Monthly Archives: July 2012

New Jersey

exposed area in NJ

I came into New Jersey with high hopes. I was out of PA and therefore I thought out of the rocks…boy was I wrong. I think the rocks were just as bad in NJ. Not sure why people only talk of PA rocks. Maybe because we aren’t in NJ very long. There are lots of exposed areas on the ridges in NJ, which makes for some great views, but you don’t want to be caught in a lightening storm up there. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was really hot until some thunderstorms rolled through, but there was a breeze.

Within the first 11 miles there is a really beautiful spot called Sunfish Pond. Bandana has special memories with this place, so I was looking forward to seeing it. It did not disappoint. Gorgeous!

 

Sunfish Pond

I met Miss Janet in NJ. She is from the south and does trail angel stuff every year. Her van is called the bounce box cause she has everything you might need. I happened to run into her in the morning and enjoyed a Dr. Pepper and an apple. That apple was the best I’ve tasted in a long time! Simple pleasures. ๐Ÿ™‚ She will be traveling up the east coast following hikers. She is actually quite famous among the hikers.

Miss Janet and trail magic

I found that the muscles in my legs and shoulders/neck have been sore. I think I have been stepping differently on the wet rocks. I haven’t had sore muscles since the beginning. Maybe I got out of shape on the flatlands of VA. I also have received a sore throat. I hope that it will go away soon. I got some zinc to nip it in the bud. Guess it’s quite a miracle that I haven’t gotten sick until now.

Lessons from Morrie

In a care package that a friend sent me was the book Tuesdays with Morrie. I had not read this book and even though it was hardcover I decided to carry it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The story line is about a beloved professor that is dying of ALS and a former student that comes to sit with him on Tuesdays to talk about life and death and everything in-between. The wisdom from which Morrie speaks is profound. He talks of loving others, taking time for people and really being with them – not distracted. It often takes looking at death before you realize how you should have lived. I try to do many of the things that Morrie speaks of. I think it is one of the reasons that I thrived so much at camp. Everyone deserves love and respect and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to get to know them. In one shelter on the trail I was talking with an Atheist. He had grown up doing Christian things, but got fed up with the hypocrisy of it all. We had a very interesting conversation and he asked me a lot of probing questions about my faith and there were some things that I didn’t have answers for and I am okay admitting that. Later he told me that most Christians would have gotten defensive and almost become verbally combative. He said I was open minded and it is hard to find people like that on the trail. I am sure that God was using me in that conversation and who knows how I affected his outlook on Christianity. So often we forget to listen when we are in conversation. We just try to get our point across and miss the other part. Life is so much bigger than ourselves. How we live affects others, and we are all human. There are times when we mess up, but we need to own up to that and realize that everyone else is human too and prone to mess up.

One thing Morrie talks about is owning your emotions – fully experiencing them and then not letting them rule you. Recognizing them for what they are and then letting them go. For me loneliness has been one of those recently. Being over half done with the trail and seeing people I know has contributed to it I think. I am ready to get back to a ‘normal’ life, and I miss my friends and family. If I let it, it could rule my trail experience, but I try to say ‘ok, so I am lonely, but I am going to make the best out of this situation.’ I dwell on it for a few minutes and then get on with my day.

I encourage you to read the book Tuesdays with Morrie and really take it’s lessons to heart. I want to live like Morrie did, even in his dying days. I want to leave a legacy.

Songs in my head

I spend a lot of time thinking on the trail, but there are also songs that pop into my head. Some have significance, some don’t. I will try to explain some of them, others I don’t know. ๐Ÿ™‚

– Nowhere man (I was feeling a bit lonely that day)

– Prairie Song by Road Less Travelled (missing home?)

– Ave Maria from honor’s choir (no idea, it had a good beat)

– Me take care of me belly button (missing camp)

– Great is thy faithfulness and Come thou fount (praising God for the beauty of creation)

– Veggie tales including The Bunny (wanting chocolate) the theme song and keep walking (seems self explanatory)

– Sound of music and Beauty and the Beast soundracks

– O Sifunimungu (no idea)

– Country Roads (I was in WV at the time)

– Guys and Dolls soundtrack (had just listened to it at the Schrags)

– Spoonful of sugar from Mary Poppins (I was going through the rocks at this time)

– Wouldn’t it be Loverly from My Fair Lady (I really wanted to sit down in a comfy chair)

– Christmas songs (it was really hot outside)

– Too darn hot from Kiss Me Kate (self explanatory)

If you need words to any of these songs to help them make sense feel free to look them up. I didn’t have time to write the lyrics down.

