Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Slide Lake

Colorado Hut-to-Hut Adventure – Day 5 – 9/12/12 – Slide Lake - 3 miles

Woke up with that headache at about 4:00 a.m.  How long does acclimatization take?  So far at least five days.

Our order of waking up goes like this:  Mike first, Cathy second, me third and Jeff last (or maybe Jeff hears us all and decides to wait a little longer?)  By 6:45 a.m. we were looking out the front windows at the off/on drizzle from a gun metal gray sky, low 40’s and saturated.  We were staying put today, but our D.C. hut mates were contemplating whether to hike on to their next destination at Uncle Bud’s Hut (where we’re going tomorrow).  They ultimately decided to go for it.  It didn’t look like fun, but they were experienced backpackers.  There was a warm hut at either end of their route if they got in trouble, plus they had two cars stationed along the way, so several bail-out options.

We Berg Wanderers chose to watch and wait for a change in the weather.  Mike split some kindling and we stocked the indoor wood boxes.  I got a nice fire going in the wood stove, making those wonderful crackling and popping sounds associated with coziness.  Cathy and Jeff became lost in the construction of a 1,000-piece puzzle.  (I tried, but every time I looked at it for more than a few minutes my headache started up again.)

What do we all dream of?  A day with nothing to do, no phone, no TV, just a book and a fire?  Mike and I sat in our sleeping bags by the picture windows and watched the clouds continue to roll in. 

Every hut in the 10th Mountain Division has a log book that guests sign, not only the current one, but many volumes dating back for years.  Some guests write extensively about their visit, some write stories, some just sign their names, some draw amazing pictures and simple sketches.  Families are represented, as well as groups of friends and the occasional bachelorette party.  A rainy day with a fire is the perfect setting to wander through the log books.  One entry at this hut struck me so profoundly that I copied it down:  “I got married on the front porch of this hut in ’99.  Sadly, our marriage did not survive but this place remains beautiful, spiritual, special.  I skied up to Slide Lake today and cast my ring into the center.”  Hmmmm….there were also some good knock-knock jokes.

After lunch we all suited up in rain gear to venture outside despite the continued dreariness.  Jeff headed off to climb Homestake Peak, a popular hike for hut dwellers that we could see from our front windows.  Mike and Cathy and I set our sights on the above-mentioned Slide Lake, a mile away, and later Mike wanted to explore around and maybe walk up the ridge of Homestake Peak.  Well, 50 feet out the door I was gasping and I knew I wouldn’t attempt to go beyond a walk along the lakeshore.   In spite of the weather, the lake was peaceful and inspiring.

A steep mountain range forms a half-bowl where Slide Lake sits

Beautiful clear water and a rocky shoreline

Slide Lake

Cathy and me cheek to cheek – one of my favorite photos

Can you see me?

A marmot at home

Mike and Cathy wanted to go up the ridge and I said I would backtrack to the hut.  Since the trail this far had been in a counterclockwise curve, Mike suggested that I “close the loop” and continue walking in a counterclockwise curve downhill through a couple of clearings and bear left towards the hut.  The terrain was just wide open enough to make it seem simple.  As I walked I frequently looked back to check my bearings.  I crossed a little creek and admired the fall colors on the low foliage.  After about 20 minutes I looked back and noticed wispy fog forming – uh oh.  How much fog was coming in?  Would I be able to see the hut from a distance now? 

I decided to turn back.  By now the clouds were obscuring the taller mountains – Homestake Peak had dis- appeared – and my landmarks were gone.  I knew that if I turned around and kept straight uphill I would find Slide Lake.  Hurrying, hurrying, a little bit worrying, and finally the water’s edge was in front of me.  Funny thing:  I couldn’t see the land on the other side at all and for a crazy moment it seemed like the edge of the ocean.  

 By now sleet was seriously coming down.  I followed the lake edge, picked up the trail and walked quite briskly back to the 10th Mountain Hut.  About an hour had passed since I parted ways with Cathy and Mike.

At the hut I sprung the combination lock on the first try – hurray!  I put away my wet things and took the opportunity for a much-anticipated sponge bath.  Mike and Cathy appeared at the door about 15 minutes later, looking chilled.  Mike was concerned about me navigating in the changing conditions, and they followed the route he had suggested to me, admitting that it was quite a bit more complicated than he had thought.  I probably would have gotten lost if I had continued.  Mike was happy with my decision making.  It’s a good thing I realized my shortcomings and turned around.

Jeff made it back about an hour later, having conquered Homestake Peak, of course.  We stoked the fire back up, had a cup of hot tea, and Cathy and Jeff fell back down the puzzle rabbit hole.  Then the sun was shining timidly and hopefully the clouds were moving out, because tomorrow we would be, too.

Gourmet dinner:  ground beef, peas, pasta with sour cream and chives sauce – a gastronomic delight.

“Friends around the campfire
And everybody’s high…
Rocky Mountain High”
~John Denver

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