Caterpocalypse New Jersey
I pushed a long rocky day out of Pennsylvania to meet my best friend Sean in Delaware Water Gap, a town on the border with New Jersey. We camped that night and caught up over campfire quesadillas, guacamole, beers, and cigars, courtesy of Sean’s preparedness. It was a great evening.
He joined me for the next day over a pleasant trail—better than Pennsylvania already! And not what you expect of NJ. The Delaware Water Gap area has a unique feel to it: lots of low ridge line over lakes and ponds.
But it wasn’t all peaceful. The Great Caterpocalypse crossed state lines too. The fuzzy creepers inched up our packs when we stopped and dangled from trees when we hiked. At night, when we camped, it sounded like it was raining when it wasn’t. I’d heard the sound for a few days but thought nothing of it. Seeds and twigs fall from trees all the time. But I confirmed with several people and my worst fears were realized: that’s no rain, that’s caterpoop. The second stage of the invasion had begun. Day and night they maintained the siege. Little green pellets collected on our tents, on our heads, in our food. We marveled at the incalculable legion of these creatures simultaneously pooping. Though humanity suffered no casualties, I could not help but feel this war was lost.
Since we had his car, before Sean left we drove to a movie theater to see the new Mad Max movie. Awesome film. We stuffed ourselves at Texas Roadhouse and he drove me back along a rather treacherous road in the rain (real rain this time). I hiked a few miles and tented.
I woke up to Day 100. 100 days. What a trip! And it turns out what they say about NJ is true: it does have the most bears. I saw two bears that very morning, spotting each off the side of the trail after hearing a sound. Both times I felt a bit nervous moving along as I watched them watch me pass at a distance. Unfortunately I was more inclined to move along than to pull out my camera. I ended at Rutherford Shelter just before a heavy downpour, 17.6 miles.
The next day I walked around a cool marsh called the Wallkill Reserve and the day after I walked over a stunningly beautiful boardwalk. The New Jersey section was turning out to be the absolute winner in the beauty/effort ratio. Cattail down drifted in the sun’s tide as I walked. Butterflies flitted in the shadows of reeds.
As I approached a road crossing I thought I saw a wild strawberry; it wasn’t. But it did make me recall the strawberry-rhubarb pie my mom made when I was small. I started craving it. Then, at the road, I visited Heaven Hill Farm to buy lunch. And there it was. A whole strawberry-rhubarb pie. I bought it for ten dollars and ate half on the spot. Amazing.
By the end of the day I had caught up to a bubble of hikers I knew but hadn’t seen in weeks: 5, Wild Thing, Mouse, Typo, Peter Pan, and I met hikers Bladje (his name was Blaze but there were too many Blazes hiking so it devolved, rhymes with hodgepodge), Remedy (Wild Thing’s brother), and Gucci. It was such a great day I hiked a new record of 23.6 miles and hardly felt bad.
Oh yeah, and I crossed the border into New York!
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