Day 9: Tent site near New Tripoli camping to George W. Outerbridge Shelter (11 mi)
Phew. This afternoon was tough.
Morning went by ok, although mentally exhausting because the boulder fields were sketchier than they’ve been thus far. The rocky path was more technical and since it rained over night the rocks were quite slippery. We had to take it pretty slow because we were slipping all over the place. A fall this morning could have been fatal.
We got to Bake Oven Knob shelter where we took quite a long rest (about 2 hours). The water was REALLY far away (thank you Jamie for going to fetch water!).
We chatted with some other hikers, let our tent and sleeping bags dry in the sun, and then Jamie got a phone call with some tough news. One of his earliest childhood friends took his own life after battling years of addiction. Such hard news to receive, but being out here provides plenty of opportunity to process grief.
Jamie plowed on solo for the next 7 miles to our shelter for the night. I was a little behind him as my feet were getting progressively more achy. Grasshopper (fellow hiker) gave me some panty-hose liners for my feet and I stopped to massage my feet, change my socks and added the “sock liner” to the mix. I was only 2.5 miles away from the shelter, but this helped a lot.
Thanks to our previous blog post, a friend of Jamie’s (Greg Hoover) offered to bring us his Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent, the EXACT tent I’d been hoping to get in Delaware Water Gap! He will meet us tomorrow! What an angel!
Had some nice chats with other hikers here at the shelter, ate Thai lemongrass curry and brown rice (YUM!) and are sleeping in the shelter tonight out of the rain with one other fellow, Honeybun from the UK.
Tomorrow will be our biggest day yet, with 17 miles starting out with an exposed ridge, very steep climb and no water along the way, so we will need to carry max water.
Day 10: George W. Outerbridge shelter to Leroy Smith Shelter (16.7 mi)
Early morning today, up at 5:30 and on trail by 6:40. Shelter last night was a success! No bugs, no mice, no bears.
The climb this morning was the most interesting and technical climb we’ve had yet. Very exposed and boulder-filled. Lots of hand over hand climbing over Lehigh gap. I thought it was quite exciting, while challenging at the same time.
We were SO grateful it was a breezy, cloudy morning. Some other hikers last night pushed on to get the climb out of the way yesterday. We saw them today and they reported that it poured on them with lightning during the climb. We were super glad we slept at the shelter and did the climb in good weather this morning.
Saw and ate blueberries on the ridge! What a highlight!
We also accidentally started following a different trail on the ridge and probably hiked an extra mile 😩.
Took a mid morning shoes off break and Harvey Lewis came running by! He is attempting the AT record NoBo, shook our hands, met quickly, and he was on his way! He started May 30, so is 27 days from Springer Mountain, GA! Exciting stuff!
The AT speed record is usually broken going SoBo because it is allegedly easier that way, so kudos to him for heading North just like one of my favorite vegan ultra runners, Scott Jurek when he broke the speed record in 2015. (BTW, his book about his AT speed attempt “North” just came out about a month ago and is a great page turner!)
We pushed on until noon and took a little shoes off lunch break to drink our afternoon smoothies in the shade. Two children and their dad were out for a day hike and the kids were quite excited to see us and offered us kid snacks (carrot mango purée and Justin’s almond butter packets - YUM!)
This afternoon we saw our first copperhead in the path of the trail. He made some quick moves and we skirted around him off trail with caution.
Jamie and I spent some time talking about his friend who died. Jamie spent a lot of the day processing, grieving, talking to friends on the phone and telling stories about him. I’m glad he has the space and time to truly dedicate thoughts, love, memories and energy to him.
The last 3 miles were filled with such annoying relentless rocks with no reprieve. It was tough to close today. Jamie went on ahead with about 2.5 miles to go, and I turned on some music to help me finish the day. The last mile dragged on and on. I had to sit down and give my feet a break at 0.7 mi left and 0.2 mi left! I was also feeling particularly sleepy and tired while walking. Each time I ate I felt nauseous so I probably hadn’t consumed enough calories.
