Six members of the Hawk Mountain Conservation Corps (HMCC) service learning program braved the heat over what was considered an extreme heat wave. They trekked more than 40 miles over the 4th of July weekend making a circumference of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the Kempton area.
“Packrafting Pennsylvania II, The Circumference of Home,” included a paddle along the Lehigh River down to Lehigh Gap/Appalachian Trail from which they spent the next two days to hike on the Appalachian Trail back to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
The journey was modeled after a past excursion called, “Packrafting Pennsylvania”, where a former group of the elite HMCC team utilized pack rafts to return to home during the cold of winter unlike this opposite weather extreme.
The 10-member team of six youth and four mentors gathered on Friday night, June 29, to complete packing lists, practice blowing up pack rafts, and review details of the next three rigorous days to follow. Then prior to sunrise on June 30, they set a course to intersect the Little Schuylkill River.
Upon reaching this scenic waterway they inflated their rafts and traveled the three miles to Port Clinton, where the team needed to catch their next mode of travel, the Blue Mountain Railroad! The group deflated rafts and climbed aboard to enjoy the relaxing miles to Jim Thorpe and the Lehigh River.
At the shoulder of the Lehigh River the team, for their final time, inflated their rafts and paddled their way to the Lehigh Gap and the Appalachian Trail. With the heat rising, the river section was most enjoyable. There was plenty of opportunity to cool off with a splash or swim.
After reaching the Gap the real work began, the trek back home to the Sanctuary. With the heat, the team decided conducting a majority of their miles at night would be best. So after dark on June 30 they started their approach to home which lasted into the early hours of the next day.
The HMCC Team reached the famous North Lookout late morning on July 2 completing their circumference of home. This arduous trek consisted of 14 miles paddled and 27 miles by foot, all while enduring heat and humidity well into the 90s!
This journey not only demonstrated the heart and grit of young adults but also celebrated the rich natural history that abounds this region of the Central Appalachian Mountains. As one of these remarkable HMCC members mentioned in an interview for a future film, “We spent three days trekking our own backyard!”
HMCC is creating a documentary film of the journey to share at a later time.