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[at-l] Solophile Journal Entries [Jul16-24]

Okay, so you're getting these sooner than I had planned.
I HAD to get them done before the weekend!

July 16 - Day 128
13.7 mi to George Outerbridge Shelter - 1230 cum

A good day, even with the heat and rocks.  I think a lot of it was
due to a fairly early start and a really good night's sleep on a
comfortable bed in a nice cool room.

We met Waldo quite a few times on the trail today.  He had pulled
into the B&B late yesterday afternoon and tented on the lawn.  We
let him and another southbounder by the name of Ledge use our
shower last night.  Anyway, Waldo is about 34 and is Russian.  He
moved to the U.S. when he was 17 and now lives in Berkeley, Ca.
He has a fun accent and a colorful vocabulary and he seems to
always be ready to smile.

A large portion of today's hike was unshaded and the rocks were
out in full force.  Pennsylvania slightly redeemed itself in my 
eyes today - all the unshaded portions of trail were lined with
acres of blueberry bushes loaded down with sweet berries.  We
had to stop and pick!  We found a shady spot to ditch our packs
and let Micah rest and headed out into the sun's glare armed 
with little baggies and sunscreen.  Waldo told us about making
blueberry wine as a child in a Russian summer camp.  He said
blueberries always brought back good memories for him.  We
managed to collect over a quart of berries between FireBall and
me.  Unfortunately, he didn't fasten his bag to his pack
securely and lost all the "fruits of his labor" somewhere along
the trail.  I ended up graciously sharing my blueberries with 
hime, but now he's the official waterboy for the next few
days. :^)

Made camp by 3.  We decided to tent a little away from the
shelter since the ground was covered in broken glass.  It was a
good day and I'm glad to be another 13+ miles closer to being
done with PA.

July 17 - Day 129
16.7 mi to Leroy Smith Shelter - 1247 cum

A very long day.  We rose at sunrise to try and get a jump on 
things before the heat set in.  Our first few miles were going
to include scaling a section of trail nicknamed Dante's
Inferno, which give a very good clue as to what's in store. 
This climb up out of Lehigh Gap is over a complete barren, 
boulder covered mountainside.  It's part of the Palmerton Zinc
Superfund Site, which covers an area with a ten mile radius.
It seems that the local zinc smelting plant did quite a nasty
job of poisoning the surrounding countryside with zinc, lead,
and cadmium.  There are dire warnings not to drink from springs
in this section and not to bring small children into this area
on a daily basis.  So, whan am I doing here???  It's truly a
wasteland and I felt like it was a very bad omen when I spotted
a half-cleaned chicken carcass in a tree at eye level just as I
started the climb.  Leftovers from a hawk's meal or warning not
to enter the gates of hell?  

This climb was one of the toughest Micah had seen.  He was a
real trooper though and I only had to remove his pack for one 
very steep and treacherous scramble.  The heat and rocks have 
been hard on him, but he's doing great.

Once through the superfund site we had to find some water.
Trail news was that there was a semi-close ski lodge that let
hikers use an outside spigot.  Poor FireBall, better known
as waterboy since last night's blueberry mishap, tacked on
almost two extra miles today making water runs.  So many of
the springs are dry on this section.  he had to do an extra
.8 roundtrip to the ski lodge and then it was a full 1/2 mile
to a running spring from the Leroy Smith Shelter.

I've never before appreciated water as much as I have during
the last few weeks.

July 18 - Day 130
13.4 mi to Kirkridge Shelter - 1260 cum

Every mile today was completed with the thought that I was
1 mile closer to being done with the Pennsylvania rocks.  The
entire day, except for the switchbacks down to Wind Gap and
the last 1.5 miles to the shelter was one big rock strewn,
foot shredding mess.  My spirits were high though since I
knew it was almost over.  As of tonight I've only got about
6.6 more miles in PA and this time tomorrow I'll be sleeping
in NJ.  I can't recall ever having a more joyful and eagerly
awaited entry into the state of NJ even though it's my home

Temps were a little cooler today thanks to some cloud cover
and a good breeze.  We reached camp by 4 and were treated to
a heart-stopping thunder and lightning storm and a very 
welcome downpour just after dinner.  The water source is the
best one I've encountered in the entire state of PA - a 
spigot about 200' from the shelter!  I volunteered to get
the water tonight.  :^)

We saw lots of wildlife today.  I spotted a buck this
morning and then saw 3 does coming out of Wind Gap.  I also
saw 5 grouse, a female turkey with 3 juveniles running down
the trail in front of me, and a fine looking timber rattler
that gave me quite a start.  It's head was less than a foot
from the trail and it was dead even with me when it began
to rattle and coil up.  After my time spent with Carl and
Audrey Hess, I now know that it was "in it's yellow phase."
Pretty impressive, huh?

