It was warm last night. My legs stuck together when I laid down to go to sleep, and I was sweating every time I woke up in the night. Just a little taste of what’s to come with the consistent heat of summer around the corner. I could hear halfway stirring in my tent as I got out of bed to hobble my way toward a semi private spot for cat hole time. Pooping in the woods continues to be a strange experience. There’s something more interactive about covering it with dirt relative to the ease of pushing a lever to flush a toilet.
After being one with the dirt, I wrestled with the clump of knots jimmy used to tie off our bear bags. Ate a quiet breakfast sitting on a log and standing every so often to give my tailbone a break. It continues to do well walking and poorly sitting. Chrissy emerged from her tent, and we sat in silence with our respective oatmeals. I had designs on getting to Delaware water gap in time to get my mail, so I didn’t dally after breakfast. Left camp around 730 and proceeded over the rocks at a snails pace with tender feet.
About a mile into the day, I stepped down on a pointy rock with my right heel and felt a pain shoot up into the outside of my ankle. I felt so confused by the path of the pain. If I hit the rock with my heel, why did it hurt in my ankle?? I slowed my pace and became even more selective about my foot placement. I could feel my ankle and outside of my foot swelling in my shoe, but I didn’t stop to look at it. Best just to keep walking and not freak myself out. The pain subsided to a dull ache and I tried to focus on maintaining a normal gait so I didn’t strain something by overcompensating. Needless to say, my pace became even more glacial. I had no clue how I was going to make it through 11 more miles.
Halfway passed me about an hour after the ankle incident. We groused about our ailments (his shin has not gotten better) and then he pulled ahead. I saw him again about 30 minutes later sitting on a log looking droopy. He got up to get water and I took his spot on the log to inspect my ankle. I checked for bruising and didn’t see any, which I took as a good sign.
About 10 minutes later, we hit a section of the trail called wolf rocks. The owner of the hostel we stayed at in schuylkill haven had talked about this spot as if we might not escape with all of our limbs, but it turned out to be a nap compared to crossing knife edge. Here are a couple of pictures from the top.
After wolf rocks, the trail was flat and sparsely populated with rocks. I felt so relieved to be able to walk without having to be hyper vigilant about where to put my foot every single step. There wasn’t much air moving at that point in the day and the tree cover grew sparser, but the ease of the terrain made up for the steaminess. Around 11, I ran into halfway geeking out over the maps at a trailhead near a road crossing. We ended up taking a long break at the kitteridge shelter.
I got water at the spigot down a short trail that leads to a private retreat center and rinsed the salt crystals off my face. I decided to eat an early lunch there. It felt so good to sit in the shade, and it seemed wise to eat in comfort rather than standing in the middle of the trail in the sun. Two NOBO hikers cruised in at a fast clip and ate a snack as well. A fellow named penguin and another guy named a-pick. Penguin shared some wisdom about taking time for injuries to heal and his pop tart eating strategy. Deep thoughts we hikers have.
After lunch, my calves and sad ankle felt very stiff from having been still for so long. I walked along feeling spaced out and tired and didn’t notice the giant black snake in front of me on the trail until it moved. Thankfully it was just a black racer (or possibly a rat snake? I still can’t tell the difference). It slithered across the trail and into the brush. I was too surprised to get a picture of it, not that snakes photograph very well because they are freakishly camouflaged. That woke me up a bit, and of course made all the curvy sticks look like snakes for a little while.
Halfway caught up with me about 20 minutes after I left him at the shelter. We started talking about past lives and past jobs, but his pace was too fast so I said if you want me to hear your story you’re going to have to slow down (which I honestly think he should have been doing anyway because of his shin, but he’s stubborn). So he slowed down and we walked together the rest of the way into Delaware water gap, which was nearly three hours. We covered each of our past jobs, counseling/therapy history (as clients), his burning man experiences and my banjo camp experiences and the deep friendships forged out of each, and communication challenges he faces in his current relationship. It felt really great to have compatible company and to be distracted by the heat and drudgery of the rocky stretches.
The descent into Delaware water gap was long but beautiful. The trail takes you down the side of the mountain facing the river and winds through rhododendron thickets. It also crossed this stream that made me feel like we were in the jungle because of the light and the rhododendron. That’s chrissy filtering water.
She ran out of water earlier in the afternoon and halfway and i happened to come along when she was worried about dehydration. I gave her some of my water to hold her over until the stream. Apparently someone she met at the hiker festival had just gone to the hospital for severe dehydration.
