Friday, March 01, 2013

Backpacking the Continental Divide

Let me tell you about one of my close calls in the mountains. One time I went backpacking with two friends and we were attempting to walk the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We had 60 lbs. backpacks each to carry our food and supplies. We started at the north end of the park and walked south.   We were dropped off at Milner Pass. The first hike from the road was tricky because the rocks were like giant boulders making it difficult to walk up the steep hill with my heavy backpack. We were above timberline all through the journey. I learned a good technique in scouts that made it easier to take each step with all the weight I was carrying. It’s called the rest step. You would take a step up the hill and with the opposite leg bend it straight and rest until you get your wind back and do the same thing again. 

When we were setting up our tent on the first night a thunder storm hit and a rock exploded from lightning and it was less than 100 feet from us! We said “Oh shit!” and hurried to setup our tent thinking it would be safer under the cover of the tent.
That night the storm passed and we had the best spaghetti dinner all cozy in the tent! It’s amazing how boiling water can warm up a little tent. Did you know that it takes longer to boil water at high altitude?  After a day of hiking we were exhausted and didn't mind going to sleep after dinner.  Here's a picture of my gas stove. 
A few days later we had another frightful event with lightning. We were in a boulder field unprotected from the elements when a thunder storm set in. We were the tallest things around and we said get down quickly. As I was taking my backpack off which had a metal frame a little spark went from my finger to the frame.  I said “Oh shit” again and quickly hit the ground! My ears were ringing; I guess that's a result of the static electricity. The storm passed and we were on our way again. To the west of the park is a wilderness area called the Never Summer Range. It was a good thing and bad. Unfortunately we never made it to our final destination. There's a big mountain called Mount Alice and it was covered with snow and we didn't have the proper equipment from trudging through snow that deep. We could see through our binoculars that the snow was 4-6 feet deep. The nearest town was Estes Park. So we headed down to Estes Park. It was the longest hike in a single day that I ever did. It was 20 miles! Oh boy we were exhausted by the end. Once in town I remember standing outside the phone both listening to my friend beg his mom to drive up and rescue us. People kept staring at the 3 of us all rugged looking with our backpacks at our feet.  I got a kick out of it!