We woke early and hit the trail at 6:30 am, when there was enough sunlight to hike without headlamps. We first drank coffee under the moon and stars, unfiltered from the light pollution of cities in the clear 35° air.
Saturday’s objective was to summit Mount of the Holy Cross, a fourteener south of Vail. The twelve mile, roundtrip trail started at the Half Moon Trailhead. It consisted of two hills, the first was a thousand foot climb, the second was a three thousand foot ascent. The aspen were just turning bright yellow.
We passed by two tired women descending almost as slowly as we were climbing. This section of trail resembled a steep staircase. One of them called out, “It’s easier in the rocks.” Most everything above tree line was a boulder field. I can’t explain why she said it, or what she meant by it. When is hiking through the rocks ever easier?
Near the end of the hike, we saw a couple of hikers stopped on the trail ahead of us, apparently talking. As they saw us approach, they departed, going separate directions. The one hiking toward us turned back around and shouted to the other, “You should also look into the Ten Commandments.”
As he neared us, I saw that much of his outfit, including hat, sunglasses, scarf and shirt, were all sporting a red, white and blue striped pattern. And he might have been wearing make-up. Very eye-catching. He looked as if the clown in Stephen King’s It made babies with Uncle Sam. There was something off with this guy. He was either going to start preaching the Bible to us, or shred us with an AK-47, but he passed without incident.
Hikers, in their trail reports, generally describe this as an exhausting hike. It was. It was six miles of vertical in each direction, with about 5500 feet of elevation gain, and took us close to nine hours. There’s camping at the trailhead, but an even better camping spot along a creek after the first hill. That would make reaching the peak before sunrise more doable. Incredibly beautiful views and a memorable hike.