Monday, October 29, 2012

Journal: Friends and Storms

As promised, here I am in the library at Palmerton PA. It took longer than I expected to hike here but it worked out in the end.

Last time I left you at the secret shelter. The next day began my grueling trek up to New Jersey's highest point. It takes a team of twenty people with pack mules to set the stage for the three day ascent. Many perish in the attempt. I eschewed conventional wisdom, shouldered my backpack and walked up, waving and chatting to the maintenance guys near the top. I think they were working on a stuck drain. Sadly, the concessions were closed but I nearly scored a ride back down (it's a side trail to the 1803 foot tall point). But I do have to say this: either my sandals have lost all grip or the rocks in this area are very slippery. Usually I simply use the rocks to do a controlled slide for speed, but on these I slid and slipped enough to fall.
This little guy and his cousins really enjoyed the wet weather.

Enjoying the day is a must! I caught a glimpse of High Point Monument through the fog and had some fun with the camera.
Typical hiking weather for the past couple weeks.
Rain and fog have been my constant companions. Coming down to High Point Ranger Station for the free thru hiker soda, I saw another. Almost inexplicably, Elvis was there. He should have been two weeks ahead! Turns out, while I recovered off trail he visited NYC twice and spent a week in Philly, leaving us at the same point. Which was cool, I had an old friend on the trail.

Lunch break in wet weather. Unpack quickly, eat quickly, and get moving again quickly.
The next morning brought more surprises. I had business I wanted to take care of despite the spotty internet connection a mile into the woods, sat down for a few hours and wore out three cell phone batteries. I am well aware of the irony involved there. As I was wrapping up the business near midday, four SOBOs came in out of the fog. We chatted for a minute and then introduced ourselves. "You're Merry the Hobbit?! [to each other:] We caught him!" It was a rather odd moment for me. Since I got back on the trail, this has happened multiple times, verging on many. But this was by far the most enthusiastic response.

Kim, Waffles, John, and Jared had been hiking with Olympus since the beginning of Maine. I knew Olympus from way down south in Virginia. Because of family issues he flipped twice, finally hiking from Katahdin south to Vernon NJ. Olympus finished his thru hike and commenced to slack pack the remainder of his group through New Jersey. I met these four during one of their slackpacks and apparently they had been on the lookout for me.

I think this response is largely a result of my frequent entries in registers and the fact - I hope it's a fact - that those entries are legible. I remember chasing after the folks in the registers who were ahead of me and it gave me a good feeling to catch up and finally meet them. But I was in for one more surprise.

To the end, New Jersey surprises me. This is near the Delaware Water Gap, north of the Mohican Outdoor Center.
Crossing the Delaware River and entering Pennsylvania was great. In Delaware Water Gap there was a bakery where I bought fresh tomato basil bread and ate a tomato grilled cheese sandwich on garlic bread. I bought that too, just to be clear. And an apple. Hiking up my first hill in Pennsylvania, the trail quickly opened onto a wide road that was very easy to hike even at night. That night I camped with Chareeze and Sandy at the shelter. They had the fire going when I arrived. Just out for the weekend, they gifted me zuchini bread and very good granola.

Because of the oncoming storm I was planning to push for 26 miles the following day to reach striking distance of Palmerton, the location of a free hostel called the Jail House. But after 14 miles I reached Leroy Shelter where the locals told me that hurricane Sandy would strike the coast on Tuesday morning. So I started to think about hanging out. I refilled my water, cooked and ate dinner and relaxed for a couple hours. I had just about made up my mind to hike on a bit for the night when a headlight bobbed down the hillside. Could it be a SOBO I know? As he came close to the fire I saw Silly Sobo! The last time I had seen him was in Lincoln NH. Through a strange twist of scheduling he was hiking northbound in the White Mountains but was actually about 200 miles behind me. My time off let him catch up! So I stayed that night and Silly and I hiked out the next day. Elvis was coming to Palmerton too but he got a little bit of a later start that morning.

The 16 mile hike to Palmerton was very smooth until the end. That's where the Superfund site reigns. At the northern end it contains a long jumble of oddly shaped rocks that reminded me a little of the rock scramble up Madison. In the wind and rain it could have been tricky but neither occurred.

Pulling into Palmerton it took some work to find a police officer so that we could sign into the Jail House Hostel but the officer who eventually found us was very kind. Into the basement of the Burough Hall we went. The basement was never used as a jail and is set up to house hikers, at least for the 24 years that our friendly officer had served. In the basement was the final surprise for this section: my old friend Ulysses, whom I had bumped into several times over the course of 500 miles. The last time I saw him was in Waynesboro VA. He eventually flipped up to Maine as well and hiked south, but had also been fairly far behind me. I never had obtained his contact information so it was doubly nice to see him again.

We now have a SOBO party in the Jail House Hostel. Silly, Ulysses, Elvis, Larney, Snapshot, and myself are sticking in the basement for the storm. I have hopes of wind and rain enough to make a game of frisbee really fun and challenging. Here's to fun!
Silly on the Superfund site outside Palmerton.

Descending the Superfund site. The angles on these rocks lead me to believe that the slope was created by humans.


  1. Great journal post. Hope you weathered the storm OK.

    -- Adele and Steve

    1. Thanks guys! The frisbee broke but I survived just fine. How did you folk fare?

  2. Love the little orange guy. Not, not the hairy one. The one with four legs. And a tail. Just to be clear.