Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Hut Fairy Strikes Again

Colorado Hut-to-Hut Adventure – Day 4 – 9/11/12 – 10th Mountain Hut – 7 Miles

Another night of light sleep, a little too warm (who would have thought we’d be hot out here?) and I woke with the now-familiar headache.  Getting up and moving around was the best medicine (along with ibuprofen and a cup of hot tea).  And there is something about brushing your teeth and spitting over the railing of a log cabin while looking at a sprawling mountain range that just makes you feel better, too.  

Today we’re moving on to a new location.  The hut departure checklist includes washing all dishes, restocking firewood, closing all the windows, turning off the solar panel switches, sweeping the floors.  This is for all those people who want to see Jeff sweeping – yes, he is multi-talented.

We also had to pack out all of our trash, including empty water jugs. 

By 8:00 a.m. we began our brisk walk down the steep, dusty, loose-rock jeep road that can be used to reach Jackal Hut…but I wonder if even a jeep can handle some parts of it.  I was glad to have my hiking poles for four miles of this. 

Walking through the paint-by-number landscape that we had been looking down upon for the past two days

Camp Hale on the valley floor

Yellow aspens

At the bottom we intersected the main road at Camp Hale, about two miles from where Mike’s van was parked.  Here he mysteriously told us to wait, that he had tried to arrange some more “hut fairy” magic.  He ducked behind a small grove of trees and emerged with that mischievous grin and a bicycle!  He pedaled the remaining two miles to the van while we chilled by the roadside and then retrieved us to begin the next phase of our adventures.

Mike the “hut fairy” is always coming up with a new surprise

At a picnic table we repackaged food for our next segment, four days total.  “Real” food included frozen chicken, frozen ground beef patties, fresh veggies and pasta and rice for suppers.  We were all loaded down.  Jeff even carried a two-pound bag of frozen peas.   My favorite was a butter-flavored spray that we used on nearly everything.

After packing up, we drove back over the Tennessee Pass to access another section of the Colorado Trail/CDT.  Our hike started off in a light drizzle.  Mike gave instructions to us scavenger hunt style, just enough clues at a time to get us to the next landmark.  This isn’t really my style – I like to have the map and all directions ahead of time – so I had to trust him.  That trust waivered a few times over the course of the next few days, but since I’m writing this from the comfort of home you know it all turned out okay.  And yes, I hope to go hiking with Mike in the future if he’ll let me. 

Soon we turned off of the CDT onto a cross-country ski trail marked with blue diamond blazes nailed onto tree trunks 20+ feet high.  Every ski trail is marked with blue diamonds so it’s really important to have good compass skills when cross-country skiing here (which I will never do) so that you know where you are.  Mike made us work to find the markers, sometimes quite a distance apart and hard to spot.  The terrain varied from wide open to boulder fields to sparse tall trees and a couple of unnamed ponds.  What does it look like when the snow is packed six feet high and the lakes are covered up?

Lily Lake

Where to now?

Clouds increasing, time to hurry up

We climbed some short, steep sections that would be called molehills back home but were hard for me with a loaded pack.  Although my legs didn’t feel quite as heavy as the previous day, my lungs were still bursting, but I worked to suck it up.  I only whimpered once or twice.  I don’t think the one-mile-per-hour speed barrier was broken.

Are we there yet?  By mid-afternoon the drizzle turned to rain.  Everyone picked up the pace, not really knowing how much farther it was to 10th Mountain Hut.  The rain turned to sleet as we crossed a large meadow…and is that a building I see??  I put my head back down, breathing hard and teeth chattering, and powered myself across the open terrain…uphill, of course.

At last, at last, thank God Almighty, we’re here at last!

And other people are here, too, three folks from Washington, D.C., John, Joni and their young adult son Charlie, and they have a fire going in the wood stove!  Hurray!  Such a great feeling, to get out of cold wet clothes and sit down by a warm fire.  I officially love hut hiking.

Time to split some wood for the fire

What has Cathy found?

Now Mike can relax and settle in

The next couple of hours were spent chatting with our hut mates, swapping hiking stories.  We prepared our supper in separate groups – ours was a delicious one-pot creation of peppers, rice, ground beef and the last of our baby spinach, plus Pepperidge Farm cookies for dessert.  Our new friends made ‘smores in the wood stove and shared roasted marshmallows with us – YUM.  During a round of Scrabble with the D.C. folks I realized that they play often, unlike me, because I got creamed.  Meeting and hanging out with new peeps was great fun and more indicative of the hut experience during the winter months.  I wonder how much I would like a hut filled to capacity day after day.  Yes, I am spoiled.

Cathy and I settled into one of the side bunk rooms at 10:00 p.m. bedtime, a late night for hikers after a long day.  Tomorrow’s weather is not looking too good.

“Talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky Mountain High”
~John Denver


Sharon said...

Am loving every word of these accounts, but so sorry you dealt with the headache. Would be curious to know in retrospect what, if anything, you would do differently. Without more initial time to acclimate, not sure there is anything you could've done differently!!

smoky scout said...

I don't know of anything I could do differently other than spend more time acclimatizing. Some people say to hike high and sleep low for a few days can help too. And I'd have to live there a few years to develop better lungs :)