Monday, August 9, 2021

Delaware Watergap, Pennsylvania, to Home

Wednesday July 28 Hiked from Bakeoven Shelter to Delps Trail.  Not a good campsite, but I made it work.  Chicago stopped briefly but moved on.  Next morning I found a much better camp a half mile away.  Go figure.  

Best part of the Wednesday hike was hiking with Justin, an airline pilot.  He is a co-pilot for 737.  He talked about career options--staying as a co-pilot of 737, moving to captain's chair of 737, or moving to co-pilot of a 777.

17.5 miles today.  I need to pay attention to the miles so I can make my next Elder meeting on Monday. 

Thursday July 29  Hiked from Delps Trail to a campsite I identified on my AT phone app--Guthooks.  When I got to the campsite, there were two hammock campers. Oscar and John whom I camped with at Eckville Shelter. Oscar and John were okay with me joining them.  

With the first drops of rain, I quickly engaged in setting up the tent.  Ground cloth, laid out tent, stake for each corner, tent poles clipped in, 5 hooks for tent to tent poles, rainfly draped over and staked.  I threw everything in the tent and dove in just as it really started to rain. Then thunder and one lightning bolt was really close.  After a couple of hours the storm had passed by. 

July 30 Friday Left camp at 5:45 AM, hiking okay with some rock, to hiking slow with lots of rock, to a crawl going through a boulder field.  Not sure what happened--either a hiking pole slipped or a foot slipped on wet rock or I lost my balance. But I fell over backward and momentarily my right foot was wedged between two rocks.  I was able to release my foot and ended upside down in the only piece of dirt for at least half a mile. No harm, no foul, no injury. This section of trail 12-13 miles was rock, rock, and more rock. Then some good hiking on a dirt road.  The last two miles were a STEEP downhill with a lot of day hikers, this being Friday. 

Made it to Delaware Water Gap Post Office at 12:15 pm.  Closed, not to reopen 1:00 pm.  Went to Apple Pie Bakery.  Everything looked great.  Very busy place with hardly any help.  It took some doing but I finally ordered two breakfast sandwiches (egg and cheese on multigrain) and fries. They were out of salad and sweet potato fries. Bummer!

After eating, went back to Post Office to get my resupply box. 

As you hike north toward Delaware Water Gap, you come to a downhill to reach the gap.  Most of the time, the downhill is darn steep.  In this instance there was a beautiful set of switchbacks--well designed, and well laid out.  Hikers would love to see more of this on the AT. 

As I was leaving Delaware Water Gap I saw another hiker heading out as well. Her name is Amethyst.  We walked across the bridge. Midway across the Delaware River, we entered New Jersey. 

I had heard horror stories about hiking the first couple of miles.  That was NOT the case.  The trail was good and we covered 5 miles to a camp. Along the way a guy named Wade talked with us.  Wade is a Ridge Runner for the AT in New Jersey.  

I was okay with a 15 mile day since the five miles to camp reduced the miles to Unionville to 48.  I have to be in Unionville or some other town with a motel so I can participate in the next Elder meeting. 

The campsite at mile 1300 became pretty populated with a group of 10 or so middle school hikers with no adult in the group. 

Saturday July 31  The twenty miles were darn rocky.  In the afternoon I focused on one thing--putting one foot in front of the other, left, right, left, right.  As long as I was taking steps, I was making progress.  Sometimes I would catch a series of tall rocks and step from rock to rock.  Other times I would find the smoothest line and walk there. 

New Jersey requires the use of bear boxes.  Remembering to get the food is my biggest concern.  I've been keeping the food in the tent with me.  When I empty the tent, I've got everything I have.  Gotta get my food sack. 

Sunday August 1 For some reason around 9:00 AM, I took my phone off airplane mode.  Immediately a text message popped up that Gary Nock, my pastor, had died at 5:20 AM Pacific time. My heart aches for Dawn, the GracePoint family, and for me.  Gary is quite a loss.  I am also relieved for Gary and Dawn.  The struggle is over. 

