Monday, July 12, 2010

The Garden State? More Like the Black Bear State

I left Palmerton, PA after saying goodbye to Day Tripper, but I wasn't alone.  I hiked with Grolar Bear, whom we nicknamed Grumpy Bear, because he complains so much.  Nevertheless, the hike out of Palmerton was FUN.  It was a lot of rock scrambling on a pretty exposed face, the temperature was cool, and Grumpy Bear didn't even complain!  Those are the best moments these days.

After a few more days of rocks in Pennsylvania, we hiked down into Delaware Water Gap, PA.  I stopped at the hostel and saw a familiar face from Springer Mountain- Gutsy! The woman I hiked with on the very first day of the thru-hike.  She was section hiking and slack-packing her husband, so it was just a coincidence that I ran into her.  We walked across the Delaware River together, which was kind of cool because Washington crossing the Delaware River was a historical event during the Revolutionary War, and it was the weekend of July 4th!  I walked across the bridge that they have built since 1776 and through a park full of families having picnics.  A snapshot of America.

Crossing the Delaware also brought me into New Jersey!  The state was short and relatively uneventful- the thing that I will remember most was the HEAT.  High 90s, sunny, and miserable.  Without Day Tripper I could slow my pace a little so that helped.  One thing it didn't help was the water situation.  Most of my water comes from springs and streams, and 90% of those sources in NJ and NY have been dry.  It's very stressful not knowing where your next water is coming from, and a liter of water is over two pounds so I have had to carry a lot more weight than I would like.  Fortunately, a few kind souls or "trail angels" leave gallons of water at road crossings.  Some even leave coke, which is like rocket fuel on the trail- caffeine plus sugar plus hydration.  I would like one IV of coke, please!

New Jersey was also interesting because of the bears.  There are more bears per square mile on the trail in New Jersey than any other state, and they are not timid.  I have to admit that I have an irrational fear of bears, epecially when I am camped alone.  Especially on the 4th of July, when I saw two Mama bears and four baby bears in a single day.  So, I used an empty Gatorade bottle as a beer alarm by putting coins and batteries in it and shaking it every time the bears came near my campsite.  It worked, and I got a little bit of sleep although not much because it was very warm that night and I was really missing Day Tripper.  This seems a little ridiculous because black bears very very rarely harm people.  I later found out that I wasn't the only thru-hiker who was scared of bears in New Jersey.  SpringKat, an older Irishman, used firecrackers to scare the bears away from his campsite.  I heard it worked well- I may have to try that trick next!

More on New York soon!


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