End: Hiker Hostel, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Vernon, NJ
For the first time, I left the trail and am now staying at a hiker hostel in Vernon, NJ. Many hikers on the AT stay at hiker hostels when they stop in towns to resupply (about once a week, at least). I figured, to get part of the AT experience, I might as well spend a night at a hostel. And, it is 5 miles past the shelter I had originally planned to stay at tonight, so it gives me a head start on covering more mileage tomorrow.
Hiking felt pretty comfortable today. Maybe I'm getting used to my pack, maybe my legs are getting used to it, maybe it's because I dropped some extra food weight when my mom left, but I'm not complaining.
Hiking in the morning went over a lot of rocks. Around 2pm I reached the NY-NJ state border, this time crossing from NY back into NJ. This was so much more low-key than the first border crossing I encountered on Day 2 - there was no fence or anything! Just a small line painted on the rocky ground.
Once in NJ, I later saw a big snake right in the middle of the trail. It was at least three feet long. I went around it by walking off the trail a few feet, but then I saw another one curled around a tree! I went around the other way.
I reached Wawayanda Shelter around 4:30, and since it was a beautiful day and only 5 miles to Vernon, I decided to continue hiking. Pony Express and High Octane recommended I stay in this hostel.
I decended Wawayanda Mountain, passed through a beautiful meadow, and reached the road near Vernon by 7:15. There's a farm stand that sells ice cream there, but they were closed. I had hoped to get ice cream, but I guess that's what I deserve for not getting out of camp earlier. I started walking the 3 miles to Vernon and was able to hitch a ride to town.
There are three other hikers staying at the hostel tonight - Perennial, Trent, and Jen. The church welcomes hikers for a $10 suggested donation. They have a shower, TV, laundry machines, and a kitchen, and we sleep in the community room in the basement. Hikers also have to do a small chore, like take out the garbage or put the dirty towels in the washing machine. Every night around 7 a member of the church stops by to check in on everything; otherwise it's pretty self-maintained. I arrived just as tonight's member on duty was leaving.
Taking a shower felt great! There were probably 50 bottles of shampoo in the bathroom, all donated or left by hikers. After I showered, it was almost 9:00, and I went out for pizza and a big salad for dinner. Then I washed my socks, shorts, and shirt. I had to wear my rain pants and jacket while I did laudry because I hadn't planned to stop here and didn't have any other clothes to wear.
Today was finally my first day without any rain!