Tuesday September 7th, 2021, 0600-1830
Wawayanda Mt to Mashipacong Shelter, SOBO AT mm 859.6
5000 gain, 4820 loss
Running from mosquitoes seemed to be the new normal each morning. As soon as I left my fortress, it was a race to get the tent packed and get moving before they woke up. At least I was very practiced at doing almost everything inside my tent. I was going to be passing through a lot of low and boggy areas all morning, so I was prepared to do battle. I gave in down, spraying DEET on the backs of my legs at the start. I also wore my rain jacket to protect my upper body.
As I came down from the hills into the valley, I was pleased to find that there was a cold air inversion. This effectively put the skeeters to sleep for a few hours, which was just enough time to sneak through all the marshy areas. First was a farm field, followed by a huge estuary surrounding Pochuck creek. This was where the boardwalk started, which was the most pleasant and easy stroll for almost a mile. Contrary to what the shuttle driver had claimed earlier, it was not underwater. I did get wet feet walking through a puddle before the start, but would have gotten wet feet later anyway from having to walk through grassy fields. The boardwalk was one of the highlights of this whole hike, so I’m glad I didn’t miss it. It was such a beautiful day with open views. I felt like I was back in Florida.
After the boardwalk, the trail went up through some hills again, which is oddly where the mossies resumed. Then back into another estuary and no more mosquitoes. Perhaps all the swamp animals, like dragonflies and frogs, were keeping them in check. I met some nice section hikers there, chatting with them for a bit. They were from New Jersey, so I proclaimed that it was my favorite trail state so far. In spite of the bugs and water, I really had enjoyed it. The trail was pleasantly and surprisingly nice and diverse. These long flat stretches were a joy and even the hilly parts were fun. The delis along the way were also clutch.
Speaking of which, after putting in about 12 miles (which seems to be a standard run between delis), we had come to our mid-morning stop in Unionville. There we found a pizza deli selling by the slice, Annabelle’s Italian eatery. They had an amazing array of choices and I got a caprese and penne pasta slice. Let me tell you, this was perhaps the best pizza I’ve ever had, on any trail! The crust was so thin and crispy and the toppings delicious…just incredible! My hiker hunger does have the effect of making everything taste amazing, so there’s that caveat. Still, did this hit the spot!
This Jersey-tastic Day got even better when another planned visit from a former trail friend panned out. Yoyo, one of my first tramily members from the Colorado Trail, lived in NJ near NYC and drove an hour just to come hike with me! It was so awesome to see him! Of course he came bearing goodies: fresh fruit and vegan cake that he made himself. He’s very healthy and eating this fresh food was a nice follow-up to the pizza. Yoyo had just gotten back from a section hike on the PCT in WA, so he was also very fit…keeping up with me was no problem for him, especially without a pack.
Since there was no parking at the trailhead where I’d gotten off to go into town, I yellow-blazed with Yoyo to a trailhead 1 mile south. Hopefully this didn’t disqualify me for my triple crown. I made up the mile on the walk into town and also doing a side trail up to the high point of NJ. We hadn’t planned in advance for this to be the destination of our hike together, but it worked out perfectly. Yoyo got a good 12 mile round trip hike in for his efforts of driving an hour and I got to hike with him for 6 miles. Celebrating at the top of his home state seemed fitting, as well. The side trip to the war memorial tower was well worth it. We could see the Catskills, Bear Mountain NY, the Delaware river valley, and the Delaware Water Gap, where the trail goes south of here. I could see the long, straight ridgeline that the AT follows for 40 some miles to DWG. It was all very cool.
After parting ways with Yoyo, it was back to business. I had made such good time all day that I decided to skip the hostel and just shoot for the town of Delaware Water Gap (DWG), only 1.5 days away. Shower and laundry could be put off a bit more, especially since it was supposed to rain the next night. No sense in getting cleaned up just to get wet and dirty again the following day.
I decided to go another 7 miles to a shelter that was right on trail and looked interesting. Along the way, I took a side loop to a really nice spring, where I was able to rinse my clothes. No sooner had I put them back on that 2 SOBOs came along, Paperbag Princess and Playdough. The shelter was very nice, especially for being less than half a mile from a road. There was a large grassy area out front and lovely tentsites in the nearby woods. Given the bug situation, I opted for my tent. Nobody stayed in the old stone shelter all night. Later I had a wonderful stretching and foam rolling session on top the picnic table, with a view of the sky and a breeze to keep the bugs away. It was a fantastic ending to a fantastic day. One of my favorites so far! New Jersey really is a great state to hike. Who knew?