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. 





22 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!

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

      Delete
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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

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

      Delete
  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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    Replies
    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.

      Delete
  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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    Replies
    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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    Replies
    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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    Replies
    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.

      Delete
  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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    Replies
    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

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

      Delete
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