Sunday, August 6, 2017 (Day 95)
I was greeted by a little frog this morning, as I collected from the stream that flowed beside my resting place; beautiful and glassy-eyed creature.
The trail was pleasant. Though, there was a looming dampness in the air.
After about 7 miles, I came to NJ 206 at Culvers Gap near Branchville, NJ. Gyps Tavern was just down the road from the AT crossing. Curious, and always eager to caffeinate, I made my way to the tavern entrance.
The parking lot was filled with shiny, gleaming motorcycles with helmets slung over the handle bars. I dropped my pack at the entrance and ventured inside. I was immediately greeted by a lady behind the bar. I felt very welcome. She told me to feel free to place my pack on the back patio, should the rain come this afternoon. I thanked her, repositioned my pack, ordered a coffee and sat at a table near the charging station.
The clientele seemed to be leather-clad motorcycle enthusiasts. Locals, I’m guessing…though they appeared very transient, making it hard to tell. I noticed the bold white lettering on the back of the bartenders shirt: “Hey vegetarians, our food poops on your food!” I chuckled to myself silently, amused in a dark humor sort of way.
The forecast called for rain through the night. It was time I headed out. There were no extreme elevation changes, but there was a persistent rocky-ness that made the trail somewhat of a challenge.
I wanted to avoid setting up my tent by any means possible. Shelters were not appealing, either. The NJ High Point Headquarters could be an option. The trail runs right past it and there are bathrooms and water and…maybe an overhang I could sleep beneath?
I came to the headquarters building and began scanning the perimeter for a bathroom. Nothing. One more lap. Nope, it must be locked inside. I dropped my pack and stepped in to the woods behind the building. Upon my return, I noticed the humming motor of a vehicle and headlights of a truck in the parking lot on the opposite side of the building. Then the truck moved rather intently in my direction. Vehicles always make me nervous in the middle of the night. It pulled up just beside me. A man called out from the window “You aren’t planning on setting up camp here, are you? Because it is not allowed.” I told him that I was not setting up camp (which I technically wasn’t. I had no intentions of setting anything up at all…just sleeping). I told him I was looking for a bathroom. He said that they were closed. He said he saw someone with a flashlight wandering around the building, and came over to investigate. He reiterated how camping was not allowed. He drove off.
Who in the world was this man?!, I thought. A glance at my watch told me it was approximately half past two in the morning. Where had he come from? Did he have any authority, or was he a somewhat overbearing busy body of sorts. I was clearly trying to make it to Maine. I wondered what his story was.
Alright then. It looks like I had to press on. There weren’t any good spots there anyhow. I was rather tired, however, and did not like the notion of travelling much further.
I filled up my nalgene and Smart Water bottle from the drinking fountain, and continued.
I had a bit of difficulty relocating the trail in the darkness. It crosses NJ 23 and then cuts across a small hill of well maintained grass. I could not make out any pathway or footprints amongst the blades. The trail then made a very rocky ascent. I hoped to camp at the observation tower, one mile away.
I finally reached the tower, after what seemed like an eternity of side stepping and climbing and rock hopping.
The observation tower was an open deck. There would be no rain protection up top. There was a set of wooden stairs, however, and a flat space beneath it. I decided to make it work. I used my ground tarp to remedy the gaps in the wooden planks. I weighted the tarp down with stones I collected from the surrounding area.
I spread out my mat below my makeshift roof and pulled in my pack and various pieces of gear close beside me.
This just might work, I thought.
I drifted in to sleep, satisfied.