Trail Update: New Jersey and New York

As we crossed into New Jersey from Pennsylvania, I thought I’d try and see if I could write one blog for every state from there on out. Fast forward four states and almost 400 miles, and here I am, trying to figure out how best to sum up the past few weeks in one very long, catch-up blog. So much for good intentions. Wishing mercy on our readers, I will most likely break this account into two blog postings. I will sincerely try to get the remainder of our postings up in a more timely fashion—my mother, editor and ardent fan, only hopes!

New Jersey and New York (miles 1293- 1465)

Almost as soon as we crossed over the Delaware Water Gap into NJ, things starting looking up. Of course, PA couldn’t let us leave without one final FU, so naturally a stray shower came as we took our last steps in its territory. What other ending would be appropriate for such an aggravating state? But, like I said, things took a turn for the better as we headed to Jersey, a very unexpected but pleasant surprise. Our first night, we set up at the Backpackers campsite just a few miles past the border, a large flat meadow at the top of a hill with an awesome view of the sunset. The next day, we hiked with our friend Parkay, one of the very few times we’ve actually hiked the whole day with someone. Generally, our pace is such that we don’t hike with other people. We’ll stop and have lunch at the same spots, take breaks when we see people we know, and will end up at the same campsite or shelters at the end of the day, but it’s usually just Rico and I hiking together.


Our first night in New Jersey

It surprises people to find out that we have never been more than .1 miles apart during our hike…except for one day when we got into a huge fight, and I angrily hiked for a mile ahead of him for a stretch. Anyway, the day with Parkay went by super-fast, parting ways at the end of the day when he reached his destination, and we pushed on to ours. The next day we high-tailed it to High Point State Park to meet Rico’s family (short story long, his mothers, sisters husbands, niece, and her sons) for a night at a hotel and town time. They live in Delaware and drove all the way up to meet us just for the afternoon and evening. Eighteen miles doesn’t go much faster than when you know a shower and a hotel bed with cotton sheets awaits.


Patti and the boys

We had an awesome time with Patti and the boys, hanging by the pool and relaxing in the room. Patti also resupplied us, and the boys helped us package everything into daily portions. We were so grateful for the food, the treat of a king bed and some quality off-trail time– thank you so much, Patti! When we got dropped off, it was raining, so we hung out at the High Point State Park office. They give thru-hikers free sodas or tea, so we took advantage of the shelter and warming beverages. There, we reconnected with a very special family, by far some of the greatest people on the trail. If I haven’t mentioned them, let me pause and tell you just how awesome they are—in a word, very! They are a family whose trail name as a unit is the Biff Network; there are five children hiking with their parents–and five more at home. Incredible!

We were planning on pushing miles until we got to Ft. Montgomery, NY, and then neroing in and out. However, when we heard the family was zeroing at Greenwood Lake, NY, and that we could keep our mileage plan for the next several days, even with taking a full zero day, we decided to follow suit. Greenwood Lake lies just after you cross over the border into NY. It’s a cute little town situated on a lake, a couple miles from the trail. We stayed at Breezy Point Inn which had a nice restaurant, albeit less nice rooms, a little way out of town. Fortunately, there was live music, good food, and a bar, leaving little room for complaints. Our zero day was picture perfect, a fact ascertained by merely opening the curtains and looking outside. While much talk was had about venturing out to the lake, satellite TV won our affection and attention for most of the day. The joys of lazy zeros!

Back on the trail, we realized that the trail was getting harder. People don’t really talk about NJ or NY, so it’s hard to get a sense of what to expect. We were caught off guard by how tired we were getting. We were still putting in 20+ days, but the terrain was taking more out of us than we had anticipated. While PA had rocky fields, NJ and NY both had a number of vertical rocky sections, requiring all limbs on deck for safe passage. The ascents and descents, while small, became more frequent, and we kept telling ourselves this was good conditioning for the Green and the White Mountains ahead.

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Mountain man: Rico

There were parts of NY where you could see people hitting a wall, mentally and physically. Many hikers we talked to described feeling like the trail had become a job, something you had to wake up and do every day, a sentiment I can easily relate to. We tried to push through as best we could, remembering that tedious or not, this is the best job we are ever going to have.

Another thing about NJ and NY: the water was terrible. There were virtually no springs, which meant our water sources were brooks and streams–and the water was a lovely shade of brown, as in iced tea brown. It was less than appealing, but staying hydrated was absolutely imperative, especially given the blistering heat and humidity. The greatest thing about NY was the abundance of trail angels who left water caches of fresh, potable water at road crossings. This was a true godsend. There were two days straight that we didn’t have to filter any water because we were able to fill up at the caches throughout the day. Trail angels earn their halos and then some!

Out of Greenwood Lake, our next stop was Ft. Montgomery to retrieve a package and grab some sandwiches at a deli. From there, we continued to the Appalachian Trail market, a convenient store right on the trail. We were shocked to walk in and find two friends we hadn’t seen since the beginning of the trail, Adios and China Rock. We had assumed they’d be halfway through Maine already given how fast they were and how many days we’d taken off. Needless to say, we were thrilled to see them!

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This market had the most amazing array of cold drinks. After having three different kinds of iced tea–because I could–we continued to the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a monastery that allows hikers to camp in their baseball field. The property has a pavilion, equipped with electricity and a shower. It was awesome catching up with old friends and hearing about their adventures thus far. The rest of NY went by pretty quickly. We were anxious to get into Connecticut because we’d officially be in New England and had a side trip to NYC planned. A hiker wrote in one of the shelter log books that NY was the Great Deli Corridor of the AT, and they are right. There were so many places not far off the trail to get town food that you could almost bank on getting a real meal once a day. Rico and I did our best to resist temptation in order to save money for our own upcoming food tour of NYC. At this point in the trail, when things are starting to feel really redundant, having access to cold drinks and hot food can really save the day and provide the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Nine states down, five to go! Katahdin-ho!


Peace out PA!




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