Day 14: Campsite to Brink Road shelter (17 mi)
We woke up above the clouds on the ridge today! The morning light and view were stunning!
We got a late start today (8:30 am) because we were up so late trying to bear bag last night! Hallelujah! Bear bags were still in the tree! A bear didn’t come and get our food, success!
We had a short climb this morning, but otherwise we were mostly on a ridge with a lot of rocky outcrops and still plenty of rocks in the path.
It was a hard and hot day, with only two springs to fill up at. The first one was at mile 6.4 and the next was at 10.2. The third stop was a stream and streams are less desirable than springs for filling up with water, but we knew we would want to swim in the stream if possible because it was a hot day!
I gave up my rule of only wearing pants on the AT (my tick prevention method) and switched to wearing shorts. It is just too hot to wear pants!
We finally got to the stream we had been waiting for and it was kind of a disappointment. Nonetheless, I put my feet in the water and cooled off and Jamie took a short nap while elevating his legs.
3 miles left to the shelter! Jamie pushed on and I hung out at the stream for another 15 minutes or so until I was ready to move again.
I looked at the elevation profile for the next three miles and knew I had three quick and short uphills and downhills, so I just took them one at a time like I might any workout with a set of three. I knew that after the second one, the third set (or in this case, hill) would just be to get through it. Focus on the first two and get it done.
I got to our shelter and Jamie wasn’t there! I didn’t see a sign for the side trail for the shelter (but was able to use the Guthook app to help me navigate), but assumed Jamie missed the supposed sign also. I called him but his phone was on airplane mode. I had to sit down and change out of my hiking shoes and socks and put on my crocs and the minute I set my bag down I got absolutely devoured by mosquitoes. Definitely the worst we’ve encountered so far! I threw on pants and a long sleeve and my bug net (which I was joking about sending back just yesterday since I hadn’t used it! UM, so glad I still have it!!)
Finally, Jamie called me and he realized that he must have missed the shelter because of the time and because he came up on a sleeping doe and startled her (realizing that no one had gone that far in a while). He turned around and came back and we found Bean and Griz Runner had set up their tents a little bit past the shelter in a “more breezy” area. We lit a few sticks of incense and I made dinner (Daiya mac’n’cheese for 900 calories each!) while Jamie went to fetch water in the worst mosquito breeding ground known to mankind! (Thank you dear husband!)
We were pretty beat and knew tomorrow had to be a big day because the water situation was scarce and we needed to end up at a shelter near water and with a bear box(we didn’t have anymore bear bagging rope due to yesterday’s fiasco!)
Day 15: Brink Road Shelter to High point shelter (21 mi)
I knew today was going to be long and hot, so I got up early and headed out of camp solo. Immediately upon leaving camp I saw a cub! This rattled me because I knew the mama bear would be nearby and I needed to position myself in a non threatening way. I backtracked about 0.3 and watched them as the proceeded south. Once the mama and cub had reunited and were south of me I continued on. This was quite the way to start my day! Phew!
We had a very hot day today. Bean hiked ahead of us today, and Jamie and I more or less stuck together, although he hiked ahead usually. We met up with Bean at a shelter and water source at 7 miles, filled up and continued.
I caught up with Shelley on the phone for a while today and after a short climb at the top of Sunrise mountain I was stunned to see a big stone pavilion! Jamie took a break there but I pushed on.
Stopped at mile 12.5 for lunch with Bean at a very hot shelter with water cached in the bear box - phew!! It was SO HOT this afternoon!! We were beyond grateful for this water cache!
Saw two more bears right after lunch! They were both scared of me so we didn’t hang out together very long.
This afternoon was the hardest to date for me. I was really slowing down and struggling with the afternoon heat, not to mention bonking nutritionally. I was on top of my hydration as much as I could be, but I noticed that I had stopped peeing. All of a sudden I had to sit down on a rock.
I knew I was in trouble and that my body was overheating. There was a puddle just 0.1 miles back and Jamie went back to it and soaked my shirt and nano pack towel in it. I used the towel around my neck, airing it off every 30 seconds or so to keep me cool. I poured a little of my water on my head, but knew I also needed to drink it so I could make it 4 more miles to the State Park headquarters where there was a spigot.
