The hour-long trip east towards the mountains felt short since it was filled with many beautiful views. The mountain range that stretched across our windshield reminded me of just how small and tiny we are. My friend, Thuy, had suggested the hike to me several weeks earlier. She had done her research and determined that the hike, for us amateur Hikers, was labeled ‘moderate’. In hindsight, I should have realized that everyone’s opinions are subjective and therefore, should be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, we were packed for the hike and ready to go that Thursday morning. After a pit stop at the 85-degree bakery, we were on our way to one of the toughest hikes we have ever experienced.
The road up the mountain was narrow and consisted mostly of dirt. Lucky for me, Thuy had offered to drive, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride. And boy, was it a ride! For those who don’t like heights, this drive up the mountain was terrifying (again: remember, opinions are subjective so take this one with a grain of salt!). At moments, I held onto the passenger handle as if to brace myself in case we happened to slide off the side of the mountain—not that it would help very much if we did. However, it served its purpose in comforting me as we made the ascent up towards the parking lot of Ira Spring Trail.
When we arrived at the parking spot, there were already hikers there. Being the novice beginners that we were, we did not realize we had to pay to park. Both of us only came with our debit cards and not much else. So there, we sat in the parking lot debating what we should do. We just drove up the side of this huge mountain and now realized we might have to drive back down. Plus, the nearest store to pull out cash was about half of an hour out. We watched various people start the trek up the mountain as we sat in our car, dubious and uncertain of what to do next. “Should we ask people for cash?” My friend suggested first. I was thinking the same thing but did not voice it. I shrugged in response. Thuy, squaring her shoulders, stood up and made her way towards a group of hikers. They were kind enough to loan us the five dollars we did not have in cash with happy smiles. Thank you, kind strangers!!! Note to self and others: if you ever do go hiking, make sure you pull out cash.
With that worry taken care of, we made our way up the mountain. I had done one other hike prior to this at rattlesnake ledge. It was, in my opinion, moderate. I had taken a couple of breaks when I did that hike, and it felt fine.
Well, let me just preface this by saying Ira Spring Trail was nowhere near rattlesnake ledge in terms of intensity. Half an hour into the hike, I was sweating and struggling to breath. The whole back of my shirt was soaked in sweat. Dazed, I stared down the face of the mountain and wondered how much further we had until we hit the lake. I was already beat. Thuy stood by my side and encouraged me to keep going saying we did not come this far to give up. At that moment, I honestly did not care but looking back now, I appreciate her support so much. Get you a friend that pushes you to your limits!!
About halfway through the ascent, I suddenly felt determined to make it up this freaking mountain. I watched others pass us, some weighed down with backpacks that looked to be about 30 pounds. Gawking and in awe, we watched as they steadily climbed the mountain as Thuy and I both panted and labored with our 10 pound backpacks. Needless to say, slow and steady eventually wins the race because we finally made it up the mountain… and peeking through the trees, we saw the end goal! Finally. The beautiful Mason Lake in all of its majestic glory. Practically sprinting towards the lake, in utter joy and happiness when I realized the climb was finally over, I squealed in pure delight. I knew what this meant: we could finally take a break and NOT feel bad about it because we MADE IT! We settled down on some rocks by the water and basked in the warm September sun. We pulled out our baked goods and snacked. In silence (and honestly probably from being completely exhausted), we stared at the still lake. Momentarily, the silence was interrupted by an elderly man and his dog near the rock we sat at. He jumped feet first into the crystal-clear water, and I could not help but smile at the happy sight.
Eventually, I decided it was time to test out the waters for myself. In fact, there was a rock a few feet away from us close to the surface of the water I thought would be perfect to take pictures on. Normally, when I am at a lake, I like to jump right in to quickly acclimate myself to the temperature. Plus, how hard could it be? After all, someone just jumped into the lake like it was no big deal. Well. I quickly found out the water was nothing short of freezing. Thuy watched as I struggled to wade in the water. Amused, she laughed at me and recorded the experience. I was already chest deep in the cold water so I thought, I might as well make it to this rock for these pictures! After she quickly snapped some pics, I quickly retreated out of the water.
We sat there for a few minutes longer before making the descent. We made it down in half the time it took us to get up to the lake. It only took about an hour. Nestled back into the passenger seat of her car, I blew out a sigh of relief. We recapped the adventure (and struggle) of this hike in the car with plenty of laughs to keep us entertained on our way back home.
My one big takeaway from this whole experience: take opinions online with a grain of salt, folks because that’s what they are, opinions! If you are to do this hike, try rattlesnake first and if that seems hard, this one will be absolutely monstrous. Again, these are my opinions, so you won’t know until you try. 😉