Through NJ and into NY: Days 24 – 31

Mile 270.5 – 380.6, 5/25-6/1

Day 24: 12.6 miles

Delaware Water Gap to stealth campsite

I slept okay at the hostel bunkhouse. I got up and waited for the post office to open. Got my resupply package there from my parents. Then, my dad’s cousin Paula, who lives in PA, came and picked me up. We went to this cute place that was a beerhouse and a coffeeshop. Got some good blueberry pancakes.We went back to the hostel, where Devin, Joy, and the others had shown up. And Jupiter! Talked with them a little, showing Paula how weird hikers are.Paula and I headed on the trail, walking through the town and then across the bridge across the Delaware River, meaning I crossed into New Jersey! Pennsylvania was long, and definitely not my favorite state, but had its moments.Paula walked with me for a little more, then turned back. It was really nice to see her! Thanks for coming out and buying me food Paula!

After she left it was a good climb up to a ridge. The nearest shelter was too far for the late start I got, and since it was Memorial Day weekend, there were lots of hikers around and I was a little worried about finding a campsite. I hiked a while with another flip-flopper who had stayed at the hostel, Buckles. She was great to talk to, and I hoped I’d see more of her.I ended up finding a nice spot along the ridge. First time on this trip I camped alone and it was both nice and lonely. It was kind of sad to leave all the people I knew behind me, but I know we’ll meet up again sometime or I’ll find new people to hang with.Day 25: 12.2 miles

Stealth campsite to Brink Shelter

Got started around 6:45 today. No privy since I was at a stealth spot. First time this trip. I prefer privies, I’ll leave it at that.I hiked and there were some more nice ridge views, but I really wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was something else, but I got to the first shelter at 12 miles and decided to just call it a day, rather than go the 18 I had planned. Spent the rest of the day watching stuff on my phone, journaling and just relaxing. One of the big things I’ve learned on trail is just to listen to my body and if I’m not feeling big miles, don’t push myself into it.Day 26: 19.6 miles

Brink Shelter to High Point Shelter

Today was much better than yesterday! Started listening to the Hamilton biography audiobook, which makes for interesting walking. Ever since I entered NJ I’ve started to see a lot of the old stone fences in the middle of the woods, always an interesting reminder that these forests really aren’t that old.Saw a turtle.Passed through High Point State Park, where at the park headquarters I got a free Pepsi which their Friends Group pays for. At the HQ, saw Cinnamon Ricky and Nick again, the English guys who had been at the hostel.At the observation tower to see the high point that the park is named for, I ran into a day hiker who gave me a free Coke too! Two free sodas in a day makes for a magical day.At the shelter, had some good conversations with Beanpole and Buckles. Nice cold stream to soak my feet in too.Day 27: 12.4 miles

High Point Shelter to Pochuck Mtn. Shelter

I’d heard rumors that the rocks of PA ended after High Point Shelter, and it really felt like it! The first 5.2 miles today, to a road crossing where I went into town, were really nice. Lots more of those stone fences, some nice pastures, and all around a lot easier than what I’ve had for the last few weeks.At the road crossing, I walked the half-mile or so into Unionville, NY (still in NJ on trail, but very close to the border). Got to the general store in town and resupplied. While I was sitting on the store’s porch, putting away my food and charging my phone, Cinnamon Ricky and Nick came in, followed closely by Beanpole and a NOBO Skybird. Went to a pizza place with the English lads and got some salad and pizza.

After charging my stuff a bit more, got back on trail. Mostly flat! Actually had a pretty long road walk section too, which was kind of unexpected for the AT. Then into a wildlife refuge, where the trail skirted this big wetland.There was a nice climb up a mountain to the shelter, and at the base of that climb there was this abandoned house. Apparently on NPS land, this house had a water spigot that was the water source for the shelter! Felt very weird to walk around this abandoned house, being able to see the empty rooms inside, and then getting water from a spigot.I see a lot of these red efts on trail, especially when it’s been raining, and I love them. Every time I see one I kneel down, say “hey, buddy” and then try to get them off the trail. One of my biggest trail fears is seeing one of them smushed on trail by someone’s giant human feet.

Day 28: 11.5 miles

Pochuck Mtn. Shelter to Wawayanda Shelter

My shelter choices today were either 24 miles or 11.5 miles. I originally had planned on going the 24 miles, but I woke up today at 5 and really didn’t want to go that far. I walk at about 2 miles per hour, on average, so it would be a really long day, plus I get really tired at anything more than about 20 miles. So I didn’t.

