Monday, October 22, 2012

Journal: Trees Falling in the Forest

Reposted from email with pictures added on 10-29.

Hail from Unionville NY! I tried to find a library but had no luck. My next chance will be in Palmerton PA, so there will be no pictures this time. I'm sitting in Annabel's Pizzeria eating a salad and two slices of pizza, one pain and one mushroom. The salad was delicious and the pizza is good; I may go back for seconds. In an hour the post office will open and I'll lose 7 lbs or so from my pack. I'm sending my climbing equipment ahead to my climbing buddy in PA and bouncing some books and heavy winter supplies ahead to Harpers Ferry.

Returning to the trail was great. Rainwater sluiced down the trees and coursed through the trail as rain fell steadily. My Dad climbed up to the view above Greenwood Lake with me. I have some good pictures and he does too. I hope his camera is still functional - it decided the rain was too much for it.
Heading south from Greenwood, NY was still NY. Difficult to predict the trail and hard to follow the blazes. But a very fun element was added. Deep puddles twenty to thirty feet long spanned the trail. For over a mile I walked in calf deep water. I learned from other SOBOs that the water lasted on the trail at least two days after the rain.

My goal that night was to reach Wawayanda shelter; I was hindered by a giant widowmaker suspended above the trail. A forty foot limb was dangling by threads of bark. The limb was seven to eight inches in diameter at its thickest. Some time ago, the small branches near the ground had been cut off so that hikers could walk beneath! I couldn't walk by and let this impale the next passerby so I gingerly looped my 2 mm string to the lowest branch, walked to some distance and yanked on the string. On the fourth swing the limb came crashing down. The tip my string was looped around embedded itself so deeply in the ground that I couldn't extricate it. The shattered pieces went all over the trail and some came within a few feet of me. The largest piece was so big that I couldn't shift it at all. By the time I cleared the trail by picking up the smaller pieces, night had fallen.
The largest section of widowmaker.
The shattered pieces of the widowmaker.

So a night hike it was! I was very happy to be in NJ with its better trail and blazing. But it was foggy. Very. I would walk to one blaze, stop and search for the next. A few times I still couldn't see the blaze and had to guess. Being careful, I still missed the shelter, a first for me. Fortunately, I only went an extra 2/10 or so.

Falling trees continued to be a theme that night. I set up my tent under the healthiest tree I could find, unpacked, and snuggled up. Sometime later I woke to a huge crash nearby. The two guys in the shelter called out to see if I was okay. That was the third tree they heard fall. I spent the rest of the night in the shelter.

I was tired the next day and planning to do an easy ten miles therefore I only left at noon. The scenery was gorgeous. Snowman and the NOBO zeroed at Wawayanda shelter the day before and I could see why. They professed to trying to avoid the rain but I was awfully tempted to zero in the sun. It was simply serene.
Wawayanda Shelter.

Wawayanda Shelter from the inside. Picture perfect window. Even with all the hiker gear.

NJ has lived up to its billing. It reminds me a lot of CT with an open forest floor and yellow ceiling. But the trail itself is easier and nicer. That describes Wawayanda to Vernon. Then there is the famous boardwalk and pastures to accompany it. It felt like I was back in VT or southern VA just with smaller hills. I'm only in Unionville, so there's a lot left but I like what I see so far.

Since it was a weekend I also met oodles of people. Sisters Lauren and Amanda at Pinwheels Vista on Wawayanda Mountain were great fun, along with their dogs Grizzly and Louie. Louie was as friendly as coud be but Grizzly cringed if I so much as touched my pack. He only said hi once Louie proved it was safe. And Grizzly was a much bigger dog than the puppy Louie. Too bad I can't upload my pictures.
Lauren and Amanda with Grizzly and Louie.

I also walked with a couple on the boardwalk who possessed great wit. Two kids lost some contraption over the side of the boardwalk and asked for "something sharp" to help extricate it. There was little we could do. The man suggested they go wading in after it which was really the best solution. Their awestruck faces were awesome. Especially after he described exactly how to do it with all the details. They didn't go for it. I wasn't inclined to dive in either.

I also chatted with Adele and Steve for a bit. They were looping around back to the AT further south. I was hoping to see them again but we missed each other. However, they found me online! Hello guys! I'm glad you have your trekking poles!

At the bottom of Wawayanda Mountain I headed across the road to Heaven Hill Farm. They were packed! I picked up a strawberry rhubarb pie and ate it on the spot. Sadly, I missed the corn maze because it only opens at night. But I packed a fresh apple and poppy seed pastry for the road.
That night I met a great crowd of sectioners at Pochuck Mountain. For most of them it was their first backpacking trip. I had a good night hanging out and trading smart-aleck remarks and trail wisdom. The next day I zeroed. My body was worn out and still recovering. I practiced the ukulele and read. I began and finished Candide. Very well written but pessimistic to the end. I'd be pretty happy with that ending. Today I'm feeling more energetic and likely even better after I drop off some things at the post office.

But today, just before I reached the road for this town, I found another widowmaker! Exactly the same as the first, except it was only half the size. Again I tied my string and again I yanked. Three swings and it came down. This one didn't embed itself and I easily moved all the pieces. Now I'm in town and the PO is open. Also the personal veggie supreme pizza was delicious!

Hiking out, I stopped to check out the secret shelter. And here I remain. It's beautiful and peaceful only two miles outside town. I toured the grounds on foot and talked with Jim for a while. And then I decided to stay. There's a star watching rock that looks oh so inviting. And the donkeys nearby are nibbling grass. It's warm in here and I am comfortable sitting in just my hiking garb. I can even charge my phone here, hence the update with a couple pictures. These pictures are from the secret shelter, the ones from my camera will have to wait.

Updated 10-29-12: Pictures added.

Merry Merry

Fallen trees are the theme of this section. Smashed boardwalk.
I never knew New Jersey could be so pretty.

Secret Shelter.

Star watching rock at the Secret Shelter.

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