Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More trails, getting lost.

Immersed in the local trail scene the past two weeks near my birth place in eastern Pennsylvania. Was trying to loosely calculate the number of miles of trails that are say within 10-15 miles of where I'm staying. Must be 50-75 miles worth, maybe even more?  Paul agreed with me that there are also likely trails that I am not thinking of or do not know about.

Yesterday I branched off the Switchback trail onto a challenging and technical single track trail called the Fireline Trail. Was pretty much a straight climb up the north side of Flagstaff Mountain. Somewhat rocky and rooty, and a bit narrow in sections, but runnable. Very dense, damp old woods. A mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. Which keeps the temperatures pretty cool on a warm day.

Later in the day ran Mt Pisgah trail which is anther single track trail off of the Swithback Trail that basically cuts diagonally up the mountain back down towards the town of Jim Thorpe. Not nearly as technical as Fireline; and in fact since I was feeling good and light of foot I ran at a fairly brisk pace on most of the trail. Some great views of Mauch Chunk Lake through some partial openings in the woods.

Today I ran the Blue Mountain trails off of the DnL (Delaware and Lehigh river rails to trail). Took Three Ponds Trail which lazily meanders through some high grassy meadows and passes some small ponds (hence the name), before intersecting with Prairie Grass Trail which begins the ascent up the Blue Mountain. This trail is single track and cuts in and out of some wooded areas, and is a bit rocky in places, but not too technical.

Prairie Grass ends at dirt and grass road that runs parallel along the mountain maybe a quarter of the way up. Then I took a 3rd trail, of which I cannot recall the name (a signpost here to trouble?) which mostly travels vertically up the mountain, save for some turns and a few downward loops along the north face of the small mountain. Very rocky and technical in many sections which have to be cautiously walked. Even so the footing can be tricky. One also must look at times for the next trail marking on either a duck (small man made pile of rock) or painted onto a tree.

The views became more and more spectacular as I slowly ascended higher up the mountain. I would guess I could see a good 20-40 miles especially to the north and to the east. The vegetation is sparse in spots which also leads to numerous vantage points to take in such breath taking wonder. Wonder that the only way to experience is first hand by hiking or running up these trails. Was reminded again of Japhy Ryder in Dharma Bums stating that such experiences are only meant for those hearty and fortunate few who make it themselves to such spots.

I finally reached the summit and then foolishly decided to bush wack off trail and explore for myself. I walked thru a large grove of trees sort of out cropped  until I could see down off to the other side of the Blue Mountain, or southward. After taking in the views and trying to figure out what towns were what (it's almost like looking down out of an airplane window) I decided to head back down the mountain, and back to the DnL.

Somewhere in the middle of the summit I found a trail and decided to take, thinking it would loop back around the Lehigh Gap, and on around to the other side of the mountain, and eventually to the trails I used to climb upwards. But somehow I became disoriented... (and also amazed at how innocuously this can happen). The good news was the trail was very runnable, and I wasn't too tired, and thought to myself at least you are in good shape, and this would also make for a good story. On the downside I did not have any water with, and was starting to feel a good amount of thirst coming on (at this point an hour and a half+ out). Though I did have 2 power bars in my pockets

At some point though in the midst of staving off any sort of panic, knowing that this would only make the situation worse while draining mental resources... I really started to question where the heck I was going. I could see the Lehigh River like a little blue thread down below and thought I was heading towards, knowing that in a worse case scenario I could descend straight to the river and subsequently follow it back up stream to where I had begun this now somewhat ill fated journey. The sense of disorientation was becoming a bit too palpable in my mind's eye, though physically I kept noting I felt fine. But I knew at some point that would diminish.

About 2-3 miles later on the trail I came upon 3 large radio/ cell towers on top of the mountain. I decided the best course of action was to follow the dirt access road down the mountain. Since one, it would be a lot quicker, and two, it would eventually take me back to civilization. Which a mile+ later it did... though just to make the adventure perhaps more interesting, I was on the wrong side of the mountain. Fortunately after asking a lady in her yard what road it was and which way to the main hi-way... I was finally able to make it back to the DnL trail, about 3 miles away from where my car was.

Epic, indeed. As they say, pride goeth before the fall. Since just a few day ago I was telling people at a cookout about how I never carry a phone with, and rely on lady luck to carry the day should any misfortune befall me.

Though I got to run some picturesque trails I may have never found otherwise... capping a wonderful 12 days back home in Pennsylvania running.

Things have a way of working themselves out.