Finding a Rhythm

It’s been a while since I posted a blog. I have found it difficult to blog and get my miles in. I am doing well and am currently in New Jersey. I have survived the rains of Shenandoah National Park (SNP) and the rocks of Pennsylvania. I got my first blisters in SNP after hiking in wet shoes and socks for four days in a row. All my nights in SNP were spent in crowded shelters with wet cloths strung up everywhere. Leaving Pennsylvania involved crossing miles of medium size rocks sticking out of the ground at all angles. My toes are bruised from repeatedly jamming them and the balls of my feet hurt. My right hip has been giving me some pain and I have not been pushing myself as hard. I suspect some swelling around the joint and Ibuprofen has helped. I am over 1,300 miles and am just over three months on the trail. I’m happy with my progress and have been enjoying the warm weather. I have been able to fall into a simple rhythm since I don’t have to expend any energy on trying to stay warm. No longer do I think about layering up and layering down.

The mantra is “hike your own hike.” My hike is a balance of hiking, camping, and town. My hiking style is slow and methodical. I rely heavily on my hiking poles, which I use to pull, then push myself forward. I like to keep my elbows in and pull-push in one continuous, smooth motion. On the downhill, I place the ball of the poles in the palms of my hands and use them in a stabbing motion to slow down my momentum. I like to be hiking by 6 a.m. This allows my slow-self to get into camp around 5:30 p.m. This affords enough time to set up, get water, and cook and clean. Then, after brushing my teeth, I have a little downtime to journal.

I like to make hot oatmeal and coffee in the morning. Most thru-hikers cannot be bothered with cooking in the morning because of the cleanup and the time involved. I will get up early to have my simple pleasure. I like to eat on the trail and as a consequence am food heavy after resupply. The first two or three days after resupply are a grind. Then the advantage kicks in and I can bypass going into town for many days.

The Wildlife of New Jersey

I saw more wildlife in a single day in New Jersey than in my entire hike to date. Last Thursday (6-14-18) I witnessed a drama of life and death on the trail. I was traveling down a slight decline around 7:30 a.m. The morning was cool and breezy after a night of intense thunderstorms. I hear and see a large bird clucking in the woods, not too far down the trail. I see it’s a turkey and think it is trying to distract me from its chicks. As I get closer, I see the hen is in distress. A bobcat has one of her chicks in its mouth and is soft-mouthing it. The bobcat is letting it go, then catching it again. The bobcat rolls on its back and bats the chick from one paw to the other. It doesn’t notice me because it is so engrossed in playing with its food. I move closer down the trail. The bobcat becomes aware of me and pays no attention to the chick. It stares at me in amazement, then arches its back. After staring for a few seconds more, it turns tail and runs. The chick runs in the opposite direction.

In the afternoon I hear crunching in the woods and look over. I see a huge black. A very large black bear is moving toward the trail, facing slightly away from me at an angle. We are on a collision course. I freeze and back down the trail. It doesn’t even look my way, crosses the trail, and moves down the mountain. It was the largest black bear I have ever seen. It had to be a male, weighing between 450 and 500 pounds. New Jersey has made a lasting impression on me. I look forward to each day and the unexpected pleasures and excitement it may hold.

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