Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cathy: "This Place Is Off the Chain Incredible"

Colorado Hut-to-Hut Adventure – Day 2 – 9/9/12 – Jackal Hut – 5 Miles?

Between tossing and turning and getting up to visit the privy, my headache abated sometime during the night.  I was thankful to be in a room by myself and not disturbing others with my restlessness, and even more grateful not to be unzipping and zipping a tent door.  I was up by 7:00 a.m., feeling 98% better, although my puffy face was a little disturbing.  I was ready for some food.  First:  my cheesecake from last night. 

Since I missed the fun earlier, it was my turn to wash dishes with the 3-step technique I was familiar with camping with Girl Scouts – wash with soapy water, rinse in warm clear water and dunk in cold water treated with a little bleach.  We swept up the cabin and carried out all our trash – this makes you very aware of leftover food. 

We hiked back out the .8 miles to Mike’s van.  I was still not ready to run, with heavy legs and still labored breathing.  Acclimation takes a few days.  And a tough climb to our next hut was coming up.

We stopped at a vacant campsite at Camp Hale (now a state historic site) and repacked for our next two days and nights.  We divided up some of the fresh food that Mike planned for our suppers and hit the trail.

Jeff is ready

A gentle climb?

Our hike began on the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, which run concurrently through central Colorado.  Our first mile would be considered moderate back home, but it was strenuous at this elevation above 10,000 feet.  Everyone was going slow and breathing was a whole new concept reminiscent of summiting Mount Whitney last year.  The great news was that it seemed to be peak week for the aspens changing to their signature fall yellow, so there were millions of excuses to stop to take a breath and a photograph.

Aspen tunnel

Moon shot

Yellow aspens and sunbeams

One perfect little cloud

After a mile or two, Mike turned us off of the CDT onto a cross-country ski trail, known in the summertime as a mile-long nonexistent trail or, as he put it , “an hour of excruciating pain or an hour-and-a-half of just pure hell.”  We all focused and walked extremely slowly, step by step, and it was actually over sooner than he had led us to expect. 

And we had this so-awesome-it-might-be-a-fake-backdrop view for our lunch break.

Climbing higher still

Our last 300-foot climb on an old jeep road – this looks simple but it didn’t feel like it

Our first view of Jackal Hut - 11,670 feet elevation – WOW

Before we took off our boots, Mike told us with a grin that the “hut fairy” had also been to Jackal Hut.  He led us a few hundred yards to a stand of trees where he had cached eight (yes, eight) gallons of water.  You see, Jackal Hut dwellers use only snow melt in the winter and the closest semi-reliable summer water source is two miles down a dirt road.  Like the other huts, it has a cistern to collect rain water, but at this time of year we couldn’t count on it to have a sufficient supply for us and anybody else coming along.  As we each carried two heavy gallons back to Jackal Hut (remember, just a few hundred yards) I marveled to myself that Mike had spent an entire day hauling these jugs in two trips, four at a time, up several miles from the parking area.  Was I going to complain about carrying a little bit of food?  Not on your life.

AND…the “hut fairy” had also brought up some wine. 

Let’s walk around outside a little bit.    Front view, privy on the left

View from the privy

Privy up close

On the front deck

Fire ring in the front yard

Another view from the front deck – Jeff is going exploring

Come on in!

Jackal Hut is much larger than Continental Divide Cabin.  The main floor is a huge open space with very wide seats along all the windows and a wood-burning stove.  The eating area has two picnic-style tables with benches.  The kitchen portion is U-shaped with two propane stovetops, two sinks with hand pumps, another wood-burning stove for cooking, and open shelving for all the dishes, glasses, mugs, pots and pans.  Large crocks and mugs on the countertops hold eating and cooking utensils.  There are even oven mitts.  

Looking at the kitchen from the dining area

Living area with wood stove

Outside the back door is a covered porch attached to a storage room for cold food storage (cold in winter, that is) and a shed full of split wood.  From there a wooden walkway leads to the nicest privies I have ever seen. 

Upstairs (sorry, I never took photos of upstairs) is a main bunk area with a couple of double wide beds and four singles and a room off to each side with either four or six beds.  I was expecting squeaky bunk beds with lumpy mattresses, but all the beds were at one level, not stacked, with very thick foam mattresses that were way comfortable.  Cathy and I claimed spaces in the main area and spread out.  We looked at each other in amazement and Cathy said, “We sure picked the right trip to go on!”  We thought that 10 people were scheduled to join us that night but nobody showed up.  Imagine, a lodge equipped for 16 people and just the 4 of us in it!  Heaven!

After marveling at our great good fortune, we settled on the front deck to enjoy the strong sun and the panoramic view.  I was very tired and soon migrated back inside to the window seats, where I laid down for a little nap amongst the cushions.  The altitude was still playing with my head, though, causing a headache when I laid there too long, and I found that I was much better when I stayed upright and moving around.  This would be the case for at least five days.

We prepared a sumptuous meal (chicken, pasta, sauce, salad, and chocolate pudding cups for dessert) and ate while looking out at the great big wide world.  Our supper was interrupted to capture the sunset -  not a problem at all.

After supper and cleanup, Cathy introduced us to the card game called Phase 10, which we played halfway through before crying “uncle” and heading for sleep.  On my last visit to the privy before bedtime, I stood on the walkway and traced the Milky Way arcing over Jackal Hut.  When was the last time you saw the Milky Way?

I slept by the big front window, looking at all those stars. 

The Colorado Rocky Mountain High
I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight
Is softer than a lullaby
Rocky Mountain High…”  ~John Denver


Linda W. said...

Wow, what deluxe accommodations! I want to go hiking with you! Love the photo of the yellow aspens and sunbeams. You're lucky to be in CO when the fall colors are at the peak.

smoky scout said...

Linda, I'm thinking our paths will cross one day. I really enjoy your posts on your blog and particularly your wonderful photos.