Don't know sometimes how my reports get so long. I guess TMI. Oh well.
Today as we started driving west we weren't sure which hike we were going to do but we were leaning toward Baldy and as we neared the South Fork TH; we opted to continue past. The weather was tricky but I've heard this is a beautiful trail, even if you don't summit. On the drive near Sunrise we did see some pronghorns resting far from the road. At the TH we geared up for our day's journey.
Our hike started in the forest but then gradually came out into our first meadow. What a view! We were already enjoying our hike and it seemed like we were making pretty good time as we soaked in the meadow and the river and the wildflowers and the trees and the view in general
. The sneezeweed was out in force here too. It just adds that splash of color that lights up the area around it.
It was nice to stay fairly close to the creek and come in and out of the forest and thru the very BIG meadows that stretched out on each side of us. We would stop a few times to share our thoughts of the views. At about the 4 1/3rd mile mark we hit what I thot was either a dead end or a take off your shoes to cross the river moment. As it turned out, there were 3 different ways to cross and we tried all three. I, of course, had the hardest time but Wade lended me a helping hand since I chose his way.
Once across we started up the very gradual climb up this mountain. It really is pretty through here too even though the huffing and puffing was just beginning. I overheard Wade say that he thot 10 miles would be their limit today since they hadn't been hiking for some time. As usual, everyone got ahead of me and once I caught up to them at the 5 mile/10,000 ft elevation corner where they were resting, I thought we would be eating a snack and turning around. A couple other hikers and their cool dog eventually joined up with us for a bit and then before I knew it, our group decided we were heading up the mountain to the summit. We only had 2 more miles and 1200 more feet
So I got my trekking poles out, put on my gloves and started up the mountain behind them. After about 1/2 mile of this I'm thinking, I don't know if I want to do these last miles. That's pretty normal for me. But I continued on as I was actually feeling pretty good. And then you get to the matchsticks section. THAT is impressive. There was also a great stance of Towering Delphinium just off the trail. Here you take what I think is the longest switchback of the day as you continue to climb upward back into the trees.
It was getting a little tougher
with each step but I just kept going albeit very slowly. Eventually you reach this bit of a saddle and this is where Kelly started with the elevation countdown for the rest of the up. She asked me if I wanted to stop but I have found it is better to just keep going even if I'm in slow motion. You kind of go thru more of the burn area but it has a couple different sections of undergrowth going on. I don't think I took much video or pictures on the way up but I would try and make up for that on my way down
And, yep, there's the sign. I think I'm done and I've made it to the saddle. I was pretty spent but probably not any worse than normal for that kind of climb for being out of hiking shape. Kelly took my picture at the sign. She is just such a great coach and cheerleader for me. She has gotten me up at least eight peaks that I can think of. And I'm not really into climbing mountains. In this case, however, I've always admired Baldy and was just glad to be here
. The grade and trail condition just couldn't be any better (well except thru a couple parts in the meadow that were wet and had water and ruts).
The other three decided to summit while I rested. I would like to have joined them but I knew we had seven miles to hike back and without several breaks, it would have taken too much time. After all, we had PIE on our agenda and I don't think it's a good idea to get between a hiker and their pie. So I rested while the three of them hiked the .8 and 200 feet to the summit. I know the views are incredible from up there and I'm hoping to see them when I do the East Fork up as that will save a mile. Surprisingly, I didn't see anyone else at the saddle until we started heading back down and ran into some backpackers we had seen earlier on the trail.
The trip down was great of course. I could film to my heart's content
since breathing wasn't an issue as now it was a matter of trying to stay close to the other hikers. The view going down was nice as well as you passed through different layers of the forest once again. We noticed many different shrooms too. We got to the River and this time I tried Kelly's way. Once again, Wade offered a helping hand to make my crossing a safe one. His wife, Mary Jo, on the other hand did her usual balance beam routine on the log. I filmed it too. (I didn't realize the West Fork originates from Baldy).
Not too far from there we stopped to rest on a log at the meadow that has the forested island in the middle to catch our breath for the last stretch to PIE. The sun was out for the most part so weather would not even be a concern for the rest of our journey. Some of the wetter part of the meadow trails had dried a bit so that made our walking a little easier. Otherwise you had to walk on the grass clumps along side and that wasn't easy. When the sun shone on the River, you could now see the colors of its bottom which was rather interesting.
We decided to continue alongside the river (go to the right of the fence) instead of going up the long hill into the forest for that last mile or so. Wade and I had spotted the off trail from near the top of the hill on our way down and decided that was the shorter, yet steeper, way back to the forest road. We saw a fisherman by the river which was to our right. Once a top the hill you get to see some of the aspens again. And like they say, doesn't everyone like aspens. We also saw the fungi growths all the way up some of the trunks so we admired that for a bit and noticed it on some other trees as well.
Finally back at the vehicle, we could celebrate Mary Jo's longest hike ever (that included the summit) ! She was a trooper throughout. Needless to say, we were all smiles on our drive back to the cabin to shower and change before our drive to Alpine for dinner and... yep, you guessed it, PIE! Love hiking with you all.
4 part video:
to the 5 mile - 10,000 foot corner https://youtu.be/1eGzy...
10,000 ft to saddle and back https://youtu.be/48Vgv...
10,000 ft to TH https://youtu.be/9kV5I...Wildflowers
lots of sneezeweed. The meadows would have blue flax and daisies among other smatterings of flora.