Cindy is 36 miles away driving on inky black New Jersey roads on a cold wet October night with her cousins… trying to reach me and connect as she drives to Maine for a fall vacation. The car has a nail in the tire. She’s in the middle of nowhere on a “PeeWee’s Big Adventure” kind of night. I am chilling at Gyp’s Tavern which was conveniently located adjacent the trail. The pizza was great. I am praying that Cindy’s tire holds together until she gets here. We will all spend the night in Branchville. It’s not every day that Cindy can come to meet me on a hike.
Today was 18 miles of more rocks and light rain. I have a great ensemble of rain jacket and pants. Other than occasionally overheating, I am dry and comfortable. The coming hurricane threatens to test my ensemble in a tough way.
The trail runs along a very long ridge across the northern limit of New Jersey. Pennsylvania is just a few miles north of me. For the most part it’s relatively flat but it’s a wild jumble of rock most of the way. Add rain to the mix and the route can be treacherous. I did not fall today, but did take 10.5 hours to cover 18 miles. A slow but safely deliberate pace.
I passed 7 Southbounders (SOBO’s) today. No one going my direction it seems. The day was beautiful even if it was wet. There is a special beauty to a wet forest and all the more special when I have all it to myself.
I met a man who sits on the high voltage power line right of way counting birds flying over and reporting bird strikes with the power line. He works for the power company and the Forest Service. You should see the HUGE power lines crossing this ridge! We had a good talk about protecting birds and why they can’t see power lines.
I saw a 10 year old SOBO and one I who I estimated at 80 with a beard that looks just like my dad’s. I thought it was Dad at first. Quite a surprise deep in the woods. Two deer, a few squirrels and lots of birds were all the wildlife I could count, with my eyes glued on the ground and the slick rocks. I passed an awesome beaver pond but the power line guy said that trappers had trapped the residents. Sad.
The most amazing sight on the trail today was the impact of the glaciers that scoured these hills. The rock was scratched and smoothed in the most amazing ways. Glaciers stopped just south of here, and these left dozens of glacial lakes and ponds high in the mountains.
The scars on the rock reminded me, in a way, of this hiking business. I am slow like the glacier. I’ve been on the trail, on and off, since 1968. I may qualify for the slowest hike from Georgia to Maine. Nevertheless it is the inexorable progress, however slow, that carves history into this rock. That same progress will take me to Maine one day. Perhaps by 2018. Each year adds a scratch or a scar to my rock, but every year also smoothes me as the glacier pace shapes me into a more patient and wiser rock.
Tomorrow Cindy and cousins depart for Maine. Tonight I will get a shower in a Holiday Inn, and dine on special cinnamon buns for breakfast. Then it’s back to the trail and the end of pizzas at Gyp’s and warm sheets at Holiday Inn. A wet tent awaits. The hurricane is coming.