Dear Herm’s Hikers,
It’s not the day the music died as Don Mclean once sang in American Pie; it’s the day the rocks ended in Pennsylvania. Sorry I couldn’t update the journal sooner, but I hit a stretch of trail where there was no access to a computer. Now that I’m at a computer, there’s a lot of news to catch up on. So let’s get going!
Greetings from Delaware Water Gap (DWG)! DWG is actually a quaint, victorian, touristy village snuggled along the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a Pennsylvania Water Gap in Delaware. Hey gang, that was a joke!
Spent the night in DWG at the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain which runs a hostel in the basement of the church thru-hikers. It was great to sleep indoors again with access to flush toilets and a hot/cold shower. Ah, the luxuries of life! The village has a great outfitter (Edge of the Woods), a Doughboy Pizza, and the Farmer’s Market/Apple Pie Bakery in addition to a number of other shops and stores. In other words, everything a hiker could hope for. I hit the town early in the afternoon and immediately set about in search of food. Although I have lost 22 pounds since I started the hike and my weight seems to have stabilized, I have been constantly hungry the last couple of days despite eating like a horse. I went into town and had 2 slices of pizza at the Doughboy, walked over to the bakery and had the hot dog/apple pie special for $1.49, and then walked back over to the pizza parlor for 2 more slices of pizza. In between that, I stopped at the convenience store for 2 Arizona iced-teas and a bag of pretzels. That evening Star Trek cooked rice, bean and peanut burritos from the mail drop he received from home. Star Trek is a gourmet camp cook, at least in the hostel setting. The burritos were quite delicious, and I’m not just saying that because it was a free meal. Well, later that night, I was felling hunger pangs again, so I walked down the hill to the pizza parlor for 2 more slices of pizza. That night I went to bed with a full stomach. Oh, what a feeling! Okay enough about eating, let’s talk about hiking.
Pennsylvania is where rocks go to live and hiking boots go to die. The trail is very good or very, very bad. Most of the time, it is very bad. As I headed north, the rocks just got bigger and more numerous. Going through the rock fields was slow and tedious work due to my bad toes. Every step had to be carefully placed on top of a rock or among the rocks. I was spun around numerous times when my feet got caught in the rocks. I had only one serious fall coming into DWG when my right foot was wedged between 2 rocks and I tried to step forward with that foot. I tumbled forward slowly under the weight of my backpack and fortunately was able to turn sideways. Most of the impact was absorbed by my backpack, but I did take a hard fall on the right shoulder that left a nasty bruise. After one day of rock steppin’ (because it certainly ain’t hiking), I found that both feet where bleeding around the toenails from the constant twisting and turning of my feet inside the boots. Ouch! The boots took a lickin’, but are still tickin’. However, the shoe-goo that I put on them at Duncannon was worn away after 2 says. As they say on the trail – no rain, no pain, no Maine!
And now to some good news – trail magic! Coming into Port Clinton, I was lookwing foward to eating a real meand and spending the night in a real bed at the Port Clinton Hotel/Restaurant. As my luck would have it, the hotel was closed that week while the owners were on vacation. So instead of spending the night indoors, I camped outdoors in the field near the town pavillion. I opted for the tent because it looked to be a good weather night and it’s much easier for me to sleep on the soft ground than a plywood or concrete floor. You guessed it. Thunderstorms rolled in after midnight until early morning, but I was warm and dry in my Big Agnes (that’s the tent brand). The only problem was I had to pack up a wet tent. Oh, yeah, the good news. At the shleter before Port Clinton, Bookworm said he knew a trail angel who would slackpack (a light back without all of the overnight gear) us for the next 2 days. Well, since my new creed is never pass up trail magic I immediately accepted the offer. Thank you Mary (AKA Welsh Nomad)! You are, indeed, an archangel of trail angels. What did Mary do? Among others acts of trail kindness, she took us to her house where I had a cheeseburger cookout with my fellow hikers and camped in her yard, met us at the trail during a torrential thunderstorm with snacks and sodas, and last, and best of all, took us to Pottsville for a morning tour of the Yuengling Brewery, the oldest brewery in America. Wow! the tour was just great. I am now a Yuengling man. They now have a porter, a lager, an ale, and other gourmentptype beers. Forget that beer company that sold out to the Belgians. I believe the name rhymed with Mud-gyser or something like that. You know what company I’m talkin’ about here. Hiked most of PA with Goggle, Pellet, Whup-Whup and his brother Joe. Thanks guys for a great trip with the old man of the group! One of scariest moments of the hike took place when I was hiking with Bookwarm to meet mary at the designated pick-up point. We were about a 1/4 mile from the road when a tremendous thunderston rolled over the mountain in a matter to seconds. We were racing for the parking lot in a wall of water when lightning crackled overhead. We immediately threw away our aluminum hiking poles and crouched close to the ground as possible. At the parking lot, we had 6 wet and sweaty hikers with gear crammed into the back of a Dodge van.
Spent the Fourth of July in Palmerton /Slatington which is the sight of the Palmerton EPA Superfund Site. It seems that a century of zinc smelting until 1982 has destroyed all of the vegetation on the nearby mountain tops and slopes. In certain areas, it looks as if the mountains had been napalmed. Little vegetation exist, just barren rocks or a forests of dead trees. But the really great thing about Palmerton (other than a free night in the basement of the town hall) was the climb out of Lehigh Gap. It was over 800 feet straight up the steep side of the mountain. I had to stow my hiking sticks in my backpack and climb the distance hand over hand and by the seat of my pants. Fun, fun fun! It was a really great climb. Reminded me of hiking up Pike’s Peak in Colorado. And the view from the top was breath-taking. Many people commented the climb out of the gap was a short preview of the Whites (White Mountain Range).
Once on the mountain ridge, I met Gramcracker and Rockamamie, two ladies who I had met and hiked with previously. It was a great hiking day, topped off by trail magic (soda, water, snacks, and fruit from Keychain) at the first road crossing. Gramcracker was stopping at DWG (section-hiker) and Rockamamie was hiking to a point in New York which would would mark the completion of her AT hike. She started the hike last year but had to stop due to a death in the family. I’m hoping to meet up with Rockamamie sometime before she finishers. We had a great conversation about the spiritual aspects of the hike that relates to our personal lives. She was inspired to hike the AT from a painting of Mount Katahdin that hung in her living room since her marriage over 39 years. Now that’s a great story! Good luck, Rockamamie! You are in my thoughts and prayers.
The first day out of DWG takes us across the Delaware River and into New Jersey. Hip, hip, hooray! Goodbye PA! It’s time for new rocks in a new state. Although, most people say that New Jersey is a very nice hike compared to Pennsylvania. Lots of rocks in NJ, just not as many. The other unusual fact about NJ is that there are more black bears per square mile than any other state. It seems the dense bear popualtion is due to hunting restrictions. Only time will tell. Have to move along! Other are waiting to use the computer! As always, keep me in your prayers. Hike in peace and hike with your angels!