A Blue Mountain End to 2018

This ride found us in that perfect place between summer and fall weather. Ideal temps, sunshine, and picturesque roads were on the menu for today. A rider’s dream weather wise, the type of day you wish there were more of.

We started off on beautiful Cherry Valley Road which spans Stroud and Hamilton Townships with its mountainous views, horse farms, beautiful homes and even an old golf course converted to a national wildlife refuge. From here, we continued our way westward on Kunkletown Rd. through Kunkletown, Little Gap, and eventually Palmerton.

Officially incorporated in 1912, the area of Palmerton once played host to Native Americans and was eventually filled with early European settlers with roughly 5,500 people living there today. It was 1985 when I first came to Pennsylvania where I stumbled upon the town and was stunned by its lack of vegetation. Trees were either bare or absent where one would expect them to be. Lawns were sparse or absent and the area collectively reminded me of a war zone. It was puzzling at first until I learned of the zinc smelting operation that had gone on for nearly 80 years and finally stopped in 1980 due to a poor zinc market and environmental regulations.

Today, Palmerton is the location of the Palmerton Superfund site that was added to the National Priority List in 1983. The defoliated mountain slope, the cinder banks, soil, and ground and surface water is all part of the remediation process in place. The area fortunately no longer resembles the scorched look it had in the past with more greenery present each year I pass through it.

From Palmerton, we headed west on the serene Mountain Rd. in Germansville just below the mountains that contain the magnificent views from Bake Oven Knob. Part of the Appalachian Trail, the view from Bake Oven Knob is also accessible by a dirt road and a little bit of hiking. Last season, I muscled us up the dirt road on the Yamaha Royal Star Venture, something I may not want to try again. We had then hiked to the 1,500 foot elevation view which gives you one of the best views eastern Pennsylvania has to offer. For this ride however, we just absorbed the scenery surrounding us below as we made our way towards route 309 south towards New Tripoli, the home of the Blue Mountain Vineyard.

Gently tucked into the rolling hills of New Tripoli, Joe and Vickie Greff converted an old traditional farm into a beautiful 38 acre vineyard complete with a small lake, a nicely designed building, and wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. Reds, whites, blush and sweet wines make up the twenty wines they offer as we sipped through some of them with a sample list we purchased while discussing wine with their knowledgeable staff. We filled a bag with a Petite Sirah and a White Merlot before heading outside on their deck to take in the view. We also decided to venture through the vineyard itself which afforded a greater view of the horizon as we were surrounded by luscious grapes. At the top, I became curious by an odd looking device which at first I took as some sort of security camera set up. It may indeed have been outfitted as such but suddenly it gave off a series of bird calls, predatory bird calls I would imagine and it was obviously designed to keep away whatever is out there in the wild that would enjoy a snack or two of this wonderful looking fruit.

On our return voyage, I decided to alter the way back and pass over the Little Gap Covered Bridge in Lower Towamensing Township. It was constructed around 1860 and spans 73 feet across the Aquashicola Creek. It’s the only covered bridge I know of in the surrounding area.

The date of this trip was September 30th and we had no idea that as I write this story now in mid-November there would be a half a foot of snow outside. An early winter has probably made this trip our last of the season. NASA’s report on the low sun spot cycle is pointing to a rough one and quite possibly lower temps throughout the year for years to come. This was a fine winery and a nice little ride but we did have hopes of furthering our adventures a little deeper into 2018. Perhaps a break in the weather is forth coming which will allow us some additional saddle time, otherwise it looks as if it’s time to think and plan for next year’s trips.

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