My main motivation today was to make it to Unionville, NY to get some real food. Since it was a 20 mile hike to get there, I packed up early and hit the trail before 7:00 am. The weather forecast was calling for rain later in the day but the skies were already overcast and the air was muggy as I got underway.
My morning started with a short but steep rocky climb to the summit of Sunrise Mountain. At the top was a really nice pavilion made of stone. I looked around unsuccessfully for a placard of some sort but it looked like one of those old Civilian Conservation Corps type of projects. There was a road nearby and I could just imagine that this pavilion had hosted some grand family reunions in the past. There was even a nice view but it was rather unimpressive with the overcast skies.
New Jersey has been really dry and finding water was starting to become an issue. Padfoot had told me that a volunteer delivered water to the Mashipacong Shelter twice a week, so I headed there to see if I might have some luck. When I arrived at the shelter, there was a Boy Scout Troop that was about to depart having spent the night there. I made a beeline for the bear box and was relieved to find several five gallon bottles of water still available. There was a road with trailhead parking 0.2 miles away and I’m very appreciative of the volunteer who totes those heavy water bottles to the shelter.
With my fresh resupply of water, I continued down the ridge line and crossed a rocky outcropping with a nice view of the valley. A few miles further, the trail got smooth and flat as it descended through a forest full of ferns. By now it was starting to rain intermittently and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep my phone screen dry enough to unlock my phone.
Soon I arrived at the High Point State Park Headquarters and walked over to resupply my water from the faucet they had outside. As I began the short climb to High Point, the highest point in New Jersey, a couple of teenage boys approached me from the opposite direction and the boy in the lead asked me if I was a thru-hiker. When I told him that I was, he explained that he was giving a piece of candy to each thru-hiker that he met and asked if I would like a piece. When I responded affirmatively, he handed me a Werther’s. I thought that this was such a cool random act of kindness.
Shortly after eating my candy, I arrived at a wooden observation platform with a sign advertising a nearby concession stand at the park’s beach. About that time, Bad Santa caught up with me and, after examining the concession stand’s menu, announced he was starving and was headed for the beach. I declined to go with him, but did decide to go ahead and eat lunch before the rain got serious.
At the summit of High Point is a 220 foot observation tower that was built as a War Memorial. Since I knew the view would be nonexistent, I decided not to take the 0.3 mile side trail to the tower, but I would like to return here in the future (you can drive to the top) and climb the tower during nice weather.
I had been told that after High Point the rocks would go away for a while, and what a relief it was when it happened. For the rest of the day, the trail alternated between pasture walks and gently rolling woodlands. In one of the wooded sections, I was amazed to walk up on Tumbleweed and Moxie! Tumbleweed and Moxie are Mennonites and brother and sister. They are pretty easy to spot because Moxie hikes in an ankle length cotton dress and wears a bonnet (both of which she made). I first met them way back at the Top of Georgia Hostel and last saw them in North Carolina when we were sitting on a cliff enjoying the view with Rockhopper and Mandrake. I really like both of them a lot and it was just amazing that our paths would cross again after so many weeks.
I was soaking wet from rain and sweat and dog tired when I finally arrived at Unionville. The trail had been flirting with the NY border all day, so I actually crossed the state line when I walked into town. Unionville invites hikers to camp in their City Park for free and they even provide a portapotty. It was late enough that the City Hall was closed, so the guide directs you to go to Horler’s General Store after hours to register for camping. So I grabbed a Gatorade and tried to keep some distance between me and the girl checking me in so that I didn’t offend her with my smell.
Just as I got to the City Park it started raining hard so I stashed my gear in the pavilion with the other hikers’ gear and dug my dry clothing out of my pack. Not unlike Superman in a telephone booth, I did my quick change in the portapotty and dashed across the street to the object of my desire, Annabel’s Pizza.
By now, Bad Santa had arrived and I joined him on the front porch of Annabel’s for dinner. For some reason I had been craving spaghetti, so I ate a big salad and the most delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs that I can remember. After dinner, we had a short break in the rain so we quickly set up our tents and headed back to the pavilion.
Moxie, Tumbleweed, Bad Santa, and I were sitting in the pavilion when a guy arrived who must be the designated town greeter. He was very nice and chatted with us for over an hour about the history of the town. They once had a Nestles cocoa powder plant that was shut down during WWII because the government thought the Swiss owners were secretly shipping cocoa powder to the Germans. It was the town’s mayor (now deceased) who first thought about catering to hikers as a way of bringing much needed revenue to the town. The Mayor opened up his house as a hiker hostel. At first the townspeople were hesitant about these grubby people coming into their town, but they soon realized that hikers weren’t all that bad and that they had money to spend. Opening up the city park to free camping soon followed.
The radar indicated that the rain was about to return with a vengeance, so we returned to our tents to get settled in for the night. Since our clothing couldn’t possibly get any wetter, Bad Santa and I draped our clothes over the chain link fence with the thought that the coming rain would at least rinse out all the salt. The rain is badly needed in this area, so I’m hopeful that it will put some water back into the streams as well as wash our clothes.