Looking down from the top of the rocks at Lehigh Gap
Elevation 974 feet
Miles Hiked 20.7
This will be my last day of hiking this year. I'm still at Bert's Restaurant & Hostel, but I'm using a different mode of titling this blog entry for reasons that will become obvious later.
Bert's Restaurant & Hostel
My original goal was to complete my hike in Wind Gap. The town of Wind Gap is close to Allentown where my flight home originates, and the duffel bag for my backpack that I mailed in Harper's Ferry is there. However, plans changed when I arrived at Bert's Restaurant & Hostel. I realized that I could have the proprietor, Bob, drive me to Wind Gap, get the duffel bag at the post office, and then drop me off at the Wind Gap trailhead for a slack pack back to Palmerton. So, that's what I did.
Although the "mile" designation above infers an end point, it is actually a start point as I hike southbound today and for the only time during my 2017 hike. When I finish today, I will connect with the previous day's northbound hike.
Bob dropped me off at the Wind Gap trailhead a little before 9:00 AM. The trail went straight up to the ridge and stayed there. There were small ups and downs but nothing significant in line with a major gap drop. I had been walking on the Pennsylvania rocks for over two weeks, but this part of the trail in comparison was even more rocky. I was able to maintain a good 2 MPH pace, but it could have been even faster if not for the rocks.
When Bob dropped me off, it was 36 degrees. The temperature rose rapidly to the low 70's which is when I shed my down jacket. Many hikers have talked about high water consumption on this part of the trail, so I had 2 1/2 liters with me just in case.
The hike was uneventful and I was making good time in spite of the rocks. Without checking Guthook, my GPS navigation app, I thought I would finish the twenty mile hike by 7:30 PM and before dark. In my dreams.
Around 7:00 PM, a completely rock free and grass covered part of the trail suddenly appeared from the rock strewn trail I had been on for ten hours. I picked up the pace to almost a run. Ten minutes later that is when I hit it - Blue Mountain Ridge and Lehigh Gap.
The word is it is harder going down than up. Of course, I went down.
Now I don't want to diminish the Knifes Edge (see yesterday's post), but this boulder scramble was in a whole different league. And it was almost dark. I began climbing over the boulders always watching for the next white blaze, which indicates the path of the Appalachian Trail. As it got progressively darker and darker, it dawned on me that I'll never finish by 7:30 PM. I debated whether to pull out my headlamp, but my night vision was still good, so I kept going without it. And then I couldn't find the next white blaze.
I dropped down to a lower part of the boulder covered ridge. I could see cars below - far below. Still no white blazes. It was now pitch black out and I was lost.
Finally, I realized that I was stuck. I had been scrambling for a half hour looking for the trail with no luck. It crossed my mind that I may be up on those boulders for the night. It was time to do some serious navigating.
After a five minute search through the day pack I had, I found my headlamp and put it on. Then the phone and Guthook came out. Once I had a chance to examine Guthook, I realized that I was too low in the boulder pile. I had to go up. Not so easy given how the boulders lay - not to mention in the dark though the headlamp helped a lot.
Anyway, up I went while continuously scanning for a white blaze - and there it was! The trail actually went over the peak of the ridge and down the other side. In the dark I missed the turn, because I expected the trail to go down.
At this point, a sigh of relief would be in order. Nope. It was almost a vertical drop to continue on the trail on the other side of the ridge. That's when my phone rang. Bob from Bert's was down in the parking lot at the end of the trail. He was concerned when he couldn't find me at the hostel, so he came looking for me. I was about .3 of a mile from him but wasn't sure how long it would take me to get down. Bob said he would wait.
So I continued down with my trekking poles under my arm. This was mostly hand over hand climbing and the poles were useless. Once past the largest of the boulders, the trail turned once again into a rock laden trail. I picked up speed and finally reached Bob's truck a little after 8:30 PM.
The above are three videos I found on YouTube that I thought would give the reader an idea of what the climb is like.
Without question, the last part of the hike on the boulder covered ridge was the hardest and most dangerous part of my Appalachian Trail hike to date. On the plus side, I made it. Bob and I went out for a beer.
That's the end of my hiking for 2017. I hiked 746 miles on the Appalachian Trail this year, 255 miles in 17 days this September and October and a total of 1,278.1 miles on the trail in the last 18 months. I've hiked through seven states in total, which includes all but about twenty miles of Pennsylvania.
Whew! My feet really hurt.