The warm humid day started for us, the father and son team, Joel Penn and Jeremy, before 6:00 am when we left our house and headed north for our father and son day of hiking. Two hours later, our Pontiac Grand Am, pulled into the Delaware Water Gap Dunnfield Creek parking lot. Eight year old Jeremy laced up his Merrill hiking boots while I laced up my Vasque hikers. Most of our gear that day came from REI, my favorite store since I discovered it in 2002. We spread open the National Geographic map of the area and pondered our choices. We decided to hike the Appalachian Trail (White Blaze) to Sunfish Pond. The return hike would be on the Dunnfield Creek Trail. It was warm and humid, so we decided to leave our North Face hats and jackets in the car. Jeremy put on his Phillies baseball cap, while I used my wide brimmed Sunbrella hat. We stuffed the Igloo with lunch in my backpack, adjusted my CamelBak hose, and off we went up the trail, each carrying a walking stick in our hands. (OK, first we both used the Porta Potty in the parking lot.)
We enjoyed our walk across the foot bridge and the trail quickly rose above the creek. Interstate 80 faded in the distance. About an hour into our hike, we came upon a narrow portion with ground cover on both sides of the trail. Up ahead no more than twenty feet, blocking our way, was a partially coiled reddish, brown Timber Rattlesnake (though we did not know what type of rattler it was at the time). Quickly and quietly we backed down the trail. The snake seemed content sunning itself on the trail and was in no rush to move along. We gently tossed a few small sticks in the snakes’ direction in hopes it would slither off the trail. The sticks landed far short of the snake. Annoyed by the disturbance, the snake slithered into the brush. We quickly moved up the trail beyond the spot where the snake had slithered by. A bit later, while taking a ten minute water break, two hikers approached, quite harried and upset. Apparently they had been walking through some brush (off trail) and a rattlesnake rattled and scared the sh.t out of them. They both swore they would never hike “off trail” ever again. This gave Jer and I a good chuckle.
We approached Sunfish Pond – our lunch destination. Jeremy discovered tadpoles, toads, water snakes and other wonderful friends in the Pond. We had a glorious lunch on the bench. The sun hid behind the clouds as we finished up our PB&J sandwhiches, apples and Oreo cookies.
We hiked our way down the muddy but passable trail to Dunnfield Creek. About an hour down the light drizzle turned to steady rain. Soon, we were soaked from our heads to our toes and all the way through to our socks. Our glorious time stomping through puddles and existing with the elements ended with the first loud thunder burst. We were fortunate to find a rock outcropping and made our way under it to escape the rainfall. We huddled together as the lightning and thunder exploded all around us. Finally the sky quieted, the rain slowed to a drizzle, and we made our way back down the trail. We reached the car mid-afternoon in a steady rain shower.
As we approached our car, it was immediately apparent that the driver side rear tire was flat. Oh our lucky day! We walked under Interstate 80 to the DWG Kittatinny Point Visitor Center. There I asked a Park Ranger to look after Jeremy while I changed the flat tire. Jeremy and the Ranger discussed the “Rattlesnake” and the thunder storm. Based on Jeremy’s description, it was determined we encountered a Timber Rattlesnake. The Ranger agreed to continue his chatting with Jeremy while I changed the flat tire.
Afterwards, I thanked the Ranger for his kindness in looking out for Jer. Before we left for home, we swapped our sogging wet clothes for some dry clothes and stopped at our favorite restaurant for grilled cheese sandwiches and Blue Bunny ice cream. It was a long exhausting and exhilarating father and son hiking day filled with all sorts of surprises and calamities. No wonder Jeremy napped the entire way home.
Dictated by Joel Penn and published by normaeroth.com