I finally made it to the shelter and seconds later Greg, Bette and their beautiful dog arrived! I wasn’t quite ready to socialize and needed to address my funk and my feet so trekked to the spring to “wash up” and let my feet be in the ice cold water. The spring was beautiful, but added an extra mile to my feet for the day.
Upon returning to the campsite, our trail angels brought the EXACT tent we had been pining over AND brought a smorgasbord of treats, snacks, Gatorade and beer! They also brought the sprout bag we accidentally left behind at Cindy’s house, so now we can begin to have some fresh greens with us out here! Jamie treated the new tent with permethrin and we began relaxing. Then Bette offered to give me the foot massage of a lifetime! Massage oil and all! Wow!!! I honestly cannot think of better trail magic!
Seriously incredible! A new and upgraded tent, a foot massage, and all our favorite foods - who could ask for more?! They made such a big effort driving and hiking all the way out here to find us and bring us what we needed and I don’t think I can even come close to expressing my full gratitude for such generosity and kindness. What a spirit lifter on our longest day yet, and a hard day as well. THANK YOU Greg & Bette!
We’ve been pretty good about bear bagging our food each night, although at certain shelters it seems ok to hang our food from the shelter strings to keep it away from rodents. However, we have read quite a few reports from last year of a big male bear who liked to hang around Leroy Smith shelter and camping area last year and is not afraid of people. We were advised to do a good job bear bagging tonight. Jamie went out to hang our food and got the cord stuck! He had to ask Honeybun to hoist him into the tree and he climbed the tree to get the cord out. It was a brief hurdle, but all is well.
Day 11: Leroy Smith shelter to Kirkridge shelter (14 mi)
Omg I love our new tent! So much nice ventilation without the rain fly and so much easier to set up/tear down! We are in such awe of Greg and Bette’s kind and big hearts.
Started out the morning with a nice chat on the phone (while walking) with my albergüe-care-taking super parents who are in Spain welcoming pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. We had a nice catch up chat and the miles flew by. I really savored my apple from Greg and Betty this morning and it really hit the spot! Fresh foods are such a delicacy!
After the Wind Gap climb (maybe 6 miles into our day) we were both feeling inexplicably sleepy and tired and we really started to drag. Greg and Bette brought us two Cliff gels with caffeine and a 5 hour energy drink to take sips from. We both decided we needed a little pick-me-up and turned to the sugar and caffeine (I never have any caffeine, so small amounts WORK!) It also helps numb the pain receptors. Yes please.
Moments later we met up with another vegan flip-flopper woman, “Bean”, and hiked and conversed with her the rest of the day. The miles flew by, and our pace was more steady. Between the caffeine and the new company, any sluggishness or pain went away.
Mid afternoon we hiked a section called Wolf Rocks, which was right on a ridge and had nice, big, flat rocks and was a fun and exciting section. Afterwards, more relentless, mid-sized, pointy rocks jumbled the path. We are definitely ready for Pennsylvania, the notoriously rocky state, to be over! We are so close to finally entering New Jersey - where there are the most bears per capita...
We arrived at the shelter and got some water (the only water source for the whole day, so we were practically out)! We washed my sprouts and I earned the trail name “Sprout”. We then downed another smoothie, and decided to camp about 0.3 miles from the shelter where there was an over look and a mowed field to camp on.
When we arrived, we noticed some paragliders launching from the hillside and that is why the area is mowed. We saw a person there and he mentioned to us that there was a paraglider stuck in the tree and they needed rope. Jamie got our bear bag rope out and helped rescue the paraglider from the tree by converting our rope into a step ladder! It was quite the ordeal and took quite a while!
Then, more and more paragliders and hangliders showed up! We ate our dinner and chatted with some locals who came out to enjoy a fire and cookout with a perfect view of the gliders as they launched, about 15 feet away from us! It was pretty exhilarating and exciting. Such stimulation for us hikers who have been deprived of any sort of entertainment.
