My last update on Beaker was the last day of May. While I have been finishing up the school year as principal and making as many baton hand-offs as possible before my retirement, Beaker has hiked 315 miles. During the first three weeks of June, Beaker has only taken two zero days: one in Delaware Water Gap after conquering the rocks of Pennsylvania and one two weeks later in Salisbury, Connecticut to rest some very sore feet. Beaker is still hiking with 1st Sergeant and the two of them are putting in consistent miles while having a great time experiencing the trail. After finishing off the long walk through Pennsylvania, the men hiked through New Jersey in four days (79 miles), New York in six days (90 miles), Connecticut in four days (43 miles) and are now trekking through Massachusetts (90 miles).
Instead of summarizing three weeks of hiking into one post, I will give you half today and catch you up-to-date tomorrow.
Beaker and 1st Sgt. made it to Port Clinton, PA on May 1 after a 9.3 mile hike. They spent the rest of the day in the area resupplying. Beaker was hoping to find some new boots at Cabala’s in nearby Hamburg, but they did not have any hiking boot in size 14. Size 14?! Yes, Beaker is one big guy. He called his wife who called REI who promised size 14 Keen Targhee II mid-height boots to be delivered in Wind Gap by the time Beaker arrived there.
The rocks of Pennsylvania presented difficult terrain for the next two days, but the climb out of Palmerton and Lehigh Gap is an iconic experience for every thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. Beaker writes in his journal on June 4, “The climb was everything it was advertised to be. Many times we had to put down our hiking poles to be able to use our hands to pull ourselves up the rock face. If you were to lose your balance – easy to do with a 35 pound backpack on your back – you would get seriously hurt. To add to the experience, we were all carrying extra weight because the upcoming ridgeline has no water, so we had to fill up all our containers with water before starting our climb, adding an additional 5 pounds to our packs… [We] took our time on the ascent and made it safely to the top.”.
They made it to Wind Gap on the 5th of June and the boots were waiting for Beaker as REI had promised. They conquered the rocks of PA upon arrival at Delaware Water Gap on June 6. Marguerite met the tired hikers at this border town and they spent a zero day on June 7 resting up and planning the next leg of the adventure.
The hike through New Jersey began the next day with a 16.7 mile trek. Beaker and 1st Sgt. stopped for lunch at the Mohican Outdoor Center, a nice respite with good food. The following day was a 20.5 mile hike over Sunrise Mountain where they met a guitarist in the open pavilion on top of the mountain. June 10 brought great blessing – two friends of 1st Sgt. (both named Sue, so they called themselves The Sooz) were out geocaching and provided some great trail magic food and a ride to a nice hotel in Ramsey, NJ.
Jun 11 was the last full-day day in New Jersey. The AT makes its way through the Wallkill Natural Wildlife Reserve. Within the reserve, the hikers observed something very special. “As we traversed the wetlands, we came upon an incredible sight – a turtle laying eggs! It was so cool! She had dug a hole and, as she laid each egg, she would cover it with dirt using her back legs. We must have watched for 20 minutes. It was amazing that such a small creature could have so many eggs in her.” Beaker and 1st Sgt. continued on and were able to walk along the Pochuck Boardwalk, a mile-long boardwalk that ends with a 110 ft. suspension bridge across Pochuck Creek before concluding their 17-mile day.