Was awoken by the sound of a Rush passing through. Peaked over to see everyone missing per usual. Packing up my stuff, a local named Elroy stopped by with his kid to play at the park for a bit. Somehow hearing the hint of Southern in my voice, he quickly caught on to the Alabama drawl I carried and was intrigued about life down there. I informed him that it was pretty great in the 6 months of moderate weather and blistering hot for the other 6. He informed me quite the opposite of this area. Said he was sick of dealing with all the snowy winters and was in search of warmer weather. He thinks he can handle the heat. I told him it’s impossible to sleep outside for 3 months of the year, said he didn’t care. Oh well Sweet Home, here comes another one.
Keeping on this trend of short cutting, I reached the “End of The Line”, allegedly re-entering Jersey turf. The Asian gal running the register was adorable, and I couldn’t help but flirt with her a bit while purchasing my Mountain Fuel. Of course they didn’t take card either, so I scraped up the last bit of my cash to pay for the drink and headed back on my way.
A note to you road walkers. To prevent getting run over by ignorant red necks, a good precautionary measure would be to hold your poles out to the side, carbide tip pointing out, into the road. It’s a good way of discouraging ass holes via a scratched up paint job, since human lives of non-wheeled individuals don’t seem to be that important in this great country anymore.
After a pretty boring hike, rolled up into Wallkill reserve, which was more or less a giant moor that wasn’t suited for much except a giant boardwalk plowing right through the middle. Granted, it was a beautiful boardwalk for walking on. Ran into Rush and The Vortex who were making a big push for town.
Got out of the bog on the other side, with one last mountain to hit before reaching NJ14. The book listed an “old house” as a “water source”. Definitely not the first time I’ve seen and used a man made water source, but certainly one of the most interesting. Walking up to the old house, vacancy was definitely an understatement. I peeked in through the old sliding glass doors on the back patio, and the place was completely empty, yet somehow immaculately clean on the inside, or at least as much as could be seen through the sun-glared door. Curiosity began to poke and prod at my gut, and I did a round of the place. All of the windows and doors were not simply locked, but bolted and screwed tighter than a bank safe. Seeing as how I lacked a screwdriver, breaking in would not be possible without a huge mess.
I felt a bit of nostalgia about this place. Strong feelings of Deja Vu washed over me in waves every time I turned a new corner. The driveway and garage reminded me of my cousins house in Birmingham (without the basketball goal), the front yard was like my Great-Grandmother’s house in South Louisiana, and the patio like somewhere I still to this day can’t quite remember…
Rounding the last corner, I saw one creepy little crawlspace that was wide open under the house. By this point that curiosity that led me to wander the property had worn off as quickly as it had come. Plus, it was time to get back on the trail and get to town. Who knew what could have been under that house? Perhaps a quest item?
The last boggy bit was a bit tedious. It’s a nice taste of what lays ahead these bog boards, though I’m sure I won’t be so keen on them later on. Rumor has it Maine is notorious for “dead ends” that will flip you into 3 feet of much cartoon style.
Reached the road, and started hoofing it (because apparently hitching is illegal in this state) but didn’t make it so soon before a jeep pulled over and got me to jump in. Arrived at the church hostel and took a quick look around inside. The few beds looked like they were from an infirmary, and the rest was just open floor space. Fair enough, but is there somewhere I can hang my hammock?
Rush emerged from one of the areas behind the main room.
“Croc, we got a lady coming to get us. I told her you were behind me, and to wait a bit for you to catch up.”
I asked what the deal was, and apparently she was another local trail angel who loved picking up hikers and showing em around the town. While we waited, I picked through some of the heavyweight supplies left behind by (most likely) section hikers, not finding much of good. Maybe I’ll want this bug spray later…
We heard the sound of a vehicle pulling up outside. A lady came rushing and looked me directly in the eyes.
“Are you Rush’s buddy?” she asked.
“That would be me, and you must be the trail angel I’ve heard so much about”.
“That’s right, and this trail angel is taking off! We gotta quit messing around here and get you boys cleaned up, I got a lot of pasta to feed you guys!” she commanded.
Without any hesitation, both of us jumped into the back of strangers’ vehicles as we had done dozens of times before. On the way there, Melissa (our host trail angel) pegged us a little about our lives and shared with us a little of her story. She had a nephew who had thru hiked the trail last year, which was what got her turned on to the trail community. She had been living in this town for quite some time, and of course had seen the smelly beasts emerge and retreat back to the trail on a seasonal basis, but had never really been to involved. Until Chinook came along. After his thru hike, she learned to love the trail community and all of the people surrounding it.
At one point, we got to talking about the bear problem in her neighborhood, which were apparently more rampant than raccoons, wild dogs, squirrels, and coyotes combined. She said, guaranteed, that every time she took the trash out there would be one mucking around in the dumpster. I informed her I hadn’t had the luxury (or luck) of running across one yet.
“Are you kidding me? Alright Rush, we’re dropping you off at the house and Crock Pot and I are going bear hunting!”
Rush ran into the house, and Melissa quickly slammed the van back into reverse and peeled out like a race car driver. Meanwhile, my 3.5 mph mind was racing, clutching onto the Oh Shit handle.
As we were making our rounds at the complex, she informed me a little of the history of how and why the bears got to be such a problem. A few years ago, the Governor of New Jersey banned the hunting of bears for an entire season. Allegedly, during that one season of breeding and repopulating, the black bear population bloomed to uncontrollable proportions, and also seemed to be trained to be unafraid of people (as they hadn’t been hunted). Logical to me, but who knows why.
We finished our rounds, the first time she hadn’t seen a bear in the neighborhood driving around.
“I swear Crock Pot, I saw one today when I was leaving to come get you guys! Jesus, you must really stink that bad huh?”
“I don’t know, I guess you tell me” I chuckled back.
We got back to the condo, and I finally got to meet AT ’14 alum Chinook (the name I had recognized from a trail magic or two before). We all sat around and got to have good convo swapping trail stories and town stories, life stories, the whole shabang. The pasta Melissa fixed up was outstanding, a bit of a Cajun style chicken pasta dish. It was so good I couldn’t take it.
Later that, we put on some documentary about the life and ludicrousness of Hitler. He was not only insane, but completely bat shit insane, as I had figured already.
The last thing I remember before fading into sleep was Melissa blurting out “His barber should have been given the death sentence. Look at that hair!”