The problem with being a hiker is that the list of hikes I haven’t done and the list of hikes I want to do again tend to compete. Do I choose a new trail, or do a favorite? Today, I checked a trail off the “Haven’t Done” list and immediately added it to the “Do Again” list. Before I even got back to my car.
I slipped Harley into her harness and threw my backpack in the car today around 11:30. I hadn’t really planned on hiking—holiday weekends are too busy—but I missed the hike I’d planned the day before because I spent the morning nursing a migraine. Because I love her, I had to make it up to Harley! Only natural.
Anyway, the trail I picked was one I’ve heard of but only did my usual preparation (reading trial reviews, studying the map and other nearby trails, scanning local hiking groups and social media for tidbits of information, etc) an hour or so before leaving. Fortunately, it’s an easy-to-follow, one lane trail.
I’d heard the name of this trail just a couple times, but it is so odd I never forgot it: Hamongog. Yeah, weird name, right? Apparently, Hamon-Gog is a “mountain meadow,” and was originally a Bible reference, translating into “Valley of the multitudes of Gog.” (You can read some more about the etymology at “What is a Hamongog Anyway?”)
Anyway, right from the beginning, this trail was magical. There were three little streams crossing the trial within the first half mile, and there were so many birds singing and talking among the trees I got lost in their conversation. I saw lazuli bunting (Google it and thank me later!), a western tanager, and an oriole. Harley ate grass and splashed in the streams, frequently scaring butterflies or nearly tripping me. She’s not very attentive.
As we continued up the trail, the elevation began to climb. There was not a lot of shade, but the views of the surrounding mountains made the effort worth it. The scenery didn’t change much, but the peaks quit peeking the higher we got and soon they were standing proudly with their snowy caps.
We came to a fork in the trail about 1.3 miles in. We could go left and switch back once or a continue right and scramble up a rocky, dried creekbed. Harley and I went up the creekbed. There were moose tracks at the top preserved in yesterday’s mud until footsteps or rain erase them. Harley sat on one in an effort to speed the process up.
Shortly after mile 2, we reached the First Hamongog. It was quaint and had multiple creeks running through. Naturally, Harley had to check both of them out and see how wet she could get her face while drinking. The trail forks again, and you can go left up to Second Hamongog or right toward East Hamongog and Lake Hardy. I went left, to Second Hamongog.
It’s another mile to Second Hamongog, and the elevation changes the scenery from scrub oak to aspens and pine trees along this stretch, bringing shade and cooler temperatures. It was only 50* most of the way, but it felt hot, and the trees were welcome company.
As we neared the meadow, the view of Lone Peak and the valley below us kept getting better. And then it started to snow. It was magical. The trail flattened, and the trees became more spread out. Harley found some old patches of snow here and promptly started rolling in them. We walked further into the trees to find a wide, open meadow, clear of trees and littered with elk droppings. It was too much for Harley: She took off and started running laps around the meadow. Clearly, three miles up 2,600 feet wasn’t hard enough for her.
There’s another, larger stream at the north end of the meadow. Harley stopped to get a drink here after she finished her half marathon, and the stream whispered sweet nothings to my bladder. I had to go. Now. I’ve never peed with a dog in tow, so I was a little uncertain how it would go—especially since I’d been giving Harley drinks along the way by squeezing the mouthpiece on my CamelBak and letting her slurp out of its stream. What if she got the wrong idea?!
Maybe I could wait 3 miles to the bottom and 20 minutes home? Not likely. Desperate, I dropped my pack and tied Harley to it (hoping the weight would deter her from following me), told her to “Stay,” walked a away, and pulled my pants down.
She didn’t listen. Instead, she started dragging my pack, threatening to dump items out of their pockets and scatter them over dirt and pine needles.
I tried to get my pants up to try getting her to “Stay” again then decided it was futile. Harley sat next to me while I peed. I’ve never had such an intimate, needy hiking buddy. Ever. Group pee sessions usually mean we all politely turn away or at least pretend we can’t see anything. Harley is an uncouth, ill-mannered plebian. I thought Christian had raised her better. Oh well; she’s cute, and she loves me.
At this point, getting out of the meadow and off the mountain was feeling more urgent than my bladder had. The snow was still gently falling, but the wind had picked up and was pushing dark grey clouds toward us. Before leaving, I told Harley, “I am going to camp up here someday. Just because I can. We’re coming back.” She wagged her tail in what I assume was agreement. It could also have meant, “Sure, whatever you say, but let’s go!”
I unleashed my inner trail runner (frequently suppressed because oxygen is more important to me than speed), and Harley and I jogged out of Second Hamongog and down to First Hamongog, stopping only to allow other a few hikers to pass and give them a weather update.
Back at First Hamongog, we stopped to refill my CamelBak and eat a quick snack. We proceeded down, again, but at our usual pace as the temperature had warmed up and the clouds weren’t so menacing anymore. I stopped to photograph some flowers along the way, and Harley graciously stepped on them in the process. I also stopped to photograph a beautiful yellow and blue butterfly, and Harley graciously tried to eat it and scared it away. Thanks, Harley! I guess I didn’t need those photos anyways.
We came to the fork again, and I let Harley choose: Down the dry creek bed, or switchback. She chose the switchback, and she’s never choosing again. It wasn’t horrible or even crazy long. It was just creepy. There are multiple buildings along that little stretch, and many of them look like they’d been maintained for a long time, then abandoned. Doors were wide open, litter was spilling out of the doors, and I swear I saw some cat track along the way. I think if I’d had another human (not just a fluff-head dog), I might have felt like getting a little closer or checking them out. Instead, I increased the pace to s brisk march and told Harley to have better judgment in the future. She attempted to trip me in response.
The rest of our journey was unremarkable—if you don’t count the stunning views of the valley and the angsty clouds now rolling in from the east. We’d passed at least 4 groups going up while we were descending, but we had the trail (and meadows) to ourselves for most of the day. We got to the car by 3 and were home by 3:30. Harley has barely moved since then. I guess I haven’t either.
2,600 feet of elevation
Easy to follow, and great view.