On a cold, rainy morning three months ago today, I set out from Springer Mountain in GA to attempt a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. On that March day I must admit there existed an inkling of doubt that I could accomplish the task. Now 93 days later the doubt is gone. As long as I can stay healthy, I feel the goal will be reached. Even though I sometimes wonder how I continue to follow much the same routine day after day, I do. So as I moved into my eighth state at the beginning of my fourth month on the trail, I hiked happily on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Trail Angel Dolores again aided my hike as she delivered Speck and me back to the trail at the Water Gap this morning. Today’s hike began with a bridge walk across the Delaware River into New Jersey. The trail passes the Kittatinny Visitor Center before moving under I-80 toward the trailhead. In the parking lot adjacent to the trail sat the RV of Spirit and Steady. Both came out and I introduced them to Speck. Shortly thereafter Speck, Steady, and I headed into the woods. We quickly began meeting and passing day hikers and trail runners.
After about four miles we reached the south end of Sunfish Pond. The still water amidst the picturesque landscape created a peaceful setting. As we stopped to admire the beauty, we were engaged in conversation with Sophron and Carrie, two runners from the Philly area. Three young men from Long Island were also taking a break. When we left the others, we missed a blaze and got off trail briefly. When we retraced our path, however, we found the blaze and continued to hike near the pond. Even though we have officially left Pennsylvania, the small pointy rocks continued. Steady kept saying they would cease around the next curve, but they didn’t seem to be honoring Steady’s wishes.
The best view of the day happened at the rocky summit of the Kittatinny Mountains. There we chatted with ridge runner Grasshopper for a little while. When we got to Camp Rd., Speck, Steady, and I stopped for some lunch. While we ate, Pilgrim arrived, but he was headed up the road to the Mohican Outdoor Center for some food. For some reason it seems that lunch may be my downfall since for two consecutive days, I’ve fallen during or right after lunch. Speck laughed, and I went ahead and laughed along with her, when I just tripped over an innocuous rock step at the very beginning of the next incline. Stumbles is several days ahead of me, but I’m challenging her for her trail name.
At the Catfish Lookout Tower two couples were taking a break from a day hike. We offered help with a map and told Joe, David and their wives about our hike. I also shared my website and information about Don. The four hiked on with us for a short while before we moved ahead. Then we hiked by a swamp and saw where beavers had spent what appeared to be a lot of hours damming up a stream. Past the stream the rocks all of a sudden seemed much less prominent. We made good time from there, arriving at Blue Mountain Lakes Rd. before 4:00 to complete a 17.7 mile day.
Speck and I had enjoyed hiking with Steady today. We said our goodbyes and he headed on up the trail looking for a campsite. Within a half hour Bob (Shamrock) picked us up for a shuttle back to Stroudsburg. A retired high school teacher like myself, Bob shared information about the area. A hiker as well, he said his shuttle business had been booming the last couple of days. With an interest in baseball and golf, we discussed both on the drive.
So as my hiking day came to an end, I reflected on my three months on the trail. In some ways it feels like three years. At times it still feels like I am stuck somewhere between the regular world and a dreamlike state. I wonder if there isn’t another me still living my other world life as I continue to participate in this grand adventure. I’m sure I’ll keep trying to keep a fresh perspective as tomorrow rolls around. It’s very late at the moment, but tomorrow another day of wonder awaits as the hike continues on the Appalachian Trail.