The trail takes me through a zoo. I can’t help but feel depressed seeing my first bear “on trail” behind bars. All of the animals look so sad and miserable, just laying there with nothing to do. I’m glad it’s a short walk through. It’s the weekend and Bear Mountain is packed with day hikers. I can’t help but feel a little cocky passing them with ease.
I meet two more SOBOs on trail. It’s becoming rare to see other hikers let alone thru hikers as the weather gets colder. I make it to the shelter and start a fire. It’s a little creepy being a lone at the shelter but fires help brighten the mood. The next day water is low and the terrain gets rocky reminding me of Maine. I become a little irritable at the situation after slipping on wet rock and hitting my head. Luckily the irritation doesn’t last long as I cross into New Jersey.
I have friends I met on trail in Maine that are visiting me for trail magic. Honeybee and Crazyhorse pick me up and we go out to eat then to the grocery store. While shopping I see someone with a pack. I ask her if she is an AT hiker and she is! I look in her shopping basket, “Are you vegan??” I ask. She is! What are the chances that we just happened to be on the same trail, same grocery store, and both vegan! My friends offer her a ride back to the trail with me and we stay up talking most of the night. The following day Honeybee, Crazyhorse, and their dog Diesel join me for a day of hiking. We do 18 miles stopping for sorbet halfway through. We arrive at the Murray property for the night. There is a cabin with an outlet, an outdoor shower that’s hot, and a water pump. I could happily live at this place! We spend the night and part of the morning here.
As always I’m the last to leave. I contemplate taking a zero there but decide against it. I should have stayed. 4 miles into my hike I decide I want a Kind bar. I open it while walking and in the process a rock snags my foot. With my trekking poles tucked under my arm and my bar in my hand I don’t catch myself. I fall hard hitting my knee on a rock. I fall most days at least once but this isn’t like any fall I’ve ever had. I can barely move my knee and getting up is nearly impossible. I lay there and finish my bar through tears (it’s ok, laugh!) I do a little self evaluation and decide to rest before trying to move on. I elevate my leg on my pack and lay back in the leaves. I use my water bottle as an ice pack and pop an ibuprofen. Once I’ve rested up I use some medical tape to wrap up my knee. I’m grateful Honeybee brought me a replacement trekking pole (mine broke so I was using a wooden stick.) I use my trekking poles like a walker to hobble to the next shelter a mile away. I get there and set up my bed for the night. It’s early afternoon so I sit with my leg propped up in the shelter reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on my kindle app and “ice” my knee and eat sweets until it’s dark enough to sleep. My friends Committed and Nicorette show up early in the morning after night hiking to the shelter. Once the sun is up we all decide to take a nero day at the next town. Nicorette hikes ahead and Committed stays behind with me as we hobble the 2 miles to the road. I’m so grateful to have friends to keep me company and make sure I’m ok. We make it to the road and throw out our thumbs. I see a cop and quickly drop my thumb trying to remember if New Jersey has strict hitchhiking laws or not. Apparently they do not because the cop flips around and gives us a ride to the post office. Committed has a replacement Gossamer Gear pack being sent to her. After she swaps her gear over to her new pack we start chatting with a lady about the trail. Committed asks her if she would mind giving us a ride to the hotel but she only has room for 1. The group decides that with my bum leg I should be the one that takes the ride. I go ahead and wait for the others in the hotel lobby and watch t.v. Once they arrive we split a room, order food, and watch movies. It’s nice to relax with friends.
The next morning Honeybee and Crazyhorse meet me at the hotel. They give Committed and Nicorette a ride to the grocery store and bring me to Crazyhorse’s mom’s house. She lets me stay in her R.V. for a few days as I rest up. While there we spend time hanging out with their friends and family carving pumpkins, watching football, and sipping the on hot apple cider. They have a kitten that I enjoy cuddles from to top it all off. I’m so grateful to have a place to rest my leg and spend time with my friends and celebrate fall. After a few days the swelling in my knee goes down and I’m ready to hit the trail again.
I get a ride back to the trail from Honeybee and Crazyhorse. I pass up the shelter closest and push on to the one about 6 miles in. I’m glad to make it there. It takes me much longer than normal and I take a lot of breaks but I make it with very little soreness overall. My friends that I met in Maine, Dory and Ratatouille, show up at the shelter. It’s good to see them again as I haven’t seen then since New Hampshire. Dory is a physical therapist and takes a look at my knee for me. I’m glad to hear that it’s nothing too terrible and taking it easy was the right thing to do. The next day I do 12 miles to the next shelter. Again I am very pleased at how well I’m able to hike. There’s still pain and I’m not very fast but I’m not in excruciating pain and I make it there before dark. It’s a very cold night dropping into the 20’s. I’m grateful to have warmer gear being sent to the next town. I work up to 14 miles the next day and make pretty good timing. I’m only about 30 minutes behind the guy that left at the same time as me and he was hiking hard. I’m so glad that my body is bouncing back from this. It’s always scary to hurt yourself especially something as delicate as a knee. An injury like that can end a thru hike. We all stay at the Mohican Outdoor Center, an AMC ran hostel. We are given a cabin with heat, electricity, a full kitchen, and bathroom. It’s so nice to be out of the cold. The lobby has a fireplace and couches so we lounge and read books. They feed us leftovers from the big dinner they had and it’s spectacular. The next day I had planned to hike out but I awake to the sound of rain against my window. I think of this and the roaring fireplace, wifi, and coffee and the word ‘zero’ comes to mind. I roll over and sleep in cozy and warm. “I’ll hike tomorrow.”
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