Thursday, November 8, 2012

Appalachian Trail - Lehigh Gap to Ashfield Road

It Begins.
   This past Sunday I set out to hike another small section of the Appalachian Trail.  Ein was feeling tired from Saturday's hike, so me and the girls left him under the desk to snooze.

We hit the trail at Lehigh Gap, a nice little trailhead just before the AT crosses the Lehigh River.  Our goal was to hike five miles out to the Ashfield Road trailhead.  And five miles back.

We started off going straight up a mountain (the Appalachian Trail norm).  We met a lot of people in the first mile due to the nearness to a trailhead and the Outerbridge Shelter.

After that, leashes off!

Perri pouts on her tether while I climb up a big rock pile.

The hike was pleasant with little elevation change after the initial haul upwards.  The dogs and I enjoyed plenty of nice views and stayed warm despite the wind and 40 degree temps.

We finished out our five miles with no trouble and turned right back around.  This stretch of the Appalachian Trail has some "blue blaze" trails that branch off of the AT and then re-join it a bit later.  Since I want to hike the entire PA Appalachian Trail, I went the purist route so that I hiked every step of this section.

But, on the way back, there was no need to be so faithful.  The first blue blaze was the "South Trail", and it promised to bring us back to the AT in 1.1 mile.  Why not?

A normal sight in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Trail Dogs?  They know how to pose on top of rocks.  
The South Trail turned out to be my favorite part of the entire hike, and really one of the coolest trails that I have hiked on.  We have been to a fair amount of boulder fields, and the dogs do well navigating them off lead.  (On lead is difficult, it messes up the rhythm of rock hopping to have someone else attached.)
The South Trail traversed an entire mile of boulder field and my only guide was those small blue paint blazes. There were 360 degree views of  the Lehigh Valley.  The wind was howling around us.  My fingers were freezing.  It was everything I could ask for.

For Molly this was business as usual.  For Perri it was a little bit intimidating.  Three different times she held up on a rock and cried.  I encouraged her to follow me and it wasn't long before that smart poodle brain found a route through the rocks.  Trail confidence building.  I am very proud of Perri.

And as soon as it began, it ended.  We were back on the Appalachian Trail and for once it was the tamer of trail options.  Our next adventure was the "North Trail", a 2.4 mile detour off of the AT that swung around the crest of the Blue Mountain and offered some spectacular views.  The wind was pretty intense since there was no tree cover.  Still, the views were worth it.  They are always worth it.

They keep cell towers up on this mountain.  Good place for them!

We finished our hike just as dark was coming in, not a moment too soon.  And per the Catbird Hiking Protocol, the girls got some chicken mcnuggets from McDonalds on they way home.  (And the seasonal Peppermint Mocha went down nice after a chilly hike.)

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