Friday, September 8, 2017

Pamola's Quest - The Pushes (17b and 18)

On Trail Once Again

It was July 30th.  I hoisted my pack, kissed LoGear and started down the road to where the trail crossed.  I looked back once and she stood there, watching me.  I waved and turned back towards the trail.  I saw the first white blaze.  I was back...

The Push Beyond Delaware Water Gap (Push 17b)

The Push is labeled 17b since I was starting the second half of a longer Push that would have started in Duncannon, PA.  This Push would be 41.1 miles and would take me three days to hike.  

Day 96 - 15.7 miles - Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Day 97 - 13.7 miles - Kirkridge Shelter
Day 98 - 11.7 miles - Backpack campsite (NJ)

Phase II-b started out with a fun scramble up the ridge and a chance reunion with hikers I had last seen in NC.  After feeling that same sensation that something is missing (LoGear), I crossed the road and started up the trail.  I was in no hurry. I had over 15 miles to go, but it was still relatively early and I had other options if 15 turned out to be too much to start back with.

I made my way up the trail and veered off to check out an informational sign that told about the ecology of the surrounding ridges and valley.  I looked over and saw two hikers that had came up after me.  I walked over to say hi and they recognized me.  It took me a second, but quickly I learned that this was Scrambles and Grouch.  We had met them somewhere between the NOC and Fontana. I would cross paths with them several times during this Phase.  

We all headed up the ridge together.  It was kind of fun.  Lots of slow hand over hand scrambling.  We took pictures for each other as we made our way up, but eventually I got ahead of them and didn't see them again for several days.  

Heading up from Lehigh Gap. Grouch and Scrambles follow behind.

After I got up to the top of the ridge, I leisurely made my way along the trail.  It wasn't too bad up here. The recovery from the valley zinc processing seemed to be going nicely.  There was lots of flora and even some young woods.  Looking across the valley to the next ridge with the zinc smelter in between, you could see that the other side still needed lots of work to recover.  It was barren and sad looking.

During of my view breaks, a woman came up behind me.  I notice she was wearing a headband that I had just seen, hanging on a branch next to the trail. I made a quick comment about the headband along with my hello.  She moved on ahead of me.

Around lunch time, another hike came and passed me.  I recognized him from Push 14 in Shenandoah.  We ended up eating lunch at the same place.  He is a little reserved, but I learned his name was Lazy Boy.  He carries a camp chair as part of his kit.  That was mainly how I remembered him.  

Later, I saw the woman again and learned her name was Bonnie.  She was out for a solo section from Lehigh Gap to Crater Lake in NJ.  I lent her my nail clippers and our friendship was born.  We would end up at the same place for the rest of her hike.  As we learned more about her, she would transform into Coach Sunny.

On this first day, after about 10 miles walked, I decided to try something that I had been wanting to do for awhile.  I set up my hammock and took a nice long rest.  I still had plenty of daylight and felt pretty good, even as the rocks had started to get plentiful.

After resting for awhile, I felt that I had the energy to finish the day at 15.7 miles.  I decided to cook dinner first and when I got to the shelter, I would only have to set up the hammock and get water to be done for the day.

I arrived at the shelter as the light of the day was waning.  Bonnie was there and also another guy named Tortoise.  I went and got water and when I came back another hiker was in the shelter.  She looked familiar and turned out to be Camp from another duo, Dragon and Camp who we had also met around the Smokys.  She had remembered me as Half-Crocked, another trail name I had picked up at the beginning of this Quest.  

I slept without my tarp that night, as the weather forecast was dry. I felt good.  The usual soreness of a good day's hike in my muscles and feet were back.  I was becoming an Outsider once again.  

As I laid in my hammock and darkness settled over the camp, I heard what sounded like classical music wafting through the woods.  Someone up at the camping area was playing some music.  I learned the next morning that it was Pantry, who had a violin with her and had a job lined up for some orchestra when she was done hiking.  She brought it along so she could practice each day to stay sharp for her new job. It was a very calming sound to hear as I reflected on my first day back on trail.

Just Another Rocky Day in PA

The morning started with a small headache, most likely caused by dehydration.  Today would be another dryish day, so I headed out with three liters again.  Today's hike would be mostly rocky ridge walking.  Wind Gap would be the only deviation, with a short, steep decline followed by the climb out of the gap.  

As I walked along, I saw a hiker, standing and looking into the woods.  He was watching a rattler that was minding his own business, just off the trail.  I did my own watching of him for a couple minutes as he meandered back and forth through the underbrush, slowly reacting to my prodding trekking pole.  He never grew defensive or rattled his tail.  He was just some mellow forest dweller, looking for a patch of sun to bask in.  


The track smoothed out near the end of the day and before I knew it, I was done with the day's miles. I had drank all the water I carried for the day and hadn't replenished all day. 

