I woke early – I looked to be the first hiker stiring at 6:00am. I walked over to the privy, and then to the grocery store for coffee and juice, before heading back to the park. I was surprised to find both Savage and Champa packing up for the day. Savage was energetic – she said she wanted to make big miles and subsequently took off down trail with Champa, then Get Weird, following behind. I took my time.
I was packed up by 7:00 and made my way over to Black Santa’s tent. He was awake, but tired – he hiked just over 30 miles yesterday to catch up. McDoubles was awake as well – I decided to wait on them so the three of us could have breakfast at the grocery.
After a quick bagel sandwich, we started slowly hiking north. Having bought way too many snacks in town, we all had heavy packs. The first two miles out of town were easy – McDoubles took the lead with Black Santa and I right on his heels. We were looking forward to our hike this morning. While the trail was listed as “challenging”, we should get to enjoy to large sections of flat roadwalking – and our first one lay right ahead.
We exited the woods and found ourselves hiking alongside the Wallkill Sanctuary – a large, marshy tract of land set aside for wildlife. Black Santa and I walked down the street for a while – we couldn’t find McDoubles. Nor were we seeing any white blazes…
I checked my GPS app and frowned – we were almost a mile away from the AT. We turned around and headed back to the trailhead. While we walked back, I instantly noticed how hot it was getting. I could feel the heat coming from the blacktop below – I was sweating bullets and it was only 10:00am.
We slowly made it around the preserve and finally took a break at a water spigot six miles away from town. It was nearly 11:30 and we had only hiked seven miles on the day. We tried motivating ourselves to hike harder, but soon fell back into the same pace. On top of the heat, this section was indeed proving itself to be difficult – just like in PA, rocks and boulders still littered the path.
At the end of the boardwalk, I spilled out onto NJ 94 and followed a sign to Heaven Hills Farms, a small nursery that sells fresh foods and baked goods just off trail. I was beat. I needed a Gatorade, a Mountain Dew, anything to provide a boost to get through this heat.
We entered the store and bought snacks – I was enjoying an ice cream outside when the owner walked over and said we could use the wash sinks out back for “anything” if we needed. I took her up on the offer, washing as best I could and doing laundry.
Black Santa and I put our laundry in the sun to dry and rested in the shade -it was 86 outside with no wind and no clouds. I was miserable. I wouldn’t have thought temps in the mid 80s would wear me out so quickly. I imagine having 40 pounds of gear (and snacks) strapped to my back doesn’t help.
We left the nursery at 6:30 – by now, the sun was starting to go down and it was noticeably cooler outside. I started catching cool breezes. I felt like hiking again.
Black Santa and I made the decision to make it to the NY/NJ border, no matter how challenging the terrain may be ahead – we only had nine miles to go. We summited Wawayanda Mountain and enjoyed dinner at the Pinwheels Vista – while we were cooking, a bear came into view. She was large and had three small cubs with her. And she was close – thankfully, there were about seven other hikers yelling at her to keep moving.
The bear did move – straight into a stealth camp a hundred yards away. While they were yelling at the bear, Black Santa and I thought it would be a good time to hike on. We switched on our headlamps and starting trying to gain ground on the difficult terrain.
At 9:00pm we ran into trail magic – I finally got my Mountain Dew after all.
We paused a few times for snacks. The terrain was difficult and we were getting tired. At 1:45, we crossed the border and an hour later, I was fast asleep, cowboy camping not a hundred yards away.
This heat is awful. And it’s only going to get hotter, I know. The night hike worked out great actually – I really enjoyed it.
We’ve got a full moon the next couple of nights – I may just keep nighthiking all the way to Fort Montgomery. If I put in a few miles tomorrow and sleep during the hottest part of the day (like noon to 6:00), I might be able to make it close, if not all the way there. I need to recruit others…
Breakfast: sausage and fried egg onion bagel with ketchup (they put ketchup on every breakfast sandwich here), 64 oz Powerade, coffee
Snacks: three granola bars, sleeve of peanuts, 8 PB crackers
Lunch: Heaven Hills Farm – one scoop of blueberry ice cream, one corn muffin, one blueberry muffin
Snacks: two granola bars, sleeve of peanuts
Dinner: chicken Tetrazini MRE (meal ready-to-eat). I bought it from the grocery store in Unionville – it was bulky, but but fun to cook.
Trail Magic: can of Mountain Dew, small bottle of Gatorade, sleeve of crackers
Snacks: dried cranberries, four slices of rye bread