8.4 miles with 3050 feet of elevation gain.
Columbus Day Weekend! I knew there would be a hundred million people on the trails since this is prime tourist season, so I wanted us to get an early start. We were at the trailhead by 7am; cars were already all over the parking lot.
Alex geared up and went ahead while Sage and I lounged a bit. She needed Tom for October, but Sage and I didn't. Alex would therefore go up Tom while Sage and I went up Field, then Alex would cross over to Field, catch up with us somewhere between Field and Willey, and then continue on her way (Alex's trip report of her hike will be posted to her blog by Sunday morning). This would be a first for Alex. Her solo hikes thus far have been her going ahead of us a good half mile or so at the beginning...and then, because she is faster than I am, she usually increases her distance between us and is back at the car at least half an hour before we are. Still, we always cross paths at some point, since we are taking the same trail and doing the same route. This time around, however, she'd be ascending a different trail than Sage and me and doing a slightly different route. Still, our plan would have us on the ridge at the same time, so Sage and I should run into her somewhere between Field and Willey at some point.
After Sage and I felt we had waited long enough to give Alex a half mile head start, we began our own hike. The leaves were outstanding...it's prime leaf-peeping season up here.
|Crossing the tracks
|Looking at the Depot
|Alex had taken a right here. We took a left.
The trail levels out a bit after the spur trail to Avalon.
Continuing up to Field...
Much easier grade near the top...
|Sage on Field
The trail between Field and Willey always feels longer than 1.6 miles. I kept expecting Alex to come up behind us, but she never did.
|Little viewpoint close to the summit of Willey
|Sage on Willey
After staring at the gorgeous scenery for a bit, Sage and I went back to Willey's summit cairn and ate another snack. I was just beginning to wonder if I should worry about Alex when there she was, all smiles and rosy cheeks. She had taken her time on Tom's summit and had enjoyed her walk over Field and to Willey. Sage and I left her by the summit cairn after a couple minutes of chatting and headed back over to Field.
Alex is so fast these days that I was sure she would eat, admire the cliff views, and still manage to catch up to us before we returned to Field. She didn't, though -- Sage and I got to Field a couple of minutes before Alex arrived. Sage and I had yet another snack on Field, but Alex wanted to head straight down, so we said our farewells and watched as she disappeared down the trail.
After a few minutes of speaking with a kind couple on the summit, Sage and I began our descent. Once we got to the intersection with Avalon, we saw TONS of people coming up. Almost all were tourists out for a hike up Avalon. We never caught up with Alex...and I hadn't expected to. She contacted me when she finished her hike...we finished ours 35 minutes later. Turns out she had taken the spur trail to Avalon to check out the views and STILL managed to get to the car half an hour before we did.
Sage and I did the Field/Willey hike in about five and a half hours, which is book time. Alex did Tom, Field, and Willey (plus Avalon) in five hours, which is far faster than book time. I should note that if Sage weren't stuck hiking with me, she'd probably go just as fast as Alex does. I am wondering if I should look into trail running for the girls. Maybe have them enter some trail races just for fun? I want to encourage them to go as far and as fast as they'd like.
It's getting colder out, so Alex's solo hikes will soon cease (for now). It was never our plan to have her hike solo during winter, so at some point in the near future she'll hike with Sage and me again. Next spring, after the air warms and the snow melts, she can resume her solo adventures.
Alex will have her trip report of her Tom, Field, Willey, and Avalon hike posted to her blog by Sunday morning.