7 miles round trip - Strenuous - 3 hours up, 1 ½ hours down
Our first hike for Heartiness Approach was within 20 miles of home. It was a trail we started on in late fall but because of the wet, un-groomed trail at that time were unable to go very far. The online description stated it was 2.8 miles in and we needed to return on the same trail. It described it as moderate.
Shortly after beginning we realized the trail was going up at a moderate incline but was steady with very few flat areas. The trail was cut into the side of a mountain by some prior brave hard working trail builders. The left side of the trail was a mountain filled with trees with no top in sight. The right side of the trail was the downward side of the mountain, at times dropping off with a sharp cliff with no bottom in sight. One person passed us on the trail and asked if we had been to the top yet. By her question we then knew that indeed we were climbing a mountain and somewhere up there was the top.
The most amazing part of the hike was the discovery of wild rhododendron bushes growing all throughout the forest in full bloom. Rhody bushes are not our favorite because the actual bush is not very attractive and although the flowers are brilliant they only last a short time and then are stuck with that bush. Not so in the forest. They fit in beautifully there. They are full and lift their branches up to find the sun. At one point we found a “Rhody forest” with brilliant pink bushes as far as the eye could see. It was truly the unexpected gift of the hike. At times as we looked down on the trail a bush would welcome we with its large flowers right where our feet stepped. Such a treasure.
We finally met our fellow hiker on her way down just when we felt we were near the end of the trail. We asked her if she reached the top. She said she felt it was the top where there were large rocks shooting up and it must be Rooster Rock. She said, “The last half mile is very difficult.” We thought we only had a tenth of a mile left but we smiled, said goodbye and figured it just seemed like a half mile to her. Shortly after passing her we passed the junction where another trail joined ours. Then we reached the trail that went up. We had only thought the trail we had been on was a steady incline and it was, it had been, but now the incline became steeper with no break and no end in sight. We were able to go perhaps a tenth of a mile without resting. It was indeed at least another half mile. And then jutting out of the earth, not to be missed was a gathering of rocks with one going at least 60 feet into the air. There was an additional trail that went up to a further top about 500 feet but we did not take it. We had arrived. We ate our lunch and rested. We probably should have rested longer to let the food digest. Just a suggestion.
Although we had walking sticks, the hike down was relentless on our knees and legs muscles. When we got down the steepest part, the rest of the hike seemed like flat ground. The hike had taken three hours to get to the top and one and a half hours to get down.
The moral of this story is. Start slower and find out as much as you can about the trail. We found another article telling us it was seven miles round trip and considered strenuous. Oh well, we had a great time. enjoyed the beauty and the quiet. We enjoyed hiking again. We hiked an elevation gain of 2300 feet in 3.5 miles. We paid for it in stiffness and painful muscles. This is an example of what not to do on your first hike. We both wanted to get to the top but underestimated its toll our our muscles. Next week we will do less miles and shorter distance. We will hike Trout Creek again but when we are in better shape.