Mt. Verstovia Trail (Picnic Rock)
After over a month since the last significant hike, I decided I needed to get out again. The snow level dropped down well below three thousand feet on Thursday with clear skies prevailing on Friday and in the forecast for most of the day today. I debated with myself about going up Bear Mountain, but opted instead to head up Verstovia.
I got a later start than I intended (as per usual), starting up the trail at just after 10am. I wanted to be back by around 1pm, so I treating this hike as more of a conditioning hike than a see what there is to see hike. It took me 20 minutes to get to the first viewpoint, an additional 29 to get to the second viewpoint, 18 minutes from the second viewpoint to the ridge, 15 from the start of the ridge to the end of the forest, and 8 minutes to make it up the last bit of trail. The total of 90 minutes was actually a couple of minutes faster than I did in 1999, although I think that this time I was far less comfortable with the pace than I had been previously. My memory of that hike was that I took breaks at the viewpoints to relax and enjoy the day. Today I took breaks at the viewpoints (though I did not time them) because I was desparate for air.
One the way up I passed three people and three dogs (a party of one and one and a party of two and two). I cut my breaks short a little bit because I heard someone coming up the trail (his dog had a bell) and I prefered to avoid getting passed. I am not sure why I am this way, but I think it mainly has to do with the illusion of having the trail to myself. Unless someone is moving much faster than me, there can be a leap-frog kind of thing that happens as each person/group takes breaks and the other catches up. As I came out of the forest, I saw a pair of hikers ahead of me, nearing the top of Peak 2550. When I arrived up there, I found they also had two dogs.
On the way up I had noticed a lot of noise coming from town. This is not unusual, but it does detract a little bit from my experience, I think. Once the trail gets on the ridge, the sounds of town drop off dramatically, presumably because they are partially blocked by the mountain. Upon reaching the summit and sitting to relax, I noticed that it was quiet. I enjoyed this quiet with the warm sun shining on me as I took in the snow covered mountain scenery.
After 10-15 minutes relaxing, I decided it was time to head back. I initially entertained thoughts of jogging for at least part of the way, but quickly thought better of it. My legs were not totally gone, but they were significantly fatigued. In the end, I walked down at a moderate pace and took quite a few short breaks to relax and take in the sights and sounds. It ended up taking me about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get down.
Just after starting down, I met up with the person who had the dog with the bell. As I reached the forest, I passed two people on their way up; the first party without a dog. Nearer the bottom of the mountain I passed another group of three without any dogs. All together, I saw 11 other hikers with 6 dogs.