I’ve been very busy with graduate school, and that has put hiking and exploring on hold, but that also has me itching to get out, especially as my days of decent hiking weather grow shorter and shorter. I’ve been trying to get up to Sandpoint to get in one last snow-free summit for the season, but time just hasn’t been on my side. So this weekend, I headed up to Grandfather Mountain with Erin for what might be our last chance to get up there this year.
I’ve been to Grandmother Mountain many times since moving out here, but each time, we get started late or take too much time exploring the trail to make it all the way to Grandfather. This time, we skipped Grandmother altogether and set Grandfather Mountain as our goal. Grandfather is exactly 4 miles from the trailhead (according to the GPS), and the first half of the hike covers the same familiar ground that we’ve hiked time after time. Regardless, I never tire of the scenery along the trail. At 6000 feet, the views are incredible, and even though the mountains aren’t that big for this area, they’re still impressive. And then there’s the thrill of seeing it differently every time. For example, when we first discovered this trail last September, summer was ending and fall was just staring so we had a hike full of late-summer flowers and huckleberry bushes turning red. In July, Spring was kicking off with a magnificent show of color and wildflowers. On this hike, a fresh two-inches of snow had fallen the night before and we laid witness to the mountain’s transition from fall to winter. Luckily, we were still able to get to the trailhead.
So we made it through the first half of the hike as usual, but stopping less often. But at the spur to Grandmother Mountain, we turned left and continued along the ridge. Not long after, we came across a perfect campsite next to a spring under the canopy of the old-growth forest. Then the forest became a bit younger and denser, but nevertheless, it was great to walk through a forest instead of through open fields and patches of trees. Although it had snowed the night before, when the sun came out, the air felt pretty warm and we could feel the snow melting around us. Steam rose up from the ground encasing the ridge top in a thin cloud. When the sun would shine through, we would catch the rays bouncing off the mist.
Eventually, we ascended out of the forest and into a clearing at the summit of Grandfather Mountain. The views are pretty, but not quite as open as they are on Grandmother Mountain. Still, there’s fewer ridges to block the valley to the north and there’s a different perspective looking back where we came from to the south. So while Grandmother Mountain may be taller and have the better views, it’s still worth making the extra 3-mile (round trip) trek to Grandfather Mountain, if anything for a nice walk through the ridge-top forest.