We should have known better than to try to recreate something that was so magical. After checking the forecast every day for a week and being assured that it would not rain, it began raining as we got close. We thought, maybe it will pass. It didn't.
We got our gear out and began hiking around 8:30pm. The plan was to hike 2-3 hours and then set up a campsite. We soon came to a fork in the trail and had to decide if we wanted to try to hike to the campsite or just camp out off the trail. We chose the trail with no campsite and headed off toward the Flume Slide trail. Not only was is raining at the time, but it had also rained earlier last week, so it was very muddy. It was a little hard to avoid the mud with our headlamps, but we didn't do too badly. Until we came to a stream crossing that was particularly tricky. As we walked off the path, along the shore, I stepped into a mud sinkhole above my ankle. I honestly thought to myself that my shoe was going to be stuck in the mud. I managed to toe up and get my foot out with shoe intact, but we still had the stream crossing to deal with. Remember that it's dark. Janda decided that the only option was to take off our shoes and wade across. Let's just say that I was not pleased to have to take off my wet muddy shoes and socks and then put them back on on the other side- not to mention how cold the water was! I may or may not have let out a few choice words while crossing the stream.
After that we crossed a few more streams and then set up camp for the night. That was a tricky endeavor, trying to keep the dry things dry and out of the tent. We finally got the tent set up (on a downward slope and on rocks- good thing we have air mattresses) and got the wet clothes off and into our sleeping bags. I tossed and turned a bit- mostly due to my cold feet, but I did get a few hours of sleep, as did Janda.
The next morning I pulled all of my clothes in the sleeping bag with me to warm them up. It worked a little. While Friday night wasn't too cold (we were hiking in tank tops), Saturday morning was extremely chilly, probably below freezing where we were and definitely below on the top, where it was snowing a little! Luckily we were prepared and had lots of clothes- too bad our shoes were wet! We had a nice warm breakfast and then broke down the camp before hitting the trail for the Flume Slide.
The Flume Slide was quite a difficult trail and more so when wet- which the guidebook said is almost always! We had on big packs, 25 lbs for me and 35 for Janda. The trail basically felt like 2000 continuous step-ups for me! It was very steep and there were definitely some challenging parts where we needed to be extra careful. Falling off the mountain kind of puts a damper on the hike.
We got to the top and had a great view from Mount Flume. The foliage was in full effect and it was a relatively clear day, so you could see quite far. We then walked across the ridge to Mount Liberty. As this is Columbus Day weekend, there were a lot of people at the mountain, most of them starting Saturday morning and going up the easier trail to Mount Liberty. We saw a lot more people on this mountain and then on the way down.
The Liberty Spring trail was no picnic going down, but not as hard as the Madison Gulf (see, I told you that the thing that we judge all hard stuff against now). On the way down we saw what seemed to be a group of Chinese tourists from a tour bus and whoever brought them to the mountain and suggested that they go hiking did not warn them about the muddiness or the coldness b/c they were dressed to go to the mall! I hope that they had the sense to not go too far up the mountain.
After we got down, we thankfully dropped our packs and enjoyed some un-resisted walking! Then we headed to a parking lot to have lunch before we headed home. At about 2:30 on Saturday while we were heading home, the mountains were packed! There was no parking left and there was a very long line on the highway heading into town. So glad that we went Friday night and Saturday!