Today’s adventure nearly rivaled yesterday! After our long narrow valley of brilliant fall color, steep and rocky accent to cross over a mountain peek to be greeted by more breathtaking views, and our campsite at roughly 11,500 feet by a gorgeous alpine lake- we didn’t dare expect another day so memorable! It was- but in a different way.
We were hesitant to camp so high up as we knew any weather would be much worse at this altitude, but there were no guaranteed water sources for many miles. There were also a lot of switchbacks on the map which also meant that there wouldn’t be any space big enough to sit, let alone camp, for many miles. It was time to stop before dark.
The night was spent a bit restless, as we were pounded with rain, hail, and sleet. We stayed warm, but our tent still has some leaks. We are concerned it is wearing out too soon.
We woke in the morning to the same sound- sleet pounding our tent. We layed their for a while, hoping it would stop. We had been fortunate the last several mornings- the night rain had stopped right about the time we needed to get up. Not this time. Then it turned to snow. Uh Oh. We started piling on the layers- and broke out the winter boots for the first time. We looked like abominable snow men- waddling around and wining about cold fingers. The first cold days of winter always bring complaints from me- I hate cold fingers. But eventually, the body adjusts and they don’t get cold as easy, but it takes a few weeks.
The horses were soaking wet and shivering off their hooves. They were utterly miserable and acted the same. We hurried to get them over to grass so they could get some warmth-creating fule in them. Horses always stay warmer when they have food in their bellies. I felt really bad for them, but they warmed up a bit once they had been eating for a little while.
We were all generally quite miserable from the wet cold weather. This wasn’t even nice snow- it was wet and soaked through everything fast. Plus, we were actually in the cloud- so the fog was intense. We couldn’t even see the lake we were camped next to- 10 feet from us! We knew we had to get out of there- asap.
One problem. We couldn’t breath. At that altitude, it got us out of breath bad enough we had to just stand there and concentrate on catching our breath- just from buttoning our pants! I’m not exaggerating! Going to the bathroom was an effort of magnificent proportions! And we had to pack our gear, saddle the horses, and pack the horses- like that! We hurried- we worked at mock speed- we HAD to get down the mountain- it’s what motivated us! But then I looked at my watch- it had taken us one hour to pack the horses in what normally takes us 15 minutes! What?! I thought we were working fast! I nearly passed out several times I was working so hard! How could 1 hour pass so fast?! It took us 5 hours to get packed up- between breathing! What a relief to be done and start riding down the mountain.
But Richard had to help me get on my horse! When we sent for our winter gear- one thing I forgot- my extra big saddle stirrups. My winter boots don’t fit in my stirrups- not even the toe. So he had to lift my bundled, flopping, stuffed and layered self into the saddle. It was not a pretty site and we had one small casualty- my cowboy hat. Yet another one bites the dust- I sat on it accidentally during the process of trying to get on my horse! It’s pretty mangled, but might as well last till I’m only wearing winter knit hats!
It was hard to find the trail in that fog- up in the cloud. Every once in a while, it would part and we could see a wisp of mountain- snow covered mountain. As we wound lower, the clouds became whispy and it was like riding through a swirling ghost land. Really cool- yet we were still glad to be getting out of there.
Then came the treacherous trails. They were marked and labeled for horses- yet the trail makers left me wondering – “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!!!???” ………………………..
To Be Continued Tomorrow!