(Continuing on from Part II, previous post)
Looking back toward Haystack Butte & the Garden Wall
Finally, the Granite Park Chalet came into view nestled atop a high knoll in the distance–a welcome site even though we still had a lot of ground to cover. Steve happily broke into a refrain of “Onward, ever Onward!” which I suspected had something to do with church. I resisted the urge to tell him to put a sock in it. He was still scanning for bears every few minutes and whistling for peeps.
Wyatt let out another “Mmmahh!” every now and then in-between complaints that he was tired. Austin griped that his feet hurt. I felt another stab of guilt because I had made him wear his old shoes.
Upon reaching the chalet, Austin informed me that he was “starving,” and so I shelled out enough change for a couple of candy bars. I tried to make him drink as much Gatorade and water as possible so that I could lighten my load. Luckily, there were toilets available.
Jesse (center) & Steve
Austin, Jesse, Steve, Wyatt, Susan (aka “Lightfoot”), & Phyllis
Phyllis, Dallas, Steve, Jesse, Austin, & Wyatt
Phyllis, Dallas, Steve, Jesse, Austin, & Wyatt taking in the view
View from Granite Park Chalet
After resting for a little while and taking several photos, we began our descent from the Chalet down to the Loop parking lot, where Mom’s car awaited us. Steve said he would never be so happy to see a Chevy in his life. Jesse muttered that he had wanted to go back when we were at the scenic overlook.
When Susan told us that the rest of the trail was “mostly downhill,” this time she wasn’t kidding. Just imagine at least four jarring miles of hiking downhill over a winding, bumpy trail filled with tree roots and sharp rocks. In prime grizzly bear country. To emphasize that point, all along the trail we saw several piles of bear “scat,” tinged purple from huckleberries.
Steve, Austin, Wyatt, & Jesse checking out a creek on the Loop Trail
The older boys, who were now bringing up the rear, kept throwing rocks off into the bushes, trying to make the rest of us think a bear was coming. At least, that’s what I thought they were doing. Then I looked back and noticed the looks on their faces. There seemed to be a commotion in an area where neither had thrown any rocks. The two quickly made their way to the front, right behind the pepper spray. Jesse nervously asked me whether I had heard that noise. I was so tired that all I could say was, “Yes, but just keep going.” And after seeing another pile of ever-fresher bear scat, Steve, who admitted that his feet were blistered, finally conceded, “I don’t give a crap about bears! Just let me see that car!”
Steve, Wyatt, Phyllis, Austin, & Dallas on the Loop Trail
Poor Phyllis. Walking at such a steep decline, her toes kept hitting the front end of her hiking shoes and were literally suffering a beating with every step. My toes hurt too, but that wasn’t the worst of it. My hips and knees hurt so bad I figured I would need joint replacements before it was all over. As we slumped onto an old burned log to rest for a moment, Austin groaned, “This is the worst day of my life!” We had to chuckle at that, though we were probably all thinking the same thing. Steve had long since ceased his peep-whistling, and we hadn’t heard a “Mmmahh!” out of Wyatt for miles. Jesse repeated that he had told us to turn around and go back at the scenic overlook. But no!
We plowed on. At one point, the trail began to level out and then actually to go uphill. What a pleasant surprise this was! We all started to walk faster, including Mom, who could now walk without feeling intense agony. Except when she stubbed her toe, of course. And she wasn’t the only klutz in the bunch.
But all too soon, our good fortune ran out and the trail resumed its wicked descent. Mom started to straggle far behind. I cautiously asked the rest of the group if, whenever we reached Mom’s car, anyone would be able to hot wire it. Steve retorted that I should have had the foresight to get Mom’s keys from her a long time ago just in case she didn’t make it out. But luckily, when we glanced back, she was rounding the bend behind us.
Phyllis, almost at the Loop parking lot
After almost twelve cruel miles and about eight long hours, we began to hear faint traffic sounds and–whadda ya know–there was the car in the parking lot! Everyone mustered a whoop and a holler. With all the excitement, I stubbed my toe one last tortuous time, but I didn’t care anymore.
On the way home, just before he fell asleep in the back seat of Mom’s car, Austin spied a brand new $80,000 (or more) Dodge Viper parked on the side of Going-to-the-Sun Road. As I looked to where he was pointing, I noticed a familiar-looking young boy, shoelaces untied, climbing into the passenger seat. “Oh good lord!” I said, “Is that Okie and his son?” Mom and I burst out laughing and concluded that we had certainly had an unusual Labor Day–one that none of us would soon forget. Especially if I have anything to say about it.
The End (at last)