Friday, October 23, 2015

Day 94: The Blueberry Trap!

June 9: It rained hard most of the night. A pounding rain that was deafening on the shelter's metal roof, but it was a comforting sound as well because I was in the shelter and not in the rain! =) But by morning, the rain had finally tapered off by morning. Thank goodness! The ground was still wet and tree snot fell from the trees so I took my time leaving the shelter. Anyhow, weather forecasts predicted a 60% chance of rain later in the afternoon so I planned to make a short day of it and hike a measly 12 miles to the next shelter. I was in no rush!

These colorful critters come out in huge numbers during and after rainstorms!

The day's hiking was comfortable and pleasant. Much of the day the trail ran through a wildlife refuge which was completely and utterly flat--a sensation that one doesn't get to feel very often on this trail and I loved it! At one point, the trail follows along some dirt roads forming three sides of a near-perfect rectangle leaving me to wonder why the trail just didn't go straight rather than this long-winded loop around. I suspect the trail does that sort of thing a lot but being in all of the trees and the trail not so straight, it's not as obvious as here. I could see Heavyweight nearly a mile ahead of me on the trail as I watched his progress around the wildlife refuge.

I had a lot more time to think during the hike today because of all of the easy terrain, and somewhere in the dark corners of my mind, an idea developed: a Blueberry trap. Of sorts.... His chasing after that chipmunk a couple of days earlier gave rise to my idea, and I still remembered his threat of the "Tortuga trap" whose bark turned out to be worse than its bite. But I had an idea, and I was calling it my Blueberry trap. It could wait until I reached the shelter, however.

The water source for the next shelter was actually at an abandoned house at a road crossing shortly before the shelter. When I arrived at the road crossing, I could see what looked like an abandoned house nearby, but the trail went into the woods next to it and I wasn't entirely sure if I was supposed to walk up the driveway to the house or if it was accessible directly from the trail. Not wanting to backtrack with a full pack if I decided incorrectly, I dropped my pack, hid it from view, and walked up the driveway to check it out. A few minutes later, I found the working faucet at the back of the house and a trail leading into the woods from it. Assuming it re-connected with the AT that was off in the woods, I followed it where I caught up with Heavyweight.

Heavyweight was stunned to see me. The surprise was quite visible on his face. "Where did you come from?" he asked. "And what happened to your pack? You pulled a Karaoke!" he exclaimed, referring to the time when Karaoke had inadvertently hiked up the trail the hard way without his pack.

Well, not exactly like Karaoke, since I knew there was a chance I would meet up with the AT again. I wasn't surprised when I stumbled onto it. My "sneaking" around by walking up the driveway had thrown Heavyweight off a bit, but that was the gist of it.

I walked back down the official AT where I retrieved my pack, then walked back up it again and on to the shelter.

The only rain for the day was the slightest of sprinkles that lasted a few minutes and I arrived at the Pochuck Mountain Shelter dry. The skies had some beautiful, puffy white clouds, but nothing that looked like it would threaten rain, and I toyed with the idea of continuing further for the day.

But.... what if it still rained later in the afternoon? It didn't look like it would rain, but weather can change in an instant! So I lingered at the shelter for a bit. There was a lot to do at the shelter in any case!

For instance, there was all sorts of gear left by a previous hiker including some really nice rain pants that looked absolutely brand, spanking new. I wondered if they'd even been opened! They seemed a bit bulky and heavy to carry on the trail, but I wouldn't have minded mailing them home for later use around town. I needed to make sure they fit, though, so I pulled them out of the bag they came in and tried them on. Turns out, they were much too big. I don't know who bought them, but they must have been an eight-foot giant! Heavyweight told me that I looked like one of those really old people with suspenders and they're pants come up to their chest, so I started goofing around with an old man's voice which Heavyweight recorded for posterity. Hope you enjoy! =)

I didn't take the pants, but I did take some extra shoelaces the ones on my shoes were wearing thin and in danger of snapping any day now. I hadn't worried too much about that since I figured I'd just run my thin rope through the shoes if it came down to that, but since these shoelaces were free for the taking, may as well use 'em!

In the register, McGuyer, who was now ahead of me on the trail, had written something about seeing a whopping SIX different bears along the trail today! New Jersey is well-known among thru-hikers for its abundance of bear sightings, but even by thru-hiker standards, six bears in one day is a lot of sightings! (At the next shelter, where he would spend the night today, he'd write something about seeing a couple of more. I don't remember the exact number of bears he saw that day, but it was something like 8 or 9!) I was envious. I saw zero. He probably scared them off. *nodding*

Then, of course, there was the Blueberry trap I needed to set. Blueberry hadn't arrived at the shelter--not yet, at least, but I knew he was behind me on the trail and due to arrive at the shelter at any time.

First, I needed to find just the right stick. Something long and thin, a little bendy would be nice. I searched the ground around the shelter and found the perfect stick a few minutes later.

Second, I attached one end of a short bit of thread to the stick.

And finally, I needed a "toy" to attach to the other end of the thread. Also left in the shelter besides clothes was a plastic spoon, and I figured that would work perfectly. Before I had learned of all the stuff left in the shelter, I was going to use a pine cone or something natural that I could find in the woods, but a plastic spoon I figured would work even better.

And now I had what could generally be called a cat toy--where I could dangle the spoon and cats would try to catch it or paw at it. Except that there weren't any cats around, and although Blueberry wasn't a cat, I had a hunch it would work on him! =)

I dangled it around, testing it out. I'm not sure what Heavyweight was thinking about my idea--if he thought I was crazy or that it might actually work. Or probably a little of both.

