Greetings from the mountains!
You have probably heard it said that “time is money.” Here on the Appalachian Trail, that saying is easily modified to “time is mileage.” My lack of trail logs these past three days is purely a function of the lack of time, and for that I apologize. I’ve been pushing hard to make some personal goals and hit a big one last night.
I am writing from New York State, having completed the New Jersey section last night at sundown. I wanted to reach Prospect Rock, overlooking lower New Jersey with a view of New York City in the distance. It was a beautiful clear evening and the sun reflected off the skyscrapers of the city in the distance, below an American flag waving from a handmade wooden flag pole on the top of the rock. After five days on the trail another state is done.
Time is mileage. God blessed me with shorter legs than other men my height. I discovered that early in my distance running career and I am reminded often each time I hike. I can eek out a 3 mile per hour pace, but with a pack on that’s more like jogging. 2 miles per hour is more my style, and when you factor in potty breaks, lunch, water stops, and visiting with the occasional hiker going south, my daily average is 1.6 miles per hour. Like clockwork. So… Start at 7 and walk until 7 ( sunup to sundown) and log 19.2. Lose any time and watch 0.4 miles evaporate for every 15 minutes lost. It’s a terribly clinical way to look at hiking but it’s my reality. Hence no trail log these past days. Once camp is made you fall in the sack and you’re out like a light.
No bears so far in this, the most populous bear country on the AT. I had a magical encounter with a doe and her fawn last night as I hiked in the dusk along the ridge of New York. She ambled along with me, not the least bit afraid. This ridge is 350 million year old rock, according to the trail guide, shaped in gentle billowing curves by glacial action. It’s like an undulating rock road running north.
I’ve seen more than two dozen southbound hikers, all of them starting at Mount Katahdin between June 30 and August 27. Most are headed to Harper’s Ferry, WV for what we call the second half of a “flip flop”, jumping north for the second half of the walk and ending at the middle. I struck up a special friendship with “Oscar” and “Queen Bee”, both northbound. In real life this is retired Army Command Sergeant Major Mark Rifka and his wife Deb. They have hiked almost the entire trail together. We shared many military stories walking together and we share a common faith in Christ. Married 40 years with three kids… two of them in the Army today … we have lived through common trials and joys. It reminded me that none of us is “a Lone Ranger.”
Thankfully I have left the crazy rocks of the northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania ridges. I am walking through a land of many lakes and streams, in a strange mix of wild nature amidst a populous state only 40 miles from NYC.
In about four or five days I will hit Connecticut, and add another state as a “notch” in my hiking belt. I’ve been blessed to see my beautiful wife during this trip as she headed to Maine and hope to reconnect with her as she drives home with her cousins. Hiking is bittersweet for me. I love the woods, but I like being with her even more.
So… “time is mileage” and I work to make the most of every day that God gives me on this beautiful trail.
Blessings to you all. I will write again soon.