Eight years ago before it was cliche or cool. Before it was made into a movie with blockbuster actors, I was inspired by Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.” I read it cover to cover in the span of a long memorial day weekend, sitting on my porch from the moment I woke until late into the night. Sipping coffee and only coming inside to make a snack. It was captivating. Everything about it. It was everything I ever inspired to do. It was freeing. To imagine to be able to pick up – mid-life, no responsibilities other than to get yourself from Georgia to Maine. How incredible, I thought, no matter where you are in life the challenges and triumphs that hiking the Appalachian Trail brings makes you feel like you can do anything. To many it’s a way to figure out who you are and what you’re really made of! That’s what inspired me. If I think back it was the beginning of something in me that would change the course of the next eight years and ultimately my life. A book changed my life… yes, that is true. From then on it was a dream to hike the AT. I knew I couldn’t leave my day job or my responsibilities at the time. I knew that I wasn’t going to be hiking the entire AT. Maybe when I retire I can do just that. Six years ago I started following the work of David Muench. I bought his book that chronicled through pictures the Appalachian Trail. It was then that all the inspiration I had came rushing back, but this time stronger. But then as is now, I wanted to do it in section hikes. It may have taken an entire eight years but I finally stepped foot on the AT. It was the first step of a dream come true and I was smiling from ear to ear!
They say that the Pennsylvania sections are the most boring of the AT. Since I’m an avid PA hiker. I found it beautiful and intriguing. Okay, actually we started out from the trailhead off Route 23 in High Point State Park in New Jersey. This is just across the Delaware River. The actual trail started out as a gradual climb on the Kittatinny Mountains to the ridgeline. From there we were just walking on large boulders carved down by wind surrounded by barren hardwoods, pines, and mountain laurel. The wind could be heard whipping through the treetops. Birds were heard chirping in the distance. The views were incredible! Rolling hills, distant lakes, and bare blue sky as far as the eye could see. I’d say around a mile or mile and a half in, we started to descent down a huge boulder field. I hadn’t seen any trail marker and wondered for a bit if we might have gone off path. At the bottom we found a really cool marsh area off the trail and a trail marker. We were ok! The marshy area didn’t last long as we started to ascent back up the boulder field. We scrambled up a rock face with sections of ice melting, you could see water flowing underneath. It was a cool effect. At the top the view was amazing. There were these small pines that captured my imagination. It was like we were in a different landscape, all in the matter of minutes! We were back atop the ridgeline again with views of Lake Rutherford from Dutch Shoe Rock. It was breath-taking. We stopped briefly to take in the scenery before making our way down and around. We decided to shoot over to Rutherford shelter for lunch. From there we found a loop trail that took us back to the car. That was called the Iris trail and it followed the banks of Lake Rutherford. I fulfilled a small part of a dream long in the making. There certainly is magic on the AT. Section-hike or thru-hike, there is magic and I got bit by the AT bug!