Day 1: Seven Miles
Plans change. A simple truth I am wholeheartedly willing to accept and embrace, except when I’m not. With a group, it’s even more of a given. And thus, our first day we found ourselves not at a campground in the woods, but at the Holiday Inn Express in Kimball Junction, near Park City, Utah. We had opted the more luxurious wait at the lodging due to Paulina coming in late at night, and the decision was to have her meet us at the hotel rather than risk the drive up the mountain at night.
After a typical hotel breakfast, we drove up the mountain, passed the more popular (we thought) Mirror Lake Trailhead and drove on to the Highline Trailhead. This turned out to be just as popular, but we squeezed into 2 spots, saddled up, and headed out. From the start a long descent promised we’d be feeling it on the way back, but we pushed that from our minds and enjoyed a beautiful day. Belying the number of cars, the trail wasn’t particularly crowded, with just an occasional group of boy scouts or pack horses adding to the smaller groups we encountered.
Water was available but not plentiful, and we filled out filter bottles as often as needed at the stream crossings. The rocky trail had us watching our feet more than the views, though my style of hiking is to stop often for photos and, at elevation, for breath. Many, many trees meant the views were occasionally blocked, but when an opening appeared, truly beautiful. The group slowly stretched out, coming back together at times, until…
Some of us were feeling the elevation more than others, though portable canisters of oxygen seemed to be mitigating the effects. At mile 6, just 3 miles from our planned camp for the night, a problem appeared. Rozanne could not catch her breath and, even without a pack, was having more than just a little issue with catching her breath. I ran ahead to let the others know, but, unfortunately, they were long gone.
With altitude, the safest bet is always to get lower and, in this case, even a little bit helped. We found a beautiful spot near a stream, quickly stretched our hammocks between some trees, and hoped that the rain would wait. After a few sprinkles, it did.
Sitting beside the stream, we spotted what I believe was a marten, a lucky sighting of a not very common animal. My lack of camera preparation meant no image captured, but I had a bit more luck with a large deer that played peek-a-boo with us before sauntering away. Later I followed her path to where she had crossed the stream, though I never saw her again. Strangely, these were our only animal sightings across the three days, save for a chipmunk the last day. Few birds were seen or heard as well.
Closing in on bedtime, we were rewarded with the sudden appearance of a late coming Josh, followed not long after by the balance. Because they had hiked in to the original lake site and then returned, they had covered about 12 miles. Tiredly, a flatter area across the stream was chosen and camp made. Not the first day we had envisioned but as I wrote, plans change.