Days 128 + 129
Day 128: Mile 1309.6 | Stealth Camp Near Powerlines
In the morning we left later than Supersize and Biscuits. Miles and I hiked up to the Mohican Outdoors Center in the hot sun. When we arrived in the early afternoon, we picked up our boxes and a smoothie to share. Outside, I made a PB&J to go with my smoothie and Miles made some coffee. We unpacked our new shoes and socks:
I also got a new battery for my phone because mine hadn't been holding a charge well. While we were eating lunch and waiting for our phones and batteries to charge, TNT arrived. Shortly after him, Josh and Murdock came up to the picnic tables, too! We happily talked about everything we'd missed with each other and how much we'd all changed (strong hiker legs and tanned shoulders). TNT and Josh got lunch and we sat with them while they ate. We played a couple games of blackjack on the picnic table outside in the shade of a big tree.
A couple of section hikers we had seen earlier in New Jersey arrived shortly before we left. Ryan, 10 years old, and his father were section hiking for 4 days. Ryan's pack was just about 10 pounds and he carried it all by himself doing 5 miles per day. It was Ryan's first section hike but his dad had been out many times. It was so great to see a kid out backpacking and camping! He hardly complained at all.
The five of us (Josh, Murdock, TNT, Miles, and I) all left Mohican together to find camp in the late afternoon light. Our first fire tower came up shortly after Mohican. Fire towers for the hills and mountains of the Northeast, so we will see many more. It had great views.
We found a spring that was actually running near a forest road a few miles after The fire tower. The first clear and running water we had found since early Pennsylvania! I got four liters and carried it out for camp. Miles and I quickly sped ahead of Josh and TNT. The two of us stopped and made dinner at a set of powerlines that lent a beautiful view into the valley below. We watched the sunset while we ate and marveled at the hazy sky. Just before the full sunset Josh and TNT caught up to us.
We hiked with them to camp and we all set up our respective shelters. I gathered with TNT and Murdock under Josh's tarp and helped Josh nurse his monster poison ivy rash. Poor Josh had already gotten poison ivy so many times on his thru-hike. I tried Cook Doctor's remedy of cleaning it with rubbing alcohol (or hand sanitizer we had on hand) and covering it with cortisone. We sat around listening to a Eugene Mirman (of Bob's Burgers fame) stand up show and eating. It was finally a cool, summer evening and it was well spent with friends.
Day 129: Mile 1309.6 | Stealth Camp
We awoke to rain. Pouring rain. I packed up quickly at around 6am to try to avoid getting my tent more soaked than it already was. Josh and TNT had already packed up and left. Miles hadn't gotten up yet. I went into his tent to take shelter from the rain. He ate breakfast and we agreed to wait it out for a bit and see if it let up. I laid down and fell asleep. When I woke up a few hours later, it was still pouring. Neither of us wanted to hike in the rain, so we agreed not to.
I napped on and off, watched a few Netflix documentaries that I had downloaded, and all around just didn't move much. My body got stiff. My mind got homesick. The gray day didn't make it better.
In the evening we split a meal, we hadn't done much and we didn't feel like we needed to eat a whole meal ourselves. We went to bed, it was still raining and we hadn't seen the sun all day. In hindsight we should probably have gotten up and moved around more, but we were both kind of depressed. The sleep felt good.
Day 130: Mile 1323.1 | Forest Motel
Another day of rain was our greeting on this morning. Our morale was very low. Our gear was very wet and smelly. The warm, summer rain made for quick mildew gathering in our gear. We left camp around 8am and started over the slippery, New Jersey rocks (very similar to Pennsylvania rocks except you're under the illusion that they wouldn't exist because this isn't Pennsylvania...but they do.).
We were both grumpy. The rain started to let up around Carver's Gap. There was supposedly a couple restaurants and motels near the trail here. We stopped and discussed. Miles asked if we could get a room. He's never the one to initiate getting a motel room. He usually says we can tough it out. We didn't realize we were about two miles from the shelter we were aiming for that day... we also didn't realize how close the pub was to the trail head... I called and got us the last room at the Forest Motel, down the street, and arranged for them to pick us up. In hindsight, it was a weak choice. We should've toughed it out. After all of the precipitation I'd already experienced during my thru-hike, I threw my hand up for shelter from it at every chance I got.
The motel owners showed up to the trail head in their Honda CRV not fifteen minutes after we called them. They drove us up the street to a small, eight room motel. We didn't think to ask to see the room first. Motels on trail had been weird; some dingy and some surprisingly great. Virginia had been the best for motels. Pennsylvania had been the worst, I had thought. We checked in and signed the receipt, not paying attention to the small printed 'No Refunds' statement at the bottom. I asked if they had laundry machines and they said, "No. Landry will be twenty-five dollar, two hours." There was no way I was paying $25 for laundry.
The sun started peaking through the clouds as we walked to the room. The yard of the motel was cluttered with old children's toys, broken lawn chairs, and towels hanging to dry (although there was no pool that I could see...). A few people sat outside under a metal 'gazebo' staring at us. We didn't realize until a little bit later that they were all residents of the motel. As in, they lived there full time. We opened the door to our room and I saw on either side of our room a dog peeking through one window and a cat sitting in the other.
The room was filled with abused furniture from a big box store. Particle board everything. The nicest thing in the room was an old dining room chair. We pulled back the slightly dirty area run to find that the tile that looked like it laid underneath was just put down around the edges of the carpet. The rest of the floor was nasty partially peeled laminate. The whole room smelled like cigarette smoke. Not because the room had been smoked in, but because all of the neighbors smoked like chimneys and it seeped through the walls. The clock on the wall was broken. There were three paintings on the walls in the room, two of them were exactly the same, and I didn't dare move them to see what was behind them.
I asked MIles if he wanted to ask for a refund and go back to the trail. He said it would be fine, it wasn't so bad. We looked at the receipt and realized we didn't really have a choice, 'No Refunds'. We ordered pizza delivery and then set all of our stuff outside to dry. We showered and the 'shampoo' they gave us didn't even lather or suds up. The shower was cold.
When the pizza guy arrived he asked if we were hikers. I told him we were. He said he'd always dreamed of doing the Appalachian Trail someday. I encouraged him, "It's never too late, man." I told him that Miles had been a pizza delivery driver before he left, too. He couldn't believe it. I gave him a nice tip and he left in excitement.
Inside, we opened the pizza box to reveal a greasy mess. I pulled a slice off the pie and the cheese and toppings slid right off. The crust on the bottom of the pizza just sagged, soaked in grease. Miles remarked, "Man, we serve greasy pizza where I work, but this is the worst pizza I've ever had." We choked down our overpriced, New Jersey pizza and sat in silence. This was kind of a disaster but neither of us wanted to admit it.
Miles went outside to check on our gear and make sure it was drying in the partial sunlight. One of the residents called to him, "Hey, sexy!" in a voice that sounded like she had been smoking cigarettes since the age of nine. Later that night, we heard her yelling through the walls at her husband. By 11pm they still hadn't gone to bed and we could hear their television blaring through the wall, Her scratchy voice permeated the room.
Eventually, Miles realized there was a small table fan in the corner. He turned it on high and it was just loud enough to drown out the neighbors. We slept in our sleeping bags on top of the made up bed. I didn't dare sleep in those sheets. Both of us were disappointed in our choice. We vowed to ask to see the room first next time, make sure to ask if it was a non-smoking room, and see if we couldn't negotiate the price for a better one. I'd negotiated at bigger hotels (like the one in Carlisle) but I had never thought I would need to ask to see a room first. It was not our best choice, but we made the best of it.