Palmerton PA (June 29)
Ranger and I hike down to Palmerton. The trail opens up into direct sun, and we both take a break to put on sun protection. For me this is a regular hat, but for Ranger it is something far more. He gets a sheepish look and says something like, “Just wait until you see this. Then you’ll really think my name should be ‘Super Prepared’.” (We’ve already discussed this trail name as a fitting possibility for him.) He pulls out an adjustable “neck rag” that velcros onto the back of his hat, covering his neck. The funny thing is, it also cinches up tight in the front. There is no sun getting in there nohow. I might not even think this is so funny, but the fact that he’s sheepish about it really helps with the comedy of the situation. Plus, apparently he’s been through this routine before. He says, “Ah yes, first it starts with the smile and chuckles….”, he pauses, “…then the full out laughter….yeah…laugh away.” It looks pretty funny. I guess I’ve gotten my share of goofy attire lately, what with Daniel and the Frog Toggs and now this odd neck rag.
Anyway, we start the boulder scramble, which truly is a boulder scramble, up an entire mountain. It’s kind of surreal- down below cars are driving by on daily commutes, and these two hikers are visible up above, just scrabbling around from rock to rock. Very adventurous feel to it. We’re climbing in a hot, exposed area, and it’s slow going, but I still think it’s kind of fun. Definitely a unique section of the trail. I can’t imagine covering this ground when the rocks are slippery and wet though, or in very hot weather, or as an older hiker with less agility. Fortunately there is a blue-blaze bypass side trail for those who choose it.
Ranger and I are pleased to get to the top of the mountain and have this part of trail behind us. After we rest a while, I say, “I don’t want to diminish what we’ve done, but…” and then I have to laugh because Ranger looks at me wearily and says, “…but you’re about to, aren’t you.” I know that he might not have enjoyed the rocks in the same way I did. I say, “…but I still don’t believe this is the toughest section of the AT”, and he does agree with me. But it definitely was our biggest challenging climb yet, I will say that.
The next part of trail is spent hiking up on the ridge line, and I’m pleased to find black raspberries and wild blueberries along the trail. I’m amazed by these blueberries- they grow in low to the ground scrub brush, and they seem extra tasty to me. They are much smaller, yet tastier, than blueberries I’ve eaten in the past. A good treat on a tough day.
The rocks continue to show up on the trail, though nothing as big as what we’ve just completed. The rocky trail is actually kind of mesmerizing in a way- you really have to concentrate on where your next steps will be. It’s kind of like a puzzle. I feel pretty worn by the end of the day- the rocks force you to concentrate mentally and use those balancing muscles to stay upright.
So it’s been another full and diverse day on the trail. Full of laughs, rocks and edibles.
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