Day 12: Kirkridge shelter (camping at paraglider field) to Delaware Water Gap (6.4 mi) Near-o day
Early start this morning, and cruised on into town with our new hiking buddy, Bean. Jamie fell behind us when he peeled off to use the “Greenroom” and stayed back for most of the way. He finally caught up when we were heading into town - said he rolled his ankle, but is fine.
The miles flew by as it was mostly downhill, not technical and Bean and I were chatting. The environment was so lush and almost had a jungle feeling as we got lower into the gap. There were tons of rhododendron bushes (not quite blooming) and songbirds chirping away.
Got to DWG at about 9:30 am and met up with a few other hikers at Village Farm Bakery. We got vegan black bean burgers with avocado and a quart of very fresh strawberries.
The weather was a little chilly and drizzly so I went to the Pocono Inn to get our resupply box (THANKS ASHISH!!!) and see about early check in. Early check in was a no go, but we sat in a comfy chair and watched some of the World Cup for a bit.
Then we decided to take a Lyft into Stroudsburg (bigger town 3 mi away) and go to the running store to try on shoes and get Jamie a second shirt. I tried on many different shoes and if I were to change I think I would pick the Brooks Cascadia 12. The Hokas didn’t hold my heel like I wanted, felt a bit heavier than my Altras, and were a little clumsy or bulky feeling for me. I tried on some Topos and really liked the toe box design, but they felt too minimal for this venture. As we were chatting about my bottom of foot pain and achy-ness, we realized it was probably the Superfeet insoles I purchased at the last minute, not the Altras. The employee at the store was able to find some factory insoles for a size 10 and I trimmed them down to fit in my shoe. With the factory insoles the shoe feels so much better! There is still some roominess where my foot slides around from side to side on technical terrain, but the rocks will be “over” in about 30 miles so I will give these shoes another chance with the factory insoles. By the way, the last two days (today and yesterday) my foot pain seems to have improved some (or at least stabilized).
We walked along Main Street in Stroudsburg, ducked into a hunting/fishing/camping store and got some sock liners for me, and more permethrin for the new socks and Jamie’s shirt.
We then walked to Earthlight Natural Foods to get some lunch and dinner from the prepared food section. The prepared food section was FILLED with vegan options! More than Whole Foods Austin! I was in heaven! I am committed to going back tomorrow for lunch and a dinner to go for the trail.
We went back to the Pocono Inn to check in, met Bean to combine forces for laundry and ultimately decided not to stay there (rooms were too smoky). Bean and I hung out in the Lobby for a good hour plus and did the laundry and ate our lunches while Jamie went to the local outfitter and got gaiters and got us a room at the Dear Head Inn (beautiful historic B&B and supposedly the oldest Jazz club in the country!)
We had such luxurious showers at the B&B, ate our picnic dinner on the porch, and got caught up on the Handmaid’s Tale (whoa those last two episodes are INTENSE!)
So happy to sleep in a bed and spread all our things out. Tomorrow instead of taking a total zero day (which means zero mileage, aka a rest day), I think we will plan to take another “Near-o” (the term hikers use for a very short mileage day, “nearly a zero.” We figure two back to back near-o days is still taking more than 24 hours off our feet and will allow us to have a short day with our fullest packs tomorrow. We plan to do 4.8 miles mid afternoon, climbing up and out of the gap to camp tomorrow night. This is the first time we will get off our original plan, so we will probably ship extra food back for the start of our SoBo (Southbound) second half.
Day 13: Delaware Water Gap to Backpackers camping (7.8 mi) Near-o day 2
Slept in at the B&B. Took another shower. Sorted food and things to send back for second half, invited Bean to come over and shower at our place, and I went to the outfitter to get a second pair of sock liners.
