Optional Hike up Heart Mountain caught my eye on the Pilgrimage schedule. It was on Sunday, after the official program had ended, and listed as limited to 20 participants, so no doubt it would have a different vibe than the hike up Castle Rock, but it sounded like a cool thing to do – a good way to get some activity and enjoy some of the local terrain. Indeed it was. The route is on a Nature Conservancy property, the trail was easy to follow and there was nice educational signage along the way. The lower part was open fire road/double track, and then we got up into forest single track. The trees thinned out as we approached the top, but the trail stayed narrow. There were a variety of wildflowers in bloom, and some wild life along the trail as well! The views along the way – both toward the peak and back over the countryside – were awesome, and the 360 degree panorama from the top was spectacular. Totally worth the climb!
The hike was about 8 miles out and back – or should I say up and down? – gaining about 2500 feet elevation to the summit at 8123 feet. I was glad to get back to the bus at the trailhead, it must have been a really long day for the incarcerees who had snuck off to climb the mountain, with another 8 miles from camp to the base of the mountain on each end of the ascent, plus they were probably without the benefit of the well-defined path there is today. Wow! A few of the folks had been up to the summit on a previous Pilgrimage, but had been driven up to start at the Upper Kiosk, making for an even shorter trip than we did this year. Although it had been hoped we would stick together, the group ended up splitting up, and not everyone made it to the top. Regardless, I think everyone enjoyed the outing, and I heard some of those who had not made it the whole way say they planned to be more prepared next time so they would be able to make it to the top.
I had ended up getting a rental car, so we probably could have just gone on our own, although part of the road to the trailhead is not paved, so that might have not really been allowed. Anyway, it was nice having transportation, and getting a chance to chat with other folks from the Pilgrimage. One person is working on a book about the camp football team, another has a project on music in the camps – some great stories. We did see a handful of other people, and there were plenty of entries in the log book at the top, so it’s a well known hike, but not overrun. Due to the exposure on the lower section this would not be good on a super hot day, and it’s probably best to go early if there’s any chance for afternoon thunderstorms. Otherwise a great hike!