Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 111 - Coldest night on trail yet

Last night was so cold that I barely slept. I was wearing all of my clothes, including rain gear. Any part of me which touched the sleeping bag directly was chilled. And despite the lack of oxygen, I could only keep my head our of the tent for a few minutes at a time. Plus, did I mention I have been wearing a balaclava 24/7 for this stretch? Plus my prescription sunglasses, I must look like some half mad, half cold ninja, wandering the woods.

When I went to gather water at the stream 0.1mi from the tent, it wasn't flowing since it had frozen over. I went to a nearby shallow pond. I walked across solid ice and rocks, to the middle of the pond where the
water was still liquid and the ice was thin. I was balanced on rocks, between the thin sheets of ice, scooping. The air temperature was so cold when I got back to the tent, I knew our bottles would freeze, so I pulled them into the tent. By 11pm, they were frozen solid, just 1L ice cubes. We were both cold and dehydrated.

Gangles has Raynaud's, a condition where stressors like cold constrict blood flow to her fingers and toes. This makes her highly sensitive to cold weather. Actually, cold weather is dangerous for her, as she is much more prone to frostbite. As she puts it, cold temperatures feel like butcher knives are cutting her fingers and toes. I was freezing, so Gangles must have been really suffering. I'm sure she had at least mild hypothermia by the time we got in the tent last night. She was better by the time she got in the sleeping bag, but I was still worried.

In the morning, we were concerned if we left before the sun was well up, we would be cold again. Getting out of bed was miserable. Plus we were still short on food. I had already eaten all of our mayo packets. That's how dire it was.

When the weather (and our fingers and toes) warmed up, we made a break for it. It was desperate times. 24mi to get in early enough to hitch down to Chama. And a late start.

The trail was lovely though. Cold and gusty on the bare ridges, it was a chilly walk, but so beautiful.

Near the end of the day, we came across the train tracks for the Cumbres Toltec steam engine which runs from Chama, NM to Antonitos, CO. They have a special offer, so hikers can ride from Chama back to Cumbres Pass.

Very excited we made it in, and don't have to spend another night out. The hilarious and chatty couple who picked us up mentioned it was 15 degrees in Chama last night. And Chama is ~7,800' in elevation. We camped at ~12,000', which means it was probably in the single digits.

We're going to have to regroup in Chama and figure out what other gear we're going to need now that winter is here in earnest.

Also, the couple who picked us up, regaled us with wild tales of NM. They live in an honest to goodness military fort, For Lowell in Los Ojos. They think it is haunted by the lone soldier who was stationed there for many years--the ghost soldier was perturbed they had moved his steel bed in the attic, and moved it back in place.

Excited to be down low, warm, and in the Land of Enchantment. Plus, it really does feel as though we're in NM. Lots of NM pride, some good humored ribbing of CO folks, green chiles on all of the food, and that tessellating Southwest diamond pattern on the curtains and blankets.

Oh, and the Elk horn restaurant has *amazing* food. The fajitas, chicharrones and guacamole are legit good.

Feeling optimistic.

Mileage: 24mi from near Trail Lake to Cumbres Pass

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