Reflections on Guiding (a bit of a Rant) — Posted on Facebook almost 7 years ago

PLEASE NOTE: this is a 7-year old post from the JTX facebook page. But with Glen Onoko being in the news lately (ie: its closing), I thought it appropriate to resurrect this opinion. JTX is NOT leading hikes on the Glen Onoko Trail anymore.

May 29, 2012 at 11:20 AM

A recent post about safety/stupidity on the Glen Onoko Waterfall Trail was actually just the tip of the iceberg on my thoughts about people who come to our area and expect to be able to do anything/everything they want, and in doing so they think they’ll get the best experience.  That notion just doesn’t make sense…. you can’t expect to get the best of the area if you don’t know the area, or have someone with you who does. 

For example,

1. the people who go up the waterfall trail without doing research on it… they don’t always wear the proper footwear.  Right there, they are compromising their experience because they have to worry about every step, instead of being able to look around and appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of the Glen.

1a. they don’t know what they’re in for, in terms of the strenuous climbs and steep descents involved in this hike.  Some people should NOT be doing this hike – they aren’t physically able to do it – and others aren’t ready for it (toddlers, for example).  Getting up there is 1/2 the battle, getting down another story.  You need to be able to do BOTH and not run out of steam, which is when many people get sloppy and get hurt.

1b. many folks don’t take enough water for the hike… if they take any.  Being thirsty and getting dehydrated is no way to enjoy a hike, even a short one.  Sure you could drink from the stream in a pinch, but why not just plan better?

1c.  lots of people don’t know the basics of first aid.  Going on a hike like this, where there is a high probability of danger, puts the likelihood high that someone will need some kind of attention.  If no one knows how to treat injuries, what happens when something bad occurs?

1d.  on that note, people think they can just call 911 and all the problems are solved.  NOT a good solution – a very irresponsible one.  Now they are putting 4-5 more people in danger because of their unpreparedness.  Now the rescue teams have to come out and navigate the same steep trails with all their equipment, and help get the injured party out (which is even more dangerous).  And in a financial sense, our tax dollars have to pay for the whole operation.  There’s enough for our firemen/EMT’s to do around here, they don’t need to be coming out in the woods to rescue people who have gotten themselves into trouble due to their own lack of preparation or intelligence.

If you want to make sure you are prepared for a hiking experience, consider going with JTX, where everything will be covered before we get out on the trail, and your expectations will be set – you will know what we are in for, and we will make sure the group has everything in order before going on the trails.

2.  on the note of getting the most out of the experience, I had the occasion to hike as a member of a group hike recently – NOT as the guide.  A different scenario for me, but I figured I would see how a group hike works.  It was enlightening to say the least:

2a.  the hike leader was very well-intentioned and had done the Waterfall hike a few times himself (he is not from this area), the group was of mixed ability and physical ‘shape,’ and the intent of the hike was to get up the falls and continue out the top of the Broad Mountain, coming down a trail to the Lehigh Gorge trail, then flat-walk back into the Glen Onoko parking area.  The focus seemed to be on getting through it as efficiently as possible (started a little late, didn’t want to be out all day).

2b. At the start of the hike, there was no mention of safety issues, no mention of water supply, no questions about health issues or previous hiking experience, and no expectations set about the hike we’re about to do – we just started walking.

2c.  About 1/4 mile into the hike, I took the leader aside and told him about my guiding service, asking if I could interject bits of history here-and-there, to make it more interesting.  This would also help him learn, and next time he led the hike he can use the knowledge to make it better for the next group.  He wasn’t interested… didn’t even ask anyone else.

2d. As we navigated the rocky trail, the group was going all different ways at some points (where there are multiple paths through rock fields, for example).  Some people took more dangerous paths.  Some just followed others, blindly. No direction from the hike leader. 

2e. There were several sections where it is downright dangerous if you go the wrong way.  No direction from the hike leader.  (I had to chime in a couple times, to keep people safe. Tried to do it discreetly.)

2f. The group was obviously of different physical abilities, some got far ahead of others, yet little effort was made to keep it all together. 

Chameleon Falls is the first major falls on the trail - and maybe the most photogenic.

2g.  At the first major waterfall, no one was taking pictures.  It is an absolutely beautiful spot.  The leader barely wanted to break – the objective seemed to be ‘get to the top ASAP.’  Chameleon Falls is the prettiest and most picturesque of the falls – how could you not take a break there?  (I asked people about pics and ended up taking a group shot, plus a couple of my own.)    Chameleon Falls is the first major falls on the trail – and maybe the most photogenic.

