Day 102, Rutherford Shelter to Unionville
Ooooh, that smell!
Hike with Gravity
It’s been four days since I last took a shower. Most of the hikers I’m with are equally dirty and smelly.
Lately, though, we’ve become more smelly than usual. The weather has been continuously hot and humid. Then it rained yesterday afternoon.
But wait, walking in rain is almost like taking a shower, right?
Not even close. Think of what a dog smells like when it comes in after being outside in the rain.
Hot and humid
Rocks diminish with flat and smooth section, some sections of puncheon through swamps
Let’s put it this way: I smelled so bad today I didn’t want to be near me.
Yesterday's rain didn’t make today any cooler, either. If anything, it made the air more humid.
As I was packing up and preparing to leave this morning I noticed a satellite dish was mounted on top of the shelter. It wasn’t real, of course; just the shelter maintainer’s idea of a joke.
This was similar to other joke-features I’ve seen at a few shelters, like a light switch, a telephone and a water faucet.
As I finished packing, I talked some more with Arun, the first-time backpacker who camped with us last night. I shared a few more hiking tips and offered some encouragement. He seemed eager to do more backpacking, and perhaps do a thru-hike some day.
The shelter was four-tenths of a mile off the trail. Once I made the turn back onto the trail, it made a short climb along Kittatinny Mountain Ridge to a viewpoint on an exposed spot called Dutch Shoe Rock. At 8:30 a.m., it was already a steamy, hot day.
There wasn’t a lot of vertical change in the trail through this section, but it was rocky in spots. At least the trail was in the shade.
Eventually, I was thankful to discover, the trail smoothed out and became a more pleasant path to walk.
Since well before I passed Mashipacong Shelter yesterday, I’ve been walking through High Point State Park. It’s so named because it contains the highest point in New Jersey.
Some features of the park were designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect of Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, several urban parks, Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., and the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.
By 10 a.m. I reached the park’s visitor center, which was a large, stone building. A bit of trail magic was offered here to thru-hikers.
After I signed the guest register, I was given a free can of Pepsi, courtesy of the Friends of High Point State Park organization. I enjoyed it with a snack outside at a picnic table.
From the visitor center the trail made an easy climb up the mountain that featured the state’s high point. Along the way, I met a father and son who were day hiking together. The dad told me his son was interested in the Appalachian Trail, but then proceeded to ask several questions while his son stood by looking bored.
Once we departed, I continued to a large, wooden tower. Pippi was there taking pictures when I arrived.
This was not the high point spot, but the tower provided a good view of the peak and of the surrounding area.
Just below the tower was a swimming lake. Some hikers, including Stick, went down there to buy a snack at a concession stand, but I wasn’t in the mood to walk downhill and then back up just to buy an over-priced hamburger.
From the tower I got a good view of the 220-foot granite obelisk that marks the state's high point. It was constructed in 1930.
The trail didn’t go directly over the high spot and past the monument. Though I could have taken a side trail to view it up close and climb steps to its top, I wasn’t in the mood for that, either.
It was just too hot to exert more effort than necessary.
Instead, I chose to follow the trail down the mountain, where it soon flattened out in a much easier pathway.
Once the trail left the state park, it crossed a couple fields, the first of which was dotted with summer wildflowers.
Among the flowers were some purple wild bergamot, also called bee balm. Purple is Kim’s favorite color and today is our 38th wedding anniversary, so seeing these made me smile.
About a mile later, I crossed a freshly-mowed hay field. This field was much larger than the other one, but for much of the distance the trail kept to one side of the field and in the shade of trees bordering the field.
The trail crossed a couple country roads and passed a large pond. At one of the roads I met an older woman, who was walking with two boys. I guessed they were her grandsons. She told me she was worn out.
Despite the heat, I was feeling less worn out. The flat, easy trail was making a difference.
For the next four miles, the trail followed the border of New Jersey and New York.
I passed another pond, but this one was man-made. I was glad I wasn’t running low of water at this point, because I would not have wanted to filter this muck.
Nearby, the trail crossed some land that was so boggy, a long section of puncheon was provided to walk on.
Just before 5 p.m. I left the trail to head into Unionville, New York. There were three roads I could have used to walk into town, but I chose the last one. This way, when I left town tomorrow I wouldn’t have to double back to return to where I left.
From Lott Road, it was only a quarter mile to get to the center of the small village.
Unionville is said to be one of the smallest villages in the state, but it was big enough to have a few businesses.
I was headed to a small park behind the village office. Hikers are allowed to camp there overnight, though we’re asked to obtain a free permit.
The office was closed now, but the permit could also be obtained at Horler’s General Store. After I pitched my tent in the grassy lawn of the park, I walked over to the store to be officially registered.
By now I was ready for dinner, so I went to Annabel's Pizza. Stick was just leaving when I arrived. He said the pizza was good, but I elected to order a stromboli. It was somewhat disappointing, and was served with more disappointment.
Annabel’s doesn’t serve beer.
I ate with a few other hikers. They seemed to be part of a trail family and mostly talked among themselves, but I did get an opportunity to talk to one hiker, Ten.
By now I was definitely ready for a beer, so I walked down the road to Wit's End Tavern. Radio, Pippi and Mechanic were there, talking by the bar, so I ordered a beer and joined them.
After a couple minutes, though, the bartender approached us and politely asked if we would mind sitting at a table. She didn’t want to offend us, but our smell was offending her regular customers at the bar.
To show her sincerity, she offered each of us a beer on the house. We gladly accepted, and were not offended because we knew all too well we were, well, offensive.
Radio, Pippi, Mechanic and I had a good laugh about it and shared a toast to hiker stench.
Before long, hikers were filling up one side of Wit's End, with locals keeping their distance at the other side. Boomer, Redeye and Stick arrived, followed shortly by Dozer, Umbrella Face and Pheasant Melon.
No, I am not making up those names.
One of the waitresses walked over to our table with a large, plastic container. In it was a collection of small soaps and shampoos, like you would get in a motel. She told us we were free to take whatever we needed.
This brought forth another big laugh.
But there’s an ironic twist to this story. There is no place in Unionville for hikers to take a shower or do laundry.
One little problem that confronts you
Got a monkey on your back
Just one more fix, Lord might do the trick
One hell of a price for you to get your kicks
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you