All good adventures have a healthy dose of “first time ever” and “happens every time”, right?! Yup, I think that’s a fact. If not a fact, then a solid correlation based upon last weekend’s events. On a bit of a whim a few weeks ago I snagged a bed at one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts, subsequently signing myself up for an “Epic Girls’ Weekend”. Going into this I knew one person — Jenn, a bubbly ultra runner I hadn’t seen in just over a year. Turns out I had a lot in common with the other ladies than I thought possible + our weekend of epic’ness did not disappoint.
Per tradition, we kicked off our backcountry weekend with a bit of a later-than-planned start but courtesy of come caffeine we were all bouncing along I-70 in good spirits well before the sun hit “high noon”. Our road trip took us from Denver to Basalt and then up into the mountains via narrow, windy mountain roads. Along these roads we discovered rushing rivers, stunning mountain views and…oodles of wildlife!
As it turns out, strutting turkeys really are not that great at giving directions. I’m not hating on that big ol’ tom…he did try to communicate with us but something was lost in translation. That, and only that, is the reason we somehow ended up at the wrong trailhead…hiking a mile up the wrong trail. Obviously. Silly turkey + his confusing gobbles! In the turkey’s defense the mule deer completely ignored us + the mountain goats just stared at the pee rocks. Silly critters.
we dug up our “tourist card” + we played it…hard!
This was one of my “happens every time” moments. I have done a handful of hut trips and every.single.time. I end up parked at the wrong trail staring at a confusing map or just straight up hiking the wrong trail. This would say a lot about my ability to navigate except for the minor detail that I am yet to claim “navigation duty” on a hut trip…not that I’d be any better at it, I’ve always agreed wholeheartedly with the leader as we trotted up the wrong trail only to trudge back down when we came to our senses.
Now, our navigational snafu could be an error on our part, or we were just getting in a warm-up before we drove all the way up to the “summer trailhead” with a few stops to get our crossfit on as we excavated a few massive boulders off the narrow dirt road weaving along the mountainside. Personally, we consider it a warm up. A very necessary + well thought out warm up, considering how many rocks we had to wrangle!
Once we finally arrived at the “summer trailhead” we strapped on our gear + started hiking…up hill. Then a little more up hill. And then up hill again, just for good measure. The Betty Bear Hut was maybe 2 miles up the mountain from the road but that 2 miles was no joke. It was all up. Great training for a road marathon, right? [just stick with the warm up logic from above, it’s flawless]
Bethany + I arrived at the hut first [a “first time ever” moment for me, I’m always a straggler] then we fumbled around trying to open to door with the wrong lock code. We’re basically geniuses, we just hide it very, very well. Before too long Jenn + Candy arrived with the correct combination of numbers + we were moving into our home for the weekend.
As the evening wore on we started to think we may be the only ones in the hut for the night. Rather than move down to the basement bedrooms we all curled up in our sleeping bags around the living room furnace, falling into an exhausted snore-fest before the full moon even crested the mountain ridges. Rather than bask in the glorious moonlight I buried my head in my sleeping bag to escape the relentlessly bright glow of the moon. Yup, that’s the level of exhaustion we were dealing with. Who knew a hefty warm up, some crossfit + a two mile climb had such powers.
The next morning we waited until the sun had inched its way above the horizon before we crawled out of our cozy sleeping bags to start the day. With bellies full of pancakes + scrambled eggs it was time to head outside. Or, put together a puzzle, depending upon who you were. Bethany was excited to go play on her splitboard while Jenn + Candy took their snowshoes for a romp in the snow. I, on the other hand, only left the house when a trip to the outhouse could not be postponed any longer. I am ambitious like that.
After trekking up to a remote hut full of all the basic life amenities I have a really hard time convincing myself to layer up + head outside. Another one of those “happens all the time” things for me. Even on the beautifully sunny days my desire to curl up in the hut usually wins over. This time around I didn’t even bother fighting it. As soon as the breakfast dishes were lined up in the drying rack I was sorting through a puzzle on a mission to find all the edge pieces.
A tiny part of me was looking forward to a quiet afternoon in the hut. I mean, re-read that, it just sounds cozy + relaxing! Sure, it’s antisocial + a little weird but it just sounded…awesome. However, about 15 minutes after the other ladies headed out to frolic in the snow I heard a few whoops of excitement. Our hut strangers had arrived!
As the seven of them shed their gear and settled into the hut I plugged away at the puzzle, enjoying the distant chatter of conversations I had zero investment in. This was another bout of “first time ever” — I’ve never shared a hut with complete strangers, it’s always been friends or friends of friends. Luckily this group was pretty chill + we had zero issues sharing space. We even tag teamed the puzzle, yelled at each other during Catch Phrase + blew each other up playing Exploding Kittens. If that’s not legitimate co-hutting I don’t know what is! That’s one perk to backcountry strangers — you’re usually in the same chapter, if not on exactly the same page, when it comes to interests + temperament!
Shortly after they arrived in the blazing sunshine the clouds rolled in, letting Colorado do its moody weather thing…clouds hid our views + started dumping snow. I mean, obviously, it is spring after all, snow should be expected! [insert eyeroll emoji] Even with all the snow Jenn returned to the hut from her snowshoe excursion in a tank top, because that is how Colorado does spring!
After basking in the heat of our raging fire + eating my way through a bag of pita chips I gave in + headed outside with the snow tube. I had lugged that beast up the steep mountainside, it only seemed fair that I got to careen through the forest perched on top of it! I headed out with Candy + Jenn to…fail at tubing. If we had any patience + energy we would have made a bombin’ tubing hill out the front door. Instead, we tromped out of the hut hoping to find a less terrifying hill. No dice. But not for the lack of effort…
Thanks to our new found hut-mates we shut down our Saturday late. There were kittens to explode so espresso beans were eaten making “bedtimes” a forgotten concept. Of course, this made our 5:53am alarms a wonderful sound…or not. Courtesy of pressing real life responsibilities waiting for us back home we had to head out early on Sunday morning. I have no idea where we found all the ambition but it took us less than an hour to get up, pack up, cook up, eat up + clean up breakfast. We were all on the trail at 7:00am, begrudgingly following the trail back to adulthood.
Being the genius I am I decided to put the snow tube to use on the hike back down the mountain. I strapped my pack to the tube then shoved it along the trail in front of me. At first, this was a flawless plan…then the mountain got steeper. Rather than try to keep the tube on the trail I just gave up, pointing it in the general direction I was hoping it would go + holding my breath. Yea…that tube can FLY down the mountain with a 40lb pack in it! The trees always caught it before it went too far away but some of those impacts were violent! We broke a plate while doing dishes — I put this plate in my pack, you should have seen it shredded into bits after all the head on tree collisions! Also, did you know it’s possible to dent a snow tube? Yup, it is. Sorry, Robb!
By early afternoon we were all back in our respective homes unpacking, showering + pretending to have our lives together. I jumped right into organizing + packing away my life. I had about 36 hours left in the state + I knew Monday was going to be all about chasing adult responsibilities around the Front Range. My last hurrah in Colorado did not disappoint…I’m going to miss my mountains [but not the snow, I’m ready for all the snow to melt] but I am excited for all the random things life is about to throw at me! Up first, family…then a road marathon I am so grossly under-prepared for I should just tie my shoe laces together at the start line.