This ended up being a spur of the moment trip the first weekend of August 2015. Earlier in the week we were kicking around the idea of going to Zaleski, then about Thursday we decided maybe we’d just take it easy and go to the REI garage sale on Saturday, August 1st.
We got up and went to REI at 9:45 am. The line was down the street already, and in spite of that we parked and stood in line. The store opened and we went in with the rest of the cattle. There wasn’t really anything we needed, so we wandered around looking for a deal on something we “just couldn’t live without.” No such deal materialized, and we left by 10:30 am.
Upon arriving to the car, we discussed where we should go next since we were at Easton already, and Deb suggested maybe we should just go to Zaleski after all. I agreed, and we drove home and began packing.
This was the first trip where I would use a “superlight” backpack, the Osprey Exos 58.
As soon as we were packed we took off. We made a quick stop at Chipotle for lunch, then drove 90 minutes to Lake Hope. We arrived to a packed lot and was lucky to find a single spot in the grass by the entrance sign. After signing in (there are registration cards at the information signs), Deb and I took a picture and started hiking around 3pm. The temperature was in the lower 80s, sunny, and for August, the humidity wasn’t too bad. That’s not to say it was non-existent, it just wasn’t brutal.
The first hour is fairly easy, with mild hills and fairly well maintained single track trail. We were hiking somewhat aggressively and covered 3 miles the first hour.
I believe it’s between mile 5 and 6 when you summit the first pretty big hill. I don’t recall exactly what mileage it is, however I do know the GPS coordinates:
Thanks to the above screenshot, I can see that the time was 4:50, so we had been hiking about 2 hours which confirms the distance as between 5 and 6 miles.
We took a very brief break here and continued on. There is another very tough hill
When we started going downhill, we caught up and then passed a couple of fellows. As Deb passed the second guy, she took her eyes off the ground to say Hi, and she clipped a root or rock and fell down. She didn’t or couldn’t let go of her hiking poles so what ended up happening is that she “punched” the ground with her left hand as she fell. Even now, two weeks after the fact, her index finger near the knuckle is very sore, though it never swelled all that much nor bruised.
Aside from that one incident, we got to point F on the trail pretty easily, which is around 8.8 miles. Now here’s the catch about Zaleski…you will see some brown sign posts with numbers on them every once in a while. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…, and so on. You may be tempted to think they are mile markers, and in fact sign post 9 is at point F (8.8 miles) so it makes sense. However, according to the brochure, the numbers are actually “points of interest” and seem to be different tree species. Deb was wearing her Garmin 620 (GPS watch for running), and it seems to bear this out.
We continued NNE towards point G. After a short climb, the trail becomes a little strange. For a mile or two the entire trail had been very recently bulldozed. This is probably a good thing as I got the feeling that the trail may have been an overgrown mess before. Aside from the bulldozed path, going from point F to point G is pretty easy, though at the time we were getting tired and sore and daylight was getting to be a commodity we couldn’t waste.
You’ll know you are nearing point G when you go down a very big hill. I had a feeling that I might be going up that hill the next day. At point G you can go west to point M, or east to point H (or L). This is a little confusing as point H and L are basically the same spot. We headed east as the campsite we wanted was at point H. It’s about 1 mile and thankfully it was pretty easy with a fair amount of the trail along a ridge. There was one small climb to get to the ridge shortly after starting the trail.
I don’t recall the exact time we got to the campsite as we were both unusually sore and tired, and we needed to get setup and search for firewood before it got dark. I’d say it was around 7:30 pm. The campsite was very crowded, with at least a dozen other tents in the area. Thankfully the area was big enough to support this concentration of people and we didn’t feel crowded. The campsite also has fresh water that gets trucked up every so often. This is a necessity because there was virtually no water at all along the trails. All the creeks were dried up. (There was a small creek at point G that would have served).
With so many people around (and with so few allowable sites for camping at Zaleski), finding dead and dry wood for a fire was time consuming. We did manage to gather enough small sticks to have a modest fire while we ate. After eating we wiped down with wet wipes and went to bed. I can’t speak for Deb, but for me, it was a pretty decent sleep when measured against other backpacking trips. My legs were restless from the hike, but other than that I slept well.
Upon waking, Deb and I both agreed that we wanted to take the shortest route back to the car. It wasn’t just because we were tired and sore, we also needed to get back to our house to clean up, get our firearms, then head out to my dad’s house for an afternoon on the range.
We ate, packed, and took off around 9:15 am. This was later than we wanted (as usual). The first section of trail, point H back to point G went quickly. The next part seemed to take forever, point G to point F. As I feared the day prior, we did have to walk back up the big hill after point G. It wasn’t as bad as I thought though, and we managed decent time. Upon getting to point F, we took the side trail back to point A. This is actually the most scenic of the trails at Zaleski, with several nice rock formations and a couple of points where one step will mean either death or your body being broken very badly.
This trail seemed to take forever too, though it’s only a bit more than a mile long. It’s not a tough trail, Deb and I were just getting impatient and wanting to get on with our day. Plus our legs were sore and tired. And we wanted Gold Peak iced tea.
At any rate we reached the car around 11:15 and we drove home and had an excellent day.
Day 1: about 13 miles, point A to H
Day 2: about 4.8 miles, point H to F, F to A
Total: 17.8 Miles
Trail brochure and map here: