September 26, 2014
Lake Seville to Horse Corral Trailhead via Comanche Meadow 10 miles
At some point in the night I wake up to the sound of hail pelting my tent. I open the rain fly and see water pooling into a small puddle around my boots. Over the years I have learned many hydrology lessons and decide to move my boots and water bladder inside the tent. I toss, turn and listen…..no more hail, but snow. SNOW.
At 2 am I work myself up almost into a full blown anxiety attack. My thoughts are ridiculous and I know they are ridiculous and yet I cannot calm my mind. ” I won’t be able to find the trail. My tent will be buried. I’ll walk off a cliff. If I get back to my car I’ll have a flat tire and won’t be able to get the lug nuts off on account of my sore thumb. The road will be washed out and I’ll be stuck at the trailhead…” I know these are thinking errors! My thoughts are racing as if it is going to snow 20 feet in the next 4 hours! I wonder if other people think like this. I understand how people do stupid things in these kinds of situations because they are not in their right mind. I’m not in my right mind; hell I’m not even in my left mind….my mind has left! I remind myself that I’ve been in worse storms in the summer and have survived. I’ve been surrounded by lightening and have been fine. I decide I’m afraid because it’s the shoulder season and not summer. This really could be a big snow storm.
I keep repeating this mantra, “you’re dry, you’re warm and you’re safe that’s all that matters right now.” It’s a long four hours until dawn!
The first thing I notice when I wake up is how still it is. Absent is the howling wind. The next thing I notice is how cold it is. I see ice along the outer edge of the tent vestibule and when I unzip the rain fly I see a light dusting of snow. However, my tent is not buried in snow, like the paranoid fantasy I had last night. Steam is rising off the lake and the clouds are whipping around a few blue patches of sky. I forget that I was freaked out a few hours ago and take in the beauty around me.
I survey the sky and determine that rain and or snow are imminent, I eat, pack and drink my coffee all at once. I use the campsite’s new bear box as my staging area, trying to keep as much of my gear dry as possible. As I’m packing, eating and drinking it begins to snow, but melts before it reaches the ground and stops by the time I start hiking.
I hike in pants, yes you read that right PANTS… that’s how cold it is. After a half hour of hiking I’m still cold and stop to put more clothes on, including gloves. The trail down to Comanche Meadow is both pleasant and pretty. It is not covered in 20 feet of snow, like in my paranoid fantasy. I see a few patches of snow, some orange and yellow Aspens and even a purple Lupine still in bloom.
I’m glad I decided to hike back this way rather than the same way I hiked in. I do not walk off a cliff.
As I hike further away the clouds play hide and seek with Silliman Crest. It is cold so I keep a fast pace trying to out hike the rain.
I meet two hikers coming in, the first people I’ve seen since Thursday. They are hiking to one of Shorty Lovelace’s trapper cabins near Comanche Meadow. They have done extensive research on the trapper and over the years have been hiking to all his cabins. I tell them about the one I saw in Cloud Canyon.
I stop for lunch in Rowell Meadow and make chicken noodle soup. Yum. Yum. Yum. Oh so warm oh so good. I eat a package of nutella that Julie sent me and it is the best thing I’ve eaten in days. I spread the nutella onto dried apples and I am a happy camper.
I walk around the snow survey cabin and wonder what it is like to be here in the middle of winter. I imagine sitting in front of the wood burning stove with a cup of hot cocoa, a good book and the wind howling at the door.
The temperature is plummeting and no blue sky remains. I put it into high gear, full tilt boogie hoping to make the last two miles before it rains. I don’t make it. It snows but does not touch the ground. As I drop in elevation the snow turns to rain. It rains until I reach the car. During the last down hill towards the trailhead I notice splotches of what appears to be blood over the rocks and trail….human or animal I do not know. I wonder if someone is injured or if a hunter is carrying back their kill. It is hunting season and I am hiking in an area where hunting is allowed. Cruiser was smart to stay home, he could have been hunted down in a second.
At the car I make coffee and check the temperature…39 degrees….. No wonder I’m cold. My car does not have a flat tire. I do not have to try and get the lug nuts off and the dirt road is not washed out. No part of my paranoid fantasy came true. How lucky is that?