After a long day wandering through the woods I was looking forward to finding a source of water and a place to camp. My water was running low, but my map showed a spring less than two miles away, so I figured it would be ok.
Despite the fact that I had some water and a plan for more, I got very excited when I got to the next road crossing and saw dozens of gallon jugs by the hiking information sign (typical for trail magicked water). I crossed the road thinking about how nice it would be to have clean fresh water that I wouldn’t have to sit and treat or filter. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I realized that every single jug was empty. The sight of those jugs had sent me on an emotional roller coaster that had me on the verge of tears. Clearly I was hungrier and more tired than I realized.
With renewed determination I started toward the hill ahead of me. As I got further and further from the road I started hearing really loud music up ahead of me. I was confused since I. was hiking further and further away from civilization, but I was definitely approaching what sounded like a giant party.
At the top of the next rise I saw the source of the noise, the tents, stages, and vendors of a festival. There was a swampy little trail (about 50ft long) that led from the AT to the festival and I decided to go check it out…
I wandered out of the woods and into the edge of the festival and was met by a barrage of people asking me if I was a hiker. When I said that I was and that I’d been on the trail since May, they started excitedly hugging me and welcoming me to their festival.
Their smiles were infectious, and sitting in front of me was a tanker truck full of potable water and the tents of hundreds of campers. What a perfect crazy place to solve my water and camping needs. I asked if I could join them for the night and they quickly threw a Farmfest 2013 admission bracelet on my wrist and pointed me to the camping area.
I quickly set up my tent and set off to explore the festival. My first stop was the food vendors where I bought some fresh squeezed lemonade and some snacks. Then, smiling ear to ear at my good fortune, wandered around the other vendors, the three different sound stages, and the meditation zones.
It was still early, so I went back to my tent in an attempt to rest and to try to find some energy. I’d hiked 20+ miles and had heard that the festival didn’t really get going until late (even though there was stuff going on all three stages already). As I rested, my tent was constantly bombarded by frisbees. Everyone was relaxing and enjoying the last rays of the sun.
After a bit of rest I got up and wandered around the festival again. There was a weird and wonderful mixture of music and people. Stage 1 featured some kind of hip-hop group with people dancing and hula-hooping to the beat. Stage 2 featured some sort of industrial dubstep with people spazzing out (I mean dancing) in elaborate outfits. Stage 3 had a bunch of people making giant dreamcatchers and tie-dyed shirts. I was incredibly amused by the odd combinations.
I sat down with a crowd of people at Stage 2 (industrial dubstep) to listen and watch. The crowd was full of locals, and after we’d chatted for a bit they adopted me into crowd. I ended up hanging out with them all night and we were all entertained by the crazy mishmash of cultures on display at the festival.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was watching people interact with the bubbles guy. He would let loose tons and tons of giant bubbles and then people would chase them, or try to catch them, or sometimes break out of the dancing mob to run screaming through the middle of them. There was something about the bubbles that just brought out a positive child-like joy in everybody, all night long.
As the night and the party raged on, the dome remained a quiet place to retreat and meditate, though I opted to retreat to my tent to try to get some rest, since I had a full day of hiking ahead of me in the morning.
At around 3 am I woke up because I had to go to the bathroom. The party was still raging around me and I couldn’t help but wander around a little bit again to see what was going on. At that point they had a giant bonfire going and people were mostly either hanging out around it, or in the silent disco. I joined the group by the fire to enjoy the warmth for a few minutes before once again retreating to my tent and sleep.
When I got up in the morning (around 7 am) there was still a crowd around the bonfire playing music and a dance party still raging at the other end of the festival. The sounds of the festival followed me as I hiked back into the mountains and despite a lack of sleep I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about my last night in New Jersey!