photo by  Kristen Bryant

Hi.

Welcome to The Ones Who Walk project site. I am a 2018 AT thru-hiker gathering stories along the way. 

Delaware Water Gap, PA - Bear Mountain, NY [Mile 1,295 - 1,411

Delaware Water Gap, PA - Bear Mountain, NY [Mile 1,295 - 1,411

 July 10
Delaware Water Gap to Kitatinny Ridge campsite [11 miles]

I took an entire morning and afternoon to get out of Delaware Gap. Since Bru and I had hiked big days before getting into town we decided to take a slow morning. 

I woke up and headed straight for the Apple Pie Bakery. Coffee and a sausage & egg sandwich made with french toast. I worked on blog posts and catching up on emails. Other hikers came and left the bakery catching up on news and reuniting with friends from miles past. 

It was lunchtime by the time I was done with writing and resupplying on food. When I returned to the hostel, Odie was driving up in his converted short bus. Odie publishes the hiker yearbook for the AT. The yearbook is just what is sounds like: hiker pictures, names, contact information and other content featured around the trail. In the trail culture he’s somewhat of a celebrity, which isn’t a term I like to apply to trail angels. Regardless, he’s a well-known face up and always a fun person to be around on the trail. 

Odie drives a short bus that he converted to a living space. During the trail season he lives in the van and drives up and down the trail helping out hikers, advocating for the AT museum and creating fun when he can. Odie filmed Bru’s Half-Gallon Ice Cream challenge victory a few weeks ago. A half-gallon of ice cream in under 20 Minutes. No problem for this hiker:

 

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Anyways, so Odie is in the hostel trying to convince us to go swimming in the river instead of hiking out of town. The offer is tempting. The sun is out and the temperature is on the rise. I really don’t like hiking in thee heat of the day so Odie has me convinced. Soon everyone else is on board with the promise that we’ll only go for an hour — then hike out of town. Six hikers pile into the bus, buy a few beers and head to the river.  

 

 

 The Delaware River. 

The Delaware River. 

True to his promise, Odie gets us back to the hostel within an hour and everyone begins to hike out. It’s already 4pm and I planed to hike 12 miles to a fire tower. Bru and I were hoping to catch the sunrise the next morning from the tower. Bru leaves before I do (I got caught at a local coffee roaster, big surprise). 

The hike out is only a small climb compared to other out-of-town climbs. The best part of the hike today was leaving Pennsylvania and entering New Jersey. PA was a rough state: heat advisories and foot-crushing rocks. 

By the time I reached the last water source before the campsite a cloud had filled the sky and the wind was picking up. 

I was relieved to see Bru at a campsite 1.5 miles before our agreed meeting point. Kittatinny ridge is perched above the valley. It’s going to be a good spot to watch the sunrise. 

July 11
Kitatinny Ridge to Culver’s Gap [17 miles] 
 

 The sunrise was beautiful. Birds are my alarm at 5:15AM. They are incredibly consistent. 

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I watched the sunrise alone and then went back to my tent for a few more minutes of sleep. Around 6am I hear hikers in the next campsite over yelling and blowing a bear whistle. Soon one of them called out “watch out! You have a bear coming our way”

outside of my tent I looked over the ledge and saw a small black bear moving slowing towards me. Nothing in is movements was aggressive or quick. I yelled out and waved my hands. He stopped walking. 

we all continued to make noise but the Bear seemed indifferent. He eventually sat down and yawned a few times. 

Feeling unthreatened we continued to pack our things so we could leave the bear to his breakfast (most likely the Blueberry bushes behind us). 

 

So far New Jersey is an improvement. There are less rocks and the ridge walks offer views and grassy padded spots for lunch breaks.

During our lunch break Brü and I ran into our camping neighbors from that morning. They mentioned a bar at a road crossing 6 miles ahead. We put that into the plans for the day. 

Two miles from the road crossing (with the promise of beer) Brü rushed off to catch the second half of the England-Croatia World Cup game. Less enthused by that prospect, I told him I’d meet him there a my own pace.

While eating a turkey burger I remembered that I had a connection to an Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner. These hikers are hired by the ATC to work for the summer and care for a particular section of the AT. Kylie, or Sweet Magnolia, is a friend of a friend. I had yet to reach out to her so I sent her a text. 

In yet another moment of serendipity on the trail, it turned out that her house was down the street and around the corner. She arranged to come pick us up so we could spend the night.  

 

Bru and I were introduced to the other ridgerunner in the house, Frisky. Both he and Sweet Magnolila are former thru-hikers. They showed us around the house, offered any and everything we could need: laundry, shower, a bag of snacks, the kitchen, and coffee. Then, they both left for a dinner with co-workers. We had the space to ourselves which is such a luxury on the trail. Rarely, unless you’re able to afford hotel rooms in town, rarely do you have your own space in the traditional sense. 

