The farther I’ve walked, the more I’ve come to realize these are more than just small acts of generosity. The people who offer trail magic truly want you to be successful. They hope their simple gesture will lift your spirits and make your hike a bit more enjoyable.
Still hot and humid
Mostly flat, some sections of boardwalks through swamps, and one climb over a short, rolling mountain
Early today I experienced one of those small gestures. It was shared anonymously, but I’m sure it was given in the same spirit of caring. It was certainly appreciated by me.
Then later came another act of kindness, but this one was so generous it cannot be simply called trail magic.
I was one of the first of the hikers to leave Wit’s End Tavern last night, but by the time I returned to the Unionville village park it was well after hiker midnight.
We were all a little slow to pack and leave this morning. After filling my water bottles at a faucet on the side of the village office building, I walked over to the general store for breakfast.
Along with a few shelves of grocery items, the store had a deli counter, which offered a selection of bagels and other breakfast items. I ordered an egg, cheese and bacon sandwich.
As I ate it on the store’s front porch, I tried to make motel reservations for tonight. It took a couple tries, but once I reached the Appalachian Motel in Vernon, N.J., I learned it was already booked full.
I then called a motel in Warwick, N.Y. Because we were so close to the state line, that town wasn’t much farther than Vernon. I was able to make a reservation, but it seemed odd I didn’t need to give a credit card to hold it.
Before leaving the general store, I ordered a bagel with cream cheese. I thought it would make a tasty lunch, though I was tempted to eat it right away. In true New York deli tradition, the cream cheese was spread an inch thick.
I finally left town at 9 a.m. After the short road walk back to the trail, the pathway was flat and easy.
Stick left before me, but because he took a shorter route into town yesterday, he was going to backtrack through the village to reach the trail. I figured I could take my time and catch up to him soon enough.
Before that, though, Boomer and Radio caught up with me, and we walked together for a short distance.
As it did yesterday afternoon, the trail took us through a large pasture.
The trail made a brief turn across the state line into New York, and then followed a narrow road. This was the longest stretch of road walking we’ve had to do in several weeks. This particular section was needed to cross a bridge over the Wallkill River.
There is now an effort underway to construct a footbridge so that the trail can be moved off this road with no shoulder.
When the trail left the road, it entered Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. This took us through a series of meadows and swamps. We passed a small number of day hikers who appeared to be bird watching.
Puncheon had been laid down to make it easier to walk over the boggiest ground in the refuge.
When we reached the next road crossing we discovered someone had left a cooler of soft drinks nearby. They were cold and so appreciated.
I chatted with Radio and Boomer for a bit, then moved on.
Though I had just enjoyed a cold drink, it was so hot I knew I should top off my water bottles whenever possible. Just off the trail was an abandoned house. The Guthook app said a faucet could be found on the side of the house and the water had not been turned off at the house.
It took a minute to find it, but it was a good source to find.
From the house, the trail made a steep climb. This was the only climb of consequence of the day.
I enjoyed my bagel and cream cheese for lunch at Pochuck Mountain Shelter, and congratulated myself for being clever enough to buy it before I left Unionville.
Leaving the shelter, the trail continued to climb Pochuck Mountain, only now it became rocky. Fortunately, this section didn’t continue too far. Soon, the trail descended, and became flat and smooth again.
After crossing County Road 517, I came to the start of a section called the Pochuck Boardwalk. A hiker information kiosk was posted here, which contained drawings of native animals. They were drawn by students of a nearby middle school. The children had learned about the trail through the curriculum in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Trail to Every Classroom program.
I met students taking part in the same program when I crossed Jane Bald on Day 31.
The boardwalk extended for nearly a mile, zig-zagging over a marshy stretch of land. This section apparently attracts a lot of local residents because I passed several day hikers. The boardwalk was also handicap accessible and had a few pull-off sections to stop and enjoy the surroundings.
Near the end of the boardwalk section the trail crossed Pochuck Creek over a large suspension bridge. It was enjoyable to walk along this section.
About 30 minutes after I crossed the bridge I reached New Jersey Route 94. It wasn’t a major highway, but there was a good-sized parking lot here for day hikers.
When I arrived, Stick and Boomer were here, and so was RedEye. She introduced me to her mother, who had come down from Canada to spend a couple days with her.
As they were leaving another woman approached us. She asked if we knew where we were headed.
I didn’t want to presume she was offering a ride, so explained that we thought we’d try to get a hitch into Warwick.
“I can take you there, if you like,” she said, “or you can stay at my condo, where I have baked ziti in the oven.”
Stick and I looked at each other. Was this offer for real? She assured us it was.
She told us her name was Melissa, and she just likes to help out hikers every now and then. She said she prefers not to be called a trail angel, but it was hard to not think of her that way. We were already grateful for her kindness, but it didn’t end there.
On the way to her condo, I remembered to call the motel in Warwick and cancel my reservation.
Then Melissa stopped at the Acme Grocery Store in Vernon, where Stick and I were able to resupply for the next section of the trail.
Melissa’s condo was in a lovely golf and ski resort. When we arrived, she showed us where the bathroom was to shower, and gave us some clothes to wear while she did our laundry.
Stick got a lot of mileage out of the clothes he put on. He wore a pair of New York Yankee sweatpants and a commemorative Yankee Stadium t-shirt. He made a big deal about this because he is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan.
We enjoyed the dinner of baked ziti on Melissa’s deck, which overlooked the golf course, and behind it, mountains.
Melissa told us she often sees bears prowling around the golf course and condos, but we didn’t see any. Stick still has not seen a bear, and that’s still a sore spot with him.
After dinner, Melissa proved we were not the first hikers she’s hosted, as she recognized it was getting close to hiker midnight. She led us to the lower lever of her condo, where we spread out our sleeping bags on the floor.
Before going to bed, we sorted our food so that we could get an earlier start tomorrow. We have some big climbs and new challenges ahead of us as we leave New Jersey for good.
Sometimes we live no particular way but our own
And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home
Sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone
Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own
Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world
But the heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own
Wake now discover that you are the song that the morning brings
But the heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its own