7/11-7/12: Stealth Site Near Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, to Worthington State Forest

  • 7/11: Miles 1282.5-1295.7
  • Total ascent: 1019′; descent: 1981′
  • 7/12: Miles 1295.7-1300.9
  • Total ascent: 2204′; descent: 1770′

For the first time in at least a few weeks, we took it slow today.

Although I hate to admit it, the stings and rocks and rashes and lack of sleep overpowered me. Five miles in, Rachel mercifully set up the tent so that I could take an afternoon nap.

Having crossed the Delaware River bridge, we are now in New Jersey, the land of site restrictions and rules: no stealth camping, fires, “unduly annoying conduct,” or multi-night stays allowed.

But, and perhaps because of the restrictions, the trails are in substantially better condition than on the Pennsylvania side of the river. They’re wider, with fewer rocks and uncut trees blocking the way.

There’s also plenty of water, thank goodness: I will miss nothing about Pennsylvania less than the mile-long water bushwhacks.

Something I will miss is our stay last night: Nestled in a Guthook comment was a phone number for a trail angel named Tom, who’s rehabbing an 1850s Victorian mansion into a bed & breakfast. Tom, who builds obstacle courses for the endurance challenge “Tough Mudder,” had come to miss meeting hikers while away for work; so, he started offering to host hikers who walked by his home for $20 per night.

It wasn’t much, even by the standards of trail accommodations: We slept on a wood floor and got a cold shower; the electricity worked in a couple of rooms. At some point in the night, a rodent chewed the mesh of our tent, which we’d left hanging to dry from a windowsill.

But considering that we’d have paid $20 for the roof or the advice from a master builder, it seemed like a square deal. Tom had built everything from scratch that could be scratched: his own doors, cabinets, countertops, banisters, and staircases. He’d done all his own wiring, plumbing, tile, fixtures; and painted it all in bold but stately primary colors.

The Victorian home also had a detached carriage house, where Tom was living while working on the house, and where he let us do our laundry. The plan for the carriage house was, after the B&B was complete, to turn it into a hiker hostel.

Delaware Water Gap proper, or what passed for it, was equally charming. The centerpiece of the town was the Deer’s Head Inn, a rooms-above-restaurant jazz club with a Mansard roof. We peeked in, but we could tell from the sidewalk it was the sort of place that didn’t welcome “hiker trash.”

Instead, we split a 28″ pizza (with a shaker of garlic powder and a bottle of hot sauce: my kind of place) at Doughboys of the Poconos, the sort of local pizza place that has all but disappeared in the era of Papa John’s and Dominos. Down the street lay a Sunoco, where we resupplied at “robbery” prices rather than catch a 30-minute ride to the grocery store in Stroudsburg. The “cheapest” option isn’t always so, considering the costs of transportation.

“Northeast” prices begin in New Jersey, we’re told, but all good things come at a cost. Pennsylvania had few landmarks or mountains, which meant few moments of victory; its few-and-far-between resupply options made us hungry for the “deli-blazing” of New Jersey and New York we’ve heard much about. Suffice it to say the mental and logistical challenges of some areas can be as trying as the physical.

One of those mental challenges we learned of just last night, on the cusp of New Jersey: Our friends Cindy and Suzanne fell on a stretch we crossed two days ago known as “Knife’s Edge,” a jagged eruption of rock that must be tightrope-walked on a dry, high-confidence day. They spent yesterday in a hospital and last night in a B&B near Palmerton, Pennsylvania, they reported.

Cindy & Suzanne’s news encouraged me to check in on other nearby friends: Maki is in New York City, his home and (in trail miles) about 70 miles ahead of us. Beetle and Pickle Boy are already at the Connecticut border. I believe, but am not sure, that Lenscap and Sunflower are 50 miles or so behind us. Ringer, the cross-country runner from Jackson, Missouri, is already in Maine.

We wish them all well, but we will continue to hike our own hike. And we won’t let the hardships of Pennsylvania fester: new state, clean slate!

By Bob

Bob is a newly married word herder who's gone looking for himself where anyone who knows him would: in the mountains and around the campfires of America's greatest trail.