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.
We 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.”)
The 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.
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.
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.
And 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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