I’ve made it to Connecticut!
Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Pennsylvania was flat and a little boring. The northern part had little round rocks, and big sharp boulders and everything in between. They ate through a pair of Keens, and slowed me down a bit, but overall the rocks were not as bad as I expected. Towns were frequent and near the trail, so I think I had one too many cheesesteaks and managed to gain weight while in PA.
In Delaware Water Gap, the last town in Pennsylvania, Hyperlite Mountain Gear sent me a new pack to test. It rides much nicer with lumbar padding, and the hip belt comes out of the lumbar pad, rather than the pack’s side seam. The belt wraps and hugs the hips better, making for a more comfortable system all around. There are external compression straps, and less external mesh, but surprisingly I haven’t missed the storage space. There is an accessory pocket attached to the compression straps, where my water bladder rides now. I was afraid the water would get warm faster, but since the Appalachian Trail (AT) is mostly shaded, and the bladder is off my back, I think the water stays cooler.
Porter also bought a Windrider and is enjoying it. He says his back pain has stopped completely since switching to the lightweight Cuben Fiber pack.
I crossed into New Jersey, which was very beautiful with lots of wildlife: snakes, deer, and turtles. There were some hills, but that meant views. Finally!
A rainy night and day meant I slept in until 7:00am (I usually wake up around 5:30). I hiked into the town of Vernon, NJ to dry out and resupply. I got a care package from a friend and hit up the local carnival!
I crossed into New York, and received some awesome trail magic from a past thru hiker, Patio. Then I hiked through the Lemon Squeezer, which wasn’t really a tight squeeze since my Windrider pack is so little!
The mosquitoes made a convincing argument to start tenting once I entered NY. My first night tenting was in Pennsylvania and with the help of my friends, the Echo I shelter worked out really well. My first time setting it up by myself was a different story, but I got the job done. Lately, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. The tent is minimalist; it’s cozy and keeps me dry. When I pack it up and see the size and feel the weight, I can’t complain. Two nights ago, I went to sleep watching the fireflies from beneath the tarp.
I hiked into Harriman State Park in NY and to the lowest point on the AT- the bear’s den at the Trailside Zoo! The trail literally goes through the zoo. Next I crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. It was June 21, summer solstice, known in the hiking world as “Naked Hiking Day.” I was crossing a lot of busy roads that day, so I did not participate. I warned section hikers I saw, but never saw any other thru hikers that day. I thought about the dangers of hiking naked – bug bites, chaffing, sunburns, and was glad I didn’t participate.
Yesterday it poured. Really, really poured for an hour straight and normal rain the rest of the day. But by the end of the day, everything in my pack was dry. This morning I put on my soggy sneakers and pushed out of the shelter at 5:45am. I crossed into Connecticut and was welcomed home to New England with more rain. The heavens opened again but as they say, “No rain, no Maine!”