Day 82. It was another sunny day (yes!) filled with very rocky trails (no!). I heard warning from the caretaker at 501 Shelter a few days back that the climb coming up from the Lehigh River is treacherous and steep. He wasn’t lying, as it was straight up a loose rock scree field for nearly a full mile. It was definitely a fun challenge, requiring mostly 4 limbs touching at once, but a rough way to start my day. See pic above.
Side note, I heard a bobcat last night! At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. Around 2am, I heard rustling as something slowly walked by my tent … and then it meowed. I don’t know enough about wild cats to know which ones meow, but I know it wasn’t a thruhiking domestic kitten. Just as I questioned my ears, it meowed again, then slowly moved on. Given the mice that frequent shelters, I’m not surprised it would hunt here, and other hikers have claimed to see bobcats as well, so I’m convinced.
I had a little trail magic this morning too, just before reaching the river. A section hiker by the name of General Store was set up at a road crossing with snacks, drinks and chairs. I had a nice 2nd breakfast, thanked her, and hiked on. Then things got tough.
If I was smart, I would have closely evaluated today’s hike last night. And if I did that, I would have noticed there is no water along the trail for today’s entire 24 mile march. None. A couple side trails of over a half-mile to water towards the end, but that’s it. Instead, I learned of this folly when I stopped for a morning snack around 11am. I had about 1 liter left at this point … and 18 miles to go in the hot sun. It was going to be a tough and painful walk, so I started rationing my remaining water tightly.
About half the day was in the open, where the sun beat down relentlessly sans shade (trust me, after the week I had, I’m not complaining). But then I moved back into the forest where there was ample tree cover to help cool me down. Even with the green tunnel’s aid though, by mid-afternoon I was drenched with sweat and severely under-hydrated. Not outright sickly, but I could tell I was weak and clumsy with fatigue. And every mile was moving more and more slowly.
After hiking 14 more miles, I was only 4 from the end now, but completely out of water and in pretty bad shape. Visions of ice cream and Gatorade danced in my head while my feet tripped endlessly on protruding rocks of the trail. Luckily, this was when I passed a side trail to a piped spring. It was going to cost me 1.2 miles round trip, going down and back up the side of the mountain, but I decided it was better than trying to finish my day this dehydrated.
That side trail was barely a trail, as I meandered endlessly through the woods and down the mountainside. It was marked with blue blazes, but barely showed any wear to the ground. I doubt more than a handful of hikers use it each year, and only when desperate (like me). When I finally reached my prize, I nearly dunked my head under the tiny flowing pipe when I did. I also yelled out a very loud sigh of relief. I drank 2 full liters right there, avoiding all common sense to drink slow in these situations, then refilled my bladder and began the slow march back up. I had left my pack at the top, so at least I was light on my feet for the long detour.
Being fully quenched, my energy and wits were also recharged and I felt much better continuing on. The last few miles went quickly and I eventually reached the shelter. I chatted briefly with the half dozen hikers there and decided to setup my hammock for the night. It is supposed to rain all day tomorrow, but I’m going to try and break camp before it starts in the morning. If I sleep in, I know I’ll at least have a dry bed waiting for me 20 miles away in Delaware Water Gap tomorrow night. I can handle hiking with wet gear if I have to, with that in mind.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1251.1
- Start Time: 07:45
- End Mile: 1274.6
- End Time: 18:30
- Miles Hiked: 23.5
- Miles to Go: 916.3
- Lodging: Leroy A. Smith Shelter