I woke up early, 5am, to the sound of rain absolutely hammering on the tarp over my hammock. I was nice and dry but..... oh, man, I do not want to hike in this rain. It's wet and it's going to be slippery and it's cold. I lay dozing for about an hour until the rain eased up a little, then put up my umbrella and went to get my food out of the bear box. All the NJ shelters have bear boxes. Incredibly, NJ has the highest bear population of any of the 14 states on the trail, at one per square mile.
Euro and the two who had come in late were still asleep. I made coffee and mixed a protein shake and ate a breakfast bar. I heard a sigh that told me one of the newcomers was a girl. Euro woke up and told me he'd stayed with them the night before in Delaware Water Gap, so they had also hiked 25 miles yesterday. More power to 'em, these are young kids. I won't be doing any 25-mile days. But a couple nights ago I did some math and realized I'd need to pull steady 18-milers to get to Maine. It's not going to happen.
Euro packed up and moved north. I would be hiking alone again. I could never keep up with him anyway. It was raining again. I wondered if Knitting Bull could give me a bad-weather bail today. If not..... I'd stay in the shelter and wait it out. I did not have what it took to hike alone all day in pouring rain. It's one thing with friends, and I did a lot of it between Georgia and Maryland. But I don't want to be alone now.
I had phone signal and Knitting Bull said she'd be happy to come get me. I figured the 4 miles to PA 206 would take me a little more than 2 hours. It was raining less, but the trees were dripping so much it might as well have been pouring. I was cold. I was wearing my tights, but they were wet; my rain jacket keeps me dry but isn't very warm. I hiked on covered with goose bumps. I thought about this trip and my feelings. Hiking alone.... no fun. Heat wave, little water..... no fun. Cold rain.... no fun. I have not been really happy since the first week. I have been struggling, physically and mentally. It's hard to admit I'm not into it, but I feel I really don't want to be here.
When I had signal again I called Steve and told him I'm ready to stop. My voice broke. I was crying. I don't want to stop but I don't want to keep going. I'm ready to stop. As soon as I really decided, I felt better, as if maybe this isn't really so bad after all, but I realized it was a mood boost from having decided on something that would make me happier.... being with my husband.
The trail down to the gap to the road was treacherous, small round stones that rolled and could land you on your backside, but I didn't land on mine. I've gotten a lot more sure-footed, that's one thing Pennsylvania did for me. I reached the gap and the road, and there was Knitting Bull. She had a fleece jacket for me, and dry wool socks, and fleece-lined slippers, and hot coffee. What a good friend.... could I have met her only 2 days ago? I was shocked to find she'd actually driven over 50 miles to get me. I had no idea it was that far.
At her house, I put my wet clothes in the dryer and she and Tony fed me a lunch that was more like Thanksgiving dinner: rotisserie chicken and steamed beans and carrots. I probably ate half the chicken. Steve came and we visited some more. Knitting Bull found a rainproof pack cover she doesn't use that fit my pack and asked me to take it. Steve and I got into the truck and drove back to his campground. And I felt as if I could go to bed for the night at 2pm.