|AT Ridgerunner, James, and PTC trails co-chief, Dave, on North Trail|
I met Dave at the Translator Road parking area off of Mountain Road west of the gap, and we hiked up to the AT using an un-named spur trail - which we agreed to call the Birch Clump Trail, since there's a striking clump of white birch trees at the spot where it intersects the U.S.'s premier interstate long-distance trail.
From the birch clump, we hiked briefly east on the AT to the start of the North Trail, which shoots north but soon doubles back to the west as it traverses an exposed ridge of Blue Mountain, featuring nearly two miles of striking views of the Lehigh River and valley beyond.
|Lehigh River and Pennsylvania Turnpike snake north from Blue Mountain|
At the point where the North Trail cuts west, we came to a spur that to leads to the Devil's Pulpit, a precipice overlooking the Lehigh Gap that requires a precarious scramble to enjoy. I made a mental note to return here soon. For today, though, there was work to be done - and lots of it!
|Clearing the trail from overgrown understory was the job of the day!|
|American Chestnut makes a comeback on Blue Mountain near Lehigh Gap|
Seeds were at one point dropped from the air to re-vegetate Blue Mountain's north face, from the Lehigh River to the ridge. And following the substantial rainfalls the area has experienced throughout this spring and summer, the site is thriving with ferns, tall grasses, sassafras and greenbrier, all of which are taking root and spreading like crazy over what Dave said in recent seasons looked more like a moonscape than a forest.
|Hiking through rebounding Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site on North Trail|
A little farther down the North Trail we ran into Ridgerunner James. James had hiked in from Lehigh Furnace gap with the intention of catching up with us. I'm glad he did! Listening to him and Dave talk clued me in on lots of trail trivia I might have missed out on if it were just Dave and I on our own. Dave is day hiker, like me. But James thru-hiked the AT in 2012, and now he spends many nights on the trail fulfilling his official role with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Staving off our hunger along the way, we had been snacking on juicy wild blueberries that were growing in patches all along the North Trail. But as the morning mist began to clear and we realized it was already well past luncthime, we decided it was a good idea to have a bite to eat before finishing up and making our way back down the mountain.
|Wild blueberries! Our reward for hard work clearing the North Trail|
As we sat down in the midst of a great boulder field, I noticed my arms and fingers were quivering. I joked that I thought I might be having a stroke, but James confirmed he was experiencing the same sensation, confirming it must have been the result of nearly three hours of walking and clipping, not of something more serious. Phew! After eating and hydrating, we made our way back to the AT and then eventually to a point along Translator Road, which we took back down the mountain to our cars.
|Appalachian Trail - North Trail and Lehigh Gap|
For me, this day exceeded my expectations for my first trail maintenance experience. It was great exercise for one, and even though my purpose for coming out here was to give back to the hiking community, which has given me so much in recent years, I ended up walking away having received an amazing learning experience. If you think you might like to learn more about the AT or volunteering with the Philadelphia Trail Club - and I highly recommend you do - check out the PTC website or email Dave for information. Tell him Brian from Man of Merit blog sent you!
Brian Schwarz is an award-winning journalist whose career was derailed by super obesity. He fought his way back to health - losing 165 pounds in the process of his "fit-life journey". A professional communicator by trade and activator by nature, Brian's personal mission is to inspire others to live their fullest lives. Follow Brian on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.