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GoldenBear

High Point down to Delaware Water Gap - Part 1

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
My previous day hikes, both on my own and with help from Shuttle, had left a gap between Highway 23 in High Point State Park and the town of Delaware Water Gap. I thus resolved to find a way to do these 41 (or so) miles and finish off the Trail within New Jersey. My first plan was to pay an ungodly sum to get shuttled from DWG to HP, but then stumbled on the fact that I can ride mass transit not only to DWG, but to the town of Port Jervis -- less than five miles from where I wanted to start my hike. Even better was the fact that I could wait till (literally) the day of my departure before deciding to go, as no facet of this walk requires any advance reservations. It thus turned out that a departure on this last Memorial Day, hiking four days, and a return on Thursday evening, would work just fine at a cost less than the shuttle I had originally planned for.

It's pretty easy to ride NJTransit to Secaucus Junction, as that station has trains to just about everywhere
http://www.njtransit.com/pdf/rail/Rail_System_Map.pdf
From Philly it just means riding Septa north to Trenton and then transferring to the NE Corridor. Note, however, that both of these line are commuter trains, meaning there are no bathrooms on the cars. For that reason I intentionally had nothing to drink before leaving, but still needed a bathroom break at Secaucus. Fortunately, this station is so efficiently designed that doing so is easy even when trying to make a 12 minute connection.
Trains between Secaucus Junction and Port Jervis run frequently, with some originating in NYC, as this pdf shows:
http://mta.info/mnr/html/planning/sc...kdy-011413.pdf
Just be certain to watch the signs and the departure boards carefully, as a LOT of trains come through here, and be aware that a train going to Suffern does NOT necessarily go to Port Jervis. Happily, these trains do have some (minimal) restroom facilities.

Right as you exit at Port Jervis you'll see a chain fast food joint with trash cans, bathrooms, and cheap eats -- might as well fill up and empty out there. Once at Port Jervis, you could simply walk up Highway 23 (southeast) to High Point. I do NOT recommend doing so, as the road is narrow and winding, with a lot of traffic but not much of a shoulder. I instead suggest phoning Bucky's Taxi (845-856-3544) and paying for a ride to the park office. The driver knew exactly where I wanted to go, and got me there quickly and safely. Note that the fee is set -- for me it was $15 plus the tip -- so don't look for a meter or worry if the driver makes other pickups before taking you to the park. Remember that the drivers makes no money driving back from the Park, and would only break even with the fare -- your tip is THEIR INCOME, not a gift.

At the High Point Park Office is a bathroom, a paper copy of the park map (for some reason, they don't put this map online), and a trash can specifically designated ONLY for A.T. hikers. Be aware that this is the LAST place to dump trash for the next 30 miles -- the entire route is unambiguously "Pack it in -- pack it out."

One simple reason that controlling trash in this area is EXTREMELY important is the large (and growing) density of black bears in Northern New Jersey. Although these animals have not caused one single fatality in New Jersey in the last century -- and thus remain (statistically) FAR less dangerous to human life than hunters -- any bear that learns "Smell of human means easy food" will eventually cause trouble, and will almost certainly have to be killed. There is almost no other place in the Eastern U.S. where being "bear aware" is more vital than along this part of the A.T.!

The A.T. crosses Highway 23 right at the park office, where you'll see this sign.
https://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/show...mageuser=13863
From this view, the A.T. is to your right. Going north means crossing Highway 23, towards the monument; south, walking into the woods. Because I feel embarrassed getting passed (repeatedly) by everyone going north, I try to arrange to hike southbound, and thus chose that direction on this trip.

The trail in this section is well-blazed and, with one exception, easy to follow. That exception was just south of the overhead power cables within the Park, and will be a problem only for those going south. During 2013 there will be pipeline construction along the power right-of-way, so expect to experience (1) construction vehicles operating (literally) right on the Trail, (2) noise, and (3) trail closures and re-routes, sometimes with almost no warning. Right now, the Trail goes south from the power lines down a wide road designed for these construction vehicles -- and then turns right at an almost unmarked "side" trail. It's easy to miss the turn as you go down
https://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/show...mageuser=13863
and the (apparently) new trail has almost no blazes on it -- thus leaving you uncertain on whether you're still on the Trail. Please note that this re-route may be changed at any time, so just watch for blazes near the construction.

