18.4 miles, 1337.4 overall (Murray property)
Kitfox and Mancub are up before I am. I can hear them packing up their tents as I am still packing up the stuff inside mine. When I emerge they are ready to leave. I move my stuff to the shelter to finish packing. Inside the shelter is a tent and just outside is a hammock. Two people arrived last night as I was falling asleep and these must be them. They made lots of noise when they arrived so I don’t feel too bad making some noise this morning. I eat my breakfast and finish packing. I’m out by 7:15.
I quickly pass the Mules who started only a minute ahead of me. I’m planning to hike about 25 miles today in case I need to get to Bear Mountain by Saturday. I reach Sunrise Mountain which has a pavilion on top with benches oriented toward what appears to be where the sun would rise. I’m slightly disappointed I’m not here for the sunrise but I quickly get over it as I realize how hazy it is today and how poor the sunrise would have been. I get to the first shelter in good time and catch Mancub and Kitfox there. I also meet Danny, the ridge runner for this area. I eat a quick snack, sign the register, and move on.
Soon I pass Kitfox and Mancub but I stop to have another snack and they pass me again. It seems we will play leapfrog today, but not for long since they plan to go to town at the next road crossing. During my snack I plot out various possibilities for the next few days. I figure I need to plan to hike 20+ each day to get to town on Friday morning. In the meantime I can call the post office tomorrow (it is already closed today) and see if they can forward my box. If they will then I can slow down. If they won’t I’ll have to keep going. If I decide on Thursday or Friday that I won’t make it in time then I’ll have to zero on Sunday.
All morning my mind is occupied with figuring out all of the contingencies and brainstorming other alternatives. Eventually I decide I need to get my mind off of the situation and just hike so I put on my audiobook again. I continue with Sherlock Holmes and am pleasantly surprised to find that each adventure has a different narrator. I listen to a few while I hike and they are all far superior to the first. I enjoy the stories and find it easy to pay attention to them. I try to predict the outcome and take pleasure in noting details that I preliminarily think are important and that actually do become important later.
Pretty soon I reach a wooden tower with a view to the High Point monument atop the highest point in NJ. I climb the tower and find a couple of benches. This seems like a great place to take a break so I stop and call Christy. We discuss the mail drop situation and come up with a plan of attack. She will plan to send a new mail drop tomorrow to the hotel I plan to stay at. In the morning she will call the post office that currently has my box to see if they will forward it. If not then she’ll send the new one and the old one will be returned home in about 2 weeks when I don’t pick it up. I like this plan. The best part about it is that either way I don’t have to get to town until Saturday. This takes a huge amount of stress off of me because I won’t have to do 20 mile days in heat indexes of over 100 anymore. After talking to Christy I take some time to eat my lunch and lounge around before continuing, knowing that now I can take my time.
Once I’m done with lunch I get moving again. I cross several roads and cover several miles before I reach my destination. Hikers call it the secret shelter. It is the Murray property and it is only 100 yards from the trail. Jim Murray has a single-room cabin that he allows hikers to stay in for free. There is also a water spigot and an outdoor shower. I’m not sure what to expect when I arrive. I half expect the place to be a bit run down, but it is quite to the contrary. The cabin seems well-built and well-maintained and the rest of the property is quite beautiful, located at the bottom of a hill with fields of grass surrounded by forest. I am the first one here so I claim a spot in the cabin and make myself at home. I grab a quick shower before anyone else arrives and add “showered outside” to the list of things I’ve done on the AT. Although I used an outdoor shower at Woods Hole, that one at least had walls.
Before long the Myakka Mules catch up. We start cooking dinner and it is almost ready when Jim shows up. He is an incredibly nice man and talks with us for a while. He mentions that he is always looking for ways to make the cabin better but I can’t think of any except air conditioning and terry cloth robes, neither of which are at all necessary for his clientele. He also mentions that we have crossed into NY, his property being just barely on the NY side. We’ll reach the formal border crossing in a couple days where we’ll say goodbye to NJ, but it is nice to know we’ve made it to another state.
As I’m heading to bed a thru-hiker named Frenchy shows up and tents outside along with two other hikers I haven’t met yet. It is only myself and the Mules in the cabin tonight. Now that the mail drop situation will be resolved I plan a somewhat easy day tomorrow. I will get up early, hike 12 miles to a farmer’s market just 0.1 mile off the trail, and hang out there eating fruit and ice cream for several hours while the heat of the day passes. Then I’ll hike the remaining 6 miles to a shelter for the night. It is supposed to hit 95 tomorrow on the Appalachian Trail.