Fun in the Mud and Rain: Delaware Water Gap to Rutland, VT
Things have been looking up since Pennsylvania.
After a much-needed stay in NYC with old friends, I hit the trail with a more positive mindset and a new group of hikers.
Right before I resumed hiking, a huge storm swept through the Northeast, wreaking havoc on and off the trail in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. I luckily avoided the worst of the flooding, but still had my fair share of rain, mud, and water to walk through.
Even when soaked, there were rewarding moments that reminded me why I came out here, like a rainbow at a shelter or a nice lake to swim in.
While the terrain was still tough in New Jersey and New York, I would choose the slabs of rock, boulders, and mud over Rocksylvania every time. Maybe I’ll go back to PA after the trail for a second chance, but it still remains my least favorite section. Shortly after leaving Delaware Water Gap and logging 650 miles on my last pair, I picked up my fourth pair of shoes, which I didn’t realize I needed until I put them on (so much more cushion!).
The views in this section have been much more frequent as well. Some of my favorites are below.
It’s felt like my hike has accelerated in pace during this section too. The states and miles seem to be flying by every week. I can hardly believe that I’m in Vermont. Sometimes it still feels like I’m in Virginia, even though that was over 700 miles ago.
There was also plenty more to do and see off trail to keep things interesting.
Summertime is movie season for many, and us hikers got to enjoy a couple flicks as well. My new friend Shooter and I hitched into Warwick Drive-In, which lets hikers tent with a view of the screens. Using his nifty hitch flag, we secured both a ride and a drink! That night we relaxed and watched the new Mission Impossible movie before going to bed.
We also couldn’t miss the cultural event of the summer: Barbenheimer! This double feature of the Barbie Movie and Oppenheimer has been all over social media, and the marketing was everywhere.
Another hitch into Pittsfield and roughly six hours at a movie theater resulted in a very enjoyable short day of hiking. I have to report that both films were awesome. I was more excited for Oppenheimer, but Barbie exceeded my expectations.
Other activities include picking blueberries at a nearby farm in return for a free meal (and some of the berries we were picking, of course). This was such a restful stop in the middle of the day, and the food was delicious.
Finally, I saw my first bear on trail!
While I didn’t expect my first bear encounter to take so long, I was super excited to see a black bear in New Jersey! After coming up on the bear foraging near trail, I banged my poles together and yelled “Hey, bear!” until it eventually lumbered away. We took a brief look at each other, and then moved on with our days.
And once again, the people are the best part of the trail.
One of the main reasons this section has been so pleasant is that I’ve been in great company. Hiking along both new and old friends lets everyone share stories, vent on tough days, and generally just enjoy the companionship of those who are undertaking the same journey as oneself.
The fact that this journey will be over soon is really starting to set in. Instead of being relieved, I’ve mainly felt sad. It’s going to be a big adjustment to go back to normal life after this, and while I’m looking forward to what comes next, I have a feeling that I’ll be yearning for another long hike not long after I return to society. The people, the daily routine, and the privilege of being in nature for so long really is a special experience.
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