My Walk in the Woods, Ch 12

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Twelve (June 24th-July 2nd)

Day 78: (NJ)  18 miles from DWG to almost Crater Lake

I have breakfast with the OVER THE HILL GANG then I wait for the post office to open. With my gear packed, I walk across the Delaware River bridge and into New Jersey. I notice an immediate improvement in the trail. It is a cool day with a breeze and I gently climb to nice open views of rolling hills.

When I reach a dirt road I turn and begin what turns out to be a long uphill detour to the Mohican Center Lodge where I purchase 3 measly Mtn Dews. The hilltops have nice views and at one point I climb a fire tower where I take a long break. In the afternoon I see bear #14 in the brush only about 20 yards away. At camp I notice more mosquitos than usual.

Day 79: (NJ)  21 miles to camp on ridge above Rutherford Shelter

Today is a nice day and I get into a slow, relaxed pace. I see bear #15 in the brush (photo) and we exchange greetings. I approach the road at Culver Gap and I see a small bear (#16) run across the road and disappear into the green foliage. When there is a break in the traffic, I follow the bear then walk a short distance down the road to a deli. I order a large italian sub and grab three 20 oz Mtn Dews and sit outside to dine. Before I head back to the trail, I finally remove the filthy, wrinkled wristband from Trail Days. Later in the day I get nice views from Sunrise Mtn and the impressive Culver Fire Tower.

Day 80: (NJ)  23 miles to Vernon church hostel

I am very tired this morning and it is taking a long time to loosen up my legs. The light rain and humidity make me grumpy and I look for any excuse to get off the trail. I hitch to a country store for a sandwich and the friendly employee lets me into the back office so I can access the internet.

At another crossing I easily hitch to another country store. The talkative driver tells me about the church hostel up ahead. My third hitch of the day takes me into Vernon. I meet two other hikers staying in the cavernous basement hostel at the church within blocks of fast food and grocery.

A note next to a recipe filebox informs us to choose a chore from the box to complete during our stay. I eagerly choose to organize folders, magazines and paperwork as a way to exercise my numb brain for a change. Everything is available and orderly: shower, laundry, internet, television, books, music, games. Me and the couple walk to fast food heaven followed by ice cream followed by watching ‘Lost in Space’ episodes in the basement. I spread my sleeping bag out on the carpeted floor and fall into a restful sleep.

Day 81:  21 miles from Vernon to Mombasha High Pt

I get up at 5:30, pack up quietly, leave the church basement and walk over to the A&P for supplies and then next door to a bagel place for breakfast. Just as I step back to the road, the first car that comes along stops to give me a ride. A young dude on his way to work in his crappy car wearing his unwashed overalls complains about his boss for the entire ride. A potent reminder of life off the trail.

There is a lot of tough ridge walking today. At one road crossing I come across a local creamery that is packed with tourists. I stop for some wonderful ice cream and cream soda. I kill some time talking to the cute girls at the next table. At the end of the day I camp away from the mosquitoes on Mombasha High Point and reflect while watching a nice sunset.

Day 82:  17 miles to camp at Black Mtn

I am so freakin tired today but the trail doesn’t care and throws a hard, humid morning at me. There are some exhausting stretches such as the Lemon Squeezer that push me into the red zone.

Salvation arrives in the form of a popular recreational lake/park which has showers and vending machines. Back on the trail away from the crowds I pitch the tent to protect me from bugs and take an afternoon siesta. When I wake up it is cooler and the trail takes me to Black Mtn. I camp near a nice lookout spot and watch a lightning show to the south at nightfall.

Day 83: (NY)  21 miles to camp at Dennytown Rd picnic area

Another tough day. It starts with a big climb up and over Bear Mtn to a popular state park that has long been a get-away for urban vacationers in this area. As I walk through the picnic area I see a large black woman sitting at a table surrounded by food and drink. I decide to use my yogi skills to procure a hand-out. She is an extremely friendly, engaging person who enjoys my company and we wait for the rest of her family to arrive. I excuse myself as their party gets going and I continue my journey with a light heart.

This is a unique section of trail. Believe it or not, the trail travels through a small zoo. It is a bit sad to see bears behind bars after seeing so many in the wild. After exiting the zoo there is a busy bridge crossing the Hudson River. I continue on concrete sidewalk to Ft Montgomery where I make a sidetrip to my first authentic NY deli. A big italian sub gives me a boost through an afternoon thunderstorm.

I hike late into the evening to a lonely picnic area where I camp in the grass. A light rain continues as I watch from my tent.

Day 84: (NY)  20 miles from picnic area to Morgan Stewart Shelter

I am slow to get going again today. The highlight of this mundane day is a long sidetrip along a lonely road to a deli in sleepy Stormville. A very hiker friendly place, I receive a massive sandwich along with my ubiquitous soda. I take my gear around the back to a lawn where I dry out. More road walking followed by an easy four trail miles to the shelter

Day 85:  21 miles to Schaghticoke Mtn

An unremarkable day punctuated by one delightful interpersonal experience with Bradley the Hot Dog Vendor. Bradley has his Winnebago parked at a rest stop where the trail crosses a divided roadway. He retired a few years ago, bought the RV and now spends his summers selling hot dogs, chips and drinks out of his window to hikers and motorists. Bradley clearly loves people and he wants to know all about where I am from and what I do. An outstanding example of the wonderful characters I meet on this journey.

Day 86: (CT)  6 miles to Kent, CT

It is a short hike to the town of Kent. The last mile I cruise along a country road and pass an impressive ivy covered prep school. In this neat and clean town I check out the outfitter store then have breakfast at the market counter. After stopping at the post office I call Joe Rush who is good friends with my personal training client in Eugene. He arrives shortly and gives me a ride to his lovely home in New Milford, CT.

Joe and wife Lee are the quintessential uppercrust New Englanders. They are also fantastic hosts and I have a pleasant, restful stay in this sleepy town. Their friends Gil and Nancy come over for dinner and everyone is fascinated by my stories and they ask questions until late in the evening.

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