Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 92: And into New Jersey!

June 7: I left the town of Delaware Water Gap first thing in the morning. The town sits right on the New Jersey border and the trail crosses the Delaware River along a pathway next to Interstate 80 so with the roar of semi-trucks a few feet away, I stepped into New Jersey. Seven states down! Seven left to go! Whoo-who!

The trail left the town of DWG alongside the busy Interstate 80.

It was a beautiful day for a walk too! Sunny and warm and generally delightful. I stopped for a bit at Sunfish Pond, still amused to see the same sign I remembered from 2003 about it being one of the seven natural wonders of New Jersey. =) Although this time around I knew that New Jersey was a beautiful state--at least the section that the AT runs through--it still amuses me that they have not just one but seven natural wonders to point at.

My main reason for stopping at Sunfish Pond, however, wasn't to admire the views or reminisce about being filmed here for Appalachian Impressions (a wonderful documentary about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail) during my 2003 hike. Nope, it was the city of cairns I stopped for! I remembered huge quantities of enormous and elaborate cairns on the shoreline and I planned to stop to add to the collection. I was a bit disappointed when I arrived, though. I remembered there being a lot more cairns and much more impressive ones than what I saw today. It was much earlier in the hiking season this time around, though, and I wondered if the winter snows knock most of them down and they just hadn't been rebuilt to the degree as I remembered last time.

Well, whatever the reason, I'd be adding my own cairn to the collection so everyone who comes after me can at least enjoy one more cairn to look at. I spent about 10 minutes building a large cairn. It wasn't particularly elaborate or noteworthy, but it was mine! =)

Seven states down, seven more to go!

And then I continued hiking. My next stop was to be at the Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC). It was a bit off trail, but they allegedly had food, cold drinks and a gift shop and I figured I'd check it out. Why not?

Along the short road walk to the facility, however, I got sidelined by PA Runner and his friends. They were parked along the road and handing out trail magic. Shortly thereafter, Heavyweight and Blueberry got sucked into the trail magic as well. We only escaped after PA Runner and his friends started closing up shop to leave.

At this point, I was ready to walk back to the trail and skip the MOC, but Heavyweight and Blueberry convinced me to go the rest of the way and the three of us headed up the trail. Superman had decided to skip the MOC and therefore missed out on the trail magic. His loss! =)

At the MOC, I merely ordered a Coke. The girl working the front desk spoke with an exotic accent--at least it seemed exotic to me--so I asked where she was from. New Hampshire! I figured she was from Europe or something and spoke English as a second language. Her English was good, but it had a definite accent I didn't recognize.

"That's a New Hampshire accent?" I asked, somewhat astonished. I knew there was a Maine accent (and if you wanted to hear it on the trail, just talk to Turbo--he has it thick!), but I'd never heard of a New Hampshire accent before.

And she told me that when she was a child, she had an ear infection so she didn't hear people speaking correctly. The ear infection is long gone, but because she couldn't hear correctly as a child, she learned to speak her own distinctive accent.

I felt so bad for even bringing it up--like I had insulted her or making fun of a speech impediment or something. I totally didn't mean to, and she didn't seem upset by my question or annoyed at explaining the reason for her unusual accent. She's probably sick of telling the story, but she did it with grace and patience.

"I'm special," she said.

Yes, I thought, that's a great way to put it.

Heavyweight, who was listening in on the conversation said that Blueberry was very special too. We both laughed at that.

"Oh, yes!" I agreed. "Blueberry is special in very own way."

Anyhow... I took my Coke and went to the picnic table outside, still feeling somewhat ashamed for asking the girl where she was from. She could have told me some exotic Eastern European country, though, and I totally would have bought into it. =)

Back outside, the three of us were sitting around a picnic table chatting, and in mid-sentence, Blueberry jumped up and ran off chasing after a chipmunk. The sudden, unexpected change took me by surprise, like a dog that was laying around suddenly jumping up and racing after the chipmunk.

The chipmunk ran off into its burrow, and Blueberry kind of growled at it like he was the coyote and the animal was the roadrunner. Foiled again!

I turned to Heavyweight and jokingly suggested that we really needed to keep that boy on a leash. Has he done that before?!