This shelter had a water source that was a faucet next so some church retreat.  I found a nice place to set up and had some good conversation with Ashes, a hiker who has basically been living on the trails for the last couple of years.  He was just out doing his thing. Hiking a few miles each day until it was time to move to another trail.  

Wolf Rocks was an interesting rock scramble that was pretty fun at first, but after awhile it became 

Bonnie and Tortoise stayed at the shelter.  A large group of kids (summer camp I think) had started at Wind Gap, but they camped a little away from the shelter in a nice open area.  I would see several large groups during this Phase.  Most of them were college freshman orientation hikes.  Seems to be a popular thing nowadays. The large groups do seem to tax the shelter areas a bit much, but as long as they are learning to minimize their impact, I'm ok with them being out there, even if they take good spots and fill the bear boxes up with all their gear.  

Coach Sunny and Tortoise

Finishing the Push, And the State

On the third day of the Phase, I was ready to finish the first Push and move into New Jersey.  I planned the day to not be too long (11.7 miles) and I hoped to maybe get a shower and do some resupply at Delaware Water Gap.  

I was up and out pretty early in the day.  Town days always draw me on, even though I had only been back a few days.  I could already taste the food I would eat and the anticipation of a cold beer made my mouth water.  I quickly made my way along the trail and down into the Gap.  

Delaware River

After a restful lunch by Lenape Pond, I walking into the town.  The first stop was Church of the Mountain Hostel, a donation based Hostel that was not two blocks from where the trail skirted the edge of town.  The first order of business was to shower off the three days of sweat and grime I had accumulated.  I also did a little cowboy laundry in the shower and changed into town/camp clothes.  Next was food.  I walked to the Sycamore Grill and had another lunch and a couple of beers.  After filling my belly, it was time to fill my food bag.  

Resupply here was basically gas station convenience stores unless you wanted to get a ride into Stroudsburg.  I didn't have the time and found what I needed at the Fuel On.  I headed back to the Hostel and just hung out for awhile until it was time to leave PA and enter NJ.  I few other hikers came in while I was there.  Lazy boy, Tortoise, Lakes, Pearl, Mantis, Big Country and Stray are who I remember.  Lakes mentioned that she had read my The Trek article and commented on it before we both started hiking.  She had mentioned that maybe we would meet on the trail.  Well, we just did.

The resupply officially ended Push 17b, but I still had some miles to go before I slept.  It was time to finish PA.  I had attempted to do this a couple years ago, but my feet had made me end my hike early back then.  It was finally time to complete the state.

Push 18 - The Push to Unionville, NY

Push 18 would cover 46.2 miles and would again take me three days to complete.  

Day 99 - 15.6 miles - Camp by Buttermilk Falls trail
Day 100 - 16.3 miles - Mashipacong Shelter
Day 101 - 14.3 miles - Unionville, NY

I headed out with some sprinkles in the air and made my way across the bridge, leaving PA and entering NJ.  After a short stop at the DWG visitor center during the hardest of the rain, I started back up onto the ridge on the other side of the river. 

I met a guy on the way up, named Sweet Boy.  We talked a bit and he asked me, "if I could have anything right now, what would it be?"  Of course I answered "a beer" and he pulled a Lager out of his pack and gave it to me.  The kindness of Magic never ceases to amaze me.  I pocketed the beer, thanked Sweet Boy and headed up the ridge as he turned onto another trail.

I arrived at the campsite after 1700.  It was a large, sprawling area with plenty of very good sites.  I quickly found Coach Sunny and Tortoise, who were camped down aways and set up near them.  We all had our dinners together as the sun made its way towards the ridgeline. I shared the beer with Tortoise, who was very appreciative of the offer. 

Farewells and Rain

The next morning, I headed out with Sunny, but lost her at Sunfish Pond.  There was rain in the forecast and my plans for the day's miles was somewhat fluid.  I had a possible camp location for another rather short day where Tortoise was planning on stopping for the day, but I was pretty sure that I would be able to go further.

The first order of business for the day was to head to the Mohican Outdoor Center for some lunch and to charge my phone some.  I left a short farewell note for Sunny at the bridge before the road to the Outdoor Center and walked in.  

The place is nice, but they still hadn't restocked their supplies after the weekend (it was Wednesday) and all they had was rye bread.  I ordered a sandwich with that and it was delicious.  I hung out awhile, charging my phone and using their wifi until it was time to move on.  

In the afternoon, the temperature suddenly dropped several degrees, the wind picked up and the slow roll of thunder, rumbled in the distance.  Soon the rain began to fall and it steadily grew heavier as I walked along.  At first, the cool rain was a relief to my sweaty body, but after awhile, the chill sets in and you need to either cover up or get out of the rain.  I don't carry a pack cover and decided to not put on my rain jacket as the rain started.  I passed several hikers who had hunkered down for the storm.  Most of them would just look at me confused, wondering why I continued to walk through this storm. The rain fell in sheets and there was lightning and thunder, but none of it too close.  

