Friday, August 10, 2012

Fist Pumpin Through Jersey June 30th-July 6th

Just kidding I never fist pumped.  I did, however, wake up the next morning after my two days of hell feeling refreshed and rested.  I had eight miles to get out of Pennsylvania, and I was ready to leave.  Daystar was hiking by 6:30am to make it to the PO - the rest of us took our time.  Pants, Gribley and Lighthouse caught up to us and told us that Towlie, Cheesewater and Slugger weren't too far behind.  We had a lazy morning then tackled the 6 mile trek to Delaware Water Gap (not in Delaware).  Though I had some oatmeal for breakfast, the fact that I didn't have dinner the night before left me starving still.  I had pie on the brain.  I blew past everyone and burst onto the Main St. of DWG excited to eat.  I picked up  DS who had stopped at the church hostel to shower after getting her package, and we headed to the bakery.  This adorable little bakery was totally overwhelming for a starving hiker.  There were so many different pies and delicious treats, I walked away with an entire chocolate pie, a basket of cookies, hot dog and breakfast sandwich.  We sat outside on the picnic tables and waited for Lighthouse, who also wanted to browse the goods.  The three of us sat around this place for a good hour and a half before we finally decided to head back to the center of town and meet everyone.  We happened upon DWG during it's 100th(?) anniversary festival, so the streets were lined with vendors and there were people milling about all over.  If I hadn't had the Jersey plan I would have loved to spend the day here.

Daystar and I at the bakery!
We popped back in at the church hostel so DS could grab her pack, said farewell to Onespeed who was staying there, and headed to the park.  We were all still waiting on Pants and Gribley to get down the mountain (they had apparently gotten a little lost) so DS and I went on a little date at the retro ice cream parlor across the street.  The boys finally made an appearance in the middle of our mint chocolate milkshake.  We gathered up the rest of the troops (we were a troop - Pace, Hungus, Towlie, Cheezewater, Slugger, Jaybird, Lighthouse, Pants, Gribley, Daystar and myself) and hiked the remaining two miles out of wretched PA and into Jersey!  The first two miles of Jersey involved walking on roads and highways, and our first step into Jersey was on the I-80 bridge over the Delaware River.  The 11 of us were a bit of a sight to the cars whizzing past - packs on, dirty and sweating, it probably looked like the homeless uniting and mobilizing.  We could have cared less as we were so excited to get out of PA.  Pace and Hungus's friend Sideshow and Hungus's sister met us around the Kittatinny Visitors Center, where we were whisked away to the Hungus Hidaway.

Crossing into Jersy!

It was about a 45 minute drive back to Hungus and Pace's house, which was pretty centrally located from the AT.  Their house was wonderfully awesome.  Hungus hiked the trail back in 2007 and is hiking again this year with his girlfriend Pace.  The best way to describe them is that they are geninuly good people who live life right.  They had about an acre of land that was beautifully landscaped and a seperate little building where Hungus has an avid hobby of brewing beer (which was delicious).  That night Hungus had organized a party to see his family and friends.  It was so nice to get a glimpse into a fellow hikers life - to get insight into how a trailmate exsists outside the woods seems a rare thing so I'm glad I got this opportunity.  Much drinking (Lighthouse did his first kegstand), disc golf and questionable dancing was had before we all claimed various pass out corners in the house (Slugger went with the bathroom floor).

The next day was a planned zero.  Pace and Hungus went to a family BBQ and trustingly gave us run of the house.  We mostly relaxed and watched movies and took turns cuddling with their awesome cat Moxie, but Jaybird got busy in the kitchen making a giant pile of food for everyone.  Though we were all a bit groggy from the night before, it was so nice to be in a warm home with good food and good friends.  We had three days of slackpacking lined up.  Sideshow was going to be shuttling us back and forth from the strail so we could get in NJ miles while still staying at the house.

Now I know some of you Jersey Shore fans may find this shocking, but the part of northern NJ we were hiking through was gorgeous and fist pump free.  The terrain was easy, the weather was perfect and the views were great.  We got a late start Monday for our first day of slackpacking. As it turns out, it is hard to get 11 people mobilzed in a house with only one bathroom.  We finally got out of the house, but then had to go to the grocery store to get lunches for everyone.  We finally got hiking at 11:30ish and pretty much stuck together until Sunfish Pond.  Here we took a break by a small outcropping full of random rock sculptures hikers had created over the years.  There was a lot of camping around the pond and I would have liked to stay if I wasn't slacking.