While at the outfitter I decided to check to see if they happened to have my pack but in a 48 L (mine is a 58 L and too big for my stuff). They had a selection of like 4 different packs and one of them was the Eja 48 L in a size small. PERFECT! I decided to buy it and return my 58 L to REI.
Went back to B&B to spray the new pack with permethrin and then we headed into Stroudsburg to get lunch and a packable dinner form the natural food store.
Came back and I headed to the post office to work my magic. The two ladies at the post office were super helpful and friendly. Found a recycled box for my pack to fit into and did some behind the scenes favors to send my pack and our extra food as inexpensively as possible. They were super helpful and kind!
We spent the last hour in town at a coffee shop in the A/C, Jamie got a coffee, and then we decided to hit the trail at about 3:15. Leaving Delaware Water Gap, we crossed the bridge into New Jersey!!! Bye PA!
It was supposed to rain that afternoon, and as we were leaving town about to get on single track again, the clouds looked super ominous. We looked at the forecast and it looked like a huge storm was heading our way. We were under a small bridge at that point and were debating whether we should wait under the bridge until the storm passed or continue hiking.
We decided to continue hiking and hiked about 3 miles steadily uphill. The storm never came! The uphill was a nice, wide, dirt path without rocks all over the place! It helped with the fact that we were climbing for over an hour with extremely full packs (we got a little excited at the natural food store and probably packed too much food!).
Bean laid down a blistering pace and dropped both Fresh Feet and I. Then, all of a sudden she was waking back toward us and informed us that we had passed our water source and it was 0.6 mi back. We were only 1 mi away from our campsite but neither Bean nor Fresh Feet had sufficient water (I guess I decided to climb with 1.5 L of water!)
We debated what to do. There was another spring about 2 miles further and another camping spot 4 miles further (which changed our 4.8 mi near-o to a 7.8 mi near-o). We decided to do that, so on we went.
We arrived at the top of the climb and the land became a little marshy. Wet feet and lots of tiny frogs! We came up on Sunfish pond, which was so beautiful! It is one of the 7 natural wonders of New Jersey!
We saw a beaver family, and Fresh Feet and Bean were a little bit ahead of me when they saw a water snake and a big black snake in the beaver dam.
We continued on, got to our spring, which was flowing wonderfully and was the last good water source for a while. As we hiked on, Jamie saw a rattle snake after he had already passed it. It was coiled up right on the edge of the trail. As Bean and I approached, he warned us, and bush whacking didn’t seem like much of an option because the bush around the trail was so dense! We kept talking and making a decent amount of noise that he slithered off. He was VERY big, about 4 inches in diameter! Phew! 3 snakes in an hour!
We finally got to our camping area, ate, and began discussing bear bagging. Another hiker Ghost showed up and told us he had just seen the biggest black bear of his life about 0.4 mi back from where we had just set up camp. He decided to head a little further on the trail to distance himself more from Mr. Bear.
We began the most epic and tragic bear bag journey of a lifetime. We ended up between the three of us with 1 sort of good rope (had to cut a few and tie some together to make a long enough rope). We tried 4 different trees, lost a carabiner and some rope, Bean fell pretty hard while pulling the rope, Jamie got some rope burn on his hands, we bent a tent stake and lost a tent stake, went back to get headlamps only to have one of them working. It was an endless series of unfortunate events! We ended up with a pretty perfect bear bag hang, but had to tie it off on another tree instead of doing the PCT method because our bags together weighed too much. We spent until 10:30 working on it, and a bear could easily come and tear the rope to get the food since we just tied it off . We will just hope for the best tonight and try to stay in shelters or campsites that have bear boxes from now on while we are in bear country New Jersey!
Podcast episode 2 is up! Check it out!!
*Note from previous blog posts: Another hiker found Jamie’s water hose to his bladder so he can drink from his water again. It was found and brought to the next shelter the same day it was lost. Thanks fellow hikers!!