The Dirt on the Trail: Chapter 5
I’m Finally Back
I’m back on the trail after 8 weeks recovering from a case of “granny bones” (I got a stress fracture in my lower right tibia). To be perfectly honest, I’m terrified! This is my second try thru hiking the AT and my second stress fracture. I’m afraid of failing again. My husband Frisbee kept hiking after I left Hot Springs, NC and made it close to home in Harper’s Ferry, WV two weeks prior to my return, and we jumped ahead to Delaware Water Gap, PA to summit Katahdin before returning to Hot Springs in the fall to finish the rest of the trail.
During the whole car ride and my entire town visit, I felt on the verge of a panic attack. All I could think about was injuring myself again. Thankfully, the second I passed my first white blaze out of town and crossed the border into New Jersey, all my anxiety disappeared. I was back home.
Leaving Delaware Water Gap for New Jersey
We only traveled a short distance day one. We located our hiking buddy, Gumby and planned on gradually increasing miles each day to give my body a chance to strengthen from months of laying around the house binging on Netflix. It rained on the way and was a little rocky, but I didn’t care. I was just glad to be back. Unfortunately, the water looked and smelled questionable, but it tasted normal enough.
Sunfish Pond to Rattlesnake Spring
We circled around Sunfish Pond and were welcomed by many rocks along the trail. I dumped out my brown water once we located a more trustworthy water source and made our way up Kittatinny Mountain. We took a long break at the Mohican Outdoor Center to eat a late breakfast and to kill some time. It was another short day so we only had a little over 2 miles left to go.
After much time farting around, we made our way back to the trail and started climbing. We stopped at the view at the top and I celebrated my completion of 300 miles of the trail.
We took a short break at Catfish Lookout Tower before stopping around Rattlesnake Spring for the evening. There was a group of 13 year olds camping nearby, but we slept through all the ruckus.
Brink Shelter Mosquito Pit
We passed a swamp first thing in the morning which was surprisingly pretty.
The trail was rocky, but very enjoyable. I’ve been loving New Jersey so far. We did what hikers do best at day’s end and lounged around Brink Shelter eating everything in our food bags. Frisbee startled some baby birds who were too big for their nest and they flew and pooped in every direction. We were concerned at first, but mama bird followed them around, feeding them, and they seemed to get around just fine.
None of us slept that night. Apparently we were surrounded by a swamp and the mosquitoes were hungry. Gumby wrapped himself in his tent and did the gator roll all night. Frisbee and I put on our untreated base layers and our mosquito net hats and sweated profusely.
Jumboland and a Flooded Shelter
We left at the crack of dawn and hitched into Branchville, NJ to Jumboland to get a pork roll aka Taylor Ham with egg and cheese, a New Jersey specialty. The waitress was sassy, but the food was good!
We hitched back after resupplying down the road, and were welcomed by trail magic beer after stepping a few hundred yards on trail. We checked out Culver Fire Tower before taking a lunch break at Gren Anderson Shelter where we met a man named Snores who brought more trail magic beer and tried to convince us to yellow blaze. We also ran into Space Jam who we hiked with a ways back.
We stopped by Sunrise Mountain pavilion for a break then made our way to Mashipacong Shelter. A bunch of hikers and thunderstorm rolled in after we set up our tents. Everyone sat in the shelter to wait it out and it started flooding. Unfortunately, we didn’t pack our canoe.
Some of our gear got damp, but there were no mosquitoes biting us, so it was a good night.
Government Shutdown and Unionville
As we approached High Point State Park Headquarters the next morning to get our free soda, a ranger stopped in her car to inform us of the NJ government shutdown that just went into effect that day. The state parks were closed, but she was nice enough to inform her coworker who was still inside the building getting ready to leave, to bring us out some sodas. We hiked up to the Wooden Tower before taking the aid trail to the highest point in NJ.
The tower was closed, but the view was nice. We passed many roads before reaching the one leading us into Unionville, NY.
We set up our tents in the park, got our permits at Horler’s General Store, got pizza at Annabele’s, then headed to Wit’s End Tavern for some brews. Primo and Patches joined us and we ended up staying longer to wait out the rain. The folks at Unionville were all super hospitable and friendly, especially at the tavern. The owner exchanged some dirty jokes with us and after the jukebox ate our dollar, he gave us several credits so we could play a lot of music. Once the storm passed, we returned to camp.
The Boardwalk, Ice Cream and Led Zeppelin
We grabbed breakfast at Horler’s then dried out all our gear on the basketball court. We contacted our friend Karma, from last year’s hike as we waited for Annabele’s to open for more pizza. We had plans to visit her over the holiday.
The day was scenic as we passed through the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge followed by the boardwalk.
We grabbed blueberry ice cream at Heaven Hill Farm before climbing the Stairway to Heaven which blessed us with more scenery.
After making our way down the mountain, we found a nice stealth site that could fit Gumby and our tents. The next day we would be crossing the border into New York and would start out Fourth of July celebration!
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