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One last hike: Dangerous Glen Onoko trail closed

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    Lucci Ventura takes a selfie with fellow Jim Thorpe residents Kristy Yzzi, Janna Lesko and Savannah Allavaugh at Glen Onoko Falls on Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has closed the trail. See a video at tnonline.com
    CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    The Pennsylvania Game Commission has closed the Glen Onoko Falls Trail. Surrounding trails remain open. DAVID W. ROWE/TIMES NEWS

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    Tuesday was the last day for hikers to enjoy the Glen Onoko Falls trail. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    Tuesday was the last day for hikers to enjoy the Glen Onoko Falls trail. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

Published May 01. 2019 11:13AM

 

Seven years ago, Jay Miller and Reese Maddox went to Glen Onoko Falls for their first date.

Over the years they returned many times, but on Tuesday, the last day that the trail was open to the public, they returned for one more bittersweet hike.

“People travel all over the place to go hiking and see waterfalls, and we have it right here. It’s unfortunate we don’t have the opportunity to venture it so much anymore, but at least we had it,” Maddox said.

As of today, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has permanently closed the Glen Onoko Falls Trail, citing the impact on local firefighters and poor trail conditions.

The public learned about the closure about two weeks ago. Violators who hike on the falls t rail could now be fined $100-200 for violating game commission regulations.

The falls trail is just 0.4 miles, according to the game commission, but it climbs 600 feet in that short distance. Hikers must use roots to pull themselves up in some sections.

Hundreds of people, many coming from the Lehigh Valley and beyond, hiked up the falls on a warm spring day.

Many of them said it is worth the hour-plus drive to Jim Thorpe to see something they can’t see anywhere else in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.

“Words can’t really describe it — you’re here, you’re away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, you come back and you’re de-stressed essentially,” said Ashley Krzemien of Souderton.

Melissa Barry drove from Mechanicsburg in order to solo hike the falls on its last day. She was elated to be on the trail, but said her heart was broken that it’s her last visit to Glen Onoko. “I’m here because I can’t do this again. It’s important to me to be back here,” she said.

A handful of locals joined in among the contingent of hikers from around the state and beyond. Joseph Ayala of Slatington said the trail is so beautiful that it will impress someone who has no interest in hiking.

“It’s beautiful, and it gets you outdoors. The beauty of it, it would get a lazy person out,” he said.

Some heard about the trail closing and wanted to hike it for the first time. Jeff Gilbert of Allentown said it was a perfect day to experience the trail.

“This is a treasure. This is incredible,” he said.

Danger of trail

The game commission says despite new signs, people still get hurt after hiking the falls in inappropriate footwear, or not using the designated trail. They have cited the handful of deaths and numerous rescues which have occurred at the falls over the years.

Some hikers said they could understand the plight of the first responders who have to cover the trail, including John Halupa of St. Clair, Schuylkill County.

“It’s sad, but I understand it. It’s too expensive for the local authorities. That’s what it comes down to, the EMTs have to come here and help people.

Barry, an emergency room nurse, said hikers have to be prepared to take on the falls trail. Sometimes they don’t come properly equipped for an advanced trail.

“I don’t think people realize how slippery it can get, especially with the mud and water. This isn’t a trail you want to go up in flip-flops, or shoes without treads,” she said.

Thousands of people have signed a petition to keep the falls open. At last count, 19,864 supporters had signed a “Keep Glen Onoko Falls Trail Open” petition online.

The majority of the hikers who took on the trail Tuesday morning were upset that the majority of hikers were suffering the consequences because of the actions of a relatively small number.

Scott Ginter of Telford said that the signs at the falls are clear about the danger of the falls, and hikers should take heed.

“That’s on the individual. Why should everyone else have to suffer for someone’s inability to heed caution signs?” Ginter said.

Jerry Coleman of Chalfont, Bucks County, said he hates to see public lands closed to the public. While he’s noticed that the trail has deteriorated in some spots, he said sometimes part of being out in nature means encountering naturally hazardous situations.

“They don’t shut down the Grand Canyon when people get hurt, I hope they’re not going to shut down the river because kayakers get hurt, why should they shut down the trail because sometimes people get hurt?” Coleman said.

Ayala pointed out that risk is everywhere. Even on the trails which will remain open, you could twist an ankle or be bitten by a copperhead.

Gilbert, one of the hikers who took on the trail for the first time on Tuesday, said he’s a good example that the trail can be safe when used correctly.

“Honestly, I think I can prove it myself, I’m one of the older guys doing this. If you’re careful, you can do this trail,” he said.

 

 

 

Comments
Hey idiots …….. you can't close the woods.....
I can't wait to go hiking up there.
Well Berklee I have no idea who the moron would be as I have hiked that trail for years and will continue to do so. But I guess you are one of those … people.
I hiked the trail twice in the last two weeks. I saw numerous people walking past the warning signs, totally ignoring them. I also saw a lot of reckless behavior, including one guy walking up the middle of the creek, right above the second (tall) waterfall - true story. You can't protect people from their own foolish behavior. This trail is a magnet for a lot of people who have no business using it. It is not a "dangerous trail". That is like saying a highway is dangerous because if you walk down the middle of it you may get run over. People don't walk down the middle of roads - why do they hike places they are not capable of, and ignore signs with skull and crossbones on them? Heck I don't know.

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