New Jersey, or Joisey as the TV would have you say it, isn't really a place that you think of when you think about hiking. The stereotype is one of chemical factories and Guidos on the Jersey Shore. However, it's called the Garden State for a reason. There is a lot of beauty in New Jersey, and I found it far away from the beach.
On our first full day in New Jersey, we hiked 17 miles by lunch time. It was a town day, so our packs were light and we were looking forward to sleeping in a hostel. The trail was also incredibly easy, with a one-mile stretch of boardwalk at one point. The last two miles were also on a former railroad bed. Since trains can only go up the most gentle of hills, it is always nice to walk where they once were.
As I was saying, we reached town by lunch time. We had to go back into New York to get to town, but it was worth it. There was a small pizzeria with great food (for once I could only eat half of a pizza), and we made our way to the "Mayor's House" (aka the "Outhouse").
The Mayor (who wasn't really the mayor, but who had run at one point) was a charming older guy with the gift of gab. This is a guy who can really talk. One interesting feature of the house is that he had requested that people mail him stones from every state of the trail, and he had made a walkway from them in the back yard. Since the trail is government property for the most part, this had received the attention of the authorities, who had sent the chief ranger to inspect it. One strange thing about this particular hostel is that one requirement of hikers is that they must watch a motivational video in order to stay there. There was some eye-rolling about this at first, but it was not a bad video. It was about a Susan-Boyle-type singer on the X Factor TV show, who had overcome looking plain to sing opera well. The message that the Mayor was trying to impart with the video was encapsulated by the line that the singer sang: "Vincero, Vincero, Vincero", from Turandot. (I will win, I will make it, I will finish this hike.) It sounds cheesy, but the story was nice, and it gave you something to think about if you got down during the hike.
After a great breakfast, we headed out again. We didn't go far, and stopped at a shelter. Every shelter in New Jersey has a bear box, which is essentially a locker with a complicated handle that bears can't figure out to store food in. This is much more convenient than hanging food from a tree branch, and it keeps the bears (which are all over New Jersey) from getting too comfortable around shelters.
The next day, we passed by the highest point in New Jersey, which has its own monument:
Going down the hill from the high point, we saw our first bears of the trip.
There was a mother and her cub, but we were only close enough to get a picture of the cub. It seemed at first as if the cub was going to climb a tree to get away from us, which would have been the worst possible thing to happen. In that case, the mother would have defended the tree and we would have had to go far out of our way to avoid them. We were lucky, though, and the cub just kept going, as did we.
The next day was less exciting, but we saw another bear the day after that. We were walking on a dirt road, and it was right ahead of us. Grinner was so excited to see the bear that she started skipping down the road. Try skipping with twenty or thirty pounds of stuff in a backpack, and you'll see that she must have been really excited.
We spent the night at the Mohican Outdoor Center. We had to pay a little bit to camp, but they had bear boxes, and considering the amount of bears in the area, we thought they would be worth it. It turned out that it was good that the bear boxes were there, because a bear apparently came into the camp and tried to get at food. I'm a sound sleeper, which is why I can only say "apparently".
The next day would be our last in the state. We walked up onto a ridge, from where I was able to take some nice sunrise pictures.
After that, we went past the southernmost glacial lake on the trail, named Sunfish Pond. Finally, we began our descent into Delaware Water Gap, which marks the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania. It's many hikers' least-favorite state, but I had a nice time.