Since last summer Morgan and I were not married, we did not get to go backpacking, pretty much ever. I bemoaned this fate and made him promise that this summer (2011), we'd be in the mountains every other weekend. Then, as you may recall, we tried to backpack in late October - but by then, temperatures in the mountains had dropped below zero at nights, and I am just not that hardcore. So we camped in the house.
I think it was March when we first tried to head out into the mountains. We looked for a good spring hike, but our SUV was stopped in its tracks, when we... literally... ran out of tracks. The snow got so thick so fast, we couldn't even drive within a few miles of the trailhead, and we were obviously not going far in tennis shoes and jeans. So we went back to the house and waited another few weeks for warmer weather.
Months went by, and any attempt we made to venture into the outdoors ended in similar situations. Finally, June was here, the days were warmer, and our schedule finally gave us an open weekend at the end of the month to go backpacking!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
As we were heading up the trail, we met a couple coming down in crampons and snow gear who warned us that we were about to hit snow. We brushed the warning off assuming these folk to be REI freaks who simply wanted an excuse to wear cool gear.
We were wrong.
Fortunately, as it was warm and sunny outside, when we hit the 6-ft deep snow pack, most of the time the ice was strong enough to keep us on top of it. So, even though Morgan was in shorts we kept going up... up... up... following no trail, praying to avoid snow-covered rivers.
(This pic was taken at a low altitude but shows how the snow can totally mask the river... eek!)
The higher we got in this un-trodden territory, the softer the snow became, and the more often we would plunge into the deep icy tombs. Chipson LOVED the snow, she bounded about as if she was overly-caffeinated, but would occasionally leap into our arms to give her paws a break from the cold.
The plan was to get to the top of the ridge and then hike down into a lake basin. We assumed if we just got up and over we'd be snow-free, but once we finally made it to the top, soaked and sore, we discoverd the lake was non-existent (thanks to the total lack of snow-melt). Defeated, we began to head back down to find somewhere snow-free to pitch a tent and warm our frost-bitten feet.
We found a gorgeous spot, halfway down that happened to be free of snow, pitched the tent, lit a fire and watched the sun sink behind the mountains.
That night, with Chipson shivering between us, we tossed and turned trying to stay warm. I had the pup wrapped in blankets but she seemed to only be warm enough when she was beneath my legs, or tucked against my body. At 1 am we decided to throw in the towell, as the cold became unbearable. But after surveying the landscape, and recalling that we had no trail to follow down, wet clothes and feet of snow, we vetoed that emergency situation, and continued to do our best to keep the three of us warm through the night.
About 2 am, Morgan tucked Chipson into his sleeping bag, which warmed her up and let me sleep an hour or so until he kicked her out so he could sleep while I had warming duties. Apparently, I dozed off, because at 4 am, I woke up to Chipson standing over me with a look of utter panic on her face shivering uncontrollably. It was just light enough out for us to see the pathway, so with frozen bodies, we packed up shop and slogged down the mountain. Of course, with soaked and icy shoes, we hiked these few snowy miles in Chacos - now that's a trip...
We made it home safe, with little permanent damage done, other than Morgan continuing to hate backpacking, and me making little progress in changing that opinion. Sadly, as horrible of a trip as it was, with Morgan's broken leg, it appears that it'll be the only backpacking trip this summer, which means next summer, we are going EVERY weekend! (Right honey?) Of course, this trip did teach me a lesson, buy a puppy sleeping bag, and invest in neoprene socks for when I plan to hike in Chacos in the snow.