End of PA, NJ, and Home.

I’m blogging through a thunderstorm right now! Looks like it will be strong, but pass through quickly. Thunderstorms aren’t so scary in the north, and besides they don’t bother me nearly as much as they used to.

Back to where we left off:

Pennsylvania is know for its rocks, and it certainly goes out with a bang. The last 60 miles in PA were incredibly, grueling. I did 3 twenty-ish mile days to bring myself to the border and they were some of the hardest twenties I’ve done so far. Definitely the hardest since was back in NC/TN. With no exaggeration I can say it was almost constant rock hopping, with a few serious scrambles thrown in. Imagine walking through a river of rocks all day long. That’s basically what it was.

Delaware Water Gap, PA, the last town before NJ, right on the border, almost made up for it though. DWG was one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, trail town so far. Perhaps it was just the situation I found myself in, but I quickly fell in love with it.

I did 6 relatively easy miles into town and planned on eating, resupplying, then doing 5 more to get a jump on NJ. I was stricter with my calories the previous resupply so I came into town famished. I ate at a very nice diner, then went next door to a wonderful little bakery and had an incredible cupcake. After that I went to resupply and was still hungry so I picked up a pint of Ben and Jerry’s to eat at the local donation only church run hostel. My new shoes were chaffing my ankles pretty badly, so I figured I would go to the hostel, wash my socks, and eat and read while they dried.

By this time the day had warmed up to a blistering 90 degrees, so when I reached the hostel it was a wonderfully cool respite. That, combined with the comfy leather couch, and the perfectly satisfying ice cream made me fall in love with the place.

About an hour after I arrived it started to hail and torrentially rain, which of course made me feel even better about being there. I decided it was silly to head back out while it was so awful out and instead spent the rest of the day at the hostel. I’m glad I did. A lot of my trail friends, some who I hadn’t seen for a long time, trickled in throughout the rest of the day so it was a real thru hiker bash by evening. All in all a great day.

After that I set out to rush through NJ. I live in NY and had planned on stopping at home since the very beginning, so I was very excited to get through NJ. NJ is only about 70ish miles long and is notorious for its bear problems, so I decided to push my mileage up.

After PA the terrain seemed much more forgiving and had some very nice views to boot. However each day was incredibly hot and that absolutely killed my strength. I had to rest fifteen minutes out of every hour just to keep hiking, so that combined with the higher milages made each day very long. This, combined combined with the realization that it would be more fun to hike NY in one shot rather than break it up, made me decide to go home about 20 miles short of the NY border.

Going home was… Underwhelming at first. For so long, basically since my fourth day out, I dreamt of being home. It was what got me through hard days and what sustained me throughout the long miles. In fact finishing, or Kahtahdin, was never really a psychologically present goal. Of course I planned on getting there, but it wasn’t what I thought about. It was home, home, home.

During the week immediately before going home I spent my days dreaming of all the food I would eat, beers I would drink, and tv I would watch. But it turned out once I got home that the food was good, but still just food, the beers were nice, but still just beers, and after so long in the woods, tv was a combination of boring and over stimulating. To wit, it was nice, but wasn’t the earth shaking, wondrously relaxing experience I built it up to be.

After a few days though, and with some help of a friend, I got back into the comforts of the real world and enjoyed myself more fully. And of course it was great to see my friends and family.

Going home for just shy of a week, an eternity of zeroes by trail standards, was a mixed bag of positives and negatives. On the one hand it gave me a good amount of time to think about my journey from my everyday perspective and also served as a great mental break. On the other, my group of trail friends is so far ahead that I’ll likely never see most of them again. I really enjoyed their company, and there really was nothing better than knowing everyone within 40 miles of me. Anywhere I went I knew there would be good friends there, or that I would see them within a few days.

Since getting back on the trail I haven’t met too many thruhikers. I think it’s more spread out here than it was at the front with my old bubble, and I haven’t stayed at any shelters yet. I’m sure I’ll meet new awesome people and make new friends, but for now I’m hiking solo. That does have its benefits though. Whereas I used to be somewhat accountable to the group, that is, I had to keep up, at least in my own mind, now there is no pressure at all.

I’m just about done with NY now. It’s been really nice hiking through my old stomping grounds, but hard. It’s a lot of closely packed, steep, but short ups and downs, which is physically grueling after so many flat-ish miles in VA and PA.

In a few days I’ll be in CT and will be two thirds done with the trail! It feels like just yesterday I was halfway done, but now the distance left to go is small enough to grapple with. With about 1400 miles done, I have about 750 to go.

On to CT!

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