 

Getting trail magic from former hikers has the benefit of an unspoken understanding. Bru and i were able to talk about the trail and share stories without excessive context or explanation. The ridge runners knew that we did not need a hovering host or hostess. To be left alone in a space, with AC, food, hot water and a couch is the respite of dreams. 

 

July 12 

Culvers Gap to Secret Shelter 

Sweet Magnolia dripped me and Brü off around 9:30am. Bru was attempting to reach Unionville in time to get a package from the post office so we parted ways for the day. 

New Jersey trail is wonderful compared to Pennsylvania. Most of the rocks have disappeared.  

I’ve only got 88 miles hike in the next week. I’ve got a rendezvous point with a friend outside of NYC on the 19th. On average I hike around 100 miles per week. Having a low-pressure deadline is a nice change of pace though. Glad that I’m not stressed and squeezing in miles to make it there. 

Camping at the Secret Shelter tonight. I’m glad that my mileage worked out to stay here. The 85 acre farm is owned by a former thru-hiker (1989). He has a cabin, water spigot and open fields that are open to thru hikers. It’s not an official ATC shelter.  

Frisky, the ridgerunner, had a day off today and drove up to the shelter with his guitar and fresh fruit. Live music makes a quiet summer evening that much more serene.  

 

July 13 

Secret Shelter to Unionville, NY  [1.8 miles]

Shortest day yet! I arrived in Unionville around 7:30am and headed to one of three spots for hikers in the town, the General Store.  

The breakfast sandwiches at the store deli have been talked about for miles. They lived up to their reputation. It’s obvious that the town is very hiker friendly. The front porch of the General Store was filled with hikers. The outlets were full of charging cords, battery chargers and phones. 

The town also offers free camping in the park next to the post office. I decided to spend the day and night here. Since I have to go so slowly it makes sense to stay here since I don’t have to pay for camping or a room.  

The afternoon was hot and I was glad to not be hiking. I spent the day sitting on the porch of the pizza restaurant talking with hikers passing through, journaling and catching up on emails. By the afternoon I’d convinced two hikers, Cinnabon and Backwards Hat to camp and stay in town as well.  

The three of us headed to the local tavern, Witts End, in thee late afternoon. The rest of the night was incredibly fun. The owner of the bar was kind to us, gave us encouragement and bar snacks. Other patrons were familiar with hikers and struck up conversations with us . 

Another group of hikers showed up: Big Tuna, Stretch, Miss Roberts, Strawberry, Player One, Who?, and probably others I can’t recall.  

We played pool, darts and drank pretty late. The night ended with pizza, the last pie made in the shop today, and conversation on the playground of the park.  

I feel refreshed and regenergized after being around a new group of hikers. I miss my trail family, but I didn’t realize how much I needed a change of faces and conversation until this evening. Also, there were more lady hikers than I’ve yet to be around on the trail. Having some lady energy is so wonderful. I we can all stick to the same bubble for awhile.  

July 14  

Unionville, NY to Wayawanda Shelter [17 miles] 

The hike out of town was pretty flat and I felt incredibly positive and full of energy after the fun time last night. 

My midday goal was to make it to NJ 94 road crossing where a hotdog stand and ice cream store sit yards from the trail. It was hot and humid so I was ready for a cold drink and a place to wait out the sun.  

Mitch’s Hotdog stand is the first thing you see on the road. He’s been running the stand for five years and is always ready for a song. He says his regulars come up to him with songs to sing and he’s yet to be stumped. He sang while I ate my first hotdog. We talked and I ate a second.  

He’s a classic New York character. His gold chain sets off a head of white hair and tanned skin. He uses yiddish words and Italian hand gestures to emphasize a point.  

I walked across the street for ice cream. Jukebox caught up to me there and we waited for the afternoon to cool down before climbing up to the shelter for the night. It was nice to hike with her and catch up. I hadn’t seen her since thee Shenandoahs in VA.  

We made it to the shelter before a thunderstorm hit. It’s the first time it’s rained since 4th of July. All the water sources have been dry. 

Despite the lack of water the mosquitoes are absolutely awful. I had to eat my dinner standing up and walking to keep them at bay. 

July 15 
 Wayawanda Shelter to Fitzgerald Falls [13.8 miles] 

I was up and out of the shelter before Jukebox. Hiked alone for the morning. The hiking today was tough. 

Passed into New York. The trail has turned into steep, incredibly steep climbs over piles of rocks. These treacherous climbs lead to ridge walks over flat rocks. These rocks are either baked and hot in the sun or slippery and dangerous after a rain.  

My motivation this morning was to get to a road crossing for trail magic.  

Jukebox has a friend, a former thru-hiker, that lives nearby. Her name is Otto. Turns out that Otto was planning on doing trail magic today at the road crossing, the same day Jukebox was going to hike past that point. We found this out last night, so I had the best motivation to hike ten miles: free food.  

