We thought we were going to attempt a very ambitious 13 mile round trip hike to the top of Wheeler Peak; 13,161 feet high. From the trail head, we would be facing a vertical rise of about 3,500 feet. Like I said, this was pretty ambitious for us Texans who were accustomed to the air at 650 feet.
I loaded up a day pack with some snacks, water and rain gear then off we went. We hiked and hiked and hiked. We saw some of the most gorgeous vistas, plenty of wildlife, including some buck mule deer with their velvet (new) horns growing.
We hiked and hiked and hiked some more past Lost Lake and Horseshoe Lake. Both of these are only accessible by foot or horseback. They made me want to stop and fish but with no gear and no licsense, we just hiked and hiked and hiked.
At one o'clock PM, my alarm went off. We were supposed to at least be in sight of the peak, if not already resting on it. We were above the tree line at this point and I had my eye on the peak. I thought it was the peak anyway, so we hiked and hiked and hiked some more.
The afternoon clouds started rolling in. We hiked.
The trail turned steep and rugged. We hiked -- well -- I guess you'd call it hiking when every 10th step or so I would have to stop and let my lungs catch up with my legs.
Finally, I looked up and saw flags waving on the peak. We're nearly there. ("Nearly there" means within a half mile). We hiked and hiked.
We reached the top, where the flags were, and read the sign dedicated to WALTER Peak. WRONG PEAK!! To get to Wheeler, we had to go back down, then across the "saddle" and up again, most of a mile. We hiked.
Finally, at about 3 P.M. we made it! Determined to rest for at least 1/2 hour before the return trip, I took off my boots.
It began to rain.
So much for resting. I hurredly re-laced, LaVonne wrote our names in the trip log, we snapped a couple of quick pictures and we scampered back down the trail.
It began to rain hard. Remember, we're above the tree line. I was counting the lightening strikes and determined that they were at least 5 miles away and didn't seem to be getting closer. It didn't matter. Even if we laid on the ground we were still the high points.
Then, the hail started. We were now being steadily pelted with hail and freezing rain, the air temp dropped to near freezing. We hiked.
Because of the rain, we didn't get as many pictures on the return trip. Instead, we just hiked. And hiked. And hiked.
The rain let up for the last couple of hours of hiking, as the sun began to go down. We returned to the trail head exactly 12 hours after we left, just in time for the evening rain shower to start.
Did I mention that we had ridden the Harley up 1.5 miles of jeep trail to get to the trail head? Poor Harley. Such abuse! Riding in the rain, over the rocks, through streams. There's nothing in the name "Electra Glide" that implies "Jeep Trail." Poor, poor Harley.
Finally, after an hour of rainy mountain roads we returned to the cabin and collapsed.
The next day, we went to the Forest office to get a topo map of our adventure - all we had was a tourist hand out showing the general lay of different trails.
When the helpful forestry person saw which trail we had used she was rather impressed.
"You hiked TWENTY miles in one day?"
TWENTY! 2 0 miles. Oh, and the trail is flagged as "intermediate to expert." I guess that's how they mark trails where you could fall to the bottom in one wrong step.
Twenty miles. We made it. Whew!