17.9 miles. 1319 overall (Gren Anderson shelter)
Since I plan to slow down I’m not in a hurry to get up in the morning. The weather seems like it will be beautiful – cloudy and cool – all day and I only plan to do 18 miles. Eventually I get up and get packing. By the time I’m ready to get moving I hear voices coming down the trail. I move to where I can see who is coming and I see Kitfox and Mancub. They must have stayed back at the MOC. They say hi and we talk for a minute before they continue and I get the last of my stuff prepared to go. When I do leave another couple is coming down the trail. This time it is the Myakka Mules who also stayed at the MOC. Another exchange of pleasantries commences before we all start hiking.
We don’t get very far. There is a road crossing just up ahead and when we get there we find Mancub and Kitfox stopped enjoying some sandwiches. Trail magic! Pebbles thru-hiked last year. Bewildered thru-hiked the AT in 2005 and the PCT in 2008. He was supposed to do the CDT this year but Pebbles says he “wimped out.” Actually I think the logistics simply fell through. They’ve come out today with snacks, sandwiches, juices, potato chips, beer, and even whiskey! It is a little early to partake of the alcohol but I definitely down my share of juice, a sandwich, and some miscellaneous snacks. Bewildered is pushing the whiskey and he makes me remember that I bought a small platypus meant for wine last time I was home thinking it could be a nice addition to some shelter nights. I take it out and fill it for the first time with a few shots’ worth of Evan Williams.
When we resume hiking I decide it would be a good time for an audiobook. I put on Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience and find it easier to pay attention to than I thought it would be. Several miles pass including a few views and a bit of wildlife while I listen. One particular deer is peculiar in that it stays right next to the trail until I’m only a few feet away before bounding off. Another stands in the trail and watches me as I approach and, although it also jumps out of the way, it doesn’t go far and watches as I pass.
The trail in NJ is much better than Pennsylvania already. It is interesting that although the geology shouldn’t change that much as we cross an arbitrary state line the trails are vastly different. The rocks have already abated so that no longer do we have to walk through boulder fields. We have already had in 20 miles more views than we saw in 100 miles of PA trail. And although I’ve been told this before I’m still surprised by there being more wildlife in NJ as well.
I fill up my water at a pump located at a road crossing, taking advantage of the easy water to follow doctor’s orders and down almost a liter on the spot. The rest of the trail is uneventful as I hike past a few side trails. I switch from Thoreau to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes but I’m so put off by the narrator of the first adventure who seems to mispronounces a word every 2 minutes that I turn off the audiobooks and hike without them for the rest of the day.
My big goal for the day is to get dinner at one of the restaurants strategically located at a road crossing. By doing this I not only save myself from having to cook for the night but I also save a meal. I am trying to make 5 days of food last for 6 days so I can take my time getting to my next mail drop. The road crossing is only 3 miles from the shelter I plan to stay at so the timing is perfect. On the way to the road crossing I catch a great view of a lake below and stop to figure out what it is. Luckily I have cell service and I can determine that it is Culver Lake. Armed with this knowledge which will in no way prove useful for me I proceed the last half mile to the road.
At the road there are 3 restaurants, however 2 of them are closed. I’m stuck with the third which is also the furthest. Gyp’s Tavern sounds quite cool but when I arrive I am somewhat let down. This is totally a side-of-the-road dive bar for locals. Several men are inside drinking beers and the barmaid knows them all by name. I take a seat and ask for a menu. I order a cheeseburger and cheese fries with a beer. There aren’t any great beers on tap (this isn’t the kind of place that serves craft beers) so I simply order one of the lagers. I can tell I’m not the first hiker to have come through here. The barkeep brings me extra napkins with my order. The burger turns out to be quite good but the cheese fries are a huge let down. They are boring fries covered with the nacho cheese that is used at county fairs and hardens a minute after it is poured on. The beer, although not the tastiest, does hit the spot while I watch some CNBC (perhaps the last thing I’d have expected to be on in here), a Euro Cup soccer match (also unexpected), and the weather channel. When I settle up I have to pay in cash – they don’t take credit cards. All told I am in the tavern for about 45 minutes, meaning I’ll get to the shelter early tonight.
The last 3 miles go by quickly, perhaps partly because of the food and partly because of the beer. When I arrive the Mules are there as well as Kitfox and Mancub. All of us are tenters and the shelter goes empty. Kitfox and Mancub turn in early for the night, leaving me to chat with the Mules as they cook dinner and I eat a quick snack to further lighten my food bag. I also pull out the Evan Williams and have a few sips. I offer some to the Mules but they politely decline.
Pretty soon I am in my tent getting ready for bed. Before I go to sleep I take a few minutes to make a tentative plan for the next several days to get me to my next mail drop. As I’m doing this I realize that the mail drop is heading to a post office that isn’t open on Saturdays or Sundays. I plan to arrive on a Saturday. To further complicate the matter, the post office is only open from 8-10 on M-F. If I arrive as planned I would have to take a zero in order to pick up my box. If I speed up to get there on Friday, that would mean 22-25 mile days for the next 3 days. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but two of these days are supposed to be over 95 degrees, making for a miserable slog. I’m not sure what I’ll do. Perhaps I can call the post office and have them forward the box to either the post office 2 miles away with better hours or to a hotel where I plan to stay. I’ll have to figure it out tomorrow as I continue north through New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail.