Nature can be beautiful, yet very dangerous, as recent news events in our region prove.

The sight of lightning streaking across the night sky is awesome but a bolt out of the blue can be deadly, as we saw at the recent NASCAR race at Pocono when a lightning strike killed a 41-year-old fan and injured nine others in the parking area.

Closer to home, in just the last two days, we've seen two separate deaths in the Lehigh Gorge State Park area north of Jim Thorpe. The 4,548-acre park which follows the Lehigh River, draws a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. Wildlife and nature lovers are attracted by the scenic outcroppings as well as the animal and bird life. Hikers and bikers also use the trails winding through the park, while the water sport enthusiasts are attracted to the river adventures.

Some, like Lee Kenneth Mantz, the Coaldale man who was killed in a tragic fall off a cliff Sunday morning, used the area to satisfy several passions. Mantz enjoyed both bicycling along the trails while also exploring the area's earliest history at the same time.

The scenic Gorge area, which was carved by the Lehigh River, traces its past to the earliest settlements in this area after the discovery of anthracite coal at Summit Hill in 1791. The remains of locks, dams and towpath used to ship coal to markets down river are still evident in the Gorge area and are a popular stop for the historians.

But with the steep walls of rock outcroppings, thick vegetation, and swirling waters of the Lehigh, the Gorge can be as dangerous as it is breathtaking in its natural beauty. Last night, the Gorge claimed its second victim in two days when a Summit Hill man drowned while swimming with friends in the river in the Glen Onoko boat launch area. The location where the man drowned is not a designated swimming area.

The beauty of the fall season, with all its spectacular color, is just around the corner. Hopefully, outdoor nature lovers as well as adventurers will remain cautious and respectful of the dangers that accompany the natural beauty of these surroundings.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]