Pictured above: Foggy morning at Sunfish Pond about 5 miles into New Jersey.
Originally posted on July 16, 2015
Posted by Great Miami Outfitters. This is the 11th blog entry of his trip. The adventure continues. Chris has 786 miles of his thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail to complete. Chris “Pacer” began his 2015 Appalachian Thru-Hike on April 7, 2015. You can read previous entries from the links at the bottom of this page.
#11. Delaware Water Gap, PA, to Fort Montgomery, NY
786 miles left…36% to go.
60s to high 80s–temperatures have been pretty good for hiking. Low humidity the first few days, but very high the last few. Tremendous amount of sweating the last 3 days…all clothes completely drenched all day!
Only 70 miles of the AT passes through New Jersey, and they make it count. It is in a heavily forested area…very pretty; and hikers have many opportunities to take side trails into towns. We had at least 1 and sometimes 2 stops to get town food or snacks in NJ…huge bonus for hungry hikers. We slowed our daily miles down just a little bit this leg so we could enjoy the stops. I hardly ate out of my food bag.
It was nice to have PA rocks behind us. Pom Pom, BigSky, and I left Delaware Water Gap, PA, after a good diner breakfast on 9 Jul, and we were headed for Fort Montgomery, NY, a little over 100 miles away before we took another zero. I checked the weather that morning and saw that strong storms were expected that night so we decided to cut our hike short and stop at a cabin at the Mohican Outdoor Center. We had boxes to pick up there anyway. We arrived around 1:00…a little too early to get the cabin. The extra time was used to eat lunch, unpack boxes, and for me to spray my gear and clothes with Permethrin. Permethrin is used to protect against ticks…clothes can be washed about 6 times between treatments. I know several people that have had or do have Lyme Disease this season. We got checked in, settled in the cabin, and in walked Corky. She caught up with us! We ordered pizzas for dinner and spent the rest of the night talking about the last few weeks without her–we had a lot to get caught up on. The storm started around 6:00 and kept up until early morning. The rain brought great temperatures for hiking the next few days and the humidity was low too.
We set out the next morning and came across a hiker feed at 9:30 in the morning… burgers for second breakfast! Later that same day we were headed to a steakhouse dinner before we stopped for the night. Corky and I were hiking together as she was telling me about a trail magic story in the Shenandoah’s. We were climbing Rattlesnake Mountain…see where this is going? The RATTLE started and it was close! Corky took one step more than I wanted her to. Our eyes were panning for the snake. I could see Corky was looking for the sound; I was looking for the head. I saw the snake’s head on the Trail right in front of her. I told Corky to look down…she was about 2 feet away from the snake’s head. The Timber Rattler was crossing the AT when we came across it, so it couldn’t strike far while it was stretched out. When she saw it, she launched backwards into me. Good thing I was on good footing or we both would have gone over the ridge. Her sudden movement made the Rattler very upset, and it coiled up in defense (see Pic 2 below). Good size snake about 4.5-5 feet long…Timber Rattlers are thick. This one was about the thickness of my forearm. We stayed there to make sure other hikers were aware and to make sure it moved safely off trail. Stubborn snake took about 15 minutes to get safely out of sight.
A couple days into the leg, we were headed for a food stop at High Point State Park… a concession stand at a lake beach. On the way, I came a cross an 8-year old boy named Benji sitting on a rock. I asked him a few questions and figured out he was lost. BigSky and Pom Pom arrived on scene shortly after. I spoke to his Mom over the phone, and we walked him to the concession stand where his family was waiting…all good. I was VERY hungry and demonstrated my skill at destroying food. BigSky and Pom Pom knew I would go big, but I went much bigger than they expected. So big, they had to put my order on a soda case box…5 chili cheese dogs, 2 bags of Doritos, 2 Gatorades, 2 Cokes, and a Hagen Daz bar. BigSky and Pom Pom were stunned…10 minutes it was all gone. That night we stayed at the Murray Property which is owned by a former thru hiker. It’s an 89 acre farm and a piece next to the AT has been set aside for AT thru hikers…an outdoor shower, shelter/cabin, privy, tenting, running water, and electric. When I got there I saw a few deer under the fruit trees as I set up my tent. Very beautiful place and great stop.
The next morning, we had a short hike into Unionville for resupply and breakfast. We sat on the front porch of the small store, ate breakfast, and watched the traffic. That afternoon we stopped by a garden center/fruit stand/ice cream shop… fruit, ice cream, and filled all water containers. Then, we climbed a very steep “Stairway to Heaven” to our shelter… water is the heaviest item hikers carry. We don’t like carrying full water but water sources around here haven’t looked very good… tea colored or black bottom streams… yuck.
