The best laid plans of mice and men,
oft go awry
And leave us naught but grief and pain
For promised joy
Mark and I left camp around 9. We descended into Little Gap crossing several boulder fields in the process. The ascent on the opposite side was over smaller rocks, which are more troublesome for my feet. We reached the ridge line and enjoyed 360 degree views of Palmerton and the surrounding area for several miles. Continuing on, we traveled on a grassy road through the Superfund project site on Blue Mountain. It was amazing to me how much the vegetation is still being impacted by the Zinc pollution. Grasses are growing and small shrubs, but the trees are all dead. As we turned the corner of the mountain, we observed a spectacular view of the Lehigh River 1500 ft below. We walked on and the trail became rocky once more. We were now approaching the bald faced descent into the Lehigh Gap! We crossed 3 or 4 boulder fields and came to the crest of the mountain. We climbed up the boulders and found ourselves faced with an extremely steep descent. It was difficult to see where we needed to go. I stowed my poles and we looked to see where the blazes were leading us. We dropped about 20 ft and then were faced with a problem. We were on a cliff and could not see how to get to the next place that offered level terrain. The drop was approximately 20-25 ft, but a misplaced hand or foot resulting in a fall would cause at the very least a broken leg or two, and at worst... well, let's not think too much on that... Mark had the idea to lower our packs by rope and see if we could figure out a way down without being hampered by the extra 40lbs that we were both carrying. I found a blaze to the side of where we were standing. There was a rock that provided a decent enough hand hold, but it took a few moments before I found a good foothold. I'm not really much of a rock climber, and am not all that keen on heights, but what choice did we have? We took it slow, moving one hand and one foot at a time, making sure that we were stable before making the next move, and miraculously, we reached the next plateau. From there, we had a few other instances that required some rock climbing skills, but nothing as extreme as that vertical rock face. I had known the descent into the Lehigh Gap would be difficult, but I never Imagined that it would require scaling down 25ft of vertical rock! I was so glad to have Mark with me!
We finished our descent into the Lehigh Gap and found Scott and Anne waiting for us. My feet were on fire from all of the rocks that we traversed! Not to mention my legs and arms that were beginning to become stiff from the climbing escapade... Anne and Scott treated us to dinner in town and then Scott and I returned to the west side of the Lehigh Gap. We traveled uphill for about half a mile, found a campsite and began settling in for the night. We made a small campfire and enjoyed a few snickers bars and good conversation before heading to bed around 10pm. That night, I decided that I would need to come off for a day or so to tend to my feet, which now hurt with every step.
We woke on Tuesday morning early and began to climb Blue Mountain again. It was cloudy, and threatened to rain. Our plan was to take the North Trail which goes right over the Lehigh Tunnel of the turnpike and offers some spectacular views. When we reached our first overlook at Devil's Pulpit, we felt our first raindrops. Within a few minutes it was raining steadily, and after a few moments more, we heard some thunder. We knew that we would be traveling on an open ridge-line for several miles and had to decide whether to turn back or risk being stuck on a ridge in the middle of a thunderstorm. We decided to turn back. It was only two miles to the bottom of the mountain, and we were able to communicate our new location to Denise who would be picking us up. We reached the bottom of the mountain in relatively short order, careful not to slip on the wet rocks, and awaited her arrival. By the time we reached the bottom, the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining. It turned out to be a very pleasant morning and as much as it killed me to have given up so soon because of the weather, I think it was the right decision to make. Thunderstorms often times hang on the mountains or along the rivers, and we had both to contend with...
Denise dropped me at Kim and Ricky's home in Hellertown where I planned to take a day off before returning to the trail. The blister on my second toe had now become pretty painful and I was really starting to worry about infection. I decided to try and treat it topically on Tuesday night, resigning myself to seek more advanced medical attention if it did not improve with conservative treatment in the next 12 hours. That night, the nail detached form the bed and in the morning, I lost it completely. Once I lost the nail, it was clear that the infection was more significant than I had thought. I drove to an urgent care center in Hellertown and filled a prescription for antibiotics.