My goal for the day is High Point Shelter.  This would leave only 7-8 miles to Unionville. This would be another 20 mile day. 

At Sunrise Mountain was a pavilion with 4 hikers.  I was asked how I was doing and I said that I was good but that my water filter had gone south on me, and water was only dribbling out. One of the young hikers said he had an extra filter.  His name was Popeye (got his name when he was eating spinach from a bag).  I said I could make it okay.  But a few minutes later, Popeye handed me a plastic bag with a brand new Be Free Filter.  WOW!  The best Trail Magic Ever. 

A little later it started to rain--not hard, but everything was getting wet and rocks were slick.  I came to the Mashipacong shelter (say that name 3 times fast!) with 5 other hikers. I joined to make a 6-pack of hikers waiting out the storm.  

One of the hikers was moving fast.  He left Springer Mountain, Georgia, on May 31st.  In about 62 days, he had hiked more than 1300 miles.  

It stopped raining and everyone moved on.  I headed to the side trail for the Rutherford Shelter.  I kept going and no shelter.  When I looked at the map, I thought, "Good grief, anyway!" The shelter was quite a way from the AT, so I turned around and made for the AT.  My little diversion cost me 20 minutes. 


It was 3:00 pm when I made it to the AT.  I turned north for High Point Shelter.  The going was slow--lots and lots of rocks and the rocks were slick. The distance was only 4.6 miles but it took all of three hours to do.  Point of reference--at home on Beezley Hill, I can do 8 miles in less than 3 hours.  I have done 6 miles in 3 hours in what I call hard hiking, but this little stretch of 4.6 miles took 3 hours. 

Another 20 mile day and I was pooped. Only 8 miles to Unionville, so I was pretty pleased. 

I talked with Becky and the decision was made--I was coming home.  With Gary's passing, it seemed like the right thing to do. 

Monday August 2 When I left High Point Shelter, immediately the hiking was good.  I could get into a rhythm and clip off a mile in just a little time.  There were pastures and hayfields, and for the most part the hiking was smooth.  Certainly there were stretches that were rocky and steep uphills and downhills, but for once the hiking was favorable. At 9:25 AM I was in Unionville. 

First my resupply box at the Post Office for a section of trail I would not hike, then the general store for a Gatorade and breakfast sandwich. 

From Becky, I knew that I would need to hitch a ride south 8-12 miles to find a motel for my Elder meeting. I took off on Hwy 284.  In less than a mile, I re-entered New Jersey.  But my thumb was out of order.  I couldn't seem to get a ride. It was getting hotter and hotter, so I pulled out my umbrella.  Better to walk in the shade.  Finally a car pulled over.  The driver's name was Kristen.  She could not take me to the Days Inn, but she could take me halfway. She let me out at the Rolling Hills Motel and said it was only 4.4 miles to Days Inn.  I no sooner put the pack on and turned to walk when another car stopped.  Andy took me to the Quality Inn in Vernon, New Jersey. 

It was noon and I was set--checked in and life was good.  Very good!  I needed to do laundry, but the washer was out of order. Clothes had to be washed by hand.  The dryer worked, though.  Oh how I looked forward to a shower. And I needed to work out the details of getting home--a ride to the Newark, NJ, airport, airline reservations from Newark to Spokane, and a motel near the Newark airport. I needed everything at the same time--shower, laundry, ride to airport, motel for Tuesday, and reservations to fly home. 

Clothes washed in motel room sink and dried in laundry room.  Airline reservations set for 6:15 AM departure on Wednesday. Taxi to Newark airport cost almost as much as flight to Spokane. 

One thing I could not find was a motel near the airport that could get me there by 4:15 AM.  A couple of motels said it's only 5 minute drive.  That's 5 minutes driving; I'm walking. So my plan is to sleep at the airport.  I have a sleeping pad and sleeping quilt.  It just might work. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

From Duncannon, Pennsylvania, to . . .

 Wednesday July 21  Nearing Duncannon I met a hiker named Solo.  The trail diverted us uphill then turned downhill--very steep downhill.  Solo says several times, "I don't remember this.  Every re-route put in is harder than the original." 