Breaks were spent trying to deal with a different type of
wildlife - flies!  Every rest session quickly became a fly
swatting contest.  FireBall had to concede the final victory
to me as I racked up at least 10 kills today with my two 
pronged bandana swat/boot smoosh technique.

July 19 - Day 131
6.4 mi to Delaware Water Gap - 1267 cum

	A short day into town on some very nice trail.   I would have to
say that this last 6 miles into the gap was some of the prettiest and
best maintained trail I'd seen in Pennsylvania.
	We met BeerGirl and Hidalgo this morning.  BeerGirl is originally
from DC but was living in Washington state before hitting the trail. 
knew me before I even said hello.  It seems that her dad has been
following me on the Web and had been giving her reports of my
for some time now.  So, a big hello to BeerGirl's dad!
	I had a letter from Andy, a postcard from FireFly, and a package
from my buddy, Curtis, waiting for me at the PO.  FireBall and I then
enjoyed a celebratory lunch at the Trail's End Cafe to commemorate the
completion of PA.  It was a little fancier than our usual, but our joy
competing this state merited it and the food was wonderful!
	We picked up a lemon blueberry pie at the bakery/fruit stand down
on Broad Street, as well as some other goodies that we couldn't resist. 
Before mom arrived to whisk us off for a day of R&R, we ran into
Chameleon and 180 as they were preparing to leave the hostel and head
back out on the trail.  I hope we get to see them again some time.  I
really enjoy their company quite a bit.  180 is one of the funniest guys
I've met on the trail and never fails to make you laugh when you talk to
	Off to Westwood, NJ for some home cooking---later all!!

July 21 - Day 133
13.4 mi to campsite - 1280.4
	I have a new hiking outfit--sneakers and a little black tennis
skirt complete the ensemble!  I figure I'll give the sneaks a try now
that the rocks of PA are behind me.  The skirt bit is to make peeing a
little bit easier and to provide a little more privacy than having to
completely drop your drawers.  I think I may be in danger of having my
trail name changed from Solophile to Buffy--I look more like I'm ready
play a set at the country club than to hike the AT, but I'm still
to risk it in the pursuit ever lighter and more comfortable gear.
	Mom dropped us off at the hostel in DWG at around 10:30 a.m.  We
headed out of town followed by BeerGirl, Hidalgo, and a couple of other
hikers.  I felt really strong today and it showed in the pace I kept us
puffing away at.  For a change, FireBall said I was wearing him
a nice thing to hear finally!
	Sunfish Pond--billed as one of the 7 wonders of New Jersey.  This
immediately raises the question "So what are the other 6?"  Well, I sure
can't tell you!  The trail ran alongside Sunfish Pond for a while and at
one point you came out on a little rock strewn beach area.  This 100
wide strip of lakeside is dotted with dozens of rock structures that
very industrious people have been erecting.  Some look like tall, narrow
rock cairns.  Others are testaments to somebody's engineering talents
with pillars and arches galore.  We added our own little artistic
and then moved on.
	We ran into Russian Waldo again today.  He'd taken a full 2 days
off at DWG.  He was traveling with a guy named John today.  John, whose
prior trail name was Excess, had started the trail earlier this year and
left after a few weeks when his partner quit.  Now he's back out to try
it again on his own.

