I suppose every adventure needs a little adversity. So today I hiked out of Vernon, NJ with one pole, a sprained hand, and a sore right shoulder and lower back, prayerfully. The day began two hours earlier at The Mixing Bowl. The only thing that would have made my hearty country breakfast better was grits. I got a smile before the “no” when I asked. Several local diners were talking about the trail. When one said he couldn’t believe anyone would walk over 1350 miles to Vernon, his buddy said it was no different from walking around a golf course every day. Excuse me! Did I really hear that? I just drank my coffee and kept quiet.
After breakfast I walked back to the hostel to pack up. Everyone was still asleep when I crept out a little after 6:00. When I returned a few continued to sleep. The youth show no urgency in getting their day underway. Lentil and Pfeiffer, the only ones out the door with me, sought a ride back to the trail at a corner convenience store. I chose to put my thumb out up the road a piece. After about ten minutes a truck stopped. The driver, who later introduced himself as Walter, told me to quickly get in. “There are state troopers all over today,” he stated. “The governor is expected in town.” Apparently hitching is illegal in New Jersey, so he was trying to get me off the street. I thought it was only against the law in New York. Since Lentil and Pfeiffer had not gotten a ride yet, I asked Walter if he would mind giving them a lift also. He gladly turned his truck around to pick up the two.
When we got to the AT, the two quickly hiked into the distance. The climb out of Vernon requires about a 1000 foot ascent up Wawayanda Mountain. Many refer to it as “The Stairway to Heaven” since so many stone steps aid in the climb. With only one trekking pole, I found myself grasping for large rocks to help with balance. Taking my time, it took awhile to reach the Pinwheels vista at the top. Seated on a rock were Leigh and Ed. Leigh asked if I were a thru hiker, so I told them about my hike and Don.
The next couple of hours went well. I saw ridge runner Grasshopper for the second time. Then I took a break at Warwick Turnpike (I’m not sure why a two lane road in the country is called a turnpike). Just as I was heading up the trail, I heard someone yell my name. Rapidly moving toward me was none other than Chin Music. We had been near each other for a good while but had never met. So for the duration of the day I again had a hiking partner.
Also a member of the trailjournals community, we have many of the same followers. Within minutes I felt like I had known Chin for years. In addition to the camaraderie, I was just relieved to know there would be another hiker around when the New York rocks greeted us. As we hiked toward the state line, we shared some data about our lives. When I told my new friend that I was a retired English teacher, I didn’t know at the time that Chin Music and I would be bouncing over the rocks discussing semi-colons. I was glad to oblige and explain various rules since the discussion briefly took my mind off the severity of the rocks. Chin equated some portions to walking across a slanted roof. Nice metaphor, Chin.
So across the rocks we bounded for a lot longer than I had anticipated. Each time I thought they were over, another series of the slanted monsters appeared. In many ways I think only having one pole today benefited me. I often used my free hand for leverage when pulling myself up to the next ledge. At one point I didn’t think I was going to make it around a sloped rock face with no room for error. Chin braced himself in a position that gave me someone to keep me from falling if I lost my balance. Thankfully, no falls occurred today. At one point an aluminum ladder was stationed next to a precariously dangerous rock slab. The assistance was appreciated. It was also good to have a hiking buddy for photo opts.
Like yesterday, the heat and humidity prevailed. There were fewer mosquitoes; however, I still received some fresh bites. One thing that I’m finding recently is how tired I get by early afternoon. I definitely could have used some more water. When Chin and I finally reached NY 17, we walked the two hundred yards or so to the Creamery. After a water and root beer, I struck up a conversation with a former soldier, Gene, who wound up giving me a ride to Greenwood Lake and the Breezy Point Inn. I dined on the patio with a view of the lake. It’s been a good day. I met a new friend, completed a difficult section of trail, and didn’t fall all day. Indeed, it proved to be another special day on the Appalachian Trail.