Dear Herm’s Hikers,
On Tuesday, July 7, I laced up the boots, threw on the backpack, and hiked across the Delaware River bridge to New Jersey. Relief was immediate. Oh, sure, they are plenty of rocks in New Jersey, but compared to Pennsylvania, the AT seems paved. So far, NJ has been a hiker’s paradise with a lot ot different terrain features, hills, mountains, cliffs, bluffs, and scenic overlooks. Hiked the first day with Graham, a 30-ish soccer coach from Nashville by way of Birmingham, England. We had a very enjoyable conversation about growing up in our native countries and the the sights to visit in Great Britain and the US. Our first stop of the day was the Sunfish Pond. a glacial pond that supports only a few hearty species of sunfish due to the acidity of the water. It was a great discovery to find a pond in the mountains. They have been far and few in between. The most water I’ve seen to date on the tail is creeks, streams, springs, beaver ponds, and a few resevoirs. After a break at the pond, Graham moved ahead and I was once again hiking by myself. Walking the up the ridge, I couldn’t help but think about all of the “black bear” publicity for NJ. It seems that NJ has one of the highest bear populations per square mile for any state, and after a day of waling in the woods, I had yet to see any bear scat or tracks. Minutes later, that changed when I turned a corner and came face to face with a rather large black bear who was walking towards me. Both of us stopped dead in our tracks about 20 yards apart and looked at each other with that “what the heck are you doing here” stare. I immediately started talking loud and raised my hands with my hiking sticks in the air to make myself appear much larger to the bear. As he slowly turned to walk down the trail, I reached into my pocket for my camera, but by the time I was ready to shoot, the bear was in the woods and climbing the rocks. A perfect hiking day was topped off with a stay at the Appalachain Mountain Club Mohican Center, a lodge/bunkhouse/campsite with lake for members and thru-hikers. There I met Susan, Tom, and the members of Venturing Crew 125 who invited to dine with them at the bunkhouse. Thank you crew for your hospitality. Hope you had a great hike back to Dingman’s Ferry. Susan, the cheeseburgers and quesadillas were excellent. Good thing I decided to stay indoors because it rained that night as ususal.
As I headed north, the trail became littered with more rocks but still nothing compared to Pennsylvania. The next night I had planned to stop at the Brenk Road shelter but moved on due to intolerable condations. If this shelter is not the worst on the AT, then it’s tied for first. There was a good water source and a new bear box, but the old musty smelling, broken down shelter was in a swamp area that was filled with mosquitoes. It was insanity to stay, but a group of campers did. Why I’ll never know because there were other campsites on the ridge. As quickly as I could, I filled up my water bottles and ran back to the trail to get away from teh clouds of insect. Two days later, I still had welts on my arms from the bites. Since I was only 3 miles from the next road crossing, my plan was to hike until I found a good campsite on the ridge. It was a good plan that worked to perfection. About 2 miles down the trial, I found that campsite, the best one to date. It was on a rocky bluff overlooking a couple of lakes (one being Lake Culver) and the town of Branchville. After making camp, I sat on the rocks, ate dinner, and then enjoyed the view (light blue clouds, dark blue water, green trees, grey rocks) until it faded with the night. After that, I watched the twinkling lights in the town and on the road until it got too cold. Oh, yeah, it does get very cool in the evening. The other day I heard this year has been one of the wettest and coolest summers in recent history. And much to my surprise, my tent was ptiched on a soft, grassy plot that made for a good night’s sleep. The next morning I got up with the first light and watched the sun rise over the mountains. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this. How good was it? The next morning as I was packing up, some fellow hikers, who camped in the swamp, stopped to take picitures of the panoramic view as they headed up the trail.
The next day I headed into the town of Branchville to meet Rainbow Brite (Mr’s T). As I was wallking down the road, a car pulled up and offered me a ride. To my surprise, it was Circuit Rider (the minister from Michigan) and Sherlock, his assistant. The last time I saw them was at a shelter in Virgina where they prayed with me (the Great Physician prayer referenced in a earlier journal entry). Indeed, it’s a small world and even a smaller trail at times. The Reverend was taking some time of the trail to visit family in New Jersey. In between, he was doing trail magic.
Spent the rest of the week hiking with Rainbow Brite and slackpacking to make up some miles. This will be the last time I see Rainbow Brite until Maine. Boo-hoo! We hit all of the highlights on the trail to include Sunrise Mountain and High Point State Park, great sweeping views of the state from both sites. From Sunrise Mountain, it is said that you can see the skyline of New York City, but, of course, when we stopped, the horizon was shrouded in a haze. At High Point State Park, we hiked to the Veterans Memorial atop the mountain. This granite tribute to NJ veterans stands some 260 feet high and reminds you of the Washington Monument. You can even walk to the top. At the monument, Rainbow Brite and I had the pleasure of conversing with Joe, seasonal ranger/employee who attends Susquehanna University. I took an immediate liking to Joe because not only is he a history buff and history major, he is also a budding writer/author. Joe was kind enough to take us outside the monument and point out some of the nearby sites and their historical importance. Thanks, Joe! Keep up the good work and keep on writing! Hey, NJ State Parks, you have an excellent employee there!
Some of my fellow hikers from west of the Appalachains noted how different NJ residents sound from the rest of the population. Guys and gals, I told them, just drop you R’s and relax your D’s, T”s, L’s, and S’s, and you’re on your way to speaking like a NY/NJ native.
And believe me, I have no room to talk about accents. Hey, I’ grew up in Bawlmer, hon! People on the trail tell me that I have a very distinct accent. They just don’t know where it’s from. When I tell them I’m from Bawlmer, they shake their heads in disbelief. Maybe, it’s because at certain times I try to talk without my accent. That can be very confusing to the speaker (that’s me) and the listener (you)!
Okay, hikers, it’s time to move on! In 2 days, I should be somewhere in New York. Sing it, Frank, New York, New York. No, not New York City but New York State, heading to Connecticut.
As always, hike with your angels and hike in peace!
I want to make a brand new start of it, New York. Take it away, Ole’ Blue Eyes. It doesn’t get any better than Frank Sinatra.
I’m glad you enjoyed the cheeseburgers and quesadilla — you are quite welcome. We had a great trip, and the boys in the crew (14, 15, and 16 years old) have all decided to through-hike when they are old enough! 🙂
You are good; you are still on the trail, and you are blogging before I do. I’ve been home all day, and haven’t started writing much of anything yet! I am definitely going to blog about “Herm’s Hike”, though, and I’ll be trying to write an article for our local paper. Meanwhile, enjoy your dance!
SUE — AKA “Glad Tortoise” (We all got trail names too!)
I finally posted a little bit on my blog – you can check it out, it’s called “Keep In Touch” and you can get there by posting on my name at the top of this comment —
Let me know when you have a chance to take a look!