Day 83. At long last I have reached Delaware Water Gap and the end of Pennsylvania. And I will tell you, I am glad to put this rocky, dry, godforsaken, Keystone State behind me. If you’ve been reading this, you probably know that already, but I’m saying it out loud anyway because it makes me happy to acknowledge it.
Pennsylvania was awful for me. Most people have the “Virginia Blues”, but I had the “Pennsylvania Blues”. The weather was brutal, my moral was low, and my eagerness to hike was challenged each morning. Many days were spent questioning my purpose and goals to this hike, while tripping over pointy rocks. But that is yesterday’s news and yesterday’s attitude. With PA behind me now, I am once again eager and ready for the next chapter of hiking the AT. Hello Neiman!
Of course, as a going away present, PA gave me a full day of rain to hike out in (how sweet). Fortunately though, I got up early enough to break camp dry. I woke at 5am and packed everything up by 5:30, knowing the rain was supposed to start at 6:00. And wouldn’t you know it? At 6am on the dot, it started coming down. But I didn’t care, I slept great, packed dry, and was ready to hike wet all day if needed. I had one thought going through my mind … this state will not win, and I will get the last laugh!
The rain wasn’t too bad, though it was incessant and made today’s rocks quite slippery and dangerous. There was a ridge walk today that was real bad, for example, being compared to the descent of Dragon’s Tooth in Virginia. A bypass trail was available to take you around it during bad conditions like this, but I was feeling extra brave today and took it on head first, rain and all. YOU WILL NOT BEAT ME, PENNSYLVANIA!
After that, it was pretty easy. Just more of the rocky dirt trail I am now accustomed to. So as usual, I hiked with my eyes at my feet and attempted to keep my ankles and toes intact. Given this, it’s amazing that I once again almost stepped directly on a snake. Another big and harmless Eastern Kingsnake, but scary nonetheless as I paused with foot mid-air. Actually, given that he was sprawled out on the trail during a cold rainy day, I thought perhaps he was dead. So I did what any intelligent and mature expert outdoorsmen would do … I poked it with a stick.
At first he didn’t move, so I assumed my original hypothesis was correct. Then I poked it again to be sure … and this time, he moved alright! Like a flash of lightning, he struck out, attempting to sink his fangs into my hiking stick. The movement was so unexpectedly fast, an embarrassingly girlish yelp escaped my lips as I jumped 17 feet backward. The snake then folded itself up and stood on its folds in an upright position, as if preparing to strike out again. Needless to say, I took a very long detour around him (our eyes never leaving each other), and apologized vocally for disturbing the peace. Ugh, snakes. Yuck.
Continuing on, there were some great views of the Delaware River as I made my way down into the gap. The rain was coming down pretty hard by then, though, so I quickly moved on from each. The one photo I did stop to take is below, which shows some of the nicer countryside PA offers east of the Appalachian Trail.
Descending further, the trail then emptied out in the town of Delaware Water Gap, right at the NJ border. It was still early (2pm), so I took the afternoon to tour the tiny Main Street attractions … an outfitter, a bakery, a pizza place, a post office, a jazz club, and a church.
The church acts as a free hiker hostel, having converted their basement to a bunkroom with shower, bathroom, and living room. I dropped my stuff off there (claiming a couch for bed) and went to explore the town. The outfitter didn’t have much, as it’s mostly just used as a base camp for the white water rafting adventures they host here. My favorite stop was the bakery, which had AMAZING pie, donuts, and a grill. I spent an hour there, in confection heaven, before grabbing my resupply box at the post office and going back to the church.
The hostel is packed with hikers, and not in a good way. All the bunks are full, all the couches are full, and the floor has hikers spread out on every available square inch. Given the rain, many hikers Zeroed here today and more (like me) came in. I saw some familiar faces, like Scutch and Apollo, but they were only resting temporarily and headed out soon after I arrived. Gandalf is here as well, but everyone else is new/unknown to me. It’s loud in here, it’s crowded, and no one is anywhere near going to bed as I type this at 9:30pm. I’d be pretty upset if I was planning to hike in the morning.
But I’m not hiking. With a plan to visit my in-laws on Thursday, then pick up my dad on Friday, I am going to take the next 3 days off. My body and feet are pretty beat up, and I welcome the long rest. I could hike on tomorrow if needed, but this town happens to have a Greyhound bus leaving early Thursday morning for White Plains, which is where I need to go. So I am going to tentatively skip over the next 100 miles to Bear Mountain, and pick up the trail again there on Saturday. I will plan to finish those miles this year still, likely right after I summit Katahdin. But unfortunately not now.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1274.6
- Start Time: 06:15
- End Mile: 1294.7
- End Time: 14:30
- Miles Hiked: 20.1
- Miles to Go: 896.2
- Lodging: Church of the Mountain Hiker Center