Tuesday, March 9, 2010
As you all know by now, I survived my first foray into the wilderness. Here I am starting out on the hike. Please note the sled attached to the back of my pack (more on that later).
The trail head starts at about 10,000 feet and climbs roughly 1,500 feet in 3.5 miles so, while not a long hike per se, it was definitely steep. For those of you not familiar with exercising at altitude you might think that a 3.5 mile hike sounds like a warm-up but the lack of oxygen at that elevation combined with the 30lb back pack makes any exertion seem much more strenuous. Of course, the rewards for such an endeavor are views along the way like this one:
About two hours later we catch a glimpse of our “hut” which, as you can see, is a substantial log cabin. It is located at 11,600 feet somewhere in the Rocky Mountains between Copper Mountain and Leadville.
The hut has a large main room with a sitting area, dining area and kitchen, and a wood-burning stove to keep you toasty warm and to melt snow for drinking water. That’s right; there is no running water so you have to “make” your own water which I can honestly say is one thing that I have never made in the FAL test kitchen. Now that I am an expert water-maker I can share this little secret with you: clean snow = clean water and dirty snow = dirty water.
While I've always considered myself adventurous and outdoorsy, I've never really camped. I generally prefer to be active during the day and then reward my efforts with a hot shower, nice meal and warm bed. This trip was a little bit different. Lack of shower and sleeping bag accommodations aside, the real issue for me was this:
That is the outhouse which was a cold, snowy 50-yard walk from the hut. It was particularly miserable in the dark, at night, with nothing but your headlamp to guide your way. So my plan of drinking enough wine to endure sleeping on a thinly padded bench in a sleeping bag backfired. Because really, who wants to get up in the middle of the night, don a headlamp and walk 50 yards in the snow to sit on an ice cold toilet?!? Not this girl.
However, when you wake up to views like this it's easy to forget the outhouse issue:
See how happy I look? It is day two and the lack of oxygen is finally getting to me.
The next photo is from the deck looking off to the right side of the hut. Do you see the trail down the center of this photograph? That's the trail leading to and from the hut. It takes you away from the hut for about a mile or two before it starts to wrap back around to the valley. That’s the way most people ski or snow shoe to and from the hut.
And this photo is taken from the center of the deck looking down towards the valley. Do you see the little make-shift trail just to the left that someone created while sledding? That essentially takes you straight down the mountain, into the gully and eventually meets up with the trail-head in the valley. That’s the exit strategy I chose.
Do you remember that little plastic sled in the first picture? Well, I secured my back pack to the sled and then jumped on the pack-sled and sledded down the mountain head-first. I believe this practice is called “skeleton” and, as you might imagine, it was not without its share of wipe-outs and mishaps. In hind sight, it was perhaps not the safest choice but it sure was a lot of fun. Besides, thanks to the twins’ hospital stay earlier this year we already met our insurance deductible.
I'm hoping someone snapped a picture of me bombing down the mountain head-first because typically activites that are THAT much fun are also illegal.
Thanks for joining me on this photographic tour of my first, and possibly last, hut trip. After two days of eating trail-mix and more than my share of peanut butter and energy bars I am looking forward to making some healthy meals that I can share with all of you.