Every once in a while I really overestimate how good of shape I’m in. Now to give myself credit, I probably am in the best shape I’ve been in for a long time-that being said, I’ve learned that I am not well equipped to snowshoe up a mountain in over 3 feet of snow.
I got new snowshoes for Christmas and have been dying to try them out. I’ve also been wanting to hike Mt. Tammany, a mountain on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap, that supposedly boasts an awesome view of Pennsylvania, so decided to take advantage of a Tuesday I had off from work and snowshoe the mountain.
I packed what I thought would be sufficient provision (one Gatorade and one Cliff Bar), left at 10 in the morning so I’d have all afternoon for my climb, and really thought that things were looking up when I found a Wawa in East Stroudsburg to have lunch at (NEPA Wawa’s are my white whale). I followed the very straightforward directions I found on this website to the parking lot where the trail began. I expected there to be at least a few other winter enthusiasts being that it was a gorgeous, sunny day, and based on the Water Gap’s popularity, but it turns out I was the only one brave enough (ie: stupid enough) to try my hand at this.
I read online that the Mount Tammany trail was marked in red. I saw the trailhead, but thought (mistakenly) that those markers were probably buried (they are actually high up on trees), so set off on the other main trail (the blue trail), thinking (again, mistakenly) that I’d be able to find an alternative route up the mountain. The really stupid part was that about a half mile in, I decided to abandon the trail for a more scenic route. Here’s the thing: I’ve been snowshoeing before and while it’s certainly a workout (it’s similar to hiking), I never find it exceedingly difficult. I also never tried to cut a path through 3 feet of snow (that might be a slight exaggeration- I can’t help it if I’m the Brian Williams of the PA blogging world!), at mostly 45 degree angles, all while using my “instincts” to guide me. It was one of those humbling moments where I would be huffing, and puffing, and dripping sweat, and turn around and find that I’d only made it 20 feet from where I last stopped.
The one saving grace, and what didn’t make the day a total waste, was what I mentioned before: that it was one of those sunny, winter days that just calls for you to be doing some sort of outdoor activity. After an epic hour and a half struggle, the ground finally flattened out and I was rewarded with some pretty outstanding views of both PA and Jersey. I stood there basking in my own flawed glory, when I turned to my left and realized I was literally only halfway up. My heart sank because as soon as that realization dawned on me, I knew that I wasn’t even going to attempt to make it the full way. For one, my legs were jello. Two, I was breathing like an asthmatic, and three, I remembered why skiing on flat ground was my favorite winter pastime: I’m terrified of heights. Then, the way down proved to be just as, if not more difficult, than my ascent.
Of course on my way down, I ran into the well-marked Tammany Trail. I wonder if I had just stuck with that initially, had I been able to make it all the way to the top-I know I want to come back and give this another try, but that will be in the summer with a pair of hiking shoes, and no snow.
That night, to reward myself for a job half done, my father and I grabbed dinner at the Barley Creek Brewing Company, another place I’d been wanting to visit for a while now. Barley Creek was the first craft brewery in NEPA, and is a cool place to visit in its own right, probably doubly so in the summer when it has a wiffleball diamond, and outdoor area. I got a flight of beer, which came equipped with a free shot glass (basically, I love free shit and would go back solely for another shot glass). The beer was good-the standouts being their brown ale and a caramel apple ale that was much better than I anticipated. Sadly, I do not have any pictures of Barley Creek, because my phone died. It went right along with the theme of the day, which was in short, that I’m the worst.