We had always heard that people from New Jersey were tough … but somehow we didn’t expect the Jersey AT to be *that* tough!
Saturday morning, Ryan, Dan, Chris and I rolled out of DC on our way to where I-80 crosses the Appalachian Trail at the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state line. There, we would be joined by Holger and John, who had parked a minivan up along the New Jersey-New York state line. The goal? To walk more than half of the AT’s 72 miles in New Jersey over the weekend.
After much entertaining conversation concerning “buck bombs,” crossbows, and other sundry topics, we reached “the exit” on the far side of the Delaware Water Gap. Holger and John rolled into the parking lot with true German precision at 12:43pm and we were walking by about 1:15pm. We enjoyed a long, gentle climb from the water gap, passed the glacial lake called Sunfish Pond—one of three of New Jersey’s natural wonders we’d see on this trip. (The others were High Point and the Delaware Water Gap itself.) Of course, based on the weather report, we were expecting beautiful weather … we didn’t get it Saturday. We were socked in by clouds most of the day, but we still had a good view of Pennsylvania and the Delaware River below. We bumped into some people who had put an owl replica on a pole and were waiting for hawks to strike it! An unusual hobby.
After we passed the turn off for the AMC’s Mohican Lodge, we climbed back up on the ridge and pitched for the night. The skies cleared and we marveled at the stars, the overhead aircraft, and the occasional UFO. At this point, it came to light that one of the “new guys”—Dan—was not only carrying enough food for a week, but he was also carrying a glass casserole dish full of rice and beans with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs! Needless to say, we gave him a hard time. The other “new guy”—John—revealed that he does a mean Bear Grylls impression. There was much discussion of Bear’s more unorthodox hydration techniques. Crickey!
(BTW, both John and Dan were really strong backpackers and made their first DC UL trip look easy! And, in Dan’s case, he accomplished it all carrying a glass casserole dish!)
Sunday, instead of the beautiful dawn we were expecting, we spent the morning walking through clouds. We missed quite a few views to the east, but by mid-morning the sun had burnt off the mists and we had lovely views from the top of Rattlesnake Mountain and the ridges looking east. As we descended into Culver’s Gap, the AT taught us a quick lesson in humility. We all (except Dan) missed a quick rightward turn of the trail and got off trail. It took us a few minutes to re-group, but all was well. We climbed out of the gap and soon reached the Gren Anderson Shelter where we pitched for the night. (In this section of the AT, you’re required to camp near the shelters.)
To our surprise, Monday was actually the hardest and most picturesque day of the trip. The weather, by this point, was very fine and walking through the early winter forest at dawn was beautiful. We enjoyed lovely views from Sunrise Mountain, but then got serious about reaching the end. The AT approaching High Point was extremely rocky and fractured, with some steep up and downs. To my mind, it recalled some of the rockier stretches of the northern Massanuttens, perhaps like Three Top Mountain—I think we all came away with some bumps and bruises. We toughed it out, and soon reached High Point State Park, where we climbed to the monument standing atop the highest point in New Jersey. This really is magnificent spot, as there were breathtaking views of the surrounding states. As we took in the views, we all agreed that the AT in New Jersey had been much less domesticated than we would have guessed and the views much finer than we would have imagined.
From the trip’s “high point,” we walked down the AT to where our minivan was parked, visited the New York state line, retraced the shuttle, and stopped at a brewpub in Shawnee, PA. Unfortunately, Sandy had ruined many of the microbrews but we weren’t so fussy. We all wolfed down a quick meal, and soon were rolling home. It was a late night, though, with the DC car not reaching Grosvenor till 9:15pm.
All in all, we walked splits like 10-21-15.25, for a total of 46.25 miles in about 48 hours of walking (1:15pm Saturday to 1:45pm Sunday). And we walked those miles in excellent DC UL style, accomplishing every objective including High Point and the NY state line. Big shout outs to John and Dan for their first 20-mile day!
Thanks to everyone for such a great trip and such excellent company! It was great to get out a little farther than usual and cover new ground for the group!
Just an FYI ... the marriage between my handheld GPS and Google Earth reports that we walked 44.2 miles and covered 7,014 ft. of gain with 6,220 ft. of loss.