mercredi 26 août 2009

Wind Gap


at Lehigh Gap


Wind Gap, 24 September 2008

My night at Jailhouse Hostel has been rewarding. First I didn’t pay a penny; secondly self-service is OK for me. I was free to do what I want. In fact, there wasn’t much to do inside the huge empty room. I vaguely red the gold book with its ornate letters from through hikers. There were food boxes left by them on another table. After twenty six miles at brisk pace, I turned off quickly the light. Following the advice of patrol policeman, I sneak out through a back door and wedge a broom to get back later.

I have my breakfast at Bert’s Steak House where I solicit the help of my waitress. The shoulder strap of my backpack is torn. How can I repair it? She is very helpful. She goes to her car and comes back with a fishing thread and plenty of needles. I choose a thick one. I go back to Jailhouse hostel where I sew the torn shoulder strap. When done, I leave for good the jail. I hear policemen upstairs talking loudly.

My tinkering is not yet over. My shoes are worn out and the handle of one ski pole comes off. I stop by a hardware store after the train bridge. A handicapped guy helps me to find glue for the handle. He cleans the pole before using glue.
“Wait for a couple of hours before using it again!”
He wants to give me back the glue tube.
“No thanks!”
“Ok, I’ll give it to someone.”
I pay the glue and store my ski poles on the backpack. I do not buy a duct tape for my worn out shoes as I expect to buy a new pair tomorrow at Delaware Gap.

I want a hitch hike back to the trail. What’s the point of hiking a couple of miles alongside a busy road? Five years ago, I was unsuccessful and had to walk back to the trail. Not this year. After five minutes, a swanky guy riding a red cabriolet stops. He is going to play golf. Life seems easy for him. He drops me at the parking lot of Lehigh Gap. For those who don’t know it, Lehigh Gap is a wonder of nature. It is a giant chaos of rocks above the River of same name. Five years ago, I missed white blazes and ended my downhill in a dangerous crumbling zone. Aware of the danger, I follow carefully the blazes.

I sweat on the sunny slope. Sometimes I use my hands to climb a steep rock. It is easier to see the trail when climbing. Midway through the ascent, I see a woman ahead of me. When close to catch up with her, I take a picture of her and the surrounding rocks. Near to the top, I overtake her. She is a pretty blond hair woman. She is in her forties. Her name is Helen. She comes from Allentown. She is a housewife. Her husband is traveling and her kids are at school. She enjoys a sunny day. We chat. I quickly get her confidence. It seems we have been friends for years.

The top of the hill offers a unique outlook. It has been entirely defoliated by zinc pollution. The trail has been rerouted. It doesn’t follow anymore the treeless top but an old jeep road on North of Blue Mountains. With regrets, I leave Helen. I accelerate my pace to reach Wind Gap tonight. It is a twenty miles stage. Piece of cake!

I have now a good view of Palmerton zinc plant. It was added to the National priority list in 1983. The superfund is still debated by citizens. Some argue that extensive cleanup of the town’s soil is necessary to protect human healths, others say that health risks are exaggerated and that the town’s Superfund status stigmatizes it. But one thing is obvious: nature has not yet recovered from the disaster. But there is improvement since I came here five years ago. Brushes are growing again in some places. I take pictures to compare them with others taken five years ago.

I don’t like much the rerouted trail. It was a much better view following the rounded top. Three miles later, I catch up with the old route. It is a perfect day for hiking. After a strong wind at Lehigh Gap, I enjoy a sunny and breezy day. I gaze at the far range view to Poconos to the North and even Michaux National forest to the South. Suddenly danger looms. A big black snake is warming up on the trail. I catch up my camera. Too late! The monster has detected me. It escapes in a hole which is right on the trail. Contaminated zone is over.

With that unpleasant encounter, I need my ski poles. After three hours, the handle is dry. I can use it again. A pole is useful for plenty of reasons. Number one, it helps to throw away a stubborn snake on the path. With the snake, I am back in rocky territory. My worn out shoes are cracking everywhere. I snack just after Little Gap, a paved road. It is quite hot when I resume the rocky ascent toward the crest line.

In the vicinity of Leroy Smith shelter I come across six South-bounders girls. I am eager to engage a talk with them. They smile. A peacock, surrounded by six females, is doing his best to catch up their gaze. They have slept last night at Kirkridge shelter. I wonder what would had been my night in their company... I tell them that there is no water before Lehigh Gap. They don’t mind. Later on the trail, I come across another girl. She asks me if I have seen her friends. “Oh yes, they are not far away.” Thanks to my intrusive talk, I have stopped their advance.

The trail is rocky but no more horrendous. The worst is behind me. The sun declines on the horizon. At sunset, I reach Wind Gap. According to the data book, there is a motel just 0.1 mile to the left.

An old Asian couple is operating the motel. The room smells tobacco. I go back to the office.
“We don’t have smoke free rooms”, said tersely the lady.
The book said: “The friendly owner will often give rides to nearby restaurants.
I don’t ask plainly the favor but venture to beg for help in tortuous way.
“Call the delivery in your room.”
Disappointed that my power of seduction doesn't work wit her, I go back to my room to make the call.
“What size of pizza would you like?”
“Large”
“Anything else?”
“Hum, cannoli for desert and turkey sandwitch for my breakfast”
“What is your room number?”
“Ten”

Half an hour later, the delivery man knocks on the door while I am drying after a shower. I have just time to roll a bath-towel to my waist. Without letting me time to answer, he drops a huge cardboard box containing the pizza on the table and asks me 38 dollars. I am too confused to raise an objection to the steep price. I give him two twenty bills and wait for my change. He pockets it and run away. When I reach the door, I just have to time to see his cabriolet. It has started raining.

The pizza is forty inches wide. It is filled with anchovies and melting cheese. I eat slice after slice while watching President Bush delivering a speech about the unraveling financial crisis. He explains why American International Group must be helped to avoid a crash of the market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has closed today at 10800. Is it so bad in Wall Street for a live rescue talk of the President? While being in the woods, I have no idea of what is happening. I manage to eat a third of the huge pizza. Can I eat now cannoli? I do it with disgust. My stomach is swollen.

If the market is suffering from its hangover of toxic assets, I am suffering from too much anchovies and cheese. If one excess can be cleaned out in a night, the other will take years...That's the lesson of the day on the trail.