Snickers Bars to the Rescue – Trail Magic Does the Trick

I’ve never cared for Snickers Bars. In fact, I doubt I’ve eaten more than a few of them in my entire life. But as odd as it may seem, some trail magic in the form of a Snickers bar might just have saved my hike.

img_1330We left Delaware Water Gap on a drizzly day.  Since the forecast called for sunshine, and we were leaving the Pennsylvania rocks behind, our mood was high. And the scenery was instantly prettier across the state line. We followed a beautiful stream as it wound uphill, saw small waterfalls and a fisherman fishing for trout, and eventually reached the glacier-formed Sunfish Pond (“one of the seven natural wonders of New Jersey.”)

img_1334The day went downhill after that. First we lost the trail (we should have known that it would follow the rocks). Our packs seemed to grow heavier as the day progressed. And then the predicted sunshine turned to steady rain, which all served to dampen our mood. By night we were cold and wet, and were forced to camp by a swamp. (By 7:20pm we took refuge in our hammocks to escape the bugs.)

It rained all night (are meteorologists ever right?), and after a cold, wet day of hiking over rocks (not as bad as Pennsylvania’s, though), we decided to dry out our gear at a motel near the trail that night.


Forest Motel

If you are ever tempted to stay at the Forest Motel in Branchville, NJ, all I can say is don’t! The condoms, pregnancy test kits, and quick adhesive (?) for sale in the lobby were our first clues. The woman with the black eye crying out front, the weird white cult-like garments hanging from the clothesline out back, and the fact that there were only 8 rooms in the entire motel were even more signs. But instead of high tailing it back to the trail, we ended up sharing the only available room in one of the worst places I’ve ever stayed: it reeked of smoke; the shower consisted of a third-world style drain in the floor and a curtain that was probably made out of body bags, and it was so incredibly small that John had to sleep diagonally across the sagging “double” bed, which left little room for me. Even worse, it wasn’t cheap. We would have done better paying the hourly rate.


Trail angels: the Wards and Stan-the-Man

It wasn’t a happy night. We got back on the trail the following day feeling sluggish, smelly and cranky, and were beginning to doubt the wisdom of this hike. But as we were sitting glumly beside the trail, taking a break, the long-lost sun finally came out. Then Stan-the-Man appeared, bearing Snickers bars. I wolfed mine down, amazed and grateful to receive some trail magic — the first of several that day.


That infusion of sugar was a turning point. We met a super nice family who supplied us with water, a friendly couple who had a million questions about our hike, and some thru-hikers we recognized. We began to enjoy ourselves again. We even got a great night’s sleep, ironically in an area known for its “high bear activity”.

The terrain grew flatter and more interesting the next day, and we sailed through the rest of New Jersey without a hitch, making it our favorite state so far.

States completed: MD, PA, NJ.

Miles completed: 346 from Harpers Ferry.

Interesting tidbit: we can now smell day hikers on the trail. Their soap, shampoo, perfume, aftershave, etc. envelopes them in a fragrant cloud.

img_1380And we officially have trail names, too. Collectively, we are known as The April Fools. John has become Jackalope because he is always far ahead. Linda is Barfly because of an unfortunate incident with a secret stash of bourbon she has been including in her drop boxes (a spill that left her smelling of something other than the typical hiker funk).

I need to preface my name with a story. My father was forever banging his head on things. It got so bad that he got a hard hat for a Christmas gift one year. Well, since I’ve begun this hike I’ve been doing the same thing — bumping into trees and shelter beams nearly every day. So yesterday when I smacked headlong into a low hanging branch I started to cry — not out of pain or self-pity, but grief, the kind of raw, consuming grief that never goes away. I missed my dad so much in that moment that I knew he must be watching over me, and that these head-banging incidents were a sign that he was cheering me on, just as he would have if he were still alive. So in his honor I’m now Hard Hat.

And I get it, Dad. I know you’re out there. You can let up on the reminders now. But more Snickers Bars wouldn’t hurt!




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Comments 12

  • Bill Riski : Apr 26th

    Another great read about 3 courageous people, JL, BF, and HH.

    • Gail Barrett : Apr 26th

      Thanks, Bill! This is far tougher than we imagined. The good news, though, is that John has lost close to 20 lbs!!!

      • Bill R. : Apr 27th

        Gail – might want to wrap a safety rope around him. At that rate he might get blown away soon! ?

  • Stanley Sutter : Apr 26th

    Was great meeting you guys on the trail. Glad the snickers bar helped to make the hike that day. I’m rooting you on maybe our paths will cross again some day
    Stan the Man

    • Gail Barrett : Apr 27th

      Thank you, Stan! You have no idea how much your act of kindness helped. We appreciate it so much!!!!

  • Therese : Apr 27th

    I was just thinking that I had not heard anything lately. So glad to hear that you are all well and fine. The story of the hotel made me laugh out loud. Keep on keeping on.

  • Claudia Wilson : Apr 28th

    Somehow I’ve missed your blogging post since your actual start, until this morning, and I’ve caught up.

    I’m so excited about your hike! Ya’ll have coveted some serious miles now and are ‘broken in’. The transition to the beautiful mindset that develops along the way is happening, something that will stay with you always.

    Thanks for posting the entirety of your experience, it realistically explains what’s to be expected, and that’s so valuable.

    Congratulations to the three of you! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Gail Barrett : Apr 30th

      Thanks, Claudia. It has certainly been challenging. Just when I think I’ve finally gotten used to the trail it gets harder. But I guess that’s all part of the process!

  • Sherry Jarvis : Apr 30th

    I so look forward to every posted and the pictures are wonderful!!! If the trail was easy there wouldn’t be anything to post! Glad you are meeting nice people along the way.

    • Gail Barrett : Apr 30th

      Yeah, the people really make it worthwhile, Sherry. Otherwise it would just be grueling!

  • Rhonda Ward : May 1st

    Gail, John & Linda:

    It was great meeting all of you. We were happy to be able to pas on trail magic that was needed – water. Now that I’ve read about your preceding days, it looks like we came along at just the right time! We’re heading back up to the AT in NJ this weekend for another day hike & we’re hoping to be able to pass on some more trail magic to other thru-hikers. Enjoy the trail and good luck! We’re rooting for you!! Rhonda, George & Cooper


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