Hello everyone, sorry for the delay in blog updates. We’ve been severally limited by the lack of computers/libraries and time. Many public libraries only allow 1/2 hr to 1 hr on the computer and I like to include lots of details in my blog post. But I’ve decided in an effort to get as up to date as possible, I will be doing summaries/highlights of sections.
New Jersey was a fairly short state (only 72.2 miles) but we hit it during a big heat wave. The terrain was fairly easy with some rocks of Pennsylvania spilling over into the beginning of New Jersey. This is the ATC description of NJ: “Elevation changes are generally moderate and vary from relatively flat and gentle to short, steep, rocky pitches. Other sections cross bogs and wetlands, including a wildlife sanctuary that features a wide spectrum of bird species.” Unlike PA, where we did not enjoy 75% or more of the state, I would say NJ was about 50/50. Had we hit the state in a less buggy and hot time of the year, I think I would’ve enjoyed the hiking more.
I never thought mosquitos would be something that would drive me so totally and completely insane but they did. No matter how much Deet you sprayed and no matter what percentage the Deet was, you got big somewhere. I had many mosquito bites around my ankles just above my socks, my shoulders around my clothes, and my hair-line on my neck and forehead. I can see now how hikers get West Nile Virus or other mosquito-borne illnesses. There’s just no way to stop the biting. There were days that I could see swarms of mosquitos around Bottle Cap’s and Waffles’ heads and I’m sure they were around mine as well. A mosquito head net was the only thing that kept me sane and there were many times I contemplated buying a ridiculous full body bug net. The heat and humity were also very miserable and kept the bug numbers high. We walked through many swampy pond areas and rocky areas and PUD-dy areas.
As I stated before, NJ was not all bad. We were greeted into the state with Trail Magic from a group called Hike For Mental Health. They are trying to raise awareness and fundraise for mental health research. They had a large barbecue and cake and cookies and beer and all sorts of goodies that hikers love. We got to stay in an awesome hiker hostel in Vernon, NJ. It was a church basement and we slept on the floor, but they had a great Disney movie selection. We also got to stop in and eat at several delis along the way. There were also lots of picnic benches and fire towers. One of my favorite areas was High Point State Park. It’s located at the high point in NJ and they have a lake and concession stand. They also let thru-hikers camp in the park for free. The people of New Jersey were very nice also. They have a more abrasive way of speaking than in the South but once you can get passed that they are very nice. Natural water sources were hard to come by but that was never an issue. Many trail angles in New Jersey allowed hikers to use water at their house or set up water caches are road crossings. So it lightened our load when it came to carrying water. On our last day we got to see another bear.
The peak of the heat wave occurred while we were in New York. We hit several 90 and 100 degree days with 90% humidity. It was another relatively short state with only 88.4 miles According to the ATC: “Elevation changes are generally moderate and vary from relatively flat and gentle to short, steep rocky pitches. Natural water sources are scarce and sometimes polluted.” Looking back to New York, it was very similar to New Jersey. I enjoyed the trail about 50/50 but might’ve enjoyed it more if it were the peak of summer heat. The state also started out very bouldery. We were hiking up and over boulders 20 feet high (sometimes with the use of ladders) and then down 20 feet and then up 20 feet for about 10 miles. It was very exhausting. But after that exhausting day, Bottle Cap, Waffles and I got picked up by my parents to go into NYC. It was cool to walk around the city and we got a chance to visit the 9/11 memorial. I wish we could’ve had more time but hiking must continue. After NYC the heat exploded to an all time high. We tried waking up early and hiking only until noon and after 4 or 5 but even at those times it was hot. We were drenched in sweat by 9am. Our hiker stink also reached an all time at around that time. Fortunately New York had lots of lakes and lots of road crossing with food. One day was so hot we didn’t want to move after our first 7 miles. We called a friend and former thru-hiker, G-Hippie, and he picked us up on the side of the road and took us to a lake. At the lake, we also got some trail magic (dinner and breakfast) from a man named Joe. He cooked us eggs and made us sandwiches. Going over the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge, we passed the lowest elevation on the AT (124 feet). We also went through a trail side zoo.
Our favorite part of New York was Pawling. It is one of the most hiker friendly towns we’ve beent through on the trail (only beaten up to this point by Hot Springs and maybe Glasgow). We decided to go into town when we realized Waffles and Bottle Cap were suffering from heat exhaustion. We decided to cut the day short and seek some air conditioning. We got a ride into town from Lynne who showed us around and dropped us off at the Laundromat. She gave us her phone number just in case we needed anything else. All the people of the town were extremely friendly to thru-hikers. They asked us about our trip and we even got free cookies from a local bakery. We did laundry and ate and by the time we finished it was after dark. We gave Lynne a call and instead of dropping us back off at the trail, she offered to take us back to her house. Her and her husband welcomed us into their home and let us shower and do the rest of our laundry. The next morning Lynne made us breakfast and dropped us back off on the trail. It was a great last day in New York.