Jersey…only the strong survive.

Fellow hiker 'Steamboat'

Fellow hiker 'Steamboat'

Seriously. If you aren’t being eaten by a bear you are quite possibly drowning in the fast flowing creeks that used to be the Appalachian Trail. This crazy rain on the east coast has completely waterlogged the trail. Today I came to what was once a small creek crossing. The wooden bridge was about 100 feet down ‘river’ swept away by newly formed class III rapids. To cross, I had to find a calm spot and wade across in waist-deep current. Boardwalks intended to keep hikers out of the water in boggy areas are now completely submurged themselves! Today was by far the wettest day I’ve ever had on the trail. In the morning I was tip-toeing around the copious amounts of puddles until about 10 minutes later when I said “forget it”…or something like that… and walked in soggy shoes for the next eight hours.

Back to bears, I have unfortunately not seen one yet in New Jersey, but other thru-hikers have all had sightings. My friend Phoenix saw three yesterday! One was only 10ft from the trail picking blueberries and didn’t even flinch when he saw him. Needless to say, Phoenix quickly moved along.

Despite the wetness, I love New Jersey. It really is a beautiful part of the trail and I hate to say for any

Sunfish pond in New Jersey, the Southern-most glacial pond in the U.S.

Sunfish pond in New Jersey, the Southern-most glacial pond in the U.S.

lovers of Pennslyvania out there, the A.T. is much better in Jersey. Better maintained, more interesting ridgetop views, glacier lakes, and best of all, less rocks. I am SO glad to be finished with Rocksylvania, the state formely known to me as Pennsylvania. To get an idea of the trail in Rocksylvania, imagine someone made a trail in the woods then took three hundred million grapefruit sized rocks and scattered them throughout the trail. This apparently has something to do with glaciers melting and refreezing over the last millinea but I’m skeptical. It seems like a consipiracy because the trail magically became much more tolerable in New Jersey.

Palmerton, PA rock scramble

Palmerton, PA rock scramble. Yes, I scrambled up from the road.

One fun part of the rockiness of Rocksylvania was the climb out of Palmerton, PA. After spending the night in the old ‘jail’ of Palmerton (the city converted it to a free hiker hostel), thru-hikers get their first taste of a real rock scramble. Because of a zinc smelting plant near town, the entire mountainside in now bereft of any trees and wildlife. The EPA has classified it as a super-something site. i.e. lets throw lots of money at the problem and try new techniques to grow trees in a polluted area. But to me the ‘dead’ mountainside makes for wonderful, perhaps the only, views in Rocksylvania. I thought it was kind of fun. Come’on Rocksylvania! You should have more zinc smelting plants.

Kidding aside, I’m glad I enjoyed this section of the trail because I hear there are more rock scrambles, albeit natural ones, in New Hampshire and Maine.

Tonight I’m staying in Unionville, NY with ‘Phoenix’ (former Lockheed engineer from Springfield, VA) and Steamboat (former journalist from Steamboat Springs, CO). We were in New Jersey, left the trail and walked a half mile west into this NY border town. Dick, the former mayor of 12 years in Unionville, has been welcoming thru-hikers in his home for a few years now. Completely based on word of mouth, there is no sign or advertisement in the trail guide. I heard about it from other hikers on the trail. So we walk up to his house and he invites us in, does our laundry, orders us pizza, and gives us free reign to his fridge stocked with beer and soda! What an awesome guy! He says he has three rules: 1) we are supposed to make ourselves at home 2) we are not allowed to do dishes 3) we are charged 25 cents for every word we say that is over three syllables. Hmm…I like this place.

Delaware Water Gap, PA had a business with a striking similarity to my trail name: Bo-Tangles Hair salon!

Delaware Water Gap, PA had a business with a striking similarity to my trail name: Bo-Tangles Hair salon!

New Jersey ridgline view of a lake below.

New Jersey ridgline view of a lake below.

After 1100 some miles, my shoes finally died and were replaced by a second pair.

After 1100 some miles, my shoes finally died and were replaced by a second pair.


11 Responses to Jersey…only the strong survive.

  1. Yoder says:

    I wish more people lived on that three syllables rule!

    You’re awesome, Preston! Can’t wait to read more about your trip!

  2. Liz Anderson says:

    Finally some nice words about New Jersey, thanks Preston! I didn’t even realize the trail went through Jersey.

    Good luck on the rest of the hike. I feel for you with all this rain we are having recently.

  3. Kacie Linegar says:


    Thanks for the update! Remember. . .if you see a bear, run in jagged lines. Or is that for a croc? oh well, try it out anyway and report back to me on how it goes ;)

  4. tim smith says:

    wow great update. i also just learned NJ had the AT go through it.

    i bet you wish u had one of my knives now with all those bear stalking u… sidebar: standard issue marine fighting knives are ka-bar knives which in some kentuckian dialect is short for “kill-a-bear”.

  5. Christy says:

    I wonder if they give free beard removals at BoTangles? Check it out!

  6. Stephanie Harris says:

    I as well am happy to hear good words about New Jersey, especially since I grew up near the area you were in. Its true only the strong survive!! :)

  7. Jeff & Lois says:

    Hey Preston,
    Hurray for new shoes!! Now you’ll be able to outrun the bear…or just throw rocks at it. Oh, no, that was PA, sorry.

    Stay safe!! We love ‘ya!

  8. Brando says:

    did you find fairview lake and stay there for a night?

  9. Jeff says:

    Are you really on the AT, or are you in Argentina? The game is up, come clean…

  10. Parker says:

    Pressy… I wish I could have been there as you pondered the river crossing, if only so I could have said my staple, “I hear what you’re saying, but I think you’re wrong.” Kudoz to your good travel instincts. Keep the posts coming… I feel like I’m on the trail when I read your blog!

  11. Denny says:

    What’d you do with the old shoes?

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