Waterfalls And Icicles: A Frigid Hike In The Lehigh River Gorge
It has been a while since I hiked in the famous Lehigh River gorge at the Rockport access in Carbon County. Searching my blog posts I learned it has been almost a year. And, like my last visit, I ventured down here to avoid the strong winds on the mountain where I live in Hazle Township, and to see the ice formations that occur in the gorge in the winter.
I referred to the Lehigh River gorge as being famous because, in my opinion, it is, for many reasons. It has a long history. There were the Native American paths, the canals and the railroads that followed the Lehigh River as it meandered through the 26 mile gorge it formed from around White Haven in Luzerne County to Jim Thorpe in Carbon County. I have written quite a few blog posts on the history of the gorge and you can find them by using the search tool on my blog website.
The small town of Rockport along the gorge has an even greater claim to fame. The famous, but, complex and controversial, American ornithologist John James Audubon, stayed with a family here in 1829. He explored the Lehigh River gorge and Great Pine Swamp looking for birds to paint and illustrate in his famous Birds of America book. He described the area as follows. “We now rattled down a steep declivity, edged on one side by almost perpendicular rocks, and on the other by a noisy stream, which seemed grumbling at the approach of strangers. The ground was so overgrown by laurels and tall pines of different kinds that the whole presented only a mass of darkness.” Audubon and his Journals, Vol. 2 page 314. I believe this is the stream, the Buck Mountain Creek, he described in his journal. It is not much different almost 200 years later.
It was -1 degrees when I arrived at the parking area at the bottom of the gorge near the river on Saturday morning. The wind wasn’t as bad in the protected ravines of the gorge but it still was windy. In the summer this parking lot would be filled with cars, buses and trailers with rafts. On this sunny and frigid January morning there were only two cars in the lot. One with a gentleman walking his dog and the other brought four young folks, who also didn’t mind the cold and wind, on a hike off to explore the gorge.
After leaving my Jeep I decided to first walk south on the trail that that follows an abandoned railroad right of way. This trail is a portion of the longer D & L Trail and part of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
I dreamed of the warm days of summer when these beautiful flowers will be in bloom as I walked past the parking lot and headed north on the trail. Large rocks described by Audubon could now be seen along the trail
I walked on the trail along the Lehigh River for about 1 1/2 miles. It was cold but I could have continued. The blue skies and sunshine inspired me. I think a could have walked until sunset. Sunshine is exhilarating even on the coldest days of January.
However, I had a family gathering to attend so I had to end my hike and return to my Jeep. Up until this point on my hike out I didn’t see any wildlife activity. However as the sun warmed the frigid air I heard some black-capped chickadees high in the tree tops and saw a couple flocks of dark-eyed juncos scampering in the snow and low tree branches along the trail.
On my return hike I stopped to again admired the beauty of the waterfalls and ice formations now illuminated by the morning sunshine. This is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the ice formations I saw in the Lehigh River gorge. Lehigh River Gorge State Park ice January 15 2022.
My original plan was to only walk 3 miles in the frigid cold. I hike a few extra miles on Friday anticipating the cold temperatures and high winds. Wind chills were well below zero. However, I didn’t mind the cold and hiked 4 miles when i returned to the parking lot. Winter is not my favorite season, but it still offers it’s own beauty, a I saw in the ice formations and waterfalls on my hike. However, I’s still rather enjoy flowers and song birds on my hikes, and long for the first warm days of Spring. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos I took on my five mile hike in the frigid Lehigh River Gorge Lehigh River Gorge State Park January 15 2022.
It is now winter, dead winter. Desolation and silence reign in the fields. No singing of birds is heard, no humming of insects. The streams murmur no longer, they are locked up with frost J.M.Usher