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AT 2017: Day 98, Campsite at Mile 1276.9 to Delaware Water Gap

Could be worse

Hike with Gravity

Yesterday was a rough day, but I expected today would be better.

This was the last day of Rocksylvania, so it couldn’t get any worse, right?

Date
Weather Partly cloudy, becoming cloudy, with a late afternoon thunderstorm
Trail Conditions Rocks, rocks and more rocks
Today's Miles 16.7 miles
Trip Miles 1,293.6 miles

Leaving camp this morning, I knew the rocks on the trail would continue to be bad. That was a given.

Truth be known, there’s a dirty little secret about Rocksylvania. The rocks don’t end once you cross the Delaware River.

New Jersey has rocks too.

For now, though, I just wanted to get to the town of Delaware Water Gap without breaking any limbs.

One thing was different today and that was the trail. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were gone. The trail was now all rocks all the time.

I got a brief break from the rocks when I stopped to talk to RedEye, Boomer and Jason. Just as I did yesterday, I met them soon after I left camp.

The trail descended a series of switchbacks to Pennsylvania Highway 33 at the small town of Wind Gap. The trail didn’t go into town, but instead made a turn at the town limits.

Where the trail left the road was a sign marking the distances of some points ahead. Though the number shown for Mt. Katahdin wasn’t accurate, it was a nice reminder that there were now fewer than 1,000 miles to go.

From there the trail made a long, rocky climb up to the top of a ridge. As was usual, RedEye, Boomer and Jason cruised past me going up this climb.

Once at the top of the ridge, the trail was much like most of yesterday. It didn’t waver much in elevation.

I only had one liter of water at this point. I knew I had to conserve it because this was a long stretch without water. With luck, I thought, perhaps a spring marked on the map about six miles away would be flowing.

When I reached the side trail to the spring, though, I discovered someone had scratched a note in the ground saying, "No H2O.” That meant it would be another 2.8 miles to go before reaching the first reliable water source. Now I had to stretch out what little I had left. 

It was slow going along the ridge as I navigated over the rocky trail. Some of the rocks were especially large.

Later, some of the rocks were huge boulders. At least these were easier to walk on.

When I reached a side trail that led to Kirkridge Shelter at 2:15 p.m., I was completely out of water.

Thankfully, the water source here was a spigot about 100 yards behind the shelter. It was connected to a pipe from a nearby religious retreat center. This made the water easy to collect.

I drank a full liter, filled up two more, and then went back to the shelter to eat a snack. In all, I stayed there nearly an hour to rehydrate and recuperate.

A short distance beyond the shelter was an open spot between the trees on the edge of the ridge. It was a field that extended all the way down to the valley below. The field was mowed, kept open for hang gliding and paragliding.

As I crossed this spot a man was preparing to make a jump. He was adjusting his parasail, but then stopped. That’s because at that moment we heard the rumble of a thunderstorm.

He decided to pack up his gear and I decided to walk on.

About an hour later as I was walking over an especially rocky section, I heard more rumbling.

Could this day get much worse, I wondered? As if on cue, the answer came in an instant downpour of rain.

The rain was heavy, but brief. It then tapered off to a light drizzle, which lingered for the next hour.

It began to let up just as I entered Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Oddly, the footpath went over an old building foundation. There was no marker to indicate what sort of building once stood here.

For a long stretch the trail followed an old dirt road. This took me over Mount Minisi.

For many years, the mountain and the area below it were a tourist attraction, and for the next few miles there were occasional glimpses of facilities of the resort that had been located here.

The first of these that I saw was the stone foundation of a tower. From this spot, the trail made a sharp turn and began following the Delaware River, though at first the river was not in view.

The trail made a rocky, steep descent as it cut along the cliff that dropped down to the river.

Before long I was able to catch a few views of the river through the trees.

As far back as the 1700s tourists and travelers came by way of the river to this part of Pennsylvania. Below here was an establishment known as "the old stone tavern”, which served raftsmen who floated timber downriver. A hotel was later built near here. It was called Mt. Minsi House at first, and later the name was changed to Water Gap Manor.

Because of the wide gap opened by the river over many millennia, geologists and engineers thought a dam could be placed upstream of here. Under their plan a 37-mile long lake would be created by the impoundment.

Congress agreed with the plan in 1962 after being sold on the premise that a dam would provide flood control after hurricanes, which had been a problem in the past.

Environmentalists and landowners attempted to stop the dam project, but failed. During the next three years 15,000 people were displaced when the federal government took their land by eminent domain. Many buildings were demolished, including some considered historically significant.

Eventually, though, the project was halted and later scrapped after geologists discovered the site was sitting on a fault line.

Under the original plan, the surrounding land that had been acquired was to be used as a national recreation area. Though the dam project was stopped, the entire 70,000 acres were designated as Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Appalachian Trail hikers are not the only beneficiaries of the canceled dam project. The cliff I was walking along provides a nesting area for peregrine falcons.

I reached the town of Delaware Water Gap at 7 p.m. I failed to notice at first, but soon discovered that power was out in the entire town.

I was headed to the Church of the Mountain, a Presbyterian church located a couple blocks off the trail. Parishioners operate a hiker bunk room and also allow for tenting outside.

When I arrived, Mechanic and Radio were there. They told me about the power outage and said Stick had gone down the street to a pizza restaurant. They said the restaurant had a gas-fired oven, and thought as long as there was enough evening light to make pizzas the restaurant would stay open.

The tug of pizza and beer was strong, but I decided I should set up my tent first before going there, just in case rain returned.

When I arrived at Doughboy’s of the Poconos Pizza, they were indeed still open, so I ordered a pizza.

Stick and a hiker I hadn’t met before, Rooster, were the only patrons there.

Just as my pizza was about to come out of the oven, the lights came back on.

After enjoying every bite of my pizza, I returned to the church.

Before crawling into my tent, though, I had to find a place to charge my phone and backup battery. I found an electrical outlet under a canopy on the side of the building.

Whether it was the pizza and beer, or just knowing that I was done with Rocksylvania, I felt as if my hiking life was returning to a more comfortable equilibrium.

Of course, it could always get worse.

Dr. Frankenstein: "What a filthy job."

Igor: "Could be worse."

Dr. Frankenstein: "How?"

Igor: "Could be raining."

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