The area I was hiking in now was where LoGear, her sister, dog and friend and I had did a short section two years ago.  I remembered that the ridge becomes exposed in a bit and saw that a blue blaze circles around Crater Lake and there was a parking lot.  I was hoping for either a picnic pavilion or a rest room to let me get a relief from the rain, so I took the blue blaze as a weather bypass.  This was trail that I had already walked, so it was all good in EarthTone's Invisible Rules for Long Distance Hiking rule book.  

I walked around the lake and arrived at the parking lot.  The only structure was a small pit toilet building.  Good enough for this Hiker Trash, so I set up shop in one of the "rooms" and tried to dry off some. I decided to make me some dinner while I was there and by the time I was done, the rain had stopped.  I headed out and back up to the trail.  I arrived at the Buttermilk Falls trail where another dry camp was located and decided to stop for the day.  

Mmmm, dinner

The mosquitoes were vicious as I set up camp and I was glad that I didn't have to still cook dinner as I rolled into the hammock and zipped closed the screen.  The rain had brought them out in droves.  

From One Day to the Next

The next morning I packed up in record time as the mosquitoes were still hanging out at the campsite waiting to suck my blood.  

My first stop was at Brinks Shelter where we had stayed two years ago.  I knew the water there was pretty good and it didn't disappoint. I also took advantage of the privy while I was there.

My food goal for the day was to hit Gyp's Tavern in Culvers Gap.  I arrived right around lunch time and sat out in the patio area which overlooked the lake and ate a nice lunch, drank several beers and ordered something to pack out for dinner.  The day was beautiful, sunny and mild with a perfect view of the lake.  It was hard to leave that place, but it was necessary, so after most of my gear had dried out and I felt good from the great food and cold beers, I climbed out of the gap and continued on.

View from Gyp's Tavern patio

I stopped at the Sunrise Pavilion and had my dinner on the trail once again.  I arrived at the shelter where Coo coo, a SOBO hiker was in for the night.  We had some good conversation and I headed to my hammock.  Thumper came in right before I retired and Scrambles and Grouch came in late, after I was sound asleep.

Lake Swim and Another Push Complete

I was up and out early the next morning and getting out at that time paid off.  Not 30 minutes after leaving camp, I heard a noise in the forest.  It was a yearling bear, completely focused on the task of ripping a rotten log apart, looking for grubs I guess.

He didn't notice me as I took a photo or two then started taping a video.  I made a few noises, but he seemed oblivious until he must have caught my awesome hiker scent and then moved off away from me.  

I was approaching High Point State Park and there was a lake there with a beach. That became the goal of the day and after getting a free Pepsi at the visitor's center, I hiked down to the lake.  Of course, I took the wrong trail at the lake and had to completely circle it before I arrived at the beach area.  It was all good.  Thumper had come down too.  I had a nice swim, doing some more cowboy laundry with my hiking clothes and then had some overpriced lunch at the concession stand.  

Lake Marcia, in view of High Point memorial on a foggy morning

NJ Boardwalk

The trail in this area is very close to the NY border and actually crosses over once or twice before you leave the state for good.  Unionville, NY was a small town that would be about a .7 walk off trail.  They let you camp in their small park for free and there is a general store, a pizza place and a tavern.  All that this dirty hiker needed.

Entering town, trying to not look suspicious

I came into town and saw Scrambles and Grouch at the pizza place.  They had picked up a mail drop and were going through their stuff.  I mentioned that I might take some of their extras if they had any.  I found a place for my hammock in the park and set up.  Next I went over to the General Store and registered my stay in the park.  I picked up a couple of beers and a few other items.  At this point I was still planning on resupplying in Vernon, NJ to end the Push, but in the morning I would decide that getting into that small town would be burdensome and decided to resupply here and call this Push done.

I headed over to the pizza place and ordered a medium pizza for myself and popped open a PBR.  After stuffing myself, I went back to the park and finished setting up.  In the evening I went over to the tavern and had a couple beers with the other hikers that had come into town.  In addition to Scrambles and Grouch, Thumper had come in and also a couple Snake Eyes and Fugitive.  I had a couple of beers, then headed back to the park.

My fun activity of this day, was to count the numerous Red Efts that like to hang out on the trail after a rain.  My count reached 42 before I grew bored with looking for them.  I also had a cool experience with milkweed and monarch butterflies.  I was walking through a pasture area and came to a part of the field that was all milkweed.  I remembered that the monarch relies on the milkweed for its whole existence and just as that thought entered my head, I saw two of them flitting about the plants.  It was cool.

Red Eft #35

The katydids were pretty loud in the night and didn't stop their chanting until a short rain session passed through.  Tomorrow would start Push 19. The Push to Kent, CT.  

The next Push would be over 100 miles and would encompass the whole state of NY. 

EarthTone and LoGear

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