I left out of Palmerton Pennsylvania and immediately started climbing Lehigh Gap. Boulders and overgrown trail were the order of the day. The trail was so steep at times that I had to use my hands to help pull myself up. It was also so overgrown that several times I lost the trail because it was almost impossible to make out. On top of the mountain I met an old hiker who told me about this whole are being defoliated from a local Zinc smelter and that it is only now starting to regrow.
A few miles in I ran into "Houdini" again. He was only going a few miles before he was going to get off to spend the weekend with his wife. We hiked a while together and he pointed out wild blueberries growing on the trail. I had never had a wild blueberry before and I was pleasantly surprised how delicious they were. We came to the road crossing where "Houdini" was getting off and he mentioned that there was a ski area right down the road and they might have a place to grab a bite to eat, so I went with him to see. Unfortunately the ski area was closed but they had some vending machines and a nice place to sit. I had a root beer and hung out a little, but then I said my fair wells and headed off down the trail again.
By the end of the day I was exhausted from all of the rocks I had to negotiate. Gone were the large boulders and in their place were little sharp things that prevented me from putting my foot down evenly. They are worse than the large ones because they just continue for miles and miles all day long. I set up my tent near a shelter with a few other thru hikers and fell asleep. In the morning I broke camp, but as I was taking my food bag down from a tree I noticed that some little critter managed to chew a hole through one of my bags. Thankfully I have two of them so it wasn't that big of a deal.
The trail again was little rocks that left my feet sore and tired, but I kept pushing on all day long. I was pretty much on a ridge line without much elevation gain or loss, but as the day drew to a close I started to approach the Delaware Water Gap. This is where Pennsylvania ends and on the other side of the Gap is New Jersey, my home state. The river came into view as I started descending off the ridge. By the time I made down it was pretty late so I stayed at a church hostel on the Pennsylvania side of the river. I expected the hostel to be full of hikers, but surprisingly I was the only one there. I went down to the pizza place in town and ate a whole pie by myself then returned to the empty church and called it a night.
Early the next morning I excitedly crossed the border to New Jersey. The trail went back uphill on the other side of the river and around an area called Sunfish Pond where visitor are plentiful. I ended back on top of a ridge, but in New Jersey there are blueberry bushes everywhere. I was so excited that I spent two hours picking the little fruit and putting them in one of my water bottles. I sang the blueberry song as I foraged. "Blueberry, Blueberry...I love you Blueberry, Blueberry". I was so in to picking these things that I made sure I didn't stop until my bottle was full, it only took two hours. At the end of the day I camped in a swamp for some reason. Mosquitoes were everywhere so I didn't spend much time lingering outside.
The next morning was a short hike to Culver's lake where I was meeting my friend Amanda. When I got to the road crossing I was greeted with typical NJ hospitality. I went over to a deli and got a coffee and breakfast sandwich. As I was hanging out at the store a lady in a car tried turning into the deli, but failed to look at on coming traffic and side swiped another car. It wasn't long until the parking lot and surrounding are were swarming with emergency vehicles. Everybody was fine, but her car was wrecked.
I met Amanda and her children Emily and Tommy at a restaurant down the road. We had lunch and caught up on each others lives and then I spent the night at their house.
I was dropped back off on the trail the next morning and headed into familiar territory. First I went by Sunrise mountain where I used to go to as a teenager late at night. It has a spot where you can look off over the valleys below and contemplate what you want to do with your life and then make bad decisions. After that I went over the highest point in NJ, aptly named High Point. There is a two hundred foot obelisk resting on the peak that you can see for miles around. The trail turned away from the peak and then headed down in to the farmlands below. I was running out of daylight so I went to a place I heard about. It is a guy's property where he allows thru hikers to stay in a cabin or camp on his lawn. I preferred to camp, so I set up my tent between two trees and went to sleep.
I woke up to the hot sun beating on me. It was probably in the eighties by seven thirty in the morning. I got up and hit the trail early to try to beat the hottest part of the day. Unfortunately for me there was a lot of hiking out in the open. I went through a wildlife preserve that had no tree cover and the temperature was well into the nineties. I was hot and miserable by the time I made it to the other side. I plopped down in some shade and rested a bit before I pushed on the final few miles to Vernon. As it would happen my phone wouldn't call out when I got to a road crossing so I had to walk the final three miles to my mother's house. I spent the rest of the day drinking a ton of water and sitting in an air conditioned house.
The next day was scheduled to be just as hot so my friend let me tag along with him at his job in order to stay cool.
Being New Jersey there was a bear roaming around nearby.
And this is how the police handled the situation.
I spent the next couple of days seeing friends and family that I haven't seen in way too long. I feel re-energized and am looking forward to the next part of this adventure.