I was the first to show up at the magic. Otto brought balogna and cheese sandwiches, chips, soda, Gatorade, beer and watermelon.  

I’ve only got about 30 miles to do in four days so I was in no rush. I sat there from 1pm to 5pm. By the time I hiked out everyone from the shelter the night before had shown up as well. Everyone is moving slowly on this terrain.  

Camping alone at Fitzgerald Falls, which is dry just like everything else. A bit sad to camp next to a dry waterfall.  

The heat and humidity barely subsides once the sun sets. The morning will probably feel the same.  

 

July 16
 
Fitzgerald Falls to William Brein Shelter [17 miles]

The trail in New York is surprisingly difficult. Most hikers gained a lot of confidence during the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Ridge walks. NY doesn’t have ridges, and when she does they are covered in slim, flat rocks that are nerve wracking to descend — always questioning the tread on your shoes.

NY trail takes you straight up and then straight back down. There aren’t relaxing switchbacks and only a few graciously graded climbs. The ascents are commonly a pile of car-sized boulders. I’ve had to throw my poles ahead of me numerous times so I could use my hands for holds that I only thought I’d use in rock climbing gyms.


New York isn’t over, so I can’t know what is ahead, but the trail as it is made today really hard. My pace was slower than anticipated, which meant that my estimated arrival at a beautiful lake (with soda and ice cream) was delayed two hours.


I’ve found myself in between bubbles again. I didn’t see a single NOBO all day. Big Tuna and Jukebox haven’t caught up to met yet but I hope to see them walking into the shelter soon.


I hiked 12 miles to get to Tiorati Lake State Park. After a few very hot and humid days I had my heart set on getting to this lake. Around 1:30p I popped out onto the road leading to the State Park beach. After a half a mile I couldn’t wait any longer and threw out my thumb. I didn’t expect anyone to stop but there’s no harm in trying. The first car to go by slowed to a stop in front of me.


I told the drive, a man named Steve, that I had been hiking since April 1st and I started in Georgia. He didn’t seem to register what the AT is and was more interested in where I started in Georgia because his son attends Emory. Regardless, he did understand that I wanted to get to this lake. Trail angels come in all forms.


Thru-hikers seem to develop this idea that everyone within proximity to the trail ought to know what the AT is, and how huge of an accomplishment it is to attempt the hike. This definitely isn’t the case and I’m glad to have had a reminder today that some people have no idea and it’s a great opportunity to tell someone about one of the nations protected scenic trails.


The Tiorati Lake beach is a fingernail of sand at the north end of the lake. There are. Bathrooms, showers and vending machines. Everything I could want on a hot day. I chugged a Coke before dunking in the lake. I sat to the side, on some grass and enjoyed feeling cool for the first time today. I ate ice cream, and cooked my lunch.


After a couple hours no other hikers had shown up so I kept hiking on to the shelter. Got caught in some rain, just a quick summer storm, on the way here. I’m the first one here tonight and am waiting to set up my tent in case it rains again.

Tomorrow to Bear Mountain! 

 

July 17
William Brein Shelter to Greymoor Friary (Bear Mtn. Area) [
17 miles]

Woke up at 5:30 this morning hoping to beat the heat. Didn’t make much of a difference. I was sweating before 9am.  

Had to stop at a visitor center to get water because all the sources have been dry. Yesterday I don’t know what I would have done without water caches left by trail angels. 

Yet again, my goal for my morning miles was to make it to Bear Mountain NY. The park has a lodge, restaurant, trailside zoo and the picturesque Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River.  

Hot and sweaty I stopped at the lodge for ice cream, soda, a sandwhich, phone charging and general relaxation.  

Walkman was able to catch up to me this afternoon. We hiked out of Bear Mtn together.  

Free pool for thru-hikers in the Bear Mtn zoo! Walkman and I were able to take a dip before a thunderstorm rolled over us.  

Hiking in the rain for the last 7 miles was comfortable compared to the heat and humidity of the past week. Having a hiking partner again was also refreshing.  

The Graymoor Friary has been hosting hikers since the 1970s. It’s a great, free spot to camp with a pavilion for shelter, water access and outlets. It’s also conveniently located .5 miles from a Deli/store.  

We ate dinner at the Deli, bought some beer and headed to Graymoor. Most of the crew from the Unionville tavern night are here. It’s been a fun evening of reconnecting.  

The space is so peaceful here. The hikers are asked to camp on the baseball field (hardly used it looks like). The field is tucked in the back of the campus, away from the roads. It’s an open field ringed by trees. Every hour the bell tower plays softly.  

Going to zero here tomorrow. Got a friend coming to visit on the 19th! So excited. Probably the last connection from home before Katahdin. 

 

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