Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Heart the (Rock) Garden State

So this is a first. I get to deliver New Jersey in it's entirety in one blog post. I have to say, other than the rocks (which still weren't as bad as PA), NJ was a nice state. It was full of beautiful views from the constant ridge line the trail followed. It also had many beautiful lakes and marshlands full of wildlife.

On a random tangent, today I was listening to the Fat Man on Batman podcast (that's what I do to make time go by faster while hiking) and Kevin Smith was trying to figure out the age of Bruce Wayne in the Batman cartoon. Paul Dini, who wrote most of the episodes said that he envisioned him Jesus's age, which was 33. I know I am getting into a lot of need talk here, so bear with me. I also happen to be 33, and then I got thinking back on a sermon my pastor preached a week or 2 ago (see Brian I am listening) and he talked about the verse when Jesus said that we will do greater things than him right before he died (at age 33). Obviously, we cannot die for the sins of the world, but what Jesus was saying is that because of our numbers, we can be many places at once teaching, healing, giving hope, where Jesus could only be one place at one time. I look at my life and I feel like I am doing a great thing right now, but I know I have some more great moments left. I am not exactly sure what that will look like, but I know that there are still so many blessings to give out. My walking will not solve the global water crisis, but I now have confidence that I can do more and hopefully make an impact in many more ways, in my community and in the world. I hope that through this hike, you too will see that you were made for great things. What are you passionate about? What is that secret dream you are too afraid to share with anyone or step out and follow? Believe me, if this fat man can walk all the way to freaking New York, you can do anything!

*that was a glimpse into how my brain travels from listening to a podcast about Batman to Jesus and his plan for all of our lives. Thank you Jesus and thank you Batman!

So if I haven't completely lost you yet, here is Jersey all wrapped up with a bow.

Day 104 (6/23) - Zero Day
I wasn't planning on a zero, but before I got out the door, I finally met Sparrow. Sparrow is also hiking for Active Water and we have kept missing each other on the trail. We grabbed some breakfast and hung out. I was still thinking I could get the 13 miles in I was planning on doing. I had everything packed and just sat in the hostel and felt totally relaxed. I have been wanting a zero day that involved no resupply, no laundry, and no running around. I just want a day to do absolutely nothing. And as more and more hikers rolled in that I actually knew (Steps, Pancake, Frodo, Wall-e, Big Sky, and Diesel), it made today the perfect day to do it. So here is to a day of absolutely nothing! Snookie will have to wait until tomorrow.

Day 105 (6/24) - Delaware Water Gap, PA to Rattlesnake Springs (13.4 mi)
Hello New Jersey! You were hard to get to. I had to fight the temptation to take another zero. I grabbed some breakfast and then attended the church service. It was nice and everyone there was so incredibly welcoming. Afterwards, I was ready to get going but it was lunch time, so I went down and grabbed lunch with everyone. I still wasn't motivated to hike, so I had to just force myself. I grabbed my gear and headed across the Delaware River into Jersey. The park and the trail were crowded with families on this gorgeous day. I had actually hiked 6 miles before I stopped seeing anyone. The trail is still rocky (I was hoping all the rocks would magically disappear). It climbed up along a ridge line and I could see down into a valley into the backs of a bunch of houses. Several of them had pools and I thought to myself what I wouldn't give to go swimming. I pressed on knowing it was going to be near to impossible to get to my campsite before dark since I didn't get on the trail till almost 2. Luckily, I had enough light left to set up camp, but the mosquitoes were so bad I grabbed some non-cook food out of my bag and ate in my tent. I saw 5 deer and 8 rabbits today. I haven't seen any Jersey bears yet and I hope I don't, at least tonight because my food bag is in my tent with me...please socks be stinky enough to scare any and all critters away tonight!

