If you asked me two years ago how I felt about Lehigh Gorge, I’d have said that I equate the Lehigh Gorge falls trail to the Ricketts Glen Trail. What’s even better than Ricketts is that it’s got trains, caves, a river, waterfalls, rock hopping, elevation hiking, rock climbing, and beautiful views. I’d tell you there’s nothing more to desire in a good, tough trail.
Today, I had a wake up call. My boyfriend and I headed down to the gorge in the early afternoon, listening to some great road trip songs while passing beautiful mountain views and scores of Tigerlillies on the roadside. Just as we began to Alphafysiotherapie danstherapie see the brown road signs leading us to the park, two empty bright yellow school busses slowed our pace to a crawl. The busses had mint green signs on the back that read, “Whitewater Rafting Adventures,” and for the next twenty minutes, we inhaled the very- un green exhaust of the two school buses. As we followed the carbon smell into the state park, we counted six more busses leaving, filled with newly trained rafters.
Pulling around the packed parking lot, we already heard the distant sounds of dozens of voices. We passed the first lot, then the second, the third, and made our way around the boat dock area that had parking designated specifically for the “adventure” busses only. A park ranger’s truck was stopped nearby and he was telling a family exiting their car that they couldn’t park in the dock area. We defiantly pulled into a space and from the passenger side mirror, I saw him waving us away. I caught a glimpse at the other (6 or so) cars’ windshields. Every single one was ticketed.
We backed out of the space, waved kindly at the ranger, and pulled into the second lot. A space opened and we pulled forward, when suddenly a white diesel pick up flew into our claimed spot. Nearby, a group of kids stood around non-commitally chatting and smoking. We watched as they greeted the parking space thief as he got out of his truck. They all appeared to be fresh out of high school in their tight jeans. Each one wearing a tee that bore the name of a 60 or 70 rock musician that they’ve probably never even heard of. As we drove past, they barely moved out of the way (maybe being a bit defiant themselves) as we tried to scoot by them to find a parking space. I gave them a gypsy curse kind of glare- which I must say matched pretty well with my head wrapped in a gypsy-like bandana.
Finally, we found a spot and parked in the farthest lot from the trailhead. We bitched about those annoying space thieves for a few minutes and then geared up for the hike. It was a very warm day. The heat generated the noon sun. Considering the weather had been pretty rainy around here lately, the extra Vitamin D instantly put us back into good spirits.
First, we walked to the parking lot nearest the trail and let the cool breath of the cave invite us in. The cave was only a few hundred feet long with two old abandoned train tracks, quite possibly for transporting the coal that now surrounded us. The only sound besides our own voices and soft skuff of our boots was the dripping water from above our heads. In the distance, we could hear birds tweeting.
As we neared the end of the cave, we heard human voices again. Up against the graffiti covered wooden barrier, we looked down upon the river. Part of a concrete bridge stood in front of us and to our right were a few dozen rafters in lifejackets being trained by kayakers. The water curled and splashed white in places awaiting the rafters challenge.
Some families and couples hung out on the shore, a few had their dogs on leashes, and one couple skipped rocks into the speeding river. While the mouth of this cave was wide enough for all to see you, from inside of this cave, the darkness made you feel like a spy. We watched for a little longer, commenting on a father and son preparing to take two triangular inner tubes downstream, and then turned back watching cave dwelling birds fly in and out tending their nests in some cubbies. Once back into the light, we crossed the wooden bridge and made our way to the falls approach trail.
Erin L. Delaney is a 2006 Appalachian Trail hiker, freelance writer, poet, adjunct faculty member at Luzerne County Community College, and she is preparing for the arrival of her first child. While she might have cut back her hiking miles, she hasn’t stopped getting out there every week. She currently keeps a blog about hikes throughout Pennsylvania at blogspot.com (HikeTaker) and a site about her pregnancy at (TheLittleBlueberry).