Day 114

Start: Rattlesnake Spring campsite
End: Culvers Gap/Combin Ridge hotel
Miles: 14.9
Total Miles: 1317.7

It rained through out the night, but was dry when I finally woke up. Which was 7:20. A ridiculously late time. I took a painkiller last night to help my feet and it definitely worked. It was nice of Outfitter to let me doze, but honestly I don’t think it bothered him.

The first five miles to that water- a real pump no less!- were flat and easy. Outfitter doesn’t even drink all his Gatorade, let alone need to dip into the brown-stained water.

At the pump we meet Violet for the first time. Older, she’s solo but has been bouncing from group to group.

We see her, Obie, and Beetlejuice throughout the day. The other two were at the pizza joint and MOC but now we kinda sorta officially meet. They, and 2pac who is even further back, are dragging behind the rest.

We have a huge bright spot in our day late in the afternoon on a low ridge. Bear! Not just any bear- a double tagged male wolfing down blueberries. The trail was very close to his patch and he was unperturbed by our presence. After we took numerous photos, we attempted the usual “Look Big, Make Loud Noises” advice to scare him off. He was more confused than scared. We finally got him to move about 10 feet and we skeedaddled.

At the turn off for the shelter, Obie and Beetlejuice were resting. We all sat around and Obie mentioned someone told her all the hotels in Branchville are full for the holidays. (All being two hotels plus cabins and tenting at the state park.) We got on the phone and it turns out that’s not exactly true. One goes straight to voicemail, but the other the guy says he has a room. Can we call back in 30 minutes? We give Obie the NewTrent so she can get some juice and make a call. She gets the same shpeal from the hotel. Since they are a large group and the Stokes state park cabins can accommodate them, she called there too and got a reservation. Sometimes it’s a good thing to double check things you hear on the trail.

It was mosquito central for the rest of the hike. We are ready for a soda from the famous-for-hating-hikers “Joe to Go”. But he’s closed. Outfitter and I have a road walk one way and the group is going the other way. But we were all so beat we piled into the Steakhouse for drinks and early dinner. It’s us, Violet, Obie, Beetlejuice, 2pac, and one other guy whose name escapes me. It is good food, good company, and a good music selection playing.

We tried to ask about rides at the bar but no luck. They go their way, we go ours. We walked about half the way before getting a ride. (It is illegal in both NJ and NY to hitch, but our guides only make a big deal about NY. I still pulled in my thumb when two police cars drove by.) It is still nice to get a ride, even for a mile or so. Road walking is hot and very hurtful to bruised feet.

The Combin Ridge motel is the sleaziest place we’ve stayed so far. Four car fresheners decorate the place. No washcloth or face towel or shampoo- just two scrawny towels (one covering a hole in the bathroom wall) and some soap that falls apart when mixed with water.

But so what? It’s supposed to rain and we have a roof over our heads. We also have a Comedy Central on TV, a working fridge, and a liquor store near. Outfitter finds some beer, we shower using shampoo I carried from the last hotel, and feel pretty good.

Blueberry Standoff

Beavers have turned this “swamp” into a lake. Next on their agenda: chew all the white blazes down

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