2h. At Onoko Falls, the biggest of the group, there was no mention of getting out in front of the falls for the best view.  Everyone just went right up through the trees, all the way to the side of the falls.  Why not spend a couple extra minutes and get both views?  THIS is what the Falls hike is all about!  Why rush through this area?  The top of the mountain is just a walk in the woods – the falls are unique and beautiful.

2i. At the top of Onoko falls, there was no mention of going out and getting the amazing panoramic view – we were just going to keep climbing right up past the overlook…. are you kidding??!?!?!  This is an awesome spot that is one of the highlights of the hike, and they were going to bypass it in the name of speed.  I’d say in the name of stupidity.  They drove 1 1/2 hours to get here, and were going to miss one of the best views…. unbelievable.  I made them come for a look.

2j. they missed one of the best views of Cascade falls because they were rushing through the trail and didn’t know about a small turn-off that takes you to an amazing spot.  I went and got some pics, then caught up later.  i didn’t tell them what they’d missed.

Cave Falls allows a unique experience of getting underneath a waterfall.

2k. At Cave Falls, the leader was content to keep right on going from bottom around to top, without exploring the base of the falls, which allows one of the neatest experiences of the whole hike.  I could not let this pass, as I knew some of the folks would enjoy it.  We went to the base of the ledge, and I instructed some of the folks on how to get under the falls without getting soaked.  They went under and I went back and took pictures for them.  It was likely the highlight of the whole hike for these two, but would not have happened if they weren’t shown how to do it. Cave Falls allows a unique experience of getting underneath a waterfall.

2l.  At the top of Cave Falls, it was announced that we were done with the waterfalls and now are basically on top of the mountain, which is where most of the hike will be.  Yipee 🙁   It was as if getting through the climb was just a chore so we could walk through the woods, like THIS was gonna be the good part.   Are you serious?  We just DID the good part, and we rushed through it…. why?  It was a travesty that the folks did not get to enjoy the falls more.  I hope that my interjections helped them get a bit more out of it than they would have.

2m. Out on the woodlands trail across the top of the ridge, we made our way to the first overlook, sometimes called Packer Point, with the intention of stopping for lunch.  One of the group was lagging, but no one noticed.  I made sure he was OK, and had plenty of water, assuring him a break was coming soon.

2n. When we got to the first overlook, the group was staying on the trail, about 20 feet above the big rock that affords the best views.  Turns out, this was not even a stop on the route – they were going to the second overlook for lunch.  So they were starting to head out that way, when I stopped them and said that they should look at the view from the big rock…. the leader had not even mentioned it.  Are you kidding?  You’re not coming back this way, so why bypass one of the nicest views of the day?  Unbelievable.  I took some of the folks 10 steps down to the big rock and pointed out a few things in the amazing view.  Then the group continued on the trail.

At that point, due to time, I had to take a different return path from that of the group.  They were going on a very long loop hike, which I just did not have time for.

But even in the short time I was with them, I was astounded at how the experience they had would differ from the experience that JTX hiking groups have.  These folks missed so much of the best parts, and had no time to sit and appreciate the waterfalls, and the leader made no effort to get them to the best spots… it was a travesty.  They drove all that way, just to race up the mountain and walk through the woods on top – heck, they could’ve walked in the woods anywhere.  In Glen Onoko, it’s the waterfalls, the different viewing angles, the hidden views, the little spots and the unique history that make it such an amazing hike.  Oh yeah, the history was something that was only brought up a couple times when other groups asked us questions as we passed.  A couple questions by our group followed, but not much.  The leader wasn’t into having people hear about the unbelievable things that happened out in this area.  Shame….

So my question is this”  If you miss most of the best spots, don’t care about the history, and treat the falls as if they’re just obstacles during the climb, why did you bother coming?

On the other hand, at least this group was a teensy-weensy bit prepared for the hike… they had good equipment, enough water, and hiking experience.  Plus someone knew the trail, even if not all the spots.  But that just goes to show you that even those who are mostly prepared will still not get the best experience unless they take someone with them who can show them everything.  (That’s where JTX comes in.)

For anyone who wants to get the best of Glen Onoko and the Jim Thorpe area in general, JTX is here for you.  We won’t let you go away without seeing, hearing, touching and learning about this absolutely incredible area!

PLEASE NOTE: this is a 7-year old post from the JTX facebook page. But with Glen Onoko being in the news lately (ie. it’s closing), I thought it appropriate to resurrect this opinion. JTX is NOT leading hikes on the Glen Onoko Trail anymore.