Today started off with a bit of oversleeping, and despite the threat of rain later today, I didn't leave the campsite until almost 8 am. Today's destination is a lake house in Branchville, NJ owned by my friend Jesse's parents. Normally, Jesse and several of us try to come up to the lake house (which we call the "Jersey House", for obvious reasons) sometime each summer for a weekend of relaxing, swimming in the lake, and going to yardsales. This weekend, the Fourth of July weekend, Jesse and his family would be at the Jersey House, making it perfect timing for a break. (A well-deserved break; today is 19 days since Harpers Ferry, the last time I took a zero.)
After just over three miles, as I crossed Millbrook-Blairstown Rd, I ran into trail magic from the Hunterdon NJ Hiking Club ("Munch -N- Go Cafe — Trail Angels Division"). They had (locally sourced) fresh berries, watermelon, and snacks; sodas; and other food. They also had a grill and meat, and I had a hamburger — probably the earliest in the day I've ever had one so far.
They had come out the last several days to provide trail magic, and I saw a number of familiar names in their logbook. I sat and chatted with them for probably an hour before I got back on the trail. I was a bit surprised no one else had come by while I was there. I had passed someone near the Mohican Outdoor Center on my way here, so I would have expected at least them to come past.
Shortly afterwards, I saw a curiosity: solar panels on a high-voltage power line tower. (There was some other equipment attached; probably it was significantly easier to power it from the sun and batteries than step-down the high-voltage lines to usable levels.)
Lunch in the middle of nowhere in the Delaware Water Gap provided some very happy news: my friend Laura and her husband Adam are expecting twins! Congratulations!
My third break was slightly (though not sufficiently) more efficient, mostly because the time pressure of the forecasted rainstorm was becoming more urgent. I forecasted an arrival time of 5-5:30 and let Jesse's parents know (they had already arrived at the lake house). I had planned to walk from the trailhead to the house (not too far, maybe a mile), but they offered a ride once I got to the trailhead.
Given my late start and long trail magic break, that break and the next snack break I took were both longer than they should have been. Thus, when I reached the side trail to Brink Shelter, 3.6 miles before my destination for the day, I skipped going there to write in the log book, and instead, took advantage of the relatively nice trail to pick up the pace a bit.
This helped, but not enough. A very light drizzle began to fall and quiet thunder reverberated from the sky as I approached the rocky, exposed ridge leading to Culver Gap. The light rain and thunder served as extra motivation to move faster: every step I took before the rain began in earnest was a step fewer I'd have to take soaking wet. Near the top of the mountain, I passed Pocahontas, only the second NOBO I'd seen all day, and just as I got back under tree cover, the rain really started falling.
I began the final descent down the mountain, becoming progressively more wet as the trail became progressively more river-like, until finally, a familiar and unwanted feeling returned: the squishing of the water pooling in my shoes at each step.
The hike down to Culver Gap took about half an hour, coincidentally just as long as the heavy rain fell. Once I reached the trailhead at US 206, the rain stopped.
I wound up getting to the trailhead around 4:20, significantly earlier than my prediction, partially because I overestimated how far away I was, and partially because of the motivating factor of an oncoming thunderstorm. My phone (and hands) completely soaked, I couldn't actually use it to make a phone call, so I started walking along the road towards the lake house. After a short while, the screen on my phone dried off enough to accept input, and I called for a pickup.
During my walk down US 206, I passed by a deli and a steakhouse that I had been planning to patronize, only to find that they had both closed. The deli claimed it was "temporary", despite the inside being completely cleared out. It was not surprising to see the steakhouse closed, though; over the last many years, it had changed hands several times.
Jesse's dad met me at the parking lot for Gyp's Tavern, and we returned to the Jersey House. I got a hot shower and changed into clean clothes, while my wet clothes and pack got moved to the basement to dry out.
I had a simple dinner of hot dogs (sans buns), potato salad, and soda and beer, and spent the remainder of the evening lounging on the couch relaxing and chatting with Jesse's parents, waiting for Jesse and his wife Holly to arrive from DC.