A great find for us! Friday, 6/10/16
Which came first, this one or the other one? Maybe simultaneously? Across the wild and scenic Lehigh River from Hickory Run St Pk where we're camped, is Lehigh Gorge State Park. And it just so happens that a 26-mile Rails-to-Trails bike path runs parallel to the river. Because there's a lot of history associated with the area, we elected to ride the entire 26 miles from White Haven south to Jim Thorpe. We hired a shuttle back to our car, so we could take our sweet time exploring. Pocono Biking would pick us up in Jim Thorpe at 5 pm. This was a most enjoyable ride, since we were off our bikes as much as we were on, there was that much to see. The trail, like most rails-to-trails is open to walkers, hikers, bikers, and is accessible.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Eastern Pennsylvania is steeped in history. The discovery of anthracite (hard) coal in 1791 played a major role in it's development. Large quantities of coal had to be transported down river to fuel the young nation's need ... fuel to fire the burgeoning steel mills that would make the country's railroads.
Between 1835 and 1838, 20 dams and 29 locks were built over the 26 miles between White Haven and Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe). We saw remains the of those locks, dams and towpath.
By the 1800’s, clearcut logging, sawmills, and the second largest tannery in the US ushered in a boom time. Above is a photo of the ruins of Lehigh Tannery. The header on a nearby signboard screamed -- The River Ran Black. Yikes!
Hemlock bark from the valley’s giant Hemlocks provided the tannic acid used to cure as many as 50,000 hides a year, making this the 2nd largest tannery in the US. The river and the forest paid an enormous price … wastes dumped into the river turned it black. Logging created a landscape littered with the debris of abandoned trees cut only for their bark. In 1875 an uncontrollable fire ignited and swept across the forest floor, engulfing and forever destroying the Tannery, the remaining standing timber, many sawmills, and stockpiles of lumber. The sawmills closed and the loggers departed.
John James Audubon noted in his journal years before: “Trees, one after another were … constantly heard falling. In a century, the noble forests around should exist no more.” Prophetic.
This must have been one of the locks. We're guessing it to be 35-50 ft high.
A train still runs on the other side of the river.
A swift intake of breath is how I'd describe my reaction to ALMOST RUNNING OVER this big ol' Timber Rattlesnake. Yes, a signboard further down the trail reported this is home to these "docile" creatures. I was pedaling along, minding my own business, and saw the snake at the last minute. It didn't move, but I certainly did. We stopped to take the photos, giving it a good three feet clearance, maybe five. It still didn't move, so we got back on our bikes and continued on. Many times we see snakes on our hikes or while biking, but this one gave me a start. Below you can clearly see it's rattles.
We stopped at most of the picturesque waterfalls, and we saw many!
For those of you who can't stand to see snakes, here's a pic of white Mountain Laurel.
For most of our ride, as on our previous ride, the river is on one side and a cliff on the other, hence the trail name: Lehigh Gorge. Rhodies, two or three stories tall, graced the rock face, sending down roots wherever they could find a purchase. They weren't in bloom yet, but when they do, wowee, the trail will be an amazing sight. And then there's the tree above, happily growing in the rock.
There are plenty of outfitters in the area, catering to the whitewater rafting crowd. On weekends, water is released from the dam, making the rapids a Class 2 and 3+. We saw some spots that looked impossible to navigate! It's a beautiful river today, no matter what happened to it in the past.
The train crosses the river here, as we near Jim Thorpe.
We found this a fascinating trail to ride. Tracks run above the wall.
Obviously an old train tunnel.
A dirt road on the other side of the mountain leads to the other open end.
Finally, at the large trestle near Jim Thorpe, a couple took our pic.
Happy people at the river gorge.
A shout-out to Tom at Pocono Bike Rental for his good humor and timely pick up. We were tuckered out by the time we saw him at Jim Thorpe, and were ready to get off the saddles and into his vehicle. I promise you: We had a great time!