Sunday, June 19, 2011

Heart Mountain Community Hike - Part 1

While at a restaurant on Friday afternoon I picked up a free local publication that provides information about upcoming local special events, and while waiting for my burger was surprised to read that there was a community hike scheduled on Saturday at Heart Mountain.
Heart Mountain dominates the landscape in Cody, makes a great landmark when I am wandering around on BLM land, and has an interesting and compelling history (both in geological terms and related to its history of shadowing a Japanese internment camp during WWII):
I was excited to read about the organized hike, excited about the potential to explore on foot, and suddenly realized that I knew exactly how I would be spending my Saturday.
After meeting at the Heart Mountain ranch headquarters at 9am on Saturday morning, over 50 hikers of all ages (ranging from babies in back carriers to senior citizens) car-pooled to the parking lot at the foot of the mountain and began their long uphill trek.............
Although everyone set out on foot at the same time the trail began climbing right from the onset, and these local hikers spread out very quickly.
Within only 10 minutes I could look both in front and in back of me and see small relaxed groups, heading up the mountain.
Everyone had different reasons for being where they now were and doing what they were now doing.
Some had the similar goal that I did - to reach the top.
Others wanted to walk just a short hike, meaning they would hit another trail about half way up and loop back down to the parking lot.
Some wanted to wander up and down the trail identifying and then taking pictures of various wildflowers.
Regardless of the goal, everyone was in good spirits on a very warm and mostly sunny Saturday morning.
I had ridden to the parking lot with a local school teacher, we talked briefly during the short drive to the trail head, and unexpectedly ended up walking together from the onset.
I was not certain how long we would be hiking together.  
You never know these things when you first start out on a trail - personalities may not mesh, pace may not mesh, goals for the journey may not mesh.
We talked briefly as we traveled in those early stages, but talk was limited because we were climbing steadily.
My heart rate was all over the map and I was sucking wind..............
Typical BLM land filled with dusty trails, patches of grass and multiple sage bushes, stunning and wide open views of surrounding mountain ranges.
It was warm, and for the first time since arriving in Wyoming I felt like I was beginning to get overheated.
We climbed steadily - long steep climb followed by brief flat section followed by another long steep climb.
I hoped that we would eventually find shade as we continued our ascent, but it was becoming obvious that this was going to be a challenging climb.
I was still too warm but my heart rate eventually evened out, and I was very excited about having the opportunity to really hike into the mountains.  Something I had not done in a seemingly long time.  Very good deal.............
Long climb down, more long climb to go up ahead..........
As my new hiking friend and I continued our climb up and then up some more we hooked up with another hiker who had been traveling alone to that point.
I had assumed that I would be doing this hike alone, and within only 30 minutes unexpectedly found myself walking the trail with two other people.
Our conversations were short and easy and as happens so often outdoors and on trails, we quickly began to develop a comfortable and easy rapport with each other.
By this picture we had finally climbed enough that the terrain was beginning to change - more grass and finally trees were making an appearance.
Still warm.  Still no shade.  Still almost non-stop climbing.  Life was good..........
There are thousands of adventures waiting to happen in this place.
Thousands of things to see.  Places to go.
While walking on BLM land the other day I remember thinking that it would take me a good week to fully explore even the one small area I was wandering around at the time............
The mountain compelling us to reach the top...........
And abruptly the terrain completely changed.
One moment we were slugging away on steep sage lined trail and the next we found ourselves surrounded by lush grass, hardwood and pine trees, and finally shade..........
I like a lot of things about BLM land.
The fact that it is so vast, so wide open, so open and accessible to the public for hunting and cattle and horse grazing and hiking and mountain biking, the interesting rock formations and the increasing number of wild flowers growing.
But truthfully I miss trees.
They are there, but you have to drive to them or walk to them.
It is worth the effort.
Worth the journey to travel to them, and to find yourself in an entirely different eco-system.
Worth the effort because it is extraordinarily beautiful...........
Wide open and grassy trail............
By this time the group was spread out over a mile or so of trail.
We passed folks who were beginning to tire of the continuous climbing.
They were still forging ahead but pacing more slowly now, intent on making the top............
The trail eventually changed yet again.
It became more narrow, more challenging, contained more switchbacks as we continued to climb..........
This picture could have been taken in Tennessee or Alaska or just about anywhere.
Trees, grass, bushes, fences, mountains.
The terrain was challenging and gorgeous and now that we were finding shade more frequently I was really loving this trip.
I have thought for a while that I would like to trek into the mountains, so this community hike came along just at the right time............
One of my hiking partners walking along a rocky trail up against a barbed wire fence.
Drop offs on the other side of the fence..............
Two thirds of the way up the trail I took this picture.
More to follow.............

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