Pumpkin Butt was the next person to arrive at the shelter, and I dangled the spoon in front of him as he arrived. He tried to move away from it, and I followed him with it, but he wasn't having any of it. "Get that away from me!"

I turned to Heavyweight, "It doesn't work on Pumpkin Butt," I said, "but I still think it'll work on Blueberry."

In the meantime, I started cooking dinner. I was still toying with the idea of moving on, and Heavyweight was talking about hiking 24 miles the next day. I knew I wouldn't want to do that, however, so now I had another incentive to continue on today. If I could get in another five miles today, I'd only have to do 19 miles tomorrow to be in sync with Heavyweight (and Superman and Blueberry) again.

But I knew I'd be camping between shelters and possibly away from water sources so I wanted to get the cooking done here. And give myself more time to see what the weather might do. I'd hike late--all the way up until sunset--and at that point I wouldn't want to spend the time or energy cooking dinner. Nope, better to do that now!

So I cooked dinner, ate dinner, cleaned up, and eventually.... along comes Blueberry.

I quickly grabbed my improvised toy and dangled it outside of the shelter as he arrived, and Blueberry immediately opened his mouth trying to catch the spoon in it. I drew it away into the shelter, and Blueberry's mouth followed. It worked! It worked! I knew it would work! =)

Blueberry laid down in the shelter, and I dangled the spoon over him as he swatted at it like a cat would. It was kind of amusing at first, but as with real cats, it does get old kind of fast so I gave Blueberry the stick and he started dangling it over his own face to grab the spoon with his mouth.

"This is even better than a real cat!" I told Heavyweight. "Cats can't dangle these things for themselves!"

Good times. =)

Blueberry told us that he was thinking about continuing on to a viewpoint several miles ahead, so I said, "Yeah! I'm thinking about going on too! Let's go together!"

Heavyweight didn't like this idea, however, and encouraged Blueberry to stay at the shelter for the night. "I'll build you a campfire!" he said, even though campfires were illegal in New Jersey.

Bribery. *shaking head* I grabbed the stick. "But you'll miss this," I said, dangling the spoon in front of his face. "Won't you?"

Heavyweight countered that he'd build Blueberry the biggest darned campfire he ever saw!

Then I came to my senses. I turned to Heavyweight. "Are we fighting over... Blueberry? What has become of us?!"

Heavyweight became pensive. "OMG--we're like parents getting divorced and fighting over custody of the family dog. Visitation rights every 50 miles."

We laughed at the idea. "You can have him," I said. "He probably still needs some potty training."

The weather still continued to look nice, so I repacked my pack and once again hit the trail agreeing to meet up with them again at the shelter 24 miles up the trail the next night if I didn't see them earlier.

Those last couple of hours of hiking were pleasant, and late in the day, there was a mile-long boardwalk to follow that was immensely easy and quick! Views were quite nice too!

Finally the trail left the valley bottom it had been following for so long and started ascending into the mountains again, and I called it quits at a small viewpoint just before the so-called "Stairway to Heaven." My initially planned on 12-mile day turned into a 20-mile hike after hiking an additional 8 miles beyond the Pochuck Mountain Shelter.

The weather still looked fine with nothing that hinted at rain, so I decided to cowboy camp. It was near sunset and I figured it was likely that nobody was around, but holy cow! There were still a lot of people coming up and down the trail! At the top of the mountain was a lookout point and it seemed like all of the locals were headed up to it to view the sunset. A dozen people must have passed my impromptu campsite. A few stopped to chat and ask if I was thru-hiking the trail. I ate a few snacks out of my pack, but since I ate my dinner a few hours earlier at the shelter, I just used the snacks to fill me up before going to sleep.

After the sun had set and shortly before fading off to sleep, I saw what looked like an enormous spider crawling up towards my shoe. I went to flick it off as I normally do, but this spider exploded into what looked like a hundred mini-spiders. I jumped back a bit, surprised. WTF?! They scurried around individually, generally heading away from me. To this day, I still have no idea what exactly it was I saw there, but it was pretty darned weird! I went to sleep hoping that there weren't more of them around....

This road heads into Unionville, a town that neither Heavyweight nor I had any reason to go into. HOWEVER, we did call a pizza place to ask if they'd deliver a pizza to us at this road crossing. Alas, they didn't have delivery. No pizza for us today!

Here we're in the wildlife refuge which had some nice views because there weren't trees in that area.

The water source for the Pochuck Mountain Shelter was at this abandoned house! (Out of curiosity, I did try the doors to see if it could even be used as a shelter, but the place was locked up tight.)

Heavyweight at the Pochuck Mountain Shelter.

I try out the "Blueberry trap" I created. See the spoon dangling near the bottom of the photo, a little left of center?

And it worked like a charm! =) Even better than I could have hoped for!

Hey! That's totally the New Jersey High Point monument in the distance!

The mile-long boardwalk was a joy to walk on! =)

There's even a suspension bridge along the boardwalk, but it's not one of those bouncy, unstable ones which is always a little disappointing for me!

Lots of rabbits along the trail today, but I couldn't get decent photos of them because they're small and fast and very camera shy!

Another bad photo of a rabbit! (And these two photos were by far the best two I got!)

The view from my campsite for the night! =)


Grumpy Grinch said...

Sounds like a wolf spider carrying her brood.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures today! Yep, probably a wolf spider or a grass spider. I came across one hiking earlier this month - she was HUGE. Had all of her babies on her back. I have a great picture of it - but I guess I can't post it here for ya. :(

Unknown said...

Wonderful photos =)
I think I would have trouble walking the stretch of trail with the two boards..
Also, confession : whenever I buy a cat toy for my cat.. i think I have more fun with it than he does.. it doesn't take much to entertain me. Lol

-Only Dreaming