When the AT experts decided to label Pennsylvania rocky, they must have based their evaluation on the section between PA 309 and Palmerton. “Rocky” seems like an understatement for what I encountered today. The portion of the trail from the Knife Edge to Bake Oven Knob was downright nasty. At times I thought that there must be a better way to get from point A to point B without putting my life in danger. I tried to keep my mind on each step as I slowly made my way over the slanted rocks with exposure on both sides. This was probably the most technical section of trail that I have encountered thus far.
The day began at the Allentown Hiking Club Shelter. When I awoke at 6:00 after a rather restless night, I couldn’t believe that I was the last to awake. Shadow and Shade were already packing up their gear and Speck was having breakfast. After hastily downing a fruit pie and some water, I hiked out of camp with Speck at 6:55. Early in the hike all went well. We hiked steadily, enjoying a conversation as we walked. At Blue Mountain Summit Rd. we took a break to fill our water bottles at the restaurant right off the trail. Ken, the owner, came out for a chat, offering some information about the area.
After returning to the trail the real hike began. About three miles later Speck and I reached the infamous Knife Edge, only about .2 mile in duration, but very strenuous. I hiked ahead for awhile; then Speck took the lead. Even though the hiking was tough, we took the time to take a few action shots of each other. Speck called the section exhilarating. I called it scary. Trying to harness the adrenalin rush as best as I could, I just kept reminding myself that a blind man had once hiked this. It didn’t really help, but Speck’s encouragement did.
When we finally reached the end of the perilous section, Bear Rocks awaited. These rocks, however, were not exactly on the trail, so even though we had to hike over another rocky section, the difficulty was lessened. But at about the time that I had regained my composure, we were confronted with Bake Oven Knob, another technical, rocky segment. As with the Knife Edge, our pace slowed, but Bake Oven Knob proved to be less challenging although still very difficult. After all the rocky sections, I think we both welcomed the more gentle terrain for the remainder of today’s hike.
Like so many other days, we saw few other thru hikers. We did meet several section hikers, most southbound. When we reached PA 873 and the Lehigh River we were left with a mile and a half to Palmerton. Fortunately, a gentleman in a van, Bob, agreed to drive Speck and me into town. We checked in at the Jailhouse Hostel on Delaware St. The hostel is located in the basement of borough hall near the police station. Other thru hikers at the hostel were Medicine Man, Kudo, Broken Pack, Doc, Boone, and Spider Mac.
Even though there were challenges in today’s hike, I somehow managed to stay vertical all day. By taking my time, focusing on each step, and remembering that many were offering up prayers for me daily, I succeeded. But that’s what the Appalachian Trail is all about, a series of challenges that have to be met daily. Like today, tomorrow will present more difficult sections of trail that will have to be dealt with. For now, it’s getting late. I’m writing this from a bench in a park across the street from the hostel. Bugs are circling the street lights overhead. Another good day draws to conclusion, yet tomorrow more adventure awaits as I climb out of Lehigh Gap on the Appalachian Trail.