November 23rd – 25th
Thanksgiving. A time to relax, spend time with family, eat too much (probably), go for short walks, and take copious numbers of little naps. Heaven, right?
Well, this year we went for something a little different.
It’s only my second Thanksgiving away from home (aka New Hampshire), my first being my semester abroad in Italy. While Italians love eating meats, turkey is not high on the list. I don’t blame them. Turkey is not high on my list of beloved animal foods either, but I think it has more to do with the fact that the turkey is a thoroughly American animal. Remember how Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird? I digress. Somehow our little cohort of UNH students managed to scrape together a very American meal in the heart of Italy in order to celebrate our Friendsgiving. I’m pretty sure we ended the meal with Italian candy though…
Anyway, this year I find myself in Boulder, CO, the place I have chosen to be for the winter months. Claire is here going to school at CU Boulder, and is lucky in having roommates who love getting after it adventure-style. It was through one of these said roommates that we got together on celebrating Thanks/Friendsgiving in the back county, less than a mile from the continental divide at Janet’s Cabin (11,610 ft).
See that red line? Looks pretty easy going, right? We started at Vail Pass and made the 6.5 miles across two separate drainages in order to make it to the head of Guller Creek, where the cabin was located. Maybe on another day, this trail would have been easier. Maybe if there hadn’t been the awkward 6 inches of snow to slog through, it would have been a little more enjoyable. Maybe if we hadn’t grossly overpacked ourselves with wine, cheese, and various other assorted necessities of Thanksgiving, this walk wouldn’t have been such a sufferfest.
As it was, however, we had to backtrack a ways and then bushwack to the correct part of the “trail,” I had the worst cramps of my life, we did overpack ourselves in our hedonism, we were walking at about 11,000 feet the whole time, there was just enough snow to be awkward, and the “trail,” which was only gently marked with blue diamonds every mile or so cut straight across the up and down, up and down of the drainages to make the walk vigorous to say the least.
That being said, the group kept an amazingly high, positive demeanor for the duration of the sufferfest. There were many jokes about being people who only like Type II fun…also known as masochists. The weather was also beautifully, crystally clear and still, affording us perfect views of the continental divide above us and the surrounding White River National Forest. That part could not have been more divine.
We arrived at the hut in what I think I could fairly call a manic daze, greeting our fellows who had taken the slightly less challenging trail to the cabin. It’s amazing the hilarity that can happen after bonding over a sufferfest. We lounged on the cabin’s plentiful couch spaces, trying to get warm by the fire, taking swigs of whiskey along the way. The cabin also had a wood fired sauna, and one of my comrades in suffering somehow managed to get up the energy to get that sucker going. It would be the first of three saunas we did in two days up at the hut. We had the most cleansing TG ever.
The day of Thanksgiving, the eleven people in our group made chitchat about going for a “gentle walk,” which, of course turned into a two mile slog through more snow and unbelievably cold wind up to the continental divide and then a summit tag of Elk Mountain…NBD, you know, it’s just what we Type II fun people do with our vacations. Though the wind was high, and the morning had been snowy, it was clear on the summit once we reached the top. Colorado is a totally new beast. The layout of the mountains is completely unfamiliar and difficult to read for me as a newbie. This trip was an excellent jump start to familiarizing myself with this awesome land.
Dinner that night was a group effort, with each person contributing a little bit to the full on traditional Thanksgiving fare. Toby even managed to make a pumpkin pie from scratch despite the fact that there was no oven to be found in Janet’s cabin. After a few hours of cribbage, another dunk into the sauna, and much laughter, we finally sank into sleep in our bunks. I think I may need to make the rest of my Thanksgivings type II fun.