Tuesday, July 22, 2008

hidden gem

Who would of thought, New Jersey, a hidden gem on the hike to Maine. Apart from the mosquitos, NJ has been fantastic. It all started off with a visit from Malaka who lives an hour away. She, along with Pearly and Emiline (spelling?), came up to meet us and go tubing on the slow moving Delaware river. With a cooler full of beers we spent 4 hours, first in the rain then boiling heat, floating and catching up. It was great to see an old friend and let the river and arms do the work for a change!

Once we got back to the humid hiking and crossed the Delaware into NJ, we stumbled across a bunch of spring fed lakes. Now this may not seem that suprising, but to us it was amazing. The only lakes we passed prior were the dammed reservoirs back in TN and NC. After contemplating on this strange appearance of swimmable fresh water, we figured out that the new landscape was formed due to the last ice-age. Just before we left PA, we came across a rock formation that was thought to be the southern terminus of the ice sheet from this last ice age. Thus the giant glacier that was, completely changed the terrain north of this point, carving out basins fro water to sit in. Interesting and refreshing!

Along with lakes comes a multitude of bluberry bushes, and thus bears. We[ve seen 2 already, one of them is shown below and I think it is the biggest we've seen so far (350 lbs?). Timber rattler snakes have also been common. Thankfully they give their warning so we dont step on them. Oh, and the people are friendly too. The supposed blunt and mean streak of the north is not apparent...so far. we have stayed at 2 great places in the last few days. One a church hostel in Delaware water gap, where they gave us a free pot-luck meal, showers and a place to stay - awesome. Then we came across "the mayor" of UnionVille ( a small town actaully in NY on the border) who just welcomes any hiker into his house to do laundry, shower, sleep, eat and drink 25 cent beers! The last few days he must have had around 65 hikers stay, with hiker bodies scattered through his whole house to catch a nap. He gave us a little spiel on what were doing this hike for, and remidnded us our motivation for being on the trail.

I would have to say that staying places like this and seeing how people can care for strangers is a major reason why we're still living on the AT. The community that is formed on this long thin strip of America is uncomparable to anything I've seen. Just how honest and helpful people are rubs off on everyone else and it continues in a cycle. As an example, I just lost my solar charger for my ipod a couple of days ago, but a fellow hiker picked it up and wrote in the shelter registers to give him a call so I could reclaim it, which I did. I don't see that happening much back in the real world! And I am going to mail a letter he needed to send off today to return the favor. I guess you could say this trail is just as circular as it is a long straight line! Here are the pics:

Gearing up to tube, Hoot (thats the trailname that stuck), Sundance, Malaka, Emiline, and Pearly.

Taking a dip in Catfish pond

This bear did not care! it took him a good 5 minutes to mosey on out of the way of the trail. He just sat down here and stared at us like "what u lookin at"

The Mayors house, where hikers come to feast and hang out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

we be movin on up...

Greetings from a great town with a rocky past, literally. Palmertown , PA, and its surrounding area is a Superfund site. As the last pic on this post shows; the rocky climb up from the town and Lehigh Gap, and the deforested ridge above are due to zinc smelting from 1898 - 1980. Revegetation efforts began in 1983 and look to be somewhat working. Though its not just this area thats rocky, but pretty much the last 3 days of walking. Some giant,yet slanted rocks to hop across here(easier without a 35 lb pack on), other fist-sized, tooth shaped rocks there. After a while it can be taxing both physically and mentally, with sore feet and frustration. We did know this of course beforehand, and otherwise, we have actually loved Pennsylvannia, the 7th state on the trail. but first we had to walk through Maryland, and look what happened....

...whats up with your home state Jen?!

Haha, this was at the Washington Monument. built in the ol' Presidents name but used by both the Confeds and Union armies as a lookout tower in the Civil war. You can see the battlefield of Antietam from the top.

The funny thing is that we actually went the wrong way to get this pic and couldn't find the trail for a good 10 minutes!

happy 4th of July! Trail Magic - The American beer for an American day.

Pine Grove Furnace State park, and the store thats home to the Half Gallon Challange - eat a half gallon of ice cream to celebrate the halfway point of the trail. Thats right, we had just passed mile mark 1,088, but we didn't celebrate with a grossly large propotion of dairy as we would be sitting on a privy for the next week or so (we are both lactose intolerant). the record for a whole gallon was a ridiculous 49 minutes, some fellow hikers took over an hour for just half!

AT midpoint!

Yes, thats me...
...and sundance hanging out with all the other kids at the waterpark in Boiling Springs, PA. We got lucky, all we wanted was to pay for a shower, but it was free swim day, July 5th if your in the area.

Guess which one is the thru-hiker?

We met up with Brahma Bull ( the guy with the cheeky grin) and the lovely Sweet Potato for our dip in the pool and a nights sleep at the playhouse...

Home sweet home...

...and music to boot! Patricia (playing the irish drum) and Mark (guitar) let hikers stay in the playhouse or tent in their yard in boiling Springs. We were lucky enough to hear them practice their Celtic music with friends and family. Really cool to hear live music, plus we got desert and tea...smashing!

A bit of road walking in the Cumberland valley, 17 miles of the the flattest terrain on the trail. I think we pulled a 21 miler that day!

We try not to talk to each other if we don't have to, haha. Some days, or even climbs, music can really help the legs move. I put some books on tape on the ipod and thus far with the Spanish course "yo hablo espanol un poco"

Stayed at the infamous Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA, a run-down old town (probably from the halt in mining) on the Susquehanna river. Usually at a hotel stop we empty the packs out, air out as much as we can, get clothes ready for the laundromat, clean the pots, and go through our food to see whats needed for resupply. It's amazing how much stuff we have when its thrown all over a room!

Ah yes, back to the Doyle. Here is the side of the shower. Need we say more! The place definately had character and the owners were super nice. It was a 4 story old hotel, with the ground floor being a bar with pool table. I guess they are trying to fix it up but its a lot of work. It was cheap for a room, which is probably why people live there! A good enough place to stay for hiker trash you could say. Cheap rooms, cheap beer, all under the same roof.

Had to take this pic as it had rained on us the last couple of days.

One of the few swimming holes we've come across thus far, and one of our new favorites - Hertlein Campsite. A man made pond from a 30 ft cement-block dam. It backs up 2 creeks and was very cold, but perfect after a sweaty, humid day of hiking.

I didn't know what was going on here either at first, but then it all made sense, and we asked ourselves why we were looking and taking pictures. nature at its finest! (pretty sure their box turtles)

Posing at "the knife edge", gotta love the names on the trail, must say thats what it felt like on our feet!

Another walk in the park.

Upon entering Port Clinton, PA we discovered the twilight zone, where plastic animals are plentiful.

It's the season for blueberry picking, didn't mind slowing down along this stretch.

Yes, this is the actual trail. Kevin loves PA.

And here we are on the way into Palmerton, PA. Staying the day to shower, do laundy and refuel for the big climb ahead, supposedly the toughest section until New Hampshire, we'll see...