Day 108

Day 108 – June 23 – 20.1 miles – Leroy Smith Shelter to Delaware Water Gap (PA side)

The day started out just like the last one ended.  On the rocks.

Not long after we left camp we heard a shout from up ahead.  It was Flashfire and she was trying to tell us something.  Because of the distance and her accent we couldn’t tell what she was trying to tell us.  After several attempts she let out a  groan and trudged back to us.  She pointed to a spot a few feet from us and said “TURTLE! SEE?”  We saw.

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The Turtle

At one point, the trail crossed a road and went through a parking lot.  Stoat and I decided that it was a good spot to take a snack break.  While I sat on a piece of foam on the grass, Stoat waltzed over to a red love seat that was apparently abandoned on the side of the road, and took a seat.  Almost everyone who drove by stared at the homeless seeming man eating  snacks on discarded furniture across from a trailer park.  Stoat invited me to join him.  I declined.

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After we left the parking lot, we came to a sign that listed some nearby points of interest.  When I saw one of those points of interest,  I became convinced that the trail builders were masochists.  It said Wolf Rocks.  “Really?”, I thought, ” They are advertising the rocks as a place people might want to go?! What is wrong with these people!”

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After the sign, the trail became very rocky again.

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After a while the trail began to get a little less rocky

Then the rocks went away almost completely.  Could it be?  Was that the last of the rocks of PA?  I wasn’t convinced, but I could hope.

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About 13 miles into the day it began to rain pretty hard.  Stoat and I were near a trailhead and there was a kiosk nearby.  The kiosk had all kinds of info on it but that’s not why we stopped there.  The kiosk had a nice overhang that sheltered us from the brunt of the rain.

A man and his adult son were getting into a car that was parked at the trail head.  The man called over to us, “Are you Thru Hikers?”  We said yes, and he and his son came over to join us under the overhang of the Kiosk.   The man was very enthusiastic about the trail and meeting Thru hikers.  Over the course of the conversation we found out that the son had read the article about us.  Not only that, the son lived in the town next to our town, and prior to that, he lived three blocks away from our Moms house.  What a small world.

All this made the father even more enthusiastic about our journey.  His enthusiasm was contagious and it really lifted our spirits.  Not all trail magic is something physical.   It can be mental as well.  We first learned that on our second day on the trail when we met Martha and Patti.  It was something that never got old, and was always welcome.

Before we left, the father mentioned that he had just seen a guy and a German girl at the shelter across the street, and asked if we knew them.  Only for about the last 1000 miles…

It was good to hear that Zeus and Flashfire were only a little ahead of us.  Flashfire had arranged for all of us to stay with someone she found through couchsurfing.com.  We had a schedule to keep.

After leaving the father and son, we checked out the shelter where Zeus and Flashfire were spotted.  They weren’t there but they left a message in the logbook for us.

That contagious excitement still hadn’t left us, and Stoat and I couldn’t stop smiling randomly for a quite a while.

After we left the shelter the trail followed a fire road for several miles.  It was a little boring but at least it wasn’t full of rocks.

Then we got to a sign that announced that we were now in the Delaware Water Gap National Park.  I was surprised to find that my pulse had gone up at the sight of it.  I guess it was because we had been here before.  Stoat and I had actually been there several times, including a winter practice hike for the AT.  (That’s a whole other story in itself)

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As we hiked on, we passed by more and more views that were familiar.  These views,  when viewed through the lens of the enormity of the AT, somehow meant more to me than before.

Have you ever brought someone to a place they haven’t been before?  A place that is familiar and special to you in some way.  Do you know the feeling of experiencing something again for the first time, but through someone else’s eyes?

That’s how I felt.  Except the person I was sharing it with… was a newer version of myself.  That’s the best I can describe it.  At the time I wrote in my journal that it felt “weird” hiking in a place where I had been before.  Now that I think of it, I think the “weird” feeling  was the realization that the person who had left NJ was somehow different than the one walking back.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it.  Maybe its hippie dippie nonsense.  But it seems right to me.  At least, the current version of me.

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On the left NJ- the right PA

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Last good view of the Water Gap from PA

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To get to NJ, the trail first passes through the Delaware Water Gap village on the PA side.  It was at this town that we were to meet up with the couch surfing person.  NJ would have to wait for tomorrow.

We met up with Zeus and Flashfire in town and, after stopping at a outfitter, waited in a pizza place for the couch surfing person.  While were waiting, we all decided to have a light snack and split a pizza pie.

The couch surfing persons name was Anna.  She picked us up and brought us to the supermarket to resupply.  While we were there, we picked up some extra food for dinner.  Anna wanted to cook dinner for us, but it didn’t seem right for her to have to pay to feed four Thru Hikers.

When we got back to Annas apartment we got to know her a little better.  We asked her if she was a hiker and she said she hiked the AT.  Cool!  Then a little while later we were talking about the PCT as she causally mentioned that she had hiked that too.  Then the CDT came up and she said she had hiked that as well.  She was a freaking Triple Crowner.  What we had accomplished so far was nothing compared to what she had done, and yet she listened with genuine interest to our stories.  We were blown away.

Zeus and Flashfire went to the local laundromat to clean their clothes and offered to clean ours as well.  That was very much appreciated.

After they left, Anna asked if we would like to see some pictures of her hike of the Te Araroa trail.  The Te Araroa trail is a 1800 mile trail that goes across New Zealand.  This woman was a hiking deity!

Yes, we would like to see the pictures.

When Zeus and Flashfire got back, Anna made dinner.  It consisted of burgers, salad, potatoes, and beer.  To top it all off, she made a cherry pie for dessert! Did I already say that Anna was awesome?

We stayed up late into the night, but we had a lot of fun.

The apartment  didn’t have air conditioning.  Even with all the windows open, it was pretty warm.  That didn’t matter to me.  I had a full stomach and a peaceful need for rest.  The kind that usually comes after a good long conversation with a newfound friend.

I fell asleep quickly.

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