I tried to drink water from my hose and sip on a gel but each time I did either of those things I threw up a little. I was so nauseous from my body temperature getting too hot. There was no water for the next two hours so I just had to push and summon strength until we got to the State Park Headauarters. Stopping wasn’t an option because it meant more time in the heat and I had to get to water as quickly as possible to cool off my body. I clicked into survival mode. It was the toughest 4 miles of my life. The suffering was real and I nonverbally pushed as hard as I could. I turned on some music and Jamie hiked behind me (and carried some of my weight), but we were silent the whole way as I stumbled through the darkness of my melting brain, dizziness and nausea.
This bout of heat exhaustion was a surprise for me because typically I don’t have as much of a hard time athletically in hot weather in Austin. The humidity definitely added to the problem. We got word that the northeast was experiencing a massive heat wave, the worst in 30 years.
We finally got to the state park headquarters and I collapsed on the bench and started sobbing. Jamie doused me in so much water head to toe as I lay there in fetal position like a melted, disoriented puddle. Then I started to shiver. My body could not regulate its temperature. I sat in the sun to warm up and dry off, and I came back to life.
We only had 1 more mile to go until we got to a beach on a lake (Jamie had been looking forward to this all day!) We left the High Point State Park headquarters and got to Marcia Lake. We dropped our packs in the shade, stripped down and forged for the water like our lives depended on it. Nothing felt as good as being submerged in water! Again, I got out and was shivering (it was 96 degrees out!) so I walked around in the sun a little to find some equilibrium. We met up with Bean and Griz Runner and we hung out in the grass for a little while.
We then went and took showers (with HOT WATER!!) I changed into a dry outfit and felt like a new person. We cooked dinner at the picnic tables there since there was no water at the shelter 1 mile away.
We got to the shelter, set up our tent, and had an early night, knowing that the next day would HAVE to be an early start because it was supposed to be EVEN hotter than today (reaching over 100 degrees with a heat index of 107).
I was pretty nervous after today’s episode, so instead of doing a 24 mile day tomorrow with Bean, we planned on staying at a motel in Vernon, NJ a few miles off the trail for only 19 miles. We still needed to make significant progress because we ordered new rope for bear bagging to our Airbnb in Greenwood Lake and were planning to share it with Bean since Jamie threw hers into a tree never to be recovered. We were totally bound by the shelters in terms of our daily mileage because they all had bear boxes and we didn’t have rope! (Hence the motel instead of camping tomorrow).
Day 16: High point shelter to Vernon, NJ (19 mi) 7/1
Got a very early start and unlike yesterday found myself peeing about every 30 mins today. Some detox as well as rehydration. It was constant all day long and each time I was so happy because I knew I was in better shape if I was regularly peeing!
It was a relentlessly hot day, so we carried a LOT of water, stopped to cool off at a few creeks and at the top of a late climb we came to a cooler with ice, beer and soda. Jamie had a root bear and I stuck ice all in my visor like a crown that froze my brain but felt soooo good! I also put a bunch of ice down my bra - that was an awesome move!
My hose from my water bladder started leaking quite a bit today. Bummer because I think I have been losing a decent amount of water due to the constant drip from the mouth nozzle. Ugh.
We had a brutally long stretch of sunny exposed flat road and path walking around a National Wildlife Preserve that seemed to go on and on and on.
I guess we shouldn’t complain about the flat terrain, but with flat came exposure to the sun. Jamie used his umbrella for shade and we marched on. This was by far the most sun exposure we have had so far, and on the hottest day also?! Come on!
While we were cooling off at a creek, Jamie realized that my feet were probably trapping tons of heat and this may be why I was struggling in the heat so much. I was wearing double socks, gaiters, and high top Altras. Basically, no breathability and no way for the heat to get out. I decided to try hiking in only my sock liners and it made SUCH a big noticeable difference in terms of how hot my feet were!
I stopped using my poles since entering New Jersey. I’m using the hands on quads for power climbing (which is my favorite part of hiking!) I’m not so keen on the downhills (scared of falling like I did last summer and the steep descents hurt our knees!). Flat ground seems to hurt my feet more, so climbing is the fun part! I feel like I’m my strongest while climbing and haven’t needed to take any breaks mid climb. I attribute my success in climbing to the work I did in cycling this last year. I grew so much in my climbing abilities and I see it paying off on the trail. Jamie started a mantra while climbing that I have used for all of New Jersey and that is “No Bugs, at the top! No bugs, at the top!” It’s true, too! It is part of my motivation to get to the top!
