After three and a half months on the trail, we had a vacation from our extended vacation in New Jersey. As I mentioned in the last post, the end of PA was pretty demoralizing and left everyone pretty worn out and ready for a break. We were super lucky to have met such cool people back in North Carolina - Hungus & Pace. They live in New Jersey and invited 9 other thru hikers back to their home for a week. We all met in Delaware Water Gap Saturday morning (June 30) and crossed the PA/NJ border. Friends and family of theirs met us to shuttle everyone back to the house. Cases of cold beer and lots of snacks awaited us when we arrived early afternoon. One by one all 11 of us took showers and Pace let Tater and me borrow some of her dresses. More friends and family of Pace & Hungus continued to show up and soon enough a keg-party-barbecue-cookout was in full swing. We hula hooped, played frisbee golf, made s'mores, and cheered Lighthouse (18 year old Scottish hiker) as he completed his first American keg stand - overall a super jolly party!
Sunday morning we took a much needed zero. After a big yummy breakfast, we put on The Beach (film starring Leonardo DiCaprio) and started the massive amount of stinky hiker laundry. Luckily the girls got to wash our clothes separate :) Jaybird and I took over in the kitchen and made a big spaghetti & meatball lunch for the crew. Laundry continued all day and we put on The Departed next (the second Leo film of the day). I was also able to fit in some phone calls to friends and family, and a nap too.
Monday we began with a big breakfast and a trip to the store for lunch and snacks for the day. Lighthouse treated everyone to a dozen donuts. Hungus' friend Sideshow offered to help shuttle us and hike in for the first part. New Jersey began beautifully! Gorgeous weather and a glacier lake kicked off our hike. We lunched at Sunfish Pond and admired the cool stone sculptures. Sideshow met us at the end of our 16 mile day and helped shuttle everyone back home. Jaybird, Lighthouse, and I got home first and started fixing up a big chicken pasta dinner. While we had a really great day, everyone was pretty worn out. We realized the logistics of getting 11 hikers to and from the trail, supplied for lunch, showered and fed was a pretty overwhelming task. We agreed to get an earlier start the next morning and go out for dinner on Tuesday... Which ended up being an all-you-can-eat Sushi/Japanese buffet! A hiker's dream!! We only had an hour before they closed so we silently and with great focus inhaled as much delicious food as we could in that hour. With full bellies we returned home and went right to bed.
Wednesday the 4th of July, Pants woke Lighthouse up by asking, isn't it great to celebrate our freedom from the British Crown? Oh wait.. You live in Scotland.. Ha but he was a great sport and it was a fun day. Pants switched out his normal hot pink hiking skirt (formally known as MY hot pink hiking skirt) for a shiny gold miniskirt from Pace's closet. We finished hiking for the day with plenty of time to return home for a big food party - pulled pork that Hungus slow cooked with beer, steaks marinated with Cheesewater's mom's special cumin/cocoa rub recipe, grilled salmon, 7 pounds of baked beans, garlic toast, and coleslaw. Also - Hungus is quite the brewmaster and he tapped one of his special Pilsner kegs for us, amazingly delicious!
Thursday we slept in and did a final resupply as well as a big run to the local outfitters. My purple Smartwool shirt that I'd worn the entire trail thus far had too many holes - the worst being on my back hip where my pack rubbed, not doable. I replaced it with a new hot pink Under Armor synthetic tee. After quick stops at Walmart and Barnes & Noble (I got Gribley a copy of Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver for his upcoming birthday), we had Indian food buffet for lunch. Bellies full we headed back to the house to pack our packs for the first time all week. Hungus wrote chores on bits of paper and we drew them from a hat to get the house back to its pre-hiker-takeover state. Everyone pitched in and we had it so fresh and so clean in no time. We said our temporary goodbyes to Hungus and Pace - they were heading to see Phish in Saratoga for the weekend and we were dropped off where we left off on the AT. Everyone headed to the first shelter and Gribley and I went about a mile beyond. After a week of being with a big group, we both craved a quiet small campsite for our first night back on the trail.
Friday morning we woke up with ambitious plans to hike into Southfields to take a train into NYC Saturday morning, but were surprised by the terrain - much more mountainous than the previous weeks & states. We quickly realized there was no way we'd make the train and Tatertot went into research/planning mode and discovered a bus that we could take that night. We literally sprinted across ridge lines into New York state in hopes of making the bus.
And that my friends is my story for now of New Jersey. I'll get to work on New York - still here, about 20 miles away from the CT border!