Friday, September 11, 2015

Highline Trail, Part II

About halfway into the Highline Trail hike I began to have doubts about being able to finish without having to rush the last part of it. I was already in a fair amount of pain despite taking a good prescription painkiller before starting the hike. But we were beginning to fall behind the pace I wanted to set. One of the reasons, in addition to Sharon being slowed down by developing sickness, was that the trail is in no way "downhill" as had been repeatedly described to me.

Yes, I knew that there was some elevation gain along the way, but had been told over and over that it was incremental and just in several spots along the route. In fact, though, the trail had pretty much been an almost continual steady uphill climb after the first couple of slightly downhill miles. After those, the trail took an upward turn and never left it. So we were pretty much constantly climbing, with almost all of that walking being above treeline and in full sun, which was getting pretty darned hot. I also began to worry that the six liters of water I'd carried along might not be enough to get me to the end of the trail.

As we continued to hike, I kept a lookout for wildlife, hoping to see something out of the ordinary. I did happen upon a couple of pika, but they would not come out of the rocks so that I could get a photo of them. Then I saw yet another golden mantled ground squirrel, but I'd seen so many of those that I was not impressed.

Finally, a Bighorn sheep appeared on my right, not far upslope. This time it was not a lamb or a ewe, but a ram. I'd been in the Park for several days and had not seen a single Bighorn ram. And now, here was one just above me. I got a photo and pushed on.

In a little while I was passed by two attractive young ladies, and then the sheep again appeared along the trail, this time very close and on my left. I was able to get some better photos of him as I continued to walk. And then, rounding a bend in the trail, I saw that we were going to have to make a very long and very steep climb. This was not something I had anticipated and I knew that it was going to slow us down even more. Once again, I should have checked several sources so that I would have been aware of what we were going to face. I'd been told that there was about 800 total feet of elevation gain between Logans Gap and Granite Park Chalet, but in fact there was over 1800 feet of steep climbing before you reach the chalet.

There was nothing to do but keep going and hope to be able to pick up the pace later and make up the time.

Sometimes the trail was level or only slightly uphill. We passed through a refreshing bit of forest for a mile or so along they way. It provided welcome shade.

Oh, crap! We don't have to climb that, do we?!

Well, there's really nowhere else for the trail to go. Yes, we do.

A view up at the butte and saddle we'd have to negotiate.

To my right, a Bighorn ram.

What? How'd this get in there?

"Yeah, baby!"

I knew it was going to be a heavy climb. Nowhere to go but up that saddle.

Crap. At least 800 or a thousand feet of elevation gain just to hit the high ground.

Part of the long, broad switchbacks we had to gain.
Tomorrow...Part III...

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