I had a great time on a last minute solo overnight to the Delaware Water Gap. When I talked to my hiking buddy KYBob at 9:00 pm on Friday, he was ready to go with me. However, he called me Saturday morning to say he was backing out. He said he was exhausted from packing for the trip all morning (he carries a 60-lb pack for overnights). He bailed on me at the last minute, but said he'd come next weekend. I said screw that - there have to be consequences for bailing out. The consequence is I go without you.
Before leaving, I coached my son's soccer game. He scored his first goal of the season, a beautiful booming shot from about 25 yards out that hit the crossbar and went in. I wanted to skip the hike and stay home and celebrate with my son - it was such a spectacular goal. Funny how you find excuses not to hit the trail alone. However, my son wanted to go celebrate with his friends, so I was free to go.
I got to Dunnfield Creek parking area at 4:30 pm. By 6:30 pm, I reached backpacker site #2 in the Worthington State Forest, about 4 miles in . I was thinking of camping there, but too crowded. There were maybe 50 tents (& two HH hammocks). When the state custodian came over to tell me the rules of the campsite, I knew I wasn't staying. I don't want to camp anywhere that has a custodian. He told me I could reach federal land in 2-3 miles and camp anywhere 50 ft. off the trail without supervision. "There's a big sign for Delaware Water Gap; you can't miss it," he said.
I hiked on, and day turned to night. I lost the trail several times and backtracked. With the new moon, & being blind in one eye, I had a hard time finding the white blazes. The trail was pretty rocky, and I went slow to keep from turning an ankle. Up on the ridge there were several sections with no trees; therefore no blazes. I stopped hiking at 10 pm - I spent 30 minutes trying to find the next blaze, but never found it. I think my eyes were just too tired.
After setting up the hammock & bug net (no tarp), I made dinner (Hawk Vittles Buffalo Pasta). Some wild animal walked into my camp, no more than 10 ft. from me. He announced himself by stepping on a stick and it made a loud cracking noise. I whipped around to see just two red eyes in the beam of my headlamp. The thing was so close that I just ran toward it,flapping my arms and screaming, not knowing what it was.
It seemed too large for a skunk, not big enough for a baby bear. He ran, thank goodness, when I charged him. I think it was a porcupine, but I never got a good luck. For 45 minutes, he watched me from about 50 ft., his red eyes glowing in the night. It was creepy and scared the bejeezus out of me.
I was pretty rattled after that incident, and kept thinking about how the Delaware Water Gap has an average of one bear per square mile. I read my book for an hour or so, which calmed me down, and went to sleep around 12:30 am. The low for the night was 52 degrees - I was hoping for colder. I woke up pretty early for me, ate breakfast (oatmeal, raisins and coffee) and was packed up by 8 am.
A thru-hiker, Brimley, came along just as I headed south. We hiked together and talked about gear, metaphysics and stuff. Brimley carries no tent, tarp, hammock, stove, rain gear, maps or compass. All he has is a sleeping bag and pad. For food, he eats tuna, salmon packets, peanut butter and the like - nothing that requires cooking. He said he averaged about 20 miles a day, so I told him right then and there that I probably wouldn't be hiking with him for long - he was gonna lose me.
Surprisingly, I kept up with Brimley. We came upon a porcupine hiking on the trail. This one was pretty huge - I've never seen one so big. He immediately got off the trail and climbed a tree. I didn't even know porcupines could climb trees. They look pretty clumsy climbing.
The trip back was almost all downhill, about 8 to 10 miles or so, and took three hours. Brimley was leading, and he lost the trail several times, in the day light. That made me feel good! I'm not so blind after all.
It's amazing how hiking with another hiker (a faster hiker) can help you achieve a better pace. My trip in took 5.5 hours. Then again, my trip northbound was uphill, mostly at night, and I got lost a few times. At the trailhead, I offered Brimley a ride into town, but he said he had to walk every step of the AT. I gave him a soft shackle as a parting gift.
My knees are pretty angry right now from all the rocks on the trail, but I'm looking forward to hiking more of the AT in New Jersey. It's very scenic. I'll post a video soon.