When we got to town we dragged ass over to the church of the mountain hostel where we intended to stay for the night (and possibly 2 nights if we take a zero tomorrow to give our various ailments a rest). Its a donation based hostel that sits on a hill in downtown DWG. The hostel is in the basement of the church, which is ground level and not as dreary as it sounds. You’re also allowed to tent outside on the grounds. Halfway was exhausted and in pain. He took one look at the place and said where else can we stay. I didn’t want to spend money on a hotel. Having said that, the prospect of having my own space and laundry was pretty tempting, but I also wanted to be immersed in the hiker culture at the hostel. Halfway looked miserable when I said I wanted to stay at the hostel, so I caved and agreed to hotel it. We booked a double room at the pocono inn about a half mile away.
Before leaving, I ran over to the post office and picked up my mail. The size of the stack of packages the portal worker brought out was comical. I got stuff from all of my parents, my former partner, my steady, my cousin and a letter from a good friend in California. So much love. So much food! Also, a bit of a tangent, but the gardens in dwg are impressive and in full bloom right now. Here are a few samples:
A shuttle driver named kenny, who is often around at the hostel, gave us a ride to the hotel. As soon as I saw the outside, I knew we’d made a bad choice. It looked like an abandoned motel out of a horror movie. Due to flooding, half the rooms were under construction and the rooms in service were dingy. I would rather have slept in my tent and we were all in agreement that we would not be staying there a second night.
We showered and put on laundry in the dungeon laundry room with machines from 1982. I got ice from the front desk and halfway and i iced our legs. Remember zach? Well he took his first zero in DWG so I got to see him! Sadly it involved a 20 minute walk of varying degrees of safety along the side of the road to a biker bar. Halfway stayed close to the hotel while chrissy and I ventured to the bar. I would never have bothered with that kind of outing (bar? loud. walk? ouch. timing? too late for me), but I knew it would be the only way to see Zach. It was quite the experience for multiple reasons. The place itself was forgettable but they had a fun menu that was displayed in hand type on index cards near the bar area. The crowd was tattooed and grizzled. I put on my blinders when I walked in and tried not to noticed how people were staring. Maybe it was my sweet outfit? Because my clothes were in the dryer when we left, I wore my camp shorts (blue nylon running shorts) and my raincoat with nothing underneath.
Zach was beside himself with joy to see me (he was also a few drinks deep and hadn’t eaten enough that day). I sat next to him and another guy whose name I’m going to omit for reasons that will be obvious. Zach and I had a good time catching up. He told me about getting his trail name, which is French dip (he apparently went to down eating it with a spoon and grossed out everyone in camp). At some point, dude to my left, who was wasted beyond belief, said to Zach and me, “so you’re homosexual right” and I knew whatever was about to come out of his mouth could not be good. He proceeded to “try to get to know us” by saying in various incoherent ways that he was uncomfortable with gay people but really wanted to learn more and since there were two of us near him now he wanted to ask us about our relationship experience. Zach and I both bristled and, as diplomatically as possible, told him that our sexuality has no bearing on our relationship experience because we are whole people. Not merely “homosexuals.” Which is a word that no gay person of our generation would use because it’s clinical and othering. Dude bro got defensive and spoke over us. He got even more defensive when Zach tried to explain the concept of straight privilege to him. Then dude bro said he was offended and all this other BS that I don’t have the energy to get into. I couldn’t really believe any of it was happening and I finally said hey, I don’t want to educate you, you’re not listening, and I definitely don’t want to have to take care of your feelings in this conversation where you are treating me like a freak who makes you uncomfortable. So Zach and I left. We walked arm in arm down the road replaying the conversation and feeling horrified for ourselves and also confused as to what dude bro was even trying to say.
Zach came back to the pocono inn to see how drab and ridiculous it was. We gave halfway a rendition of our experience at the bar. He was moderately supportive, but somewhat disengaged. Then chrissy came back and we told her the story. She went the route of trying to defend dude bro and his experience. I shut her down immediately. Then she downplayed our experience by questioning our feeling that dude bro was being homophobic. Needless to say it was not helpful. Zach and I had words about it over text after he left. Now I’m going to go to sleep and try not to kick chrissy in her sleep.
Mile 1281.9 to mile 1293.6 (11.7)
Total miles: 290.4
Creature feature: I saw two deer this morning right before the ankle incident. I also saw a black and white striped warbler in the rhododendron near dwg. Such a cute little guy.