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 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.