Heavyweight nodded and told me that earlier, Blueberry had chased a chipmunk into a bush that Blueberry whacked around with his trekking pole. And when the chipmunk started to chirp, Blueberry started to chirp back!

I raised my eyebrows a bit at this. Heavyweight told the story as if Blueberry chasing chipmunks and thwacking bushes with his trekking pole was normal behavior, but to chirp back at the chipmunk had crossed some sort of invisible line of crazy.

"I see," was the only thing I could think of to say. "Yeah, we really need to get a leash for him."

Idling in my head, though, was a bigger question: What would he do if he actually caught one? I was a little afraid to ask....

Sunfish Pond--one of the seven natural wonders of New Jersey! This sign still makes me laugh, even 12 years after the first time I saw it. =)
We continued hiking. Heavyweight and Blueberry quickly passed me since they hike faster than I do, but before they left me in the dust, we had discussed where we might camp for the night. The shelters were badly spaced at this point--the first shelter out from Delaware Water Gap was 25 miles away and I didn't want to do that. My longest day ever on the AT was 24 miles, and that was during my 2003 thru-hike!

Heavyweight and Blueberry wanted to camp at a site next to a creek so water was nearby, but I was looking at something a bit earlier but wasn't near water which meant we'd have to pack some water in. But I could make it to the creek. Why not? *shrug*

So with those vague plans, they headed off ahead of me.

Sunfish Pond
The rest of the day's hike was uneventful. There were wonderful views along the ridgelines. More rocks on the trail than I remembered, but hardly horrible. When I reached my preferred campsite along the trail, I kept my eyes open for Heavyweight and Blueberry stealth-camped nearby in case they had decided to stop there, but as I thought, I didn't see them and I continued on to the creek where they preferred to camp.

And at the creek... I still didn't find them. I did find Turbo set up in his tent nearby and asked if he had seen Heavyweight and Blueberry. Turbo didn't know who they were, however, but a couple of hikers had passed by about a half hour before I did and that, presumably, was them.

But I could find no sign of them which disappointed me immensely. I could only assume that they decided to push on and do the full 25 miles to the shelter to meet up with Superman again. I wasn't going to make that shelter. Even if I wanted to, it was near sunset and I wouldn't arrive until well after dark and I needed light to take photos. I was on my own for the night. Which wasn't a big deal--I'd camped alone many times over the years--but I was a little annoyed too, like Heavyweight and Blueberry had deliberately ditched me. If they had wanted to hike all the way to the shelter today, they could have mentioned it earlier.

But since I was on my own, I figured I'd camp anywhere I wanted and decided to push on a bit further to Rattlesnake Mountain. Mostly to get away from the creek--fewer bugs away from water sources and all. The mountain was on an exposed hilltop which was lighter and breezier than in the trees, and without all of the trees above me, I didn't have to worry about those pesky gypsy moths pooping on me all night long. I got to cowboy camp for the first time in two weeks! So I really liked the campsite, even though it wasn't really designed as one.

And without Heavyweight and Blueberry to distract me, I got a serious lot of reading done. I missed my leisure reading, and it felt good to read for a couple of hours before going to sleep. =)

But where the heck did Heavyweight and Blueberry go?! I still missed them.

I wish I was fast enough to get this photo before the lizard's head went behind the left, but I loved the color in this fellow's tail! It's a lizard I don't ever remember seeing before!

I pose with my cairn contribution to Sunfish Pond. =)

The Mohican Outdoor Center. Look at that--we've come 1,277.3 miles and only have a mere 881.9 miles left to go! =)

The campstore is just inside....

Heavyweight takes a photo of the view!

Fire lookout tower along the trail.


I'd see these little bugs everywhere, but they were SOO hard to get a photo of! They're so small and would move so fast! But they're so pretty and colorful, so I really wanted a photo of one and it annoyed me to no end how difficult it was to get a photo. Until now.... these two seemed preoccupied with other matters and didn't move so fast. ;o)

Rattlesnake Mountain! I'd set up camp a few steps to the right of this photo. Despite its name, I never saw any rattlesnakes here. But I bet they're lurking!


Mary said...

Oh Ryan! Iridescent sex photos!

Anonymous said...

Lizard is a blue-tailed skink--pretty common, but secretive.