November 20th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White
Well, we made it to Pennsylvania in one piece. This has been the longest we have gone without updating everyone, sorry it took so long. I hope no one was too worried. Since last updating you in Connecticut , we hiked straight through New York and New Jersey without taking any showers. These states were not as spectacular as we may have liked them to be, but they held there own little highlights so to speak. Rather than give you a day to day break down and take up hours of your time, we will just touch on some of the cool things.
First off, the heat wave that we had through New York was a nice break from the cold, but it also brought a lot of miserable rain. I would rather the cold than the rain to be honest. We hiked with “Early Bird”, another south-bound thru-hiker (or a SOBO), for a few days. A 4th personality was nice for a while. While staying at the ball fields courtesy of the Graymoor Monastery, we stumbled upon ruins of a once immaculate garden and sanctuary. We offered to volunteer some of our time to clean up some of the debris, but we were told that the ruins were to be completely removed at a later date, what a shame.
Veteran’s Day was a disaster, the post office was closed, so we couldn’t pick up our mail-drop nor send anything home that we didn’t need. Luckily, Alex, a hiker we met in Maine , lived nearby and took us to a grocery store to pick up what we needed to get to Unionville. Not all of Veteran’s Day was a disaster, the weather was beautiful, and we got to mingle with society. The trail goes through the Trail side Museum and Wildlife Park, so we got to learn about all the different geology and wildlife of the region. The lowest elevation of the AT is in front of the black bear exhibit (124 feet).
After that, we came out into Bear Mountain. park with a huge lake, a wide open green space, an ice-skating ring, and our favorite; concessions. After two soft pretzels, two hot dogs, and talking to lots of people, we climbed up Bear Mtn in hopes of a glimpse of the NYC skyline less than 40 miles away. The sun had set when we reached the top and the fog had rolled in, so no luck on the skyline. We still had another 4 or 5 miles to do over to West Mtn. in the dark. The hike wasn’t too bad and it went fairly fast, but when we came close to the top, smoke and the smell of fire filled the air. I was honestly kind of worried there was a forest fire nearby, but it was just 40 or so boy scouts camping near the shelter.
On Monday we called the post office, and they assured us that they would forward our package to Unionville, awesome. We made it into New Jersey and the trail opened up and we were able to make some good time. Wednesday night, just before we were going into Unionville, we found out the package never left the last town. They made sure it was there for us to pick up Thursday morning, but only 2 of the 3 packages made it (actually we are still waiting for it to catch up). We got to enjoy some small town hospitality and good home-style cooking at Sara’s Soda Shop. She had about 400 hikers come through this year, amazing. We hung around there for lunch and used a corner of the shop as a base while we ran to the post office and grocery store. The locals warned us of the 2-5 inches of rain headed that way, so we hurried outside of town to the first shelter.
The shelter is actually a “secret shelter” that is built on Jim Murray’s property for thru-hikers only. It was done up real nice with electric, running water, and a shower. He also had a couple of donkeys in the field that kept bellowing out coarse sounds whenever the rain would stop. The trail from then on was easy. One morning we stopped by a farmer’s market next to the trail and ate a big cherry pie, oh so sweet.
The day before last a big group of boy scouts stayed outside of our shelter. They didn’t even say hello, which has actually been a common occurrence for us in Jersey. Yesterday was a big day, we woke up at 3 in the morning and started hiking, so we could finish the 25 miles into town before 4 in the afternoon, it was our biggest mileage day so far. We had to walk over the I-80 bridge into PA over the Delaware River , and the cars were just flying by, weaving in and out of each other. They weren’t doing anything we wouldn’t have normally done, but to us, it seems so scary and dangerous. We haven’t moved that fast in a while.
We are staying in the basement of a church, they setup a small hostel for thru-hikers with a sitting area, bunk room, and hot showers. It is a wonderful place. Last night, we both slept on the leather couches instead of the bunks, so comfortable. We will hit the trail again in the morning for a couple days until we meet Ice Man’s parents for thanksgiving on Thursday. We are excited that they are coming up. Hopefully they will do some hiking with us and check out one of the shelters. We also caught wind that some of our friends might be coming up at the end of the month to visit, its all too good.
This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.Epilogue: by: Bryan Wolf
I’m not sure who got the joke in that second paragraph, but the fourth personality between three of us included my second self. New York I think is when I started going cuckoo. The time was really wearing on us and the rainy days were getting us down. There was one day where I felt like I was stumbling from tree to tree leaning on each to take a break. It was partially the fatigue but it was mostly mental, I was actually pouting while hiking. Talking to myself seemed to help, but eventually I think I just accepted my new lifestyle.
The ruins at our church camp were almost maddening. Joe and I each discussed the unfair fate of the hillside garden. There were several trails from the bottom of the hill leading up to the church, each one with it’s own unique statues. We imagined the hillside restored, the statues picked up, the brush cleared, and new flowers and plants growing. What was once a path for prayer and meditation with old and original character was abandoned and was to be bull dozed. Still a bummer.
What I remember still of New York is all about the crowds of people we would see and how awful the water tasted. I attribute the water to farm run off as we pass a lot of low lying streams near farms. Watching cow patties instead of roots and rocks wasn’t welcoming. If I were to describe New Jersey I think of giant scout troops, even more bad water, and that damn donkey outside our shelter. although it is funny now he made it real tough to sleep at night.
The only real problem we had with shipments came with holidays and post office closures. I will say that hiking was made so much easier with that support and the willingness the USPS has to help. It is sad that now many of these post offices are closing. It also didn’t hurt to have your father, a postman, as a support crew back home mailing things out, thanks again Pops! Sara’s Soda Shop was more than accommodated while we waited and you’ll find that kind of courtesy at almost all of the small towns and shops along the trail. At the end of the post I also talk about the excitement that is coming over us as we anticipate family and friends coming to see us. This honestly got us through some days on the trail! It is so comforting and touching to know that we had the support crew to come see us. Joe and I would often talk about it, day after day, “who is coming down you think?”, “What do you want to do when our friends come?”, “Do you think (unmentioned exgirlfriend) is coming?” , these and many other questions filled our days with excitement and wonder.