Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The two faces of Wind Gap

"I've looked at Wind from both sides now - from south and north - and still, somehow ... It's Wind's illusions I recall.  I really don't know Wind ... at all."

With apologies to Joni Mitchell, Wind Gap was somewhat of an enigma.  My scouting report said that the north side would be super rocky.  The south side was - but the north? ... not so much.  Today (Monday April 30th) I hiked 5.5 miles of trail on the south side and 4.5 on the north side.  The more rocky south side was more  fun - the north? ...not so much.  I *can* explain that ... at least in part.

The south side had vistas that gave you a look to both sides of the ridge, including this one from the pipeline clearing about halfway through today's south-side leg.

It was on the south side that I met my second, third, and fourth thru-hikers since flipping up north.  The tide is rising!  The picture below is of Iceman.  He's from Kentucky, and his parents are going to meet him at Delaware Water Gap tomorrow, so he and his trail partner 'Viking' and a new associate, 'Achilles' did a monster 33.5 miles yesterday and will do the 20+ to DWG today.  If all works out, Iceman's parents will support them so they can slack-pack through New Jersey.  Just like 'Samus' (who they were all very keen on hearing my news about), they need to reach Katahdin by mid-June.  That's 900 more miles in just a month and a half - 20 miles every single day with no zero's - a tough haul to be sure.  But these guys were lean and fit, so I give them a good shot at finishing.  And I left them with my best wishes for success.

Finally, the south side had the Leroy Smith Shelter.  Who takes photos of the inside of privies???  This one was worthy of it.  The Appalachian Mountain Club, Delaware Valley Chapter, has done itself proud with their meticulous maintenance and upkeep of this shelter.  I've seen none finer.

My return trip through this stretch of rock taught me something valuable about 'Rocksylvania'.  Once I've done the trail one way, I sometimes let my mind wander on the way back.  And voila!  The trail goes faster, not just mentally but physically.  I put my feet on auto-pilot and they negotiate the rocks more efficiently.  It's letting the millions of years of evolutionary honing of the 'animal' instinct in us take over - the barefoot hunter-gatherer- and not allowing our human hyper-active frontal lobes to override that much deeper and more finely-tuned 'operating system'.  Eyes to feet.  No conscious thought required.  Try it ... it really works.

Now ... about the north side.  The climb up is steeper and on much more neglected trail, with old stone water-bars no longer functioning, and erosion out of control.  You get up top and the trail wanders through scrubby woods with lots and lots of invasive Japanese Barberry and even more invasive Japanese stiltgrass.  The trees are forlorn, morose, stunted, none very large, as this land has not been left to go wild for more than a few decades and looks to have been abused before that.  The ridge widens out so that there is no chance of any views; and the trail just goes on and on through this (to my sensibilities) monotonous ugliness.  The prettiest scene I could extract from all this was this 'Fangorn Forest'-like stand of twisted Sassafras growing out of the Barberry thickets:

My internet friend Dave Cullen asked me to photograph campsites through this section as a favor to him and his hiking friends who are considering doing this section on up to Fox Gap. I photographed 8 campsites today, and they appear on the Every Trail site. Based on those, you do not need to accept my judgement regarding this stretch of trail. Yes, it's all woods and wilderness. Perhaps that's more the point for many of you. I'm just "telling it like I see it".  And remember - "It's Wind's illusions I recall. I really don't know Wind ... at all."


Below is a map showing the route of today's hike.  With it is a link to more photos.  Just click the title.

AT Day 110 - Wind Gap at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near Allentown, Pennsylvania

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