with an outfitter, and there probably won’t be until I reach Kent, CT.

There was a section of trail where you walk over planks of wood that are raised up off the ground, requiring you to balance on them. The wood was wet, and on one of them my foot slipped out from under me, sending me first forward to bang my knee on the plank, then backwards as I tried to sit on the plank, only to find there was no plank behind me. So I fell backwards onto my back. It was something that should have been on video tape.

Later in the day, there was a really impressive raised walkway that went for at least a mile through a swamp area, culminating in a suspension foot bridge. It was just a very unique and very neat section of the trail, as we have not been through wetlands areas at all yet, until today.

Still later in the day, we faced a huge delimma. Y2K, whom I’ve been hiking with for over a week now, got me hooked on slurpies from convenience stores. There was a store listed in the book as just .2 miles off trail, which promised to be a very fulfilling moment. However, they were closed when we got there, which meant no gatorade and no ice cream. Instead, a very tall mountain loomed ahead on the trail, which we would have to climb once back on the trail. It did not look like as much fun without ice cream, which prompted me to look in my book and find that there was a town 3 miles away with a hostel for hikers, fast food restaurants, and convenience stores with slurpies. Oh, how tempting it was! However, in the end, we somehow persevered and decided to hike up the mountain. It was a difficult thing, but in the end was for the best.

Since we were starting from the road at about 7 p.m., we were in for some night hiking. I was with Y2K and Gallons, both of whom take huge strides and can apparently see like bats. The weather was threatening, and we made it to the shelter with only 10 minutes to spare before the downpour started.

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The Mayor’s House

Day 116

Location: Unionville, NY

Miles hiked today: 20.1

Miles fro Springer: 1,333.1

Miles to Katahdin: 843.1

Elevation: 590′

Today was yet another really wonderful day on the A.T. It is really amazing to me how many of these a hiker gets!

I am still astounded by the beauty of this New Jersey section. It really is one of the best kept secrets on the trail, and it only gets better every day. There may not be any tall mountains, but the terrain is really beautiful, and there is often a view from the top of the climbs. For example, within two and a half miles of breaking camp, there was a mountain called Sunrise Mountain, which has a pavillion built on top of it, and a really great view in two directions.

By lunch time, we reached High Point State Park headquarters, and were looking forward to hitting the lake, which has a beach and concession stand. It may sound silly, but the highest point in New Jersey is a towering 1,803 feet above sea level. They have even built a parking lot, road, and a 200 foot oblelisk at the summit, and then built a state park around it. The name? Well, High Point. They sure don’t mess around naming some of these things!

As silly as all of that may sound, it was a really beautiful area, one of my favorites in this section. Even better than that, we got hooked up with some amazing trail magic.

We had reached the headquarters building and were about to walk up to the beach when a car pulled up next to us and the window rolled down. “You guys thru-hiking?” the man inside asks. “Yup.” “You like BBQ?” was his next question. I can’t remember if we responded so much as jumped in the air. This was going to be one of those trail magic moments that you only read about in the registers. We followed the car back to the headquarters building, where the guy brought out a cooler, portable grill and several grocery bags. His trail name was the Grey Ghost, and he had thru-hiked in 1993. He comes out here every year since then in the third week in July (because that’s when he came through High Point on his hike) to cook food for hikers. He does this because he had run across lots of trail magic himself on his hike. Today he had brought his daughter Liz along, and they proceded to throw us a full-on BBQ with burgers, dogs, potato salad, beans, and the whole works. What more can a hiker really ask for? Myself, Y2K, Geoff, 2-Mile and Weatherman were the only ones who showed up, and we ate like kings. Thank you Grey Ghost and Liz!

After a little siesta to recover, we hiked out to make for Unionville. The High Point monument was not actually on the A.T., but on a side trail that made you climb to the top of that massive mountain. Y2K and Geoff did not want to go up, so I went up by myself. I was rewarded with a really great view atop a beautiful mountain, with views of the Delaware River in one direction and mountains in all other directions. There was a nice breeze, and I have to say, it was well worth the climb. I can also add New Jersey’s highest point to the state summit list for this trip, which before the end will include Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire and possibly more.

Unionville, New York is an unbelievable place. While the trail itself is near the NJ-NY border in this section, the town of Unionville is just a half mile walk. We stayed at none other than the Mayor’s house. Yes, the actual Mayor of Unionville. I ate dinner at his table, used his shower and bathroom, and even checked my email on the Mayor’s laptop while other hikers watched UFC on the Mayor’s TV.

The mayor is an incredible guy. This is bar none the most impressive display of hospitality I have ever seen in my life! There are 22 hikers here toight, all of us dirty, smelly, and in need of food, shower, laundry, etc. The mayor takes care of all of us, opening his modest home to every hiker that comes through every day. There were about 10 people sleeping inside on the floor, and at least a dozen tents in the back yard. This is one of the largest waves to come through, but there have been even more at one time, and every night there is almost always at least a few people.

He does all of this in honor of his wife, who was wheelchair bound for 15 years and once had the idea of putting up hikers to meet their needs. Once she passed away, he decided to make it a reality. He has the help of Butch – one of his city employees, and Bill, a really wonderful elderly man whom the mayor has taken into his home.

This is the true spirit of the trail at its finest, and it is so great to be here to witness it. Thank you Mayor Ludwick and Grey Ghost for turning a beautiful day of hiking into one of the most exceptional and memorble days on the A.T. for me!

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Hiker Trash

Day 115

Location: Gren Anderson Shelter, NJ

Miles hiked today: 17.9

Miles from Springer: 1,313

Miles to Katahdin: 863.2

Elevation: 1,320′

I woke up in the early hours, and from my tent I could see across the valley to the horizon, where the sun was rising. What a great camp site! I was tired however, so I went back to sleep.

