Currently sitting in the shelter...
It was really interesting sleeping outside in a town last night. I was lulled to sleep by passing traffic, and a semi served as my alarm clock. It actually worked incredibly well. As I was getting ready, a few drops of rain started to patter my tent. All I could do was laugh. I packed up my tent without any real water accumulation and headed across the street to the gas station for breakfast. After two wonderfully oversized donuts and a cup of coffee, I walked back to the trailhead and climbed out of the gap back up onto the ridge. The rain persisted, so I gave in and put on my pack cover. It was another chilly rainy day so I kept the pace quick to stay warm. The walking was pretty boring with no views so I kept my focus on my goal for the day: meeting another college friend in Palmerton, about 20 miles out. My guest for today was Bryan, commonly referred to as "B-rod". All I could do was look on my elevation profile, find a point several miles away, and calculate when I should arrive based on my ideal 3 mile per hour pace. This was mildly entertaining, and coupled with picking out a place to walk among the rocks, I was enthralled. My mind must have wandered for half a second, because I was on my face before I could even react. Usually I stumble and catch myself in these situations, but not this time. I instantly let out a primal scream topped off with a rather uncreative combination of expletives. I had banged my knee hard, but I knew there was no lasting damage. I still needed a minute to lay on my face and repeatedly say "ohhh" and breath air in through clenched teeth. This is a highly effective treatment, recommended by 4 out of 5 doctors. I got up and decided maybe I shouldn't push the pace so much.
I got down to a gap and texted Bryan my estimated arrival time. It's really hard to predict your pace around here because it isn't determined by elevation gain but by the texture of the rocks. I climbed out of the gap and met probably the oldest hiker I've seen. I later learned he was 87 and has climbed all over Europe. I still don't know how he navigates these boulders. My next waypoint was a detour around an environmental Superfund site. Apparently, the Palmerton Zinc Company strip-mined all the ridges around here, leaving them void of any greenery. This spot is being reforested right now. I could use this as an opportunity to talk about humans' responsibility to the environment, but the view down to Palmerton was too cool. The lack of trees on the slope gave me an unobstructed look at the whole surrounding area. Plus, the detour took me on a completely rock-free path. The last bit before the road was a steep descent into Lehigh Gap. It was a little bit reminiscent of the Whites in New Hampshire. I was just grateful that the rain had since stopped and that the rocks had dried. I still cussed a little bit.
I got to the bottom and caught a ride from B-rod. We went into Palmerton and found a diner. The food was amazing, but after that there wasn't much to do in town. B-rod was familiar with the area, so we went on a drive to the town of Jim Thorpe. It's one of those vaguely historic towns on a river where gift shops line the streets. Horse drawn carriages give people tours of town and a train offers hour-long trips into Lehigh Gorge. It really reminded me of Savannah, Georgia. We walked around, talking about B-rod's upcoming departure for the Bay Area, where I just came from. I whined about my banged-up knee, so we went to get me a slushee so I would feel better. Soon enough, it was time for me to get back to the trail and for B-rod to get home to Allentown. I had another sad goodbye then hiked the short slope to the shelter. This one has a really nice spring, prompting me to get water from the trail for the first time in a while, actually. The time in town really turned around my sour opinion of Pennsylvania. The ridges reminded me of those my family would drive through on our way to Ohio, and my heart melted. I have a feeling I'll have a much better hiking day tomorrow.
Nobo count: 8
Sobo count: 0