The entire family
It was smooth sailing to the Catfish lookout tower, which we climbed and had a beer at the top (when you're not carrying gear you have room for things like beer, and looked it even rhymed).  That first day we finished our 16 mile slackpack at Blue Mountain Lakes Rd. and headed home to a delicious chicken alrefredo dinner Jaybird had conjured up (Hungus's mom had stocked the kitchen to maximum capicity so the theme of the week was 'eat everything you see').  Tuesday and Wednesday were similar, easy hiking (16-18 miles) and coming home to good meals.  Tuesday night Hungus took us to an AYCE sushi buffet, which I had been craving for four months.  We all devoured our raw fish in a happy silence, as slackpacking did not detract from our hiker appetites.

Wednesday was the 4th, we were hoping to get in a little over 18 miles before going home to BBQ.  The terrain was pleasant as we blew past Mashipacong and Rutherford Shelters and entered High Point State Park.  This is where the highest point in NJ lives (they got clever with the name). We paused there to collect our free soda's they hand out to thru hikers, and to watch Secrets create the perfect 4th of July outfit (white underwear with a flag tucked in the front).  We decided to skip the beach and the crowds and continue our stroll to a quiet spot in the woods to have a few beers.  We finished our 4th of July hike, got picked up at NJ 284 near Unionville and went back to Casa de Hungus for a feast.  We had salmon, steak, pulled pork, and of course, some homebrew.  Everyone was actually pretty tired, despite our weightless week of hiking.  Trying to bathe, feed and cart around 11 people in one house is exhausting, but totally worth it.  I'm happy I got to spend some non-trail time with trial friends, and experience the beauty of NJ with people who are from there and truly proud of it.  Not only did Jersey's trail, weather and people agree with me, but it also gave me my closest and largest bear encounter!  On the first day of the slackpack a giant beast of a bear sauntered out onto the trail right in front of me.  I froze and held my breath but it never took notice of me and went about its day.

Thursday we dedicated to getting the house cleaned up, and running everyone around to the grocery/Walmart etc. for resupply for our return to the woods.  We were all going to hike out Thursday night minus Pace and Hungus, who were taking the weekend off to go to Phish.  The rest of us got dropped off at around 5pm at NJ284, where we left off the day before, to do an easy four mile hike to Pochuck Mountain Shelter.  At this point everyone was branching off to carry out various agendas, but most of us had plans to hike 35 miles in a day and a half to NY17, hitch 5 miles to a train station in Tuxedo, NY and catch the noon train to NYC!  Towlie and Cheesewater are from Long Island so they wanted to see friends and family with Slugger along for the ride.  DS used to live in NYC so she wanted to see some friends, as did I, and Pants and Gribley had never been and were excited to go.  Plus it was Gribley's birthday on Saturday, and what better way to celebrate than being in the Big Apple.  Lighthouse and Jaybird were skipping the city and continuing on to Massachusetts.  With the exception of those two, the rest of us were thrilled for our 'vacations' (at this point we no longer consider this trip a vacation, hiking is our job, which we enjoy, but any deviation from it is a vacation).

Friday was looking pretty horrendous, we had 25 miles to do, which included climbs over Pochuck Mountain, Wawayanda Mountain and a rocky four mile ridge past Prospect Rock.  I was the first to reach the top of Wawayanda Mountain and I was exhausted!  This trail was tough and we still had a long way to go.  Our goal was to make Saturday as short as possible so we had time to hitch in and catch the train.  I was no longer happy with this plan of exhausting ourselves. I whipped out the old iPhone and started searching alternate ways to get to NYC from this mountain top I sat on, that didn't involve a death march to the train station. 

Well, 11 miles from where I sat was the Village Vista trail, a one mile blue blaze that plopped you out in the town of Greenwood Lake, NY.  There one could catch an 8:20pm bus to Port Authority.  We could be in NYC that night!  I had spoken to Peach and Overdrive, and this was their plan as well.  As soon as the rest of the troops got up the mountain, I shared with them my new agenda, and it was agreed upon to go into NYC that night.  The next 11 miles felt like a sprint.  The trail was rocky and tough.  We blew past the NJ/NY state line (thanks Jersey!) and flew in silent determination to the Village Vista trail.  The one mile down to the town literally was a sprint, as we got to the bus stop with four minutes to spare. 

We loaded onto the bus smelly, sweaty and dirty from our 19 mile trek that day, but couldn't be more pumped to be heading into the city.  We had plans to drink good coffee, eat good food and go to a party Saturday night that Mr. Fabulous (fellow hiker from NYC) was throwing.  I was also excited to see some of my favorites as well - Annessa and Kyle, who I hadn't seen in quite some time.  Exhausted from our scramble down the mountain, I sat back and relaxed until my arrival in the Big Apple!

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