Having two cars, once again, Maple and I decided to complete our trek across Pennsylvania this weekend by backpacking north from Wind Gap, tenting at Kirkridge Shelter, and then crossing the Delaware Water Gap into New Jersey.
After climbing up the Kittatinny Mountain, which begins north-easterly of Wind Gap, we found ourselves back on the rock-strewn path that is so typical of the AT in Pennsylvania. This rocky path is without any distinctive landmark for seven miles, until one reaches Wolf Rocks, which is a ridge-line pile of boulders, across the top of which the AT stretches. This section is nearly as difficult and dangerous to cross as was the Knife Edge, which the AT traverses on its way toward Lehigh Gap. Between Wolf Rocks and Route 191 the trail is much improved, both smoother and wider.
After crossing 191, where there is roadside parking, it is only half a mile to Kirkridge Shelter. Thus, although the shelter was deserted when Maple and I arrived, we figured we’d be having company, and even though rain was in the forecast, we decided to raise our tent outside, so we’d have privacy. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before a group of Boy Scouts arrived. They were so polite and gracious that we wouldn’t have minded if they had stayed, but there is very little tent space at Kirkridge Shelter, and after one of the leaders discovered the vacant lot of grass just north of the shelter, they packed up and set up their camp at this preferred location. We also had the pleasure of meeting two-time thru-hiker Nuthatch, who was on a day-hike with her canine companion, Mahoosuc, and decided to briefly stop by the shelter for the sake of memories. Ultimately, as things turned out, Maple and I had the shelter to ourselves throughout the night.
There is water seasonally at Kirkridge Shelter, potable water from a spigot, but the source is turned off during winter. Although it is early Spring, with temperatures now in the 70s, I decided it were best not to take chances, and so I packed 6 liters from Wind Gap. It was a good thing I did! There is still no water between Wind Gap and Caledonia Creek, at the bottom of Mount Minsi.
It rained during the night and nearly all morning. Fortunately, the weather cooled considerably, so in the morning Maple and I were not uncomfortable hiking in our rain jackets. We were back on the rock-strewn path until we reached Totts Gap, two miles north-east of the shelter. Between there and Mount Minsi, the AT follows a service road that makes for easy hiking.
The descent from Mount Minsi is steep, and one has to use large rocks as stepping stones. In the rain, these were slick, and though I tried to be as careful as I could, making use of my trekking poles for balance, I nevertheless slipped and came down on my hip. It was like slipping on ice and falling on concrete. I’m not sure whether my backpack made my fall harder or lessened the impact, but I soon was on my feet again, little worse for the wear. The occasional fall is just part of the price one pays for the pleasure of backpacking.
By the time we reached the community of Delaware Water Gap, on the western side of the bridge crossing the Delaware River, the rain had stopped and the sky was rapidly clearing. We had another mile to go before we, finally, crossed the bridge and arrived at the parking lot at Dunnfield Creek in New Jersey.