July 22 - Day 134
15 mi to Culver's Gap/US206 - 1295.4 cum

	It poured last night.  My tent (a Stephenson 2RS) has a feature
where you can stake out the exterior side wall like an awning and still
keep your mesh side windows open to catch any breezes and yet you're
protected from the rain.  It works like a charm, I'm happy to report!
	It was a beautiful hiking day.  The footpath was a little rocky,
but still nothing like PA.  (I'm still doing fine in my sneakers too.) 
I'm really pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the trail through New
Jersey so far.  We pass through mostly hardwood forests of oak and
hickory and there have been plenty of beautiful viewpoints overlooking
the valleys and lakes below.
	We're camped on a wonderfully cushy bed of pine needles beneath a
stand of white pines.  I figure we're within about 300 feet of
Worthington's Bakery on 206.  I knew this place would be closed today,
but I'm planning to be on their doorstep tomorrow at 8 when they open. 
I've heard too much about their goodies to miss them!

July 23 - Day 135
16.0 to High Point Shelter - 1311.5 cum

	Breakfast pastries and coffee from Worthington's Bakery were a
great start to the day.  It was a beautiful, cool, breezy day for
 We had lunch at the pavilion on top of Sunrise Mountain and met two
other thru-hikers there: Julie and One Life.  
	We also met two section hikers that told us all about their bear
encounter at the Glen Anderson shelter earlier that morning.  It
basically sounded like a bear strolled into camp while they were eating
breakfast and not knowing what else to do, they offered him their food
bag.  OK, maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad, but I can't say that I was
too happy to hear how easily they left their food for that bear.  Now
that bear is being conditioned to associate easy picking with people and
shelters--a very bad lesson for a bear to learn since he usually then
becomes tagged as a nuisance bear and is "dealt with" in one way or
another.  The final result is all to often not a very favorable one for
the bear.
	I ran into Sedona and Safari in High Point State Park today. 
They were slackpacking southbound.  I had met Sedona back in February of
this year at a little get-together we had in Harpers Ferry for '97
thru-hikers that had been on the AT-L newsgroup on the internet.  She
her partner looked to be doing just great.
	I also ran into the African-American father and son hikers that I
have seen on the trail since March.  I've seen lots of little boys and
girls being dragged out on boy scout/youth group type outings, but this
was the first time I had seen two individuals who were out there of
own initiative.  That's a pretty sad statement about the cultural
diversity of the thru-hiker community.  It seems like 90%+ of the hikers
are generic whites with no very obvious ethnic diversity.  For that
reason, I enjoy telling people that I'm Puerto Rican.  I just wish there
were more cultures represented on the trail.

July 24 - Day 136
17.6 mi to Glenwood - 1329.1 cum

	It poured again last night and the rain lasted well into the
morning hours.  The temps got so cool that I just didn't want to get out
of my sleeping bag today.  I'm so glad I kept some lightweight rain
gear--not so much to keep me dry, but rather to keep me warm.
	The variety of terrain today was incredible.  We went from
hardwood forests to rolling farmlands and pastures to bogs and wetlands. 
Vernie Swamp looked more like the Everglades to me rather than northwest
New Jersey.  I kept looking to see if I could spot the double humps of
alligator eyes in the water.  The trail travels through this swamp for
three tenths of a mile on 112 individual bog bridges.  Micah took a
run at walking on water--he wasn't very successful.  I think that all of
the duckweed-like vegetation floating on the water's surface made him
think it was solid ground.  The look of surprise on his face as he
plunged into the water head first was unforgettable :-)  Luckily, it
wasn't a very deep spot, but that was one muddy dog that came back up
of that muck.
	Part of today's hike skirted three sides of what used to be a sod
farm.  It is now a bird sanctuary and I loved this section of today's
walk.  There were more birds and flowers here than I'd seen in weeks.  I
spotted Indigo Buntings, Goldfinches, Red-winged Blackbirds, and dozens
of other birds in the center of this wetlands/marsh habitat that I
couldn't identify.
	I had given up on flowers there for a while.  Today was a
different story though.  The bird sanctuary's borders were filled with
wildflowers:  the white blooms of Common Nightshade, and occasional
Starry Campion, Rough-stemmed Goldenrod was just beginning to bloom, the
towering stalks of Common Mullein, the delicate white umbels of Queen
Anne's Lace, ....
	Earlier in the day I had walked through a field of flowers that
looked a little like flowering mint, but smelled very strongly of basal
(both the leaf and the flower).  The leaves and flowers were very
tasting and I believe this plant was Basal Balm, but I'm not sure. 
Whatever it was, it sure did have a strong odor that just filled the air
as I walked through the field.

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