Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Highline Trail, Part III

At one point on the trail Bobby and Sharon told me to push on, since Sharon was pretty sick. So I headed on, climbing to the top of the pass only to find that the trail still angled up, although at not quite as severe an angle. Still, the going was steep and tough and in open country in hot weather. It was hard.

I paused at a few spots along the way, but I was eager to get to the Granite Park Chalet because at this point daylight was becoming a serious factor. By this time I was pretty darned tired and wasn't  stopping so much to talk to the odd person who I saw on the trail from time to time. Most of them had no packs and no water bottles with them, so I knew that I was seeing people who were staying at the back country chalet. At least I was getting close.

Finally, after one last climb I found myself at a meadow with the stairs leading up to the famous chalet. Yeah, even to get to the inn I was going to have to climb some big-ass stairs.

Once there, I tried to relax a little. I had no choice but to wait for Bobby and Sharon to catch up so that we could decide what to do. Worst case, I was sure the folk at the chalet could help us out in some way in case Sharon couldn't push on. So I just walked around the grounds, took photos, and admired the fantastic views from the chalet porch that I'd heard so much about. If only there hadn't been any smoke haze from the forest fires. I could see why those views were so well known around the world.

After a few minutes I walked back to the bottom of the stairs and lay back on the grass. Sooner than I expected, my hiking pals appeared. Bobby informed me that it was going to be up to me to get down the mountain in time to catch the shuttle back to Logans Gap. Sharon looked worn out and there was no way she would be able to keep up the pace we needed to set to get down the mountain in time.

Thus, I took the keys and began to move down the slope (which was, this time, the promised downhill march). I had to travel a little over four miles in roughly and hour and fifteen minutes to assure beating the shuttle to the stop. I only stopped a couple of times to take photos and catch my breath. The hike was very hot since the forests that had once clothed these slopes had been taken out in a really severe fire some years before. Once again I was hiking in full sun.

I have to admit that I made great time. I got to The Loop a little less than one hour after I'd left Sharon and Bobby behind. I got there a full thirty minutes before the shuttle. But I was exhausted, my hip was screaming at me, and I was not only out of water, but unable to replenish my supply of water, since the bathroom at the road consisted of a pit toilet only and there was no running water available.

Finally, the shuttle pulled in and I climbed aboard. The driver assured me that the shuttle at Logans Gap would wait for us before it pulled out to head to Saint Mary Visitor Center where the truck was parked. And he was as good as his word. After the long drive to the gap I switched shuttles and another long drive ensued until I arrived at Saint Mary. There, I drank probably half a gallon of water from a fountain before climbing into Bobby's kick-ass V8 American-made truck. That machine drives a lot different than my Nissan V6, let me tell you.

I hit Logans Gap just to make sure Bobby and Sharon had not found a ride up there and found that they had not, but that the parking lot was full of Bighorn rams looking for handouts from the smattering of tourists who were still at the gap at sundown. Then I headed down to The Loop where my hiking companions were waiting for my arrival.

From there, we drove back to camp where--as I've recounted--Carole had reported us all missing to the National Park Service. We couldn't blame her, since it was well after 10 pm before we got back to Two Medicine. By the next morning my hip was screaming volumes of pain at me, and let me know that such hikes are definitely not good for me until the root problem has been treated.

But it was a hell of an adventure.

Not just uphill...but a damned long way to go.

Lichens cover the rock face of this cliff.

This hoary marmot spent some time with us.

Nothing to do but just keep pushing on!

Fossilized streambed from many millions of years ago.

Finally! I reach the meadow just below Granite Park Chalet!

I pause to enjoy the sights and sounds.

The front entrance to the famous back country chalet.

Inside, folk relax.

The rooms. I wish a door had been open so that I could have taken a photo of the accommodations.

The view from the chalet porch.

Bighorn rams in the Logans Pass parking lot.

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