Monday, November 30, 2015

What Was I Thinking?

On the brink
The Friday after Thanksgiving (November 27) was sunny and exceptionally warm (mid-60s F), so I persuaded Kali to put on her hiking boots and get in the car.  We drove 1.25 hours north to Lehigh Gorge State Park, a long, linear preserve paralleling the Lehigh River as it cuts it way through the Ridge and Valley section of the Pennsylvania Appalachians.  My destination was a 1-mile (each way) hike/scramble up Glen Onoko, a steep, scenic ravine that boasts four waterfalls along its length.

Glen Onoko was a famous Victorian summer resort with a huge, rambling guest house perched on the bank of the Lehigh River at the mouth of little Glen Onoko Run.  Radiating from the guest house were trails through the woods that allowed visitors from Philadelphia and New York (who arrived by train) to enjoy the magnificent scenery, including the cascades and rapids along the ravine.  An elaborate stone stairway allowed guests to ascend 860 feet from the river to the top of the highest falls with relative ease.

The resort burned down (as did many wooden Victorian resorts) in the early 1900s and was never rebuilt.

I first came upon Glen Onoko in the early 1990s and have hiked there several times.  When I "found" the ravine, it was pretty inaccessible.  I had to drive up to the top of Broad Mountain, and then make my way on rough dirt fire trails to the top of the falls.  From there, I could descend down the ravine and enjoy the serenity.  During those early years, I don't think I ever encountered anyone else on my hikes.

Today, the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks has created a huge parking area at the mouth of the ravine (which also serves whitewater rafters on the Lehigh River in the summer).  But the serenity of the hike is gone.  Hordes of people ascend the trail every day, prominent rocks have been defaced by spraypainted graffiti, and discarded plastic water bottles are common in the undergrowth.  Nevertheless, the hike is still scenic, and the waterfalls impressive.

The biggest problem for Kali was that the trail is extremely steep, rough, and difficult.  Most of the original stone stairway has eroded away, so the "hike" is much more of a scramble up steep, sometimes slippery, rocks.  I didn't have any problems, but Kali is probably the least sure-footed person I know, and the outing was torture for her.  Ascending the ravine was tough enough, but descending was even harder.  At one point, she broke into tears, and several other times fellow hikers helped me to get Kali through particularly difficult sections of trail.
Kali scrambling uphill
I shouldn't have brought her on the hike, but I didn't want to leave her home on a really nice late autumn day.  Once we had returned to the car and shed our hiking boots, we concurred that we had made one another's day miserable.  Kali's got two huge black-and-blue marks on her right buttock and upper right arm to prove it.

One positive feature:  Kali's very slow ascent and descent gave me plenty of time to take pictures. 
Pennsylvania's tilted sedimentary rocks
First falls
Second (and highest) falls - about 60 feet

Cairn cavern just uphill of second falls
Visitors have created a wonderland of cairns in the rock overhang

Third falls
Approach to the fourth falls.  The stone steps are a Victorian-era remnant
Fourth falls through the rhododendron thicket
Fourth (uppermost) falls
Tree roots with moss and lichen garden
Fern and moss rock garden
Most intense color of the day
Next time, I'll do this hike alone.  In fact, the next drainage to the west is a stream called Jean's Run.  I've explored its valley before; it harbors a virgin old-growth forest.  The last time I was there, it was only penetrated by a fisherman's path, and there's one really wonderful and nearly impassible falls near the top of the mountain.  I hope it's still like that.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Some beautiful waterfalls. I find it's always difficult to remember how difficult trails are when I last walked them in younger days; somehow they're always more steep than I recall. I hope that Kali forgives you soon. :^)

Scott said...

John: Kali and I went into the nearest town after our hike and enjoyed ice cream together, so I think I'm already "out of the doghouse." But, I really should know better by now; we've been married for 42 years.

robin andrea said...

It really is quite beautiful there. I'm just sorry to read that Kali had such a hard time. I understand though. I'm not much for hiking up tricky steep trails. I have been known to stay home when the day's adventure promises to be less than ideal for my level of hiking stamina. I'm looking forward to your hike to the old growth forest there. I would love to see that.

packrat said...

Looks like a beautiful area, Scott. Too bad people don't respect the beauty enough to take care of what they have. Those tree roots could have played a significant role in a Grimms' fairy tale.

Practical Parsimony said...

Least surefooted--you do not know me! I would have cried, too. But, it looks beautiful.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: I agree that Glen Onoko is a special, beautiful place. That's one of the reasons that I wanted Kali to be able to enjoy it, too, but it was all for naught, I'm afraid. Kali actually never made it to the top of the uppermost waterfall; she stopped at the second (highest) fall and told me to go finish the hike by myself, despite the fact that we were 3/4 of the way to the top by then. When I came back down, I asked Kali if she thought that the falls where she had parked herself on a rock were nice, and she said that she was so miserable she was having a hard time appreciating the beauty. Bummer.