The next day was a very short 12 miles because we spent a good portion of the afternoon in Greenwood Lake relaxing under shade trees after we ate lunch and a pint of ice cream. We also crossed from New Jersey into New York. We got to Wildcat Shelter and saw someone we have not seen in a while…Little Giant. He had a bout of Giardia (water born intestinal illness… not good… takes you out for about a week) that put him behind. He told us about a bear he saw about 5 miles away. He got to Cascade Brook and saw Big Easy. The 2 were talking and Little Giant made a tuna wrap. As they were talking, Big Easy said, “There is a bear behind you,” in a conversational, nonchalant tone. Little Giant turned around expecting it to be far away based on Big Easy’s casual tone, but it was about 4 feet away! He said he could have reached out and touched it. It approached from downwind smelling the tuna… they didn’t hear it coming. Big Easy only saw it when it stepped up on the log behind Little Giant. Little Giant cautiously stepped back… they yelled at the bear, and the bear looked at them as if puzzled. Little Giant then threw a rock next to the bear–still a puzzled look. A long uncomfortable pause and the bear stepped down and turned away. He said it looked like a young bear, and those are the unpredictable ones. Sounded like hikers had fed this one.
On our last day into Fort Montgomery, we had to cross a busy 4-lane highway that comes in and out of New York City about 30 miles away. BigSky and Pom Pom crossed the 2 lanes going into NYC and then through the median full of trees where they waited for a gap in traffic to cross the next 2 lanes. The gap opened and they started to cross… BigSky looked a short way up the road and a bear was crossing at the same time. Must have looked interesting if you were in a car and saw 2 hikers doing the waddle-run and a bear crossing the highway at the same time. Bears aren’t like deer; they look for traffic.
To get into Fort Montgomery we crossed over Bear Mountain with a view of the Hudson River and descended into the Bear Mountain Recreational Area. This entire area was developed in the 1930s as a retreat for NYC residents to be ale to relax in the country. It’s very well done. There is a small zoo that the AT passes through at the bottom. This is the lowest point in he AT–163 feet above sea level.
Pom Pom’s husband and daughter met us in the zoo. We got all our running around done that afternoon and are taking the next day to relax and recuperate.
Parks is a mid-20s guy who picked up his name because he’s working on visiting all the national parks. Our second night out, we saw him at Gren Anderson Shelter. He told us about a late night encounter that left him terrified and screaming uncontrollably… he had our attention. The story itself is good, but he was so honest about his fear and his reactions it doubled the enjoyment… it wasn’t the macho slant.
Parks’ shelter system is a tarp and ground cloth; that’s it… it’s light, but leaves him somewhat exposed to the weather and things that go bump in the night. He was camping alone about 3 miles south of Wind Gap, PA. At about 3:00 in the morning, he heard faint whimpering not too far away. It woke him wide awake; he said his heart started pounding. He sat up and grabbed his headlamp. The whimpering continued and was heading toward the side of his tarp…it was right outside just inches away. He smacked at the tarp and yelled, “Get Away!”… it was quiet. He listened… then something darted under the tarp… it was inside right next to him! He said he broke out into screaming and mass panic–it was a raccoon! The raccoon paid little attention to him and went straight for his pillow… it started gnawing on it–chomping on it repeatedly and making noises as it chewed. Everything escalated instantly… he was screaming and shouting uncontrollably! Parks said he had no idea what he did to get the raccoon out of the shelter… all he can remember is grabbing stuff and screaming wildly… not screaming at the raccoon but screaming in terror trying to keep distance. He was ABSOLUTELY and COMPLETELY freaked out! It reminded me of the scene from The Blair Witch Project where the woman is alone in the tent and she said through tears, “I’m SO scared…”
Okay, so now the raccoon is somehow out of the tarp. Parks takes a moment to listen… huge adrenaline pump. Where’s the raccoon? It’s not here… he hears whimpering again. Not again!!! Parks said he doubled his panic and screaming!!! He completely lost it… he grabbed a hiking pole in one hand and headlamp in the other. He was blindly swinging and sweeping the hiking pole under the tarp where the whimpering was coming from… continuing to scream. He said once his screaming started it didn’t stop. In these couple minutes, he was spent… he jumps out of the tarp. He doesn’t see the raccoon and quickly packed up camp and immediately started hiking north.
What just happened? Completely odd behavior for a raccoon–it must have been rabid he figured. He got to the intersection at Wind Gap and found a trail Magic cooler at about 4:00 am. He sat on the cooler, drank a Coke, and collected himself. Priority 1…he wanted to be inside–he was done with the woods for now. He hiked into town, but the hotel was closed. He hiked back to Wind Gap and decided to press on to Delaware Water Gap–15 more miles. Later that morning, he passed a ridge runner that works for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy….good, he could inform an authority, and they would do something. Ridge runners hike sections of the AT… they are Trail ambassadors; make sure hikers are behaving; clean up shelters if required; etc. Parks was looking for an empathetic ear and thought the ridge runner could put out a warning or something. That’s not what he got at all. The ridge runner said something along the lines of, “Oh yah, the raccoons and coyotes are both bad in the area. A hiker got bit by a rabid coyote just last week in that same spot.” Parks couldn’t believe the response…now he was looking for coyotes too! And no warnings!!!
Parks got to Delaware Water Gap and took 2 very needed zeros in a hostel. The night he told us the story was his first night back in the woods since the fiasco. He stayed in the shelter that night.
If you’re looking for any of my previous updates, you can find them at Great Miami Outfitters’ website: http://www.greatmiamioutfitters.com/info/category/all-posts/news-and-info
Until next time… Pacer