Hike 8



Our 8th and final PA Section hike was planned for five days over Easter weekend 4/17 to 4/22 of 2003.  We had relatively short notice to plan since I am between contracting jobs and we are building our house.  We had to be somewhat tentative about the dates since either work or house plans would take precedence over a 5 day hike.  Since it was raining on Thursday the 17th, we decided to wait and go Friday morning.

This hike started with the usual pandemonium packing the night before when we should have actually already been on the trail in the tent if the original plan was happening. 

As something of a comic relief episode, it was raining worse when we started this hike than it was when we cancelled the last hike early due to the rain!  Go Figure!

We left April 18th, 2003 on Good Friday about 12:30pm.  Mommom accompanied us as she did on our first hike and gave us each little bunnies and pins to attach them to our packs.   She smiled wearing a pink plastic grocery bag as a rain hat and looked with one eye through the little plastic handle hole.  She was a sight to hike away from!

We began the rather steep ascent up the East side of Lehigh Gap on Blue Mountain in the rain.  In just a few minutes we were high above our drop-off point at the far end of the Lehigh River Bridge.

The climb was somewhat treacherous at some points and the treachery was compounded by the reasonably heavy rain at the time.  Here is a point on the left where climbing required finding hand and foot holds and pulling yourself and your pack up over the wet rocks. The girls did admirably with packs averaging about 40+ pounds.

We finally got to the top after a more than 1000 foot vertical ascent.  We stopped to rest at a small stick and stone Teepee.  Next to it were the initials "U S M C"  presumably referring to the US Marine Corps that were performing with all our military an amazing deliverance of the Iraqi people.

As we had been warned, the next several miles through a former Zinc Plant's Superfund Cleanup Site was bleak.  It was made bleaker by the fact that last August, what little vegetation had grown in the area, was burned off by a devastating forest fire.

Our first night was spent at the 10 mile point of this hike near a spring at the intersection of the AT and Delp's trail.  Since it was occasionally sprinkling, we used the tent's rain fly for only the second or third time ever.

In the middle of the next day, we passed the Leroy Smith shelter.  We stopped in for a rest, snack and sock drying break and filled our water containers at an amazingly fast flowing spring just down the mountain a hundred yards or so.

The next day we hiked...duhh.  We found a 1/4 inch plate steel sign (right photo) painted rusty yellow attached to a tree with an inscription made of heavy welding marks that said:  "Lost? Pen Argy!"  Well...that helped.  If we weren't lost before, we were now.  The next day I noticed a town on the map named, Pen Argyl.  Apparently someone was trying to help any potentially lost hikers get their bearings.  Unfortunately, those three words with an unusually strange town name and the final "L" not quite fitting all the way on the sign and looking like an exclamation mark, didn't really help.

The trail follows along the crest of several beautiful rock outcroppings.

I calculated that this day would be the day we would cross the 200 mile mark in our hike.  We were all pumped up and took this celebratory "200" photo.  Later I was to discover that it was actually taken at the 208 mile mark.  But that didn't dampen our excitement at our accomplishment.  Better to overshoot than find out we had miles to go yet till we reached that mark.

Heather wasn't feeling too well later in the day, so I shot her.  Erica couldn't watch so she went and looked over the valley while I took care of Heather.  Since I now have a permit to carry my handgun legally, it is easier to help sick hikers on their way.

Since the girls were at times having trouble picking me out of the crowd of other adult male hikers on the trail, I decided to identify myself with unique and distinctive head gear.  I created a fashionable sun bonnet from a bandana and they no longer had trouble finding me when they needed me.  I think Martha Stewart would be envious.

We descended into Wind Gap and crossed under Route 33 and then ascended Kittatinny Mountain.  That Saturday night, the 19th of April, we camped just past the rim of the mountain.

On Sunday afternoon, we arrived at the Kirkridge Shelter.  Here we filled out water containers at an outside spigot provided for hikers at a nearby spiritual retreat center.  Heather was relaxing at the edge of the lookout and noticed several hang gliders sailing along the updraft of the wind along the ridge.

As we continued our hike, it wasn't long till we found the site the hang gliders were launching from.  We waited for quite a while, but none of them were able to launch while we waited because the breeze was too strong.  The hang gliders we saw were mostly banana shaped parachute types where the "pilot" would just stand with his back to the wind and pull on the top set of cables.  The glider would fill with air and lift the flyer off the ground and hopefully let him sail away before crashing into the trees just a few yards down wind.  The flyer in the picture above almost made it, but his glider flipped up, spun around, tangled, and fell in a heap seconds after this shot was taken.

After leaving the hang gliders, we hiked another 6 or 7 miles and caught our first glimpse of the Delaware River and New Jersey beyond.  3 1/2 Years and 225 miles ago we left Maryland and here we finally could see the end of the trail!  We were so close to completion, we called Cheryl to come pick us up a day early and decided to finish the trail on that same day.

When we got to the edge of the gap overlooking the Delaware River, we could see the "Crooked Mountain" (Heather's name for it) that is the continuation of Kittatiny mountain and the AT in New Jersey.

The last 4 miles of the hike were through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. 

There were beautiful Hemlock forests, streams and ponds.

We waited just outside an historic Inn at the entrance to the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area.  We were picked up at about 8:30 pm Easter Sunday 4/20/2003, therewith completing our hike of the Pennsylvania Section of the Appalachian Trail!    Yippee!!!