Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Trail Recap 16 of 27: Wind Gap, PA to Warwick, NY

Sunfish  Pond on a calm, misty spring day

Wind Gap vicinty in NE PA to Barrett Rd., NJ, just south of Warwick, NY: ~91 miles

General Impression/Theme:  Variety - a section with many different types of trail, which held me in constant interest.  The hiker is treated with everything from steep climbs, bedrock slab scrambling, grand vistas, a major river crossing, and the first glacier-carved ponds, to long swamp boardwalks and puncheon sections, a long walk on levees between open water wetlands, pastures, and high  meadows with vistas.

People:  Paul 'Parkside' Bernhardt - my second meeting with him two months after meeting down south in March. 'Iceman', 'Viking', and 'Achilles', hiking together about 6 days ahead of Paul, but who had hiked and would again later hike many days with him. 'Sun Dog', hiking a big section Duncannon to Katahdin.  He completed this in July, having done Springer to Duncannon last year.  Section hiker Lyle, doing a significant piece from Culver's Gap, PA to Salisbury, VT.  He's already done (by sections) the entire trail south of here.  'Scooter' aka 'The Edge' hiking a section for about a week through NY and also supporting two couples doing similar sections.  'Kit Kat', hiking SoBo between MA and Daleville, VA.  She was also close to finishing the entire AT.

Supply/Overnight:  I made frequent use of trailhead parking lots through here.  Most had good cell/internet access.  Frequented Newton, NJ for major shopping needs.

Worst Memory:  The classic bad luck story - I had hiked 2000 miles by this point and then turned my ankle one evening, off trail, when trying to flatten an aluminum soda can.  Fortunately this was minor, causing just a few days of discomfort.  A second bad memory:  Finding a major road access point (paved Blue Mountain Lake Road) closed for several miles either side of the trail.  I had counted on (*ASS-umed*) this road being open and so had hiked a section of trail toward it without scouting it first.  The result: I had to re-hike this section the next day.

Best Day Hike:  I'm going to mention five of the best from this section, in reverse order:

Number 5:  Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge - an easy two-state loop walk from a big parking area on Oil City Road.  For added variety stay on the AT and plunge into the woods east of the Refuge for a long walk on puncheon through the wooded wetland to Lake Walkill Road.

Number 4:  High Point State Park.  Park in the park, various loop hikes available.  The AT has a fine vista point from an observation deck just up from a parking area.

Number 3:  Mt. Minsi from the town of Delaware Water Gap, PA.  Beautiful deep woods hiking to the summit (rhododendron, hemlocks), a fine view from a rocky outlook along the way, then be sure to continue past the old fire tower foundation at the summit--a few hundred yards farther is the payoff: a superb view to the south of the Delaware River.

Number 2:  Sunfish Pond, shown above.  Be sure to take the Turquoise trail a tenth of a mile east off the AT from the north end of the pond to experience the view from a high rock outcrop on a peninsula - or continue to hike the entire loop around the pond.  The most popular access is a 4 mile stretch of the AT, along a roaring stream at first, from the Delaware River at the large Dunnfield Natural Area parking lot.  But the better hike is from the other direction starting at Millbrook-Blairstown Road.  This offers many great vistas as the AT takes you across smooth open bedrock slabs along the ridge.

Pochuck Swamp Boardwalk from near its S/W end at County 517
Number 1:  My choice for best day hike here is a double day hike.  Park at the big gravel lot off NJ 94 and hike east (trail south on the AT) for two miles through varied lowland terrain to and over the Pochuck Swamp boardwalk - the prime example of manmade trail  and an engineering marvel - best of its kind on the AT.  Then head the other way (east/trail north) from NJ 94 for a beautiful sloped meadow walk followed by a steep rocky climb up to Pinwheel's Vista near the summit of Wawayanda Mountain.  The vista is a rock outcrop via a short blue blazed trail.  Great views west to the obelisk atop High Point.

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