Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Almost Home…My Home State That Is

While it is true that the trail is rocky in Pennsylvania, getting worse the farther north I hiked, it is not like the rocks were told that they couldn’t cross the border into New Jersey. The Pennsylvania rocks just turn into New Jersey rocks. At least the crossing between the states was somewhat sweet for me.

As I was hiking the last few miles of the trail in Pennsylvania I was hiking down into the Delaware Water Gap. It was significant to me as when I first left my job on Wall Street; my first major trip was the cross-country bike ride from New York to Los Angeles. The ride took me right through the Delaware Water Gap and on Route 611, a road I walked across while hiking the Appalachian Trail. It just seemed like things were coming full circle. It brought back a flood of memories of the 2005 bike ride. I visualized myself pedaling along the road, picturing what I must have looked like had I been someone watching me ride along. It put me in such a good place mentally, even with my leg throbbing. It brought the biggest smile to my face.

I have never really been a fan of New Jersey. It could be that I grew up on Long Island and there is the inherent battle between the two: Jersey Shore versus the Hamptons, Bruce Springsteen versus Billy Joel, the Nets (you can keep them). It could also be due to my being most familiar with the industrial areas of New Jersey that are around Manhattan, but I was quite pleasantly surprised with the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey. Only about 70 trail miles run through New Jersey, but I found those 70 miles to be quite diverse as compared to Pennsylvania. First off, there were once again hills to climb. In Pennsylvania, pretty much the only time there was any sort of elevation change was heading down into a gap where a road would cross. Absent that, it was a level walk, albeit a rocky one. New Jersey also had a one mile walk along a road, which wasn’t all that much fun, but it did lead to a walk through a National Wetlands Preserve. As part of the trail in and near the Wetlands Preserve, there were long sections of boardwalk, probably a couple of miles in length all combined.

Another notable point about New Jersey is the population density of bears per square mile is the highest of anyplace on the trail. I saw bears on a daily basis in New Jersey. In one instance I saw bear and was able to get him to run off over a hill by yelling and banging my hiking poles together. The only problem was that the trail circled around the back of that hill and I met up with him again as I rounded the corner. I was able to convince the bear to once again run off but in an encounter the following day, when I began yelling at a bear, it decided to come over and check out what was going on. It took some persistence on my part being as loud and obnoxious as possible, but eventually the bear halted its progress and wandered away. I have confirmed that there are in fact bears along the trail, but I still have my doubts though that I will see moose up north. Now that would be disappointing.

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