New Jersey Appalachian Trail - Route 602 (Blairstown) to High Point State Park - May 2003

7 of us with the Wilmington Trail Club did this as a 3 day, 30 mile shuttle over Memorial day weekend. John and I drove up to NJ in the morning on Saturday through periodic rain. We got to the meeting point, which was at the end of the trail, at High Point State Park and looked around for the rest of our group. Oddly enough we couldn't see anybody. Of course we could barely see each other as the place was completely socked in by fog. Turns out though that we were in fact the only ones there, so we stopped off at the Ranger office and got our permit. After a bit everyone showed up and we loaded up into Ed's van and set out for the other end of the trail. The other end of the trail was pretty much encased in fog as well, but not nearly as bad. I put on my pack cover as an offering to the rain gods. The first part of the trail had some fog, then we got to a clearing where we had a sweeping view of some fog. This was followed by a long stretch of fog. Finally we set about climbing mighty Rattlesnake Mountain. At 1,492 feet above sea level the air was pretty thin. We were struggling along the exposed ridge line hoping that we could make the summit before our oxygen bottles ran out. Throwing caution to the wind we pressed on despite all odds and finally made the rocky summit. Sal and I celebrated our remarkable achievement but we had to keep moving less we become a permanent monument on the mountain. The view from the summit afforded some more spectacular views of fog. So anyway, we ambled on down to the Brink Rd Shelter that we planned to stay at the first night after a total of about 11 miles. It was starting to drizzle now and we had heard that a pile of thru hikers were coming up from the Water Gap so I decided to pitch my tent. I decided today that: using Iodine pills was entirely too much trouble (especially in the freaking rain); that Pad Thai w/ chicken and other fresh ingredients is a fantastic trail meal albeit also somewhat of a pain in the rain; and that Ed is the man for picking rain free trees. John fell twice today.

Day 2 has me packing up my tent in the rain, YES!! Of course it mostly stopped raining by the time we were planning to leave. I put on my pack cover again as an offering as it at least didn't rain while we were hiking the previous day. Nothing exciting during the first few miles except maybe a little bit more fog. After a bit we popped out on a road with an open bakery. Several folks availed themselves of the opportunity for coffee and pastries. A few more miles down the trail we stopped at a shelter for lunch. We talked with some odd fellows that were sitting there as well. They confirmed what we already basically knew, that there was no water available at the shelter we planned to stay at that night. They also told us about how they slept in this rock shelter on top of Sunrise Mountain last night and that it was a big mistake. These guys really turned out to be a couple of goobers as they also were totally clueless about the water supply at the shelter we were sitting at. We filled up with water to last the whole night and the next morning and then set out again. Along the way the clouds actually broke periodically and we caught glimpses of the sweeping views. Got to Sunrise Mountain and took a look at the rock shelter. Those guys were even bigger goobers than I thought! You'd have been better off sleeping in a ditch than sleeping under that wall-less shelter in a rain storm. We talked to another interesting fellow up here who suggested our shelter choice was dubious and that the trail from here on out was easy. This also turned out to be misleading information as the shelter was fine and the trail from there to the end was much harder than what we had already done. After a grand total of 13 miles, we arrive at Mashipacong Shelter. We were the only ones there and I decided I was going for the shelter tonight as the likelihood of thru hikers was low. This seemed like a pretty good idea as after we settled in for the night it started to flat out pour. John had only fallen once today. Thanks Brad and Beth for the wine and cheese hour!

Day 3, the rain was particularly heavy and constant all through the night. Somewhere around 3AM, I heard Tim curse and saw him moving away from a leak in the roof. Around 5AM, I woke up to a splatter of water right on my forehead. I moved around to try and avoid it and went back to sleep. When I finally woke up the leak over my head had grown considerably and was the largest in the shelter by far. The side of my bag was a little damp but not too bad considering. Still it was way better than being in the tent and having to pack up in a heavy rain. It showed no signs whatsoever of having the rain let up so today was nothing more than a foot race to get back to the cars as quickly as possible. John and I covered the last 6 miles in about 2 hours and the others caught up about 20 minutes later. It was raining and 45F back at the cars. Who wants an ice cold soda? The highlights of the 6 miles were a baby fawn by the side of the trail, and of course the sweeping views of the fog. So now it's High Point time! John and I were the only ones game enough to go for it. We drove up to the park entrance and I asked the attendant if we could come in for free as we only wanted to hit the high point. She said "sure" and we were off. We jumped out of the car and bolted for the summit. It was still 45F and raining heavily but now we had added a 20 mph wind. This is Memorial Day?! You gotta be kidding.... We quickly snapped our pictures, laughing the whole time, and ran back to the car before we got hypothermia. Only in New Jersey, and only a couple of nuts would be out there taking pictures. Back down to meet the others and then the drive back to pick up Ed's van. We discovered that when making this shuttle that it is faster to take Hwy 521 than to take the seemingly wider Hwy 94. On the way back we stopped at a most excellent diner in Wind Gap, PA. I highly recommend the breakfasts.

Getting ready to hit the trail. Can you believe that its raining? Lunch break and its actually not raining
Sal on the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain Mark on the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain
Day 1 shelter Mr. Ed knows how to pick the rain free trees
Mmm, sticky buns Mark at a view? Quick take the picture!
I can't believe those boneheads we met slept under here Day 2 shelter in the pouring rain on Day 3 morning
Group shot after driving back to Ed's van. Guess I miscalculated the slope of the car's hood a little. John, Sal, Ed, Mark, Beth, Brad and Tim Mark at the summit of High Point Monument (1,803 ft) in High Point State Park (New Jersey) on 5/26/03. This is the highest point in New Jersey. You wouldn't even believe how bad the weather was.


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