Week 5 (April 29 to May 5): Rain, Rocks and Kindness
“Ah, kindness./what a simple way/to tell another struggling soul/that there is love/to be found/in the world.” Alison Malee. @alison.malee
April 29th started at Winder Furnace Shelter 1226.9 and hiked to Eckville Shelter and last night at Kirkridge Shelter 1290.5. Total Miles = 64.5
Music for the Trail
Dessert Queen’s hiking earworm: mashup of the following tunes: Elvis Preseley “Blue Christmas” (hearing another hiker sing this tune), Beethoven, “Second Movement,” Seventh Symphony. 1811-1812. And Talking Heads “Burning down the House,” or its parody “burning down the rocks.”
Mr. Rook’s hiking earworm: Parody of Annie Lennox “Walking on Broken Glass.” “Walking on, walking on broken rocks….Walking on, walking on broken rocks.”
- Eckville Shelter. After a day of hiking off-and-on in spitting and misting, we were very grateful for the four walled shelter with a roof. Trail talk focused on a week of rain and dropping temperatures to near freezing (32 F). We welcomed the rain, because the area needed it. You just had to look at the sage colored moss that looked thirsty and dried up. But the cold — not so much — I was acclimated to hiking in the mid-sixties. But that night we were warm and dry in the Eckville Shelter with a great group of hikers. We shared food and great conversation around the picnic table including Girl Scout’s thin mint cookies to celebrate Mr. Rook’s Birthday. (NOTE: The shelter has a flush toilet. We did not use the solar shower after a day of being cold and wet.)
- Mr. Rook the hiking partner. This past week I am so grateful for having a hiking partner to coach me through the knife edge (i.e., a long ridge of rocks that is exposed. It is narrow and sharp and based on its appearance it looks kinda like a knife). I was able to boulder climb up to the “knife part,” but I looked down on either side. Bad idea. Sharp, pointy boulders were hungry for some poor hiker (ME?) to stumble, crash onto them. I summarized a fall equals death or required a life flight to fix many broken bones and a head injury. Then, there were the potential snakes that lash out of the crevasses to take a snap at hikers who crossed their path (NOTE: Snake thoughts were unrealistic; the day was rainy and cold enough to see your breath. PA snakes were smarter than me by hunkering down in their nest.)
My gut told me to plant my bum down, and I did, clinging to the rock. My fear wouldn’t let me move. It wasn’t until Mr. Rook helped me rise back up and identified my next steps to reach the white blaze in the distance.
Everyone needs a Mr. Rook in their life. Everyone needs to be open and allow others to help them.
- Not Caving In. I am grateful for not conforming to what other hikers had in their backpacks and what they were wearing. It is very easy out on the trail to get caught up in the frenzy of lightening the weight of your backpack. However, I’m grateful for my 59 years of wisdom living in Gardening Zones 5 and 6 during the Spring by not mailing home my heavy fleece, extra shirt, and gloves back in Duncannon (Note: a gardener needs to know when to plant their garden and it’s determined by the last frost date. Check out what zone you live in here.). April was a big tease of summer temperatures. But the good olde Alberta Clipper decided to give us a taste of normal spring rains and cool weather. I wore everything this week to keep warm.
- LadyBug’s breathing technique. Mr. Rook, LadyBug and I were climbing up out of a gap. I was doing my usual huffing and puffing up the hill. When we reached the ridge, she talked about taking a class on how to hike the Colorado mountains. LadyBug taught me a breathing technique she learned: 1) slow down my pace, 2) take long, focused deep breaths through your nose and exhale. According to her hiking class teacher, most hikers sometimes forget to really empty their lungs. She demonstrated letting out her breath– think Lion’s Breath from Yoga without the face. I found her technique very helpful. (NOTE: Wish for a class on hiking and breathing).
- Trail angels. Shout out to this week’s trail angels for their kindness: 1) Thank you random guy who drove up in a pick-up truck at the Thunderhead Lodge trailhead. Thank you for the cheese and peanut butter crackers. These were eaten for breakfast the next morning. We needed to just get moving and the crackers were a great appetizer until we could find a shelter to heat up some water. We needed to just get moving, because it was so cold and rainy. 2) Shuttle driver from Bert’s Steakhouse and Restaurant to the trailhead. Thank you for suggesting the bad weather trail (It is longer and very scenic allowing you to see the recovery of the mountain). Again, it was another day of rain and slippery rocks. 3) Thank you, Gateway Motel manager, at Wind Gap for arranging a free ride from Mike to Denzi’s Tavern and providing us an Indian meal from the Arsha Vidya Pitham. It was a memorable breakfast to climb out of the gap the next morning. 4) Thank you to the person(s) who left the water caches between the section of Lehigh Gap to Kirkland Shelter.