I have been tired of only having partial songs stuck in my head, so when I got to NJ I broke down and bought an ipod. I have never owned one, but I felt like I needed

Delaware Water Gap

the Delaware River

Delaware Water Gap is the gateway to NJ from PA. People are gearing up for this town because it means that you are done with the rocks of PA. Many hikers take a zero here to reward themselves for a job well done. There were a lot of hikers there when I was there and it was fun to catch up with some people. Here is where I found out that one girl is going home. Her name is Squishy and I don’t know her all that well, but I was sad that she was leaving. First off – she is a girl and there aren’t that many of us on the trail, but also that she has come so far. She said that it had become too much like a job and she wasn’t enjoying it anymore. There are definitely days like that for me too, but I think I still have the determination to finish. There will still be a lot of people that will drop out, some that I know, before we are done. There is a good group of people around me and I hope that we can all finish together. I guess time will tell.

Delaware Water Gap is a quaint little town and on both sides of it are really nice views. I would love to come back sometime and visit and take in more of the town.

pies galore!

One of the places I would visit again is the farmer’s market bakery. I walked in there and it was a hikers dream! There were tables full of pies, both large and individual size along with other home made goodies. I bought a peach pie and nice cream and ate it for a snack a couple times. So good!

I only stayed in DWG overnight because I was eager to see Alison at Camp Deerpark, the place of my next zero.

Rocks

Northern PA has been called Rocksylvania. There are big rocks, small rocks and even medium sized rocks. I would rather have the large rocks than the small ones as they don’t hurt my feet as much. On sunday as I was walking over thousands of rocks, I became reflective – how are these rocks like life? I actually came up with several different correlations. I’m not sure if it was the fact it was Sunday or if I was losing my mind. There’s only so much time a person can spend with their own thoughts before going crazy right?

pointy rock

Many of the rocks were pointy and it was hard to find a place to set your foot. I found if I stepped with the pointy part on the arch of my foot I could use them as springboard to the next rock and just hop across. Many times in life we want to step around the hard things or avoid them, but if we can use them as a springboard to better things that is good. It may hurt for a moment, but it is over quickly.

Because the rocks are not flat you have to put your foot ย on them slanted or sideways and it helps tremendously to have good ankle and knee strength. This is your support system. When we go through life and we have to do things differently than we’d like or feel off balance it is important to have a good support network. I would have loved to step flat on every rock, but it just isn’t possible.

Rocks require constant attention to be paid to your feet. Shoulders and legs get worked to

boulder field

a different degree to keep you stable and balanced. However there are times I am so focused on the rocks that I charge up the mountain or down and then find that I don’t know where the trail went and I have to retrace my steps. It is very important to keep watching for white blazes when going across boulder fields because you can get lost. Often in life I find myself paying attention only to my own needs and my own little world that I miss the big picture. I need to look around pay attention so I don’t get lost.

Some people said to look at the rocks as a foot massage. Some days are easier to do this than others, but it is a good lesson for when life gives you lemons to try to make lemonade. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Pennsylvania – a love/hate relationship

A thru-hiker named Jane (her hiking partner is Tarzan) remarked to me that Pennsylvania seems to have a bi-polar disorder. There are beautiful, well maintained gradual trails in Caledonia and Pine Grove Furnace State Park and you love the fact that you’re hiking. Then in the northern section there are rocky sections where your feet are screaming bloody murder and you curse the day you decided to hike 2184.2 miles.

some rocks

In actuality the certificate at the end of this journey only says those finishing 2000 miles. What about the other 184.2 miles? So, you mean I could have skipped all the rocks? I suppose you could call it character building or maybe learning to appreciate where you don’t have rocks. I did find myself thanking God for ย the smooth trail and not saying anything nice about the rocky sections. Isn’t that how it is in real life? We only thank God for the good times and forget to praise God in the storm (rocks). So I tried to praise God even in the rocky sections – sometimes through gritted teeth.

I found myself being a bit bi-polar through PA as well. There were times when I was so happy – staying with friends and zeros and the beautiful parts of the trail, but every time I left a house and creature comforts it was hard. I yearned for being a normal person again. Who walks 2000+ miles anyway? Once I got out I was fine though. Gearing up to hike in the heat was also a factor.

PA has been an interesting and varied state. I have mixed feelings about being done with it. There are places I would like to come and visit again and then I might hike a day and relive this adventure.

The night I almost spent in jail…

climbing up Palmerton

Palmerton PA is a town that is only 1 mile off the trail. It is the site of the superfund and they mined zinc on the mountain leaving it barren and rocky. Even the berries I ate on the mountain likely had zinc. Who needs a multi-vitamin? Anyway, in Palmerton there is a hostel that is run out of the basement of the police station – the jail. Evidently it doesn’t even look like a jail. – which is disappointing. Most of the people I was hiking with stayed there including Tall Oaf, Castaway, Slowfoot, Nooga and Bandana.

I narrowly escaped by spending the night with the Bylers. Urbane and Janet were a

Urbane, Hannah and Janet

connection from Christina Dyck – a high school classmate of mine who works at Jubilee Partners in GA. Even though they were just coming back from vacation they were glad to have me. They own Byler Farms and raise goats, chickens and several crops. It was quite a place. Their niece Hannah picked me up from the trail and when we got gas for the car I picked up a Klondike bar and I looked at the nutritional information. 17 grams of fat?! It was nice to know that i didn’t have to worry about that. ๐Ÿ™‚

17 grams of fat!