We packed up and hiked on, further amazed by the beauty of this state. There are already more views here than in the entire state of Pennsylvania. There are still a lot of rocks, but they are a kinder, gentler sort that are broken up with smooth sections and are not so persistent. After a few miles, we saw a bear. It was a young bear, but almost fully grown, just standing in the woods watching us. He did not seem frightened or alarmed to see us. He just stood there and posed for photographs, even after I dropped my poles in a clatter as I fumbled to get my camera. I got all the pictures I wanted, and then I looked away for just a second and he was gone before I looked back. A little while later in the morning we saw a second bear (which makes a total of 12 now), who did the same thing. New Jersey is supposed to have the highest concentration of black bears on the whole trail, and they are not as shy as even the bears in the Shenandoahs. Again, this was contrary to the concrete path I imagined would be in New Jersey.

In the afternoon, we came to the much anticipated Culver’s Gap, which had several places to eat. There was one in particular I was anxious to go to called Joe’s to Go, which is a sandwich shop, and supposedly discriminates against hikers. Apparently, they do not let hikers use the restroom there. I wanted to see for myself. Joe’s was closed which was kind of disappointing. (I heard later that some hikers had gone in there and one of them had used the restroom. The whole group of them got kicked out, and all of their orders were cancelled). Instead, we went to Gyp’s Taven and sat at the bar and started looking at the menu. The place was empty except two other customers sitting far away from us at the bar and one other hiker. The only employee I saw was the bartender, who served our drinks and was waiting on our orders. Suddenly we are approached by a man who tells us that we will have to sit outside or in the far corner of the back dining room. He said that we smell bad, and cannot sit at the bar because we will offend his customers.

I look around, still not seeing anybody sitting near us, and the time being around 3 in the afternoon, am wondering which customers he’s talking about. I know that he can’t actually smell us, as we just left town yesterday and I can’t even smell my friend Y2K who is sitting next to me. This guy came out from the back room, but he claims we walked past him on the way in the door. I calmly tell him that he won’t need to worry about it, because I would rather leave than sit in the back. He is suddenly incredulous that I would be offended, insisting that it is only reasonable, and in 30 years I am the first to be offended.

I know discrimination when I see it, and I’m positive that it’s no coincidence that this place is next door to Joe’s who won’t let hikers use their restroom. I tell him that if I were a blue collar worker, and came in after work smelling just like I do now, I would never be asked to sit outside. This touches a nerve, as he is suddenly angry and says, “Don’t you go there with me!” I get the impression that he thinks I am some privileged punk who does not belong in his blue collar bar anyhow. Before I leave, I point out that there is another hiker at the bar who he has not asked to sit elsewhere. We take our leave and walk down to Stewart’s Root Beer, which is right next to Dairy Queen, and eat so much food and ice cream that it’s 3 hours before we get back on the trail. This was much better anyhow, so the guy did us a favor. I am more amused than anything, but I think the guy needs a sign in his window that says “No hiker trash!”

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The Jerzys

Day 114

Location: Rattlesnake Spring, NJ

Miles hiked today: 13.5

Miles from Springer: 1,295.1

Miles to Katahdin: 881.1

Elevation: 1,260′

I stayed an extra day at Delaware Water Gap, which was very nice. The Church of the Mountain was filled beyond capacity and there would probably be even more hikers there tonight because they put on a free hiker feed every Thursday. Many thanks to you, Pastor Karen and to the congregation for your wonderful hospitality!

I sent my phone home yesterday and cancelled my service, so I am now officially off the grid. If feels kinda weird, but kind of liberating at the same time. Just a notice to all you folks that have my phone number in real life; I will be getting a new number when I get off the trail. My email is the way to find me until then.

A small group of us caught a ride into Stroudsburg last night to catch the new Batman movie. It was pretty good. However, it was one of those movies that could have ended way before it did. It felt like the last quarter of the movie was actually the sequel, pasted to this one. Heath Ledger was amazing. However, I think it is sad that this had to be the movie he made right before he died. His career had much more to it than his role as the Joker that everyone is eulogizing him for.

So finally, after two more trips to the bakery, and lunch before leaving town, I stepped foot on the bridge that crosses the Delaware River. It wasn’t quite like George Washington’s crossing. In fact there were not even any boats to use and only a narrow walkway alongside the busy I-80, with trucks screaming past. I did see a couple of kayakers below, but they were not even standing up in the prow of their boats. No love for George, I guess.

Having all of New Jersey in front of me, I was not quite sure what to expect. Part of me expected the trail to follow the Jersey Turnpike all the way through the state, and then get off on some exit. At the very least, I expected the trail to be paved, or at least everything around it to be paved and the trail to follow some 50 foot wide corridor of trees. While we’re on the subject, this is reminding of a few of my favorite New Jersey jokes;

Q: What is the best thing to come out of New Jersey? A: The Jersey Turnpike!

If someone tells you they’re from New Jersey, you can say, “Oh, you’re from New Jersey? What exit?”

I have to say, after just the section I hiked today, I was really surprised, even amazed. Not only did I not see a single concrete barrier after crossing the bridge, but this state is really beautiful! The trail starts out in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which is actually the result of a narrowly averted dam project that would have flooded the valley above. The trail goes up to a ridgeline that has a lot of views off both sides, and not a factory or even a town in sight for miles. You can see the Delaware River paralleling the trail on one side, and there are numerous lakes and ponds down below. The trail comes right to Sunfish Pond, which is a great place for hikers to swim and relax. A group of four of us went up to the top of a fire tower to watch the sun go down, and then set up our tents on top of the mountain with views facing east. Overall, not a bad state at all so far!

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