South of here I came across the typically unleashed dog -- illegal in all state parks, and REALLY stupid in bear country -- but this one had a twist: the owner was nowhere to be found! A couple of other hikers thought I might be the owner, but it turned out the dog was following them because it didn't know who else to follow. The dog was (thankfully) gentle enough for me to check its tag, and I would have gladly phoned any number given on it, but there was no useful info to be found. About ten minutes down the Trail I came across a walker and casually asked, "Are you looking for a black dog?" -- and it turns out he WAS. About fifteen minutes after that the two were back together, apparently returning home -- with the dog still unleashed.

I got to the Mashipacong Shelter (I simply called it the "Mash" Shelter) well before dark, and was surprised to find it empty. This place is about 0.2 of a mile from Dennytown Pike, which has a parking area, so it COULD have been a place for shelter-parties. Instead, it was almost spooky quiet. There is no water source here, but there is a bear box where there COULD be emergency water. The caretaker is generously expending his own cash and time to bring water here, which he places in the bear box. Note that abuse of this kindness could cause him to decide it's not worth his time, trouble, and money. And I regret that this will (most likely) fall on deaf ears, but PLEASE do not use the bear box as a trash can! If you love the A.T. enough to walk on it, love it enough to keep it clean.

I'm learning to sleep much better in shelters, and had no problem getting up at 5 am and departing just after 6 am. My desire for an early start was particularly high on this day, as I knew that heavy rain, and possible thunderstorms, were expected later this Tuesday. Although I survived my first walk through rain, I knew I needed to get as many miles as possible under dry skies. I was soon in Stokes State Forest
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandf...okes%20map.pdf
and got up to Sunrise Mountain without a drop. I even managed to refill my water container, meeting "Aspen" and being shocked to find she was a thru-hiker. My apologies to all of you who are at DWG and beyond already, but I just didn't expect that anyone could get this far north by now.

When the rain finally did come, it was pretty much a repeat of the second day of my last reported hike
https://whiteblaze.net/forum/entr...onizing-detail
By an amazing coincidence, a discussion of what to do in these circumstances occurred right on Whiteblaze
https://whiteblaze.net/forum/show...ng-in-the-rain
letting me know that soggy socks are just something you just learn to live with. "Armed" with this info, I simply learned to do exactly that. Unfortunately, knowing that I had to endure not only that, but getting soaked all over my body, quickly made for a miserable walk. My original plan was to hike beyond Brinks Road Shelter to a backpacker site south of there, but even before I reached Highway 206 (ie, the city of Branchville), I knew I was going to stop at Brinks unless the weather REALLY improved.

At Highway 206 I was surprised to see businesses right at the trail crossing. Eager for ANY place that could give me a roof, I just went into Joe's to Go. This place provides an outside bench to store your pack, some cold sodas, a few sandwiches (cold and hot, but reasonably priced), and coffee that warmed my soul. It takes CASH ONLY, has no bathroom, and closes for the day at about 1 pm.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/joe-to-go-sa...WZJKjzAVKSmJ3g
Please note that I can't tell good coffee from bilge water, so my apologies to those who may have been disappointed by my mentioning of this place.
http://businessfinder.nj.com/reviews...hville-nj.html

I don't normally stop a hike about 4:30 pm, the time of my arrival at Brinks Shelter, but I don't think I could have handled another hour of rain soaking every piece of clothing under my rain jacket. One thru-hiker was already there, and his separated buddy arrived soon after. I normally won't stay in a shelter with others (sorry, I just don't sleep well when I do so), but this night HAD to be an exception. Even when two more thru-hikers arrived -- and there was NO WAY we were going to require that they sleep outside on a night like this -- we just made room as best we could. The place has a bear box, and an excellent spring at the end of a trail that is not easy to follow. All of us being exhausted, we reached quiet time before sunset.

Updated 06-16-2013 at 14:38 by GoldenBear

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  1. Teacher & Snacktime's Avatar
    When Snacktime, Strife and I were on our CT section hike (May 18-21), we met a NOBO thruhiker called Aloha who'd left Springer on Feb 27, We were quite surprised anyone had gotten that far that fast.