Day 69 on the Appalachian Trail

I thought I'd seen the nastiest part of the Appalachian Trail, but I was wrong. About a mile from the shelter, I crossed the Lehigh River and headed uphill, only to discover that the trail turned into a Class III rock scramble up a steep bedrock slope. I sometimes had to stash my hiking poles to use both hands plus both feet to boost myself upwards. What possessed the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to route the trail up the cliff baffled me. At the top, the AT took a detour around the Palmerton Superfund site where the forest succumbed to decades of zinc pollution from a smelter. Young trees and shrubs are coming back (see photo). The only decent stretch of trail all day was an old road along which the detour ran. The AT had no reliable water until the Leroy Smith shelter, my destination for the night. I started the day with 2.75 liters of water and drank sparingly as I hiked slowly because of the rocks. As a special insult, the AT ascended a steep boulder-covered hillside along the route. I hopped from rock to rock without falling. The forest along the trail seemed to be pretty much the same all day - young trees with ferns in the understory. About 3:40 pm, I arrived at the Smith shelter, which turned out to be small with no picnic table. I walked 1/3 mile down a road to a spring then back to the shelter. I got my pack and walked 100 yards to a fine camp site and set up shop. Only 16.7 miles today - tough miles. Only one more day in Pennsylvania. I've walked 1,272.9 miles from Springer Mountain.

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