Mile 1346.8 – Vernon, New Jersey – Pizza, Bugs, and 911

The mosquitoes have come out in full force. The rocks slowly give way to swamps as you leave Pennsylvania and hike into New Jersey. There doesn’t seem to be enough DEET in the world to combat the bugs. With the 90 degree temperatures our sweat removes any bug spray in about 20 minutes and demands it be reapplied.
I made days of 25, 18, and 18 miles the last three out of Delaware Water Gap, PA to Vernon, NJ.
Delaware Water Gap had a hostel at a Presbyterian Church (USA) and now I’m at a Episcopalian church. That’s 1 Baptist, 1 Lutheran, 1 Methodist, 1 Catholic, 1 Presbyterian, and 1 Episcopalian on the trail.
I got out early the first morning and walked across the bridge over the Delaware river besides loud traffic driving on their way to work. Immediately into New Jersey was the first climb of about 800 ft. Only a quarter mile into the climb I saw a bear on the ridge up above to my left. He did not run away and thus I took a number of pictures as he stared at me. I saw four other bears that day and the next but never was able to get a picture quick enough of any of them.
I met Bison and Chickadee and hiked with them for a day or two. After a day of miserable heat and bugs we found our way to a swimming pond and concession stand. A thunderstorm appeared to be coming in and we were fast approaching the closing time of the concessions. Bison made it down to the pond first. Chickadee and I had to climb a mountain to a fire tower before coming down the other side to the pond. We saw the pond but there was no path to get there. Thus we blazed our own path through 100 yards of forest and brush and showed up at someones picnic area at the park. We made it though with 25 minutes left and bought pizza, sodas, funnel cake, and ice cream at the concessions. The lifeguards were leaving the pond and we had more miles to hike and get sweaty again so we decided not to swim.
I also hiked with Sinner (who I’ve known since Virginia) and Johnny Walker. We went into Unionville, NY for breakfast which turned out again to be pizza. The hiker hunger seems to always say “Pizza, Pizza” even if you’ve had it the previous day. Plus, getting into Northern states we have much better pizza, although usually more expensive as well.
Sinner and I walked out of Unionville in the worst heat we’ve had so far. For a mile or more we were out in the open walking by the Walkill Reserve (just a nicer name for a swamp). We were talking about how someone could have a heatstroke in this weather as we turned a corner on the dirt two-track road surrounding the rectangular swamp. Off in the distance I thought I saw a person wearing a blue shirt, or perhaps, I hoped, a blue cooler with cold drinks left for hikers! It turned out to be two young section hiker brothers (about 18 years old I guess) sitting at the entrance of the AT back into the forest. There was a wooden bench there with larger armrest. Apparently minutes before we arrived one of them was boiling water to make tea; an absurd though considering the heat outside. The boiling water, from the JetBoil, fell into the kids lap and he was blistering badly on both legs. We all decided it was quite bad and he would need to get off the trail. His brother made two calls to 911 but wasn’t very assertive with explaining the situation and location. He lost the call twice on his verizon phone. (Verizon, by the way is the phone of choice on the AT in the South; ATT in the North) I had 2 bars on my ATT phone and called 911 myself. I explained to them the location we were located, but I had to walk 1/2 mile to a road to flag down the first cop car on the scene in order to direct them in. The two-track road and a gate and padlock which the cop said they couldn’t open as it was Federal land. I thought there might be another opening further down the road, so I got in the police car and the cop and I drove in through another entrance. The whole reason we drove in rather than having the kid walk out was because of the heat and possibility he could go into shock considering his burns. The cop directed an ATV over his radio about the directions to our location and they soon arrived to bring “Peachy” and his brother, Chris, to a hospital. We immediately decided that this was the occassion which should give him a new trailname. Firecrotch was unanimously chosen and we encouraged him that he’d have cool stories and cool scars.
After the ambulance call I still had 7 miles to Vernon, NJ to the hostel I was going to. I pushed hard over the last mountain and across a few miles of boardwalks in the swamps. I passed “Don’s Brother” who was having a bad time in the bugs and had fallen, breaking own of his hiking poles. I got to the highways crossing and illegally put out my thumb to hike. About 5 minutes later I got a ride from a guy telling me I was hitching the wrong way and he’d take me the other way directly to the church hostel. He dropped me off right there and I immediately took and shower and did laundry. I’m taking a zero day here to recover from the heat and to take some time listening to music. My friend Sal Paradise has sent me his Ipod Nano for me to listen to on the trail and has graciously added some Townes Van Zandt songs.