The next day the Bylers slack packed me about 12 miles. This meant that I had a lighter day pack for my scramble up from Palmerton. It was so nice! They also brought water to the road crossing. Because it’s been so dry the springs at shelters and other places have become unreliable. It truly is magic when you find some water at road crossings. Thanks Bylers for being my trail angels!

Akron and a zero day

Ricky and Barb Schrag

The day I hiked into Port Clinton PA I did 24 miles. This may not have been the smartest idea ever as my feet were really sore from the little rocks. I even sat down and had a pitty party for myself about 4 miles out from town. I was ready for a zero day and I was propelled by the knowledge that I would be staying with people I know and I would be in a house. Castaway came back up the hill and helped me carry my stuff and then we went to a candy store to wait for Barb Schrag to pick me up. It was awesome that she drove all the way from Akron to pick me up! It was over an hour drive. Barb and Ricky Schrag live across the street from the Mennonite Central Committee offices where Barb works. There was a training session going on there and I saw Matt Tschetter and Amy Kaufman, 2 more Freeman natives. Love it! Barb gave me and my friend Kate (a Hesston schoolmate) a tour. Kate came up from Downington PA to see me and we ate at Oregon Dairy – a buffet- and it was so good! It was awesome being in Mennonite territory. I recognized signs to Lancaster, Allentown and Ephrata. Good stuff!

The Schrags were so welcoming and I was so blessed by them. I stayed in the house next door with Frieda, a MCC volunteer. She was sweet. Thank you! I felt right at home and Barb is trying to get me to come volunteer at MCC when I am done. Who knows. They had a picnic ย with their small group and I answered lots of questions and handed out some blog cards. One guy in attendance (John) had hiked the Pacific Coast Trail last year. We swapped stories. It was fun talking with him.

The time was so refreshing and much needed. Thank you Barb and Ricky for your hospitality!

You know you’re a thru-hiker when:

There are some definite characteristics of thru-hikers. Here is a list of several:

– Anything under 15 miles is an easy day 15-18 is normal and over 20 is an awesome day.

– you walk into a restaurant and suddenly everyone is either finished with their meals or they stay at least 20 feet way from you

– you do your laundry and your clothes still stink

– your clothes start standing on their own

– you cant sleep because every time you roll over you get a wiff of yourself

– you think hiking 11 miles is a nero (nearly zero) day

– you don’t need hairspray for your hair to stay put with all the grease

– you can’t sleep when you’re in a soft bed

– the 3 main subjects talked about are food, when the next shower is and pooping

– you meet some amazing people

– the novelty of a flush toilet and trash cans are amazing

– you go by 2 names – real and trail name, but hardly anyone knows your real name

– you get up with the sun and go to sleep with the sun. 9pm is close to hiker midnight

– you walk into towns like you own the place – yeah that’s right I walked here from GEORGIA! You build confidence on the trail

– you have bites from insects all over

– girl’s legs are hairy

– your eyes are always puffy from lack of sleep

– you go into town and eat as much fresh produce, dairy and meat as you can

– you constantly have a swarm of gnats around you

– you look in the mirror and say ‘wow, my body is a machine’

– you figure you’ll get some sleep again when you get back on the trail after a zero day sleeping in a real bed

– you are perpetually tired

– you appreciate the small things like hair ties in a mail drop. Now I can put up my hair!

Gnasty Gnats

new fashion statement?

It seems with the heat and humidity there are tons of gnats out there. They are especially bad when there is a lot of vegetation, like grasses shoulder high on both sides of the trail. I figured out if I wear my sunglasses they can’t dive bomb my eyes. This is tremendously helpful cause I can see. They often hover around my eyes just waiting for an opportunity to get in. However, on one particular day even with my sunglasses on they were bugging me. (pun intended :)) Since my eyes were unavailable to dive into they were buzzing around my ears, getting into my nose and my mouth. It reminded me of the song Head and shoulders knees and toes. They wanted to get in my eyes, ears, mouth and nose. It is really hard to breath when every other inhale you have a bug going up your nose. Short of waving my hands in front of my face constantly I wasn’t sure what to do. If I did that I would trip over the rocks. Good grief, can I not get any reprieve?!? But then it hit me, I have a bandana and ear plugs…can this work? So I put my bandana over my nose and mouth and put in my ear plugs. This coupled with the sunglasses made for a much better last 4 miles. I could still see the gnats, but they were not getting into my face. I did have some Darth Vader moments though. My breathing and footsteps seemed to be louder. That is why I don’t like ear plugs in general. But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Hopefully I won’t have to do this too often. I didn’t run into anyone else on the trail for those 4 miles, but I’m sure they would have thought I was going to rob them.

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