T-100 Days: Chasing Sunrises
Day -100: Culvers Gap, NJ
I woke up in the dark, packed up quietly, and left. The blackness of the woods swallowed me on all sides. Only the disembodied eyes of deer glistened in the light of my headlamp – and the white blazes on tree trunks. I followed them up, up. My goal was to reach the ridge of Blue Mountain for sunrise around 5:30, 4.6 miles from where I slept according to FarOut.
The sun was still hidden below the tree line when I crossed the forest road to Brink Road Shelter and continued up to the ridge. But my early start was rewarded with views of a sea of mist curling around the mountains to the west. Finally, as I reached Rattlesnake Mountain, the glowing red ball made its way above the trees.
I turned around, ran the six miles back down to my car, and got to my desk at work by 10AM.
A Late Start
Northbound thru-hikers are starting to reach New Jersey. I can see the comments on FarOut. On my most recent venture out to the trail, I didn’t meet any hikers, but I ran past tents in the grey pre-dawn. Meanwhile…I still have about three months before I summit Katahdin and turn south.
For now I’m working in the lab and finding bits of that thru-hiking peacefulness where I can get them. I seek out little trails in the wooded nature preserves of Princeton, NJ. I run out my door in the early mornings, and go looking for hills (a hard task – most of the town and its surroundings are pretty pancake-flat).
But sometimes my feet get too itchy. I usually keep my sleeping bag and sleeping pad in my car, and every week or two, I take off from work and drive up to the northwest corner of the state. I sleep in the back of my car at a trailhead, and run up a mountain for sunrise.
Last year I hiked the PCT from July to October. I fell in love with the solitude and wildness of a late-season southbound thru-hike, where every encounter with another hiker was special and I walked from dawn to dusk by myself through the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada, then the Mojave desert many days. The AT will definitely be different from the PCT. But to me, misty mornings on the hunched and forested shoulders of the Appalachians are home. My first backpacking trip was to Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts at the start of college, and my first big hike was the Long Trail in the summer of 2021. I can’t wait to be back on trail, going the whole way this time and following the autumn foliage to Georgia.
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