At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, I crossed over the Delaware Water Gap on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and made it to the Pennsylvania AT! On November 23, 2018, I first began hiking the New Jersey Appalachian Trail. Composed of 72 miles, it took only five hikes to finish it.
My NJ AT finale began over tacos. Of course, it was over tacos. I feel like my hiking life could be measured in tacos, defined by tacos, counted by tacos.
[In my older blog post “Hiking the AT (or Ode to Tacos)“, I share how tacos have defined my hiking life.]
Appropriately, the night before my NJ AT finale, I readied my body with tacos. Crispy corn shells, soy chorizo, shredded lettuce, homemade guacamole, pico de gallo made with the last of my garden tomatoes, and vegan cheese filled my belly. My buddy had come down for the occasion. We celebrated his birthday on Thursday and hiked to Pennsylvania on Friday.
An easy day, our adventure began with a stroll on the ridgeline that I had been following since High Point, NJ. The leaf colors had finally turned. Yellow painted the leaves and red dotted the valley around us. Our trail opened out onto several ponds, which reflected a bluish grey sky and shimmering autumn colors.
Quite suddenly, the ridge began to narrow in both directions. Walking on a spine, we noticed sharp drops on either side. The ridge abruptly turned in front of us; blanketing its side, red trees accented its green and yellow forests. Beneath us, a reservoir stretched out. This dramatic opening delighted me.
Hello, Raccoon Ridge!
The spine peaked at a spot so narrow no trees grew. Only a pile of rocks remained. Beside the rocks, I saw a fake owl secured to a stick. An odd place for an owl mannequin! Next to the rock pile, two men hunkered down with binoculars.
“Bird watching?” I asked.
“Yes, we are counting hawks,” They replied.
“You are not watching for owls?” I joked.
“No,” they responded, “The hawks dive down when they see the owls so it allows us to get a proper count.”
They reported that they had seen only fifty hawks that day, but on a good day they normally see four hundred. As for rarities, they had seen an immature goshawk earlier that day and a golden eagle the week before. They told me that you can tell a golden eagle from a vulture because a vulture tilts its wings when it flies while a golden eagle flies straight. I thanked them for the information and my buddy and I continued on our way.
Down, down, down we went into the Delaware Water Gap.
The AT took us under I-80 and then on a road that ran parallel to it. We followed the AT dutifully, not leaving our road route to peak at the river view. Some people drive for hours to gape at the gap. We drove for hours for this moment of road walking.
Our trail merged with I-80 as we stepped onto the bridge over the Delaware River. The velocity of the tractor trailers just feet away felt like it was going to blow us over. Even still, at 3:30 p.m., we crossed over into Pennsylvania.
All because one day long I decided to start walking in the directions of my dreams.
A dream realized over tacos.