June 12. Happy Birthday to my wife Amy! I woke up in my tent this morning in the back lawn of the local tavern…guess there is a first time for everything! The tent spot was free, which was nice, but the thing about sleeping behind a tavern is that it is too easy to stay at the bar until late and just walk out back and go to sleep, and that is what I did. I had a burger and beer on my own, caught up on some things, then when I was getting ready to head out back and go to bed at a decent hour a local guy offered to buy me a drink. I turned down the shot but went with the beer. I stayed in the bar until almost midnight talking and hanging out with a lively crowd. It was really hopping for a weeknight, I was impressed! I went out back and set up my tent and until everyone left and the bar shut down I could hear music and people having a good time. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. I was still up and moving by 5:30 though and heading back to the trail by 6. The trail this morning took a walk through a nature preserve, a big swamp area. It was early in the morning and really quiet and I had the opportunity to watch a doe and two fawns walk across the marsh, eating and playing in the water. That was pretty cool! I hiked on through the morning but by 11 AM I was not feeling well. My feet hurt, my pack was heavy with 4 days of food, and I had already gone to the bathroom in the woods 4 times! I stopped at a farm store 0.1 miles off the trail and ordered a 3 scoop cup of ice cream and a root beer. Lots of hikers came pouring in behind me and the lady running the store warned us that the forecast for the afternoon was rain storms and she invited us to hang out and stay dry in their pavalion as long as we wanted. I had only hiked 10 miles and I didn’t want to stop but rain made me think twice. We had noticed a sign for a church hostel down the street, it said “3 miles down the road, the church closest to Burger King.” Now that is some hiker targeted marketing! Unfortunately, with the New Jersey hitch hiking laws (it is illegal) and the rain and a 3 mile walk on the road, Burger King was not enough to entice us. I headed out and made the 5 miles to the next shelter by 3 PM. It was raining a little and I had a choice…stop there and relax for the afternoon in a dry shelter, or press on and make the next shelter 12 miles away. I decided to move on and started pushing it. I hit the New Jersey/New York state line and was happy about that, but now I was on the top of boulders and the rain and wind was really moving in. A note about the rocks. After PA the rocks never stopped…and the start of New York was on the top of a mountain of rocks! I don’t know if I will ever get away from them! With the wind and rain the rock scramble/boulder hopping was a bit dangerous. I had to throw my poles up a few times and pull myself up ledges with my hands. It was more like climbing through a kids jungle gym at the school playground. I slipped and fell several times and this section was not one of my favorites for sure. What made it worse is that I thought I could make the next shelter before dark hiking 3 miles an hour. With this tough trail I was not going near that fast and I started worrying about losing daylight. When I hit some flat sections I started trail running and ended up making it to the shelter a little after 7. I had enough light to set up my tent, get water, eat dinner, and pass out! It was around a 28 mile day and I was exhausted!
June 13. It poured rain last night! Sometime after I fell asleep I woke up to rain dumping on my tent, and the good news is that the new tent held up and kept me dry! Everything else was wet in the morning…it was one of those mornings when the dripping trees made you think it was still raining but the foggy haze remided you that you were just in the clouds and the trees were covered in water. I packed up and started hiking. I was tired from the day before so I had a slow start and as soon as I hit the trail it was back to boulder climbs and dealing with slick rocks. It was a long morning. Yesterday on some of the tough rocks and boulders there had been blue blazed sections around as an easier trail. Most AT hikers stick to the white blaze, but in storms or if you don’t want to take the hard rocks there is another option. In the morning I ran into a 69 year old guy who stayed at the shelter the night before. We were at a white blaze/blue blaze intersection. He said some other hikers had told him that the trail up ahead was rough and he decided he was going to take the blue blaze trail. We parted ways and as I was on the white blaze trail I noticed that it kept curving away from the blue blaze trail, and that it was actually an easy section of trail, no need for a go around. I pulled out my guide book and figured out that the guy had most likely taken a 5 mile side trail to a lookout tower. Oh no. I felt bad…I dropped my pack and ran back the quarter mile or so I had done and started running down the trail he took. The blue blaze trail was very rocky and I couldn’t run fast but I went a good ways and called out his name a few times. I had no idea how far he had gone and the trail kept going down and my pack was laying beside another trail so I reluctantly turned back. I hoped later on that he had figured out it wasn’t a connector trail and made it back to the AT, or that he at least enjoyed the view from the lookout when he got there. The trail did get more rocky and I scrambled over some boulder sections where I had to throw my poles up and pull myself up with my arms. It was physically challenging and mentally though and zapped my energy. Around lunch I came to some signs for “B Team Trail Magic” and picked up the pace I reached the parking lot and found 3 guys with a tent and chairs set up, taking care of hikers. They said they had a couple of friends a day behind us and every year when their friends do a section hike these guys come along and give trail magic. I had 5 pancakes, sausage, eggs, and 2 sodas. It had been one of those mornings and I ended up staying at the trail magic for well over an hour. I decided it was time to move on and made my was up the hill and through the “Lemon Squeezer”, a section where I barely fit through between two boulders, let alone me and my backpack! When I reached the next shelter around 4:30 PM I stopped, looked at the book, and called it a day. I had been dragging the past couple of days and thought it might be best to take an evening off. All in all it was 15 miles over some pretty tough terrain. I hoped to get some rest and get up early the next morning with some good energy! I went to bed after 8 PM and the sky was still bright. Yesterday it started getting dark before 6 because of the rain. I think the lesson there is I should have stopped early yesterday and hiked a longer day today in the nice weather…but oh well!