Day mileage: 21.8
AT total mileage: 1,321.2
Time: 7 hours
I've written before that it's extremely hard to leave a 'dry' shelter to hike in the rain. I had no idea how amplified this emotion becomes when you've been graciously put up in a warm and completely weather sealed home, as torrential rain falls from the skies outside. I woke up at 5 naturally, a habit that will be good to have when I get back out on the road with work, and ate my way through half a box of Fruit Loops cereal that I had purchased at Wal-Mart the night before. A few days ago I had an absolute craving for the sugary cereal from my childhood, so when the opportunity presented itself to buy some I absolutely had to. Finishing breakfast and packing up my resupply of food, I made my way to the garage where Pneumo and I said goodbye to Mike, and loaded up the minivan to drive back to the trail with Caren. The humidity, rain, and grey weren't hugely inspiring to go hike in, but alas that's just the way things work. The drive to the trailhead passed quickly with conversation, and Caren had dropped us off by 8:15 right where they had picked us up the afternoon before.
We didn't begin hiking immediately. Instead we stood around rather mopey after the minivan drove away, having repeatedly thanked our gracious host for her hospitality and generosity. We finally began hiking shortly before 9, and climbed a few hundred feet out of the gap that the roadbed ran through. At the top of the ridge we were presented with the first of many 'scenic vistas' that would be nothing more than heavy fog and no spectacular view. It didn't take long for tall grass and overgrown bushes to soak shoes and clothing with raindrops from the passing storms, and moral between us was pretty low. We hiked on traversing the ridge for a few hours, passing by construction zones and rerouted trail sections, cautiously stepping over grounds with dozens of little orange salamanders as I'd call out 'watch the little guy!' to alert Pneumo of their presence. We passed a hiker named Twizzler, the first thru-hiker we had seen in a while, who we would run into repeatedly throughout the day. He began mid-March, and had taken two zeros in Delaware Water Gap, and was moving quickly from being well rested. Around noon, having only hiked a pathetic 7 miles, we stopped for a snack by a roadside picnic area. Continuing on shorty after, the trail followed old fire service roads for quite a while, interspersed with rocky climbs to keep things interesting. The wet rocks made for challenging climbs up the vertical inclines, and I'd end up slipping more than once throughout the day, often catching myself with an extended arm or trekking pole.
I had received a care package from my folks at Caren and Mike's containing some small items and a new set of my New Balance MT1210 trail runner sneakers. After having put nearly 900 miles on the last pair, they were certainly showing their age. Despite having the ability to easily switch into a new set of 1210s, I had wanted to wait until after Pennsylvania, hoping to not destroy a new pair on the incessant rock fields that section of trail presented me with. I'll admit that I felt a bit guilty taking a brand new pair out into the rain this morning, but with my Orange Superfeet insoles installed, I definitely noticed a better grip on the trail. As I've said before these trail runners aren't phenomenal on wet rock, but then again what shoes or boots are? This pair should get me at least into New Hampshire, which in itself is an exciting thought.
We hiked on, going through a roller coaster type section of a few hundred foot summits and descents in a row before we arrived at the Brink Road shelter, the first shelter in 38 miles since the Kirkridge back in Pennsylvania. Stopping for lunch at the brand new building, a low fog lingered in the air around the tent sites and water source. At this point we only had 7 miles left to hike, which would mean a short day at about 22 total miles, landing us in our destination shelter by 1800hrs. We hiked on, with a few miles of relatively level terrain before making a 700' descent down into the valley where the Kittatinny Lake resides. Despite what I imagine are beautiful views, all of the vistas were still fogged in so we got no good looks at the lake from the ridge above. Reaching the very busy two lane highway at the bottom of the mountain, we went in search of a cold drink at a convenience store. None to be found, we ended up at Gyp's Tavern where I ordered a cold beer and a burger, simply because I could. The hiker Twizzler was also there, and we spoke more as we ate. Settling up my bill, Pneumo and I headed back to the trail where 3.2 miles and one more 700' climb would land us at the shelter where we would spend the night. It was funny to hear Pneumo's comments about the cost of beer in bars. Having just turned 21 a few days before hitting the trail, he was taken aback at the $5.25 he paid for a Guinness. We talked for a little about the cost differences between liquor stores and restaurants/bars pricing.
Summiting the 1,500' mountain at the Culver Fire Tower, we descended quickly down to the Gren Anderson shelter, where we were greeted with more thru-hikers than I've seen in a while. Talking for a bit with them, I was in bed by 1900hrs and ready for sleep under an hour later. The sky still threatens with rain, and the forecast is pretty ugly for the rest of the week. I'll be interested to see what we wake up to.
One more day in New Jersey, then we'll be on into New York.