At our lunch spot today Jamie received some more tough news. His grandpa passed away :( Although he knew it was probably going to happen soon (he was in hospice) it is still so hard when it is actually here. His grandma’s birthday is tomorrow and we feel for her. We think there will be a service in a few months, so we won’t get off trail at this time.
We finished out the day with a lot of swampy wetland boardwalks which were neat, but super exposed, sunny, and HOT! Jamie loved the boardwalks and wants to build some in our back yard...
We finally got to Vernon NJ! Our shuttle picked us up, we showered at our motel (Yay!) and then the shuttle took us to a dinner spot where we feasted on chips and guacamole, sweet potato fries, beet and orange salad and shared a penne marinara. It was filling and delicious. We have now hiked over 200 miles! It has exceeded expectations and is harder than we expected! I’m so grateful that today was MUCH better for me than yesterday!
Day 17 Vernon, NJ to Greenwood Lake, NY (14 mi)
Early start today to try to beat the heat. Jamie struggled a bit in the first half of the day. His back was hurting and he wasn’t in his groove. I was moving well, but noticed I wasn’t peeing as much as I had been yesterday. I was carrying my max capacity of water and even carried an extra 2L (for 4.5 L total! Most people only carry 1 L at a time because water is SO HEAVY). My pack weight was light because today was our resupply day, so I knew I needed to carry tons of water as it was dangerously hot.
We didn’t see a single hiker north or southbound all day. People just aren’t really moving right now because the heat is so brutal! Jamie said that this was the most he’s ever sweat in his life, and I have to agree with him! I feel like I’m on my bike trainer all day long and sweat is just dripping down my brow constantly. We are dripping with sweat while walking downhill! It is hard to keep the sweat out of my eyes because it is literally pouring out nonstop.
The day was hard, there were a lot of physically challenging climbs. Jamie said he feels like he’s at the very edge of his physical limits. He wondered how retired people or my dad do this?! It’s SO HARD and we are relatively fit and young individuals. Wow.
We crossed into New York this morning!
Finally, the afternoon hit, Jamie started to feel a little better and it was my turn to suffer. I felt myself getting overheated and the nausea hit when we were in the sunny exposed rocks about 2 miles away from Greenwood Lake, NY. I started to feel the same way I did two days ago. I poured water on my head, continued to drink and pushed pushed pushed. We turned off trail and went down the steepest one mile stretch of blue blaze (side trail off the AT) which we majorly regret because now we have to add a mile to our day tomorrow and it is a treacherous steep climb right off the bat (not even part of the AT)! Lesson learned! Never trust a blue blaze trail! We will hike to a road and get picked up by a car next time!
I ran out of water right before we got to our Airbnb and arrived in a zombie nonverbal state (although not as badly as the last time). I jumped in the shower upon arrival without even exchanging pleasantries (thank you Jamie for doing that for us!) and took a cold shower, then a hot shower once the shivering began. Even after the hot shower I had my buff on my head and wool long underwear on head to toe. I felt cold and jittery for a few hours as my body attempted to find some equilibrium again.
We opened our resupply box (THANKS MUZ!!!) and got our new rope and carabiners from Amazon. Bean came over and we divvied up the rope so she could have some. We put together a small mail-back-home box with what we deemed to be extra food (we keep finishing with extra food, which I think is better than the alternative, but Jamie doesn’t like the extra weight).
Our Airbnb host was SUPER helpful!! She is also a driver and offered to take us into town so we could go to the post office, CVS and get dinner. We found the CUTEST most delicious all vegan restaurant in Warwick! It was so fresh and we met a few other hikers there.
Then we walked to CVS and I got some Dr Scholls inserts I will try out. We passed by a nail salon and I asked for some toe spacers because that seems like it will be lightweight and divine!
Bean hit the trail and hiked 4 more miles to a shelter that night. We got back to our Airbnb and Jamie FaceTimed with his family and I tried to do some planning as we are off our plan and I need to get info out to our friends helping us with resupply, but it was slow going because I was so tired and wondering what tomorrow would bring.
There is scarce water and no bear boxes at the next few shelters with TONS of recent reports on Guthook (app) about active bears taking properly hung bear bags right in front of people. We will maybe hitch into town tomorrow or risk bears getting our bear bags and stealth camp somewhere... TBD 🤷♀️