Showered at Hostel and rinsed out my clothes.  Had lunch at the old hotel with Willy and Scott.  Hamburger and the first beer I've had in months was $10.31.  About half what you'd normally pay. 

Started the 4.6 mile hike to first shelter. Across to the other side of town, then across two bridges.  From there the trail became steep but doable.  I lost the trail at a "Double White Blaze" which indicates a turn.  I tried 2-3 different routes but they played out--very steep and rocky, a bear cat to walk on and not get hurt. I went back to the Double White Blaze.  This time I hit pay dirt--it was a switchback which are few and far between on the Appalachian Trail.  And then the trail moved into the rocks.  We've had plenty of rocks, except this required rock climbing and not hiking or walking.  One 0.2 mile stretch took 40 minutes.  Back home, I can generally do 0.2 mile in 4-6 miles. 

Garrett and I disagree about the rock climbing.  I knew there would be a few sections farther up the trail, but I've already hit 3-4 areas requiring rock climbing--highly inefficient travel. 
Kamikaze gnats There have not been many biting insects, but some insects are annoying--Kamikaze gnats dive-bombing my eyes.  Once I had 3 gnats in my left eye. 

Thursday July 22  Internal Dialogue and Bonus Miles--Most of my mistakes are when my internal dialogue is in overdrive.  I took a breakfast break at a shelter then turned wrong when I got back to the AT, 1.8 bonus miles. Bummer! 17 trail miles plus 1.8 bonus = almost 19 miles. 
Chicago stopped at my camp at Horse-shoe Trail, then moved onto another camp.  Next morning I found a much better campsite less than 0.5 mile away.  17 miles on Thursday. 

Friday July 23 Biggest event today was my first rattlesnake.  Hiking in the shade with my head down because of rocks--this is the norm on the AT.  Just as I was about to take a step with my right foot.  I noticed a "pattern" and froze.  Sure enough, a timber rattler was asleep on the trail.  My next step would have been on the rattlesnake. 

I stayed at William Penn Shelter.  A nice young woman--high school distance runner--slept upstairs while I slept downstairs.  She doesn't know what she missed--my snoring. 

I did about 22 miles today.  A little while after getting to the shelter, I was stiff, sore, and clumsy.  My goal was to make Hamburg early on Sunday.  

Saturday July 24 I hiked with two very nice guys for a while today--Stephen and Jonathan (with black beard). Later when I was hiking alone, a guy with a black beard blew past me like I was standing still.  I thought it I was Jonathan and that Stephen could have been hurt.  Turned out not to be the case, as I came onto the fast walker taking a lunch break.  His shirt was red, trail name Captain. 

Toward the end of the day when I am tired, my pace slows.  I had seen a father-daughter duo earlier, Scott and Grace.  Scott passed me and I must have looked up.  My right foot caught something and WHAM, I was on the ground.  No rocks, thank God, so no harm, no foul. 

I came off the AT to get water at Sand Spring.  Good flow, great water.  Made it to Eagle's Nest Shelter at 4:30.  A few folks were camped beyond the shelter.  None other than Chicago showed up.  I have seen Chicago every day since my first full day on the AT.  Chicago now has done 1200 miles.  Somehow I am keeping up with a thru-hiker. 

I came off the AT to get water at Sand Spring.  Good flow, great water.  Made it to Eagle's Nest Shelter at 4:30.  A few folks were camped beyond the shelter.  None other than Chicago showed up.  I have seen Chicago every day since my first full day on the AT.  Chicago now has done 1200 miles.  Somehow I am keeping up with a thru-hiker. 

Lots of discussion with Scott and Grace.  He asked me if I knew a song named, "Wayfaring Stranger."  I said, "Emmylou Harris, Roses in the Snow album. Happens to be a song I like very much." On his phone he played a version by a father and his two daughters. I thanked Scott as I told him it would be in my head the next day. 

