Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Hike at Glen Onoko Falls

On Sunday October 25th, 2009 I set out on one of the most adventurous and ambitious hikes I've taken in well over 2 decades now. My destination was Glen Onoko Falls in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. I had read a lot about the falls and the hike involved to view them. The journey started at parking lot near the falls at the surface of the Lehigh River. Let us begin this hike together through some of the many photographs I took during my climb up the Glen Onoko canyon. Click on any picture during the trip to see in enlarged in greater detail.

The first thing many see even before they hit the trail is this old abandoned railroad tunnel and the concrete tresses that once held the bridge which crossed the Lehigh River at this point. Although I didn't venture into the tunnel on this trip it is possible to enter it from the other end and step up to the railing overlooking the river.

The next item people notice, or at least should notice, is this large wooden sign posted by the park. It reads, "Warning, Glen Onoko Falls Trails, Hike at your own risk. Sections of the trail ahead are steep and treacherous. Hikers have been seriously injured and killed as a result of accidental falls from the trail and gorge overlooks. You are responsible for your safety. Wear proper hiking shoes. Use extreme caution while hiking in the gorge.". After researching the hiking trail and area before visiting this was not a surprise to me. The trail is steep with many loose rocks and tree roots. Hikers should be prepared, be smart, and be cautious. These precautions will make the hike an enjoyable and rewarding experience with memories that will last a lifetime.

After a scramble up a hillside of large loose rocks this is the inviting hiking trail that greeted me. It is roughly level and a very deceptive introduction to the hard hike soon to follow. Enjoy the stroll along this few hundred feet of well defined level trail, because once it ends there will be very few other places like it during the climb up the gorge.

Thankfully even for those who don't want to or can't physically tackle the harsh terrain ahead, the first moving water is visible almost immediately at the end of the previously mentioned section of level trail. As the trail advances the left side suddenly drops off abruptly into the gorge and the rush of the Glen Onoko creek can be seen below. A little farther along the first small falls pictured here can be found before the trail takes a sudden upwards path strewn with rocks and tree roots.

After climbing over several larger easy to navigate boulders this next section of small waterfalls was an inviting site. Of course the whole way up the trail the rushing water can always be heard, a steady soothing sound that helped to keep the hike interesting and fun.

I looked up the stream and noticed this beautiful section of falls rushing beneath a large rhododendron bush. I stepped up to the very edge of the rushing stream to capture this fantastic scene.

The steep canyon walls on the opposite side of the creek were strewn with rocks of all sizes and lush with many ferns.

This is where the hike began to get difficult. Looking up the near side of the canyon I realized it too was strewn with all sizes of rocks and exposed tree roots. It was time for this hike to go from leisurely to a cardio workout. I'm not in the greatest shape by any stretch of the imagination, but I was determined to complete this hike and so I pressed forward.

I made yet another of many stops on the ascent up the trail to capture to natural beauty of the cascading water.

I stopped yet again to take more pictures. I took dozens like this, but it would have been impractical to post every one, so I selected some of the best to share.

The large flat rocks on this part of the trail form an awesome an inviting natural stairway continuing up the canyon. While the climb was still steep and exhausting, these steps were a very welcome change from the randomly strewn rocks below.

At some point in the past people arranged this wonderful stair of natural stones continuing to help make the strenuous hike up the canyon gorge a little less painful.

As I continued up the now wet, somewhat muddy, and slippery trail I paused yet again to capture the flowing water. Both the moving stream and the hiking trail are visible in this photograph.

This fantastic cascade of water rushes down after the stream flows over the Chameleon Falls which are barely visible in this picture near the upper right corner through the trees.

After a grueling hike the first of the two big waterfalls was finally before me. This is the lower falls, called Chameleon Falls. It was amazing to stand before this majestic waterfall. It isn't the highest in the canyon, Onoko Falls takes that title, but it is the most impressive in my eyes. The higher Onoko Falls can be seen just to the right of center at the top of this photograph.

As I pressed on, pushing myself to keep moving, I traversed some very steep terrain to finally arrive at the base of this high wispy waterfall. Oh what an amazing place to be. This is Onoko Falls. I stepped down next to the stream where a fine cool mist continuously blew through the air cooling me as it touched my skin. The mist assaulted my camera lens as well, making this photograph a little hazy compared to all of my others. It was well worth it though, this is definitely one of my favorite shots from the hike.

As I pushed to climb the last remaining 75 to 100 feet I paused once more to take another shot of Onoko Falls, this time through some trees.

Finally! After an exhausting yet satisfying climb nearly 800 feet above where I started I reached the top of Onoko Falls. I took a long deserved break up here to just sit, relax, and take in one of the most amazing views I have seen in a long time. This is a view of the Lehigh Gorge from on top of Onoko Falls. The borough of Jim Thorpe is visible as a thin line of light colored buildings above the evergreen tree just to the left of the picture's center.

A perfect autumn sky above the brilliant and beautiful autumn forests in the Lehigh Gorge and Jim Thorpe.

As I continued to take in the pure beauty of the lands below from this majestic vista I decided to try something interesting. I laid down on the flat rock slab right next to the streams and took this stunning shot of the water seeming to flow over the edge of the world into a sea of stunning autumn trees.

And to finish up I'll post a few panoramic photographs I took during this hike.

Chameleon Falls Vertical Panorama

Chameleon Falls Horizontal Panorama

Lehigh Gorge Panorama from Top of Onoko Falls

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