Today may have ended early, but it was an exhausting day of elevation gains and losses on the first two trails followed by a couple of easier trails. We started the day in Panther Creek State Park, early, hiking the Point Lookout Trail. It was only 1.9 miles, but involved a nearly 500 foot elevation gain to the highest point in the park. Unfortunately, the promised stupendous view was blocked by trees–new growth trees which could have clearly been sacrificed for the view.
But, we were treated to a similar view when we started looking for the Ridge Crest Trail–a beautiful panorama of Lake Cherokee. The Ridge Crest Trail, though only 1.4 miles, was .7 miles rollercoastering along the top of a limestone slab promontory bordered by cedars and prickly pear cactus. The last quarter mile was a sharp drop down to the shore of Lake Cherokee. Then straight back up. Beautiful but exhausting.
That left one trail to hike in the park before we could move on to the next. I opted for the moderately easy Road to Recycling Trail–an nice ramble through the woods with very little elevation gain. From Panther Creek, we headed to Big Ridge Park where we discovered that we could either hike along the lakeshore or do some more strenuous climbing up to Big Ridge if I wanted to do a lengthier trail. Tired of hiking along lake shores, I decided to leave the strenuous climb for first thing in the morning, especially since the ubiquitous afternoon thunderheads were building once again. Instead, we hiked the Ghost House Trail because it was relatively easy and had a cool name. The loop trail led to the greatly eroded remains of an old house and then past a cemetery. As we hit, the road back to the parking area, it was beginning to rain. Time to find shelter for the night and begin again tomorrow.