New Jersey started with the same rocky trail that PA had, but gradually became more "trail" like. We had an interesting portion of trail about a mile long which was a boardwalk over a swampy marsh area.
We were surprised by the many swampy areas we hiked through in NJ. As you might imagine, there are an incredible number of swarming blood thirsty mosquitos and we have already started on our third bottle of bug spray.
Since we missed our opportunity in the Shenandoah National Park to see bears, we had hoped we would have better luck in NJ. We did indeed! Keith has now seen three bears, one of whom he startled as we came up over a small ridge. The bear, apparently frightened by the new pirate look Keith is sporting, took off at a gallop down the trail and then off into the woods.
We stayed two nights in the basement of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Vernon, NJ, which has a room set aside as a hiker hostel. We were glad for the day off since we had done several 19 and 20 mile days in a row. Our evening off included sharing a pint of ice cream and watching Beauty and the Beast.
We started out of Vernon with a big climb. It was very hot and muggy and the climb included lots of big rock steps. We were rewarded with a scenic view of where we had come from that morning and the previous day. The rest of the morning was pretty nice and we stopped for lunch by a small creek and rested for over an hour. Since it was Sunday, there were lots of day hikers enjoying the trail. We spoke with a group of four who were on their way to a local swimming hold called Surprise Lake. It was really hot and cooling off in a lake sounded quite appealing, so we asked another group that passed how to get there. Unfortunately, we came across both groups about thirty minutes later, and no one seemed able to find the correct trail. We had about eight more miles to reach the shelter and the terrain looked relatively flat on our map, so we figured we would get into camp in about three hours and relax for the rest of the evening. Ha! Instead, we entered New York and were in for a surprise. The terrain was a series of ups and downs over large rocky areas and in several areas, the trail was not clearly marked or well defined. After four hours, we had only traveled four miles and were hot, exhausted, and physically and mentally worn out. I was so discouraged that I sat on a downed tree at the side of the trail and had myself a good cry while Keith watched, not knowing what to say or do to help. We elected to cut our day short and head into the town of Greenwood Lake, NY to an inn called Anton's by the Lake for the night. It turned out that the area was under a heat advisory and would be for almost a week. We heard from our friends Trouble and Two Socks that they had encountered the same difficulty over that part of the trail and were feeling so awful that they both thought they had Lyme disease. It made me feel better to know that others were struggling as much as we were.
The next day, we caught up with Trouble and Two Socks about three miles in. The grade and terrain of the trail was more moderate and we were able to cover seven miles without too much difficulty before lunch. We stopped for lunch, and Trouble told us about Henry, a Section hiker she had met earlier, who lived in the area. Despite the fact that he had never met me or Keith, Henry generously offered to pick us all up from the trail and let us stay at his house. We were on board already, but the fact that there was a pool made it that much better.
Trouble asked if we thought we could ten more miles and we all agreed that we could. Once again, how wrong we were! The terrain after lunch became rocky once more, and included more difficult rock climbs. New York does not have high elevation on the AT, but the trail goes up and down alot, so the elevation changes are tiring. The temperature soared and we again could not seem to manage a pace that would be conducive to hiking ten more miles. It took us four hours to cover the next five miles and once again, we were exhausted, but happy to know we would have the opportunity to cool off in a pool. Henry showed up with his wife, Lola, and had a cooler full of cold drinks. You can't imagine how amazing it was for us to be treated to such hospitality. They took us to their home, fed us barbecued chicken, sausage, corn on the cob, and salad.
The next day we had a rest day at Henry and Lola's house. We swam in the morning, read and took a nap, and then went to the grocery store and EMS.
Keith picked up a new shirt and I got new hiking pants - size four ! I didn't realize that my size had gone down since my weight hasn't changed much. We made dinner - spaghetti , meatballs, Caesar salad and garlic bread. Really nice evening.
As if that weren't enough, Henry drove us to the trailhead and picked us up for two more days so that we could hike without our packs in the worst heat.
We had views of NYC and picked wild blueberries from the side of the trail.
We are now in Pawling, NY, at mile 1444, about to enter Connecticut. Tomorrow we will be finished with two-thirds of the trail.
Next update from Massachusetts.