Bears!

Date: June 26th, 2015
Day: 107
Miles from Springer: 1651.1
Miles to Katahdin: 538.1
Morale: 5/5

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When I last posted I was just leaving Pennsylvania, and now here I am in the middle of Vermont. You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Once again, lack of affordable places to stay with wifi and bad service has made the gap between my posts entirely too long. It isn’t all bad though, because looking back and reflecting on the past few weeks is actually quite nice. It let’s me re-live that section of trail.

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Suprisingly enough, New Jersey is a section of trail worth re-living. When one thinks about New Jersey, the last thing that comes to mind is pristine glacial ponds and senic open fields. The New Jersey section of trail brought both of these things, a welcome sight after Pennsylvania.

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Another thing about New Jersey is that it has the highest density Bear population on the whole trail. I saw my first bear here, a family of three actually. They were waltzing through camp without a care in the world. I later set up my tent virtually right where they were walking. In the picture above you can see the corner of a sign marking the water source.

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After New Jersey came New York, and it was far less senic than Jersey, however there was a deli at almost every road crossing, so at least I ate well. I’ve never seen more American flags on display than in New York. Every shelter had a flag, every summit had a flag, and there was even this 9/11 memorial painted on the rocks.

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A “big” landmark in New York was the Dover oak, the largest oak tree on the trail. The tree is 300+ years old and has a circumference of twenty-two feet. My trekking pole is four feet long, and doesn’t come close to spanning it.

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The trail in New York was annoyingly difficult. It went up steep boulder fields and straight back down them again. There was little elevation gain, and so no views really to speak of. The trail maintenence was lacking, and the trail was often hard to find.

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Here is a picture of classic New York trail. You can see the blazes leading up over the rocks.

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After New York came Connecticut, and also New England. If you haven’t noticed, all of these states were very short. The combined milage of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts is only about three hundred miles. The other thing about this section of trail is that each state got progressively better after New York. Each state got a little more senic, and a little higher in elevation.

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The trail in Massachusetts was uneventful except for Mt. Greylock, the highest point in the state. It had the first sub-alpine environment since Unaka mountain way back in North Carolina. I’m glad to be getting back into the northern states, with the spruce/fir forests that I was used to hiking in as a kid.

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Another thing that was nice about climbing a real mountain was the noticeable difference in weather. Atop Greylock it was blowing a gale and was much colder. It was a pity that the observation tower was closed for renovations, it would have been nice to get out of the wind and check out the views.

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The A.T. coincides with the Long Trail I’m Vermont for 105 miles, and so far it has been wonderful. I’ve been in sub-alpine environments every day now, and had great views all of the time. The trail is a bit muddy, however it is well worth it for the views.

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This is the view from Stratton Mountain, the birthplace of the A.T. Legend says that Benton Mackaye himself stood atop this mountain when he dreamed up a trail connecting the high peaks of the Appalachian Mountain Range. It also happens to be the “three quarters of the way done” mark. It was a great morning to say the least.

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I took lunch at prospect rock, and had this view of Equinox Mtn. And Manchester Center, where I am currently relaxing in a motel. Tommorow I will do as I aways do, continue north with great excitement, because the best is yet to come.

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calender. A year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual.” -Henry Beston

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Goodbye Pennsylvania

Date: June 5th, 2015
Day: 86
Miles from Springer: 1293.4
Miles to Katahdin: 895.8
Morale: 5/5

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Back in the north at last! (Though I won’t feel like I’m in the north until Vermont)

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The official halfway point. It moves every year because of changes to the trail, so I am glad the ATC takes the time to move the marker.

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Upon reaching the actual halfway point of the Appalachian Trail, it is thru-hiker tradition to eat a half gallon of ice cream. There is no better example of the famed “hiker hunger” than a bunch of skinny dudes sitting around eating a half gallon of ice cream just because someone told them it was tradition.

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Everyone who I was with successfully completed the challenge, and felt pretty awful after. It was a strange combination of wanting to hike ten more miles because of the sugar high, and wanting to take a nap because of the sheer volume of food consumed. After eating a few fresh cut fries from the general store everyone felt fine, however I wouldn’t recommend anyone eat a half gallon of ice cream, it isn’t worth it.

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From the Pine Grove Furnace General store where the ice cream challenge took place to Boiling springs Pennsylvania was an easy twenty mile jaunt, and I arrived midafternoon on memorial day weekend to see a wonderful scene of people fishing, swimming and boating in the river. Boiling springs was such a beautiful town that I decided to take a zero day there. (I hadn’t taken one in four hundred miles and also wasn’t feeling so hot, at the time I thought because of the ice cream.) I stayed at the Allenberry Resort, an active senior community with sleeping quarters for hikers. It was an incredible place with a breakfast and dinner buffet, live theater (I did take the time to see a musical, it was fantastic), and a swimming pool with loaner bathing suits. I didn’t take advantage of the pool, however did get my fill at the buffets.

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The shelters in southern Pennsylvania were extravagant and well maintained. This shelter in particular had lawn ortaments, potted plants, board games, a covered picnic table, and a composting privy. I always stay in my tent, but this shelter was so nice I elected to stay inside. I had the shelter on the left all to myself and two other guys had the other one.

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Southern Pennsylvania was a welcome change. There were lots of walks through fields and farmland like the one pictured above. It was nice to get out of the woods for a bit. Unfortunately, once I got past Duncannon Pennsylvania, the famous rocks began. Pennsylvania is known on the trail for being very rocky, sometimes even being called “rocksylvania.” The southern half of the state was such a joy, that I couldn’t imagine what people were talking about.

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The trail often looked like a rubble field, and planning each and every step slowed me down to a crawl. Lately I have had a cramp in my neck from looking at my feet all of the time. Unfortunately there are no real views in this section of trail, and so it is not even worth the struggle of walking over the treacherous boulders.

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To make matters worse, it rained hard for two days in a row, making the rocks wet and slick. I had my first fall of the entire trial a few days ago, slipped on a rock and went right in a puddle. I was rolling around like a turtle on its back with my pack on, I had to unbuckle to get up. Everyone I was hiking with, including myself, only hiked seven and a half miles that day. Everyone had fallen at least once, and some had fallen three or more times. Pennsylvania was beating the crap out of us. The other thing about Pennsylvania is that the water sources are further apart, and further off trail. Sometimes I had to walk half a mile to get to a reliable spring. Some water sources were tainted as well, because the trail went through an area where there had been zinc smelting in the early 1900’s. The ridge was largely deforested and there were no water sources close to the trail for almost twenty miles. There were a few springs but they were a minimum of a half mile away.

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The bare ridge did give me one of the few good views of Pennsylvania, and it was pretty fun climbing up the steep boulder field out of Lehigh Gap. I also saw an interesting bird in the Superfund site.

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I’m not sure what kind of bird it was, but that white stripe on its neck swelled up like a ballon and it made the weirdest noise I’ve ever heard a bird make.

Tonight I am camped out behind a free church hostel in the town of Delaware Water Gap Pennsylvania. Tommorow morning I will walk into New Jersey, leaving Pennsylvania at last. PA was a good test, it was definitely the least fun state so far, however it was still pretty fun. I have been hiking with some good people and going slower to enjoy the ride. I can’t wait until I get to New England, but I have to be patient. One of my favorite quotes ever is: “Time and pressure makes diamonds” I know that if I just take it one day at a time I will eventually be in the gorgeous White Mountains of New Hampshire and then back in my home state of Maine.