Sunday July 25 Ten miles to get to Hamburg.  Left camp at 5:45 am.  The trail was sometimes flat, smooth, and fast; other places were a jumbled mess of rocks at various angles--slow going.  I kept moving forward, breaking for breakfast, potty break, Nearing Port Clinton there was the descent from hell--EXTREMELY STEEP, toward the end I caught up with two overnight hikers--Mark and Cara.  They were agreeable to take me to Hamburg. 
We loaded and packs and us in his small car.  When we got to Hamburg, Mark pulled into Five Guys parking lot just before 11:00 am, and they don't open until 3:00 pm.  Then to Red Robin which opened at 11:00 am.  We ordered burgers, fries, shakes for them, steamed broccoli for me.  The burger and fries were very good, but the broccoli was incredible.  I picked up the tab for the ride and the good conversation.

They dropped me off at Microtel.  I had to wait until 3:30 to see if I had a room.  At 3:30, the clerk said, "You've got a room, there was a cancellation." 

Laundry, shower, soak in a hot tub of water with shampoo in the water, then a second shower. The motel has a pub--Pappy T's Pub and Lounge.  I carefully looked the menu over and saw that they had sauteed cauliflower and broccoli.  I ordered a salad and asked that carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli be added to the salad.  Then I ordered the medley of vegetables, AND sauteed brussel sprouts.  I ate a lot of veggies today. 

Today was day 11.  From Harper's Ferry, WV, to Hamburg, PA, is 195 miles.  Not bad for an old duffer.  My feet are sore and blistered and my left knee hurts from time to time. 

Tomorrow I enter what Mark called "the trail from hell" --78 miles of rock.  The one thing that would make this better would be a hiking partner--to talk to, to encourage each other, to help motivate each other.  All I can do is look for the opportunity to hike with other hikers.  Even a few miles with someone can make all the difference in the world. 

Kevin, just keep on keeping on. 
Monday July 26 I arranged a ride to the Hamburg Post Office then back to the trail.  His name is Steve.  No envelope in my box, so I am pushing on without mailing anything back to Becky.  Hiked Eckville Shelter--there is a house owned by Mick.  He has a 6-bunk bed house--small, so my snoring would not be welcomed .  To the side is a building with a toilet and solar shower.  Shower was cold and WONDERFUL.  Every shelter should have one.  I camped across the road with others. 

Tuesday July 27  Hiked about 18 miles to Bake Oven Shelter. I stopped at a restaurant--it was closed, but had a spigot, so I filled with water.  Shortly after crashing for the night, I heard some noise.  My food was fine.  At the far side of the shelter a porcupine was working on the first step into the shelter.  Porcupine left.  When I laid back down, a big black ant bit me--it stung for several hours.  Later more noise; this time it was two porcupines. 

Wednesday July 28 I hiked to Palmerton and then I had a decision to make.  Take the official AT and do some rock climbing up a cliff face, or take the "blue alternate" and hike a very steep trail, but you can walk.  I took the blue alternate. 

I caught up with a section hiker named Justin.  He is a co-pilot for Boeing 737 planes.  We had a great conversation. 

I camped at Delps Trail, but Justin went a little farther. 

Thursday July 29  This part of the AT has been dry enough that water is a concern, as many of the springs are dry.  Yesterday I planned to go to Danielsville, PA to get more water, but a water cache made that unnecessary.  Today I needed more food and more water, so I went to Wind Gap, PA.  I stopped at a convenience store as the grocery store was a much longer walk.  I bought a bottle of water, bottle of Gatorade, hamburger, burrito, and Cheetos.  Spent more money at a convenience store than ever. 

I hurried back to the AT.  It was 1:00 pm and supposed to start raining by noon.  Pack was heavy but I made it up the hill anyway.  At the campsite I had circled on my guidebook, there were two hikers with hammock-sleeping systems--John and Oscar (Oscar has the longer beard).  They were okay with me joining them.  First drops of rain put me to setting up my tent.  A little after getting the tent up and everything inside the tent, thunder started in the distance.  Lightning close by, LOUD thunderclap, heavy rain.  By 5:30 the storm was over.