The Midnight Knock
Apparently, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has strict overnight camping restrictions, but fortunately somewhat lax enforcement. We didn’t get the dreaded midnight knock* last night, but to be safe tonight we’ll be heading to the Stokes State Forest Campground. Parking at the trailhead is so much better, but rules are rules.
Magic and More Magic
Today promised to be full of magic. A reader who goes by the name of Slowsy Mosey contacted me to find out where I’d be today so she could set up trail magic. This morning, she texted to say that someone had already set up at the Culvers Gap parking area, so she’d moved on to the Sunrise Mountain Overlook where I planned to finish.
The good news: I’ll get trail magic at Culvers Gap, 14.5 miles into my hike, which will be perfect for an early lunch. The better news: I’ll get more trail magic for a late lunch 5.7 miles later. Even more good news: I have all the motivation I’ll need to bag 20.2 miles by early afternoon.
New Jersey Just Gets Better and Better
I’d hiked an hour before I realized I wasn’t soaked in sweat. In fact, I was a little chilly. I haven’t been chilly since southern Virginia and that was only because I was soaked by a cold rain. This is the East Coast weather I’d expected – chilly mornings and evenings with hot, humid afternoons. It stayed cool until noon. I barely broke a sweat all day.
Despite all reports to the contrary, New Jersey’s rocks have been pretty tame. So far, the AT seems to follow old forest roads and avoid long feet-killing rocky sections wherever possible. It’s the mountains. I expect to walk over and around some rocks.
Without the punishing rocks to absorb all my attention, I had a chance to look up and appreciate the ponds, lakes, reservoirs, streams, beaver dams, and a greater variety of trees. I even got to walk through some long stretches of aromatic conifer with soft needle-covered trails.
Trail Magic #1
I rolled through Culvers Gap about 11:30 and found Moose set up in the parking lot with two folding tables full of homemade sandwiches, cold drinks, and salty and sweet snacks. He also had a table full of hiker resupply items and a ring of chairs. Apparently, he’s a regular in this lot and has his schtick down to a science.
Purple Pilgrim and Solo were there when I arrived. I’d seen Purple Pilgrim once or twice, but never spoken with her. Solo was an older, flip-flopping southbounder. I’d just written about older hikers going solo, so during a lull in the conversation, I asked him about his trail name. Hearing that it was because he hiked alone, I asked if he thought most older hikers like us preferred going solo.
As it turns out, some people don’t like any implication that they might be part of the “older” crowd. I probably won’t be getting a Christmas card from Solo. Nor did I get an answer.
The six-mile hike from Culvers Gap to Sunrise Mountain Overlook was delightful, at least for me. Just after I left, some day hikers coming south warned me about a swarm of ground hornets that had attacked them. One of them suggested that if I ran, I’d probably be okay. I don’t run anymore, but the hornets left me alone anyway.
I popped in my audiobook to help speed the miles along, got wrapped up in an intense fight scene, and missed a turn. Eventually, when the ridgeline trail I took evaporated, I realized that I hadn’t seen a white blaze for a while. FarOut to the rescue. Sure enough, the trail was 500 feet to the east and about 200 feet below me down a steep slope.
I could have walked a quarter mile back to the turnoff, but I was already doing 20 miles and I had trail magic waiting, so I plunged down the steep slope toward the AT. Halfway down the slope, I realized this could end up being one of the dumber things I’ve done. So many things can go wrong off trail and help is much harder to come by. But I managed to intercept the main trail without stepping on a snake, wandering through a poison ivy patch, or breaking an ankle.
I passed and climbed the Culver Fire Tower, which had some great views and was much sturdier than any of the other AT fire towers I’d climbed. Just before Sunrise Mountain Overlook, the trail went past a huge wooden pavilion on the hilltop. I didn’t see a road up to it and wondered how they got all the building materials up there. It remains a mystery to me.
Trail Magic #2
I got to Sunrise Mountain Overlook well before Slowsy Mosey started thinking about packing up for the day. Northstar was there already, so she and Gus joined us for snacks and cold drinks. Purple Pilgrim walked in a few minutes later and said she’d missed the same turn I did but had more wisely chosen to hike back to the junction. Thriller and Expresso, two hikers I’d never seen before, joined us a few minutes later.
- I knocked out 20 miles in just under seven hours, averaging just under three mph.
- I’ve got my first real blister of my thru-hike, an annoying little bubble on my right #2 toe. I never get blisters. I blame the new shoes, or possibly my supersonic pace.
- I’m still loving New Jersey, even though it hasn’t delivered any bears yet.
I <3 NJ
- Start: Millbrook-Blairstown Road (Mile 1310.9)
- End: Sunrise Mountain Overlook (Mile 1331.2)
- Weather: Sunny, warm, less humid, deliciously breezy.
- Earworm: We Got the Funk (The Beatnuts)
- Meditation: Lk 4:8
- Plant of the Day: Goldenrod
- Best Thing: Slowsy Mosey
- Worst Thing (besides the humidity): Not having anything to complain about. It wasn’t even that humid.
*When living the vanlife, parking security never drops by before sunset if you’re illegally parked. They like to wait until after midnight.
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