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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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DAY 91:  FRIDAY, JULY 29
 
Start: Deckertown Tpk., NJ                                 
End:  NJ County Rd. 565
Today's Miles:                      22.1
Cumulative Miles:          1,349.7
   
 
"Do you know how far it is to scroll to get to the bottom of
your journal? [topics page] It is another wonderful
measure of the progress you have made. I love it."
- a supportive reader
 


One of many stacked stone walls in High Point State Park, NJ       Both photos from 7-29-05

Puncheon (bog bridges) through Vernie Swamp

And here's another measure of progress: today I set foot in my ninth state, New York!

I'm not exactly sure when that happened (no sign), but for several miles the AT followed the NJ/NY state line today. If you recall, the same thing happened in NC/TN and VA/WV for several miles.

I ended back inside NJ today but will leave the state for good during  tomorrow's run/hike.

Today's trail section was pretty schizo again. It had about everything packed into 22 miles: dramatic rock climbs, smooth rock slabs, fields with ponds, swamps with bridges, flat grassy roads through a wildlife refuge, steep climbs and descents, far-off views, and dozens (yes!) of stacked stone fences.

There were sections that rivaled the difficulty of Pennsylvania's notorious rocks, and sections even I could run without tripping! Too bad I couldn't run them yet. But I'm able to do a bit of a shuffle downhill now.

Progress!

Roughly the first half of today's section went in a northeasterly direction and included High Point State Park. The second half was at a right angle, going primarily south-east along the NJ/NY state line.

It's a bit frustrating to be going south right now! The AT guide book has this note at the top of the sections going the "wrong" direction: "Because of the orientation of the Trail here, the 'northern' end of the section if actually farther south than the 'southern' end."

That's perfectly clear, right?

High Point State Park was mostly rocky, with some interesting smooth rock slabs on an early ridge that reminded me of the surface going up Stone Mountain Park east of Atlanta. As I progressed through the park the trails became more smooth and runnable.

There were several great views toward the north (Poconos) and south from the Kittatinny ridge again. A layer of fog can be seen in the background of this photo. I think it's probably hanging above the Delaware River, which was not visible (the water in the foreground is a lake):

I counted twenty-three old stone walls within the park, many in good condition. They were used to fence in pastures for elk and reindeer, which the Kuser family tried to raise before they donated their land for the park in 1923. I'm not sure how they kept the animals in, however; none of the walls stands more than three feet tall now.

"MILKMAN"

It was in this section that I met the only thru-hiker I talked with today, "Milkman." He's a young dairy farmer from Pennsylvania who started hiking at the end of March. He recently spent two weeks at home and it was tough for him to return to the Trail. He's determined to finish as soon as possible by hiking an average of twenty miles a day.

It's too bad the joy of the hike is gone for this young man. He's still got a long way to go. I give him a lot of credit for coming back out to finish, and hope he starts having fun again soon. Maybe if he catches up to his friends again . . .

One of the things Milkman and I talked about was the de-conditioning we're doing while we don't have the significant elevation gains and losses we did several states ago. Yes, there are plenty of steep climbs and descents in the mid-Atlantic states but they don't go on forever like they used to. What's happening to our "trail legs?" Are we losing muscle mass? Just how tough will it be when we start hitting mountains like the Whites in New Hampshire?

I'd sure hate to go through that sore-quads thing again!

I've noticed that my upper body is losing strength. For 24 years I've been doing regular weight workouts and yoga and stretching. I haven't been doing that for three months now, and it shows. The only thing I'm doing for my arms is carrying a 28-oz. bottle of Perpetuem in my left hand and a trekking pole in my right hand!

Oh, and climbing up some vertical rock walls . . .

I have to say, my right arm gets a lot of work with that pole. It's saved me many a fall. I really rely on it, and felt "naked" without it during the Vermont race.

There were several cairns in the state park (and many yesterday), some to mark the trail, some obviously just for fun. It's hard for me to pass by a cairn without adding more rocks to it! Sometimes I even provide the base layer for new ones . . .

SWAMP THINGS

The character of the land really changed after descending from High Point State Park, when the Trail abruptly began going more south. That's when I entered New Jersey's "drowned lands," so called because of floods that regularly inundated the fields of early Dutch settlers and made farming difficult.

This is swamp country, the product of the last Ice Age when glacial activity left rich deposits of sediment in the valleys at the foot of ridges scraped nearly clean by the ice.

The Trail went through two main swamp areas in this section, Vernie Swamp and the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Both were very interesting, with numerous dragonflies, butterflies, and other insects, dozens of kinds of birds, flowers and other lush plants, and more bog bridges (puncheon) than you can count - 2/10ths of a mile in Vernie Swamp, 4/10ths of a mile at the refuge. That's a lot of bridging! (There's an even longer section tomorrow, however.)

Much of the second section of Trail is exposed to the sun, going through fields. Much of it is runnable except for the rocky ascent and summit of Pochuck Mountain near the end of the section. I really enjoyed the variety of the Trail today and managed a 24:40 pace walking, with stops.

CHILD'S PLAY

Seeing the beautiful dragonflies in the swamps today reminded me of one reason I'm having so much fun out here on the Trail - it rekindles my child-like sense of wonder in nature. Growing up on a farm, I was a total tomboy, playing with baby mice in the corncrib, frogs and butterflies and caterpillarss in the garden, garter snakes in the front yard, and all the farm animals we had. The dragonflies somehow brought back a flood of memories of happy childhood discoveries.

It's never been a mystery to me why I love being in the woods all day. It was programmed into me as a child. I grew up before TV was popular, let alone computers and electronic games. I went outside to play.

I still like going outside to play! That's what I'm doing this summer!!

If you have kids or grandkids, especially in urban or suburban areas, please take them hiking as often as you can so they can explore the world of nature first hand, not just on the Discovery Channel.

End of lecture. Time for bed. 'Nite!

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil