Section Hike: Bake Oven Knob to Lehigh Gap


In my quest to hike again solo during the Labor Day weekend (2015), I read countless of books prior to my hike such as Wild by Cheryl Strayed (saw the movie first), Guide to the Appalachia Trail by Jim Chase; Exploring the Appalachian Trail by Glenn Scherer and Don Hopey, The A.T. Guide 2015 North Bound by David “Awol” Miller and followed several websites/blogs on hiking the AT.

I felt pretty comfortable with the knowledge gained. So, I set out to section hike from Bake Oven Knob to Lehigh Gap (9.5 miles); Lehigh Gap to Smith Gap Rd. (12.6 miles); Smith Gap Rd. to Wind Gap (8.0 miles). All in-all the goal for the weekend was to complete 30 miles on my own.

This hike was going to be different. I was familiar with the terrain (check), my backpack was about 25 pounds (check), stayed at the Jim Thorpe hotel the night before for an early rise the next morning (check). But during the night my CamelBak water reservoir bag ruptured, and as a result I had to buy several bottles of water to carry inside my backpack (which made it heavy).

I was at the Oven Knob Rd. trail head at 8am and started my hike and was doing well, but the backpack started to feel heavy and heavier as I approached Bake Oven Knob and started to hike uphill where the rocks seemed to go on FOREVER. I wanted to take a picture of this magnificent site, so I pulled my small and cheap and battery operated Vivitar camera. Took several pictures only to realize that I had forgotten to insert the SD memory card (duh!), so I had to pull out my phone which wasn’t an easy task to take the picture.

Midway through the hike, I decided to drink the majority of the water to lessen the weight on my pack (good idea right?); well it was until I had to stop every 30 minutes to pee. Sounds like an easy task, but when you have to get your pack off and then put it back on every 30 minutes it becomes quite an ordeal (but I did achieve losing some weight). The other problem I encountered were my highly priced high top boots; expensive and yet my feet hurt like hell, you see every time I started to descend on the trail my toes were pressed against the front of my boots, so I felt like my toes were going to explode.

At this point, I started to think about where I was, the reason I was there (to stop thinking about the pain in my feet and the weight I was carrying on my back) when all of a sudden I felt a rush of fear when I realized that I was the only one on the trail and after a couple of minutes I pulled myself together and started enjoying the quietness of the woods, enjoying nature at its best with the beauty of trees, the leaves, the flowers, and the birds singing around me.

I made it to the George W. Outerbridge Shelter around 4pm not bad. It was daylight and the shelter was empty. I set out to stay there that evening, so I did not have to pitch my tent. After a couple of minutes, a young man named Nathan, a thru-hiker from Minnesota, arrived at the shelter. Nathan saw my heavy bag and offered to make it  lighter, but I declined (I didn’t feel like emptying the bag and putting everything back again), but again this is how the AT community looks out for one another. We both resupplied our water and started cooking our dinners in silence and then literally went to bed. When I woke up around 7pm, there were other thru-hikers at the shelter and by midnight two Australian girls arrived as well (they were hiking through the night)—Yikes!  and one of them slept outside the shelter under the stars (I want to this someday).

This was my first experience staying in a shelter and sleeping with people that I had never met and despite the bugs, spiders, and mice I felt so at peace, but I was tired and decided to call my husband to come and get me the next day because I was not going to continue with the hike and complete my goal of 30 miles that weekend.

I did not see this as a failure, but an opportunity to regroup, address my backpack weight issue and perhaps get some new boots. As Robin Williams said “It’s not about the goal, it’s about becoming the type of person that can accomplish the goal.” In my case to someday hike another section or perhaps the entire AT without stopping.

Section Hike: Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap


Our first section hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and what we learned: Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap

For the past year, I have developed a love and respect for the AT; there is something about hiking 2,189 miles from Georgia to Maine that is so appealing to me (although not everyone makes it). Being in the woods and exploring nature provides me a sense of solitude that I cannot find in the real world where we are tasked with having to work and take care of our lives on a daily basis.

In April 2015, I saw the movie Wild based on Cheryl Strayed’s 1,000 mile hike in on the Pacific Crest Trail. The movie was an inspiration because I too was dealing with the loss of my mother in 2011, so I decided to do my first hike in May during the Memorial Day weekend by myself. The idea of being in the woods by myself was not a new one, you see I grew up in on an 18-acre farm in Puerto Rico, so my entire childhood was spent playing in the woods, climbing trees and camping. My husband Dave, did not like the idea of me going by myself during the 15.1-mile hike from Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap, so he decided to accompany me on this hike although that meant that we would have to hike back from the Delaware Water Gap to Wind Gap where our car was parked, thus making the hike 30.1 miles.

We researched the type of equipment needed and went to REI, where we tested all the equipment and bought pretty much all that was suggested by the salesperson, who was a thru-hiker having hiked the AT twice, so we were confident that we had the right gear. However, we did not test any of it prior to our hike.

Reality set in when we arrived at the trail head at Wind Gap around 9 am and had to put our backpacks on and start the very steep climb up to the trail. This section of the AT is considered to be one of the toughest hence the name Rocksylvania. I went up first with no difficulties since I was in pretty good shape at the time. Dave on the other hand, had a very difficult time climbing with his backpack on, he actually had to take off his backpack to climb up the steep hill (not a good experience). It took us about two hours to actually start the hike since there were many rocks that made it difficult to walk up with the weight on our backs. I quickly realized that we were not making good time and were not going to arrive at the Kirk Ridge shelter at a decent time, so I spent the majority of the hike pushing my husband to walk and walk faster. However, four or five miles down, Dave saw a brown bear stood stand up and look directly at him, and boy he picked up the pace very quickly.

When we got to the Kirk Ridge shelter it was almost 6pm and it was full (not to mentioned that it was freezing). We had to find a space to quickly pitch the tent, cook our “cup of noodle” dinner before sun down, but we were happy to arrive at Fox Gap and stayed the night. We were exhausted, but the view was spectacular that evening and somehow rejuvenated our desire to continue hiking the next day. We left Fox Gap and headed to the Delaware Water Gap, our final destination the next day. One of the things that you learn on the AT is that there is this sense of community whether you are a section hiker or thru hiker and people are always watching out for each other on the trail. We met a couple from Maryland and at times we would hike together, and quickly became friends. So when we finally arrived at the Delaware Water Gap they gave us a ride back to Wind Gap where our car was parked. Otherwise, we would have had to hike back again and given our state of tiredness it would have been impossible to hike AGAIN over the countless rocks. Needless the say, my husband left having a hate-love relationship with the trail and I left with the idea of someday going back and hiking the entire AT on my own.

What I learned during this hike was that if you want to introduce hiking to someone you should NOT start on one of the most difficult parts of the trail if you want them to enjoy the hike and one day go back.