This will be a long one, now that I have decent reception.
So. We crossed the Delaware into New Jersey on the I-80 bridge (that’s right, I can’t get away from I-80), and I bet Washington had more fun crossing that river than I did! Rigid concrete bridge over water, and I could still feel it move every time a big truck went by. Vertigo to the nth!
The first chunk of NJ, once into the trees, was like a dream. Aromatic pine forest, gently sloping path, rushing and bubbling stream… Enough that I almost broke out singing. It was easily the most serene bit of trail yet!
It didn’t last, unfortunately; our goal that day was the Mohican Outdoor Center, about 10 miles in, and from Sunfish Pond to the Center, the rocks rivalled that in PA, to the point I just about quit by the time I arrived. (I didn’t.)
The next day was full of surprises. It was the strangest day I have had yet! Terrain-wise, much kinder than PA. But much buggier. So many bugs, and they like to get in your face. Sometimes even use your face as a landing pad. I hate that. I’ve taken to using a bug net – it looks dorky, but it works! Also, there are different birds. Like the whipporwill, that likes to call at 3am and wake you up. The section of NJ I am in is very much woodsier than PA, and dotted with youth camps, now currently full of kids – mostly from New York.
So, back to May 25. I was about 15 minutes ahead of Morning Song, on a small ledge on the path, and about to step down, when I heard this completely unmistakable rattling sound. Even when you have never heard one before, you know instantly what it is. When I looked down, sure enough, rattlesnake, in the middle of the path, 20 feet away, sunning itself. It was coiled up and the rattle sticking up in the air in the middle of a coil, going like sixty.
So… What to do? There was no path around it, it was right on the middle. I gathered a few small rocks, but decided to wait for MS before trying to drive the snake off the trail. Then I heard some people approaching from the other side, and called out to warn them. After they got a good look at it and everyone agreed it was a rattlesnake, they told me about sixty kids were headed this way in about an hour… Something has to be done to get the snake off the path.
Throwing rocks near it didn’t make it budge. MS found a long stick, but it was rotten; it broke open and suddenly there were ants everywhere. Ah, no. I went back and found a long, non-rotten stick, and carefully stepped off the ledge as far from the snake as I could get. Using the stick, I was able to first shove the snake off the path, then actually lift and sort of fling it. A couple times. The thing was mad, but it tried to sting the stick, not me. I got it far enough away that people were able to use the path without being in striking range, about 20 feet, and we all went on our way. Shortly after, we started running into the groups of kids interspersed throughout the trail, and warned their leaders about the snake; it was all we could do.
The day’s oddities were not ever yet though… As we approached a road crossing (the path was an overgrown road at this point), a vehicle came driving toward us, on this track barely wide enough for it! Quick, get off the road! It was a ranger, who had a report about a crashed glider plane, and was looking for it. We couldn’t help him, we’d not seen it. He went his way, we continued on, but he caught up with us again later; they’d found it, but it was in another mountain outside the park.
We ended the day near Crater Lake; beautiful lake, and I soaked my feet in cool water. Bonus! The bugs were really bad though, and I did a very sloppy job of setting up the tent. I just wanted in! So did they, but they were disappointed.
May 26 was pretty uneventful, except that we hit the 300 mile mark. Stokes Steakhouse was listed as being located right where the trail crosses Culver’s Gap, and the thought of a thick steak kept us going for 8.5 miles – but when we got there, it was closed! So was the deli next to it… We consoled ourselves at Gyp’s Tavern, which had wonderful lakeside seating and a cool breeze. Then three more miles, climbing up out of the Gap, to this shelter. A long day!
It’s getting hot -85 degree temps. Drinking a lot more water to compensate, but I have run out of the quick purifying tablets Doug sent, so I am using the 4 hour ones now, requires more strategizing. As I type this, it is raining, which will either cool it down, or add humidity. We will see. Planning 13 miles today, to High Point Shelter… Right now I am lying in the shelter, listening to the birds and the rain.
And thinking. The last two days have been full of trail magic – it is beginning to restore my faith in people. Seriously. At Sunfish Pond, I was chatting with a dayhiker who was awed by thruhikers (“you guys are so hardcore!”), and a woman who was sunbathing came up and gave me half a turkey sub, oatmeal squares, and chips-a-hoy cookies. I saved the cookies for MS, but the rest disappeared pretty quickly! Then, at Culver’s Gsp, a cold can of cranberry apple juice was gifted each of us, and later at the tavern, a couple bought us each a drink. People can be so kind, it is wonderful to see! And I promise not to let my hardcore status swell my ego.
Well, it is 6:15. About time to pack up, and eat breakfast, move on before the heat starts. So far – loving New Jersey!
I hike on.