George W. Outerbridge Shelter to The Church of the Mountain Hostel, Delaware Water Gap, PA – 36.9 miles
I slept great again and cooler weather helps for sure. As I head out at 5:45 AM, the rain starts almost immediately. The climb out of the gap of Palmerton (Lehigh Gap) is nuts. It’s straight up rock climbing…in the rain. The rock climb would be tough without a pack, in dry weather. It’s difficult climbing and finding hand and foot holds, putting a hand in a vertical crack and making a fist (aka hand jamming) to pull myself up sections of rock. I am young and fit. How do older hikers, girls, shorter folks, or even most solo hikers do difficult sections like this? There is no alternate route.
After this rock climbing section, I pass through the Palmerton EPA Superfund Site and enter State Game Land. The rain gets heavier and stays this way for most of the day, just dumping from the sky.
Eventually I am completely soaked to the core and my rain jacket is merely another insulating layer to retain my body heat. I only stop twice all day, to quickly take food from my pack and stuff it in my jacket pockets (to continue eating on the move) and then keep chugging along. I’m in beast mode; putting in a hard effort all the way to the hostel in DWG. If I stop, I’ll get cold (cool down); I’ve got to move quickly to maintain my warmth, even though it’s about 60 degrees. The sooner I get to the hostel, the sooner I get out of the rain and into a hot shower. Knowing a hot shower and dry bed are at the end of the day certainly makes it easier to push hard on a wet day like this. It hasn’t rained like this all hike. The trail is literally a river like I’ve never seen, six to eight inches of water rushing along in places and ponding in others. It’s wild. The water, over my ankles, is so cold it saps my warmth and makes me cold walking through it for hours. Staying warm is another reason I need to push it.
I get to the road and speed down to town to The Church of the Mountain Hostel. The hostel, located in the basement of the church, has a bunk room, lounge area, bathroom, and shower. I arrive at 6:45 PM. I walk in the door and stand in the entry way absolutely soaked, dripping wet. Four guys, warm and dry, lounging on the couches and chairs look at me, silent. They welcome me and I take a few minutes to strip off all the wet stuff I can so I don’t get the room wet as I make my way to the bunks. As I’m taking things off, one guy asks my name and said he recognizes my name from Cloudwalker, who said I wouldn’t be far behind.
As I start to the bunk room, I pause, standing there in my shorts and shirt, as a guy asks if I am running the trail or hiking it. I reply that I’m hiking and he says, “Well you look like you are fit enough to run a marathon right now! (It makes me chuckle that he didn’t follow up with how far I hiked today. (Well beyond a marathon.)
After 13 hours of hiking in the rain, my hands are soggy and wrinkled like I’ve never seen before. I shower and get on dry clothes. I feel fantastic. This was an epic day, one of the most memorable of the hike. I will remember this one for a very long time. Cranking out big miles in terrible conditions really builds confidence and mental toughness. I feel great.
I talk to Lindsay for a while as I cook and eat dinner. Tomorrow morning I’ll get my mail drop from the Post Office and then immediately head into New Jersey. I’ll be getting a late start, but hopefully I’ll have another good day. PA is done!