Now that I am working six days a week, it seems like it takes forever for a hike to get to me. Not to mention that sometimes that one day off seems to be spent catching up on sleep so, that pushes the hike to the next week. This morning, I was determined to hike. I was also determined to hike Washington and Jefferson via the Jewel Trail and Gulf Side. This would be a long day and I really hoped that I would not talk myself out of either peak. I needed a challenge beyond the weekly challenges. I needed to feel like I actually did a hike. This was perfect.
Arriving at 7am, we got under way (Isis and I) and crossed the tracks for the cog railway at Base Station. Immediately, there is a small water crossing with stairs that have s decent drop at the bottom to the water. We cross easily and hit the trail in the cool morning. I was moving well over the trail which is also very well maintained. There are 3 bridges to cross so water crossings are negligible. We start our ascend to tree line and settle in to a rhythm for the day. Isis is doing well and is enjoying the cool morning. I’m getting lost in the trails and the sights. The trails are not crowded so, I am enjoying the quiet. I had high hopes to beat the cog to the summit…. It was a long shot. There are two branches on the trails one a walk under and one a step over. Both are not large so, they seem to be a nonissue as well.
Two hours after we started, Isis and I break tree line after quietly moving past sleeping hikers off the trail (one in a tent and two in hammocks). The sun was getting stronger as we moved up the Jewel trail and decided to head over to George. I heard the cog running and knew that we would time it just right to be mobbed at the summit. We in fact met the Cog on the Gulfside trail and waved as it passed. The people on board were taking pictures as I was taking pictures of them. I was amused by this because, I’m just a hiker. I stood talking to two Thru Hikers who had given the cog their traditional greeting of Hiker Ass. I continued following the cog and then turned away and actually walked the auto road for a while. It really didn’t faze me as I was not planning on spending too much time at this summit. Not only did I have to deal with the cog, I also had to deal with the auto road drivers. I should note that I have friends and family that have reached the summit this way and I have no problem with that. Reach the summit however you can and appreciate it and understand that this is a great area and is actually full of history… I have a problem with rude people who have no respect for the mountain or the people who hike it from top to bottom or the Thru Hikers that are traveling. At the summit sign, you now have to wait in line if you want a picture. This is my reward (even within the clouds), to the guy that cut in front of me, you are lucky I didn’t unleash my inner righteous hiker on you and thank you for realizing the error and letting me have my shot.
Isis and I sat and had some cheese at the summit but we kept getting over run by people. I was pleased that cheese and apple season had finally come to the mountains. Summit snacks just got better. We headed back the way we came and encountered more and more people. There were larger and larger groups moving slowly down the trails and I had a long day. It was 11am when we left the summit and I was ever more concerned that Jefferson would have to wait. So, Isis and I did our best to put some distance between us and the large groups. The boulder fields also slowed us as we made our way over the Gulfside trail again. We passed the junction of the Jewel Trail and committed ourselves to the try.
Isis does not like the boulder fields and this slows us a little more but I am willing to put aside my need to sleep for work in the morning for a great day up above tree line. We take is slow and stop to tlak to a SoBo Thru Hiker who goes by Miss America and she was concerned for her time. I offered some encouragement and Isis offered some trail magic in the form of some love. More and more I am realizing that this little dog puts smiles on faces that seem concentrated on the trails and for a moment, people forget something. We hit the Sphinx Trail and I wanted to set my alarm for my turn around time. A moment of panic as my phone is not in my top compartment. I had accidently put it in the front pocket and once I realized this, I set the alarm and put it in its right place. We had a hard mile ahead of us and we kept going. More boulders to hop and my feet were getting tired.
Isis hates the boulders to Jefferson so, we take it slow and we summit at 2pm. A full hour ahead of our cut off. But this was not before Jefferson bit my calf. At the summit, it was pointed out and I just shrugged it off. Knowing the scrape would clot and dry before we left. I’d it later. Isis and I laughed with our summit company and talked hiking. It was agreed that the Wildcats are not a favorite. After some food and a rest, Isis and I head back. It’s a long way down to the car. I was pleased with the day so far and could not believe we did it. Except we still needed to get back to the car. It was very slow going with lots of breaks and it seemed to take forever to get back to the Sphinx trail where we met up with Peakbagger and his hiking friend. It was great to chat with them for a while except Isis was about asleep when I needed to get going again. She was fading and yet able to liven up. We hit the boulder fields and just kept thoughts on the junction. It was a lot of up first and as we approached, we ran into a family group that had missed the junction and was on their way to Jefferson while not wanting to go there. I quickly turned them back and told them that I was going in the same direction, saving them from a miserable night.
Isis and I hit the junction and it was truly downhill. Going back to tree line was slow and painful with my clumsy feet and Isis being tired. The crowd in front of us, while nice was also moving slow. We managed to get to flatter dirt trail and I gave Isis a break except she just wanted to sleep. So, I gave her a little encouragement and we began cruising down the dirt of the Jewel Trail. Once we hit the bridges, I kept pushing and soon we were running into curious tourists who we told to be careful before they got in over their heads. Isis and I crossed the last crossing and let me just say that getting up on those stairs is rather difficult at the end of a long day. We crossed the tracks and got back to the car by 6pm. A very successful and satisfying day for both Isis and myself.
Driving home, I realized that one of the good things about today was that there was no talk of lists, grids, or redlines. I was distancing myself from these things and happy to have such a positive effect on my hikes. Lots of good things coming in the future as I keep hiking when I can and enjoy a new found comfort in myself and everything that I am.