Week 12: Days 78-81

Day 78

I never seem to be able to sleep in past 6 a.m., which can be frustrating on a zero day. I’d like to catch up on any lost sleep, but my body always has other plans. For breakfast I took advantage of the kitchen and cooked two loaves of bread worth of French toast and 1.5 pounds of bacon for the group. Mini, being the next one awake, cut up fruit for us as well.

After breakfast I went back to Walmart with Tiger Lilly, Captain Ahab, and Minisaurous. We picked out food for supper and did our resupply run. It took us until 1 p.m. to get back because others kept texting us to get little one off things for them.

With the late return, we snacked for lunch and made our way back to the pool. I stopped by the business center to fill out and sign a few forms while I had access to a printer. A few pool hours and we piled backed into the car and drove to the indoor pool in a different section of the complex. This area had a hot tub, so we all sat in that and chatted with others on their vacations. Many were interested in the stories of our scraggly and scruffy group.

After an hour we walked to the brewery next door. Rampage took advantage of the piano and is quite a talented pianist. It was later than we’d have liked, and we were all incredibly hungry when we arrived back at the condo. I prepared hamburgers/veggie burgers, beans, and chips for the group. Mr. Bean (whose name is name changing into Teen Wolf) and Rampage have similar birthdays to today, and we surprised them with a piece of chocolate cake for each of them. Following supper I packed up my resupply and turned in as early as possible.

Day 79

The size of our group and packs in correlation to Boo’s car forced us to leave in two groups. I, being an early riser, was in the first group. Tiger made cookies last night, so I had one for breakfast. We saw a bear on the forest road on the way back to the lake to get dropped off. We were dropped off around 8:15, but I had to backtrack a bit down a blue blaze trail to get to the point on the AT we split off from a few days ago. As a purist I always step off and on the trail at the exact same point. This annoys some, but after all is done I want to be able to say I literally hiked every inch of this trail.

A few after lunch the trail dropped into the valley to a highway crossing, and I noticed a restaurant down the street. Mini and I felt a bit off from the heat, so we stopped in for a soda to cool off. Tiger and Ahab joined about 20 minutes later. The restaurant had lakefront property, so we spent some time finishing our drinks in the chairs overlooking the water.

As we headed out, we missed the second wave of our group by a few minutes.The Culver Fire Tower was our next destination only a short climb up from the highway. The day was beautiful and conducive to wonderful views in all directions.

The hike was uneventful after the tower save for a large pavilion on top of Sunrise Mountain. A mile or so before the shelter, I saw yet another bear in the woods grazing his way toward us.

He didn’t seem to take notice of our presence, so we continued walking to the shelter. There was no water here, and everyone was running pretty low. Our next option was over a mile away, so I grabbed a few water bags and made the trek. To my dismay it wasn’t flowing, and what water was present looked like bog water, so I didn’t bother getting any. We are able to ration our water until we could find more in the morning.

In the shelter Tortoise noticed a small sign on the rafters that said “snakes in rafters.” This would explain why nobody else had setup in the shelter. A few minutes later Rampage noticed a large black snake moving around in the ceiling. It was easily 5-6′ long. We all scooted to the other side of the shelter hoping it would leave us alone for the night. At least this shelter doesn’t have mice???

Today I hiked 17.3 miles for a new total of 1,123.7/2199.7.

Day 80

The snake didn’t join anyone last night, and I think everyone was thankful for that. We have a short 5-mile hike to the High Point Headquarters of New Jersey. They give a free soda to thru-hikers, and we don’t pass up opportunities like that. We spent an hour enjoying our sodas and watching the unintentionally humorous “how to handle bears” video. I took a little time to rinse the iron and tannin out of my water bottles and refill.

A mile beyond the HQ sits an observation deck that sits just above the trees and gives a clear line of sight to the High Point of New Jersey.

The high point is a monolith style Veterans Memorial and is about a half-mile away in the photo above. The trail to the monument itself is a side trail, but we dropped our packs in the woods and took it anyway. Tortoise, Ahab, and Mr. Bean (who has again had his name changed now to Bean Wolf, which it will stay for good) all climbed the 220′-Tower to take in the view from the top. From the top I took a picture of the observation deck (to the left of the lake) I was just on. If you look closely, you can see the blue dot of Minisaurous.

After lunch I walked alone until the final shelter for the night. The trail foams down a road for a bit before turning into the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. The wetland portion goes on for two miles. I saw geese, swans, a deer wading through the water grazing on plants, a huge fish stir right next to the shoreline, and even some large herons.

The shelter was a short hike up the next hill, and I arrived rather early. I had plenty of time to setup, stretch, and relax before the others started to trickle in. The weather was nice enough to camp without a rainfly, and we had a great view of the refuge below.

Today I hiked 19.6 miles, for a new total of 1,143.3/2199.7.

Day 81

We got up a bit earlier today to accommodate a trip into town to do a resupply on top of a 23-mile day. The beginning of the walk was lovely, and over a mile of it crossed the Vernon Valley Boardwalk. The boardwalk winds its way through the wetlands across bridges and is clearly maintained well by the locals.

At the end of the loop, we climbed “The Stairway to Heaven.” It’s a pretty rugged climb, but this far into my trip it’s no real issue. The view from the top overlooks the valley below, which includes the boardwalk area I was just in. I could also see the highpoint tower on the horizon. It’s strange to see something so far away and know I was standing at that exact point at this point in the day only yesterday.

It’s difficult to see, but if you follow the power line straight up to the horizon mountains and zoom way in you can see the faint shadow of the monolith.

The day grew hot and humid, and water had become scarce with a dryer spring. The available water was often contaminated with tannin (not a huge deal) or was stagnant and probably contained giardia (a much bigger deal).

At lunch I made friends with a chipmunk via a Dorito peace offering. It was clear he wasn’t detoured by humans at this shelter, as he willingly got rather close. Eventually I was able to hand him a chip directly.

We shortly crossed the border into New York, and I reached Prospect Rock. There was a spray painted mural for the 9-11 victims here of an American Flag.

The terrain here was a fast up-and-down steep roller coaster, and the heat wave that had settled in the area wasn’t helping the situation. Bean Wolf and I took the side trail down to town and did our resupply at the gas station. While waiting for the others to get to town, we had supper at 4 Brother’s Pizza. The others called a taxi to get to town from the road crossing another two miles up trail. They wanted to stay at the hotel and celebrate Rampage’s birthday with a nero of two miles tomorrow to dodge some of the heat. I chose to go back up the side trail and hike forward.

Two miles to the road I got to the spot my group got off. Here I was able to walk up the road to a VERY popular local place called the Bellvale Creamery, which boasts the second-best ice cream in the country. The rest of my group had already indulged, so I stood in line in all my sweaty glory. There were easily 200 people in line around me, and I felt bad they were now basking in my hiker funk. Eventually those around me got curious about the stinky weirdo wearing a backpack and asked me what I was doing. This spiraled into an impromptu Q&A between me and the 30 folks around me. After a 45-minute wait, I was able to get my root beer float and watch the sunset from their overlook. The last highpoint again dots the horizon.

With the delay at the creamery, I had to night hike the last two miles into Wildcat Shelter.

Today I walked 23.6 miles, now totaling 1,166.9/2199.7.

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