7.4 miles, 1288.9 overall (PA-NJ border, staying with family)
I sleep well, uninterrupted by the group nearby. They turn out to be respectful campers and I barely hear them as I get ready for bed and fall asleep. I have my alarm set for 5:20 to try to catch the sunrise, figuring with my eastward-facing view I should have a great front row seat for it from my tent. I end up not needing the alarm, waking up on my own just after 5. It turns out to be fortuitous because sunrise is right around 5:30 and from the vantage point of my tent the best colors turn out to be hidden by trees. I’m up just in time to get dressed and outside in time to catch a few pictures. By 6 I am gone, on my way to Delaware Water Gap (DWG). I only have a granola bar for breakfast because I figure I’ll get a better breakfast in town only 6 miles away.
The miles go by quickly. The ridge runner was partly right about the trail into DWG being easy. It is flat to downhill most of the way. However there are more rocks than he led me to believe. Still, it is an improvement over the last couple days and there is even a walk along an old forest road for part of the trail. It is along this piece of trail that I notice a trail to the right that seems to lead to a view. When I take it I find a campsite right next to the view. There is a large dome tent but there is also someone in a sleeping bag outside of the tent. I wonder what sequence of events would lead to this setup. Did the dome tent only hold 2 people and they had a group of 3? Did he get kicked out by his girlfriend for something he did wrong? Did he set up his tent and then decide he’d rather sleep outside of it? I never find out because I sneak up next to him, take a picture of the magnificent view down to the Delaware River, admire it for a minute, and then leave without ever waking up the cowboy camper.
On the way down into the gap I pass a staircase that seems to lead nowhere (or maybe to heaven?) as well as several groups of day hikers. They are all getting early starts since it is still before 8. A few times I have trouble finding the next part of the trail and have to resort to finding the southbounders’ blaze in order to find the path. I have found this extraordinarily useful in cases where I can’t see the next blaze and I’m either not sure I’m still on the trail or I can’t find the next part. If I’m not sure if I’m on the trail and there are no blazes in front of me, often there’s one behind me. If I can’t find where to go next, if there is a blaze behind me it will be pointed toward the next piece of trail such that southbounders will see it. These methods were used more than they should have been in Pennsylvania due to the rocky sections and a general lack of blazing in some stretches.
Since I’m about to leave Pennsylvania I think about the best and worst parts. In the “worst” list I put the rocks (obviously), Duncannon, the shelters which were drastically hit or miss, and the blazes. For some reason the borders of Pennsylvania game lands are marked by large white blotches on trees that look incredibly similar to AT blazes. The trail follows the borders of these lands often enough that it is incredibly annoying. Worse is the fact that there isn’t a clear warning about this. I got through half of Pennsylvania and had followed several of these blotches thinking they were just bad blazes before I noticed a sign that warned hikers not to follow them. Get your act together Pennsylvania. In the “best” category I put Boiling Springs, Palmerton and the climb out of it, the half gallon challenge (despite my poor showing), and the Peanut Shop in Port Clinton. I also put the first part of Pennsylvania where there were beautiful shelters and smooth trails, even though now I know that those were only there to lull us into a false sense of enjoyment.
As I walk into town I get a great vibe. I’ve already been told that it is a nice town but for some reason it feels welcoming on the way in. I find the point where the trail turns right to head out of town and I go left. I have breakfast to get and a mail drop to pick up. First I tackle breakfast. I head to a diner just past the outfitter where I find Squidword and Dora finishing up their own meal. I sit with them while they finish up and I order an omelette with bacon and toast. They are waiting for Fresh and Wonder to get back from visiting a friend. Fresh, Wonder, and Dora have all been zeroing here waiting for Squidword to catch up.They leave just after my food arrives and I finish it by myself. As I’m leaving I see Tipsy and Fetch arrive.
On the way out of the diner I stop at the market/bakery next door to peruse the selection. I end up leaving with a donut and a coffee. Next stop is the outfitter but they don’t open until 10. It is 9:30. I sit on the porch to wait. A very friendly cat and dog keep me company until the store opens a few minutes early. I pick up some Aquamira and stove fuel but they don’t have my mail drop. He suggests I try the post office. I walk the 2 minutes back to the post office and soon I have my mail drop.
In order to sort through the mail drop and to charge my phone I head to the hostel at the church down the street. Inside I find Dora still waiting for Fresh and Wonder to get back. I put a few bucks into the donation box to be a good hiker citizen, then hook up my almost dead phone to charge while I sort through my mail drop and hang out with the other hikers.
I’m supposed to meet Christy’s cousin Annie at 11 across the river a mile away. At 10:40 I realize I need to get moving. I say some quick goodbyes and head back to the trail for the last mile. It takes me across the Delaware River and into New Jersey. Goodbye Pennsylvania and your vicious torture devices! If there is a sign for the border crossing I miss it in my rush to get to the meeting point on time.
On the other side I find the visitor center and as I’m walking through the parking lot Annie spots me first. She just arrived with kids (Natalie and Tobias) in tow. We take a quick walk around because Natalie wants to walk, then hop in the car for the ride to their house.
At the house Natalie shows me around, informing me which pillows belong to which family members, showing me her toys, and “playing piano” for me which consists of tapping her fingers on the toy shelf. We order some Schawarma (spelling?) for lunch before I get a shower and start laundry. Then we hang out for a while before dinner. A few times Annie leaves me alone with the kids for about 5 minutes. Generally I don’t mind this, but for some reason today each time she leaves us Tobias, only 3 months old at his point, goes ballistic. Each time I am unsuccessful at calming him down and Annie returns to find a screaming baby. By evening it has become a joke to us.
Dinner is at a local brewery where I have a delicious coffee porter with a guacamole, bacon, and blue cheese burger and fries. Afterward we go to an ice cream shop where I get a cone of banana pudding ice cream. Then we head home and I spend the evening looking for some new music and downloading audiobooks to my phone. I figure as I slow down in New England it would be a good time to also “read” some old classics that I’ve never gotten around to tackling like The Count of Monte Cristo. By 9:30 I am falling asleep after a great half day off from the Appalachian Trail.