Blue Mountain Peak Climb - Part 3-
With luck, you'll see a glorious sunrise.
About 2.5 miles from Whitfield Hall, you'll reach the campground at Portland Gap, at 5,200 feet up Blue Mountain Peak; it has a water tap and room for up to 30 people. (To stay here, make reservations through the Forest Department in Kingston; 876/924-2667.) Once you arrive at Portland Gap, it's only 3.5 miles more to the Blue Mountain summit.
Past Portland Gap, you'll continue the climb through a series of switchbacks. You know you're close to Blue Mountain Peak itself when you reach "Lazy Man's Peak," a steep slope where the trail appears to turn inland.
The agonizing sight of the track disappearing farther uphill convinces many to stop and declare this the finish line. However, it's only another 5 to 7 minutes from Lazy Man's to the actual top. The peak appears suddenly, as you turn a corner, and it's one of the sweetest sights on earth.
This is the true peak, the place to sit down and honestly say "I've done it!"
What other emotions you feel will depend on the weather. You may not see anything except the inside of a cloud, which covers the peak much of the time. If you have a clear morning, as I did, you'll enjoy a great overview of the Blue Mountains .
If you still have more stamina and a good guide, you can continue another hour to the nearby summit of East Peak, but it's not recommended that you try for East Peak without expert help.
Coming back down, the trail looks very different in daylight. Some hikers swear that if they'd seen in advance the route they would be forced to climb, they never would have attempted it, fearing the track too difficult.
So there are some advantages to climbing in the dark. You'll be back down the mountain and at Whitfield Hall between 9-11, depending on how long you tarry at the top.
If all this sounds like too much work, it is possible to arrange for horses or mules to carry you from Whitfield Hall, even in the dark. Given a choice, take a mule over a horse.
Not only are mules more sure-footed and less likely to spook, they won't rub your backside as raw as the gait of a horse may. Remember, they use mules and not horses to take people down to the floor of Arizona 's Grand Canyon.
Hikers with a good sense of direction should be able to make the climb on their own. However, a guide usually makes the trek more entertaining, more enjoyable. A good guide contributes to at least half of the experience. And he does all the cooking.