this long Trail Report is continued from PART 1
I hit the Trail on Saturday, June 27 by crossing the Delaware River on a pedestrian walkway adjacent to the traffic lanes. On the other side of the river, I entered New Jersey. I stopped at Kittatinny Point and learned about how the Lenape or Delaware Indians used to live in this area. Soon after European contact, the Lenape were confined to a reservation town called Brotherton. Brotherton didn’t work out. European diseases wrecked havoc on the Lenape. Many of the survivors were moved to Indian Territory in far away Oklahoma. There, their descendants still live today. A very few remain in the land of their ancestors.
I only hiked about ten miles that day. I was only about 80% of my former self, but I could feel I was making the miraculous recovery the doctor had predicted. I skirted the shore of Sunfish Pond on top of the mountain above the Delaware River. It is a lake formed by the glaciers of the last Ice Age. In fact, most of the rocks I had been encountering were a result of these glaciers. I climbed to a tall ridge overlooking the surrounding countryside. I could see rainstorms in front of me, moving away. I stopped at an old Boy Scout camp now operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club and called Camp Mohegan. I found that the camp was being used by the AMC that weekend for a leadership training retreat. Several members introduced themselves to me. They showed me immense respect as a thru hiker. I was invited to join them for a supper of lazagna, vegetables, salad, and potato soup. Homemade pumpkin pie was for dessert. I really enjoyed myself! I took this encounter to be prophetic. The AMC runs the hut or shelter system that will get me over the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A good omen indeed.
The next day, I hiked 14.5 miles to the Brink Road Shelter. My impression of New Jersey was changing hourly. Previously, I had associated New Jersey with Newark, the NJ Turnpike, and urban congestion. I was in gorgeous country and, ironically in one of the most highly populated black bear areas in the United States. I was soon to find out just how populated it was. Midday, I took a lunch break on a high ridge. I was eating a peanut butter bagel when I had the feeling that I was being watched. I looked to my side. Fifty feet away was a 200 pound juvenile bear, beautiful shiny black fur, tan snout, black nose, watching me eat. He must have been attracted to the smell of peanut butter. As soon as I made eye contact with him, he bounded away. Just before reaching the shelter at 6:00 that afternoon, I was leading another thru hiker, Stretch, down a steep hill. My head was down watching the rocky trail for food placement. All of a sudden, Stretch hollers out, “Braid! Freeze!” I stopped dead in my tracks and looked up. Only 60 feet in front of us, right in the middle of the Appalachian Trail, was a 500 pound black bear in the process of . . . how can I put this . . . making babies with a 400 pound female. The bears turned their heads in our direction, uncoupled, and slowly sauntered down the path. The male was breathing heavily. Luckily for us, he had his mind on finding a more private place for his amorous activity rather than taking retribution on us for the interruption.
I made it 15.3 miles the next day to the Rutherford Shelter where I tented for the night. The next day, I hiked about 10 miles to the town of Unionville, NY. Yes, I had made it to New York, but I had actually been hiking the border of New Jersey and New York for a while. I stopped at a little grocery store, bought a Coke, and was relishing it on the front porch. A local guy wandered up. I asked him, “Do you know where the Mayor’s house is?” He told me that he was going by there and would give me a ride. You see, I had learned from reports on the Trail that the mayor of Unionville put up hikers in his basement. Wow, was I in for a surprise! When I walked into the house, I was greeted by Dick, the former mayor of Unionville who was cooking supper in the kitchen. Bill, an eighty something year old, was assisting. Butch, who was like a young FBI agent, showed me around. Many of my hiker friends were already here. The basement was converted to sleeping quarters with 2 X 4 platform bunks. The living room was fully occupied with hikers watching the semi-finals of the Wimbledon. There was a bathroom with shower and fresh towels. Supper would be served promptly at 6:30. I was in heaven. I settled in, took a shower, did my laundry, and talked with Dick in the kitchen.
Dick had always lived in Unionville. He raised two kids here with his wife. Tragically, his wife came down with multiple sclerosis. He was mayor at the time. He took care of his wife in this home until the very end. Before she died, his wife suggested, “We ought to do something for the thru hikers who come through town. They smell so bad!” Three years after her death, Dick decided to devote the rest of his life to helping hikers. He is doing a mighty fine job, and his reputation has spread far and wide on the Trail.
I was treated to a fabulous breakfast the next morning. I gave Dick a donation to help him with his cause and headed north on the Trail out of town. I stopped at a huge roadside stand mid afternoon and had a blueberry Danish and a cup of coffee. I had one big climb that day, and it still remained. I headed up Wawayanda Mountain, met a couple of local hikers midway up, shared in a red wine toast from them to my successful hike, and reached the top in about one hour. I hiked by glacial lakes and through clouds of mosquitoes to finish my 16.9 mile day at the Wawayanda Shelter. I had the place to myself, so I set up my tent in the shelter to protect myself from the mosquitoes. It rained hard during the night. I feared what this was going to do to the Trail.
I want to insert a note here to all my friends in Durham, NC. You may have noticed a street in the Lakewood area called Wa Wa Street. Previously, I thought this name referred to that pedal you step on to make a guitar cry. But I learned while working on my Fish Dam Road project that local entrepreneur Julian Carr built a country retreat here called Wawayanda, referring to way, way out yonder. Wa Wa Street is the only remnant. I am still working on all the particulars of this name. No one at Wawayanda State Park could tell me the origin of the name.
The next morning, Thursday, July 2, I ran into thru hikers Brave Little Toaster, Frank N Stein, and old friends O.G. and Hellbender. We hiked together to the official border of New Jersey and New York and stepped boldly into a new state, leaving New Jersey forever behind. The Trail was alternately flooded with water or piled high with house-size boulders. We hiked in a constant mist that made the rocks extremely slippery. We hiked a slow and careful 10 miles to the trail crossing with New York Highway 17A. We braved traffic 1/4 mile to the Bellvale Creamery, a place we had all heard about on the Trail. Here, I had the best banana split of my life, made with scoops of butter pecan, coffee, and cookies n cream ice cream.
I have reached a milepost on my hike. I have a supply box waiting for me at Anton’s on the Lake on nearby Greenwood Lake. The rest of my hiker friends returned to the Trail, and I called Anton’s for a ride. Tricia picked me up and took me to her place in the valley. Anton’s is a nice motel on the edge of a finger of Greenwood Lake, a huge glacial lake located in the valley between two mountain ranges, one of the ranges we traversed on our hike that morning. Sailboats and little motor boats of all descriptions surround the motel. I will zero here, resupply, rest for a day, and hit the Trail on the morning of July 4. I plan to spend that day reminiscing all of my favorite July 4ths in the past as I make progress into the state of New York. New England is calling me. I can’t stay here long.
All my best,
Braid, AKA Joe Liles