New Jersey was nice. Granted, after Pennsylvania, all the state had to do was not stab me in the feet every couple of steps.
The morning after my last post started out cold and rainy, so I ended up waiting until later in the afternoon to head out. It’s one thing when you’re already out, you just shrug, wrap your pack and keep on trudging, but stepping out of a warm dry hostel into cold and wet takes more willpower. There was also a group of hikers convincing each other to take the Fourth off, but I had already been there two nights. As nice as Water Gap was, I had to get moving. Fortunately, I have a robot buddy that can talk to space, so I was able to time my departure to within a few minutes of the sky clearing.
I made good time, and ended up camping just outside of an official campground that wanted to charge me $13 to hang my hammock. I spent the evening watching the sky light up from the fireworks, the woods light up from the fireflies, and marveling that I didn’t hurt anywhere. (I ended up walking into the camp the next morning, using their restrooms and swiping a bunch of tp. No one noticed.)
The trail was just as rocky as PA in some places, but it wasn’t as jagged.
After a few days, the trail dipped down into lower, boggier terrain. I started passing lakes and swamps, and while the mosquitoes were ferocious, the trail was easy.
The words “New Jersey Boardwalk” might refer to a place you can go to lose a pile of money, but out here it’s much more literal.
It was a good couple of days. It was made even better by the fact that there is food everywhere. I managed to eat breakfast less than a mile off the trail a few times, and if starting an eighteen mile day with a sub and a pint of ice cream doesn’t appeal to you, we’ll probably never understand each other.
At one point, a former thru-hiker had set up a grill at the top of a hill. She had burgers, pasta salad and whole cooler full of ice that she was serving to long distance hikers. It was like walking into a dream. I regret not taking a picture, but I was busy.
Speaking of awesome former thru-hikers, I stayed in a shelter built by one. Jim Murray owns a plot of land next to the AT, lives in a small house and maintains another for hiker use. The rest of the property is undeveloped, and I spent an evening watching the wildlife. Deer, groundhogs, a flock of turkeys, and several varieties of woodpeckers were all residents, as well as a pair of ponies that Jim keeps as pets. Too bad all the pictures I tried to take came out as blurry smudges. Animals don’t know how to model.
On the subject of wildlife, I encountered two bears and a rattlesnake within an hour of each other. The snake and the first bear both scooted off before I could grab my phone, and I was more interested in getting away from the second bear than I was in preserving the moment. I’m pretty sure there was a cub nearby that I couldn’t see, so I was the one scooting away from that one. I like being the biggest, hungriest animal on the mountain, and have no problem putting distance between myself and momma bear.
Aside from that one moment of excitement, New Jersey has been pleasant. I don’t have a lot of snark to unload at it.
I crossed into New York yesterday, and am hoping to get to Connecticut within a week. The balls of my feet have been aching, so that might slow me down, but my backpack has started to disintegrate, so that might speed me up. We’ll see. Either way, the pain in my feet is nowhere near as bad as the pain in my joints was through PA, so I’m guessing it’s from my 50% mileage increase.
Total milage: 370
Trail name: Science
Praise the Sun