Of winter, you came back at an inopportune time.
For months I have been working like mad saving money for the VL all the while hoping for more snow. It usually never came and this winter has been slim. On President’s Day weekend, bluebird skies and warm winter temperatures teased me but it was one of the busiest weekends of the winter ski season. I had to work and I wanted outside, to be back in my element. My day will come, I thought, next weekend, in fact. So, the busy weekend ended and I delved into planning for a training speed hike on the 96m White Rim Trail in Canyonlands NP for the 24th, 25th, and 26th. The weather looked promising with slight chances of foul weather that was of no eminent concern. I called the Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Office to get condition reports of the trail and surrounding areas on Friday. The reports were promising and the storm the previous week bypassed the area leaving the trail mostly free of snow except in some north-facing slopes and deep-cut gulches. I became invigorated at the chance to have a 3-day mash in wonderful country thinking of nothing and soaking in the scenery and silence. I could use this time to harden my feet, gear test some products, and re-practice my systems. Plus, I wanted to push myself. It was finally my chance to unwind.
But Saturday changed everything. The storm hitting Western Colorado suddenly shifted north and west and blanketed the Colorado Plateau. I awoke Sunday morning at 4am to drive to CNP to start my hike. I groggily sloshed out of my slumber and stepped out into 4 inches of snow in Glenwood Springs. Driving down the dark, treacherous interstate, headed west, while my eyes curtailed by the constant scrutinizing of ice and packed snow in the white-dot night, I eventually pulled over at a rest stop and took a nap.
A half an hour later, I awoke huddled in my tiny truck cab and espied pink skies to the east, the west held an ominous gray clouded mass. Thick, the mass would not diminish. I hit the town of Parachute, more snow. Next up was DeBeque, the same. The further I drove west the more snow slunked over every sagebrush branch. Trees were dappled with white powder puffs as the pine needles resembled hands holding wadded up snowballs ready ot be tossed at a passer-by. The mesas, pleated and folded in sharp, steep gullies, were inundated with fresh snow. I wasn’t deterred as I felt that Grand Junction would be my barometer for conditions ahead to where I was headed in CNP.
The same snow conditions persisted though and I slid into MC’D’s in Fruita to get a coffee and an egg mcmuffin. I brewed over what to do, I became incensed at the weather. I finally get time off work to train for the VL and a huge winter storm hits. I did not want to turn around but I knew the conditions would present a sloshy, melted snowy and muddy mess. The 96m loop of the White Rim Trail would take longer than I wanted it to based on the levels of snow the storm dropped. I knew the area would not have much human travel so I would have to stamp out a path through wet snow. Not to mention I would be battling the cold while being wet. I felt cheated, for some reason, though I know how unpredictable weather can be. I felt I wanted to see the conditions first hand, though I knew what the ultimate decision would most likely be. So, I drove on to the next exit. The same, snow everywhere. I mulled over what to do. I knew what I should do but I didn’t want to do it. So, I drove to the stateline and entered Utah. I sat on the exit ramp in my cramped truck, with my gear and food packed beside me ready to go, and called the District Office. A ranger answered my questions most readily. She gave me the affirmation I needed in making a final decision. The White Rim Trail would be an excruciatingly exhaustive adventure that would put too much risk on the VL and my safety. My time frame to do the loop became smaller and smaller. In perfect conditions, like I foresaw last Friday, the timeframe I had planned would work out just fine. But Mother Nature had a different idea. I, then, postponed the trek.
I, basically, ended up driving to Grand Junction for a cup of coffee only to turn around to go back to Glenwood Springs, a round-trip total of almost 6 hours with the dicey road conditions. I drove home still in a drowsy state.
Once home, I took a nap and dreamt in metaphoric dreams. One in particular held my inquisitive mind in a pensive state after waking. In it I randomly met a thru-hiker at a coffee shop from the PCT who recognized me. He said we met in the Sierras at Tuolumne Meadows. I couldn’t place his face in my memory but his trail name sparked an ignition in recollection. He seemed surprise I didn’t recognize him but was even more surprised as I gave him details of the Sierran trek after he told me his name, even down to the funky twirled curls in his beard and the wearing of his trekking pole tips. I vividly pieced together the scene around us from the roaring creeks, huge and high snow banks, and the bitter cold of the mornings. He knew I knew what I was talking about. And I knew my experience to hold truth and to never be forgotten. I rapidly flowed through specific sequences of the moment we met, the hours after that, the day, and the following week.
I woke up not forgetting. I sat on the edge of my bed and took a deep breath and felt my frustration of the day’s events subside. The dream of remembrance instilled a confidence within me and a sunny outlook on things. Nothing major came from this postponement except I wasn’t going to sacrifice my well-being for a 3 day gut-driven mission when I have a whole summer on the VL. I have to take what is in front of me and adapt, be sensible, flexible and, like it or not, patient.
After the nap in the late overcast afternoon, I went for an 18 mile run and finally got all the residual sourness out of my cavern. I visualized the AZT all the way from Mexican border to Utahn border. Every step was recorded in my mind in a visualistic movie reel. I ran not forgetting but knowing…