A lot of the trail today was on really pretty boardwalk, so I was able to take pictures that are similar to ones that I’m so used to seeing from other hikers’ blogs. The rocks from PA and early NJ have definitely stopped.I got to a road crossing with a short walk to Heaven Hill Farm at around 10, where I got a coffee, two apples, and a blueberry muffin. Spent an hour just hanging out there.After that, it was a pretty easy walk to the shelter. I’m staying in a shelter for the first time in what feels like weeks. I was right next to the walk in the shelter, with 3 section hikers. We could have fit another person if the section hikers had scooted over (I couldn’t since I was next to the wall). A few hikers (including Buckles) came up and looked in, but no one moved. Eventually a NOBO just forced his way in, and so at 5 people we were full. I really should have said something earlier, encouraged them to make room, especially since it was raining. I felt bad about it for days afterwards. I’ll be more forthright in the future.Day 29: 18.8 miles

Wawayanda Shelter to East Mombasha Rd.

As I was leaving camp today, Buckles came up and asked if I had been serious yesterday when I mentioned staying in a motel. We decided to go 22 miles to a road crossing where we could get a ride in. I texted Devin (who was a few miles behind us) and told him, and he said he might try to make it that far too. It’s always better to have more people to split a room with.

The first bit of hiking was easy, even in the rain. But almost as soon as I got into New York, the trail started getting real hard. It was a lot of big rocks that you had to walk up, down, with some climbing thrown in. A lot of it actually reminded me a lot of hiking in Acadia, with big, slippery, granitic rock slabs to walk over and blueberry bushes to walk next to. They weren’t even close to ripe, unfortunately. There were a few times where I really though that if it weren’t for the vegetation, I could almost believe I was back in ACAD. The fact that my view was completely obscured by fog helped too.After about 10 miles I got to a road crossing with an ice cream place real close. When I got there, I was greeted by Shiner! He seems to be the person who I’m just gonna keep running into. Had a sundae, then walked back to the trail and found a local guy Rich with pizza trail magic!

The next 3 miles were okay, saw a pretty waterfall, but then things started to go downhill. I got super tired and texted Buckles and we agreed to stop at a road crossing a couple miles before we had originally planned. She was still behind me, having come up to the ice cream place as I was leaving.It started to rain and the trail got harder (or at least that’s how it felt). I slipped a few times on the wet leaves and rocks. Then, I got a text from Devin, who had started the day 11 miles behind us. Buckles had apparently gotten turned around and hiked for a few miles in the wrong direction. This is the picture of Buckles that Devin sent.So, Devin and Buckles decided they were basically done for the day and were going to the nearest road crossing and into town from there. I wanted to go to at least the second choice road crossing (the 20ish mile one), but then I had a rather major fall were I slipped on some wet leaves and bashed my knee into a rock. I straight up just gave up at that point. I went to the next road crossing, cleaned my knee, and called a Lyft into town. So my planned 22 mile day turned from a planned 20 mile into an 18 mile day. But it ended nice in a dry hotel, with an owner who did our laundry for free!Looking at that picture, after it’s been all cleaned up it really doesn’t look that bad, but I promise it hurt.

Day 30: 16.3 miles

East Mombasha Rd. to West Mountain Shelter

We got a late start out of the hotel. We all took a Lyft together; I got dropped off first. Much better hiking than yesterday. Some of the trail in Harriman State Park was really flat and nice. Also had cool climbing and interesting parts, like the Lemon Squeezer.Later in the day I crossed the Palisades Interstate Highway, which was the first divided highway we’ve crossed that didn’t have a bridge or overpass to use. We just had to find a break in the cars and run. Then it was a long hard hill to a long side trail to the shelter. Normally I wouldn’t go to a shelter that’s .6 miles off trail, but this one had views of the Hudson River and, far off in the distance, New York City!At the shelter, it ended up being me, a weekender, and Buckles. Devin stayed behind at a campsite a little but farther back, since he had done 25ish miles the day before. As the sun set, a whippoorwill (I think) started a song that would not stop until 2 in the morning, and the lights in the valley and in the city came out. It was one of the most beautiful nights on trail.

Day 31: 6.7 miles

West Mountain Shelter to Bear Mountain Bridge

Buckles left early to meet her friend who was coming in from the city, I left late to give Devin a chance to catch up. He got to me pretty quick, and then Shiner appeared too! We all walked to the top of Bear Mountain, where we got sodas and Pringles from a vending machine at the top of the mountain. Bear Mountain is one of those mountains where you hike to the top only to find a parking lot and a bunch of people who drove up, but honestly I don’t mind because it meant there were vending machines.Then, we all trooped down the mountain, where we ran into Buckles and her friend outside the Bear Mountain Inn. We all meandered through the Trailside Zoo. Saw my first bear (at the lowest elevation point on the AT), as well as some foxes, a beaver, a coyote, and some hawks and owls.After the zoo, Shiner, Devin, and I Lyfted into Fort Montgomery, where we had a late lunch, resupplied, and then spent the night at a hotel.

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