Hello our faithful blog readers, from New York! We have spent the last week wrapping up New Jersey and kicking off the Empire state, and it has been the best of times, and the worst of times.
Unfortunately, rain has been in the forecast almost everyday. We've gotten lucky a few times and watched hail storms from the safety of a shelter, and we've also gotten caught in some pretty torrential downpours. When it rains, we just hope that we get a chance to dry out our things, either while we wear them (if it clears up) or hanging off our packs the next day. Moldy hiking clothes/gear is.....well, it's the worst, and our standards aren't that great to begin with.
Our final day in New Jersey was one of our most eventful days on the trail.....we experienced our two scariest moments of the entire trip in one day of hiking. About 5 minutes into our day, we heard rustling and looked up to see a bear cub shimmying down a tree (he tumbled the last ten feet which made it even cuter). We watched from a safe distance and listened to his rustling as he left, presumably to find mama. Then we hung around hitting our trekking poles together and calling out to give the pair plenty of time to get away, and finally resumed hiking. About 30 yards up the trail, we turned a corner and I was face to face with momma, about 15 feet in front of me. She was the biggest AND closest bear we've seen yet, and her cub was nowhere in sight.
Instinctively, I hit my trekking poles together, which usually sends bears running. She looked at me and pretty much told me with her expression, "I don't care what kinds of noises you can make.....where's my cub?". And then she started walking toward us. At this point, I panicked and Guyline immediately knew what I was going to do (obviously, I was about to run). He very calmly said, "Don't run. Just get behind me.". So I got behind him and we slowly backed away, avoiding eye contact with mama bear and talking in soft voices to show her we mean no harm. Although I must admit, my "slow backing up" was more like sideways speed-walking.
Once we were at a safe distance, we waited and listened to the sounds of mama and cub finding each other and leaving the area before starting again, making plenty of noise to avoid a surprise. When we turned the corner again, they were about 50 feet away and didn't even look up at us.
Later, about 15 miles into our day, we passed by a road with a creamery and enjoyed some ice cream and a lovely view. The weather forecast had said severe thunderstorms all day, but it had been clear so far. As we finished up our ice cream, we saw dark clouds on the horizon and decided to get going; we had just two miles left to the shelter which should have been enough time to beat the rain.
About one mile in, we started hearing thunder in the distance, and figured we definitely had enough time to get in and set up camp before the rain hit. This part of the hike, like a lot of NJ and NY so far, was on an exposed ridge line with huge boulders you either walk along or climb over, and the storm hit within minutes of us first hearing the thunder. We heard the creaks, groans, and snaps of strong wind against the trees, and before we knew it, both of us were nearly knocked off the mountain.....one of Guyline's trekking poles blew off when he fell and flew off the side of the mountain, never to be seen again. Then came the pelting rain, lightening, and the loudest thunder I've ever heard in my life; within minutes we were soaking wet and freezing. We could literally see parts of trees flying off the mountain, the winds were so strong.
We quickly decided we needed to get off the ridge, and scrambled down to safer ground. We remembered there was a bypass trail for hikers who wanted to skip the boulder climbing, and quickly found it and made our way to the shelter. I wish I had gotten a video of the storm, but it was no time to go fishing for a phone wrapped 4 layers deep in waterproofing.
So, we've made it safely through some pretty hairy situations lately, but we've got our sights set on Mt. Katahdin now more than ever. With less than 800 miles left, we finally feel like we are counting down and not up. From here North, the terrain gets tougher, so we are girding our loins for the mountains to come. Bring it, AT!