For New Year's weekend (2005-2006), we had a three-day weekend...sort of...
Where I work, the policy is that, if the holiday falls on a Sunday, you get the following Monday off as the holiday. Due to business need in my department, a decision was made - last minute, of course - to have us come in and work on December 26 and on January 2. As one could imagine, this was not received favorably by the masses, and that included me. There were many people who had already purchased airline tickets or had some sort of travel plans. John and Mary and I, for example, had plans to go hiking on January 2 because John was planning to skydive both Saturday and Sunday; we hoped to at least get one day of hiking in!
After all of the protests were heard, management came back with the decision to work with just a skeleton crew - on a voluntary basis - and allow those with vacation plans (and non-production personnel, like me) to take the holidays off. So, on Monday, January 2, 2006, we went hiking as planned.
But where to go hiking? We didn't want to be gone all day because John did have some year-end work that needed to be done that afternoon; that said, we knew that a short hike was in order. Thinking back about six years, we remembered that we had once hiked the Pine Creek Loop on New Year's Day and had very much enjoyed it. Why not do it again?
The Pine Creek Loop is one of our favorite hikes and one that we've done many times in the past. Located along the Beeline Highway at the Ballentine Trailhead, the trail is an easy three-mile loop that connects to the Ballentine Trail. In the past, we've gone there just to hike the loop; other times, we have hiked part of the Ballentine Trail as well. Today, we would only be hiking the loop.
So, that morning, we gathered all of our hiking gear and headed out to the trailhead. Among the gear that we packed was Mary's new hiking stick, which Santa Claus had brought for her for Christmas. This hiking stick was wooden and was exactly her size. She also had a new pair of hiking boots, also from Santa; she couldn't wait to go hiking with her new stuff!
We arrived at the trailhead around ten o'clock, which, of course, was a very late start for us. We ran the risk of melt-down halfway through the hike, so we had to be on our guard.
The trail started off with a steady climb up a ridgeline that overlooked the Beeline Highway. The highway noise was a bit of a distraction; it's no fun to be listening to cars screaming by at 75 miles an hour when you're trying to enjoy nature.
A quarter of a mile later, the trail turned away from the highway and followed Pine Creek. We continued to hike on the ridgeline, high above the creek. From that perspective, we had a great view of the fire damage caused by a wildfire that had swept through the canyon during the summer. In fact, the ground still had residue from the orange slurry that had been used to douse the flames.
Being high up on the ridgeline also put us in direct line of sight with Mount Ord, meaning that I had cell signal. And wouldn't you know it? My phone rang! This was the first time that I had ever had that happen (though it certainly wouldn't be the last), and it completely caught me off guard. To make matters worse, it was a work-related call; I had nearly forgotten that it was still business as usual at the office. So, naturally, I had to take the call...
...And once I was off the phone, John suggested that I turn it off, or else they'd keep calling. I whole-heartedly agreed!
We soon came to the junction with the Ballentine Trail, at the saddle, and decided that we should stop there to eat our lunch. We sat down on the rocks and ate our sandwiches while we enjoyed the peaceful day.
After lunch, we continued our hike. From the saddle, which was the halfway point on the trail, we walked across the top of the ridge for about a half of a mile. Then, we started the long descent back to the trailhead.
And that was when Mary began to fade on us. We knew we were asking for trouble starting so late. We did what we could to prod her along. Fortunately, she didn't slow too much, so it only took us about forty-five minutes to make it back to the car.
Once back at the trailhead, we got into the car and headed home, so that John could get his work done. Our short day's adventure was over...
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