June 10. Amy dropped me off at the trailhead in Deleware Water Gap at 11 AM. We snapped some pictures and then she was on her way to the airport and I was on my way to Maine, via 900 miles of trails. I crossed a busy highway bridge over the river and passed lots of people cooking out in the park on a warm summer Sunday. As I headed up the trail it was more like going to the mall or visiting Disneyland than hitting the Appalachian Trail. It was the weekend and everyone was out enjoying the woods. After spending 3 days off trail with Amy in big towns I was feeling like I was missing the solitude of the AT, and this was not helping get it back. Along the trail in the hot afternoon sun I was making great time when I took a step and heard a rattling sound. Once I touched the ground after jumping about 10 feet in the air I turned around to see a rattlesnake laying on the side of the trail right where my foot had just been. I don't know if I just missed it, or maybe I kicked it or stepped on it but somehow it was laying right where I had just stepped but it didn't bite me. I waited for a long time for any hikers behind me so I could warn them of the danger I had almost stepped on. Eventually I tossed some dirt over it, hoping that once I left it would be uncomfortable with the dirt on it and leave too. I knew there were more hikers behind me and thought it would be best for everyone if this guy was gone by the time someone else hiked by. Not long after the rattlesnake encounter I passed a bush that was rustling. I looked closely and saw a big, black, beady eye looking up at me. I could see the outline of a turtle shell and as I pulled away the branches with my trekking pole the turtle jumped forward and bit it! In just a few miles I was starting to feel like the wildlife was coming after me! I passed a beautiful glacial pond and as I walked further into the woods the crowds started to shrink. Before I knew it I was back to walking alone and after several hours I started to actually feel pretty lonely. I felt like I really missed Amy's company and I wondered what I was doing out here in the middle of the woods without her. I had worried this might happen after she came to visit me. I pulled out my guide and decided I needed to push hard to make it to the next shelter before dark so I could see some hiking friends and get myself off being lonely and back into the thru-hiker swing of things. After crossing a mountain road I started up a hill and heard some noise. I looked up in time to see two bears running away from me, the first bears I had seen on the AT! As I approached the shelter I heard another sound off to the side and I looked over about 30 feet in time to see a bear stand up on it's hind legs and look at me over the bushes. He starred at me for a few seconds, plopped down, and headed off down the hill. It had been one pretty incredible day for me and the wildlife, I even saw several deer! I rolled into the shelter around 7:30 and saw some familiar faces. I set up my new tent for the first time, fiddled with it a bit, and crawled in. It had been a 25 mile day from 11 AM to 7 PM, and I was tired! The rain had been spitting on and off all evening so I was back in the woods, in my tent, falling asleep to the sounds of rain drops.
June 11. Woke up to a successful first night sleeping in my new tent! I think tomorrow though I should be more careful to not set it up on rocks, and I needed to crumple up my Tyvek sheet so it would sound like a thunderstorm when I fold it up in the morning. I slept in a bit today trying to catch up on rest. When I was with Amy we were staying in towns where there was stuff to do after the sun went down. We were in restaurants and lounges until midnight almost every night, and that is way past "hiker midnight"! I packed my gear and headed north. I ran into several hikers throughout the day and learned that Unionville, NY had a tavern where you can camp for free at night in the lawn behind the building. The town would be about a 28 mile day for me, but I needed to resupply on groceries anyways so I made that my goal. The resupply is interesting in NJ and NY since hitch hiking is illegal in these states. I passed several towns today, but they were all more than 2 or 3 miles off the trail, and with no hitching that could be a 5 or 6 mile trip. Instead I've been looking for towns closer to the trail and Unionville was only 0.7 miles away. I know some other hikers who skipped a resupply box because of the hitch hiking laws...at this point I am enjoying the freedom to resupply when and where I want and can! I hiked hard through the afternoon. The New Jersey trails were not easy...most were way overgrown and full of rocks, and when they are overgrown it makes it really hard to see the rocks...awesome. I passed lots of old stone walls in the woods too. With the thousands of rocks they used to build the stone walls I couldn't believe that there were any rocks left on the trail, but there were! In the late afternoon the trail passed through a marsh or swamp area and I was glad I could walk on an elevated walkway. I made it to the road into town around 6:30, stopped and picked up 4 days of food, and headed to the tavern for dinner. Today was a really tough day, I have been feeling pretty homesick since Amy left. I really miss her company and wish I could be home with her and our dog Pre, but, picking up the groceries, planning to make it to Kent, CT on 4 days of food, setting a crazy goal to do four 30 mile days, thinking about gutting it out on the trail...I started feeling better. I started feeling like I was getting back in the groove of things, putting down miles, and getting closer to home. I was getting the energy back!