here then come back and read this. If you don't care about caves and cheeseburgers you should probably just stay here.
After our adventure at the caves, taking a wrong turn and eating the best cheeseburger ever we woke up the next day ready to explore. My friend went to the hot springs. She chose the Iron Mountain Hot Springs over another place because everyone told her the other one was more of a water park. She had nothing but good things to say about her experience. She merely mentioned the one guy in his budgie smugglers.
My morning was planned for Hanging Lake. The woman at the hotel warned us to get to the park early as parking is difficult. She recommended 6AM and told me the hike would take 3 hours round trip. Since my friend was dropping me off parking wasn't going to be an issue for me, but a 3 hour hike!? What was I getting myself in to? A 3 hour hike at high altitude and it was too late for me to weenie out of it so I promised myself I'd go at least half way.
When my friend dropped me off there was a huge line of cars waiting to park. Basically what happens is as soon as one car leaves the first in line gets to go park. You simply have to drive around looking for that one empty spot. There are park employees directing cars the entire time. As soon as I got out of the car I set off down the path that takes you to the trail. It was paved and nice and I thought to myself, this is going to be a piece of cake, it's so nice and paved and well maintained. Uh, NOPE! The first quarter mile kicked my butt, mostly because it was going up and on some pretty rugged terrain and uneven surfaces. Oh and rocks, lots and lots of rocks. Along the way I caught up with a woman who told me she drove for four hours to get there and waited 45 minutes for a parking spot. They initially told her the wait time would be two hours but she really wanted to hike this trail so she waited. That's when I told myself to get to the top no matter what. The tough thing for me was that my friend was picking me back up at a certain time and there's zero phone reception on the trail so time was also a factor for me. After I reached the marker that said I was officially half way there the trail wasn't so bad, but that was me just getting my hopes up that it would be cake the rest of the way. The last quarter mile was what separates the mice from the men or so the saying goes. I'm no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the rocks you have to climb are steep. I had to hoist myself up on them to get up over some of them. There was a short amount of guardrail that gave little sense of security. The highest point is 7,040 feet which makes for a long way to tumble back down the trail. The nice thing was there was a great sense of comradery amongst the hikers. Those who were already on their way down were encouraging those of us who were on our way up. They kept assuring us that it would be worth it when we got to the top. You know, it better be. I wasn't going to let this hike be my Geraldo Rivera opening up Al Capone's secret vault. There better be something worth it up there. Once I got to the top I was glad that there was in fact something to see and benches so I could sit down and eat my apple and box of raisins. Never did such a lame snack feel so rewarding. Once you got to the lake you could go even further up to Spouting Rock. That path seemed a little more man made and easier to navigate. The descent down the trail was almost tougher. You would think that going down would be easier but it was pretty steep so you spent the whole way down trying to control your speed. One kid was going too fast and went face first into a rather large rock. He was fine, a little shook up but he learned his lesson. Once I got to the bottom I looked up and realised what a crazy fun thing I had just done. I was glad I went more than halfway. It only took me 30 minutes to get to the top. With a 15 minute rest at the lake the entire hike was just a little over an hour. Not sure where the three hour time was coming from but I read that in several places. It also said that the hike was the equivalent of climbing 80 flights of stairs. I can't imagine it would take 3 hours to go that far but for some people it might. I also have to mention how shocked I was to see how many people were so ill prepared for such a hike. An older woman in sandals, people with no water and girls in short short shorts. Seriously, if you fall down and scrape your butt it's your own damn fault for not wearing something over it. Unfortunately bad hikers are not a rare breed. If you like hiking check out this short story about a guy who lost his job and took a hike.
After I made it back to the well maintained, flat trail I had time to kill so I painted until my ride came to get me. Once I was in the car we both declared it was time for food. We headed back to the downtown area and ended up at Doc Holliday's Saloon and Restaurant. The food was good, the atmosphere was really cool and the wait staff were really knowledgeable about the history of the building and Doc Holliday.
Up next is our crazy ride up and down the mountainside on our way to South Fork.