Day 7, Friday, July 24, Park City, Utah
Last night, I studied the trail map and decided that I would do one last hike in Park City before departing for home. I woke up fairly early, had a piece of Cinnamon Swirl bread from the Great Harvest (yum), packed up my waist pack and headed out for Holly’s Trail which starts at the back of The Canyons Resort. The hike is rated as “Most Difficult” with a 900’ gain in elevation in four miles. The clerk at the resort did not recommend the hike up, as mountain bikers tend to ride fast down Holly’s trail, but I did it anyway.
The initial climb through a dense area of tall grass and wildflowers was easy as there were many switchbacks. There was a bit of overcast so the sun wasn’t beating down on me yet. Hiking by yourself, you have to be more aware of your surroundings. Because you’re not having a conversation with anyone, you notice every sound and movement in the forest. I got used to the sounds of crickets and chirping birds, but when I came across a different sound, I’d jump. I’d feel my heart race a little faster and panic kicks in for a brief moment until I remind myself to calm down. Sometimes, the sounds from the motion of my pants startled me. I’d stop every so often to make sure it was my pants and nothing else lurking around me. I’ve seen two snakes already this week and do not want to come across another.
As I made my way up to the Red Pine Lodge, I kept wondering when the “most difficult” part of the hike would be. I made short stops along the way to take pictures of wildflowers and admire the beauty that surrounds me. Because it was so early in the morning, I came across only three mountain bikers. The hike was way easier than I thought – I didn’t get run over or attacked by any animals.
About 3 miles up, I stopped at Lookout Peak where I took a short break to enjoy more of the scenery. I was on the ground setting up a self-portrait when I heard “Would you like me to take your picture?” Mind you, I haven’t seen or heard anyone on this hike, so the voice startled me and put me in a bit frenzy. Where the hell did these people come from? I composed myself, took my self-portrait and then decided to let the kind gentlemen take my picture.
In about another mile, I arrived at the Red Pine Lodge, used the restroom, got my free ticket to ride the Gondola down to the base, and asked for directions/recommendations for the next part of my adventure. At this point, I’m feeling super … feeling like I can definitely tackle my goal for today: to hike out to a spot referred to as “Ninety-nine 90”, 2.5 miles from the Red Pine Lodge with a 1800’ gain in elevation. This hike has is rated as “Most Difficult” and because of the gain in elevation in such a short distance, I’m thinking that this second leg will be difficult. I found my way to the Tombstone Trailhead and start the climb. The initial ½ mile was easy. No big deal. And then the ascent begins. Damn. My legs are starting to burn and I’m breathing more heavily. Part of this trail reminds me of the hike to Half Dome in Yosemite – lots of pine trees with very few switchbacks. There is no one else on this trail. I am drenched in sweat. Every time I stop to catch my breath, flies swarm around me. As I continue to climb, I reconsider my plan … the loose rocks make each step harder. A bunch of What if questions cross my mind and I decide that I would turn around at the top of Tombstone (1.6 mile, 900’ from the Red Pine Lodge). The top of Tombstone is covered with all kinds of scat and I no longer feel like I’m in the forest. Happy with my decision to end my hike here, I take several self-portraits before making the descent.