On Saturday 7/22/17 Bernadette’s friend since Explorer’s Scouts in Roslyn, PA, Betsy, and I hiked the 7.3 mile northern half of the Appalachian Trail (AT)-PA Section #1 from Fox Gap, PA to the Delaware Water Gap (western side of the I-80 Bridge over the Delaware River). We added the southern most one mile section of NJ Section #6 as well for a combined 8.3 mile hike. After leaving my car at the Kittatinny Visitor’s center parking lot, I rode with Betsy to the Fox Gap trail head parking area off Rt. 191. We headed across the road, over the guardrail and headed northbound at about 7:12am on a sunny day with expectations of 80s to 90s temperature before noon.
After only six tenths of a mile we came to the short uphill side trail for the Kirkridge Shelter. Although there were some belongings near the shelter, there were no hikers nearby.
I wrote a short note in the trail register and christened Betsy with her trail name which is Lady Explorer. The Explorer Post that Betsy and Bernadette belonged to had done many different hiking and back-packing trips including some part of the AT. So Betsy and Bernadette have been AT hikers 45 years before me.
I noticed that thru hiker “Screech” had written a poem like entry the day before which went as follows:
“If Pennsylvania sang opera, it would be monotone.
If Pennsylvania were hard candy, its flavor would be all purpose white flour.
If Pennsylvania were a childrens’ (sic) book, there would be no illustrations.
If Pennsylvania were perfume, it would be bear spray.
If Pennsylvania were your bed sheets, they’d be hot, wet and sticky latex.
If Pennsylvania had a saving grace, it’s the amazing trail magic!”
Another thru hiker, this one named EVAC, commented “Amen to that” with a directional arrow for clarity.
We retraced our path back down the blue blazed side trail and turned left to continue north on the trail. In a minute we passed another side trail junction, this being the northern junction of the loop that goes by the same shelter. We had arrived at the shelter via the southern junction.
Our journey along the ridge line involved walking on many pointy rocks which were sticking up into the soles of our feet and crossing right of ways for powerlines and later, for pipelines. Their clearings provided some wonderfully scenic views. We crossed Totts Gap between the powerline and pipeline access.
As we hiked we kept seeing different and sometimes colorful mushrooms or fungus (or fungi?) growing alongside the trail. Here are some of the photos Lady Explorer or I captured.
Lady Explorer’s sharp eyes caught sight of an orange spotted newt whose spots had not appeared as yet. This is the same type newt I have seen multiple times along other sections of the AT.
A little over two hours into the hike, we noticed this bear print in a muddy area. I put my foot next to it for scale but somehow my foot did not appear in this photo.
Ten minutes later we came to the old Tower Site on Mount Minsi which is about 1461′ above sea level.
We then began a fairly constant descent (1200 feet to the I-80 bridge) past Lookout Rock and Council Rock which provided views down to the Delaware Water Gap. We could see a sandy area along the Delaware River where kayaks were being launched. Along the way we rock hopped over Eureka Creek which did not have much of a flow of water on this day.
We stood off to the side of the trail for a while to permit a youth group of about fifty teenagers and their guides to pass as they hiked upward toward Mt. Minsi.
As we continued the last part of our descent, we came upon Lake Lenape which featured different birds, croaking frogs and the most flowering lily pads I have ever seen.
After a short visit at the lake, we made the brief hike into Delaware Water Gap and we turned left at the intersection with Main Street (Rt. 611) in order to stop in and visit at the Church of the Mountain Hostel which is located just one and a half blocks from the trail. This church sponsored hostel provides bunk beds, a common room, bathroom and shower for thru hikers who can make a small donation for their overnight stay. I took some photos of the inside rooms and of the outside door which is located more toward the rear of the church. I met Dave who identified himself as the caretaker for the hostel. He saw my Wilderness Medicine Institute patch on my hat and mentioned that he had been a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) instructor at one time. Even though I was not staying overnight, I left a small donation to help with costs which support the thru hikers.
While there we had the good fortune to meet and chat briefly with “Screech” who was repairing his hiking shoes with shoe gloo and duct tape. I believe he was the author of the poem written into the Kirkridge Shelter register mentioned above. I guess he slept at the hostel last night. We also met Steely Dan who recently graduated from college and who wanted to thru hike the AT before starting in his career. I left my phone number with Steely in case he wanted some assistance in three or four days time with provisions, shower, laundry, etc when he got closer to Bear Mountain Bridge which is the lowest point of the AT at about 160′ above sea level. I offered to help as I would be back home after visiting with my relatives in the Philadelphia area.
Lady Explorer and I wished them well on their thru hike and after leaving the hostel, we walked the short way to the western end of the I-80 bridge and then the one mile walk across to the Kittatinny Visitor Center parking area. Along the way, with the assistance of other thru hikers, we took some photos of us and of the painted state line border sign which indicates that the AT southbound to Springer Mountain, GA is 1293.6 miles and the distance northbound to Mt. Katahdin, Maine is 895.6 miles.
We had a great hike and look forward to our next one in the rocky Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where a friend of Betsy is interested in joining, the more the merrier.
I have now hiked 171.6 miles of the AT [89.8 in NY(completed), 43.8 in CT, 30.7 in NJ and 7.3 in PA].
On Wednesday 7/26/17 I received a text from Steely and arranged to pick him up around 6pm along the blue bypass trail located just outside the Bear Mountain State Park Zoo. Bernadette and I enjoyed Steely’s company very much during an overnight visit at our house. After a big dinner, he washed his clothes, showered, drank a beer, watched TV and slept in air conditioning. The next day Steely resupplied his food provisions at Shop Rite Supermarket and I dropped him back off to continue his northbound thru hike. He had covered 1403 miles since starting out at Springer Mountain on May 14th after finishing his final exams. I know you will make it. Good luck Steely and call if you need anything else.