I slept horribly last night. It was surprisingly cold, and I had to get out of my tent at 1am to pee. I might have done it in the church parking lot out of sheer laziness. I tossed and turned until about 6am. Then I had another special breakfast oatmeal care of my steady while standing around the picnic table with two fellows named cujo and highlander (a Scottish guy who wears a kilt). So many food treats the last 2 days. My cousin sent a pear and an avocado, and my former partner sent the perfect apple.
After breakfast, I went through my breakdown chores and came to terms with the weight of my food bag. Even after sharing a lot of my goodies with other people, I think it weighs like 10 pounds. I was afraid to put on my fully loaded pack, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Must be desensitized to the overload.
Sadly Halfway has decided to stay another day. His shin is still in bad shape and he can barely put weight on his leg. Chrissy is moving on and jimmy is somewhere ahead of us. I heard a bunch of the others contemplating a night at the Mohican camping center. I hadn’t given it much thought (gasp), but I decided that 11 miles seemed like a conservative move for my still puffy ankle. Buzzcut and I were ready at nearly the same time. I had to take a few minutes to prep my feet, so she left before me. Can’t give short shrift to foot prep! I said goodbye to halfway before I left. I’m going to miss his goofy grin and our giggle fits.
I headed back towards the dear head inn and hung a left to follow the trail to the bridge that hugs the Delaware river. It was a loud and long road walk that felt both triumphant (BYE PA. won’t miss you.) and crusty because of the road noise. The bridge shook under me as I stopped to get this shot:
The trail heads down to a local road that passes kittatinny point visitors center and then cuts underneath the highway over to worthington state forest. My feet were really unhappy with the asphalt walking and it was a relief to finally turn into the woods. The trail runs alongside dunnfield. Creek for a little while and the surface was soft and wide with a smattering of smooth rocks. Heaven for my feet.
I ran into buzzcut about 20 minutes into the woods. Lo and behold, I have finally found someone with a relatively similar pace. AND that someone happens to be very enjoyable to talk to. We walked together for the rest of the day, talking on and off and getting slightly farther apart during the especially rocky sections where I slow down to molasses pace. Shortly after running into her, I did a cheesy thing and asked for a high 5 to celebrate finishing PA because I was alone at the state line on the bridge. Buzzcut obliged with a laugh and a smile.
My ankle was doing pretty well until I stepped off of a log funny while trying to get off the trail for a bathroom break. I decided that I couldn’t give halfway a hard time for not taping his shin and then avoid taping my ankle, so I plopped down on a nice flat rock and taped the outside of my ankle. I think it helped. At the very least, it felt psychologically stabilizing. I caught up with buzzcut during her break and decided to join her even though i felt very aware of crowding her since she’s used to hiking alone (bc she’s slower than her current group, like me). We discussed the unfortunate events at the bar the other night, and I shared my experience of feeling comforted by Zach’s presence as another gay person.
Shortly after our break, I heard a rustle off to my right and saw a large gray black snake. It moved a few feet into the brush and then raised up to wait. I took a picture but it’s so camouflaged that it just looks like a stick. A little while later, this guy was hanging out off to my left. Bigger and bolder than the first snake.
The area around this pond was also a popular place for snakes.
Buzzcut spotted one at the water’s edge while we tried to navigate the akimbo boulders around the pond. At one point we missed a blaze and ended up on a parallel trail that was much easier to navigate. Being relatively obedient thru hikers, we got back on the rocky mess and continued north.
About an hour later, we pulled off into one of few shady flat spots covered in pine needles and ate lunch. Buzzcut pulled out a bag of salad and asked if I wanted to share it with her. SALAD. WITH KALE. she bought it at Walmart the day before and had intended to eat it last night. I nearly died with joy when i bit into my tuna wrap with kale, cranberries, and pecans (from the salad bag packet of notions). No Fritos required today. In an attempt to repay her, I offered up one of the dried figs that my mom and stepdad included in my resupply box. This is high currency to me, but it felt only fitting given the sheer joy of eating my wrap.
Then the trail led us onto an exposed ridge with a great view of Pennsylvania to our left and New Jersey to our right. Very shortly, we dipped back down into scattered tree cover and dealt with increasingly rocky terrain. My pace slowed enough for buzzcut to pull out of sight, so we had some alone time until we got to the turn off for the Mohican outdoor center. Earlier in the afternoon, i had mentioned that I was trying to settle on the idea of 11 miles being good enough for today. In my mind, I should be increasing my mileage now and the weather was absolutely gorgeous today. Buzzcut expressed interest in maybe adding mile to her day to get to a campsite north of Mohican. when we got to the outdoor center we had snacks and conferred about where to stop for the day. I also got a bag of ice from the snack bar and took the opportunity to put my feet up for a few minutes. Chrissy happened to still be at the OC and was debating her own endpoint. She had her sights set on a tent site farther up the road, but I had no desire to get into camp after 6p yet again. Neither did buzzcut. So we decided to end our day a little to the north and chrissy would make her own plan.
I filled up on water before we headed out. I must really be getting used to a heavy pack; the extra water weight didn’t feel as bad as I expected. The 3 of us left together. It felt strange to be in a group of hikers with no men. Non-male hikers are definitely the minority out here. I enjoyed the change in energy and the fact that there were no men around which we were expected to focus or humor or make bids for their attention.
Chrissy pulled ahead on the climb almost immediately, and I felt annoyed with myself for not being able to keep up with her. I tried to get back into my body and my experience and let it go. It was only the second time all day that I’d traveled down judgment lane. The first being when I couldn’t keep up with buzzcut on the rockier sections. I let chrissy and buzzcut go ahead of me and stopped to make my commemorative pile of ferns.
The 300 mile mark was actually a few miles before this point, but I totally spaced because I was preoccupied with trying to not hurt myself on rocks while also chiding myself for being so slow. Not long after I made my little sculpture, the trail hugged the side of the ridge and gave me this view:
I got to the campsite around 530 and found chrissy and buzzcut surveying the area with their packs still on. Chrissy really wanted to push on but she also didn’t want to camp alone at a site that was so close to a road, so she stayed with us. It was a tight squeeze but we made it work. I was hoping for east/west views, but I’m glad we don’t have them because it’s really windy tonight. Without the west facing tree cover, we would be in a wind tunnel.
We set up our tents and made dinner. Hung our food on one bear line (and did it with more efficiency than trying to do it with the help of jimmy). We have a hair brained plan to wake up at 3 in the morning to pack up and hike out before the rain starts. That way we don’t have to pack wet tents and we especially don’t have to pack wet tents in the rain on the side of a partially exposed ridge. We will see how that works. For now I am going to go to sleep to the sound of the wind whipping through the trees and a whiporwhil that just decided to pick up the microphone.
Mile 1293.6 to mile 1305.8 (12.2)
Total miles: 302.6