Although this is not a Hall of Fame Rail-to-Trail, Martha and I wanted to ride this trail for its scenic value. We were thinking of doing the Pine Creek Gorge Trail also in Pennsylvania, but the drive between this trail and the Hudson River Valley Trail was around five hours, whereas the Lehigh Gorge Trail was only 2.5 or 3 hour drive from the New York trail. We’ll do the Pine Creek State Park trail another time.
The Lehigh Gorge trail is part of Lehigh Gorge State Park and is a beautiful setting in central Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains area, right outside the little town of Jim Thorpe, a turn of the century “carriage-street” town set in the rolling hills of the Pocono Mountains. On Tuesday the 21st we stayed at the Inn at Jim Thorpe, an old partially remodeled hotel on Broad Street, which was a neat place to stay. We had flown to LaGuardia airport in NYC on Monday, rented a car, and drove to Jim Thorpe. Getting out of NYC was an adventure in itself. I was driving and Martha was navigating with the help of her Google Maps on the cell phone. The route we were given took us through the tunnel under the East River, through the heart of Manhattan, and through the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River. As long as Martha was giving me good directions, though I had no idea where I was going except from designated street to designated street where I turned and it was definitely crowded, the driving was manageable. We were able to drive along 134th Street and see the Empire State Building right close up. So many sky scraper buildings! And so many exits and entries onto various parkways and interstates! The country side was pretty once we got out of the traffic congestion and urban environment.
On Wednesday morning, we had an early breakfast at the hotel and drove the rental into the State Park where we met our shuttle driver and renter of our bikes. His GPS coordinate was not quite where we were supposed to meet him, and he seemed rather perturbed that we weren’t at the picnic table he had (or had thought he had) designated, but after a phone call to him, we met up and started the drive. He seemed to be an okay guy—knew his biking and skiing (Telluride in the winters) life contexts—but was a bit over confident of his own knowledge and opinions. Our nickname for him became “Snobby.” He dropped us off up in the town of White Haven, where we bought good, reasonably priced ham and Swiss cheese hoagie sandwiches for our lunch on the trail at Renees’ Deli and then started riding at 10:06 a.m. I forgot to press “start” on my odometer until 1.5 miles into the trail, but at least I realized it then and didn’t go the whole time not recorded the ride.
The trail was a lot of the same scenery, but that was fine because it was great scenery. The Lehigh River flowed swiftly in the gorge to our left and a rock/dirt/tree lined cliff was on our immediate right. We had an overhang canopy of trees, lots of shade, perfect weather, and very few other riders. Very peaceful and relaxing. The trail was made of hard packed crushed gravel, which made for good traveling. We had no bike problems and good shocks on the bikes. A positive comment about Snobby is that his rates were very good–$21 each for a day’s bike and the shuttle ride to the top. We used the shuttle because riding north to south was slightly downhill and because we didn’t have time in one day to ride it both ways and still get over to Poughkeepsie, NY, for tomorrow’s ride.
The most notable feature of the ride was the many—about six I’d say—solid waterfalls that were coming down the mountain side on our right. Our lunch spot picnic table, in fact, was across from one and a view of the river was on the other side of us.There was one public restroom, not flush toilet but a building nonetheless, at the Rockport access area, about half way through the ride. When we finished the trail, about three hours later, arriving back in jim Thorpe, we rode a mile into town, parked our bikes and walked around the old town to see it when it wasn’t sprinkling and in the day light. We also got a huge ice cream treat/reward at Woods Ice Cream next to the train depot, where we watched people gather and board the train for an excursion into the gorge, by train instead of by bike as we had done. In all, we rode 26 miles today. A good ride. I’m glad we did it.