Monday, October 22, 2012

Hello Colorado!

Colorado Hut-to-Hut Adventure – Day 1 – 9/8/12 – Continental Divide Cabin – 1 mile

I’m following my friends on a nearly flat trail less than a mile long to a log cabin.  My head is pounding, my breathing is difficult and my legs feel like lead.  How did this happen?

Background:  One of my Berg friends, Mike, has mentioned several times the awesomeness of an area in the Colorado Rocky Mountains called the 10th Mountain Division Huts, a collection of lodges used primarily by cross-country skiers in winter but also available to hikers.  His enthusiasm for the region and his willingness to make plans resulted in four of us – Mike, Cathy, Jeff and me – meeting in Leadville, Colorado one sunny Saturday afternoon to embark on yet another epic adventure. 

(The 10th Mountain name honors the men of 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado.  Read about the hut system here and more about the 10th Mountain Division history here.  If you want to really get into it, an internet search will keep you immersed for a long time.)

Cathy, Jeff and I flew into Denver, CO and drove to Leadville where we met up with Mike, who was already bouncing around out west on a months-long adventure.  Mike could hardly contain his glee at what he had in store for us.  Over lunch at the local Subway he outlined the scheme:  buy groceries based on a 2-night and a 4-night segment, individual breakfasts/lunches/snacks and group suppers involving real food, not dehydrated (I believe Team A and Team B for cooking was mentioned).  Since we were not burdened with tents and sleeping pads and stoves and fuel, we could carry luxury food.  I was not sure I was on board with this – I preferred the idea of less weight rather than similar weight with different stuff.  But Mike was the man with the plan and it was best to follow along.  After shopping and organizing for the different segments, we would head out to our first hut.  What about our food for tonight’s supper and breakfast?  Ah, said Mike mysteriously…the “hut fairy” has taken care of that.  

At the grocery store I tried to keep my head on straight to make food decisions for the next 7 days.  We wouldn’t be near civilization again, so I’d better get it right.  As usual, I ended up over-buying.  Have I ever starved on a backpacking trip?  No.  Have I ever carried too much?  Yes.

At a trailhead parking lot we spread our stuff out all over creation in an attempt to organize and I managed to sort all my gear and clothing for the 7 days/nights.  Too overwhelming to figure out food yet, so I threw a few snacks in my backpack and hoped for the best for Day 1.  As Cathy and I tossed stuff around, Mike and Jeff left to place our rental car at the end of our last hike next Saturday.  From now on we would be four Musketeers in Mike’s home-on-the-range van. 

Cathy’s spot in the back of Mike’s van.   My seat was in a lawn chair behind the front seats, facing sideways.  We’re driving to the Tennessee Pass on Highway 24 in between San Isabel National Forest and White River National Forest.  Let the fun begin!

And here I am on this short hike to the Continental Divide Cabin.  Oh yeah…at 10,500 feet elevation.  What is air?  Going straight from Charlotte’s elevation of 748 feet to walking at 10,500 feet was not a good idea for me. 

A swing?  Don’t get used to this, we won’t see any more of these

By the time we reached the cabin my head and my eyes were hurting, my stomach was queasy and sloshing from drinking huge quantities of water, and I was useless.  The “hut fairy” had hiked in previously with dinner provisions (including wine!)  Mike cooked chicken on the grill, Jeff boiled corn on the cob for the first time ever, Cathy tossed a salad:  a celebratory feast.  I couldn’t eat a thing, not even the cheesecake.  I wandered outside the cabin for fresh air, startling four deer that were hanging out in the yard.  Finally at 8 o’clock my friends pronounced me excused and off to bed I went.

Continental Divide Cabin is considered a “family” hut, booked for a single fee rather than a per-person-per-night fee like most of the other huts in the 10th Mountain Division system, so we had it all to ourselves.  It sleeps 8 people, 2 each in 2 small bedrooms and then 4 on bunks in the central living area.  Like all the huts, it operates on solar power for lighting (and unlike the other huts, CDC has a small refrigerator).  Here’s a quick tour.

Common room with kitchen space and a wood burning stove

Bunks in the main room

My little space where I crashed

Two-burner propane stovetop.  All pots and pans, dishes and silverware are furnished in the huts, even paper towels - nice!

In the winter hut dwellers rely on snow melt for water.  There is also a cistern and water is accessed via a hand pump.  Water treatment is recommended. 

VERY nice privy (toilet paper provided too).  I think I visited here 8 times during the night.

Walkway from the privy to the main cabin

Serious wood supply

All this wonderfulness and I couldn’t enjoy it much.  Hoping mass quantities of ibuprofen and keeping my eyes closed helps for what’s coming with the sunrise.

"When he first came to the mountains 
His life was far away
On the road and hanging by a song..." 
~John Denver

1 comment:

Linda W. said...

Now that's the way to camp! What a lovely cabin. Can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventure.