Totts Gap for blue mountain
Rocksylvania Final Camp for Too good to skip camp
AT miles: 28.5
Total mileage: 1329.3
Altitude change: Gain of 4360 feet, loss of 4114 feet
It is with great pleasure that I announce that I am officially finished with Rocksylvania. As much as I enjoyed the AT through this state, the final rocky miles really wore me out. When I reached the New Jersey border today, I didn’t drag or drag. Ready for the next phase, I charged forward, not much more than a glance behind me. And you know what, New Jersey is just as rocky as Pennsylvania. However, without carrying a reputation as such or a flashy nickname, the rocks of NJ looked like rocks. They still sucked at times, and my feet still got more abuse than they deserved, but there was no greater reputation to overcome. Mentally, it gave me a lift. It also helped that New Jersey was beautiful. The sprawling suburb I imagined has yet to appear even in the distance, though I haven’t given up on that possibility yet. Lots to see, lots to learn, lots to do, lots to eat. My stay in New Jersey will be short, and that’s okay as long as it’s mild too.
I woke up well before my alarm, feeling rested and refreshed. I was surprised at how well I slept after switching from my inflatable pillow to my foam pillow, which can take some getting used to, and squirming luxuriously without fear of falling. The horizon shone a deep orange between distant hills and gray clouds. The weather threatened to rain, but not enough to worry me. Besides, Pennsylvania wouldn’t rain on me on our last day together, would it? Also, New Jersey wasn’t raining on me in our premiere.
I packed up after having lunch and popped my heel blisters. They still hurt badly, even on the smooth dirt road that had started the day. It was a disappointment, but what could I do? The pain would be either dull or persistent. I would hike regardless. The trail got rocky again for the huge descent to the Delaware River. The large stone steps through the rhododendron were worn and I soon realized why as the flow of day hikers coming up thickened. They all smelled clean. I smelled very bad. A few drops of rain speckled the stones and rustled the leaves, but no one seemed worried, and neither did I. I was more bothered by the little clumps of shriveled rhododendron flowers that seemed to come and go. I refused to believe I had missed rhody’s flower, deciding that those few had jumped the gun and froze for their impatience instead. I got breathtaking views of the epic geology of Mount Tammany and the Delaware Water Gap, then finished the hike into town, sniffing the perfume and smelling the crust in my socks.
With no reason to stay or visit, I left the city before really entering it. The old buildings looked cool, but that was all they would do for me. I joined the rumble of cars and trucks and crossed the Delaware River on a long concrete bridge. It flexed and shook with the semis passing, and my left ear was battered by all the roars and screams. As I walked, I reflected on my feelings the last time I walked across I-80. It was in Rawlins, WY on the CDT. Back then, I felt the lure of faraway California, knowing that the highway would take me there if I chose to leave it. But I didn’t feel that this time. This I-80 was too far away, the smell of CA had almost dried up by the time she got here. I walked, crossing New Jersey, focused on the future rather than the past.
A few full parking lots indicated that it would be a busy day on the trail. And why not, it was Saturday and the weather was nice. I left the sidewalk and walked up the trail along Dunnfield Creek, impressed with the smoothness of the tread and the natural beauty. What can I say ? It was a beautiful cove. The surrounding forest remained the familiar mix of oak and beech, still bare, barely budding. After a mile or two I caught up with Grease Pig, another nobo hiker who was absolutely flying. He had swallowed my 11 days head start with Springer as if nothing had happened and, above all, he was still smiling. We fell into an easy and engaging conversation about our hikes and our lives, covering everything but always getting back on the trail. He had traveled some interesting routes, including one following in the footsteps of a young John Muir from Indiana to Florida. It didn’t strike me as fun, but the spirit of adventure that inspired his pilgrimage was something I could appreciate.
We walked together for the rest of the morning, both finding humor in the sign announcing Sunfish Pond as one of New Jersey’s Seven Natural Wonders, then admitting it was a damn beautiful place. Apparently this is the first natural mountain lake encountered by a nobo hiker. I reconsidered. This fact has been verified. The trail was rocky at times, but as I mentioned before, these felt like rocks rather than a whole rock monster that needed to be killed. If I needed to gird myself for miles and miles of treacherous rock jumping, then I was blissfully unaware.
I left Grease Pig at the open top of Kittatinny Mountain, where he made the right choice for lunch. The view next to the large stone cairn was close to a full panorama, and one of the best since Virginia. I had nothing to acknowledge, but the space to let my neck turn and my eyes wander was appreciated. I then continued along Raccoon Ridge, hoping for an equally epic spot for my lunch in thirty minutes. Why didn’t I stop there too? I still do not know.
The open forest with a carpet of green grass was as beautiful as it gets. So far, New Jersey has been blowing my mind. Even when I found myself stuck behind a waving train of jabronis, making rude jokes and shouting loudly, the universe helped me, inserting a big black snake in the path to distract them long enough for me to get away with it. to go out. Then I found my place, a secluded campsite with lots of flat land, all to myself.
The clouds were gone and the afternoon was baking by the time I resumed the hike. A rocky ridge guided me to more great campsites and great views to the east, still no suburbs in sight, and I felt like taking another break or spending the night. Unsurprisingly, I saw more day hikers than I had the capacity to rave about my hike, finally reaching my limit when a guy explained to me about the weather in the White Mountains . I decided to change my story after that. I was now just a local for the weekend. I grumbled, working out what I would have liked to say in response, trying to balance kindness with tact and assertiveness, preparing my lines for the next similar encounter. Above all that I was appalled and realized that the unsolicited advice was just a taste of what SpiceRack (and so many other non dude hikers) would experience on his hike. . Well intentioned as this guy was, it was demeaning.
Grease Pig snapped me out of those deep thoughts when I caught up with him again. We stocked up at Rattlesnake Spring, and he gave me the inside scoop on some of his favorite Kurt Vonnegut short stories. We jumped over more rocks and walked around a few beaver ponds. I ogled downed trees, chewed until they couldn’t stand, and I couldn’t remember ever seeing anything like this before. It was surreal, like meeting a celebrity or a fictional character. I had never thought about it too much before, assuming that beavers gnaw on trees. What a great and strange creature.
The rocks finally got to me as we climbed a cliff and crossed Crater Lake. My feet hurt and felt worn out from my dirty socks. When the trail reached an open grassy ridge a few miles later, I couldn’t pass it up. The place and time were perfect, and I dropped my bag with a relieved sigh. Grease Pig continued in the growing darkness, intending to reach the shelter in less than a mile.
I pitched my tent and sat without my duvet, fanning my feet in the warm night air, watching the last color fade to the horizon, like morning upside down. Not a breath of wind. Beans for dinner and sleep for bed.
This article was originally published on my blog randofordays.com. Check it out for trip reports from my other hikes including CDT and Sierra High Route.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps support The Trek’s ongoing goal of providing you with quality hiking advice and information. Thanks for your help!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.