Today I woke at 5:30, watched the sun rise, then went back to the tent. I woke again at 7:15 and started packing, and by the time I was eating breakfast in my tent, Tandem and Mio were taking down their sleeping quarters. They sat in the warm sun and had their coffee and tea.
We hiked out later than usual at 9:15. We covered some good mileage, despite the continuing rocks, and covered nine miles by noon. We stopped for lunch on a low road, then found out when we hiked to the top of the hill afterward that there were big flat rocks and a view. My fault.
Tandem and Mio took off after that, and I enjoyed some alone time hiking. I turned on some music and sucked on some Werthers. I also saw a young deer eating just off the trail.
I found Tandem napping in the warm sun on Rattlesnake Mountain. We rested for 15 minutes while she napped some more, then headed down hill to the Brink Road shelter for water where we caught up with Mio. After filling up, we continued toward Branchville, NJ. Our plan was to camp on the side of the trail within .5 mile of the town and restaurants, which we plan to hit in the morning for breakfast and charging. Tandem and I led due to Mio’s hurt ankle and found a flat campsite just west of the trail and .4 miles from Joe to Go, who has a reputation for hating hikers!
I need to stop scratching my left leg on the rocks.
Today was a 16 mile day.
I woke up to stuff sacks rustling and tent poles clacking. I knew that my hiking companions were eager to get to some commercial coffee! We packed quickly and left our throw-down campsite at 7:00.
Mio mentioned hearing and seeing a bear on the hillside by the campsite late last night, but he hadn’t wanted to wake us for it. We hiked the .4 miles down to Branchville and turned right to go to the Jumboland Diner. That ended up being a longer walk than we expected, so we crossed the road to hitch back. Luckily a pickup truck pulled over immediately, and we rode back to Joe to Go by the trail.
The Joe to Go store has a reputation on Whiteblaze as being mean to hikers. We were prepared. We placed our packs on the bench outside as the sign instructed and went inside. Except for a local reading the paper, we were the only customers. We went to the counter, and Larry took our orders for bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, which came with a free 12-ounce coffee.
I grabbed a Coke, we paid, and took our food outside to eat on the hiker bench. The sandwiches were great, and Mio had a second. Tandem wanted another coffee, but was afraid to face Larry to ask for the one that I didn’t get with my sandwich. Mio stepped up and got her a second coffee for his second sandwich. Larry was very agreeable and gave us no flack.
The hiking today was rocky, which is supposed to decrease thirty miles after Unionville. We stopped for water and a snack after three miles at the Gren Anderson shelter. At the spring, Mio fashioned a stick to create a water falloff for filling containers.
We had lunch at the Mashipacong shelter. There were three gallon jugs of water in the bear box, so we drank freely. We left there at 13:00 with 12.5 miles to go to the “secret cabin” on the Murray property in Unionville. We made good time and got to the High Point State Park by 15:30. We plugged in our phones and batteries and dried our sweaty clothes. Timon came in shortly behind us. We each got a cold soda from the Ranger in the office which had been donated for through hikers that sign a logbook.
We left there at 16:00 under threatening overcast skies with seven miles to go. There was a big climb to the top of the mountain in the “high point” park, which, as it turns out, is the highest point on the AT in New Jersey. Halfway up, it started to sprinkle hard enough to put on pack covers. It started to pour, but we had just reached the wooden tower on top, so we were able to stay dry underneath.
When it stopped raining I led us out, but the dense, unkempt bushes and trees soaked my clothes. We dropped quickly toward the trail to the High Point, and Mio was stung by a wasp, which made us move even more quickly. From that point forward, the trail was mostly downhill and flat. I had fallen to the back by a half mile as my hiking buddies were eager to get to the cabin before it filled up. The trail wove through short leaf pines, and the smell reminded me that I was now in the north.
Another reminder of being up north were all of the stone walls that the trail passes through.
I crossed a couple of stiles on my through grassy farmlands, which left my boots soaking wet, and paused by a quiet old pond on the back side of a farm property.
After crossing a few roads, I arrived at the gravel road to the secret cabin on the Murray property. Mio had left his poles pointing toward the cabin .2 miles away. I arrived at the porch to find Tandem, Mio, and four other hikers discussing issues with planned gardens in downtown New York. Forrester Gump and Studebaker were the other thru hikers there with us.
Tandem, Mio, Forrester Gump, and I threw our air pads on the flat tiled floor in the new-feeling cabin. Tandem was questioning whether to stay in the cabin versus her hammock — until it started lightening and thundering. She will probably trash her Therm-A-Rest air pad, which definitely does have a leak.
We each showered in lukewarm water outside of the property owner’s cabin then made dinner on the porch in the waning light. There were two section hikers staying there who had brought eight servings of stew with them, so they shared it with us. We also had pasta.
Forrester Gump, Mio, and I sat on the porch with our backs to the wall watching the lightening dance across the sky and discussing Forrester’s life in army intelligence and his PTSD. That is why he is thru hiking the AT. His knees are rebuilt after war injuries but still pain him.
We all retired to reading and surfing for about 30 minutes before dozing off. Today was a 22 mile day, but tomorrow will be short due to our plans to watch the soccer match.