Monday, November 16, 2020

Fear of Cold

 A big storm was coming, several feet of snow in the mountains, and I wanted one long hike before it arrived. The snow was predicted to fall all day, but not intensify before four. Could I hike 13 miles and several thousand feet before then? Yes, I could.

A dismal rain seeped through the trees as I climbed through the uninspiring first few miles of the hike to Aneroid Lake. There's no good way to say it, this is frankly a slog, with only partial views, but mostly rocks, a fairly unhealthy forest, and no break in the climb. Several fallen trees draped the trail, victims of the intense winds we had gotten a few days before. If it gets really windy, I'm turning around, I thought.

The rain turned to snow after three miles, and I had yet to shed a layer, unusual on this steep hike. I was wearing a rain jacket, a wool top and, yes, pants. Snow is always better than rain, but I worried it would start to fall so heavily that I would flounder in my trail running shoes. If the snow starts to stick, I'm turning around, I thought.

At the bridge that marks 4.2 miles, the snow was sticking, but I knew that after this point, the trail slowly begins to level out after a final climb. To get this far and not at least get some views seemed sort of criminal, so I pressed on. If the snow starts to get deep, I'm turning around, I thought.

The reward of the climb is a stroll through tawny meadows and views of the higher peaks of the Northern Blues. There were no footprints in the skiff of snow that was fast collecting. I was the only one on trail. 

Because I didn't stop, I reached the lake before noon. Gone was the crush of campers; the lake was still. Fog kissed the surface; there were no real views today. Stopping to eat an protein bar, my fingers quickly succumbed to the cold. It was, after all, only about 20 degrees. I couldn't sit and admire the lake; winter was coming. 

There is a private inholding at this lake and for a brief moment I fantasized about spending the winter in one of the cabins. I've always wanted this--extreme isolation for a distinct period of time. But not today; I had to get down the trail.

And none too soon, because snow had already filled in my tracks. As I hiked fast to get warm, the fear of cold crept in. Even though I carried all the gear I needed to survive, I thought of all the hikers who have disappeared in cold places. I get cold easily and this is why winter will always feel a little alien.

About a mile and a half down the trail, a woman appeared, hiking toward the lake. A kindred soul! "I figured I was the only one crazy enough to be hiking up here in this weather," she said. After she left I regretted I hadn't gotten her name. There are so few people who like to do the kind of hiking I do.

As I descended, the snow turned back to rain. My mittens were soggy and useless, but I wasn't cold any longer. Looking back, all I could see was white. The season of cold is here. 





18 comments:

  1. I love your variable rule - "If it gets too ........"!
    I can't imagine myself hiking in these conditions, especially all 13 miles [20km!], but I most definitely enjoy joining you virtually!

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    1. Variable rules have resulted in tragedy for some! But I felt pretty safe.

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  2. Hello Mary, Just Read Your Comment On Jill's Post - Felt Compelled To Send Some Vibes - Be Well And Stay Strong - Will Check In On You

    Cheers

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    1. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. I have it so good compared to many, just have to remember that.

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  3. Looks like R isn't going to get back up to Flora and plant the apple trees that were supposed to go in the ground this month...

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    1. Well maybe...it was 62 today. So strange.

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    2. Yes, here too. He did a 14-hr round-trip to John Day to pick up our year's supply of beef. Good driving conditions. Perhaps there will be another window.

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  4. Ha I fear rain way less than cold. I'm definitely made of sugar and spice and everything nice. I melt in anything more than intermittent showers.

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    1. Rain i don't fear except for hypothermia rain. Oh and wind. My list of fears seems to be growing..

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  5. Me too Jan, I Hate rain. Perhaps wind more than rain, but those are definitely my top two things to avoid.

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    1. Today we had 40 to 80 mph winds. Definitely puts you on edge.

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  6. With scenery like that, I can see why it would be hard to turn around! Although I love winter endeavors, I don't like being cold either.

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    1. There's always that initial feeling of chill that I need to force myself to work through and then it will be better. I'm getting wimpier in my old age.

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  7. Mmmm, lovely. Views like that remind me of Southeast Alaska, and even though I complained plenty while living there, I still miss them.

    It was 73 degrees in Boulder today. I rode my skinny-tire bike to 10,300 feet and hit hardly any snow on the roads. I'm not complaining about that, either. :)

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    1. It totally felt like Southeast! Wow 73, I am always amazed by the wide mood swings in Colorado.

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  8. What a gorgeous way to enjoy that lake!!!!!! We hiked last year and it was a sheet of ice...we are those crazy people! Lol

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    1. Better to be hiking and crazy than indoors on the couch!

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