On the second day of camping, my true love gave to me a freezing morning. Internet, take my word for it that crawling out of your warm sleeping bag, inside your warm tent, to be greeted weather in the 30’s (fahrenheit) and someone telling you that it’s time to climb a mountain is not the most pleasant way to wake up.
However, once I looked around and realized that the woods were beautiful and not full of serial killers (contrary to my impression of the previous night), I cheered up a bit and stamped about the campground trying to keep warm. Foolishly, I had not packed sweat pants, so the lower half of me was shorts n’ tight while my upper half resembled a marshmallow.
As I mentioned before, this trip was required for a class, and as such was run by some of the lovely people from the outdoor pursuits center (OPC) at my university, all of whom could probably find their way back to civilization after being dropped in the middle of Alaska with only a pocket knife and some gum. You know, probably.
Anyway, we tried to make omelets for breakfast by putting eggs and assorted toppings in plastic bags and letting the OPC people boil them, but that didn’t really work (I blame the altitude) so we sort of poured them out of the bags and my professor cooked them on the underside of a dutch oven lid. It worked out.
As we were about to hit the trail, I took off my marshmallow jacket, knowing that after about 10 minutes of hiking I would no longer need it. That didn’t stop me from shivering for those ten minutes though.
The route we followed was 9 miles round trip, and thus 4.5 miles each way. The midpoint of the hike was a mountain ridge that was about 9000 feet above sea level.
Now, I’m not sure what the elevation of our camp site was, but I know that my university can’t be much over 3000 feet. Thus, my out of shape self did not appreciate being dragged through the thin air at a pace that I can only describe as cruelly moderate. That is, it was fine at first but after about 3 miles of hiking over loose dirt at an ever-increasing elevation (so many hills!) it was pretty brutal. And of course my professor telling us that we only had half a mile to go to the ridge when in fact it was more like a mile did not help matters.
In between panting for breath and cursing my lack of an exercise routine, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the place was. We were, for the most part, surrounded by pine trees, which turned to aspen as we increased in elevation. The sight of the yellow aspen leaves, which had fallen atop a series of dark grey rocks, seemed particularly poignant. But of course the burning in my legs captured much of my attention.
Around mile 4, the trees thinned out and became a sort of high altitude grassland. (I say high altitude not being a real mountain climber… or any sort of mountain climber. It was probably about 8700 feet.) It wasn’t long after that before it was time for… the final ascent. (dun dun dunn)
Basically, the last quarter of a mile or so was way steeper than the rest of the hike. By this time the majority of the class (save a select few) were pretty exhausted/out of breath due to lack of the presence of air, so it was pretty brutal. Eventually, though, we all got to the top. A few people (definitely not me) even beat our professor. It’s an achievement, believe me.
So there we were, on top of a mountain. What happened next? I’ll give you a hint. Either
a) Bears ate us
b) We developed the ability to teleport back to camp
c) We walked back down the mountain
Come back Friday for the riveting conclusion to my adventures in the wilderness!