Connor has been very interested in going up to try and see a ptarmigan. He had hoped to go up there previously when it was his turn to choose our destination, but low clouds that looked like rain helped him decided that Beaver Lake might be a better alternative. This time, the weather was sunny and, while it was a little chilly at the house as we were getting ready to go, the forecast was for unseasonable warmth.
It didn’t take long for me to realize something I should have considered before – it was quite a bit warmer along the hillside. Having chosen vaguely seasonally appropriate clothes in the cooler morning air at the house, I soon came to feel quite overdressed. I shed a layer or two, and was still more than warm enough (on our way down, I saw others hiking up in t-shirts, something I probably should have considered).
It’s been several months since I last hiked up this much, and I could certainly feel it. Fortunately, I was not tempted to go too fast, since Rowan was not what you might call an enthusiastic traveler. She did reasonably well to what I call the second view point (though it’s the only one mentioned on the trailhead sign). Once we hit the switchbacks she was ready to turn around. Connor kept on going ahead of us, while I listened to Rowan loudly moan her way up this section of trail. At one point I told her I felt like maybe I was hearing what it would have been like on Noah’s Ark with a bunch of seasick large animals. She thought that was little funny, but not funny enough to take her mind off of the misery she was experiencing.
I had not previously been aware that Rowan had an internal misery index, but it was during this time she told me she was up to 70% misery, then it was 100% misery, then a switchback later it was even higher. I asked her how high her misery level went, and she told me she thought probably 200%. I thought that was interesting. We later learned that it actually went up to at least 400%, though it would quickly drop back to near 100% if we stopped and took a bit of a break.
Typically there is plenty of snow on Verstovia trail this time of year – but on this trip we did not need to cross any snow until we got to the edge of the trees. At that point most of the trail was snow covered right up until coming out on top around Picnic Rock. The slope is a little bit steep in places, and the snow was still pretty hard, but both Connor and Rowan seemed to do pretty well on it.
Once on the top, it was quite pleasant. The sun was shining, and there was minimal wind. I’m not sure what the temperature was, but I’m guessing it was close to 50. In any case, it was warm enough to sit in the sun with just a shirt – especially in a wind-sheltered spot. The regular views from the top were quite nice, of course, but it was also fun to see whales spouting down in Eastern Channel.
As is often the case, despite suffering her way up, Rowan was glad to be at the top. She said this was now her favorite view from up high (the only prior time she had hiked up here, it was completely cloudy on top) – with Starrigavan Ridge also highly rated. She declared the effort had been worth it (which she usually does, but that doesn’t seem to influence her desire to undertake the effort).
Connor was also happy to be up there, but unlike Rowan (and myself) he still seemed to have a fair bit of energy for further travel. I told him he could follow the trail down to the saddle and check it out to see if any ptarmigan were hanging around down there. I was a little surprised a little later when I saw him actually hiking up from the low point of the saddle, though he did not ultimately go too far. Unfortunately he didn’t find any ptarmigan, but he also didn’t seem too tired with the extra exertion. For my part, I was happy to stay and relax near Picnic Rock.
On the way down we went a little slower than I expected because Rowan’s legs were fatigued enough to be a bit shaky. She wanted to stop and rest frequently, and ultimately I let Connor go on ahead (despite waiting for us quite a while at the lower view point, he still beat us to the trailhead by 15 minutes or so). Among other things, Rowan and I talked about the discomfort of walking downhill with tired legs, ways to move that help mitigate it, and some of the miserable hikes I’ve experienced over the years. In the end, we made it down in about 2 hours.
3.8 miles (about 2:30 up and 2:00 down)