I used to go on fair amount of winter backpacking trips.
Winter is a wonderful time of the year to be outdoors. Especially in Colorado where it seems to be always sunny.
Cold and crisp air. The mountains covered in snow and framed by a bright, blue sky. Fresh powder that is so white it does not seem real. What could be better?
To enjoy multiple days, winter camping is required.
Now, winter camping can be fun. A snug and warm snow cave. A few good friends. Some laughter and lots of talking.
But, winter camping is much work. Ski/snowshoe in for a few miles. Spend a lot of time making your shelter. It is hard (but can be fun) work. Not much time for traditional RnR.
In the past few years, I've "discovered" hut trips! Rustic luxury in the back country!
The Tenth Mountain Hut system was created my veterans of the famous 10th Mountain
Division of World War Two fame. The huts are usually nestled anywhere from 5-10 miles away from a trailhead and are accessed by human powered activities. The "trail" to the huts can be anything from a closed forest service road that gradually ascends up the mountain to a steep single tracks that tests a skiiers endurance on the way up and skiing skills on the way down!
The advantages of a hut trip are several. At $26 a night, they are relatively inexpensive. The huts are usually in a gorgeous setting. And the accommodations? As mentioned, "luxuriously rustic"! Comfy couches, wood ovens for heat and cooking, propane stoves for even quicker cooking, solar charged lights. Call me a wimp..I don't care. I love it!
You have glorious outdoor fun during the day; but lots of yummy food with great conversation (and wine!) at night. You do not bring ramen on a hut trip! I like to think of hut trips as a "dinner party with a ski trip attached". Or, as my friend Terry N. told me once, "The outdoors person in you loves the skiing during the day. The Italian in you loves the cooking and eating at night". And how!
The latest hut trip was the weekend of January 19th through the 21st. Three days and two nights of fun!
The hut for this trip was the Section House hut. The Section House is at top of Boreas Pass on the the Continental Divide. A very mellow grade up with good views. The mellow grade was perfect for Tamara. Tamara was on her first overnight trip skiing and was a trooper! Terry G. was also the perfect fiance' and attended to Tamara's needs. Wotta guy!
The idea was for the stronger skiiers to get to the hut first. Open it up, get the fire going and all the other myriad chores involved when first arriving at a closed hut. This way when the others arrived, a nice warm hut would greet them.
The ski up could not have been any better. Warm weather with the clear blue skies that I love during a Colorado winter.
Mark, Wendy and I arrived at the hut and immediately started with the chores: Chopping wood, getting the stove going and melting snow for water. Half an hour later, Tamara and Terry arrived. Woo hoo!
We all settled in and I did my favorite "chore" – Making mocha with a healthy dollup of Bailey's Irish Cream! Mmmm…
We all sat by the fire, enjoyed each others' company and could not think of anything better than this moment.
As it became later, it was time for "wine o'clock". An outdoor trip is the only time when it is acceptable to drink boxed wine. 🙂 Light, cheap and plentiful! Good thing…we all became a little tispy that night! (Actually, we became VERY tipsy that night. Hee hee).
Between all the wine and merriment, we actually were able to cook dinner. The traditional first night dinner: fondue! Easy, filling and yummy. Strawberry shortcake for dessert. Mmmm
Later (and much wine later!), we finally went to bed.
The following morning, was a bit grey, but looked like there were blue skies trying to breakout.
The five of us all did different activities. Mark went to do some tele turns nearby. Tamara enjoyed the cozy hut. Terry and Wendy did a monster training ski for an upcoming race.
Me? I skiied back down the road to meet Yvonne and Emily. They are two friends who drove up Saturday morning. Emily was the person who transcribed my CDT journal this past year.
Emily and Yvonne were both troopers to say the least! It was Emily's first ski that year. And Yvonne just came back from five weeks of visiting her family in Singapore. Sea level and relative warmth to 10k+ feet and a Colorado winter!
I met them a little more than halfway back to the trailhead and we skiied up together. We saw Wendy a little bit before the hut. We all finished the ski just before some nasty, cold and windy weather hit! It was nice to be by a fire as Ma Nature threw her worse at the pass!
It was my turn to cook dinner that night. To accommodate various dietary needs (vegetarian and lactose intolerant), decided to make a simple ragu with penne macaroni. Cannelini beans, broccol, veggie "ground turkey" all simmered together with a marinara sauce. I must say, for cooking at 11500' , it came out pretty well. 🙂 Afterwards, Mark made a homemade berry crisp.
A little (a lot!) less wine was consumed, too.
Sunday morning came.
We skiied back in the falling snow that gave the surrounding land scape a fairy tale like quality. Simply beautiful.
Another hut trip ended. Another weekend of wonderful Colorado scenery, good food and laughter. Another weekend that will add to my growing list of fond memories. Another weekend where I am reminded again of why I love living in my adopted home state.
ALL THE PHOTOS