The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - Rediscovering our beauty along the D&L Trail

Guest blog post by Bernie O’Hare, Lehigh Valley Ramblings

Many people complain, and with a great deal of justification, about how ugly things have become in Northeastern Pennsylvania, especially in the Lehigh Valley. Farmland diminishes every year, while warehouses are popping up everywhere. Truck traffic is projected to double, and Routes 22 and 78 are so bottlenecked that they no longer make sense for local travel. We’re very much in danger of becoming just another NYC suburb, but we do have one thing going for us. The trails.

If there’s one bright spot to this pandemic, it’s resulted in many local people becoming familiar with our inherent beauty for the first time. They might flip you off on the roads, but they smile on the trails. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and spend some time this summer and Fall walking, running, biking or e-biking along the gorgeous D&L Trail. [When finished,] It’s 165 miles long, with 36 of those miles right here in the Lehigh Valley.

I’ve always loved this trail between Easton and Allentown. But I was completely blown away when, earlier this year, I rode from Cementon (Coplay) to Slatington. It is by far the most beautiful trail I’ve ever ridden, It’s flat, well-maintained and wide. Not long after you start, the sounds of traffic on busy highways are replaced by another symphony from the rushing waters of the Lehigh River, often accompanied by laughter from people rafting their way downstream. As you continue north toward Slatington and beyond, you are transplanted to what seems like a different place and time.

I’ve been making periodic trips from Cementon north and back, with an ultimate goal of completing a century within one day. After Friday, I’m a bit closer to achieving that goal with a 70-mile round trip. I thought I’d share some pics to help you understand why I love it so much.

I’d recommend that you check the map, if you’re planning a long trip. It will advise you if there are obstructions.

If you think you need to spend several thousand for a great bike, you’re wrong. Let’s start with my bike for long trips. It is nothing fancy. It’s just a Jamis commuter, nothing like a Trek, Cannondale, Giant or Fuji. It’s heavy, too, especially compared to racing bikes like one of my friends has. You can pick those up with one finger.

Over the years, I souped up my Jamis with fenders (bad weather), decals everywhere, kevlar tires, a great crankset, rack and panniers, computer and lighting. It’s a frickin’ tank. You’ll notice two bottles. One holds water and the other holds something even more valuable – coffee. In my bag in the back, I have several other bottles of water in a bed of ice, bandaids (used all three), neosporin, cliff bars, vaseline and bike repair tools. I have no idea how to fix a bike, but people along the trails often stop and help, so it’s a good idea to have a tube and pump on hand. Believe it or not, there are numerous stations along the way with bike tools and pumps, too!

This was the scene in Lehighton (19 miles), where I finally stopped to eat a cheese and egg sandwich purchased in Slatington (9 miles) at Diggity Dogs. While in Lehighton, I was assaulted by a gaggle of geese.

Speaking of Diggity Dogs, he makes the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. He also sometimes have pierogies made by the “church ladies,” kielbasi and halupki soup. A drive to Slatington just to eat breakfast would be worth the trip, but a bike ride is more fun.

This sign is along the trail just north of Jim Thorpe. I don’t know why. If I were a black bear, I’d be offended. In all my years, I’ve never seen a black bear hiking, riding or jogging on the trail.  I did see one talking a sunbath on the railroads tracks  in Upper Mount Bethel a few years ago. Mosquitoes are far more deadly, but no sign warns of them. 

And as the alien overlords often tell me during abductions, we humans are probably the most disgusting of the bunch. Let me give you an example. I cycled by some old coot and must have startled him. I was going no more than 10-12 mph, and was far to his left. As I went by, he jumped and simultaneously swung a rather big and thick walking stick at me. I know I am sometimes startled by cyclists going by me, so I understand this guy’s reaction. Either that or he knows me. 

Aside from the unwitting assault, what nearly defeated me between Lehighton and Jim Thorpe was two very narrow wooden bridges over spillways from the canal and into the river. I probably should dismount and walk my bike across, but am too proud and arrogant. Invariably, the bridges dismount me themselves. I lost control and banged my knee, which was already cut up from a previous injury. Hence the bandaids and neosporin.

Another spot where I’d recommend caution is around the Glen Onoko section along the railroad. The gravel is loose there and I almost wiped out a few times. That’s also where the grade becomes noticeable.

Unlike many other trails, the Delaware and Lehigh Trail is clearly marked, sometimes by half mile. This was my halfway point from MM 83 in Cementon. I just noticed White Haven is at MM 130, so my century ride, if I ever do it, might be only 94 miles. I’ll have to plan an additional six miles. That should be no problem because there are other trails that hook up.   

This picture was taken from a bridge crossing the Lehigh River, about 1 1/2 miles north of Jim Thorpe. You can see little hints of Jim Thorpe.

On my way back, I stopped in Jim Thorpe to load up on water (drank 192 ounces of water yesterday), coffee and eat lunch at Bear Appetit. Don’t worry, there is no Ursus Americanus on the menu. The food there is always delicious and the service fast. I had a summer salad, a bed of deep-green spinach with a generous sprinkling of blueberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges and crumbled bleu cheese. I’m convinced that combination, along with the water and coffee, enabled me to complete my ride. 

This is south of Bowmanstown, and is one of very few spots where you jump on a road. It adjoins a park, has a nice berm and is quite safe. Love the mountain in the background.

This area is quite beautiful, if we take the time to notice it.

Sunday Addendum, July 26: I’m embarrassed to say I was unaware that The Delaware and Lehigh Trail offers memberships, and for as little as $25.  You can also be a volunteer.

This blog first appeared on Lehigh Valley Ramblings, where you can keep up with all of Bernie’s musings and adventures. If you’d like to share blogs and photos from your journeys on and along the D&L Trail, reach out to our Community Engagement Manager by email at [email protected].