After PokéMom left me on the trail, the terrain hit the fan. In the way that God threw a giant boulder into the fan, took the scraps, sprinkled them across the trail, and said “Have Fun!” All the rumors of what was coming came true. Our greatest fears became reality. We hit Rocksylvania. The trail became nothing but rocks, for miles at a time. And the larger boulders aren’t even the worst ones. Those are actually kind of fun. You get to mountain goat hop the whole way through them while the muggles watch on enviously.
It’s the small, pointy ones that stick up a few inches out the ground, that tear your feet to shreds. Imagine walking barefoot on legos, but for what felt like weeks on end.
There really weren’t that many great views or overlooks either. I spent the whole time staring at my feet and the rocks. So my views, all day, were rocks.
Pennsylvania sucked. If you want to live a happy life, don’t hike the AT in Pennsylvania, north of Harrisburg.
After Pennsylvania, it seemed like lots of people started Yellow Blazing. On the AT, all the blazes are white; so to stay on trail, you just follow the white blazes. Yellow blazes are the yellow lines in the middle of the road. People yellow blaze when they hop in a car, drive further north, and got dropped off at the trail. Technically speaking, they’re not really hiking the whole AT. But each person comes out here to get from the trail what they want, whether that includes actually seeing and hiking the entire AT or not. Hike your own hike. I think most people who yellow blaze first do it to catch back up with their tramily. So they may get off the trail for a few days, fall several days behind their tramily/friends, and just drive up to them instead of trying to catch up on trail. Either that, or just to avoid an awful section of the trail. I haven’t yellow blazed yet, and don’t plan to.
If I’m being honest, New Jersey was one of my favorite states on trail. Maybe, finally defeating Pennsylvania has something to do with it, maybe not. New Jersey was surprisingly jam packed with incredible views, scenic locations like glacier ponds and murky swamps, historical monuments, fire towers to climb, and just overall great trail.
For the 4th of July, lots of us hikers hitched into town to camp out at a drive-in theater. The people were super nice and let hikers stay overnight and enjoy the movies for free. Being there on the Fourth was fantastic. There were several firework shows going on around us that we could watch while the movies were playing. It was a great place for a show. The theater was playing Boss Baby 2, Fast and Furious 9, and the latest Purge movie. So all very American movies for the Fourth.
Once entering the New Jersey and New York area, we began the delightful journey of Deli Blazing. Theoretically, you could pretty much hit a deli on trail every day. So we did (or at least it seemed like every day). This was incredible for several reasons: one, we got to eat real food; two, we could pack out real food (pack out a sandwich for dinner); three, we didn’t have to carry as much backpacker food; four, NJ & NY have divine delis. The delis were almost all off trail, anywhere from a quarter to a full mile away. But, we didn’t care about the distance. We would’ve killed for another hot, egg, sausage and cheese on an everything bagel. Or a nice, warm, pastrami, cheese and coleslaw on rye bread with an icy cold Arizona peach tea. Oh the things I would do for one of those right now. The morning of the 4th of July, we walked into town for the deli to find they closed early for the holiday. Instead, we went to the local bar and ordered beers and food. Only to later walk the next 11 miles to the drive-in theater with a nice 4th of July buzz going. Deli blazing was great and I miss it. Sooo much delicious food.
The Big Apple! In New York, there were several times that we could see the NYC skyline from the trail. It was super cool. Obviously, it’s a bit of an anomaly because why would we want to see one of the largest cities from a National Scenic trail? It was a little strange. But the initial idea for the idea behind the Appalachian Trail was to act as a place where people from the city could escape their work life and return to nature. So it makes sense that the trail would be relatively close to the city.
There was actually a train station on trail we crossed that you could take all the way to NYC. In fact there were many opportunities to get off trail and take a train to the city. And lots of people did. I did not, because it just didn’t work with my schedule.
Believe it or not, lots of people got off trail in New York. The state wasn’t tough, or anything we haven’t seen before. I just think it was another breaking point for people. The blues came around again. Also, I think most people who got off, had already started yellow blazing. So when you start skipping parts of the trail, the trail doesn’t mean as much to you, and there’s much less reasons to keep putting yourself through misery of hiking the trail. That’s the crazy thing about the trail. You’d think that once you get past halfway and closer to the end, most people would finish. But people keep getting off trail. (I’m in Vermont at this moment, and there was someone who just got trail yesterday).
The trail went right through Bear Mountain State Park, along with Harriman State Park. I liked Harriman a lot more. Bear Mountain was cool, just too big of a tourist spot. Visitors could drive up to the top of Bear Mountain, while the AT went up and over it. There was lots of trash on trail. Harriman looked pretty much untouched, with much more beautiful views. I’m pretty sure I saw at least 8 deer in the park too.
We did get to cross the Hudson River, which was sweet.
Even at the end of New York, the trail threw another curveball at us. It was easily the worst maintained part of trail I have ever seen. There were times where it literally didn’t look like a trail and we were walking straight through brush. It was so overgrown. Also, there were little to no water diversions. So the trail was either flooded or muddy for a big portion. Little did I know that this wet trail would continue all the way into Vermont…
Awhile back, a new term for day hikers, locals, or anyone not through-hiking the AT has been Muggles. If you are not familiar with Harry Potter, Muggles are all the non-wizarding folk, or just normal people. Therefore, the trail is equivalent to the Wizarding world of Harry Potter and us hikers are the wizards. It’s been a fun and easy way to distinguish the normal world and the trail. Plus, through-hiking the trail has a sort of magic to it that us hikers all understand and appreciate. Muggles are good for food, refreshments, hitches to town, and even maybe a place to stay, if they’re a nice muggle. It’s easy to spot a muggle on trail because they don’t have the magical trail smell or look that comes natural to us hikers. The muggles don’t seem to understand a lot of things we do, whether on trail or in town. Most muggles don’t even know that we’re out here in the woods, and it’s probably best that way.