Yesterday, to celebrate my birthday, Kevin and I hiked the 10 mile Baldface Circle from North to South. I had started this hike once in the past, but turned back due to icy conditions. There is a lot of open ledge and I didn't have the right gear with me that day. Yesterday the conditions were absolutely perfect! Temperatures were mild, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the views were clear and beautiful in all directions.
We chose to do the loop counter clockwise via Baldface Circle Trail to Bicknell Ridge Trail back onto Baldface Circle Trail. It was a good choice, as the open views started early on and continued throughtout the hike. The footing is the fun kind of stuff you can move fast over, flat ledge and solidly grounded rocks. There is a lot of hard steep climbing and my legs were feeling like they were getting a good workout. It was a little over 5 miles of pretty steady climbing before we got to the North Baldface summit.
Then there was a good steep scurry down some rocks, a hike along the ridge and the climb up South Baldface. At the bottom of the steep rocks, we met a group hiking the circle in the opposite direction. They all warned us about descending "the ledges," which they had climbed coming from the direction they were hiking. We weren't worried. It is just a matter of going slow and picking your route carefully.
Coming down the ledges was quite fun. I wouldn't want to do it if it was wet or icy, but in dry conditions it is very interesting and entertaining, requiring a lot of thought and concentration. I loved it! When we got off the ledges and into the woods, Kevin picked up the pace, but I was having trouble with my boot putting pressure on a bruised spot on top of my foot which I got at the Green Lakes 100K. I had to unlace the top few eyelets on my boot and leave it pretty loose on my foot. This worked and I could hike along OK as long as I was careful not to turn my ankle or slide my foot out of the boot.
After a while, Kevin let me go in front. A short time later he said he had been stung by something. I turned and looked at the red welt on his arm and then kept hiking. Suddenly I felt stings on the back of my head and under my arm. I don't know if i said anything other than, "Ouch!!!" but I started running! There were small bees flying all around me. Kevin was right behind me. Those suckers hurt like hell! I forgot all about the sore spot on top of my foot and my half-unlaced hiking boot. I just ran. I paused when I thought I had run far enough, but got stung on the back of the head again, so I started running some more. I don't know what kind of bees they were, but the stings hurt for hours afterwards and caused us both to have muscle pains and gave me the chills. When we got back to the truck, we both sat on the tailgate rubbing our stings and looking in his first aid kit for something that might help. We decided that a nice burger and some beer was probably the right medicine, so we headed over to Moat Mountain Brewery and nursed our injuries there.
I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. It was fantastic, bees and all.