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