- Red Efts, mushrooms and foggy forests. If cold rain could have anything positive. It has been a week of seeing Red Efts (juvenile Eastern newts). Ten crossed our path this week. The rain does bring a different kind of beauty when looking up from the slippery rocks.
- Memorable food. 1) Blueberry pancake breakfast by “Blueberry Mountain Girl” at the Shanty at Blue Mountain. 2) The Roy found at Bert’s Steakhouse and Restaurant. A breakfast worthy of any hiker’s consumption and meeting Uncle Ben’s approval. Hey Roy! 3) Lemon Italian cake from Detzi’s Tavern. It is the real deal. 4) Dal and jasmine rice from Arsha Vidya Pitham courtesy of Gateway Motel manager.
- The cold rain. Seven days of cold ran in many forms. The kind of cold rain that seeps into your bones and you pull your hood over your face and hike forward. The kind of cold rain that you wear all of your dry clothes to bed. The kind of cold rain that you have to sleep with your water filter and electronics to keep them from freezing. (NOTE: If your water filter freezes it damages the membrane that keeps bacteria and protozoa leaking into your drinkable water). The kind of cold rain that makes everything damp and you look for sunny breaks to dry out your tent’s rain fly.
- Endless miles of PA rocks and boulders. As I walk, climb, and cling to these rocks I often see parallel to the trail a potential path with no rocks. Then I think, why wasn’t the trail there? And why do these rocks have to be so slippery when they are wet? These rocks make me look down to prevent a catastrophic fall thus making it difficult to see the beautiful spring forest scenery or valley views (i.e., the ones that aren’t socked in due to rainy conditions). Thank you to the Palmerton trail maintenance crew who are reconfiguring the rocky trail situation and filling in the grooves and spaces with gravel.
Opportunities and Other Thoughts
This past week we hiked through Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund Site. This ridge looks and feels very different from the previous portion of the heavily canopied trail. It’s a meadow lands filled with flowers, blackberry brambles, baby birch trees growing up around gray tree skeletons. When looking out over the valley, there are spots of barren lands scarred black from zinc smelting contamination. We learned this spring aerial seeding took place to introduce other plant life native to this mountain ridge.
It is easy to point the finger as to who is to blame. From what I was told, this wasn’t what happened in Palmerton. The company was good to its workers and maintained standards set by the Federal Government. All parties (Palmerton citizens, Zinc workers, Zinc Smelting Company, Federal and State Government entities, hiking clubs including the ATC) wanted to make things right. Working together, these groups have continued to rehabilitate the mountains. And the company? It reinvented itself to maintain jobs and is now a zinc recycling site.
Many communities can learn a lot from Palmerton. Mainly, how can we come together and make our community a better place for all folks including the plant, winged, and four-legged creatures. What techniques did Palmerton use for listening sessions? What techniques did they use to get people to step over chalk lines to work together? I want to say that kindness was present.
I dream of a future when you can drink the water again and there are large trees shading the mountain.
Beethoven, “Second Movement,” Seventh Symphony in A major, Op. 92. 1811-1812.
Malee, Alison (@alison.malee). “Ah, kindness./what a simple way/to tell another struggling soul/that there is love/to be found/in the world.” Instagram, 14 Sept., 2019. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2auD1zn6fD/ NOTE: Alison is a poet and performer. To read more of her poems head to her website: https://www.alisonmalee.com/
Lennox, Annie. “Walking on Broken Glass,” Diva. RCA, 6 Apr. 1992. https://youtu.be/y25stK5ymlA?si=sAd2MxJ4QwCxqUok
Presley, Elvis. “Blue Christmas,” Elvis’ Christmas Album. RCA Victors, 1957.
Talking Heads. “Burning Down the House,” Speaking in Tongues. Sire, July, 1983. https://youtu.be/_3eC35LoF4U?si=3Rc6BBgiwND94sUG
Vanderlinden, Colleen. “When to Expect the First and Last Frosts,” Thespruce.com. 9 Sept, 2022. First and Last Frost Dates by USDA Zone (thespruce.com)
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