I, too, am looking forward to revising the old growth forest in the Jeane's Run valley, but it probably won't be until next year. I'll be sure to post pictures. Just one word of caution: the forest does not harbor huge, sequoia-like trees; this is a land of hardscrabble, sandstone-derived, nutrient-poor soils on steep slopes, so the trees might be old but aren't giants.

Scott said...

Packrat: I'm truly astonished that kids would be tempted to deface the stones in such a beautiful place with spray paint, but nothing is sacred any longer. And, thanks for your comment about the birch tree roots; they really were magical, and they were hardly the only roots I could have photographed; I just happened to be stopped right there as I waited for Kali to negotiate a particularly difficult section of trail.

Scott said...

Practical Parsimony: I stopped and gave Kali a hug when she cried and the tears dried-up pretty fast. Kali has always been a little "clumsy," but she is getting worse and worse, I'm afraid. I think that she ought to take some classes that would improve her balance like yoga or Pilates, but she won't hear of it. We did some yoga when we were on a wilderness whitewater trip a few years ago and there was a yoga instructor along with the group; Kali ended up with terrible back pains for much of the trip as a result of the yoga poses and now won't even consider yoga--even though she probably would benefit from gentle movement instruction.

Gail said...

Hi - such a beautiful scenic "hike" quite adventurous too - Kali paid her dues so to speak!! You too, huh? :-) I have a saying for times like this, "if that's the worst that happens in your lives you've got it made"!!
By the way, our new home on what we call "Mount-Hope" is on the Pennsylvania border, a town called Salamanca in Western NY state in the Allegheny mountains - well, 20 minutes or so from Warren, PA is that near you? I put p a post about or upcoming move come this Dec 28th

Merry Christmas to you and Kaii and happy hiking too!!

Love Gail

Mark P said...

Those are some nice shots. It's interesting how much alike the mountains and streams can be in that part of Pennsylvania and in the northeast Georgia mountains. I doubt that Leah would have enjoyed the hike either. At least there was ice cream.

Robin Follette said...

What a gorgeous area!

Kali has my deepest, sincerest sympathies on all things clumsy. I can trip over shadows and my sense of balance has been thrown off by several things. Slow, gentle stretches help me. And surprisingly, massage therapy has done a lot to help my balance. Mostly, I stay on flat solid ground. Good for her for sticking it out and making the climb. That's something to be proud of!

Scott said...

Gail: Thank you for your comment and for your wonderful philosophy: "If that's the worst that happens in your lives, you've got it made!" I know that you're speaking from experience and from your heart. However, I don't think Kali would acknowledge buying into it (though, secretly, I think she'd agree with you). I DO know Warren, Pennsylvania. Kali and I used to live in Cleveland and in Pittsburgh, and we would drive to the Allegheny National Forest near Warren to backpack when we lived there. In addition, a good friend of ours grew up in Warren (her dad was a National Forest Service forester), and we went to their cabin in the national forest fairly frequently. Come to think of it now, I fired a pistol (at tin can targets at their cabin) for the first and only time in my life. I hope your move goes well!

Scott said...

Mark: This part of Pennsylvania is in the zone of folded mountains caused by the tectonic collision of Africa and North America that pushed up ridges (and valleys) like what would happen if you slid a throw rug across a wood floor and pushed against a wall. Further north, the Pocono "Mountains" are really a plateau that resulted from an uplift, but the rocks were not tilted. Also, further west, the Allegheny "Mountains" are a very extensive uplift with mostly horizontal rocks that have been dissected into mountain-like ridges and valleys by the action of eroding water. If you're in the area of true folded mountains in Georgia, I'm not surprised that the topography and scenery are much alike. Next time, you and I can scramble up Glen Onoko and we'll leave Kali and Leah in town to get a massage and eat ice cream; I know Kali would have liked that a lot better.

Scott said...

Robin: The area really is gorgeous, isn't it? I'm so sorry Kali couldn't appreciate it. I'd like to suggest that she consider options like long, slow stretches or massage therapy, but (having been married to her for 42 years) I know she won't listen to my suggestions; she's too headstrong. She really worries me because, like you, she can easily trip even while just walking down the sidewalk.

Minnie said...

Kali might be interested in qigong. It is very low stress on muscles and joints and definitely helps balance and flexibility.

Scott said...

Thank you, Minnie. I have never heard of qigong, but I'll look for someone around here who leads classes.

Minnie said...

Scott, it's sometimes spelled chi gong or chi kung. It is related to tai chi.

Scott said...

Minnie: Thanks for the additional information. I did check for practitioners near Kali and me but, unfortunately, the closest are at least 25 miles away--not very convenient.

Minnie said...

Scott, perhaps someone in the inconveniently located group might know something closer to you. Or if there are tai chi practitioners nearby, one of them might be able to help. Some people practice both disciplines. Good luck. As I get older I realize how I've taken mobility and flexibility for granted. We all need to work on that.

Scott said...

Minnie: We have a tai chi practitioner who offers classes at my environmental center! I'll ask him. Thank you for the suggestion.