Today we did my favourite section of the HRT (High Rock Trail); it has the best views and great trail.
We started slowly at Window Mountain Lake after Toothless woke up a handful of times last night. It took us a while to break camp so we started just after 8:00am.
At the campsite we bumped into a few other GDT hikers we knew from A Safe Haven as well as a couple casual groups that seem to be staying at the lake over night. The GDT hikers must have rolled in late last night – they likely started from Coleman yesterday morning rather than split the road walk and HRT up into two days like we did. We didn’t ask if they did the road walk (or got a ride to Atlas Staging Area) but from the time of their arrival I have to assume they walked the road. Big day!
The climb up out of the lake was much nicer than it was last year when we were last here on the GDTA HRT walking trip. The new switchbacks were welcome! We made good time and passed another hiker who took a moment to rest at the top of the hill.
We made good progress all morning while taking in the views. The drop off Racehorse Pass was simple and Toothless was hamming it up. I’m thankful the GDTA picked this route (the one we did last year was over the talus, was very fun and had great views, but a little more scrambly).
The hike up Racehorse Shoulder was still tough and steep but Natasha knocked it out like a badass. We stopped at the top of the shoulder to give Toothless a wiggle break and change his diaper. The views from the shoulder were unfortunately blocked by smoke in the distance, but still a bit breathtaking (not literally; the smoke wasn’t that bad).
We went down the shoulder and were pleased with the new switchbacks going down. Much easier walking than the gully and the trail still peeks through the trees to tease you with a view of the rock face.
We arrived at the trail building camp and nobody was around. The tools were there, radios and no food or tents. Just a hammock. Maybe in between crews. Nobody around to say hi to, so we pushed on.
We had lunch at First Creek and did diaper laundry. Toothless had a fun time with rocks and crawled around. I got some massive fly bites on my stomach somehow (which I found much later. Surprise!).
The next bit is my favorite. You climb then eventually get some amazing views of Tornado Mountain. Small ups and downs, small fun ridges and narrow tread. The sections through the regen can get a bit hot but generally short and overshadowed by the rest.
We quickly got to camp at Racehorse Creek at about 4:00pm. Dinner and bedtime was about on time and relatively smooth. Toothless tried a chicken casserole recipe I have and seemed to like it.
After we set up camp bumped into a couple other hikers (one group right as we set up our tent, the other during dinner) who all decided to push on so they could hike Tornado Saddle tomorrow. Hopefully they make it to the next site in good time; not a lot of daylight left.