The Climb

May 23, 2018

Destination: Tentsite at Mile 1263.2 Today's Miles: 22.10

Start Location: Allentown Hiking Club Shelter Trip Miles: 1263.20

Climbing to a view of Palmerton
It rained quite a bit last night. I woke at 5 and it was foggy and drippy out, but the rain had stopped.

I got ready early and I’m glad I did because it was a challenging hiking day. My clothes were still wet from yesterday, so while I threw my wet shorts on, I waited until the last possible minute to put my wet socks and shoes on, and then my wet T-shirt. It was a little chilly, so I threw on my rain jacket (yep - also wet) and headed out at a brisk pace to get warm. It was supposed to be warm and sunny today, but the remains of the wet front still needed a few hours to pass through. I wanted to walk about 20-22 miles today. It would be a good day for walking, and a great night to tent without a rainfly!

The first named view today was Knife’s Edge. This was a challenging rock scramble along a ridge line, hence the name. The view was nice and the feature itself just looked cool - it is very aptly named! When I was on Knife’s Edge it felt like a storm was blowing in as the wind picked up and I saw dark clouds forming, but it all dissipated as the morning started to clear. I stopped at Bake Oven Knob to check out the view and learned why I’ve seen so many “no graffiti” signs on the trail. The rocks had a lot of graffiti on them, unfortunately. The views were great though. I saw a flip flopper from the shelter last night, Treefall, having a snack there. 

I stopped at Bake Oven Knob Shelter to have some lunch and dry my feet out a bit. I met a southbounder named Moses there and we chatted a bit. He had just hiked the Israel national trail so we talked about that. The Bake Oven Knob Shelter was old - an original AT shelter built back in the 30s (I think - someone told me this). My next stop, George W. Outerbridge Shelter, was as well. I stopped there because it had the last water source for about 17 miles. I had walked 16 miles but I wanted to keep going. My plan was to load up on water here, then descend to the road crossing for Palmerton and do the climb out to a tent site. That would land me in the dry stretch and I could finish it up tomorrow. 

I got water from the spring, drank a liter and a half, and also boiled water for my dinner, a rice side. I put the rice side in my cook pouch to cook as I walked. This way, I wouldn’t use any of my water supply for cooking, and I would have dinner ready when I got to camp!

Walking with 4 liters of water was definitely slower going. I walked down to the busy Palmerton road and then started the climb out. It was hot out still, but it felt good as there was a slight breeze. What I didn’t realize though was that this was a serious climb! As in rock climbing...or more like bouldering. The trail essentially went straight up, and at many points I had to hoist myself up rocks after making technical advances upwards. It was difficult with the bulk of my pack. I broke down my trekking poles so they would fit on the side of my bag - they were just a liability when I needed both hands to climb. I tried not to look down as I searched for hand and foot holds to hoist myself up. One particular spot took me about 15 minutes to figure out how I would go up, and then to get up the nerve to make the move. My heart was pounding in my chest, but I made it! A fall here would be very, very bad. I was so grateful to make it up this crazy climb! I have a moderate fear of heights, partially driven by a rock climbing incident when I was 17 or 18. It felt like I had overcome my fears when I needed to. The trail had given me the strength to carry on!

The mountain around Palmerton has been heavily mined for zinc. The mining activity is quite obvious - the whole mountain has been carved up with dynamite. I could see the huge mining operation in Palmerton from the ridge line. Part of the reason there is no water on this stretch is that there are a few springs, but the guides say not to drink from them. Why? Because the water quality is spoiled by the mining activity. It’s quite sad! I couldn’t help but think back to Pearisburg where it was quite clear the chemical plant owned that town. I suspect the mine owns Palmerton as well. It’s so sad to see our natural resources, quality of life, and the health of our natural environment destroyed by greed. If I ever went to Palmerton I wouldn’t drink the water there. It’s sad, but we can’t trust that local governments and organizations truly are looking out for us. Sigh.... What a Potemkin village we all live in! 

After the big climb I pushed on to a tent site. Today the hiking was really hard in places (knifes Edge, other very rocky outcrops, the Palmerton climb), and easy in others. Pennsylvania continues to surprise and challenge, always getting creative with its rocks! I was grateful today for awesome weather, a cool breeze, and to make it up the big climb, both alive and despite my fears. Today is Whitewater’s last day on the trail - her time has come to go back to Canada! I wish she were still hiking, but happy I got the chance to meet her and hike with her a bit. She, Wallace, and Day Hiker are back in Port Clinton. Maybe I will see those guys again soon if they pick up the pace! Happy Feet is somewhere behind me as well. I just keep walking north....

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