7/13: Worthington State Forest to Fairview Lake

  • Miles 1300.9-1312.8 (11.9 mi.)
  • Total ascent: 1555′; descent: 1318′

I write from the mosquito capitol of the world, northwest New Jersey. At least ten of the obnoxious buggers are trapped between the netting and the rainfly of the tent, which we evidently didn’t shake well after it stopped raining at 7 a.m. today.

Although we didn’t have to hike in the rain, the fog never lifted in the valley or on the ridge. Along shorelines we felt as if we were walking on the rim of he world. Up high, clouds sped by like traffic on a busy interstate.

The best part of the day was the berries, plumped by the excess moisture. Everywhere, blueberries and blackberries hung like prizes in a carnival booth. We each picked at least a pint, cut off only by our anxieties about standing in bear bait.

We didn’t see a bear, though apparently many do in New Jersey; what we did see was a fat, lazy porcupine who showed no interest in moving off the trail. We waited at first pleasantly and then noisily while he finished his own berry-picking. We beat our poles against the rocks until, finally, he waddled off trail to the next berry patch.

The biggest problem with our berry-picking, however, was that it ate our daylight. We wound up camping a mile or so further south from Branchville, New Jersey, where we’ll resupply, than we had hoped to be.

But, we learned from a young middle school teacher we met on trail, that a tavern just 0.2 miles off-trail (compared to 1.2 for a supermarket and deli) offers basic hiker resupply. We are inclined to once again pay a convenience premium because the Branchville access trail is 14.8 miles shy of the next good water source.

Although New Jersey has water, much of it is in the form of bogs and muddy ponds. While probably not harmful once filtered (though they clog water filters), these sources don’t exactly say “drink me.”

We’re water-bougie, when we can afford to be. But we’re about to be able to afford it, given the number of gas stations and delis near road crossings. We learned in the Shenandoahs that gas station meals get old, too, but miles with more food sources are no doubt easier.

Critically, areas where we don’t have to carry as much weight also allow us to hike quickly. We’re reaching the sort of terrain where it’s possible to make miles quickly: The 210 miles than span New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are known to be easy territory; New Hampshire and Maine are said to halve hikers’ daily mileage.

Although those states still seem far away, I suspect we won’t feel that way for long. Time moves quickly on the trail, despite the many long individual days.

Lastly, I want to call out one more milestone of today: my mother’s birthday. My mother is an incredible human being who has (in every sense of the word) enabled this hike, and I’m going to slay it for her.

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.