Hiking a loop trail is different than hiking out-and-back…….and the difference is hope. When you are hiking out on a trail, then back the way you came, you know what is ahead of you on the way down. Depending on the trail……that could mean spending the entire trail going up dreading the trip back down. (Which, when it comes to it, never DOES seem to be as bad as I had imagined it to be.) Or, knowing what obstacles you have to transverse can give you a sort of confidence……..’the devil you know’…..On this trail I had hiked up with the hope that the trail down, labeled the “Old Bridle Path”, would HAVE to be less steep and better footing. After all, doesn’t “Bridle Path” suggest that horses could have navigated this trail? Hope springs eternal…….
The first section, even I could tell, was going to be steep and rocky……but it wasn’t labeled the “Old Bridle Path” yet, either. We had to hike 1.1 miles to the Greenleaf Hut (whatever that was) first. From the top, we noticed this rather large building in the distance, wondered what it was, and gathered ourselves together and started carefully down….The time – about 1 pm.
The trail was steep and rocky, but I had a growing confidence, born of a number of pretty steep downhills that I had rather successfully completed in the past, and I felt that things were going to be OK….more than that, I was going to enjoy this hike….especially the feeling after we stopped!
We were quite surprised when our trail brought us right up to the door of the large building that we had seen in the distance. This was Greenleaf Hut! It turned out to be, not just a shelter as we had thought, but a hiker’s destination – with bunk beds and meals served – reservations required. We were impressed….
We stopped a bit, had some water and a snack from our pack, and pushed on. It was 2:30pm and we had 2.9 miles to go. At our current pace, we figured that we would be back to our car at about 5:30pm. We were very glad that we had made an early start of the day…..leaving plenty of time to hike out.
We started out on the “Old Bridle Trail” …..which I was sure, by now, had fallen into disuse after so many horses had been killed attempting to transverse it! Ha Ha : ) The trail gradually changed from boulder hopping to this….a sort of ‘river’ of rock flowing down the mountain. At least the footing was better……expect for one very slick section of brown rock, which I slid down on my behind.
Hiking on… and on……we began to tire a bit and I would find my concentration would begin to wander. That is the one thing that is very tedious about this kind of hike – constantly watching your footing - choosing each step. When I would notice myself loosing ‘focus’, we would take a break, sip some water, and regroup.
Then….from behind us came a group of the Catholic Seminarians that had passed us on their way up. I heard them praying the Rosary as they hiked down….... “Hail Mary full of grace”……One of the boys leading….the other two answering….. I asked them to pray for us, too, on their way down, and they stopped and asked our names and visited a bit. Just a reminder of God’s presence…..
Despite the hardships of this hike, our spirits stayed surprisingly good. We were doing this! and it was not even altogether that impossible. We got to our car at 5:20pm - a 10 hour hike! We were tired, but not worn out. Our feet were a bit sore, but not blistered.
This was THE toughest hike that we had ever gone on….and we made it. I’m not sure if we learned that we can do more than we think we can….or that we should never attempt a hike like that again…….all I know is that we did set the bar a bit higher for ourselves.