Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Man's Gotta' Know His Limitations

The day was supposed to begin at 5:30 for me, but despite being awake then I pushed it back an hour.  It was around 0 degrees out and I knew it wouldn't get much warmer until the sun rose, and that didn't happen until after 7:30.  At 6:30 I got up and ate breakfast (dry, shredded mini-wheats: better than it sounds) contemplating the day ahead.  I didn't actually hit the trail until 7:00 when twilight had already begun.  It was cold.  After a few minutes of walking it wasn't too much of a problem for my body as long I kept moving at a reasonable clip, but it did cause other problems.  The water in my Camelback froze every 5 minutes unless I did something about it (held my hands around the hose), and every  2 minutes when I was in the bottom of canyons where it was significantly colder.  I was only wearing a long-underwear undershirt and my hiking shirt yet even that close to my body the outside of my shirt froze and turned white with frost.  Yet for all that, it was spectacular.

Things started to get sticky for me as I turned and headed up Lost Canyon, and towards the first slick rock of the trip.  Well, actually things got very unsticky.  The theme of ice and snow getting in my way, and a powerful wish for crampons, began right about then.  As the canyon began to narrow the trail became a stream.  A frozen stream, and one that was not easily avoided.  It was pretty, but also pretty hard to walk on with any kind of speed.

The slick rock at the top of the canyon proved worse.  Though it would have been little problem in the summer, the snow and ice made much of it impassable and I spent a great deal of time trying to get around it and down it without seriously injurying myself.  Not to spoil the ending but I never did more than get some good bruises and a few twisted body parts from the ice.  Which is good as I had a several opportunities on this trip to kill myself so I'll take a bruise over that.

Despite it's danger, walking over the slick rock provided amazing views of the surrounding area.  I spent much of this, and future hikes walking around with my camera out of its case and snapping photos.

The hike continued like this for some time.  Each canyon ended in a slick rock section that involved climbing out of the one canyon and into the next.  Each time I spent a great deal of effort trying to safely navigate myself through the trails and up and down the slopes.  Besides being dangerous, it was quite slow and combined with the fact that I had left an hour late I began to recognize that I would not be able to complete my planned outing.

I have to admit, I did enjoy the occasional ladder to help me cross these passes, though some were more pleasant than others...

Eventually it became decision time.  Not done with my loop I decided to take a little side trip (to druid arch) and then return by the most direct route possible to the campground.  This was a little depressing, but a wise choice.  Almost the entire day I was on trails with no foot-prints.  Which meant it would be hard to find my way in the dark, and that no one had been there in at least a week (and probably longer) so I couldn't exactly expect help if something happened.  The overall trip ended up being only a little over 20 miles which was too bad.  Still, for all the problems the snow, caused, it certainly added something to the beauty, and to the solitude of the place.

I returned shortly before sunset, with enough time to cook dinner and get ready for bed.  Though when sunset is at 5:00 I wasn't quite mentally ready for it and stayed up some time in my car reading.  Even after I retired to my tent I found myself unable to sleep and got up around 11:00 or 12:00 to try my hand at photographing the amazing sky (no lights anywhere and single digit temperatures make for a breathtaking night sky).  It turned out so-so (hard to see here, but like all pictures on the blog you can click to enlarge; however, even then it greatly lacks the awe of the true view I had there).

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