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
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.
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.