Day 106 (6/25) - Rattlesnake Springs to Gren Anderson Shelter (17.9 mi)
I awoke in the middle of the night to Sparrow yelling. Apparently a bear was right up against his tent sniffing and scared the crap out of him. The bear took off. We were all up at that point laughing about what had happened, especially since only 2 people heard it. I didn't. I was a little nervous since I was sleeping with my food. I don't think a single critter came sniffing around my tent at all last night. Around 6:30 I was awoken by another sound- the sound of a thunderstorm. I tried to ride it out in the tent but finally 8 am came around and I needed to get going. I packed everything away dry for the most part except for my tent. It was soaked. With the combination of the rain and rocks, I felt like I was moving a little slower than usual. After lunch, I was on top of a ridge line, where the sun was shining and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I decided to take advantage of the situation and let my socks and shoes dry out for a little bit. Nothing bothers your feet and toes more than wet socks and shoes and all the rubbing that happens (with the exception of all the rocks). After about an hour, everything was dry and I took off again, setting my sights on getting to a little coffee shop outside of Branchville, right along the trail. By the time I got there it had just closed. But to my delight there was a little tavern just down the road that was supposed to be hiker friendly. I arrived and bought a Dr. Pepper and went out back and let my phone charge for a bit, watching the waves splash around on this beautiful lake that sat right behind the tavern. Since it was taking a bit to charge my phone, I pulled out my cooking gear and fixed my dinner. 7:30 rolled around and I knew I had to get going. I still had 3 miles to hike, so I booked it, making it to the camp site in a little over an hour with just barely any daylight left. The only thing as bad as tearing down a wet tent is setting one up. I was at the tavern for an hour. Why didn't I think to get it out and let it dry. Oh well. I am just going to get a little damp tonight.

Day 107 (6/26) - Gren Anderson Shelter to Murray Farm Cabin (18.4 mi)
It got cold this morning. Huge wind gusts brought the cold air. I zipped myself up in my sleeping bag but it didn't help. On the bright side, the wind dried my wet tent up. I got up and tried to get moving so I could warm up. The weather stayed cool which helped me pump out the miles. The day was full of great views. I have to say I really enjoy New Jersey. It's still rocky, but not as bad as that last stretch of PA. It was a quick 18 miles, which found me getting to the Murray cabin right around 5, which is the earliest I have gotten in this week. It is still pretty chilly out, but hopefully sleeping in this little primitive cabin will help me warm up.

Day 108 (6/27) - Murray Farm Cabin to Vernon, NJ (13.5 mi)
Today had to be the most perfect weather day on the trail. It wasn't too hot and the terrain only caused me to break a sweat only a few times. The theme of today's trail was swampy. The trail wrapped around the Wallkill preserve, where I saw many different types of birds. Many times the trail was made of planks and boards to keep me from hiking in mud and marsh, but my favorite part came right before the end today. The trail actually turned into a boardwalk. For a little over a mile I was walking through a beautiful, scenic swamp on a boardwalk. It was actually really serene. As this section of trail wrapped up, I rewarded myself with a chocolate shake from a farmers market, where several other hikers were doing the same thing. From there it was a quick ride into Vernon to the church hostel. Luckily, it was equipped with a washer and dryer and shower, so I was able to take care of the funk in all aspects. To make the night even better, the church next door was having a community dinner and invited us over so we got a huge meal for free. Afterwards, I did my grocery shopping and relaxed the rest of the night. It was a good hiking day and my feet are thanking me for the low mileage. Tomorrow I will be fully into New York. Jersey was a lot cooler than I expected- great terrain, great views, and boardwalks. If only I would have seen a few more bears.

Day 109 (6/28) - Vernon, NJ to Wildcat Shelter (17.1 mi)
My last day in Jersey started with a little trail magic. Rusty, a section hiker I met yesterday, invited and treated me to breakfast. We had a nice conversation and it was cool hanging out with him. While in the restaurant, I saw the lady who invited us to the church dinner and asked if she knew of anyone who drives hikers back to the trail and she volunteered to drive me herself. So it was back on the trail I went, with a nice big climb ahead of me. The rest of the trail consisted of a lot of big boulder climbing and hopping. I actually felt very slow all day. I made it to the shelter by 8, but still. But halfway through the day, I crossed from the Garden State into the Empire State. 8 states down now. I have to admit I got a little emotional when I got to the border. There was nothing significant about crossing over, but it was a major victory none the less. I guess I still can't believe I have come this far.


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